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.
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.
Ten feet tall and moving down trail with a happy dog and a pretty Palamino and life is good!
Another long hot day so instead of saddling up and working on the basics, I hauled myself up bareback with a pocketful of treats. One of Flash’s favorite things is treats, so tonight we played soccer and worked on teaching him “push” (with his nose), “kick” (with his legs), and tonight we added “chase”. Soccer is one of his favorite games so it’s always a blast to play with him this way. I also worked on rewarding Cyrus for sticking with us, he’s always so good but he’s tagging along for his first trail ride in months tomorrow and it never hurts to reward the basics.
I was just in time for a gorgeous sunset too… although they are already coming too early…
Back to blogging cause the Book of Face is once again being even weirder about stuff…
I will push myself to ride if there’s less than three factors saying “don’t ride”, especially after having been grounded for so much of this year and with summer quickly waning. Today was a no ride day (too hot, tired, sore and Aunt Flo is in town), so I spent a quiet hour with Flash instead.
I watched him eat, got liberally slobbered on, and made him super happy with plenty of scratches and no expectations other than “no don’t step on me.”
The peace from a quiet barn during sunset on a hot summers day while hanging with your horse is really unmatched, and I count myself incredibly lucky for it each day.
Grooming: the process by which the dirt on the horse is transferred to the groom.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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”.)
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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 🙂
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!
So here’s our attempt at this serpentine grid, and side passing down a pole, serenaded by frogs, coyotes and restless children 🤣