Ten feet tall

I am so proud today! Flash, Cyrus and I did five and a half miles solo at Hardy Creek this morning and everything went smoothly. I have ridden at Hardy extensively in the past but Flash has only been there once a year ago. We did most of the ride on a loose rein while I sang camp songs and a few “Hamilton” tracks to keep the tempo.

The bridge is the same color as my horse!
Cyrus enjoying his treat and water break at Annie’s Cabin.
These are my favorite cantle bags, from Stowaway, they hold so much with little bounce.

It was a fairly busy day and Flash was pretty dang good, no spooks and only a few mild opinions. The trails were beautiful and green and Cyrus even found some mud.

His trail manners are just the best; even off leash he never approached all the other dogs we passed and he sticks right with us. My favorite part of Hardy Creek are all the singletrack trails, and I’m happy to report we didn’t run into any wasps or hornets, always a concern this time of year.

Fun singletrack trail
Happy Cyrus!
Busy ears, sound really carries up this canyon

Ten feet tall and moving down trail with a happy dog and a pretty Palamino and life is good!

I walk down the big hill to the trailer, I ride up it at the start though!
Pretty Blondie!
Luckiest girl with her very own rig!

Sun and adventures to come

Three awesome lads

Thanks to the later sunset, I was able to fit in a quick, two mile hike after I picked the kid up from school. My second best hope has been realized and Flash is loading now with zero fuss (he’s not yet self loading but maybe someday). I’m hoping he actually likes going hiking (or, as I’m sure he calls it, “sampling the wilderness”.)

Must eat every five strides

If it’s not cancelled due to coronavirus concerns, I’ve signed up for a Mountain Trail Schooling Course at Bolender Horse Park this weekend. I’ll be doing Novice, Level 1 and Level 2 in hand if Flash agrees with that. For all it’ll be our first event like this together, I’m hoping we’ll do okay…at least not embarress each other! The hardest move for Flash is a side pass; I just don’t have my signals down for nice, smooth ones so we’ll try to eek through that.

Kade is a great videographer in training!

Wish us luck and hope we don’t freeze up in the hills Saturday night! At least Flash will have a nice cozy stall on site.

After school fun

Close to home adventures

I’ve finally reached 20 weeks pregnant, wooot!!! Halfway there! We had the mid way ultrasound yesterday to check all the measurements and growth and baby is moving along normally, always good to hear that from doctors!

I love my new spare tire cover!

This also means that I’ve reached the point in which I’m voluntarily grounding myself from riding; the risk of a fall from Flash is fairly low but not zero, and as this isn’t my baby my comfort level is lower. So, we’re back to hiking and today the sun shone so out we went!

Happy dog, starving horse

An awesome local group is gathering and bringing some old trails back to life that just so happen to be a 10 minute haul from my barn! I was able to load Flash, unload, shove his boots on, make him carry my stuff (some adjustments still needed there), go for a two mile hike and make it home as the kid got off the bus.

Trail building: downhill edition

Flash was super well behaved except for the occasional reminder to not trip over me (personal spaaaaace!) and even when we saw other horses he didn’t scream for them. He did get a bit fast heading back to the trailer, so we took an out and back detour on a single track trail and he settled back down.

Awesome viewpoint

A beautiful hike and some exploring in a new place on a sunny day with a good dog and a starving blonde pony…it helps a great deal! Now to pack the truck for our camping shakedown trip to Battle Ground Lake tomorrow!

Pony chooses food over views naturally
Nom nom

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!

 

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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!

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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!

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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).

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

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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!!!

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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!

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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?

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

Riding Keeps Me Sane

So much has happened in the last month it’s crazy to even try to type it out.

A quick & dirty review:

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I went on the first camping trip of the season, over to Sisters and rode three times in two days, all on Ray. By the end of the trip, I was riding Ray bareback three miles while Cyrus chugged along behind.

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I left my state job, after a bare six months (fresh out of trial service in good standing meant I was permanent with the state, so leaving was a big jump!)

I got freakin’ married! Three weeks in and we still don’t have our rings due to ordering them so late; I haven’t changed my name on anything official yet due to our upcoming trip to Canada; and yet, things feel subtly different but we’re still…us.

I started a new job at which my name proceeded me. I left my state job to work for an old manager at a different company, and everyone here has mentioned how well my boss has spoken of me and how excited he is to have me on board. It’s temp to hire so not ideal, but the pay is so much higher, the career path so much easier to see, and I get to kick ass doing what I do best; assisting a safety group to be the best, most efficient and well organized team in the biz. That I can now carpool with my new husband since we work for the same company is just another added bonus.

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But, with change comes stress, and I’ve never been accused of managing change in the most mature way possible. For the month of April I lost almost 10 pounds due to basically not eating or sleeping overmuch. I’m not kidding! We went out with a big bunch of friends to Fuddrucker’s and I ate maybe a quarter of my meal.  I only ate one piece of pizza at a friend’s house, yo. When has anyone known me to eat less than two pieces, no matter how sucky the pizza? I mean, pizza, c’mon.

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The trip to Sisters and then my next ride on Ray, a solo jaunt to our normal stomping grounds that we can access straight from the barn has worked wonders for keeping my head screwed on straight. I went 7 miles with Cyrus trailing along, almost on a loose rein the entire way. Ray did try to pull a few wimpy “Can I go back to the barn” half turns, but sticking to him at Sisters gave me the calmer confidence I needed to deal with these without getting worked up over them, and we had a fantastic ride. I’d ask him to trot or canter at the speed I asked for, then we’d stop, eat and wait for Cyrus to catch up. I was once again alone in the woods with a very good horse, a very happy muddy dog and sunshine.

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My new job is ten times the amount of responsibility and people I effect, but I don’t have to listen for Code Greens or wonder if a friendly hello will tip off a patient. I can put my headphones on and chug through my day, hip deep in some of the things I nerd out over. My friends are coming down this weekend to pick up Ray & I so I can play tour guide at one of the best spots for conditioning and trail rides nearby, and I can’t wait for the heat wave and miles under sturdy hooves (please don’t lose any shoes between now & Sunday Raymond!)

IMG_6313.jpgAny of these automatically become the best view in the world!

Dry Side Jaunt

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Two bridleless, three bareback & one horses first real camping season, Three Sisters behind us!

Last weekend was a perfect start to the riding and camping season, but it made me re-examine my equine priorities. My main goal for the past two years has been to train for and complete a 50 mile endurance ride. I obviously have to loose a few more pounds, seriously up my fitness to post 50 miles, and get over my first five miles of racing brain anxiety.

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Relax, sit deep, shoulders back, post to the movement…room for improvement, but a nice power trot!

Starting an endurance ride is deeply stressful for me, mainly because I’m usually on a horse I’ve only met a few times before, if I’m lucky. My most successful ride was last year at Klickitat with Jokker; I finished feeling like another 25 would be easy, albeit dusty, and I loved most every second of it. Any horse can feed off the energy of ride camp, dozens of horses high as kites and fit as cougars and ready to go. Problem is, I hate riding that high headed, upside down back when I just know I only have .1% of the horses attention, cause that’s when shit hits the fan.

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Camping with my current trainer and a few of her working students and friends was…amazingly relaxing. I had only one moment of stress, and it was based on my lack of fitness at keeping up at the canter/almost gallop, but by the end of the weekend I was riding bareback up to the viewpoint on the same horse. Ray and I really hit our grove this trip, and now I’m looking forward to the summer spent with this mostly easy going, occasionally surprising redhead.

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It was wonderful to lumber out of my cozy hammock where Cyrus and I had snuggled all night, sipping coffee in front of the fire and waiting for the sun to rise and the day to warm before we slowly tacked up and moseyed out of camp, no hollering or jigging required. We set our own speed, not quite completion speed but moving out more than we’ve been able to all winter.  Each horse had to have their moments of spring fever, cantering in place, spinning, side passing down the trail but those were mostly in good fun, no one bolted or screamed or disagreed too badly.

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There was plenty of time to chat, take awesome photos, revel in the dry and the sun and the open forest of the dry side. It was a good shake out for the season, testing equipment and rider’s legs and recovery times.

Cyrus even got to come along and see if he would make a good camp dog…he makes an excellent camp dog! He never strayed too far or ate too many weird things, he charmed all the other ladies, snuggled all night in the hammock with me, and even got to join in on the sunset ride to the viewpoint.

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That ride ended up with three of us riding bareback and two bridleless to boot! We soaked up the sun, huddled out of the wind, ate good food and drank just enough to relax and hit on every topic under the sun.

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I think I might like horse camping better than endurance, ya’ll. All the fun and horses and company, none of the stress! Many thanks to Terreka, Shannon, Verena & Stacy for an epic weekend!

All of the sunshine!

I can tell I got an absolute, glorious overload of sun yesterday based on how quickly I fell asleep last night and the reddish tinge to my fair Yankee skin today (for the record, I did wear sunscreen!)

Even more remarkable than wearing sunscreen and riding in a T shirt in March is that I rode solo for the first time in…well, years. As a catch rider I’m always riding with the owner of their spare horse I’m riding. Now that I’m part leasing a horse, there’s a possibility I could be out alone at some point, and what better time to practice long lost skills than a perfect spring day?

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Can’t top this shot!

As a bonus, Cyrus got to come along for his first trail ride, proving himself a suburb trail dog…though for walking rides only (as a short nosed Boxer, regulating heat is tough on him).  He stayed out of the horse’s way, stayed close by, didn’t bolt after any furry creatures, drank from any water we crossed (trust me, that’s huge for Mr. Princess Former Show Dog!), and had perfect voice recall. I wouldn’t have taken him out if I’d really worried about his recall, seeing as how people are rightfully super picky about misbehaving dogs wandering around, but it’s nice to be proven right.

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Pics or it didn’t happen right?

Mr. “I Can’t Believe This Is Happening To Me” and I put in some quality time, with short though frequent discussions on the meaning of the words “forward” and “walk.” My only goal for the day was to get to the new crossroads clear cut area (which made for a 6 mile out & back ride) where we walked the whole time. Since last week’s ride was a speed workout at Hardy Creek, on the way back to the barn Mr. “We Go Fast Now?” struggled a bit with this concept. But with plenty of circles, half halts, full halts to contemplate the quiet cows and marching back out onto the trail, no one died and I never came off. I won’t lie, I hopped off voluntarily and walked whenever Mr. “I’m actually a Giraffe”‘s back turned into that upside down U, but this ensured that my anxiety level of going outside my comfort zone never matched Ray’s desire to spook at anything so he could go home, now.

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I can’t match tack or gear, but I can match animals!

That said, I probably could have ridden the entire 6 miles. Mr. “I could spook at that bush, hay bale, mailbox, strange horse” never actually threw anything that frightened me. Whenever he became glacially slow, sidled sideways or tried to turn for home, it just brought out the stubborn “I have a goal and you have a job to do” inner bitch of mine, but man does she get the job done. Once that part of me popped up, I actually enjoyed myself. How could I not, riding in the warm sun on a cute redhead with my handsome dog bopping along behind?

Clearly I still have work to do. I need to be fit enough to ride at Ray’s speed and stay balanced; we need to try a different bit, maybe a running martingale for endurance rides based on what the trainer thinks; and I need new half chaps (I’ve lost so much weight mine can’t stay up anymore!)  The Canby 4-H tack sale is this weekend, so I’ll be looking for a few nice girths, another saddle pad and breast collar to add to my growing tack collection.

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The most relaxed part of the ride!

Things I have figured out include my lovely Barefoot saddle with lovely sheepskin cover and custom stirrups; riding in my new running shoes (so much more comfortable on a hot day than my hiking boots!), not over layering (that’s what killed me my first attempt at Grizzly), what to pack in my pommel bag; and to always, even for short walking rides, wearing my Osprey hydration pack.

Extra shout out: Anyone willing to lend me a camper trailer for said third attempt at Grizzly? See you on the trails!

IMG_5344.jpgMr. Best Redheaded Steed!

Endorphins Are Good

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Pssst Vicki! I know the terrible, awful, no good weather is here to stay, but I need a hit of this view! It’s been too long since I’ve had my Jokker fix!

Running with a dog is incomparably better than shuffling alone. It’s the difference between dancing the Electric Slide in front of your history class cause you got an answer wrong, and a zone of thoughtfulness created by the pant pant pant of the dog coupled with the ‘get your ass moving’ beat of Fall Out Boy.

Which is all to the good, as I need the workout and endorphins pumping more than ever. My new job is tough. All new jobs are tough, but this one was running into a brick wall full speed, Wile E. Coyote style. To say I had no idea what I was getting into is giving me too much credit for knowing I should have had an idea. When I have a patient cursing at me about their money, it makes me miss my sweet and easy to please (read: bribe with candy) safety team. But benefits and paid holidays are wonderful, so I’m trudging ahead and getting my feet underneath me, made easier by the sweet wiggle butt, gap toothed kiddo and endorphins I can burn when I get home. Oh, and the kitchen fairy mentored boyfriend.

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I’ve been using MyFitnessPal off and on for years to try to reach my main goal of ‘lose weight and get fit to ride endurance effectively.’ I’ve never felt I’ve made much progress, due my allergy to anything ending in “-diet” and love of all things bread. And cheese. And off Tom’s Traeger. And Tillamook Salted Caramel Ice Cream bars. As I was syncing up tonight’s super short, 18 minute trudge through the rain tonight, I realized I’ve successfully lost and kept off 25 pounds.

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HOLY CRAP! In my own meandering, unguided, Pinterest addicted, comfy bed loving way, I’ve lost 25 pounds. Who’s counting that it took three years? I’m only 20 pounds away from being classified as a middleweight (with tack!), which opens up more realms of possible horses I can comfortably catch ride. I’m within 35 pounds of the weight I was pre-kid, and 40 pounds of where I was when I was super freaking fit in college, cutting down trees and driving three horse teams. It’s the middle of a typically cold, wet, dark Oregon winter, and I’m running with the dog most every day, and logging everything I eat and not going for the third cookie.

25 pounds. It may not seem like a ton, and I’m certainly not done, but the proof is in the pudding, so the English say. I can do this. I can work myself down in weight and up in strength, juggle my mental health and kid keeping aliveness and boyfriend someday soon to be fiance wellness and smooshy faced dog happiness and pissy ass cat glares.

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I still want to reach the goal of completing a 50 mile endurance ride, hopefully next season if I can wrangle the stars, time off work, finances and horse access. But my goals have shifted slightly, and I find myself longing for me, a good horse and a mountain trail meandering between snow flecked peaks, without the drama and stress that seems to have infiltrated my beloved community this year. If I can wrangle all the above, I’m going to focus on finding a horse to lease and take lessons with and condition in my own way, taking everything I’ve absorbed from all my mentors and seeing what I can do with it. That thought keeps me pounding pavement in the rain, happy Cyrus leading the way with a sharp eye out for slow squirrels.

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How many words for cold?

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Actual mother fucking icicles hanging off my college library roof.

I hate the cold. I spent part of my childhood in the blissful, baking, dry heat of Arizona, just north of Phoenix. I survived five whole stinking cold, snow bound winters in Vermont, and ran back home to more temperate Oregon at the first chance (that hard long winters seemed to have followed me back is a moot point). I remember learning new curse words for the temperatures that froze my nose hairs, made breathing a chore, and turned my eyes Ice King Blue in the middle of February. My muscles still recall hefting a stupid sledgehammer, breaking ice in the cow troughs and carrying buckets of boiling water down to the barn, or freezing to the metal chains used to hook up the draft horses to the forecart. The first time my kid went outside after he was born, we were wrapped in roughly eight layers of wool and silk, and still I was convinced my brand new baby would get frostbite and I’d fail at the whole mothering thing five days in.

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I hate cold, ya’ll. I also hate running. I’m about as graceful and flat footed as a rhino, only without the boner creating horn. I sweat as if I’m sitting in a sauna and I run with my head tilted a little to the side, doing to having a huge glasses lens prescription for my right eye as a little kid. Give me a horse or a bike to ride, hands down.

However, when you add cold and running together, my hate for both cancels each other out. I don’t sweat, there is no-fuckin’-body out to see me juggling my fat butt down the street, and I push myself to keep running (slow as a herd of fucking turtles ya’ll) so I don’t freeze to death. Oh, and the even more secret ingredient to my new goal to run six insane times a week? Cyrus the World’s Best Jogging Partner!

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Thanks to pesky things like work, house chores, commuting, eating food, being a parent kinda sorta, and stupidly being farther away from the sun during these months, Cyrus and I are getting our run in during the coldest, darkest part of the winter night…roughly between 7pm and 9pm. He not only keeps my sad ass pace super easily, he makes me feel better about the whole endeavor because running=more of a dog workout=dog sleeping peacefully on the couch all day while we’re gone and not chewing up the house. I’m such a good dog mom, ya’ll!

As a last thought, endorphins do make it easier to write…since I haven’t even cracked 6000 words of NaNoWriMo 13 days in, time to get cracking! Request: If anyone has some really good names for alien species, toss them my way? I can only rearrange letters into vaguely Swedish sounding names so often….

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This adorableness will never get old!

Easy like Sunday morning

Say what you will about Facebook and their questionable business practices, today I’m thankful for the ability to connect with a wide range of people.

This weekend has been full of spending money and giggling like a little girl, but it’s not Jokker’s fault this time. In response to my last post, a friend suggested I contact a boxer breeder she knew of who had an older dog looking for a new home (a million thanks Ann!)

Based on the cat’s still roundly pissy yowling whenever Cyrus gets too close (he isn’t scared, just mad he’s not an only furry animal in the house now) it may be too early to declare total victory on the dog acquisition front, but in only a day we’ve made adorable headway.

Cyrus is the same age as Kade, coming six years old, already a distinguished gentleman with impeccable manners and a tendency for carrying stuffies around in his mouth. He’s a super cuddler with a soft mouth and needing a soft place to land (he prefers the couch to the super highly rated dog bed I found on Amazon). Kade is already smitten, Tom is being won over by Cyrus doing his best to ignore said pissy cat, and strangers stop and they comment on his handsomeness on our walks.

I know there are a lot of heavy, terrible things racketing around the world these past few weeks, and I’ve given what blood and help I can. In our little corner of the world, our hearts are quietly full, and I’ve made at least one little boy tremendously happy. Coupled with a heavy headed snoring dog, tasty coffee, Tom home from South Korea and a new job to start at tomorrow, life is pretty excellent!