Sunday, September 25, 2016

In which there's a party and ten big fat turkeys will be delicious

Although most Americans celebrate Thanksgiving as a kind of harvest feast,
I've learned that many people prefer not to think about the process of harvesting
all the stuff that lands on the table in late November.

These birds free-ranged most of their lives, but were contained
on this, their last day.  

If you are among those who prefer to think of turkeys as a food that starts and finishes at the corner deli or in the freezer compartment at Costco or is best shown wrapped in waxed paper, fear not.

Whenever any of us at the harvest party felt like they didn't want to see or hear the goings on, we would sing.

So here is a song.  Click on the song, sing along, and quit reading this post.

Come back here in a few days, and I'll have more pictures of ponies and stuff.

It's okay: you won't hurt my feelings.

If you are interested in the process, perhaps considering raising your own meat, and want to see the not-terribly-ookie pictures and narrative, follow after the jump.

This is before the jump.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

In which I ride my mare, and think about bikes, and ride my good mare more

I've been thinking more about bicycles.

I've been gathering information from mountain bikers about horse/bike interactions, about what they like and what they don't like, and talking about what they can do to help us, and the other way 'round.

Of course, with me, this will eventually lead to some kind of article.  I'd love to do a two-part article of "what bikers wish equestrians knew" and "what equestrians wish bikers knew" but I need to keep thinking.

With that in mind, I did what I always do:

Overcast sky, but no rain yet.  We could use some rain.

Since I'm thinking about bikes as I ride my horse, I try to see the trails as bike riders see them.

Not too much erosion here

Many of the trails I rode today are deeply eroded.  The combination of soft dirt and sandy soil plus trails that are too steep results in deep gullys when the rain falls and runs down the center of the trail.  

Watch for steep banks on both sides of the trail in the video (below):

Bicycles don't mind swooping up and down those steep banks, but of course that motion erodes the trails even more.  In wet weather, the trail tread where the horse feet travel turns to sloppy mud, because the trail is the lowest place, and that's where the water accumulates.    

I clearly recall riding this same trail ten years ago on a much shorter horse, and my stirrups did not bump the ground then.  Today, on my tall horse, they did. 

The solution (as any Trail Master will tell you) is to re-route the trail so that it follows the contour line of the hill instead of racing straight up or straight down the slope.

There is NO slope available at this spot--the entire section is a swamp.
And yes: the trail goes under water in winter.

Easy to say.  Not so easy to convince riders (of horses and bikes)  who have "been riding this trail for years now" that they should change their routes. 

Still workin' on that.

Still workin' on a bunch of things.  

In the meantime, it's good to ride my good mare.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

In which Jason rides along with us and helps our horses learn new skills

 Duana's husband Jason is a hardcore mountain biker
currently recovering from shoulder surgery.

He wanted to come along on our Sunday Trot, and we were happy to have him.

He's back on the bike and ready to crash it again.  Sigh.

Well, the riders were happy to have him along.  The horses, especially Fiddle, were deeply dubious and slightly knotheaded about having a bicycle in the group.  

We started with Jason behind the horses by six or seven lengths, but that was too "predatory," according to the Dragon.  

Okay, then.

We frequently meet bikes on the trails where we ride.  Most are lovely people
who pull their bikes off to the side, and feed our ponies cookies on request
(we carry cookies to hand to bikers for this purpose)

We know that the horses aren't afraid of bikes on the trail, and we know that they aren't afraid of Jason (Fee saw J in the parking lot and immediately picked up a front foot as a "trick" so he would feed her a cookie).

So, we moved the pieces around, and put Jason in front.

Jason is definitely not scary when we approach him

With the bicycle in front, we can approach at our own speed.

Jason was very patient with this process, and kept talking as we rode
so Fiddle could hear a familiar person speaking


Still chatting, Fee and I trotted down the trail with the bike beside us

the bicycle became part of the herd.  

fully integrated
 We played the "Pass-me/Pass-you" game.  Jason zoomed down hills, and we zoomed up them.

And best of all, during bear season:

"Mister Bear Bait" leads the way

it's good to go out on the trails with friends.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

In which un-marking a trail goes quicker than building (or riding) it!

I have written many times about the effort that goes into building and preparing a trail for an endurance ride.  There are links HERE (2010)  HERE (2013)  and  HERE (2015).

But so far, I haven't written about the process of taking a ride apart after the event.  So, here ya go.

Trail crew: Aarene and Jim and Jim and Erin and Roo and Foxie

The citizens in Spokane are very protective of the excellent trail system at Riverside State Park.  I don't blame them--it's a beautiful park.

HOWEVER, when people take it upon themselves to TAKE DOWN THE RIBBONS THE DAY BEFORE A RIDE they cross the line from "helpful citizens" to "deliberate saboteurs."

And seriously, it's not needed.

Santa Jim un-marks the trail at Mt Spokane/Riverside

Fifteen minutes after the last riders cleared the northernmost loops at the Mt Spokane/Riverside ride last weekend, Santa Jim and I began taking the markers down.

The signs we post at trailheads and major trail intersections say that all ribbons, lime marks, manure and water tanks will be removed by two days after the event...but that's an exaggeration.

Post, ribbon and lime mark the trail on ride morning

When we're at Riverside Park, we pull the majority of the ribbons, drain and stack the tanks,

Noon:  the trail markings are gone

scuff out the white lime, and even kick the manure off the trail--all before the sun sets on ride day.

Manure is kicked off the trail and scattered.  Coyotes and other
scavengers will clear it completely within a few days.

Since Jim and I didn't bring horses to ride while pulling ribbons, we borrowed a quad.

A quad makes an excellent ladder to reach ribbons on
tall branches

We carry a rake with us, and use it to scrape and scatter the white lime marks.

Arrow:  now you see it... you don't.

As long as we're there, we pick up trash and pack it out.

 At the end of the day, posts are stacked neatly in Gail's trailer, the water tanks are loaded onto the cargo trailer, and the trail ribbons and clothespins are sorted out and stored

ready to be used at the next event.

So, there it is:  the quickest and easiest and fastest volunteer job available at an endurance ride.

You should try it sometime!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

In which we explore ten more tips for endurance riders (green or not)

Mel recently posted "10 Best Endurance Tips" on her blog (HERE), 
and I was inspired--not to correct her, because she's got excellent stuff there, 
but rather to add to her list.

Here are my Top Ten Tips

1.  Start with what you have: The horse you already ride, the saddle you already ride in, the clothes you already wear, the rig you already drive.  Your needs may change as you go along, and your priorities may change also.  Don't blow your budget on Day 1.  Save your pennies to fix or replace stuff that isn't working.

2.  If it isn't working, stop doing it.  Just because your gear or training or habits or whatever has always worked in the past, do not assume that exactly the same stuff will work in the future. A new horse will bring new challenges; a familiar horse in new situations will have new needs.  If there are big changes in your life, your riding may reflect them.  Stuff changes.  Adapt and improve.

3.  You don't know what you don't know.  Look for ways to learn new stuff.  Don't just read Endurance 101 and figure you know everything.  Read America's Long Distance Challenge II, and then read 4th Gear.  Sit down with the AERC Educational Videos available on YouTube.  Ride with new people, hang out with a veterinarian or farrier for a day.  Ask questions, listen, and think!

4.  Get involved and volunteer.  Volunteer at events to do stuff outside your comfort zone.  Scribe for a vet if you've never done it, work the timing table, pulse horses, or help on the water truck.  If you a member of an organization, whether it's AERC or BackCountry Horsemen or the local 4-H club, help out!  Run for an office, edit the newsletter, spearhead a fundraiser, take photos.  If you don't like everything about the organization, don't just gripe.  Do something.  

5. One size does not fit all.  Endurance is the place where you will learn to throw away the words "always" and "never."  Just because your friend, or your mentor, or your hero does something a particular way, you are not obligated to copycat. Just because "everybody" uses a particular piece of gear doesn't mean it will work for you.  Sometimes imitation will save you a heartache, but sometimes it just won't work.  The #1 skill of the best endurance riders is problem solving.

6. Spend time watching your horse.  Learn what normal looks like.  Does he prefer apples to carrots?  Does he need "Mister Right" or will "Mister Right Now" be sufficient company?  When playing in the pasture, does he trot, or gallop, or jump?  Where and when does he sleep?  Does he lie down?  Does he patrol the pasture perimeter, or does he stay in the middle?  Does he graze alone or with a friend? Know what is normal for your horse so you can quickly identify when something is wrong.

7. Spend time doing non-endurance stuff with your horse.  Learn to run barrels, chase cows, or swing a rope.  Try an obstacle course.  Walk on trails you would normally trot.  Hop down and jog beside your horse instead of staying on top.  Learn to jump...or to vault.

8. Don't be afraid to take time off.  Rest your horse, your body, and your budget sometimes.  Take a month away, or a year, or whatever you need.  We'll be glad to see you when you return.

9.  Be a better rider.  Even if you've ridden all your life, take some lessons. Find an instructor who can push your boundaries.  Dressage does not need to be a crying sport.  

10.  If it isn't fun, quit doing it.  Whether it's riding a particular horse, or a particular trail, or being companion to a particular person, or going a particular speed, keep in mind that endurance is a sport, and it's intended to be fun.  

Some parts of the trail may be scary, or tough, or challenging.  Your body may be tired and your muscles may ache...but at the end of the day if you didn't have fun, you did it wrong. 

Have fun.  That's what endurance is for!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

In which our Swampland is HOT so we do what we always do (we ride)

Summer temps in the 90's are too hot 
for most Native Swamplanders,
including me.

But if we get up early enough, 

and hit the trail while the sun is still waking up

we can make it to the river

before we scorch,

or broil,

or burn.

So, that's what we've been doing.

Even when it's not-as-hot, the river is still a nice destination.

Where do you go when it's too hot to be anywhere else?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

In which AERC folks have an opportunity to fix things

It's not exactly being shouted from rooftops, but
the AERC Board is scheduled to meet this weekend.

On the agenda:  discussion of the Dennis Summers case.

Dennis and Sue Summers helped mark trail for ride management in April

If you want to refresh your memory of posts on the topic from this blog, they are here:

Pertinent points that I think need to be, um, pointed out:

*  This was a verbal disagreement between two adults.  Most witnesses say that there was little or no physical contact between Dennis and the other guy.  They yelled at each other.  (In my world, that's called "using your words.")

*  The grievances were not brought by Dennis or "the other guy" but rather, by third parties.  Because that makes sense?

*  Two guys argued.  One guy got punished.  The other guy was given first place.  Because that makes sense?

*  There have been accusations that members of the Protest and Grievance committee are biased against Dennis and for the other guy.  At least one P&G member says that he is friends with the other guy, but he doesn't think that will influence him.  Because THAT makes sense?

*  The P&G committee is made of volunteers from membership.  In past years, there was a member from each region.  That is not true now.  Because THAT makes sense?

*  Dennis and Sue were "overwhelmed and awed" by the numerous compassionate (and passionate) letters of defense offered up by Pacific Northwest riders who know them, as well as by riders from other regions.  These letters were not solicited by the Summers--we wrote them because we couldn't not write.

*  The incident happened in January. The appeal has been pending since June.  It's now late August.  That's pretty much the majority of our season here in the Pacific Northwest.  It has meant that many of the projects spearheaded by the Summers (including the blood machine AND an endurance ride) had to be scrapped or scrambled, thereby "punishing" our entire region. We can't help thinking -- maybe rightly, maybe not-- that folks were hoping we would shut up and go away.  
Locally, that didn't go over well.  This should not be surprising.


*  There was some push back from riders in our region.  We wanted justice for our friend, and we wanted it promptly. That pretty much didn't happen.  

*  There were accusations that Dennis is a "hot shoe" and a "racer." I speak from experience: Dennis rides fast, but he doesn't ride dumb--and unlike other regions, PNER doesn't leap to condemn a rider in distress at an event.  

*  Whether he finishes first or third or fifteenth or fortieth, Dennis is always the first to offer a handshake and a beer to other riders...or whatever other help he is able to provide.

Hana had a butt cramp at the finish line of Renegade 2015.
Guess who was right there with an offer to massage and move it out?

*  The Summers were told that they were banned from all contact with AERC events for a year AND that Dennis' finishes from January to June were expunged--effectively, an 18 month sentence.  For yelling.  The other guy, who was also yelling...oh, wait, we've been there before.


*  If you are an AERC member and you've read this far down the page, have you spoken to your regional representative about the issue?  Their smiling faces and contact info can be found HERE.

*  Are you interested in monitoring this meeting via Facetime or Skype?  We have the right to do that, you know.  Contact your regional rep.  Call early and often.  Call late, too.  Remember, the meeting happens on Saturday!

*  Do you think the P&G committee's original findings were one-sided?

*  Do you think transparency has been lacking?

*  Do you think that a person on the committee who is friends with a person named in the dispute should have recused himself to avoid the appearance of favoritism?

*  Do you think some members of the Board have been less than professional in this matter?

*  Do you think the timeliness with the issue has been lacking?

It's YOUR organization, folks.  

Don't threaten your Board members, please.  Instead, give them your thoughts.
Help AERC be better.  There's not much time before the Board meets.  

Call now!  Operators are probably not standing by, but they probably want to listen to you anyhow.  

That's what we elected them to do, remember?

Let's get Dennis back where he belongs.
Okay, go.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

In which my little brother gathers the clans for a celebration

I guess most people get dressed up more than once or twice a year--
like for church and concerts and stuff?

Of course Santa and my parents are adept at dressing like adults,
but it sometimes stretches my skill set.

Somehow, I am almost always able to avoid the whole "dress up" thing, with a few notable exceptions, like the annual PNER Convention.

Will cleans up pretty nicely too!

However, there was a fancy dress-up occasion last weekend 

These people seem quite happy about something.

and I had no desire to miss it:

My little brother got married!

Introducing Mrs. Alison and Mr. Randy Storms

It was like a party and a family reunion and a feast all in one place.

Aunties and uncles and cousins and friends and everyone else,  all in one photo!
Plus: dancing!  I love dancing.

Sweet romantic dancing quickly gave way to
rowdy rambunctious dancing

My dad toasts the newlyweds.  He didn't even cry much.
(my dad cries at everything.  so do I.)

I have known many of the people in this photo my entire life--
and I haven't seen some of them for more than 20 years!

Randy's daughters Lexi and Cassidy decorated the getaway Beetle, "Dieter".

Alison gave the bouquet a mighty toss, and Cassidy caught it!

Jim and I had to leave before the newlyweds departed, but I left them a sweet little gift on the driver's seat of Dieter:

Nothing like a zucchini bombing to start
a married life out on the right foot.

Felicitations, live long and prosper, Randy and Alison!