Friday, July 23, 2010

In which we celebrate Saturday Stories : a tale for the Tevis

I mentioned earlier in the week that I always watch the Tevis webcast and cheer for my friends (local and virtual) who are riding the event. And that brought to mind a little tiny story:

Once upon a time, not long ago and not far away either, there was a little kid, maybe 5 or 6 years old.

The teacher at the school had announced on Monday that the class would be putting on a play, and the kid was SOOOOOOO excited. He couldn't wait to be part of the play.

The trouble was, unfortunately, he couldn't ever remember the lines. Ever. Even when his parents and his brothers and sisters and the other kids in his class helped him practice for hours and hours, he still couldn't remember the lines he was supposed to say for his audition. Everybody knew that he wouldn't get picked to be in the play, and everybody knew that he would be really disappointed.

Everybody was really surprised, then, when he came home on the afternoon of the auditions with a huge smile on his face!

"I got picked for the play! " he told them. "I got the best part in the whole play!"

Everybody was amazed. "Are you going to play the part of the prince?" they asked.

"Nope, not the prince," he answered.

"The king?"

"Nope, not the king or the frog either," he told them. "I got the best part.

"The teacher says that I get to be the one who claps and cheers."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In which the ultimate vacation destination is Auburn, Cal.

You know you are really really really an endurance rider when somebody refers to Auburn California as the "ultimate vacation destination" and you smile.
And nod.
And look a little wistful.

Auburn, CA is the location of the finish line of the oldest organized endurance ride in the world--and one of the most challenging, as well: The Western States Trail Ride, known more commonly as The Tevis Cup.

Tevis has been held annually since 1955 except when it was cancelled in 2008 because of smoke from nearby forest fires.

The course is 100 miles through the Sierra Nevadas, beginning near Lake Tahoe at Robie Park (named for Wendall Robie, the first ride manager for Tevis pictured above)

over the famous rocky scramble at Cougar Rock, and finishing 100 miles away at the fairgrounds in Auburn, covering approximately 17,040 feet of uphill climbing and 21,970 feet of descent.

(For comparison, Mount Rainier is measured at 14,410 above sea level).

As with all sanctioned endurance rides, there are vet checks along the trail, and Tevis veterinarians don't mess around: completion rate for the ride is about 50%. (For comparison, the completion rate for 2009 endurance rides in the Northwest region was around 88%.)

As one vet told me, "There's nothing further down the Tevis trail that will make a tired horse less tired, a hungry horse less hungry, or a lame horse less lame."

This Saturday, as I have for many years, I'll be cheering Tevis horses and riders from a distance. Here's the list of riders I'll be watching via the Tevis Webcast (I'll try not to forget anybody, but no promises--there are nearly 200 teams signed up for the start!) Some are Swampland region riders, others are blog friends.

#49 Karen Chaton and Bo

#67 Molly Farkus and Duffy

#68 Mel Faubel and Farley

#98 Jonni Jewel and Hank

#110 Paul Latiolais and Pete

#149 Trina Romo and Cecily G (I don't know this horse or rider, but Cissy is the only registered Standardbred in the race...and I love that she's named for a giraffe in the Curious George books!)

This ride is rocky, it's cold, it's hot, it's strenuous, and it's really freakin' hard. If you finish, you earn the right to wear a silver Tevis buckle.

So, why do so many endurance riders do this crazy event? Why is Tevis on my Life List? (Some day I will do this ride!)

Why would anybody pay money to participate in something so difficult?

Louis Armstrong said it right when he was asked to define jazz music.

"Man," he said, "If you got to ask the question, you won't ever understand the answer."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

In which we take a quiz about horses, and Fiddle sees cervidae

I'm an ENFP*. My horse is a SECF**. Who knew?
*ENFP: Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving
** SECF: Submissive Energetic Curious Friendly

Blog-friend Leah Fry started the stampede to the Horse Personality Quiz website. Now everybody wants to know what "horse-personality type" is standing around in the pasture. How could we resist?

We couldn't, obviously!

The quiz asks questions like "Is your horse the first in the herd to eat?" and "Does your horse like to be touched, petted and groomed?" You can answer questions online and get a quick "diagnosis" of your horse's personality type--sort of an equine Myers-Briggs Assessment.

I read a different book last year covering the same topic: Ride The Right Horse by Yvonne Barteau (thanks, Sky!).

When I read it, I clearly identified Fiddle as an Aloof-Challenging horse, that is, one that prefers to be left alone, and one that will always challenge authority before giving into it.

"That's my horse, all right," I thought.

Nearly a year has passed, and I look at a slightly different personality instrument and discover that my horse is a Submissive Energetic Curious Friendly horse.

Ahem. "Friendly?" "Submissive?" MY HORSE???

Actually, yes.

I took the test last year, just before leaving for a week in the backcountry with Sky and her pretty mare Cricket. We had a wonderful time. We learned a lot. We had lots of fun. And Fiddle grew up a little bit.

Before we left on that trip, Fee's default answer to any request was "NO!" She would acquiesce pretty quickly, but her trademark behavior was refuse first, then agree.

In the space of a year, her behavior has changed dramatically.

She is still strong-minded. She still challenges my authority frequently...but more from habit than actual belief that she might be allowed to dominate. She still believes that if she is given an inch, she should be granted a mile...but she has learned to accept that she probably will not be granted that inch, and most definitely will not be given a mile. She pushes, but not very hard.

If I were to give in even once, I'd be back at Square One. However, I have learned not to give in, and she has learned that I don't, and so her challenging behavior is pretty half-hearted these days. Will she ever stop challenging me? Probably not entirely.

One of the questions on the current quiz reads something like: Does your horse move readily off your leg?

Last year I would have answered emphatically "NO." Now, I answer emphatically "YES." She has learned to move forward with a good attitude. Did her personality change so much? Probably not...but with training and practice, she has learned that my expectations (You will move forward when I touch you with my leg) are not outrageous or even difficult. So, she moves forward readily now. It's a huge change, but it didn't come suddenly. I didn't even notice the change until I took the quiz this evening. Cool.

Last year, she didn't like to be touched or petted at all. She would pin her ears, hump her back, and make the ugliest faces possible. After a year of living in the backyard instead of a boarding barn, she comes forward to have her face scratched. She still isn't as people-oriented and puppy-dog-friendly as Hana, and probably never will be. But she's more comfortable with the routine of grooming and being touched, and she even seeks it out at times. Big change!

Here's Fiddle's Horse Personality Profile:
SECF: Submissive Energetic Curious Friendly ("The Goddess")

The Goddess is loved by most of the other horses and most people.
Hmmm, a bit of overstatement here. I love her. Most people would still be mowed down by her.

They are expressive and sensitive and emotional. You will know how they feel.
Oh, yes. You can see her ears semaphore her emotions from 3 miles down the trail!

They try very hard to please and will worry and be anxious if you are not happy with them.
For Fiddle, this manifests as "perfectionism," and it's the main thing she loves about her dressage lessons.

In the negative they can have scattered energy that is hard to get focused.
Hence the 45-minute warmup before a lesson or the start of an endurance ride. She has strong desires to do what she wants...and the warmup is needed to focus her attention on the task at hand.

This personality can be loved on as much as you want.

Listen to them yes. I always listen. I don't always agree to let her do what she wants, but I always listen to the request.
Play with them
Ask for what you want
Allow them friendships
Be their friend and leader "leader" is a key word here!
Give them variety
Own them forever

Be rigid, bossy, boring
Move them frequently
Keep them alone
Stress them Actually, I do stress Fiddle on purpose, to allow her to experience change in controlled circumstances. If I stayed in her comfort zone, we would never have gotten out of her stall. As a result, she has learned to cope with change and stress in appropriate ways.

So, that's Fiddle. What about Hana?

Hana is SLCF: Submissive Lazy Curious Friendly (The "Steady Eddy")
She will do whatever you like, just ask. She will do whatever you like and not waste a bunch of calories doing additional stuff. And she loves attention.

Here's the details for the SLCF personality type:

If you are a novice or amateur, this is the horse for you. They are quiet and predictable, loving and engaging, willing to learn new things, willing to hang out with you and do nothing. This is not your big ego, career-oriented horse. They are happy to just be. Consistent and loyal, all you need to do is enjoy!

Whatever you want
Appreciate them Hana loves to be told that she's a good girl!
Play with them
Keep variety in their work
Keep workouts short "Short" is a relative term. For an endurance rider, "all day" is short, because it implys that you will be back in camp before dark. That timetable works just fine for Hana!

Have huge expectations
Overtax them
Ignore them
Bore them

Yup, that's our Hana. She is really the nicest, sweetest little horse. She is exactly the kind of nice little horse that Jim deserves. She is exactly the kind of horse I thought I wanted...but I ended up with Fiddle instead. Actually, that worked out okay.

Fiddle had lots of time off after returning from the Renegade Rendezvous camp, but we hit the trails again this morning for a short (2.5 hour) ride around the tree farm. I was grateful for the overcast skies and light rain this morning, because it knocked all the pollen and dust out of the air--I've been sneezing for DAYS!

We saw bunches of deer, especially in the meadows. Here's a picture I call "Where's Waldo: Cervidae Edition." Can you spot all three deer? Calloo, callay, the red huckleberries are ripe and delicious at last!

Huckleberry season is the best, right after blackberry season. I eat the berries, and Fiddle eats the branches and leaves.

Life is good!