Clay Wright Lesson

I’m still new to taking private lessons with my own horse, so today was quite the experience. Clay Wright is a local trainer who I watched a few times at my last barn, and jumped at a last minute open spot this weekend. V, who is working with Flash for/with me, takes lessons from him too, and I was hoping for some ground work and strength building exercises.

Backing up with engaged abs and not like a giraffe

Flash took 10 minutes to decide to load (to be fair, he’s only been trailered once since he moved to the new barn in March), hauled well except he got super sweaty. I love my new Trailer Eyes camera and that really helped my driving at least.

I’m listening to Clay, Flash is elsewhere clearly

The biggest thing I learned from Clay is a few concrete, slow and quiet ways to get Flash to tune into me. He’s very distractable and not always with me, which means taking him new places always feels like a bit of a gamble. I know he’s a solid, well travelled and well trained horse, but sometimes he hops off the trailer in a new place with limited space in his brain for working with me. Today we practiced exercises based on moving Flash’s weight forward and back, keeping his shoulder off of me and tuning into whatever speed I’m going took a whole hour…but what an educational hour! It was quite the workout for us both, even though we just walked around in a few circles and stood a lot.

Like watching paint dry…but so critical to further safe and enjoyable adventures!
Giving to pressure… eventually

Flash isn’t too spooky or reactive, just spacy, but by the end of the hour he was much more tuned into me and not bracing for whole minutes against the pressure of me asking for simple things, like lifting his weight up and back or just ever so slightly forward. He was definitely still able to be distracted but asking something of him constantly means he can’t fully tune me out, which was Clay’s point. The more I ask of him and keep his attention, the more he’ll realize it’s easier to stay with me and in turn be more confident with me.

Both of us more or less listening to Clay

There’s more buzzing around my head but this pregnant lady is tired and in desperate need of a shower! All photos on the post courtesy of the amazing V!

Always a post workout roll

Basics are good

Here he has his thinking cap on…

I had to admit to a friend today that despite all my experience in the horse world, I’ve never studied or really learned how to build a horse’s strength and carriage up from the basics. Oh I’ve picked up some tricks here and there, but no consistency.

V says he’s actually pretty good at shoulder in!

My main goal for the next two months, my last of this surrogate pregnancy and first of pregnancy recovery, is to build Flash up to the point that when I’m ready to ride again, he has the strength to carry me (who will definitely be a wobbly mess for awhile). Right now he’s definitely in pasture puff status and while he’s happy to be so, I dream of adventures together so to work we go!

We are so lucky V is working with us both! So much to learn!

Today V showed us a good amount of in hand work, which revealed that Flash is stronger on his right side than his left. I have been asking him to stretch and step under himself every night, which is helping a bit.

Bending and picking up his shoulder

While lunging him Flash got super speedy and started to canter around and give little bucks, telling us he’s anxious and trying to figure out the right answer…and that building up his fitness will be a long process but we have time. Once he figured out the right answer (stretching down and stepping under himself) he calmed down, though breaking into a canter was still easier for him than stretching. But he’s an awesome horse and he’ll get there…with his opinions firmly intact!

The post workout roll is always entertaining!

Every time I see or work with this great golden dude I fall for him a tiny bit more. I’m so excited to finish baking this beautiful baby for his parents and climb back in Flash’s saddle!

Work is hard but pasture life is easy!

Equine time

I know the world is literally on fire and the many injustices folks face are being hammered into us this week, and there’s a vicious mix of fear, despair, depression, uncertainty, and unfairness to unpack…but I’m lucky and privileged enough that I can retreat to the barn while I process what’s going on, where I stand, what I “should” do and how I support my family, friends and community through all this. So that’s what I did tonight.

Being now almost 34 weeks pregnant (and feeling very preggo lately!) my time spent working with Flash has…well, kinda tanked. Oh, I see him pretty much every day, groom him and feed him his supplements and fill his “bad roommate ball”, but some days that’s all I have mental and physical energy for. I would feel a tad bit guiltier that sometimes all I do is feed and run back home (to sleep), but our new barn and barn owner are simply awesome and I know he’s living a good life here even with my occasional in attentiveness.

Flash *loves* his bad roommate ball, aka treat dispenser!

However, as a friend kindly pointed out to me, there’s still tons I can do and not every session has to be a long, involved process to gain some net positives.

I make him carry my water when we go for strolls around the gorgeous new farm.

Tonight, since Kade is preoccupied with his cousins camping on our back porch and it was a long and stormy day, I spent 20 minutes grooming, stretching and playing soccer with Flash. Another friend, who is kind enough to help me by working him once a week under saddle, pointed out he has some muscle to build, so we worked on a few simple lunges and stretches to get him to start stepping under himself. Every moment I can spare now sets him up to carry me safely and be more prepared for the unbalanced, unfit rider he’ll have to put up with come July (or August, hopefully I’ll be back asaddle by then!) Plus, Flash digs soccer just like the kid does!

Treat please! (And yes, I do put schtuff on that poor pink nose, which he usually proceeds to try to rub off on me)

Also, a quick update on his supplements (since he’s shiny, rock solid barefoot and not chewing himself to death this time of year):

  • Handful of alfalfa pellets
  • 2 scoops CalTrace powder
  • 1 scoop SmartPak ItchEase (jeezum it’s pricy but it’s working!!! Usually he’s in full fly sheet, belly band and anti-bite himself muzzle but all he’s in now is a fly mask!)
  • 1 scoop iodized salt
  • 1 scoop Magnesium
  • 1 scoop Selenium/Vitamin E
  • 1 scoop Biotin
  • 2-3 carrots, wet and stir 🙂
I know some rush through this chore, but for me mixing up his supplements for the week is almost meditative

Camping in February?

Damp but happy to eat everything in sight!

Between work stress, pregnancy, new horse/truck/trailer excitement and frustrations, the winter blues have been real this year. So when the weather quietly murmured the mere hint of a not freezing, not raining day a week ahead, I reserved an equestrian campsite at Battle Ground State Park and hoped for the best.

Settling in…before the rain appeared

That’s not quite what we got…but this trip was a shakedown of everyone’s new gear, new and/or rehabbed horses, and to scratch the cabin fever itch. Lessons were learned, rain was endured and good food was eaten, and for a last minute tossed together trip in February I count us lucky enough.

I never fail to have extreme trailer envy when I see this beautiful, well thought out, every excellent detail covered Double D…

On the good side, Flash camped pretty much alone for the night and didn’t loose his mind. My friends horses were there, including a member of his old herd, but they were in a separate area and due to the miserable weather we didn’t have them interact much. I remembered his mid-weight blanket so he wasn’t totally soaked and cold overnight, plus his coolers to dry off in the morning, and grabbing a flake of alfalfa was a pony approved choice.

Still don’t know when the “I HAVE MY OWN TRAILER!” excitement will wear off.

I’ve been hammock sleeping the past few years, but with increasing awkwardness around pregnancy and limited space in my trailer, I sprung for the Kingdom Cot 3 from REI and I’m in love! Cyrus and I spent a warm, dry, and comfortable night together while Kade took the hammock. My in-trailer camping set up is pretty spot on, so that was a definite win. I’m still going to figure out a way to enclose the sides with mesh, to keep out bugs and stuff off the roadway while driving.

Cyrus actually slept on the cot with me instead of his dog bed, but nice to know it fits for hotter weather

The only major bummer was the total change in the weather; it was both much colder and much wetter than we’d expected, though that’s the chance you take with camping in February, after all! I also realized I haven’t really done any camp cooking and have been relying on the generosity of friends for…well, years, so clearly there’s still some adjustment to my equipment and skills in that area needed. Sandwiches are fine but a hot meal on a cold day definitely makes a difference!

I think Flash loves hiking cause it equals more time for eating…

Up next…maybe a jaunt over to Reehers Horse Camp? LL Stub Stewart? My plan is to fit as many trips as I can before I really balloon up and bending over to hitch up my trailer becomes an exercise in huffing and puffing!

I have deeply questionable timing

I’ve been friends with Flash’s owners for years. But when I say ‘friend’, I really mean ‘sister’ cause that’s closer to what we are now. I rode Flash off and on, had a few adventures and generally clicked with him fairly well over the years. However, he was said friend’s eldest daughter’s horse and I was working on a state salary so had no extra for a horse of my own. Borrowing and catch riding was how I got my fix.

Always got to have an opinion, does Flash

Fast forward a few years and the daughter was now a teenager with eight million different, non horse related hobbies, my husband and I had seen several raises and job changes and purchased a house. My friend had been hinting, with less and less subtlety, that I was the only one they trusted to take Flash should the teenager be willing to part ways with him.

Posers!

Then one day she finally just came out and asked me if I was ready to take him, meaning bring him to a barn closer to me and be his person. Rather cleverly, she had asked my husband first for the financial impact and having been given the go ahead, brought it to me. The stars aligned a month later a sweaty, gleaming Flash stepped off my friend’s astoundingly awesome custom built trailer and my bank account hasn’t been the same since!

Seriously, this trailer is #lifegoals.

Naturally, now I’m pregnant and rapidly approaching the “too unbalanced to ride” section. This is a surrogate pregnancy and something I’ve been working towards since before I met Tom, let alone brought Flash home. All my eventual goals and plans with Flash are a bit paused, which is both a good and slightly frustrating thing.

Baby on board!

As this is a surrogate pregnancy, it means the child isn’t ours (and not related to us at all), it also means that safety and making solid, well informed decisions is paramount. I’m entrusted with growing and protecting someone else’s child (in this case, a gay couples first), and that requires totally different thinking from when I was 20 and working draft horses while cooking my own kid.

I toss Kade up on Flash in my stead for longer hikes!

The biggest safety compromise I’ve made, between my OB (love her and her approach!) and the baby’s IF’s (intended father’s) is agreeing not to trail ride. I can arena ride, and hike trails with him, with adults around, until my regular pants don’t fit (which is coming up faster now that I’m at 19 weeks along). As my main objective with Flash is trail riding and camping, and it’s winter anyway, I’ve been focusing on ensuring we’re a team and getting my (first for me!) truck and trailer ready for August.

Having my own rig is so, so sweet!

Once the babe is safely home and I’m at least through the immediate recovery phase (which I’ve heard is much faster without feeding and caring for a newborn!), my goal is to squeeze as many adventures into the summer and fall as I can.

More of this!

I know that truly regaining full strength and all takes more time, but doing so with Flash and friends will definitely be the most enjoyable way through. In the meantime I have a more or less tolerant and helpful husband and a big golden treat hogger to ask crazy things of, like play soccer and load into a trailer without drama and let me fuss with his tail and kiss his nose as much as I want. Barn time, caring for and futzing with Flash is definitely helping through all the work stress and interrupted riding, helps curb my impatience for a cool lake and a warm campfire!

Bluebird Day

I received hard news from my boss on Friday: a coworker, a senior manager I supported and was mentoring me a bit, was found dead in her home.

For this and various other reasons, I desperately needed a good day, a smooth day when I didn’t have to worry about a million things and everything just moved…easily.

Today delivered and I seriously lucked out in every way. Truck and trailer are both roadworthy, sealed, organized and basically as good as they get. Flash loaded more or less willingly (I’ve mostly accepted that he’ll load cause he’s a good guy and not because trailering is fun or neutral for him), and I got zero traffic up to Washington.

I had managed to snag a mid Monday lesson with a new trainer, Rebekah L., And boy both she and the facility she trains out of were definitely worth the drive! The sun was shining and it was warm enough for Kade and I to have a picnic lunch in the grass while we relaxed from the drive.

Rebekah is the first new trainer I’ve introduced myself to in years, and this time with my own horse! My main goal for the spring is to get Flash and I to a solid, well matched place, so we can pick up from there when I come back from pregnancy recovery in August. Might as well make the most of our arena time while we’re stuck there, and today’s outdoor arena was just… breathtaking. I don’t go for hyperbole much, but the sun was shining, the views of the hills were beautiful, and the footing was fantastic. I just wish it were a tad bit closer and we’d be there all the time!

Flash trailered well, relaxed while we waited and I tacked fuzzbutt up, and only called once to the horses all around him. He had a few opinions under saddle, but nothing to budge even my out of fitness butt. Rebekah gave me one main pointer that I was desperately needing-carry your hands! Huh, so that’s why I lurch forward at the posting trot, my hands were way too low!

Flash and I have tons of work to do, but there’s a well trained, happy partner under his blonde, cookie hogging exterior and I’m more excited than ever to bring it out. Good boy Flash, very good boy 🙂

Bloghop: Favorites of 2018

Here’s a fun post idea from Centered in the Saddle. So much has happened this year, and this is a photo based way to wrap it all up.

Favorite Horse Show Picture

I don’t show and didn’t make it to a single endurance ride, but here’s Kade’s first mounted lesson (and many more to come!)

Favorite Non-Show Picture

At the start of this weekend trip to Sisters, I was afraid to canter Ray on an open Forest Service Road. Two days later we rode bareback up to a viewpoint!

Favorite Thing You Bought

We bought a house, and it’s been the hardest, most time consuming, stressful, and hands down the best thing we’ve done for our little family.

Favorite Moment on Horseback

This isn’t my favorite photo, but I love the circumstances. Even with all the adventures and places I got to ride this year, this was taken by my husband on his first ever trip to the barn! It bored him silly watching me work on going around in circles in the indoor, but he made the effort and that means the world to me!

Favorite Moment Out of the Saddle

This one is fully a toss up between our courthouse wedding (man, we totally rocked that purple!) and the sailboat we were able to rent for day in Victoria BC with some of our best friends. Being a wife is cool, but sailing into the middle of the start of the big annual yacht race down the straight of Juan de Fuca while the Canadian Navy ship shoots their cannons off was a whole other level of crazy!

Favorite “Between the Ears” Picture

I know I keep using this image over and over, but it was taken while riding bareback with an awesome group of ladies, Cyrus at our heels, looking west to the Sisters mountains, through Raymond the Redheaded Quarter Horse’s ears. This was the trip in which I embraced how much I still needed to work on myself, and that horse camping with friends might be less stressful and more enjoyable than endurance for awhile.

Of course, my other favorite is when my two best friends hauled down to my neck of the woods and we spent the day ambling around together and trying to keep the dogs cool on one of the hottest days of the year.

Favorite Horse Ridden (or Groomed/Cared For) Aside from Your Own

This one is a very close toss up between Delhi the War Mare to the Deschutes River (seriously, OMG that trot!) and riding Phin the Gorgeous in the Columbia River Gorge. Both horses I drool over and would jump at the chance to ride again!

Favorite Funny Picture of Your Horse

This perfectly captures the relationship Ray and I have built this year: I ride, he pretty much does as I asks and more or less manages not to dump me, and he gets to eat. So. Many. Carrots.

Favorite Fence or Movement You Conquered 

I definitely wouldn’t say I’ve “conquered”: riding bareback, but I’m more comfortable with it and Ray’s super smooth jog trot. My goal is to be strong enough and centered enough to canter bareback!

Favorite Horse Meme

Want to participate? The only rule is that each answer has to have a photo!

International Day of the Horse

THE SKY IS FALLING! Run around screaming, the sky is falling!

Now that I have your attention, let’s bring the stress level back down and chat about horses on this Day Of The Horse.  You guys, I was so extremely lucky this year! Did I meet a single goal I had set? Nope! Did I make it to a single endurance ride, either as a volunteer or a rider? Nope!

I was lucky enough due to a new job to be able to afford a steady lease on a beautiful redheaded Quarter Horse, which stabilized my horse access immensely and was the biggest contributor to how much I was able to just get on and ride this year. I still have miles to go to unlock all of Raymond’s abilities (more squats and two pointing, says the trainer!), but I trust him and enjoy him and look forward to another year of trails and more with him. The discovery that horse camping with a steady horse is much less stressful than endurance was a true eye opener!

Another big revelation this year was riding alone. As I’ve been catch riding people’s second string horses for several years, I haven’t ridden alone until this year. Thanks to my trainer’s amazing trust, I was able to take Ray for many ambles alone, just “My backpack, my pony (and dog!) and me….” style. 

I was also privileged to keep catch riding a bit this year, racking up rides in beautiful areas on several other wonderful horses. I hooked up with Flynn, the smooth mustang at Whipple Creek, war mare Dahli at Crooked River Ranch, enjoyed a few meanders on Flash the Very Tall, and finally got out Lynn’s way to ride a much steadier Phinneas in the gorgeous Columbia River Gorge. 

Hands down the best part of horses this year was finally, finally being able to really share them with Kade! He’s well on his way to being eventually hooked, due to our wonderful trainer and her easy way of bringing kids along in their riding. Just being able to bring Kade to the barn and riding while he rode his bike is hugely awesome, as well as just keeping him exposed to the hay and horse dust and slobber that makes up so much of my world. 

I don’t have many horse related goals next year (I’ll only be riding for about half the year, more details to come on why), so my main focus is to keep enjoying Raymond and keep Kade in regular lessons, so he can work his way up to trail riding with me! The vision of moseying down some woodland trail with Cyrus sniffing along behind and Kade on his own horse in front is my current, almost reachable daydream, and I can’t wait! 

My access to horses, all the fun trips and rides and slobber kisses is entirely due to the amazing sweetness and generosity of all my friends, and I’ll always be deeply grateful for all you (you know how awesome you are, right?)

So many questions

I’m a terrible blogger, but here’s something that’s been floating around many of the horse blogs I read. Actually stolen from Haiku Farm!
1.   Why horses? Why not a sane sport, like soccer or softball or curling?

There are so many facets to this answer, starting with “it’s in the blood” and constant early exposure thanks to my mom, and the enduring love of dirt encrusted fingernails, hay in the bra, slobbered covered shirt and miles in the saddle.

No stirrup November!

2.    What was your riding “career” like as a kid?
 
A bit scattershot, I did some horse camps, 4-H, but couldn’t keep my grades up or focused enough in the noise of high school sports. I’m making more of an effort with my kid though!
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Be still my heart!
3.   If you could go back to your past and buy ONE horse, which would it be?  
I don’t think I actually would. There was one spookily smart, shark fin withered Arab I worked with at the summer camp I taught at during college, but I wasn’t and still am not ready for the huge responsibility and financial burden of a whole horse. A kid, house, dog and husband is enough!
4.  What disciplines have you participated in?
Key word there is “participate” not “competed.” That list is thankfully wide and varied, though it could always be wider! I’ve driven every type of horse and hitch from a single Belgian to four in hand Fjords, driven carriages on Mackinaw Island, trotted a giant Appy down an endurance trail, dabbled in jumping, taught basic English and Western, and worked horses from ponies to drafts in the woods and the fields.
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Bobby and Tucker, the best team ever (not biased of course!)
5.   What disciplines do you want to participate in some day?
This next year will be about trying different things with Raymond, trail obstacles, some cow work, mounted archery…I want to dabble and try new things!
And I still want to do the Cross-State Ride–maybe 2020?
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6.   Have you ever bought a horse at auction or from a rescue?
Nope! That’s a project I don’t see myself well set up for for years, if at all.
7.   What was your FIRST favorite horse breed – the one you loved most as a kid?
The kind that talks to you in your head and convinces you to be a better version of yourself just by virtue of being super magical and blue eyed.
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8.    If you could live and ride in any country in the world, where would it be?
Money not being on object, both Australia and New Zealand. Gorgeous mountains, bays, deep back country, different wilderness and wildlife (brumbies!), and overall a lot less people!
9.    Do you have any horse-related regrets?
Mostly I wish I’d had more time with them as a kid. My parents did tell me if my grades were high enough, they’d keep driving me out the barn for 4H, and I might have if I’d been involved with OHSET or something a little more exciting than plodding around a ring on a wet Oregon winter’s day, but as a kid I couldn’t see that!
10.  If you could ride with any trainer in the world, ASIDE from your current trainer, who would it be?

I’d take a bit from everybody, but I’d love to go back and take a lot more lessons from the old farm owner I worked with in college at Briar Hill Farm; she’s doing mounted archery with her Fjords and Dales now and she’s an amazing lady all around!

 

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Fjord mare named Dasha (if I remember right), the first horse I was allowed to train to drive at Marcy’s farm
11.  What is one item on your horse-related bucket list?  
Riding in every state and Canadian province.cropped-img_59431.jpg
Much more of this!
12.  If you were never able to ride again, would you still have horses?
Yes! My time in college exposed me to a lot of different things you can do with horses. I once met a 75 year old Mainer from the backwoods with Parkinson’s still working Percherons in the sugar bush. I may be a lot slower but I’d still have them!
13.  What is your “biggest fantasy” riding goal?

Ride either the Gobi Gallop across Mongolia or Race the Wild Coast in South Africa (or both!)
 
14.  What horse do you feel like has taught you the most?  
They’ve all taught me so much (what horse person can’t say that?
I would say Pete the Belgian logging horse overall; he really taught me to take a deep breath and really listen to what they say, especially when they know the job better than you!
Tucker on the left, Pete on the right at my alma mater, Sterling College in Vermont
15.  If you could change one thing about your current horse/riding situation, what would it be?

I wish the barn I lease Raymond at was just a little closer! If I go out now, I’m going to ride, not just “hang out” and I do miss that critical part.
 
Kade set up these obstacles for me all by himself!
16.  If you could compete at any horse show/venue in your home country, where would it be?

I wouldn’t. Competitor at this point I’m not! But my overall goal is to ride in every state, and I’ve only ticked off….9 so far!
17.  If you could attend any competition in the world as a spectator, what would be your top choice?
Again, not huge into competitions, but probably the Vermont 100, how did I miss that ride when I lived in Vermont for five years???

18.  Have you ever thought about quitting horses?
Nope. My life is an ongoing, never ending scheme to spend as much time with them as possible.
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Jokker the giantest and goofiest Appy ever! No horse makes me laugh like he does, though Raymond comes closer every ride!
19.  If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the horse industry, what would it be?

Take away money prizes for all events.There, I fixed it.

(That was Aarene’s answer and it cannot be improved upon).
 
20.  What’s the dumbest horse-related thing you’ve done that actually turned out pretty well?

Watching a winter woolly, slightly bug eyed, shark fin withered Arab hop and spin off the trailer with 20 other camp horses just off their winter range in Nevada a week before campers showed up and picking him to be my partner for the summer. He turned out to be the smartest horse of the bunch, and when we rode drag for the trail rides no one could keep the fat, hungry ponies going like he could!
 
21.  As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of?
Gravity sucks but it’s not the worst thing yet. As someone who catch rides and leases, I’m most afraid of loosing someone else’s horse in the wild or broad lands where I ride most of the time.
Funny story, it did almost happen on the PCT this summer. I was riding Raymond bareback at the trot and slid off in slow mo (more core strength needed damnit!) and he started heading back to camp without me (there’s a nightmare vision right there!)
Luckily, I had a carrot in my pocket and Raymond never turns up a treat. I snapped it in half when he was about 50 yards from me, he heard it and did the fastest U-turn ever!
About half a mile before Carrot gate!
22.  What horse-related book impacted you the most?
Probably one of Mark Rashid’s.
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23.  What personality trait do you value most in a horse and which do you dislike the most?

Uncontrolled speed is my least favorite right now; I don’t mind speed (Raymond has the huge Quarter horse acceleration that makes me whoop like a cowgirl every time!) but it’s nice to be able to direct it at will.

I love a horse that knows his job (whatever it happens to be) and doesn’t get ruffled easily.

More core strength+shorter stirrups=enjoyable rides versus scary ones!

24.  What do you love most about your discipline?  
Miles in the saddle! Seeing beautiful scenery you otherwise might not, and building that critical, awesome relationship over long hours moving down the trail.
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25.  What are you focused on improving the most, at the moment?

Myself, always myself. The depths of winter are sprinting closer, so it’s a good time for No Stirrup November (my goal is to be able to canter without them!) and more strength workouts, since that’s what’s really holding me back currently.
Okay, everybody else, it’s your turn!  

Copy the questions, paste in your own answers, and ping me so I know where to look.  Wheee!

Oregon Trails Summit

Along with a few other lucky ladies, I was privileged to attend the Oregon Trails Summit in Bend last weekend. PNER sent me to talk trails, but I brought a lot of past experience as both a trail user and stakeholder (I worked on trails with Northwest Youth Corps for six summer seasons, as well as two seasons as a State Park Ranger). It was wonderful to network and discuss issues with nerds who speak my language, a complicated polyglot of passion, frustration and issues between Federal, State and private land managers, industry leaders, and coalition groups from every corner of the state. As a passionate dirt bag, equestrian, and overall outdoor geek, it was heady brew.
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I also go to visit Smith Rock State Park for the first time!!!
Even with the fun and empowering discussions, presentations and emotional keynote speech to fill the weekend, there was a shadow cast over the whole thing for me. I’ll get to the specifics of the sessions I attended shortly, but I’d like to address what to me has become the elephant in the room: PNER is no longer the place for me.
This PNER trip to the Summit was spearheaded by Julie Serres, on behalf of the Trails Committee. She eventually chose not to come, for her own reasons born of frustration, and after seeing several back and forth comments through this member’s page, I am also choosing to bow out of paying dues next year to an organization that does not walk it’s talk of late. Oregon Equestrian Trails and Back-country Horseman’s Association both had a large presence at the summit, from leading a horse and bike workshop, having a small booth with handout materials, to being on several panel discussions. I feel PNER could have either been a larger presence, or gone with a clearer directive to “learn how we can give back to our beloved trails, and be more active in the trail maintenance community.” Without Julie there, it felt like our group lacked cohesion.
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Also got to ride an awesome little war mare, Dalai Lama!
The first session I sat in on was regarding the new technology known as “e-bikes”, where I learned a great deal about what they actually are. The discussion was wide ranging, but boils down to what kind of experience e-bike users are looking for. Federal land managers have classed them with OHVs and other motorized vehicles, when most e-bikes are no louder or that much faster than non-motorized bikes. Oregon State has a more flexible, while still limited, interpretation for basic, pedal assisted e-bikes, the kind that have no throttle (you have to be pedaling to keep moving). For now, though, most e-bikes remain quite expensive, but as this market expands look to see more of them on the trails. From an equestrian’s perspective, the main worry is about speed on trails designed to allow bikes, whether motorized or non, to rapidly gain speed or pop out of nowhere, limiting reaction times for all parties. We covered built environment fixes (ie designing multi-use trails to slow all parties down through specific trail features), administration fixes (ie bikes only uphill, bikes and horses allowed on alternate days, etc), and simply building new, bike only trails while still maintaining equestrian and hiker access on existing trails (not a zero sum game; bikers get trails that cater to them, while equestrians don’t loose access to trails they’ve traditionally had access to.)
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Downtown Bend is fantastic!
The next session was Forwarding Signature Trails (think like the PCT, only Oregon specific). As a trail user, this was a fun and hugely informative session as to the hard leg work and cooperation goes into building trails and trail systems. Presenters included groups from Umatilla, Tualatin, and Southern Oregon. I was heartened to hear that with the exception of the Tualatin River Trail (which is heavily urban and not a fun place to ride anyway) all trails in this discussion included equestrians in their design and build processes (I can’t decide which I’m more excited to visit and ride someday, the Jack-Ash trail in Southern Oregon or the Joseph network near the Wallowa’s!)
This session, along with the Regional Trails breakout, covered a ton of ground on how to gather support, funding, and everything else needed to make trails a reality. Ideas, tips and tricks ranged from encouraging participation of volunteers, communicating effectively with different demographics, and making local media your friend. One very cool tidbit as a technology loving Millennial was QR codes on business cards and trail signs, where you can pair your GPS track from your favorite local trail to a larger regional database. This helps map where and how people are using local trails, in order to include them in the area’s overall trail plan.
The most interesting breakout was one which certainly requires more time, Resolving Trail Conflicts. I know Elayne’s write up is already up (she’s faster than I am!) and she came into this session with a much different perspective. For myself, I lean more democratic and have a wide range of views on trail usage, as I’ve built trails for all types of users (OHVs, horses, bikes, hikers only, multi-use, ADA) and have used trails in all sorts of different ways, though my primary use is from horseback (c’mon, who doesn’t agree that’s the best view?) The overall point I took out of this session was considering each user group’s desired trail experience. For the most part, user groups can “make it work” in relative harmony, minus outliers who ruin things for everybody, regardless of how they use the trails. The main beef comes both between OHV users and other groups, mainly due to the noise and speed being so much greater than any other group (bikers, hikers, kayakers, equestrians, etc. while they each have their own impact on trails, and minus run ins with mountain bikes and *gasp* piles of poop, don’t really impact each other in a huge, insurmountable way).
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So pretty…no desire to climb up like the two dozen climbers I passed!
Ultimately, it’s up to land managers to “build the table” and the responsibility of each user group to ensure they have a seat at that table, whether it be private, State or Federal lands in question. Ironing out issues of trail use, maintenance, new trails, emerging technologies and access take time, a buttload of patience, and empathy for other users, even if you hate what experience they might seek on trails. Each specialized organization, from PNER to Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, can help maintain access to trails for all through a combination of education, encouraging volunteers, and reaching out to bring user groups together; from poker rides that include hikers, bikers and equestrians at the same event to special sponsored trail signs, it is possible to share trails in a sustainable way.
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This mare was a hoot and I can’t wait to ride her again someday!
The biggest question, now that we’ve presented what we’ve learned, is where PNER will take this information. Each rider uses some combination of private, State and Federal trails (I myself ride mostly on private timber lands kept open to equestrians through the good faith of the landowner, as well as Federal and State forests and parks when someone takes a horse for me out and about). OET and BCHA both have large, well organized service arms; OET sponsors several fantastic horse camps through annual work parties, specialized signage, and organized fundraising rides; BCHA is out there hauling tools and equipment into back country trails, supporting other trail organizations by hauling equipment, providing equestrian based expertise, and both organizations spend a good amount of time on educating an increasingly horse naive public about horses, equestrian issues and best practices when meeting horses on trails.
Based on Julie’s experiences of the past year to get a Trails Committee off the ground, is PNER even willing to become more of a service or education based organization? It’s one thing to have a booth at an equine trade show asking people to join our organization; it’s a whole other kettle of fish to ask those who do join to organize an educational poker ride, put in hours maintaining their local trails, or designing educational materials for other trail users.
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Definitely dragging the husband, kid and dog to this awful place someday…