Friday, June 24, 2011

Our Two Days of Summer

After a chilly day for the E-burg Posse Poker Ride on Saturday, Father's Day was a bit nicer, and Monday was downright pleasant: highs in the upper 70s, will just a pleasant breeze.
Now that school is out, I can switch sprinklers a little more frequently (efficiently), so I fired up the irrigation on Sunday.  But I needed to trim back the thigh-high weeds growing along the edges of my baby tree plantings, so I finally broke down and switched out the post hole digger on the tractor for the bush hog.  I'll also knock down the "roughs" in the pastures, before I switch back to fencing (and garage building, I hope).
By Tuesday, I was about half done with the "have-to-finish-before-irrigation-gets-to-this-section" mowing.  But it was the first day of actual sunny, hot summer weather! and I was having trouble getting motivated.
Pat called about noon and wondered if I was riding with the KVTR on their regular mid-week ride.  (I obviously miss these during the school year.)  Well...Self-discipline is not one of my strong points, but this was a very sweet carrot dangling in front of me.  I told her "Only if I can finish my mowing today."  So out onto the tractor I went.  And I got 'er done! Also got a bit of a sun-burn, but hey, I didn't recognize that glowing orb in the sky as a threat 'til it was too late.  When Al got home at 5:00, and I came in for supper, it was 90f!

Wednesday morning promised to be clear and warm, but there was a bit of humidity hanging in the air, as well.  It smelled like thunderstorm, though none ever developed.
Twelve riders met up at the base of Robinson Canyon, southwest of town--one canyon east of last weekend's poker ride.
Ready to head out.
Up the road to the trailhead.  Saw our only snake off to the side of the road.
Through the trees, you can see the basalt rubble that forms the other side of the canyon.
Pat rode her little Chief.  He was a good boy.
Lupine and Indian Paint Brush alongside the trail.  Because of the wet spring, the wildflowers are everywhere!
Winding up the hill.
You can't see them very well, but these little pale blue flowers were everywhere in this meadow.  Pat believes them to be flax.
Taking a break at the "pig farm"--an old abandoned homestead.
A first!  Kate accompanied me up the hill to a bush, and fed her face while I "relieved myself."  I've always had someone else hold her for my pee breaks, but there was lots of grass, so she was happy to stay put.
Chief and Tonka, both greenies, weren't sure about stepping down this little embankment to the trail, after bushwhacking down the hill. 
We cross-countried in this area to avoid a little creek that is always a bit troublesome, especially this year with it being so wet--it would be all boggy, I'm sure.  One of the riders today had had a major wreck there three years ago (helicopter ride out!), and Maddie had given me fits in nearly the same location back before we worked our way through the getting-the-feet-wet issue.
Through a high mountain meadow.  The grass was just the right height for nibbling, but a gentle reminder kept Kate from rude snacking behavior.
Looking out across the meadow.
One last loop took us up the ridge. (No that's not me riding in a cowboy hat--that's Debby on her little mustang Kate-clone, Wendy.)
At the top of the saddle.
Looking back towards the valley.
Another rider, not familiar with my little camera, caught us in a not-altogether-flattering shot against the hills. (Barb, you were supposed to take it while I had my double chin stretched up and my gut sucked in!) Kate looks good, though.
We took a short cut straight down the hill to head back.  It was pretty steep, and I got just a little fussing from Kate--her tail started swishing a mile a minute.  I'm not sure if the saddle was shifting forward against her hair or what.  When we got back into the grassy meadow, she also attracted a swarm of tiny little bugs, and I could tell she was a bit agitated, but we kept moving, and once we cleared the gnats she settled again for the rest of the ride back.
Snacks and a bit of good conversation before heading home to switch the irrigation.
I have some photos of the sweat patterns from this ride--Kate's first good workout in the new saddle.  They look a bit strange to me.  But I think I'll save my questions for another post.
Also, Maddie and I had a really good groundwork session the other day.  Fairly calm and very cooperative.  We did a lot of work, from both sides, at the mounting block.  I was tempted to climb on board, and I think she would have been okay with it.  But Al wasn't home, and I hadn't planned on it, so therefore hadn't called Pat to come down.  So maybe another day...
Yesterday was back down to the 60s, with a horrendous wind blowing all day, so no horse work.  Today looks nicer, but one never knows when the wind will start up again (in E-burg, that could be now!), so I guess I'll get out and see what I can get done.  After all, there's a ride tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Posse Pursuit

Last Saturday was the first local "poker" (prize) ride since the EHV-1 scare.
The Ellensburg Rodeo Posse has sponsored it for years, to raise funds for the youth show, and the Ellensburg Rodeo Royal Court.
This was Kate's first outing into the big wide world three years ago!  Today, it was oh so very ho-hum.
Because the day dawned cold and rainy, there were considerably less riders than usual.  (Some may still be cautious of the EHV-1, as well.)  Only three KVTR riders made it, Pat, on Rambler, John, on his slightly hyper Tennessee Walker, Durango,, and I, on Kate.  But by the time we got there it had stopped raining, and the sun started peeking out from time to time as we made the two-hour loop.  It did NOT, however, feel like the middle of June!

Heading out across the face of the ridge.
Leaving the third check point.
A view of the snow-covered Stuart Range through the trees. (As long as it stays in the mountains!)
Kate, Rambler, and Durango in front of the lilacs at the old homestead (4th check point).
Back at the trailhead. 
It wasn't a particularly challenging trail, but Kate was very cooperative, other than giving the fire-breathing Tennessee dragon the stink eye when he crowded her (she's got one ear on him in the last photo).  She stood well at the trailer, too, while we had lunch, visited, and waited for the awards.  Neither Pat nor I were very high up in the rankings (she won the $500 grand prize three years ago!).  With our higher "hands" Pat got a bottle of fly spray and I picked up a nice Professionals Choice corner feeder for the trailer.  We were hoping our second hands would get us up there before all the Dairy Queen certificates ran out--we would have stopped for the "good" type of blizzard on the way home--but no, things got pretty well picked clean and they never called our names again.
Oh well!  Still a good excuse for a nice ride.

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.