Saturday, May 28, 2011

In which Willy and Lisa and Hana show their stuff (in a lesson!)

(My apologies for crummy photo/video quality in this post--somehow I left home without my camera and had to rely on my phone)
The kids had a half-day at school yesterday, and I had the day off, and Dory wasn't off at some show or we got ourselves in for a riding lesson.  (Jim had to work, poor thing!)
 Lisa is getting the hang of posting the trot, and Guy is the soul of patience with beginning riders. 
If Guy figures the rider can't handle a trot, he Will. Not.  Do.  It.  As the rider skill level improves, he will expend more energy to give a good ride. Yes, I know:  Guy is worth GOLD.
 Dory worked with Willy on steering, posting on the correct diagonal, and controlling the speed of Boogie, who is Nikki's endurance horse. 

I brought Hana as my own mount--Fiddle is still on time-off following the Mt Adams ride--and worked with her for a while.  Then, Dory told us that she thought that Willy could probably handle riding we swapped steeds!

Hana has a tendancy to "take advantage" (read: "run away with") green riders, so it was really great to see her behaving properly with a not-so-green rider!  I took the video while sitting on Boogie in the middle of the area, and can't help noticing what a lousy tripod he makes.  Fiddle has excellent tripod skills, and I'll be glad to get back on her tomorrow!

After the lesson, we took the horses out for a teeny-little trail ride. 
Lisa was pretty sure that we travelled about 20 miles. 
My internal GPS clocked about one mile, 'round trip. 

But hey:  the sun was shining.
The kids were happy to be out.  The ponies were happy to be out.
...and you already know this part:
Life is good.

Friday, May 27, 2011

In which I harvest something wonderful planted by somebody else

I didn't plant most of the rhubarb growing on our property.  I did buy a few little transplants when we first moved here, and they are still alive, but they haven't prospered yet.  However, to my delight, we discovered that farmers living here many years ago planted the stuff along the property line. 

That first year on the farm, we spent a lot of time discovering things left behind by prior residents. 

Most of our discoveries were unpleasant, like the barbed wire left from the 1930's and 1940's, when the entire valley was a dairy farm.  Some of our finds were bizarre, like the still-functional car jack and a claw hammer we found in the middle of the mares' pasture.  

A few discoveries, however, were delightful, such as the thriving grapevine, buried under 6 feet of blackberry hedge, established in the 1970's and 1980's by a previous owner, and completely neglected by the folks who sold us the place.

It's difficult to say how long the rhubarb has been here.  It grows in a rather odd location right next to the fence between the neighbors' horse pasture and our driveway, and we have to hang flagging tape on the gigantic green leaves each year so that the kids (they were raised in the city, after all) will recognize that it is a desirable plant and not something to run over with the lawn mower.

Yesterday, I picked a bunch of rhubarb for a pie.

 I always think rhubarb must be some kind of dinosaur plant, because the stalks are so gigantic.  My scissors weren't adequate to the task of cutting them, and I had to run back to the house to get my knife!
 I don't eat sugar anymore, so I tossed chunks of rhubarb into a pot with chunks of apple, a little bit of water and some agave syrup.  The great thing about rhubarb pie filling is that you don't need a recipe--just add stuff that sounds good until you think it tastes right.  Medium heat for about 10 minutes to soften the rhubarb and get all the flavors to start mixing up.   Ummmm, cinnamon too.  And maybe a little bit of powdered ginger.  If I had fresh ginger root in the house, I would've used that instead.
I used a basic piecrust recipe from Joy of Cooking.  I baked the bottom crust for about 10 minutes so the filling wouldn't make it all soggy.  The rhubarb/apple mix went in next.  I didn't measure anything--I just cut up enough rhubarb and apples to fill up the pan.

For the top, I mixed pie crust dough with some cinnamon, some uncooked oatmeal (rolled oats, not instant), some melted butter and a tiny bit of agave.  Then I crumbled it up on top of the rhubarb and apple filling.

Bake at 350 F for about 40 minutes, until everything is bubbling and smelling nice! 


Monday, May 23, 2011

In which is difficult to say if we really escaped Rapture

Fiddle and Hana got off the trailer into this grassy mountain meadow and were pretty sure that they'd arrived in Heaven a few days before the "scheduled Rapture."  

However, this was the Mount Adams ridecamp, not the Afterlife.

 The drive down to ridecamp took longer than it took me to ride 50 miles of mountainous terrain...and not just because we needed to do some adjustment to the tires at the mid-point. 
(p.s.  tighten your lugnuts!  we're so glad we did!)
The sunsets in camp were amazing.  Actually, it was pretty amazingly beautiful the entire time.  As soon as I took the photo, I set up my chair beside Jim's and we admired the mountain together (it's hard to see in the photo, but the mountain is right in front of camera has problems with grey/white)

 Breakfast on Friday morning = a great reason to come to camp on Thursday!  Biscuits + gravy, fried potatoes, scrambled eggs, fresh asparagus, cornbread, sausages....

...there was even more food than that, but it won't all fit in my brain.   We were replete.

 Then, it was time to jump up and take more pictures of the mountain. 

We did that a LOT.   You can see why.

Mid-morning, the ride manager whizzed by, followed by her faithful chain of Chihuahuas. 

I think there are at least four in the picture, and there might be a few on the quad with Darlene. 

(here's the chi-pack, later in the afternoon, ready for the 4pm feeding frenzy)

Darlene recommended that we ride the yellow loop, about 12 miles, as a shakedown/warmup the day before the ride. 

While most of us saddled up, Jim took Hana and a longeline to a distant corner of the field.  She likes to holler and carry on whenever Fiddle leaves camp, which is a pain in the patoot.  Solution:  longe her.  If she's quiet, she can walk or eat grass.  If she fusses or hollers, she must trot in a circle.
 Jim did the same thing with her on the morning of the ride before the start line, and it really helped Fiddle to stay calm and focussed. 

 We headed down the road to the yellow-ribboned trail in the sunshine. 

The weather was warm and very humid--not ideal conditions for my big dark mare.   But this pre-ride was mostly walking with a bit of trot.  We stayed in the back of the pack for most of the training ride so I could school Fee on the topic of "accepting the pace I ask for, instead of loading on all the speed you can muster."
 She accepted it, but she was only really having lots of fun when she got to lead the pack and I let her stretch out a bit.  It's unusual for a horse to prefer solitude, but that's what she likes.  However, she needs to know how to behave in a group, so we practice a lot.

When we got back to camp, I was delighted to see some of Fiddle's siblings were there, ready for the 25-mile ride on Saturday:
Hector is Fee's "big" brother (he stands 17 hands high, and takes a size 3 shoe!) and Effie is her "little" sister (she stands about 15 hands, and is much more slender and dainty than her sibs).  I met Hector's rider Penny at the Renegade Rendezvous in 2009, when she brought Hector through my pulsing line.  I took the pulse of the gigantic-headed brown horse and then I noticed that he not only had a freeze brand, it was a number very similar to Fiddle's number!  When I looked Hector up later, I discovered that he was a half-brother to my good mare: same stud, different mare. 

Penny owns two other standies, including Hector's full sister Effie.  I'm always absurdly thrilled to see other standardbreds on the endurance trails with Fiddle and me!

Saturday morning, early:  saddle up and get ready to ride!
 Jim did the longing exercise with Hana again while Fee and I were warming up for the start line, and it helped tremendously.  Fiddle was energetic but focussed.  Hooray!  But the ride started late! 


A Washington State Health inspector showed up at the startline five minutes before the start, asking to see the health certificates of every horse in camp.  Wha-a-a-a-aaa???  

Washington has some pretty reasonable health certification laws for horses.  We have to have a current negative Coggins certificate, and a health certificate if we're traveling out-of-state.  Horses from Oregon and Idaho are generally allowed to travel in Washington State for 3-4 days without a certificate, as long as they are not here for breeding purposes.   But because of the recent EHV-1 outbreak, somebody flipped out and reported to the state that we would be gathering hundreds of un-certified horses together, and that our event would certainly spread the virus planet-wide.   Or something ridiculous like that.

In reality, every horse in camp was stringently vetchecked (including taking a temp); vets followed biosecurity protocol for the vet-in, and everyone was very careful about the horses they brought. 
Some people got a little silly. 
(I assume the owner of the horse wearing the surgical mask was being silly.   I hope she was being silly...)

The state inspector stayed for the day, helping out in camp and left the premises very impressed.  Some of the out-of-state riders were missing some of the desireable paperwork, but his answer was that they would receive a "stern letter" in the mail, but no fine.  (My paperwork was fine, BTW--and besides, I was in my home state.  Still, it's good to know).
For the first two loops (each loop was 12-13 miles), we had overcast skies, moderate temperatures, and a very misty rain--perfect weather conditions for a ride on a large-bodied dark-colored mare! 

There was plenty of incline/decline, but footing was arena-perfect, and I let Fiddle pick her speed once we were on the trail.  I knew that the weather was probably going to turn warmer + more humid later in the day, so I wanted to make some time while it was still cool.

 In the vetcheck, the Amazing Fish Creek Crew took care of me and Fiddle when Jim was busy pulsing.  What a treat!  I'm accustomed to minimal crewing, because Jim is so useful to ride management that he often has time to give me a kiss on the cheek and that's all.  So, I'm pretty used to doing almost everything by myself--but it's lovely to be able to sit down and eat my sandwich while somebody else takes Fiddle over to some grass.
 Katie (above with Fiddle) and Lori (below with Shade) are the best, and so are the rest of the Fish. 
There was sunshine, humidity, and more rocks/harder surface conditions on the third and fourth loop trails, so we slowed down quite a bit.  My goal for the overall ride was 2 hours per loop, and I did the first two loops in under that, but we slowed down for the last two loops so that Fiddle wouldn't be working so hard.

 On the third (blue) loop, we could hear a logging operation off the side of the trail, less than a mile distant, but that's something we see all the time and it was no big deal.  However, just after the loggers, we heard a tremendous crashing in the bushes below the trail.  I figured it was a logger, limbing trees to be loaded on the truck...until a COW-ELK THE SIZE OF A SMALL APARTMENT BUILDING jumped up onto the trail in front of us. 

Fiddle didn't even flinch.  The elk dived back down into the bushes, and then ran parallel to us for a few miles in a sort of "race" that she and Fee both seemed to enjoy.  The photo (above) is elk fur.  I was a little too busy to take pictures of the enormous cow-elk during the actual encounter.
This ride is held on the side of a mountain, and the mountain still has some sn*w.  Hardly enough to cuss at (and I'll bet you never thought you'd see me write THAT, either!), but enough to cool the feet of horses passing by.

The last loop, Fiddle got hungry. We took our time, and I let her eat her way back to camp.  The orange loop was full of grass!
It only took a few extra minutes, and Fee was very grateful for the extra fuel.

The grass/fuel stop shows up on her final scores:  a majority of "A" grades. 
During the middle of the ride (with fewer stops for grass and less interest in food from the Mighty Steed) her gut-sound scores were B's (which is normal for Fee).  I am always pleased to bring a horse at the finish line who scores better after 50 miles than she did after 25 miles.
We finished the ride in slightly less than 8 hours, and the middle of the pack--perfect for a strenuous 2nd 50-mile ride, and Fiddle was happy, healthy, hungry and tired at the end.  

Her behavior on the trail was just what I have worked for:  a good "going-forward" attitude, with bad ears but otherwise not a lot of bother about passing other horses or being passed.  She had backslid quite a lot recently, wanting to bite or kick other horses during training rides, but the always-helpful Fish Creek Gang helped me ramp up my discipline enforcement on the trail so that, by the third loop, my riding crop was tied to the saddle and the kimberwicke bit was happily left behind at the vetcheck. 

We even got an extra award from the ride manager for 50 miles of no-kicking for Fiddle!  Wahoooooo!

You know this already, but I can't help saying it:  Life.  Is.  Good!