Saturday, March 31, 2007

Beach Ride

Katie, Steve and I took Lena to the beach today and it was a blast. I haven't had this good a workout in a long time and neither had Lena. On the way, we stopped in Duncan's Mills to go to the bathroom and as we got rolling again, we learned a valuable lesson: Make sure your windows are firmly latched. There was a crash and Katie saw Lena's big brown head come around the side of the trailer. She'd pushed her window open and would gladly have ridden down the road that way, but I relatched the window anyway. Mean, I know.

We almost decided to go to Armstrong Woods instead, but decided we really wanted to see how she would react to the beach.

Practically the first thing she did was charge up a steep sandy hill and then stand up at the top waiting impatiently for the two legged folk to make it up behind her.

Here are Lena and Katie watching us from the top.

Here's the hill, looking down from the top, where I was standing using taking a picture as an excuse to catch my breath. It's a good thing Steve and I are in such good shape or it would have been a tough day at the beach for us since Katie did most of the riding.

Lena was actually pretty anxious to see what was at the end of the twisty, almost tunnel-like trails through the dunes, though on the way out she kept turning around to make sure Steve and I were following along.

Then she saw the waves and heard the surf and almost turned around and went back to the trailer right then and there.

Katie let her run in the sand, trying here and there to get her closer to the surf-line. There was much snorting and only minor concessions from the spotty horse.

Then I got on for a little bit and we played dodge the driftwood before I actually got her within 5 feet of the water. For a second, anyway.

There were a couple groups of trail riders and Lena got a little anxious after the first group came down and then went back up into the dunes. Mostly she was okay by herself - good that she's so self-confident - but she thought maybe those horses knew something she didn't. Like where the buffet was.

Katie got back on and rode her back, wandering off on her own for a bit until she circled back and found us.

Lena got to roll in the sand, even, which she thought was divine.

Getting her back in the trailer presented a bit of a challenge, but both Katie and I loaded her one time each while Steve chuckled at Lena's new game.

All in all, a very good day and another chance to experience what a good horse we have.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

First trip

We took Miss Lena out today, just Steve and I, and we all managed to survive.

Actually, we all did really well.

Lena was a little skeptical to start out with, though she loaded great. I suspect the hay bag full of alfalfa helped a little.

She kicked or pawed - not sure which - for about the first 15 minutes of the drive over to the park, but settled down after a bit. It's hard to be an only horse, after all, but something she has to get used to for now. Steve commented that you can certainly feel 1,100 pounds of horse moving around behind you while you're driving.

Once we got there, she was curious and a little apprehensive, but handled things really well. Steve walked her around a little after he unloaded her to let her get a feel for the surroundings and get her bearings.

Then we tied her to the trailer to groom and saddle her, giving her a carrot or two for managing to behave so far in our journey.

We looped around a lake, with me on foot first, then trading off with Steve on the way back. It was a good way to do things, though we may try adding a bike in next so the person not on horseback doesn't have to jog to keep up with the long-legged spotty horse.

She handled a stream crossing - okay, not a big one, but still - dogs, other people, fishing poles, steep, narrow and slippery trails, scary logs, and black fabric waving in the wind with only minor snorting. She particularly loved the short walk through the redwood trees and trotting on a nice wide open trail. Oh, and the nibbles of grass she was allowed to grab on the way. Sometimes she wanted me to go first down a section of trail that looked a little dubious. Sometimes I would and sometimes - particularly if it was too narrow - we made her go ahead lest she decide to run over my small self. She thought the porta-potties were the single weirdest things of the day, especially when we each went in one!

She only had one minor spook - very short sideways jump - right after Steve saw something that he thought would make her spook and commented that she didn't jump sideways and toss me on my butt. Then she skipped sideways, but didn't toss me on my butt. Always better that way.

I think Steve and I were both a little apprehensive about taking her out alone, but she did great and so did we. She's pretty confident, which helps, and I think she trusts us, which also helps.

I will say that loading her back in the trailer to go home after our fun adventure was not quite so smooth. It took three tries instead of one, but she did get in and wait (mostly) patiently while Steve and I had some snacks before we pulled out for home.

Another positive thing from the whole adventure is how well Gus (the truck) handles his towing duties, and how well the trailer we found is suited to us and what we need to do. There is something very cool about driving a truck that's hauling your friend the horse and getting where you're going in good shape.

Good day all in all.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Lena's trailer

My darling daughter was threatening to fire me as the family photographer because I missed several key photo opportunities of Lena interacting with her new trailer. I didn't even have the camera in hand when she loaded perfectly and then stuck her big long neck out the window. Or when she stuck her nose between the slats while Steve was saddling her at the trailer the next day. I admit to some failure on my part.

Luckily for my family photographer career, I did get some cute ones yesterday.

Lena likes to rub her funny lips on the sandpaper on the fenders.

I actually think Lena knows this is her trailer and is just waiting for us to get on the road. We'll make that attempt this weekend, a short ride to a local park to get started.

Okay, Katie - do I still have a job?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Trailer news

Look, Ma, it followed us home!

We've made the next step in our horse career - our next step anyway - and are now the proud owners of a 1996 Trails West 2-horse slant load trailer. I haven't named it yet. Katie says is doesn't have a personality so doesn't need a name, but I'm not sure I agree with that.

Mostly in good shape, with some minor repair work needed. It's got a big tack room, too, with lots of storage. More pictures to follow, plus commentary about Lena's introduction to the trailer and how our learning process is going.

Lesson one, hard to park in the dark.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue News and Events

More internet cruising led me to Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue News and Events. They are doing some cool things and have some really cute horses up for adoption, plus some great clinics. I haven't decided if it's safe for me to go down there, I might come home with an extra friend or two.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Blanket Lessons

I scared Lena and myself the other morning, then had to spend half an hour (at least) doing horse therapy.

I had unbuckled the rainsheet to adjust the cotton blanket underneath - which was slewed sideways about a foot - and accidently dumped the rain sheet over her head as she stood, head down, eating her grain. She flipped up her head so the rainsheet was still around her neck, then ran around her paddock, sliding in the mud - the sheet flapping and flying around her legs - finally sliding to a stop in the front corner of her paddock and banging her nose on a fence post.

The other horses all watched, concerned, and I heard some of my fellow barn-mates come out to see what the commotion was - but all my attention was on Lena.

I stayed out of her way and talked to her until she stopped, then - hands shaking and heart pounding so much I could barely get the front buckles undone - took off the ruined rainsheet, all the while talking to her in as soothing a voice as I could muster.

THEN I had to get her to hold still while I got the cotton blanket off. After that, I figured out that my jacket noises - fweety like the rainsheet - were scaring her, so we worked with that awhile. Carrots from the front pocket, plus me putting it on and taking it off about 74 times helped. Then I took her and put her in the cross-ties to clean up her nose (she scraped it a little, but not bad) and put her heavy blanket on.

She was mostly fine by the time I left, though there was still definite suspicion about the now-ruined rainsheet. I did wrap it around me, drag it around next to her, pick it up on our way to the cross-ties, put it over my head, etc., to try to desensitize her a little immediately.

I knew if I didn't spend the time with her right then, it would be worse later. Plus, I felt bad for scaring her and wanted to work through it with her myself. I'm just really glad that neither of us got hurt.

I think it may take a little bit of additional work, though. Last time I took her (new) blanket off her, she was still a little leery of it sliding around on the floor, over her back, etc. Which means I did it more, of course. Steve says he hasn't noticed any problems and she may (!) just be pulling my chain.

That may be, but all in all it was a valuable lesson - even if it was a mildly terrifying one. I'm sure if I'd been around horses all my life, I would have known better - at least on a theoretical level. But I can honestly say I won't forget this lesson for a long, long time. Probably not ever.

I told someone it was like when something scary happens to your kid. You can't panic, because that just makes it worse, so you just try to get through it the best way you can to help them. Of course with a kid you can just pull them into your lap and rock them a little. 1,100 pounds of frightened spotty horse will not fit in my lap or I would have done it in a heartbeat.


I forgot to mention that Katie and I both tried riding Lena bareback a couple weeks ago. Katie more successfully, I might add.

Lena is not only a bit bony of the back, but also slippery. I only lasted about 3 minutes because as I started to slip, I grabbed with my legs. Grabbing Lena with your legs with a saddle is a risky proposition, let alone for a rookie rider like myself doing it with no saddle horn to grab as a last resort.

I was going to buy a bareback pad last week, but instead - due to an early morning lesson in horse care - had to replace her lightweight blanket.

More on the blanket incident - in which thankfully no one was hurt - shortly.


I'm at a training for a few days this week which - I think - will be a very good thing for me and for my company. It's interesting and gets me all excited about numbers and analytics and making our data work harder for us. (I can hear you all yawning, sorry.)

But I miss my horse.

I miss stopping at the barn on the way to work and getting covered in short, soft hair because she's shedding her winter coat.

I miss those big tall ears pointed straight up and at me as I come up the path to her pen.

I miss riding and working on my balance and my position - all while trying to control the mighty spotty beast.

I'm glad to be learning about this analytics tool we use for our sites. It really is great stuff that makes the numbers geek in me do a little happy dance. (I know, "Yawn, Jessica.")

But I'll bet being away will make that first ride after I get back that much more enjoyable, that much more fun and challenging. I'll probably even welcome cleaning out her pen!

Sometimes you have to go away to appreciate what you have.