Thursday, September 22, 2011

In which cold weather is coming and I'm worried about my butt cheeks

Following the epic failure of my new Helly-Hansen rainjacket at the endurance ride last weekend, I'm on the hunt for a new parka.

Helly-Hansen "Anchorage" rain jacket - I might as well have worn Speedos.

I normally buy clothes at thrift shops, because I find retail prices (and the entire "retail experience") to be painful. 

However, there are a few garments that I will buy new.  Socks, for example.  A riding partner got me a pair of World's Softest Socks for Xmas last year, and I am now hooked on them, for riding and for work.  They are soft.  They are warm.  They stay up and don't get all crumpled inside my boot.  They hold up in the wash. 

"World's Softest Socks" - they even come in purple!
Best of all, they come in purple!

A really good jacket for cold and wet weather is another garment that can be worth paying Real Money, in order to get something that really works for a long time. Unfortunately, fashion doesn't exactly support people who want to stay warm and dry in the great outdoors.  While shopping online for a parka, I'm finding a lot of garments like this:
Marmot "Precip" jacket

Can you see the problem with this jacket?   I'll give you a hint:

Gluteous Maximus.

That largest-of-muscles is not covered up by most of this season's fashionable jackets and parkas.  Even reputable companies like REI, Marmot, and yes, Helly-Hansen, are marketing scads of pretty coats that stop at the wearer's hips. 

First of all, that's a really unflattering look unless you happen to built like the plastic mannequin in the photo above, which I am not.

Second of all, the largest muscle in my body is not located between my hips and my shoulders.  That honor goes to my backside...and when my butt muscles get wet and cold, my entire body gets a chill.  

Here's what I want in a riding jacket for cold weather:

*  WATERPROOF!   Not water-resistant, or "spray-coated nylon."  I want something that keeps the rain out-out-out!  Helly-Hansen has been my go-to brand for years, and I'm just so disappointed in them now.

*  Breathable.  Because, believe it or not, the horse doesn't do all the work.

*  Pit zips.  See above about the horse not doing all the work.

*  Pockets.  Gotta have a place for the camera and a few horse cookies...preferably not in the same pocket.

*  Hood.  A hood should fit over a helmet.  How difficult is this?

*  Cover my butt with all that waterproof wonderfulness, even when I'm in the saddle.  

*  Enough room inside the jacket for some extra warm layers, so I can wear it when the weather is wet and cold...which happens for about 6 months of each year in the Swamplands.

*  I would really like to pay less than $200 for all this stuff. 

*  Extra points if I could find something in purple....

I'm looking now at the Kerrits Cargo Jacket, which is currently on sale at the Kerrits website.  I wore a Kerrits parka for many years, and it has finally begun to leak--the result of hard living and lots of washings.  (I don't blame a jacket for giving up the ghost after years of service). 

My question:  has anybody worn the new Cargo Jacket, and do you like it?

 I hate the belt.  It's removable, though.
I like the pretty styling on the back, but reflective piping would be even better.  Does the rear "flap" come down low enough to shield my backside from the elements?   I can't tell from the photo.

I'm a Kerrits Ambassador, partly because of my long-term good experience with my old Kerrits parka.  But after getting burned by Helly-Hansen's failure of a raincoat, I'm a little shy about buying online unless somebody tells me that the jacket actually works to keep the rain out.

Does anybody have some first-hand experience to share?  Tell about it in the comments, please!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In which we have an update on Pickles Marie Tinydog (and friends)

To everyone who has inquired about Pickles:
She is doing very well.   She considers herself a "born Farm Dog" now.   She helps with all the chores, especially when I'm tending the chickens and accidentally drop an egg (or two).

And, of course, she comes to ridecamp with me, so that she can charm all of her fans.
photo by fangirl Dory Jackson
 The other dogs are a little dismayed to have such a cute sibling who steals attention from them.
Mimsy always ties her tethers in knots like this.  It's, like, a thing for her.
 Luna is willing to concede the position of "cutest."

 However, the position of "prettiest" is not up-for-grabs.  Luna is,

and always will be, the prettiest.   How can I ever resist those beautiful eyes?

But I've got to admit a weakness for

"Zucchini Mouth."

Monday, September 19, 2011

In which we celebrate "International Talk Like a Pirate" Day

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Let's celebrate...with a little song.

Endurance Riders (sung to the tune of "Drunken Sailor")

What do you do with endurance riders
What do you do with endurance riders
What do you do with endurance riders
Ear-lie in the morning?

CHORUS:
Way-hey and up she rises
Way-hey and up she rises
Way-hey and up she rises
Ear-lie in the morning!

Mark 'em a trail and send 'em up it
Mark 'em a trail and send 'em up it
Mark 'em a trail and send 'em up it
Ear-lie in the morning!

CHORUS

Dress 'em in bio-thane and glitter
(repeat)

CHORUS

Feed 'em on Spam and fresh zucchini
(repeat)

CHORUS

Make 'em trot out and then trot back and
(repeat)

CHORUS

Give an award to the tail-end rider!
(repeat)

CHORUS

Okay, readers.  We need more verses!  Put 'em in the comment box. 

Here's a link to a really good version of the more traditional "Drunken Sailor" song to get you up and singing.

And don't forget to Talk Like a Pirate today!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

In which I underestimate the weather and lose my shirt, sorta

Ridecamp at the Bare Bones Endurance Ride is a large open field rented from the Evergreen Gun Club.  The field is FLAT (excellent for parking rigs, even the big 'uns) and conveniently located only 10 minutes from the freeway.   However...

...the booking manager at the Gun Club didn't notice (until too late) that the site had been double-booked: for the endurance ride and for
An endurance rider gets a shooting lesson.  Photo by Rhonda Guildford.
a group of blackpowder "mountain man" reinactors.
"Mountain Man Ladies" in costume.  They shoot too!  Photo by Rhonda Guilford.
 To say that life in camp over the weekend was "not quiet and contemplative" is to understate matters rather a lot.  It was loud.  There was gunfire all day, all weekend. Still, endurance riders are a coping sort of people.  We coped with the noise.

Umm, we mostly coped.  I admit that the gunfire noise, plus the noise from Mimsy barking and Hana hollering when I took Fiddle away for her vet-in did induce a minor meltdown.   I really don't handle noise very well, especially when almost all of the disturbance was coming from my own camp, and I felt very responsible and not able to control the chaos.  In cases of emotional meltdown, I gotta recommend the help and support I get from my ridecamp buddies, like Pickles' Fairy DocMother:
 Sky helped a lot too--she got the dogs to stop barking without using duct tape, and she made me a cup of tea.  You just can hardly imagine how much tea can improve a situation, until somebody makes a cup for you.  Whew.

Aside from the noise, life in camp was pretty normal. 

We ate the usual decadent breakfast on Friday morning:
and I walked the dogs around
(they did get it sorted out, eventually)

While Patty worked on the underside of her parents' rig,

When a tire blew, it took out parts of the plumbing.  Dang.
we wandered around camp and talked to our friends, including Karen from Wren Loop, who brought the famous Cartman for his first endurance experience.  They did the 15-mile trail ride, and I'm eager to hear how the big guy did!

Karen wanted to know how to teach the "look away" trick that Fiddle does, because Cartman is pretty food-motivated...

so I showed her! 


"Cartman wanna cookie?"

"Get your nose too close to my hand, and I bonk you."

"Even shifting his eyes away from the cookie is a good first step.  Good boy!"

"NOW you can have the cookie!"
 He's a quick learner, and a nice boy!
Pretty leaves, dry trails.  Cue the ominous music.
 After all that socializing, it was time to hit the trails for a little shakedown.  Just an hour out and an hour back to loosen up some stiff muscles and take a look at the trail.  
 See how nice and dry the trails are in these pictures from Friday?  Yeah.  Well, that didn't stick around.

 Here's a photo from the first loop on Saturday morning:
Welcome to the Swamp.
 We had a light mist as we left camp, but nobody predicted the monsoon of water that dumped on the trails (and the riders) all morning.
 Some of the trail was gravelly-dirt:
gravelly dirt + rain = mud
 but some of it was slick red clay:
red clay + rain = slime and puddles
Sky wanted to know how much riding in these kinds of conditions I've done.  In competition, with this horse?  None at all.  In training?  Tons.  In competitions with other horses?  Tons.  Fiddle is very experienced and good at this nastiness.

Cricket, however, was slipping and sliding through the first leg of the ride.  It was scary and no fun at all for Sky, and she decided to rider-option pull at the 8-mile trot-by.  That was a huge disappointment for her and for me; we had planned to spend the entire day together, and we only spent 2 hours of it, mostly worrying about Cricket.  I think she made the right call, and she was pretty satisfied with her decision.

After Sky dropped out at the trot-by point, she loaned me her chaps.  Those things saved my butt...or at least, they kept my legs from freezing off.  My riding attire in the morning was a cotton t-shirt with a new Helly Hanson raincoat over my usual riding breeches.  You know how "there is no bad weather, only bad clothing choices"?   Well.  I had some really bad clothing, and much sadness.  The raincoat completely failed--it wasn't even water resistant, despite the manufacturer's claims.  Yeah, I'll be sending THAT back. 

Meantime, I was cold and wet...and all my gear was back in camp, 10 trail-miles away.

Fortunately, Jim met me at the out-check, and loaned me his windstopper-fleece jacket.  After a few moments contemplation of the wet clothing on my body and the options available, I scampered into the portajohn and removed the drenched shirt and "raincoat", and put on Jim's jacket over my bra, then put the chaps (wet, but lined with wool so they kept me warm) over my wet breeches.  While I was swapping dry clothes for wet clothes, Jim vetted Fee through and found a pile of hay for her to cram in her maw.  He is the best crew.

Endurance riders = fashion disasters.  But at least I was warm!  Photo by Rhonda Guilford.
 I was MUCH warmer on the way back to camp.  When I got there, Sky pulsed us in...
 ...and my friend Rhonda took a photo of the amazing outfit!

(I ordered a set of the chaps for myself, BTW--in purple, of course!  They are handmade by a lady here in the Swamplands, and are sold by American Trail Gear.  I don't see them listed on the ATG website, but if you call and talk to Sherri or Diana, ask them about the chaps and tell them I sent you.)

Fee vetted through with flying colors, and then Willy took her back to our camp and stuffed her full of hay, beetpulp and carrots while I made a cup of hot tea (remember, hot tea is restorative!) and some soup and fixed my clothing.

Fortunately, I had a complete change of attire in camp, including clean dry socks, my own windstopper jacket, and dry boots!
An inch of water inside the muddy boot (top); clean dry new boot (bottom)
We had a 15-mile loop after the long vetcheck in camp, on some of the same muddy trail we'd just seen.  But before tackling the hill, I had to convince Fiddle that she needed to leave camp!

Our signature exit strategy:  b a c k w a r d s.
 Hana was in camp.  Food was in camp.  People admiring her were all staying in camp.  Why should she leave?   Finally, I got her pointed forward again.
 The rain had stopped (temporarily), and the gravelly-rock trails were starting to dry out.  Well, they were a little dryer.  Actually, not much dryer.  But my feet were dry, and that makes everything better.

The afternoon trails went faster than the morning trails, partly because the fog had lifted and we could find ribbons more easily.  Also because Fee was completely focused on the task at hand: trot where we could, walk where we must.  She was a rock star all day long.

The cheering crowd (not exaggerating!) at the finish line was absolutely terrific.  My whole family, plus a bunch of Pirates and Fish were there to get Fee and me finished and vetted.  Wow. 
My vet card, only barely legible.
My completion prize was a feed pan, which will be useful.  My tail-end prize will be even more useful: 
 'Cuz let me tell you, all those miles in wet breeches do NOT make for a comfy backside!

After the ride, we all relaxed. 
Mimsy doubles as a laundry tree.

Luna would prefer not to have socks on her head, please.

Pickles Marie Tinydog, only barely awake.
When we got home from camp, we were faced with a trailer full of wet tack, and a camper full of wet clothing.  Sigh.  The laundry will be spinning for a day or two.  And the tack

is all over the house, trying to get dry.

Life in the Swamp.  It's wet.  It's good, though.