Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Slide Mountain

Gold Country in spring colors
Well we made it home from our mini-vacation at Slide Mountain Ranch with all of us (mostly) in good shape. Steve and I are both a little stiff, though the first day back of sitting in office chairs was actually worse than the aftermath of riding for a few days in a row. Lena also did a bit of a number on herself scrambling in the front bay of the trailer again, and Bar is still feeling a little on the lazy side. Even so, with the opening of overflowing work email inboxes, the temptation to turn around and head back to the hills was nearly overwhelming.

One of the best parts of going to Slide (aside from having my horses right outside my window, enabling much covert spying) is the quiet. We can be as busy as we want, we can be as mellow as we want, and there are good arenas and access to trails right from the property. It certainly leads to less monotony for everyone, that's for sure. Calabar and Lena both pushed out on the trail happily after a brief warm up in the arena on day two (after day one's raucous behavior in the upper arena, they were much calmer), trotting up hill, ears up and eager, only slightly apprehensive about what might lurk around the next turn. Dropping back down on the ranch after that for the rest of their breakfast and a snooze in the sun (or the shade in Calabar's case) was their idea of a pleasant afternoon. Steve and I chose to relax and read in the newly re-insulated and very cool bunk house, though me holding still for too long is not possible so I broke it up by walking out to pat the horses.
Lena watching the ranch activity
Bar and I spent a lot of time working on our trot this trip, at first without a lot of success. Watching us, Steve gently reminded me of what Ellen had taught him about working with the rhythm first, then trying to slow it down. Huh. It actually worked. Also, with the deep arena footing, I was able to achieve a lovely and gentle canter with Calabar that felt light and balanced. Our walk is good, our canter is usually good, and now we're making progress on the trot. Funny what a few days in a row of riding can do for you.

Lena and Steve working the mechanical cow
We even had a cutting lesson on the last day using the mechanical cow. Well. Steve and Lena had a cutting lesson. Calabar had a "why am I chasing this bag of socks?" lesson that was more amusing for us than instructive for him. He watched Lena closely and quite calmly as she fiercely chased the fake cow back and forth across the arena. Then it was his turn. Only he seemed to have figured out the cow only went so far before it came back, so no amount of encouragement--including way too much forward leaning by his rider--would make him run back and forth after it. He would turn in place, yes. He would follow for a few steps, yes. But as you can see, his expression shows he is not sure what the point of the exercise is--why waste all that energy when the device would simply return to him?

"Why am I chasing this bag of socks?"
I could have insisted, I could have used spurs or even the dressage whip, but I'd really rather he was more self-directed when we are doing something for fun. He will not ever be a cutting horse, no, but he does like to play so I was a little surprised he wasn't more interested--especially since he's chased it before. It was the last day, though, and it might be a better exercise to try when he's fresher.

Yep, there it is. Hang on, it'll be back.
We did have a couple kerfuffles that last day between the horses, though, and still can't quite figure out why. First, when we brought them down to saddle, Calabar lunged at Lena a little more aggressively than was called for. I'm okay with playful banter as they sort things out, but not all out teeth-baring--especially when I'm at the end of the lead rope. I got after him and they were good after that as we warmed them up for our lesson, hiked them back up the hill to the bunkhouse so Steve and could have some water before Ike got down to the arena, and then they were both very good in the arena. Lena only got upset once when Calabar and I left to go get Steve's spurs, but she was okay as soon as we got back. Then, as we were leaving the arena after the lesson and both horses were next to each other as we closed the gate, Calabar kicked at her and banged her left rear cannon bone. It was mostly superficial, but again--not okay when I'm at the other end of the lead rope.

Then we had to tolerate both of them hollering for each other while Steve and Lena were down at the trailer treating her wound. "He just kicked you!" Steve said to the anxious spotty mare. "She's still down there because you kicked her!" I said to the big brown horse as I made sure he didn't leap out of his paddock. Sheesh. Then everyone was back in their paddocks with an evening snack and calm settled once again over the ranch. Our best guess is Calabar simply gets grumpy and tired--no excuse, but something to watch for, be aware of and manage going forward. We should also work on the herd bound issue as it's a bit challenging sometimes.

The drive home was pretty uneventful, though we had to battle a headwind all the way so our gas mileage slipped a little. Still love the way the new truck hauls, though. It is steady and always seems to have more to give you. Pulling its own weight on an uphill freeway entrance, it jammed up to 70 (oops) with no problem and more power in reserve.

It is good to be home, even if my email inbox was full of fun and games. Oliver obviously missed Steve and has barely let him out of his sight (such as it is) since we got back. Elmer stomped around for a little while in disgust, but appears to have forgiven us as well.

Surprisingly, I had enough energy to get on Bar again after work yesterday. Actually, my back--having been stuck in a chair again at my desk for several hours--insisted. Bar was a little on the lazy side, but we had a good ride and he was patient and listened--even when I forgot how to do the trot thing again.

One of the things I noticed, while working through a few minor panic attacks this trip, is I can get on him and ride him in new situations--even if I'm a little terrified. So if I can ride him in new situations and new places and stay on and learn things, we can certainly do more at home, too. Since we both need to work on our stamina and attention spans before we go to Slide again--have to be able to keep up with those short little cutting horses, let alone Lena Rey--more will be required.

I actually think we're both up for it.

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

Sounds like a magical place! Thanks for sharing it...