Saturday, October 22, 2011

In which we go riding and encounter a bunch of very odd folks

Fiddle and I love to dress up.
The Bad Idea Fairy and her horse "Holdmybeerandwatchthis"
think riding in mud is fun!
The annual Traildusters Hallowe'en Fun Ride is often a highlight on our calendar.
Ready for makeup and costume
Before folks get all dressed up, there's a "poker" ride.
Dory and a few of her Fish, ready to ride!
We aren't supposed to call it a poker ride anymore, because the Washington State Gambling Commission has a bunch of crazy rules about poker.  We used to ride through the woods and pick up cards from various rest points, and when we got back to the parking lot, the best poker hand would win.  Now we choose numbers written on poker chips out of a bag.  Because THAT'S totally different than cards.
Heading off down the trail o' fun.  Except Hana had other plans.
The plan was that Jim and I would ride with the Fish and have fun on the trails.  Hana loves Dory's mare Spot, so we put Hana in between Fiddle and Spot.  It didn't matter.
Duana tried to knock the "fizz" off of Hana in a lesson yesterday;
 it totally didn't work.
Hana was channeling her Inner Idiot today.  She snorted, she jigged, she lathered herself up every time Fiddle was more than a horse-length ahead...which, since Hana was jigging, didn't take more than a stride or two.   Sigh.
Hana: less of an idiot now
The Fish went on ahead of us.  We tried putting Hana in front of Fiddle, but she was still being silly.
So, we put Fiddle back in front, and just made Hana work to keep up (at a walk, fer cryin'outloud!)  I think Jim is planning to take a bunch of lessons on Hana himself this winter, so the two of them can work out their issues. 

Fiddle: awarded a Bronze Certificate by Sensible International
Fiddle made a point of being Sensible all day (although she did "spook" at one of the checkpoints.)
Happily, Hana found her brain in one of the treat buckets at the first checkpoint, and behaved (mostly) better for the rest of the day.
Hana:  when she's good, she's veryvery good.
I was pretty sure that the horses would spook at "Sylvester the cat" (below)
Sylvester looks pretty freaky to ME!
...but they didn't.  She had carrots in her pockets.  That always helps.

The trails were a mess. As I've reported in the past, these trails are not sustainably built.  Many of the trails are, in fact, trenches through the middle of a swamp.  And in the middle of the trench:
Nothin' but mud.
Think of these trails as a lovely nesting place for rainwater and mud to dwell happily during the winter months.  Try not to think of these trails as a place that you might want to, I dunno, ride your horse?
High ground!  Quick, take a picture!
I wore the new Muddy Creek raincoat today, BTW.  Full review coming soon, but the short report is:  I stayed dry! 
(ahem, except for my upper leg muscles, which should be covered by purple rain chaps except the lady who makes them hasn't made them yet!!!  I'm dyin', here!)
Finally back at the trailer:
Wanna see my costume?

Katie loaned us the tutu and wings.  I added sparkly stuff all over.
Other people were dressing for the Costume Contest also:

Katie borrowed my tiger suit
Katie is almost the cutest thing in the whole world
so she could match Fire's costume (below)
Tigers Together:  absolutely adorable.
There were some other mighty fine costumes as well!
Mermaid and Sea-horse

Mermaid and SHARK!

Zorro (sans sword...pointless!)

Horse is a poodle, rider is wearing a poodle skirt!

One of the esteemed judges (on the ostrich)
These clowns were fabulous

Reinactors!  This photo is for Mel.

Halloween colored M&M's.  Melts in your mouth?
 Fiddle and I were dressed as the Bad Idea Fairy and her horse "Holdmybeerandwatchthis."

You don't know about the Bad Idea Fairy? 

Where did you suppose bad ideas come from, huh? 

Run with scissors?  Ride without a helmet?  Drive drunk?  Date a drummer?  Loan your truck to your brother-in-law? 

You think those ideas come from a Good Idea Fairy? 

blurry photo!  The Bad Idea Fairy says: "let's take photos in the rain!"
Hallowe'en is almost here.  We at Haiku Farm love to dress up the animals (and ourselves) in awesome costumes...won't you join us for a Virtual Costume Party? 

Post photos of yourselves and your pets in costumes on your blog, or send them directly to me  (email  aarenex    AT    haikufarm    DOT    net)   and I'll post 'em here on Hallowe'en Day.  Jane, Funder, and Dom, I'm talking to you.  I know lytha won't dress up Baasha because he's Dignified (ha!).  Becky, be creative.  Everybody else, show these folks how it's done, okay?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

In which I tell the story of my life with brown horses (and some friends)

In the beginning, there was Midnight.
Midnight, a "pony camp" pony, circa 1976.  The world's best pony.
Midnight was the first horse I really rode.  "Pony rides" at the fair and the zoo don't count.  I got to take lessons on Midnight and her spiritual twin pony Tonka (no photos of Tonka survive, alas) for a few years.  With Midnight, I learned to sit tall, to walk, trot, and canter (they probably called it a lope in pony camp).  With Midnight, I learned to hop over some HUGE jumps (6 inches or so), and to conduct myself appropriately on a trail ride (3 miles?  Maybe 2.  It seemed to take all day, but it also seemed to be over much too quickly).

After Midnight came adolescence. 

For some reason, time and money for riding lessons went away the year that I turned 13, although I'm sure I begged and pleaded most ungraciously.  My parents were certain that I would "discover boys"...and I did.  I would rather have stuck with horses, to tell the truth.  I'm pretty sure that my parents would have slept better during my teen years if they'd kept driving me to riding lessons, but they didn't know that at the time.   My teen years were not graceful, and I shall not post any photos of them here.  Trust me: there were no horses, and it wasn't pretty.

In my mid-twenties, I started working for a friend-of-a-friend cleaning stalls and stuff, just for the chance to ride.  That's where I met Bo.
Bo.  16.1 hands high, Alpha all the way.  The world's best best boss mare.
Bo taught me the value of being ALPHA.  She never fought with another horse.  She never even argued.  She could walk into a long-established herd of broodies, twitch a single ear, and they'd all make way for her to pass.  She wasn't mean.  She was superior

The friend who owned Bo couldn't help noticing things about my life.  For example, she noticed that I had a husband, and that I didn't have a horse.  My friend facilitated the swap.

The husband turned out to be terrified of horses, and meanwhile, I was learning lessons from Bo about being superior.  Good stuff to know.   

In the meantime, there was a new horse in my life:

Story, me, and Merridog in the foothills, circa 1999
 When we went shopping for my very own, very first horse, my friend looked at all sorts of critters.  When we went up to the standardbred track to take a look at some horses who were destined for the slaughter truck, she picked Story out of the bunch.

"That one," she said, meaning Story, "won't leave you broken and bleeding on the side of a mountain."

Although my friend is a dedicated dressage rider, she recognized my need to get out and explore trails with a horse. She was determined to find a horse for me who had a fair amount of "taking care" instinct, rather than a lot of fancy training. The fact that Story was a harness horse who hadn't really carried a rider didn't bother my friend, and so it didn't bother me.  I had read The Black Stallion a million times, and therefore knew how to break a horse to saddle.  Right?

As it turned out, "breaking" Story to saddle consisted of putting a saddle on her, and climbing aboard.  The mare looked over her shoulder at me, with an obvious "Okay, now what?" expression on her face.  We walked and trotted around the pasture that first day.  No helmet, no spotter, nothing.  Sigh.  Don't try this at home.
Story, the world's best mare.
 When I started getting serious about endurance in the spring of 2000, a friend offered me the chance to train a young gelding who was literally bred for the sport--a CMK Arabian, the ultimate endurance machine--so that I (or rather she) wouldn't have to be seen in camp with my rather un-beautiful non-arab horse.  I didn't know any better, so I accepted the offer. 

The gelding had a perfectly lovely Arabian registered name, but I never once called him by it.  To me, he was and always will be, The Toad.
Toad on the endurance trail, circa 2001.
Note: no feet on the ground, reins clenched tightly and about 8 inches long.
 The friend who owned The Toad bought him based on his pedigree, after looking at a bunch of photos and video of him.  "If he has half a brain," she said, "he'll be incredible."

Famous last words. 

The Toad had exactly one-half of a brain.  For eight years I rode him, over 2,000 endurance miles, waiting for him to grow the rest of his brain.  It never happened.
The Toad on the endurance trail, circa 2004.
Reins still very short.
 In all those miles, The Toad never stopped spooking at stupid stuff, never stopped pronging me into the ground or into trees, never stopped, in fact, being a Toad.  We covered a lot of miles together, and he was a remarkable athlete.  I loved him dearly, but the ground does not get softer after birthday #40.  I have tested this rather extensively.

Toad taught me a lot, especially when it comes to keeping my butt in the saddle and my head off the ground.

Jim showed up in my life right before I started working with The Toad.  He started by riding borrowed horses: 
Jim and Blaze, circa 2001?  possibly earlier
but it didn't take long for him to find a horse of his own:
Jim and Hana, circa 2003.  Hmm.  Those reins are kinda tight.
Hana isn't nearly as excitable as The Toad was, but she does have Arabesque moments. 

She matured into a very sensible horse....

Jim and Hana, circa 2008.  Clearly nobody in this photo is worried about the reins.
(...sensible for an Arab horse, anyhow.)

Speaking of sensible...

A week after Story died, I got a call from the folks at Greener Pastures, the standardbred adoption agency.  "We heard about Story," they said to me.  "You were really brave.  You did the right thing..."   Blah, blah, blah.
Fiddle, December 2006 with me and Luna
 Then they got to the point of the call:  "We can't help noticing that you've got an empty stall." 

Fiddle had been adopted from GP earlier in the year, but her adopter had then developed some scary symptoms that turned out to be brain cancer.  She had to bring Fee back to GP...but it was December.  There was no room at GP.  That's when they remembered about Story, and that's when they called me.

"Take her for the winter," they told me.  "If you like her, keep her.  If not, bring her back in the spring when we've got some room here."

Fiddle was the equine equivalent of an angry toddler when I first met her.  She was a biter and a kicker.  Her first response to any request was  "*rude word deleted* NO!"

I gave The Toad back to his owner after a last season with him, and started concentrating my energy on this badly-behaved new mare.  Even when she was still glow-in-the-dark green and still an "angry toddler" she was more trustworthy than Toad ever was.
Fiddle circa 2008 at the Standardbred Games Day in British Columbia.
Long floppy reins and no feet on the ground.
I had learned, all those years ago, about being an Alpha.  Remember? And I learned how to stay on!  And I learned how to sit tall.

For almost 5 years now, I've practiced all that stuff I learned.
Fiddle and me at the Mt Adams 50-miler, 2011

I'm still learning.

Fiddle:  The world's best horse.
My life:  it's good, you know.  It's really, really good.

Monday, October 17, 2011

In which "you know it's almost winter when" is more than just a blog-post

You know it's almost winter when...
Not summer anymore.  Dang.
Fiddle stops before exiting the trailer. 

She is checking the ground:  if it's mud, she wants to step carefully and not slide.  In summer, she doesn't hesitate, she just walks out.

You know it's almost winter when:
Dressed for success in polarfleece and gortex.

the horses have their tailfeathers covered for the duration of the ride.
Ignore the red tree.  This forest is almost ready for winter.

They probably would have been fine without the rump rugs, but we kept moving between clear/sunny skies (above)

and completely socked-in-fog (below)
foggy morning

and the air has a distinctly clammy feel this time of year.

We rode on some of the higher-elevation trails, trying to get above the fog and clouds.

Triumph :  enough sunshine to make shadows!

...and made it all the way to the monument.

Cue theme music:   Also Sprach Zarathustra

This tract of the Pilchuck Tree Farm is also home to the Pilchuck Glass School. The monument is dedicated to the late owner of the Tree Farm, and a co-founder of the Glass School, John Hauberg.  His ashes were scattered at the site of the monument, overlooking Puget Sound.  There are also carved stone seats nearby, so persons on foot can rest and enjoy the view.   

(The Glass School's most famous founder/artist is Dale Chihuly.  Visit his website HERE to get your eyes knocked with amazing color and concepts in glass!)

Uh, Shade?  Could you smile?  Or at least WAKE UP?
 The monument site is an excellent place to take "Facebook Photos".  So we did. 

You know it's almost winter when Skivvies (below) wears long-sleeves!

FB profile picture

Then, since we finally felt like we were not wrapped in a layer of cold woolly fish, we moved some layers of clothing around.  Patty tried on my new jacket:  a Muddy Creek Short Raincoat.  
Monumental sunshine

I bought a size medium, but I think I need a small.  Patty fits the medium just about perfectly, so she'll probably order a small and then we can swap.  Actually, from the lineup of people trying on my jacket the other day, there may be several new Muddy Creek wearers around here in the new future. 

See?  The coat on me is the right length, but there's room enough inside for me *and* Fiddle!
I'll keep everybody posted on how the coat performs in the pouring rain, I haven't had a chance to test it in REAL weather yet.  

You know it's almost winter when everyone starts frantically checking their outerwear for water repellency!

Meanwhile, there's a lot of fog.   In the photos (above) and (below), we used a cliff trail with foggy background for a few interesting pictures.  It looked really creepy...

"Entering Mordor.  Please declare all valuables at the border crossing station.
Especially rings...."
like, it wouldn't be unreasonable to post a sign that says "Mordor 2 miles ahead."   Really freaky-looking!

On the way back to the trailer, we met up with friends, including Katie and Dean.  Dean is riding his old (retired) endurance horse Banner, who is looking fat and happy. 

Doug on Banner, Katie (without a cast on her foot!) on Horus, Ruth on Fire.

Back at the trailer, Patty wanted to try out my saddle, since I love it so much and she doesn't currently have a saddle that she loves. 

It's a long way to the top of this horse!

The best way to try out my saddle is to try out my up she climbed!

"She rides like a Dory-trained horse"  <<---the coolest compliment I've gotten in months.
"Standies have feet where Arabs don't have feet!"  she told me.   Um....yes?  

She looks pretty comfy up there in the saddle, though.  If it came in PINK, I'll bet she'd order one today.

"Go ahead, little girl:  the first ride is free. 
Oh, the saddle?  The saddle is nice too."

Heh heh heh.  I wonder how long it will be before she starts thinking about getting a standie of her own? 

Heh heh heh.  I am so bad.