Friday, October 8, 2010

In which Fiddle pushes the broken crosswalk button a few more times

If the weather can just hold onto itself for another week, Fee and I will head down to Oregon for our last ride of the season. The Foothills of the Cascades ride is famous for beautiful trails and dreadful weather, and if heavy rain is forecast, we're staying home!
Every few years the ride features beautiful weather. We're hoping for one of those years, and if we get one, we're going!

Just in case we do get one of those years, Fiddle and I need a few more workouts in the hills to stay in shape. I'm not too worried about her, physically. However, we're still working through some of her "backsliding" behaviors....and that is going to take time and practice.

I remember that John Lyons described a horse's learning curve as being not an "uphill" shape, entirely. Rather, he said to expect good behavior, then a step back into not-so-good behavior, then a step forward into better behavior, then TWO steps backwards into worse behavior, and then two or three steps forward into increasingly good behavior.

Thus, Fiddle has (predictably, I guess) been improving steadily, but backslid during the weekend at the Elbe ride. She isn't finished with her backslide, either.

She has been trying out all the "bad tricks" in her repertoire: biting, kicking, and crowding. I have been correcting all these bad tricks as they appear, and they are gradually disappearing.

Here's another way that John Lyons explained about backsliding:

You know when you walk up to a crosswalk, you can hit the button and pretty soon the light changes and you can progress forward.

So, one day you walk up to the crosswalk the way you always have. You push the button because that's what has worked for you in the past. And you wait, right? Because that's what has worked. But you don't know that as of today, the button has been taken off-line by the city traffic engineers.

And...the light doesn't change.

Do you immediately figure, "Oh, it's broken, the circumstances have changed, I'll have to try something else to cross the street" ?

Or do you hit the button again? And then hit it a few more times?

Maybe you hit the button harder than you normally hit the button, to see if hitting it harder and faster will get you the result you want?

Fiddle is standing at the crosswalk.

She knows that biting, kicking, and crowding doesn't get her what she wants. Pulling back on the leadrope might work, right? (Note the broken buckle.) Now my task is to convince her that the button is permanently out-of-order, and that she needs to try different behavior instead.

It's a good thing I'm still young.

UPDATE: I bought two NEW leadropes, and tied Fiddle to the trailer with them when I got home. Then I gave her a bath. I'm thinking, "go ahead and pull back on that, punkin, and I'll not only spank your back end, I'll squirt you with the hose, too!"

And what did she do?

Not a dang thing.

She stood there on a limp line, looking at me with an expression that said very clearly, "I don't have any idea what all your fussing is about. I'm not going to pull back. Why, I never pull back!"


Sunday, October 3, 2010

In which we go to a pokey--er, POKER ride, and Fiddle learns stuff

The forecast was for sunshine in the Swamplands, but the clouds were hanging low and dripping on the windshield as we sped up and over Snoqualmie Pass to the Dry Side of the State. By the time we got to our destination, there were no clouds in sight!
I didn't have to go all the way to the Dry Side to find beautiful colors like these: because Silver Ridge Ranch was hosting their annual charity poker ride on their land just at the top of Snoqualmie Pass.

Which charity? I wondered, and they pointed out the list posted by the sign-in table. The list is huge--basically, every helping organization in the county, from the food bank to the animal shelters, would get some money from this event. Excellent.
The weather was bright and beautiful, the trails were nicely built, with a few "stepover" logs and roots to give the riders a thrill, and there were plenty of folks on the trails.

They weren't moving very fast. Some of them, I noticed, had to stop a few times on the trail to offload the beer they'd been drinking. I totally don't understand drinking beer while riding--I mean, my faithful mount already has a 1,000+ lb advantage on me. Why on earth would I negate some of my balance as well?

I know, I'm a geek. I wasn't the only one on the trail wearing tights and a helmet. Almost the only one, but not quite. Some folks were also astonished that I was riding "alone." Um, aren't y'all standing right there? (also, what about my large friend wearing the saddle? doesn't she count?)

Speaking of my large friend, Fiddle was incredulous when I insisted that she walk a majority of the trail. By her lights, we were in a ridecamp. Therefore, we were supposed to run as fast as we could. The footing was fine, and there were all those pokey horses in front, she could outrun them at a quick walk, she told me.

But that isn't the point, I told her. Just walk and enjoy the day. (We did trot when we had a mile or two of clear space in front of us...she's right when she says that we should take advantage of good footing!)

Of course, I was scouting the location as a possible endurance ride site. Hmmm. Definitely a possibility.

Apparently there's a way to get under the highway and link to the Iron Horse/John Wayne Pioneer Trail, and possibly even a way to hook up to Easton Ridge and the brand new Washington State Horse Park.

I called Gail from my cell phone on the trail. You've gotta check this out!

Yes. Definitely on the list of possible future ridecamps.We did see a foolish cowpokey pony go into the water much further than the rider intended. The lake bottom is mucky, shoe-grabbing mud, and the horse floundered around enough in it to dunk the rider and then itself before everybody got right-side-up again. Fiddle and I declined to enter the lake after watching that. It was just fine to look at it from a respectful distance.

One of the cowpokey people took our picture. Notice that my shirt pocket contains my ride card (poker ride=draw numbers at five spots along the route, high and low "hands" win prizes). For some reason, Fiddle completely lost her marbles the first time I handed my card to a volunteer. So, for the rest of the ride, I got the card out periodically to flap it around her body, and handed cookies to the guys with the number bag to give her when they rattled the bag. By the end of the ride, the whole routine was boooorrrrrrring. Never underestimate the power of cookies.

Thanks for the sunshine, Silver Ridge Ranch. I'll be back next year (or maybe even sooner...)!