Take a break

I love my little family, I really do. I also acknowledge how lucky we are in these current ridiculously challenging and frightening times.

But…

Preggo selfie by the river=mandatory, of course!

But after two months more or less 24/7 with my wonderful, charming family…like anyone else my rope is stretched. I’m still deeply conflicted about travelling, and camping alone at 32 weeks pregnant is out of the question…

Rainy river

Thankfully one of my favorite State Parks close to home reopened for day use this week, so after a smooth OB appointment (everything looks good!) I headed out to Champoeg State Park, put my headphones on and strolled. Long story short, I still need a good 25 hours without anyone but this is a good start!

Pandemics and outdoor recreation

The world has been turned upside down, inside out and beaten thoroughly, like a freshly washed down comforter. Emotions have been set to critical for over a month with only more confusion in sight, which doesn’t make for lovely, pleasant spring days for many. Personally, I’ve had major writer’s block since I returned from our first try at a Mountain Trail schooling show and my state implemented “Stay Safe, Stay Home” orders. An argument now rearing it’s ugly head has unstuck me to some regard, so here’s my thoughts on trying to recreate outdoors during a global pandemic.

Really wishing we could do this again soon!

I will state right up than I’m still grieving the loss of being able to go hiking, walking and camping with my little dog, pony and 9 year old son show. I may be heavily pregnant, but I was still planning on getting out at least every other week with friends until June if I could. I’m pretty sure my 19 year old, been everywhere gelding will pretend he’s never seen a trailer in his life when all this is said and done.

The last time I hauled this face, it was to his new barn over a month ago!

For every argument for throwing public lands back open, come what may, there’s a great deal of solid science, utter unknowns and plain humans being humans reasons not to; or at least, to try to find alternatives. The hardest part of all this for me, who likes to rely on experts and solid science, is that even the experts are flying a bit blind and there’s just so many unknowns around Covid-19, it makes “returning to normal” especially fraught…and humans, as a species, don’t always operate the best in the grey areas.

Proof Blondie can be uphill and balanced!

My neighbor to the north state, where a good chunk of my friends live, is cautiously reopening state public lands for day use next week, with several caveats. The biggest impact to me personally being the “don’t drive far” and “only travel with those you live with” directives. My state has prolonged opening the state parks until Memorial Day at least, which considering the supposed cross state agreement we joined seem a bit moot on the surface.

  • If one state opens but another doesn’t, people will be people and will travel across borders. This will lead to the crowding and overuse the officials are trying to prevent. Large fines and other enforcement strategies won’t change this behavior, as there are only so many officials able to enforce directives available anyway. Trail heads regularly see break ins, trash dumps and vandalism during normal times due to lack of enforcement, and that will just get worse.
  • State lands already feel the effect of budget cuts, chronic under funding and lack of staff. I did a stint as a park ranger and can attest to the uphill battle it normally is to keep up cleanliness; I shudder to imagine how much harder it would be with facilities closed and unable to be safely maintained by park staff even further constrained by lack of PPE and other materials. Opening access without opening facilities leads to the more careless humans making a huge mess, not recreating responsibly enough and providing disease spread (which even now is still not totally clear).
  • For those crying “But those are our lands!” This is true on the surface, but we live in a system in which we’ve given over management of such places to officials in whatever form. They currently face a heartbreaking battle between open access for all, maintaining the health and safety of both staff and visitors, and halting progression of a virus we still don’t have a clear picture for. Whether we fully agree with their decisions or not, they do have the power and the right to make them, and shouldn’t be vilified for it, only supported in whatever ways we can; whether that be through public comment, staying home or recreating as responsibly as we know how these days.
  • To those of pretty much all my friends, who I include in the “can recreate responsibly” guidelines and/or be reasonably self contained, I’m with you on desiring open lands where we can make our own choices and visit safely. But just enough folks just won’t or can’t follow the LNT guidelines or just manage to care enough about other people to open public lands without a solid, safe plan in place for managing such people, and that’s the bottom line officials have to reckon with. That part sucks the most for me, to know how hard my friends and I work when we camp, hike and volunteer to keep our public lands safe, clean and usable, and being unable to due to the subset of folks that just don’t care enough.

I don’t have any answers to the underlying issues above, maybe a few suggestions that I still don’t know would lead to a “safe enough” opening. Sure a permit system to avoid overcrowding is a decent idea, but leads to it’s own subset of problems, chief among them access for all and the time and budget to even set one up or expand the existing system (plus the additional cries of “It’s my land, why should I pay for it or have to arrange access to it?”).

As much as it sucks in the short term (and boy howdy does it really freaking suck when the sun shines and everything is bursting into bloom), the most responsible, ethical and kind thing to do is to stay at home until a safe enough system is worked out. I still hold hope for at least one more camping trip before I pop, even if it is just to my friend’s pasture!

If we all keep our heads, surely we can figure this out!

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!

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?)

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.
img_0090
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.
img_0170
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.)
img_9884
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).
img_0130-effects
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.
img_0013
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.
img_0152
Definitely dragging the husband, kid and dog to this awful place someday…

Zen Mind?

img_8248

In the sports I’ve chosen to dabble in (endurance riding, bike riding and running), most people speak of reaching a zen moment, or a blank mind, or just a moment when everything quiets and it’s just them and the road, or the trail ahead. It’s usually that indefinite stretch of time between the warm up and when you can see the end, when life and outside thoughts fade away, and for many that’s why they do such sports, plenty of time to seek that space.

That’s not why I run, or why I ride endurance. Maybe I’ll hit that space when I reach 50+ miles or actual marathons, but at my beginner distances there’s never a moment when my brain shuts off and I’m just doing my thing, trudging along in a meditative state.

I’m always busy, whether I be on my own feet or borrowing four. When I run there’s futzing with headphones, checking my pacing, considering my route, rolling up my sleeves, pushing my glasses back on my sweaty face, or adjusting my waist pack or running pack. If I’m not adjusting things I’m worrying about how loud my footfalls are, working on my (unfortunate mouth) breathing or fighting general life thoughts and worries from crowding my run.

While asaddle, I’m either chatting with the folks I’m riding with or calculating my route, negotiating how often we’re gonna stop to eat (*cough Raymond cough*), taking pictures or making sure my posting is even and controlled, switching my rein hand and reminding myself to keep drinking water or grab a bite to eat. The only thing that’s different when I’m riding is I’m fully in the moment-outside worries can’t follow me as soon as I mount up.

img_8338

I have to find other reasons to motivate myself to lace up or heft the bike out of the garage. It’s one thing to keep your eyes on the ultimate goal (ride as a middle weight, finish a 50 mile ride, general weight loss and fitness), but that’s not always enough umph. The activity itself doesn’t have to be super fun, but something about it has to be worth more than just the long term benefits.

So I signed up for a fun 5K this Sunday with the kid. I’m a goal driven gal, so there’s gotta be something concrete to reach. I’m good at setting the long term ones, not the short term check points. The kid’s my best cheerleader, so we’ll lace up, pack plenty of water, smear each other with sunscreen and hit the Oregon Trail. We’ll embrace endurance riding’s motto, ‘To Finish is To Win!”, no speed records or anything being set by us. If this one goes well I’ll look for some races later in the fall to run alone, when it’s slightly less stinky sweaty smoky out.

But who am I kidding? This view will always be my first love and main motivation!

img_8098

Blood donation…with a side of horses

Rather than an exhaustive play by play of my most excellent weekend, I’ll toss up a bunch of photos both pretty and questionable and a few vignettes from our trip up the mountain!

 

img_7877

My new favorite photo: Fourth ride in three days, bareback and mostly hands free! Ray and I have really clicked this past month and it’s paid off; he did almost 50 miles in four days for two different riders and still had gas left in the tank!

img_7873

I took the same photo two years ago on a different horse, so much has changed in life and in myself and I can say I was much more relaxed this trip, plus I had Cyrus tagging along!

img_7872

We spent a good chunk of the weekend like this, I finished two books! Nomadland by Jessica Bruder (excellently researched and written!) and Confessions of a Horseshoer,  by Ron Tatum (an interesting look inside the mind of an old school farrier).

img_7871

Adrienne, dogs and I hiding in the trailer, seeking relief from the incessant mosquitoes!

img_7859

Lunch break during our 4.5 hour, 16 mile ride around Timothy Lake (that’s one of a million butterflies above Ray’s saddle!) We rode drag all day, moseying along and enjoying everything but the mosquitoes!!!

img_7855

No, no one punched or kicked me. These are all mosquito bites! My other leg looks much the same. Note to self: Avoid this area until later in the summer!

img_7781

Heading out for ride #4, see what’s missing? I only came off once (#domorecrunches) but I successfully captured Ray as he moseyed back to camp riderless (that vision is a catch riders worst nightmare) by snapping a carrot at his (slowly) retreating butt. Given a choice between camp far away and food right at hand, guess who turned right around and let himself be caught so I could scramble back up top?

img_7759

Cyrus was adored by all and scarfed up everything he could find all weekend, though my trainer’s older dog also loved his special comfy bed.

img_7743

Obligatory stupid awesome photo between the ears of Mt. Hood over Timothy Lake. The mosquitoes were totally worth this view!

img_7719

I learned Ray loves water. Not so much to drink, though he managed that just fine, more to splash, splash, splash and seriously consider laying down and rolling in, rider and saddle still attached not withstanding!

img_7752

Good friends and their matching shirts! Rachel with Mustang/Paso Fino Cody on the left, Adrienne with “Turbo Frisian” Arab/Frisian Ruais and Ronan on the right.

img_7754

Cyrus flirted shamelessly all weekend, and was well rewarded for it. My trainer’s partner fed everyone, including the poor, unloved dogs heaping portions of wonderful Kahlua pork and rice.

img_7670

Lunchtime selfies, five seconds before Primo the Super Mustang almost lost his mind at a cute little girl calling up “Pretty horsies!” from a horse eating kayak on the lake.

img_7588

Horse eating bridge or no biggie? Several horses had complaints to be lodged about this harmless little footbridge, but not unphased Ray!

This weekend was the perfect trip I needed to relax and clear out the cobwebs so I can focus on painting and packing and moving into our awesome new house this week, a whole post coming on that tomorrow!

 

Namesake

Lately it feels as if I’m paralleling my namesake, Jamethiel, more than ever, in terms of the level of crazy this year has held.

(For those who don’t know, I’m named for the main character in a beautiful, convoluted, complicated, epic fantasy series The Chronicles of the Kencyrath. The author makes George RR Martin seem a speed writer; my mother first picked up the series as a young girl, and now that I’m raising my son the series still isn’t finished).

51sd1ldVMpL

Life is unusually charmed; husband newly hitched, house pretty much ours (signing all the things next week!), a job that suits me pay and temperament wise, steady riding and weight creeping off, no broken bones on the kid yet this year. I’m not yet 30, and in the space of a season I’ve hit a ton of the major life milestones. Marriage, house, career job…I’ve already covered the kid part, though I need to rededicated myself to the raising v. keeping alive and in clean clothes mode we’ve been in as the school year draws to a close.

img_7298

But as my namesake does, I must test things, push and prod and question the limits. It’s not a wonder then, that I’ve embraced, made my internal peace and found a smart direction for that testing part of my nature. As I’ve settled ever more seriously into the domestic bliss or at least settled happiness life I’m carving out with my boys, I seek just a piece of release and fun and crazy, those questing things I gave up for Kade when most of my peers were out doing the weird, the stupid or the ill advised.

img_7308

That I’m juggling both at once-settled happiness and pushing the details-perhaps suits me more than it should. There are the inevitable doubts, fears, questions and cautions, but so long as I embrace the fun and not the rest of it, I should hope it provides the stress relief I seek, not the drama or complications.

I’m referring, of course, to endurance riding. (You thought I meant gambling or skydiving or something didn’t you?) This was supposed to be my year for my first 50 mile ride; I’ve paid dues to both PNER & AERC; I’ve ridden at least four times a month since January. I’ve got my camping and riding gear organized to the nines, and can toss stuff in the truck and be ready to take off in a half hour flat, kid and dog included!

img_7211

Between the new job being temp to hire (no paid vacation time) and buying the house, both my ability to take Friday’s off and the funds for rides has evaporated. My focus is shifting; from endurance as a “get it done now!” activity to horse riding as stress relief, at least until next season. Moving, painting, setting up a pantry,  epoxy for the garage floor, dog door, cleaning out the rental, all the other little projects to make this house into our house will take any spare cent and mental space for the immediate future.

img_7300

This is both a little disappointing and also freeing, as was my earlier revelation that horse camping without the endurance ride part is relaxing. Endurance is about miles, yes, but also the details, from tack fit to how many miles to training gaps. Now that my day job and personal life is jam packed and an actual endurance season is off the table, I have more time to use those detail oriented skills on setting myself up better for endurance, rather than “just” chugging through conditioning miles.

img_7301

I can focus on riding a good horse, relaxing either in a group of friends or just me, the horse and the dog. I’m building a solid relationship with Ray, who pushes me just enough to be a better rider, while leaving me happy when I’ve put him up with an extra treat for his efforts.  There will always be tack fit, gear and other things to futz with. There’s also other things I can try closer to home, like cattle sorting or Competitive Mounted Orienteering, wine or poker rides.

img_7208

“An hour spent in the saddle is never wasted.”