Saturday, June 23, 2007

View at the end of the day

The driver gets to see the noses that occasionally push against the window screens, but I like this view at the end of the ride, too. Everyone safely back in the trailer as we're headed home.

Actually, Steve and I did a funny thing when we got back to the barn. We are able to park our trailer without either one of us getting out of the truck because of the parking spot I commandeered after one of our barn-mates left. We very carefully backed the trailer into our spot, evenly spaced between two other trailers, angled to give all of us enough room to tie horses to those trailers as needed, far enough back to keep the hitch out of the way - in other words, a perfect parking job.

Except our horses were still in the trailer and probably wondered what on earth we were up to.

Luckily, the perfect parking job hadn't taken very long. We chuckled at ourselves, pulled out again and unloaded them in a jiffy. Doc returned to a very happy Taffy and Lena went back to her pen, no doubt to roll around in the dirt. Steve and I went to the grocery store, out to Sushi, and are now home sitting in our pajamas on the sofa.

All in all, a positively fabulous sunny Saturday in Northern California. Even with the spaciness there at the end.

New trail

We took the kids out to a new place today, very private and quiet, and with a nice sea breeze to keep things cooler than they were inland. The shot above is from the ridge we got to after the climb up. Yes, that's Lena's butt in the lower left corner. Oops.

Of course, it wasn't all that easy to get rolling today - Doc wanted to run around the pasture for awhile first, even after I took Taffy out and tied her to the trailer. Steve waited for the circles Doc was running around in to get smaller and Taffy got a massage and beauty treatment from me. Lena spent the time tied to the trailer, calmly munching on alfalfa.

Eventually, Steve got Doc and we turned Taffy back out in the pasture - much to her dismay - and got on the road without any fuss from Doc or Lena about actually getting into the trailer. Sheesh.

Doc and Lena have a little contest on the trail when it come to who gets to go first. She usually likes to, unless we come to something scary, then she'll let Doc go ahead -- just in case the mountain lion is hungry. But then she wants to be right back in front. Here she is attempting to pass on the outside:

This picture seems to echo a theme for me - the rider in front over the ears of the horse in back. Big ears in Lena's case. Hm.

The trail in is a nice steady climb up, then it opens up into grasslands and a ridge with a great view of the valley below and out to the ocean. Plus a really cool Douglas Fir with ferns growing in (on?) it.

And look, here's a picture of me! From the front! Our new little camera has been great on the trail, but Steve would prefer if it had a view finder. The LCD screen on the back is great, until you're in the sun, then not so great. Have to add that to the wish-list, I guess.

We also decided we need to get a collapsible water container and bucket to leave in the trailer to water the horses in places like this where there isn't any water system set up.

And finally - here is Steve in what I like to call the "Cowboy" shot, complete with waving grasses. He said it's not really a cowboy shot because he isn't wearing his cowboy hat. Oh, well. I like it anyway.

Lena gets a massage

I know what you're thinking - how kooky is this? You get your horse a massage? Don't you need one?

Well, yes I do, but my friend Karen offered to give Lena a massage because I've referred some other customers to her and I wanted to see how Lena reacted to a full massage.

Here's proof that even horses like body work:

The yawning is a really good sign that she's releasing the tension and the toxins that have built up from her normal workouts and routines.

Karen is great with horses, and Lena responded pretty positively to the treatment and the handling. Just like any athlete, she has spots that need a little more attention than others. Her neck got a lot of attention - we're working on collection a lot these days - and we learned a new stretch, too.

The other thing that was really a bonus for me was Karen's response to Lena. You know we get a lot of comments about calming Lena down. Steve says a lot of that is probably jealousy and I should just disregard it, but it's hard not to let it get under my skin sometimes. Karen was full of compliments about how much wonderful energy and spirit Lena has and to embrace it and enjoy it, not try to squash it. Since that is how we feel, it was refreshing to have reinforced for once.

May have a cow work connection now, too, so more on that later. Lena would love to chase cows and not ravens.

Cool Car

Obviously, I love my horse, but I also have another fetish - cars. Steve shares this with me and we regularly buy car magazines and contemplate how large our garage would have to be if we ever struck it rich and could buy all the cars we like.

As much as I think the hybrid and electric cars are great, they don't fit the criteria of cars we'd like to drive all the time. I know that is incredibly politically incorrect of me, but I love driving. I have a visceral connection to my vehicles - usually from the moment I meet them - and thus far I haven't met an alternative fuel vehicle that does that for me.

Until yesterday.

O'Reilly, my employer, is hosting FOO camp, our annual gathering of interesting and eclectic and influential folks. One of them - sorry didn't get his name because I was too busy staring at the car - brought my dream electric car. 0-60 in 3 seconds, baby. Hoosier tires, no less. I admit that I may not have all these specs, facts and figures exactly correct, so please excuse any errors. I must be in love. Or in lust at very least.

The lines are clean and beautiful, and even if I don't necessarily understand all the engineering, I can certainly appreciate the results.

Of course, it's two years and I think $150,000 out of my reach, but this is an electric car that would get me onto the freeway at the speed I need to be at. And then some.

Of course, because I turn into a crispy Irish potato in the sun, I might have to have a roof on mine.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Favorite rides so far

Here are some links to our favorite places to ride so far:

Bodega Dunes
The ride through the dunes to the beach is a great warm up for the horses and on a day that's hot inland, that sea breeze is very welcome. Parking is great, easy to pull into and out of with a trailer and easy access to the trail head.

Shiloh Ranch Regional Park
Another great trail that has a nice steady uphill to warm up the horses. Not too rocky, though a bit here and there. It's a good climb up and then a really great loop back on the Pond trail, I think, that brings you back level and in the shade.

A great beginning ride, or just a quickie, is Riverfront Regional Park in between Forestville and Windsor on Eastside Road. It's a nice flat loop with good parking for trailers on the road in.

Armstrong Woods has a more challenging trail, but it's also nice when it's really hot inland because you're nestled under redwoods for a lot of the ride. It's strenuous and a little technically difficult in some places. When we went there, one of the women in the information booth told us she didn't take her horses on it, but Lena and Doc both did fine even on the stairs and steeper parts of the trail. Parking can be tricky - go early if you want to park in the free lot and try to get one of the pull-through spots. Otherwise, it's worth it to pay the fee and pull into the picnic area so you have ample room for the trailer.

Back to the beach

I have my computer back and free time to post, so I'll continue on with the blogging about the last trip to the beach. I know you were all hanging on the edge of your seats in anticipation, right? Just like Katie is hanging off the left side of the saddle in the above picture. She didn't believe me until I showed her several shots with same amount of, um, off-ness.

Each time we go out, it gets easier and easier to load Lena - both before and after the ride. I think she really enjoys our excursions and, hey, anything is more fun than circles in the arena.

Doc discovered the loose corner in the new window screens Steve installed a couple weeks ago. I looked in my side mirror on the way to the beach and there was this brown nose poking out. Luckily, he couldn't get his whole head out and Steve tightened that corner down after we got back. Here is Steve installing the screens with superior skill and equine assistance (I know, it's crooked, I'll fix it later):

We succeeded in getting them closer to the water this time - much closer - but they still thought getting in was for crazy horses. We did see a couple horses get in up to their knees, but when we were going back and saw them on the trail, Lena decided that they were too silly to follow and went the complete other direction.

I managed to get us out to the beach without any major mishaps and Katie and I found the picnic area with hitching posts - after we'd already had lunch, of course. I need to get a map because I'm not sure we can find it again. Ha!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Beach Ride two

This time, it was Katie and me - and Doc and Lena, of course. We got a little closer to the water this time, Lena even got wet!

Doc and Lena get along so well, it's really cool. Doc tried to take a bite out Katie's sandwich soon after this picture was taken.

More later, Katie wants my computer.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sand and Surf

Let me preface this post by saying I'm officially fired as the family photographer.


I still took some great pictures of our beach adventure today. So there.

It all started with Lena rather calmly tied to the trailer while Steve attempted to catch Doc. For an old guy - Doc, not Steve - he moves pretty fast when he wants to. Finally, using carrots and some sibling rivalry between Doc and Taffy, we captured him.

We actually decided to load Doc first, to see if that would make Lena easier to load. It sort of worked. We only had to wave the stud chain at her instead of using it. Doc was in and that was good, but the space to maneuver was now smaller than she was used to. She did get in, though, and we were off - with me driving to get my hauling practice. Steve is pretty good for a back-seat driver, but it's still a new experience for me and takes some getting used to.

Doc is older and a much more experienced trail horse, but Lena watches over him, too. We let her go first, dealing with scary yellow-flower bushes and rust-colored ice plant, all the way to the beach.

Here is the scary yellow-flower bush:

We got to the beach and things were okay, though both horses seemed a bit concerned with the large and energetic body of water they could see.

We took off their bridles and tied them up to have some lunch - sandwiches in the sand - and gave appropriate carrot rewards. Lena pawed in the sand, then she and Doc inspected the hole she had made.

Then Lena decided to go over the log she was tied to, get her lead rope tangled around her front leg and get a little freaked out. In the moments that followed, half my ham sandwich - rather than the camera - ended up in the sand, but Lena listened and there was no major mishap. Phew.

After I let Steve eat his sandwich, he took Doc and Lena - not Doc O'Lena, to whom they are both related - down to the water while I finished the rest of my non-sandy sandwich.

They were less nervous and more curious being led than they were with us riding, but the ocean being big and powerful, there was some amount of trepidation on the part of our equine buddies. Here they are inspecting the rather circuitous route they took to the water's edge.

And here is Steve managing to stay out of the way of eight horse feet - a feat which takes a lot of talent most days.

All in all, a great day. Good exercise for the horses and for us and a beautiful day all around. Except for trying to get Doc's fly mask on after taking off his halter. Didn't happen, sorry Carey! Next time: fly mask, then halter removal!