Saturday, June 11, 2011

Can It Possibly Be Summer?

I know.  I've been AWOL for awhile.  Between craziness at school (Drug Prevention Month, and winding down for the year), the EHV-1 virus, and continuing spring projects, I just haven't been up to blogging.
Here's a catch-up post.
Mid-May, I took a long weekend to attend a mountain trail clinic at the new Washington State Horse Park.  It was a great (if soggy) weekend, and Kate and I built some trust in each other and in our abilities together.  I'll do an entire post once I get the CD of pictures from the weekend, 'cause I'll be able to go through things one activity and one obstacle at a time.
The next weekend I had a major issue with Maddie, right in my own back yard!  By now, folks were restricting their movement around the west, so I figured to do a couple of things at home.  One goal was to teach the girls to pony each other, and I also wanted to try a new "jumping hackamore" on Maddie: it's essentially an English style sidepull noseband.  With Miss Diva's thin skin, my regular bosal, which she seemed to like when I tried it on her a couple of years ago, had rubbed the white side of her face a bit so I haven't used it on her since then.  So when I got a deal on this noseband, I thought Maddie might prefer it over a bit.  I saddled up, installed the hackamore in my headstall, and went into the arena to let her get used to the different cueing system.  We walked about a little, then suddenly Maddie became a whirling dervish!  I don't think it was the sidepull that upset her, but it was definitely the sidepull that prevented me from getting her stopped.  She was fish-tailing and crow-hopping along, seemingly scaring herself more and more with each jump.  We were in the older, sandier end of the arena, but she was rapidly making tracks for the corner where I have all my jump standards and such, so on the next leap I [semi-voluntarily] dismounted on the fly.
Whoa!  What's up with THAT?!?
Back up to step one:  Check the saddle position and change back to her regular headstall and full-cheek snaffle.  Over to the mounting block and climb back on.  This time I only got about three steps, before Maddie took off again!  I had enough control with the snaffle to get her stopped, but I decided I wasn't up to anything more today--I needed to figure out what this was all about.  I went to step off, and she tried to go ballistic again!  It took me twenty minutes of just shifting my weight and lifting my right foot up in increments before was finally able to step off her safely.
I was pretty shook.  I hadn't been hurt in my fall, but my confidence was suddenly shaken, big time.
This seemed related to the two mounting/dismounting issues I had had with her on my previous two rides. And all three rides had been her first in my new saddle--Was there a connection?  My theory is that the mohair string girth that I have been using on it is pinching her.  Again, she is very thin-skinned and sensitive (even to too-stiff brushes).  The new Tucker saddle has dropped, in-skirt rigging, and her old felt-lined girth is too long.  I called all over town until I found a shorter one, and have switched it out.
I have gone back to square one with Maddie, treating her as though she has not yet been started under saddle.  We've been working on sacking out, weighting stirrups and longeing.
She seems to be settling down.
I still haven't been back on her.
Some days I think "That should solve it.  I'll go ahead and climb on!"  But by the time I get home, I chicken out.
Other days, I decide that the problem is bigger than equipment, and that I don't even think I can ever trust her again.
Some days, I want to sell them all, and take up quilting.
(I just realized that this last statement is strangely reminiscent of two years ago, when Maddie managed to off-load me at the schooling show.  I was just getting to the point of trusting and enjoying her again...)
I did get in a ponying lesson the next weekend, riding Kate and having Maddie tag along.  Kate was making her "Don't crowd me!" fuss face, so Maddie was a bit reluctant to come up alongside my knee where I would like her, but overall they did okay.  I'll try it again around the pasture one of these days, then maybe out with Pat someplace where there is plenty of room for maneuvering.  Then maybe I can start exercising two horses at a time.  (I'd like to do the same with little Beth.)
With the very unpredictable weather we've had this spring, and all of the caution around the EHV-1 virus, the Trail Riders club has not had any group rides since May 14th.  But a few individuals have gotten together with well-known horses for a few limited rides, on out-of-the way trails.  Pat and I joined Terri, another KVTR member, the first weekend of June for a couple of hours in the saddle, northeast of town, near the Wild Horse Wind Farm.  It was my first real ride since Maddie's tizzy-fit, and it was pleasantly uneventful.
Through the sage brush towards the Wild Horse Wind Farm on the ridge in the distance.
We jumped a couple of young elk, but all three horses just looked, as they wandered up the hill.
Kate and I, looking across the Valley and Manastash Ridge, with Mt. Rainier in the distance.
Pat and Terri, with Rainier and Mt. Adams (just barely visible above Terri's hat).
Sage brush and lupine alongside the trail.
Down a draw back towards the valley.

Today was the Trail Riders' first scheduled club ride in over three and a half weeks.  I loaded Kate, and picked up Pat and Rambler, and we headed to town, where we met up with five other riders and headed west towards the Cascades.
In case I haven't made it clear before:
The Elk Heights area is less than thirty miles west of the previous week's ride on the east side of the Valley, but look what a difference those thirty miles makes!
Heading up the trail.
Takin' a break.
The wildflowers were abundant!
Back out of the woods.
Kate started out a little jazzy, and I realized I had butterflies.  But the first half of the ride was mostly uphill, and after about half a mile she had settled.  She's never been one to lead, but was happy to keep pace either in the middle of the group, or bringing up the rear (when I would drop back to take a photo).  We crossed several creeks, climbed up, and then clambered down one gigantic ridge.  Ninety per cent of the time I was directing her with a slight twitch on the draped rein, and leg cues.  Kate was steady, responsive, and willing. It was a very pleasant ride.
Maybe I won't give up these silly beasts after all.
Maybe tomorrow, I'll give Maddie another try.


  1. Gosh it's pretty up there. I'd have a hard time gathering my nerves after that bronc ride. Good for you for leaping off and not getting hurt. I had a few flying dismounts that shocked the heck out me too. "slow and steady win's the race" Don't give up the boat yet, there's too much fun to have. :-) It sounds like Kate gave you some confidence too. I'm looking forward to the rest of the pictures from your ride too. Don't take so long this time! LOL

  2. Awww, I'm so sorry that Maddie's a butthead again. :( YAY KATE for saving the day!

    I love living on the edge of the high desert / forest, and it sounds like where you live too! Don't you love being able to drive such a short distance and be in such a completely different world? The Cascades look beautiful!

  3. Come visit the trees at my place anytime you can even bring Bucking Dingbat if you want >g< I hope she settles down for you, it seems like you've put a bunch of good energy into making her face forward and march!

    WV: guirdily
    "Kate, ya dad-gummed guirdily, get your feet on the bottom and your ears on the top and move out!"

  4. Oh hey, we're leaving this weekend for the Renegade Rendezvous camp--we'll be staying at Sawmill Flats above Nile if you want to come visit. The ride is June 25th! Hope to see you!

  5. That's weird and scary with Maddie, hope she gets herself sorted out soon.

    Beautiful country for some nice rides. Glad you decided to stick with these silly beasts, I don't think quilting would be as much fun.

  6. Finally caught up on your blog and corrected the problem I was having commenting on it. A great Monday morning read of your rides and projects!