Saturday, October 12, 2013

In which this post is full of prettiness, because the sport is pretty!

There comes a time (usually in February, if you live in our Swamp) when the weather doldrums set in so thickly that riders despair.  We get so entrenched in climatic misery that we begin to think that we'll never ride our horses at all, and thoughts of riding outdoors under blue skies seem beyond the realm of remote.

Blue sky, dry trail, happy horse and rider

This post is here to remind us all that the trails are there for us, if only we are willing to skip over and find them.  For local Swamplanders, October trails are soggy and grey--but on the Dry Side of the state, blue skies and beautiful trails await.

Here's a ride report from the Jubilee Ranch Limited Distance ride (which I highly recommend, btw!):

We started the 25-miler not-too-early in the morning.   That's a big advantage to riding the LD ride.

Look!  The sun is almost all the way up,
even if it isn't very warm yet!  

Fiddle and I conducted our warm-up in the ranch arena (all by ourselves!) for about 30 minutes before the start time.  I kept waiting for her to throw the traditional "tantrum," which signals that she is completely warmed up and ready to begin the event, but she worked round and forward, in circles and over poles, without so much as a pinned ear. She even stopped for a few moments to beg carrots from the bystanding kids who were watching the startline.

Early-morning trail, excellent footing

 Hmmm. In her early days, those tantrums lasted 10 or 15 minutes.  This season, they've been getting shorter and shorter.  Dare I hope that she's over them completely?

Finally, I shrugged my shoulders, gave my number to the ride manager and crossed the start line.  80 yards into the ride, Fee threw her tantrum...for about three strides.  Then, she gathered her momentum, and trotted forward down the trail as if the tantrum had never happened.  

(fist bump, me + God)

Out on the trail, through the orchard,

We saw pickers in the orchard, but they asked not me not to take pictures of them.
If the INS is reading this, I want to state here that all of the pickers I saw seemed
to be correctly green-carded, upstanding individuals worthy of respect and thanks
for harvesting these beautiful apples.

 and down a big long cinder road.

Fee didn't mind going down the cinder road, but she thought that going back up it was boring...until we passed Hana and Duana going the other direction.  That put some jet fuel back in her tanks, and off we went again.

She's trotting along happily--note the flopping lower lip as she goes.  No stress in this Dragon at all!

At the vet check, she pulsed down to 60 bpm at the gate, even without stripping tack.  This big mare just doesn't do that during summer season rides, but with some judicious management, we can squeak it at an early-morning vet check in October.

After 45 minutes of food and rest, we went out on the second loop:
Lovely footing, not much rock, though the trail was more technical than the morning loop.
The 50-milers had an early-morning trail through the orchards that included a few
spots of slick-with-dew grass, but the 25-milers had good footing almost all day.

Open country and CRP grassland this time, with views to a few small lakes

and the Snake River in the distance.
Jubilee Ranch Ride photo by Jessica Anderson
I'd chatted with photographer Jessica Anderson about the kind of photo I was hoping to get from this ride. At the last few events, the official ride photos have showed my Dragon with her ears up, her eyes soft, and her body round...but she's been walking.

Cariboo Gold Express photo by  D. Pavlik, August 2013
You can't see in the photo, but we are walking downhill into a lake.

"This time," I told Jess, "we're gonna trot past you, no matter what the terrain looks like."

But Jessica scouted a gorgeous spot to shoot pictures where trotting wasn't difficult--it was just part of the day.  So, that's what we did.

"Hi Jessica!  You gotz any carrots?  No?
Then I'll just keep trotting!"

Ears up, eyes soft, body round.  Dory told me how proud she is of my posture and position and how good my mare looks. I'm proud too.

We kept trotting, past the wheat elevator
The wheat gets dumped into cone-shaped piles and covered in tarps.
Aeration pipes are inserted, and fans blow cool air in to keep the wheat from
getting too warm and starting to compost.  MUCH easier than silos!
 ...through the scrub grass...

and back to camp,

She probably pulsed down a bit faster than the card shows,
but I got busy talking...!  Good scores, otherwise.

where Fee got to indulge in her second-favorite post-ride activity:

Fee:  "Feels sooooooooo good!"
 Fee's first favorite post ride activity is, of course, eating.  And she did plenty of that, before, during and after the ride.  Our completion prize for the event:

Red Delicious, Gala, and Golden Delicious apples

A lovely flexible tub, and access to a huge box of "cull" apples that we could share with the horses.

Which is just the way things should be, according to The Dragon:

Good.  Things are good.

And apples right-off-the-tree are especially GOOD!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

In which we head East into the Blue, and there is fun (and much cuteness)

The problem with transitional-season rides:  we have to bring everything.

Dressing room of the SS Illegible: crammed with gear

For the horses, that means a warm blanket, a light rain sheet, a fly sheet, heaps of food, a full tank of water, the rump rug and the cooling sponges....

Cargo hold of the SS Illegible:  also crammed with gear

For the people it means heaps of rain gear, heaps of polar fleece, flannel shirts, cotton shirts, a few t-shirts, a warm hat, a rain hat, a ball cap, wool socks, light socks, hand warmers, and sunscreen.

We needed all that stuff (except the rain gear, which we only needed at home while loading it all into the rig).

Photo of ridecamp, taken from the out-trail

In camp, the skies were clear, bright and blue all day, 

Here on the Dry Side of the state, you can certainly tell
which crops aren't irrigated  (this is wheat)

and clear (and COLD) at night.

Single-person tent/cot requires two people to move

We had to tweak camp several times, as people who arrive in the middle of the night don't always choose the best spot to put stuff so they can go to bed.

But there was still plenty of time

Mike and Gail Williams, a.k.a. "Grampoo and Grammoo" 

to goof around and
Plenty of room here to do my clamshell exercises!

do our physical therapy exercises

Fee takes "carrot stretches" to the natural extreme

(the horses do them too)
She will do anything -- ANYTHING -- for a carrot

and plenty of time to ride, too!

Pre-ride, photo by Dory Jackson

I'll post a full report on the ride next, because first I want to spotlight the stuff we do in camp when we aren't on the trail.

Stuff like gaining new skills...
Brimstone has never trotted out for the vet, so
Patty adds a reason to go forward (she's got a whip in one hand)

Jason has never given electrolytes before, so he learned how to do it.

...and cooking...

Jason is our 5 star camp chef, and adapted easily to the


Sunshine feels good, even when it isn't warm yet.

And meeting new people...

Yes, that's Fiddle, demonstrating her tricks for 10-year-old Orin.

Orin was so fascinated by my !friendly! horse that I was able to show him
how he could teach his own horse to do tricks like this

New riders -- on Standardbreds!  Welcome, Darrel and Sherry!

and meeting new horses...

These are Moyle horses; the little one shows the characteristic
skull "bosses" on his head--horns!  Moyle horses are notoriously stubborn,
 often unfriendly, tough endurance horses,  and despite what the article HERE claims,
 they are also NOT considered smooth moving. I was thrilled to meet two IRL.
...and celebrating stuff.

Santa opens...champagne!

We toasted, first to Jason--he is now DOCTOR Jason, having successfully completed his dissertation.

Cup of champagne in one hand, carrot in the other.  The toast:
"To Jason -- WHAT'S UP, DOC?"
And the second toast (carrots only) is given in honor of...

SPOT, who won the 50-mile ride.  Dory retired 16-year-old Spot at the finish line, with the intention of getting her in foal next spring.

BJD Notalotta Spots, a good mare.
We did save a carrot for Fiddle, of course.

"I can haz carrotz?"
(YES!  That is the Dragon, asking nicely for a treat from somebody who isn't me!!!)

And, just when we thought we'd smiled enough for one weekend...

"Hi guys.  Whatcha doing?"

Schnitzel came over to visit.

Schnitzel is not a pet.  Keeping a wild animal as a pet is illegal.
But Schnitzel does sleep in the barn at Jubilee Ranch, sometimes.
Just sayin'.

Schnitzel likes most people, but he really likes Santa Jim.
"Santa, will you share your oatmeal starberries wif me?"

He wanted to know more about Santa's recruitment program for airborne cervidae.

"Dis good stuff makes me FLY, I bet!"

And it was good.

And it was fun.

And it was really, really cute.