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

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 🙂

A new exercise

Today when I arrived at the barn, someone had left a grid of poles laid out that I was immediately excited to try. Due to various reasons (being pregnant, super busy at work, and the occasional winter doldrums) I haven’t been riding Flash consistently. I brought him home in August and before that he was pretty much a trail horse, but under that cookie seeking exterior is a well trained horse.

We’re back to basics while we’re stuck in the arena, mostly while we really learn each other and build fitness (I won’t really get to keep it but hopefully he will!) Since part of my “be safer while pregnant” agreement is nixing trail rides, the arena is what I get so I’m trying to make the most of it. I’m also half contemplating previously unfathomable ideas like a low key local w/t/maybe canter schooling show. Me, show???? I haven’t bothered to do that since Pony Club!

Blondie thought he was done when I dismounted…🤣

So here’s our attempt at this serpentine grid, and side passing down a pole, serenaded by frogs, coyotes and restless children 🤣

Mr. 2Spooky

(Setting the scene: sitting in my beloved Emerald Queen, still at work, waiting for the World’s Best future husband to come rescue me and my non independent woman self from a super flat tire, and a spare tire I can’t get out from under the vehicle cause I’ve never practiced on this truck yet).

After looting the local 4H tack sale with two far fetched friends on Saturday, I put the new to me tack to use on Sunday.

My proudest score of Saturday was a almost brand new Equipedic pad for $100, which is totally worth boasting about and bonus, Ray had no issues with it!

A still relatively new to me riding partner and I headed out for a long slow ride, as we’re aiming to turtle Grizzly together. I have always ridden with others much more experienced than I, both with endurance and the local trails. Yesterday I got to be the ‘senior’ riding partner, and we never once got lost! She mentioned several suggestions I had that I’ve picked up from others (hopping off every 10 miles or so to pee and stretch and adjust tack, letting horses graze for a few minutes every so often, and walking the last bit I to camp/the barn) were super helpful, so thanks to all those who’ve instilled good habits in me!

While it was a good 12 mile ride (no rain!) I was reminded once again that Ray is a different horse than super laid back, goofy Jokker.

Mr. I’m actually a teenager spent a good chunk of the ride just super casually glancing around, going full giraffe at random moments, and not quite fully jumping sideways at Every. Single. Culvert. I rode every moment of the ride, working to not let my emotions rule because Mr. I’m not actually trying to dump you tried to pretend he was a super spooky four year old.

I kept the image of mile 18, trotting easily down trail halfway back to camp and a well earned completion award and roaring bonfire in mind as I again reminded Mr. I go so fast than no, you can’t bolt all the way home, and please don’t tailgate the peeing mare.

Rather than being terrified, I enjoyed the challenge of pushing myself to match the horse, and not get sucked into his attempts to weasel out of work. He did eventually accept the notion and we settled down and enjoyed ourselves (minus the redhead eating culverts).

Lessons learned: definitely going to try a Kimberwick or at least a running martingale next time; he has a habit of sticking his nose straight up when he disagrees with the riders chosen speed. “Neener neener, can’t tell me what to do now!” Shortening my stirrups was both good and bad; my seat was much better, but it tired my right ankle our faster and forced me to constantly reset my bad balance (something I’m hoping Celena can help me with at her clinic in two more weeks!)

My proudest moment was also the scariest; we were cantering back home and I could feel myself tipping forward over his neck, reins not short enough to do any good, and if he’s stumbled or shied I would have been dumped, just like I fell off Reno at Grizzly last year. Fortunately this year I heard some old trainer’s loud ass voice shout ‘Sit on your ASS!’ so I did and we came back to a more controlled canter that I cowgirl whooped my way through cause yeah, super badass enough to correct that mistake this time!

The only thing I really need to work with Mr. Fastest Possible Speed is rating, which I know will be worse the first five miles out of ride camp. My twin goals are dialing in his bit/martingale combo and working on my core strength so I can keep with him for those long miles.

We can do this and we can enjoy doing so, even more when the sun decides to shine! Hows everyone else’s conditioning coming?

View from the ground

Life has tossed a few loops at me this summer, from Kade's second broken arm, job loss and Tom hopping back and forth to Phoenix, not to mention the unreasonable heat and wildfire smoke hanging over everything. I'm writing this on my friend's living room, PNER Green Bean mug full of coffee in one hand, kid playing on his iPad and stuffing his face full of bagels and remarking on the ducks once again taunting the dogs.

I picked up blogging (again!) as a way to remain somewhat publicly accountable for my new exercise plan. Since my last post I've only put in two solid bike rides, although I've been working out a different way; horse back riding, schooling horses in the ring, on my feet or in the saddle a good chunk of the day.

I have so many horse people I look up to, from the newly Tevis buckled Jala Neufeld to my old Fjord and Dales farm owner Marcy Baer, still going strong in Vermont. I have long held an educational view, accepting I will never know everything about horses, but by golly I'll spend a lifetime trying. Due to this I always look around the horse world from a learner's mindset, hoovering up everything and filing things away for later. I rarely toss anything out as complete hogwash, always mindful of the
occasionally huge leaps between disciplines.

There are a few basic things I hold to as someone whose goal is to be called 'horsewoman', mainly being mindful of the horse's point of view in what we ask them to do; letting predators on their backs, trailering to strange places, tolerating everything we toss at them, and always trying to keep their comfort levels in their terms in mind.
So for someone who still and always views themselves as a learner, it's taken some doing to gracefully accept that in a small way, I do have some wisdom and knowledge to share.
(I swear this isn't a humble brag post, stick with me!)

Since my day job was cut, I've been spending the bulk of my days helping a friend with her still relatively new boarding facility up in Washington. And by helping I mean giving lessons, evaluating horses, and giving horses some tune ups. Me, giving lessons! Helping other people not only be better riders, but figure out how to enjoy their horses more.
Despite the heat, long hours on my feet, a general weird feeling to be teaching people *cough* mildly older than myself, and a weird case of what was probably pink eye…. I've loved every moment of it, of watching concepts click in someone's mind or seat, of hearing owners gush over how much calmer their horse is. Even Tom has seen how much calmer and happier and flat out excited I am, and is fully supportive of trying to make this training concept work, however we can.

I've been in full on research mode the past few weeks, reading and plotting and mulling ideas about *gulp* setting up an actual horse business. I have already identified my niche- kids and reriders or older new riders, people who want to work on themselves and making their lives with their horses easier and more enjoyable. I know where my gaps are as a rider and horse person, which is why I'm as dedicated to learning as ever. I still have big goals for myself (Tevis 2020 anyone?) but this doesn't discount what I do know.

Part of this post was to finally process how I feel about the whole experience (weird! Excited! Happy!) but also toss my little shingle into the wide ring of horse people in the Pacific Northwest. If you find yourself looking for lessons or boarding near Olympia Washington, give T and A Ranch a look. It's the facility I would build given the time and inclination, and it's a fantastic place to learn to ride or keep working on things 🙂

See ya on the trail!

Back in the saddles!

Are we going to talk about how long it’s been since I last posted? 

Nope, except to say that life is busy as it is for everyone, and I have a new job that demands so much more brain power than my old one…Which, unfortunately, I am loosing after this week due to budget cuts. I am, of course, going through the stages of grieving over it, since this is the best team I’ve worked with since college.

No, the reasons I’ve decided to devote some time to writing here are many, mostly focused on self improvement through accountability. If I can consistently post here, doing so will help keep my goals and steps towards those goals front and center, where even people outside my immediate circle can help keep me accountable ttowards them. 


My primary goal for this endurance riding season, the real goal that pushes everything else, is to complete a 50 mile ride. It’s July and the PNW season ends, more or less, in October. I have completed one 25 mile ride and felt great, fully embeddeding the endurance bug once again. 


A large part of my success at that ride came down to two main factors; a wonderful mentor and an utterly forgiving horse with a build that carried a heavyweight rider without issue. Jokker is amazing horse and I’m privileged to be able to ride him, but as a catch rider I would like for a few more doors to be open to me. Expanding my options entails loosing weight (my eventual goal is to ride as a midweight, preferably by next season), gaining strength and riding ability. 

As I am facing uncertain employment, I can’t shell out for lessons right now, but I have all the tools available to work on the first two. Through extensive trial and error, I’ve found what works for me to keep moving towards those goals; primarily hiking and biking. I loath running; I just can’t stick with it, as sweaty and slow and jiggly as all the various bits of me right now. Swimming costs money to belong to a local pool, being stuck in the gym around strangers is boring and unmotivating, and even plain walking is just ugh. 


Thanks to a birthday gift from my parents, I’ve discovered I actually love biking, as it allows me to go a lot father and faster than my own two feet, carrying more gear, with a lot less jiggly and rubbing parts. The one issue is it’s not super cheap, between maintenance and new gear to make things a bit more comfortable. I weigh every purchase with a thought to my ultimate goal; will a new bike seat help me get more miles in to be fitter for a 50? 

I am also lucky in that Canby is a surprisingly good town to bike ride in. There are certainly some roads leading out of town I’m not up for trying yet, but most roads have bike lanes or wide  shoulders, plus their is a beautiful multi-use path without cars that cuts right through town. I can just hop on the bike and go, without having to drive somewhere and park (which I still do if only for variety). 

I am also keeping a private journal in Evernote, which I use everyday for tracking mental headspace, measurements, food and workouts, as well as various apps such as Map My Ride and My Fitness Pal. I’ve started and lost motivation on several workout plans over the years, but most of them were running based. I think having a clear and attainable endurance goal in mind and a biking based workout plan will help get me there, as well as more public accountability. 


My next possible endurance ride is Santiam Cascade in a month, with the incomparable Jokker once again on deck. I also want to be prepared to jump on any chance offered, without doing a disservice to any offered horse. 

For now, Santiam is in my sights and I can’t wait!

Sore, sweaty, tired

I know I’ve shouted my thanks on Facebook already, but a huge thanks has to be repeated for everything that went into getting me & almost 200 other riders on beautiful, expertly marked trails on Mt Adams last weekend! The stars aligning & all the hard work & effort put in was astounding, & now that the soreness is wearing off I can better appreciate all of it!
I’m not going to do a blow by blow account of the ride, but more a general overview of things that stuck out at me, & things I need to work on before I hunt down another ride, if I can between house buying craziness & camping with the kiddo as much as possible while the weather holds.


I did complete the race, & thankfully Shadow was in much, much, ten times better condition than me at the end. I made the mistake of not wearing my Camelbak to try to avoid all the sloshing, & so drank far less water & more Gatorade than my body liked. So I threw up after Allyssa trotted out Shadow for his completion vet check. No bueno, drink more water.


My core was juuuuuust enough to keep me ahorse, but only on a saint that never once spooked. My left leg was numb by mile 12 & this did not improve my posting ability one bit.

I have two good pictures from the photographer, & one of me at the final vet check right before I ditched all my food into the grass. Two are faintly attractive, the other shows that I really did earn that completion, by enduring & trying not to whine too much.


Maaaaan it was pretty. And perfect weather. And Shadow’s trot is a thing of beauty for an Arab, sitable (though I need a double bra next time, so told by the bruises on those lady parts), calmly ratable & smooth. I couldn’t have asked for a better horse to ride my first time out in two years.

I’m addicted to endurance riding. Every time I think I could be happy enough not doing it, I score the magic of a ride & remember that nope, this is my thing, so I return to scheming my way onto horseback as often as possible. Because dirty, sweaty, sore & grinning is perfect (now just gotta learn to drink water…)


I am also on the hunt for a good pair of riding pants. Yoga & running pants aren’t going to cut it for me, so what’s best, a nice pair of Kerritts or spring for something like Crazy Legs Tights?

I will keep working on my reputation as a solid, caring, directable catch rider…or in other words, growing up to be like Kathleen Jepson, though I’m less specific about riding pretty spotted ponies!

Endurance people are the best, hands down, in the horse world, & just the best in general. Not enough can be said about their general awesomeness, caring, & ability to kick ass.

To climb a mountain

I know there are a ton of things on my mind, what with house hunting (and the first of what my grandmother has informed me will probably be about 10 happy couple fights re said house search), the money pressures, Kade’s time in kindergarten looming, job hunting, the massive project at my current job, losing weight/getting fitter (20 pounds down and oh the awesomeness!) plus all the other assorted life debris, like my complete inability to transfer clean laundry from baskets to closets…(in my defense, the internet was down last night and it’s a proven fact that putting laundry away without a TV show is just unusual punishment).

But all this is happily fading into the background even as I type this, as I keep double checking the Evernote (my newest attempt to be a ‘seize it all mom’ type) note labeled “Mt. Adams Ride 2016.” Originally I was just heading up the mountain this week to volunteer, label a few horse butts with grease paint and follow my friends around and eat their food, like I did at Coyote Ridge. I was also hoping that through sheer dint of his cuteness factor and hanging around such a jaw droopingly beautiful ride camp, that the short blonde one would be one step closer to being comfortable with horse lessons next spring.
So why am I obsessing over my packing list more than usual and dropping the kiddo off at school before heading up alone tomorrow? It’s all Jala’s fault, really. She dared me to see if I could find a horse to actually ride on LD. She twisted my arm and just to placate the short, scary woman I posted on the PNER Facebook page…and about 20 minutes later I was offered Andrea’s second horse Shadow to buddy with her on the LD. It will be my first endurance ride since I RO pulled two years ago at Grizzly due to my inability to make peace with such a pesky thing as heat exhaustion (which according to the forecast won’t be a problem at this ride, instead staying dry will be!)

Even though I still have to slog through another 5 hours of work, putting laundry away (I promised!) & packing the Emerald Queen, my mind is already up at 8000 feet with Darlene, settling into yet another unfamiliar saddle to put miles under hooves.
I also feel like I should take a bit to thank everyone like one of those award shows, Adrienne for letting me ride her amazing horses, Jala & Nicole for being awesome friends even though we only see each other a few times a year, & my boss for letting me wiggle out of a whole Friday of work, Andrea for simply offering a horse to lug me around 30 miles of beautiful Washington wilderness…& of course the men of our lives, Tom & Tom, for watching the kids so we could ride!

Time to enjoy

  
While I was standing at my desk this morning, back within the blue fabric walls of my home sweet cube, I was trying to decide what the best part of my weekend was, & mostly failing to choose between two awesome things. 

To describe it shortly isn’t easy for me but I can try: 

On Friday I lit out from work early, scooping up my child & hot footing it east wards again, like any good Portlander desperate for an uncomplicated dose of sun & clear skies. After a short stop at Fred Meyer’s to load up on s’more ingredients & an excellent burger at Big Jim’s in The Dalles, less than three hours later found us (read: Mom) setting up camp on the shores of the Deschutes River. The park there is a green, shady oasis in the scrub hills of the Eastern Columbia River Gorge, & it was perfect despite being packed to the gills.

I’d nabbed a primitive site farthest from the highway & only feet from the river, & Kade was off like a shot & barely seen until past dark, waving his light stick around & playing with all the other kids he could find. This left me to set up the air mattress in the back of the Queen & make a fire with the help of the friendly fishermen from Bend next door, as I’d neglected to find kindling. But I quickly had a roaring fire going to ward off the night’s chill, so I was able to settle down to the serious task of stuffing myself & my randomly appearing child with that gooey campfire staple, read a magazine & let every bit of stress leak out with the blood the few mosquitos managed to score. 
  
I kept adding logs & poking coals to keep the fire bright & toasty, glancing up every so often to assure myself that somewhere I still had a happy, safe, utterly free child, finding myself utterly unable to keep a stupid grin off my face. Even with all the stress of our lives & decisions to be made this year regarding relationships, money, jobs & housing (it’s never just one thing!) for this golden night full of fire & nature & wild child, it was all good. I can handle myself so much better with these regular doses of natured filled routine breaking. 

It only got better after we managed to drag ourselves out of the warm car & into rapidly warming daylight, cozying up to heaping bowls of oatmeal. Camp packed up quickly & we headed down the trail along the river, spying lizards, deer beds, & a hungry hawk swooping in for her morning fish. The views you have to see for yourself, & Kade commandeered the perfect lunch spot on a bluff above the river, the only man made thing in sight the railroad tracks on the other side. We devoured Goldfish & sandwiches while watching seagulls fight over a girl, only three miles from camp but just us beneath that huge blue sky, the likes of which you just can’t get in the forest. 

  
That was the start of the weekend. To finish it I headed north across the Columbia, alone as both boys were huddled in the dark at home with various ailments (Kade too much sun, Tom too many blooming trees). Courtesy of a new friend in the making, I was able to ride two amazing horses, & to break The Emerald Queen’s hauling cherry by hooking up a nice (tiny) two horse trailer & moseying our way over to Whipple Creek with a beautiful Palomino named Jake munching in the back. I managed to piss off countless drivers by maintaining at least 5mph under the speed limit the entire way, but I didn’t clip a single corner so it’s all good. 

  

The first part I was able to ride King, wherein we got lost & talked a teenager off the ledge of whatever cliff she stared down. He’s an angel of a big sorrel gelding, with a “let me eat the world” attitude & the best gaits west of the Mississippi. The trails at Whipple are perhaps Endurance-lite, but they are full of loops with good footing & if you go around & around enough you’ll make yourself dizzy & put a nice wet saddle blanket on your mount.

For the second half of the ride I (mostly gracefully) hopped on the other blondie, Flash, & we became reacquainted to the idea of transitions & doing whatever the silly human asks. It was fun (his slow trot is show level smooth & easy to ride), which was fortunate as I was squeezed into the teenager’s saddle, which felt like being shoved in a jousting saddle for the amount of movement I had (sorry Flash, you are a wonderful & patient golden boy!)

  
So today I’m that lovely kind of sore that reminds me how excellent it feels to move out beneath the sun with friends, put on some road music & let the Emerald Queen take us away for awhile. I got home Sunday night in time to kiss my sweetly sleeping child, hear Tom’s tale of dealing with kid squabbles, enjoy a blissful shower & drop like a stone into sleep!