Tag Archives: horses

2013 Family and Farm Round-up!

I haven’t carved out the time for a blog update in forever and ever, so here’s a slapdash tour of the whole darn year to make up for some lost time. If you’re not my mother, you might just want to skim the pics. It got a bit looooong. Here goes:

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I got suuuuuper duper pregnant! If I had a nickel for every person who asked if I was having twins… I would tie them up in a small sack to tote in my purse and use to whack those people upside the head. Most especially those who followed with “Are you sure you’re not having twins?”

It was not a delightful 9 months. I will absolutely miss some things- the feeling of having a mysterious, kicking creature inside me and all the wonder and joy it inspired, but mostly the rest of it was rough. I had amazing, intense nausea and please-let-me-lie-down-on-the-floor-right now-to-sleep fatigue for the first 17 weeks, followed by some absolutely crazy making insomnia and pelvic discomfort for the remainder. I was so darn happy to have that baby for all the usual reasons, but also to end that pregnancy!

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But who wouldn’t go through that if it meant you got to have this guy in the end??! Baby R- way beyond worth it.

He’s in that exponential growth period of life these days, so looking at pictures like this one is a trip. Moments ago he was a grub and today he was ransacking our cabinets and burning holes through the knees of his tiny track pants in an all out crawl-sprint for Bonnie’s dog food bowl. Nuts!

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Yep, here comes trouble!

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O has proven to be a superb older brother. There have been some minor recent frustrations as R has gone from a largely sedentary guy that a big brother can interact with or ignore ad lib in the course of an afternoon’s play to a roving Lego hoover that must be constantly monitored to keep from destroying and/or being destroyed by a person’s favorite toys, but overall it has been quite a smooth transition. O is enjoying R so much he’s even had moments of lobbying for another baby (gasp)! R is one lucky guy.

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For the chickens it has been a year of declining productivity and tree roosting naughtiness. We got our newest round of chicks in the Fall to get a jump on Spring laying and all was going great until one of our young ladies started crowing yesterday. Another rooster! Sigh. The four standard size hens we had ranged in age from about 4-7, so it was time to also retire them to the big hen house in the sky (a.k.a. my friend Catherine’s freezer). I was more hands on in the slaughtering and dressing this time around, so I think in the future we’ll be keeping our old birds on site for our own stew pot. I’m also thinking of a more rapid turn-over plan in the future so that we have more consistent laying through the winter months. Catherine and I tried a couple of new techniques in processing the hens this time- using garden shears for the beheading and skinning rather than plucking the birds (Catherine doesn’t like the skin), both of which I highly recommend.

The chicken above, Amelia, will certainly be remembered. She was constantly in search of a better place to hide her eggs, a trait which led to many misadventures. The first time she went missing I just assumed the worst after a few days, but B, in a rather surprising moment of chicken tenderness, flyered the neighborhood with “Lost Chicken!” signs. Turns out she had just been on a walkabout and taken to roosting in a tree outside our neighbor’s bedroom window. The second time she was lost B found her splayed out in such an awkward pose in one of our compost bins that he was sure she was dead. A loud screech and panicked flapping set him right on that account when he went to pick her up, uncovering the 17 eggs she had been secretly laying and attempting to hatch. Often, though, it would be Bonny the Bloodthirsty who would find her after she had flown from the safety of the fenced chicken paddock. Three separate times the chase ended badly, but each time Amelia managed to escape death’s fluffy blond jaws. Some chicken!

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Here we find Bonny terrorizing other small animals across the West.

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Ferocious!

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As mentioned before, my fabulous dressage trainer Sue and Sebastian The Wonder Mustang absolutely kicked butt this year while I was busy being hugely pregnant and then hugely tired postpartum. I couldn’t be more pleased with Sebastian’s progress! Certainly some credit goes to him being a really wonderful guy, but the layering of well done dressage training over natural horsemanship foundation training is just dreamy. He is a pleasure to be around and he’s really learning to use his body correctly. He and I are even moving up to First Level this year! I took him to a show and rode him at Training Level in October. He was a total champ (as expected) and I managed to mostly keep my wits about me and steer the proper course, so onward and upward we go!

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That one is me! In full dressage show gear- Hah! I thought showing hunter/jumpers was silly with my wool coat in the heat of the Summer, but check me out now- white pants and gloves for riding horses. Who thinks that’s a good idea?? After finding that the dressage coat that fit me well was 480 bucks (AK! I could adopt 3.84 more BLM Mustangs for that price!), I dyed my old hunt coat black and put on silver buttons to emulate dressage fashion. Totally passable, I think. I had a lot of fun at this show. I can’t wait for our next one in February.

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B did manage to go skiing in the back country- once, last April. As a guy who grew up in the mountains, skiing all through the winters, B really recharges on these kind of trips.  Once is not nearly enough! Jeez. This life balance thing is tough.

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The bees! Oh, the bees. This first year as a beekeeper has been, well, very mixed. I have loved everything I have learned and the hands on care has been amazing, BUT I think most all of my bees are dead. I found that sad, sad fist-sized clump of dead bees surrounding the dead queen of the far hive after the cold snap in the late fall. I imagine they were just too small and weak to stay warm. At last check a couple of weeks ago the near hive had a smattering of brood on two medium frames and not a lot of bees. A few days ago I watched a sort of sputtering bee topple off the landing board and found that she had the shriveled little nubby wings that come from deformed wing virus- a sure sign that the mite levels in the hive are overwhelmingly high. The virus enters the bees through openings made when mites feed on their bodies.

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I guess it’s possible that they will come back, but I can’t help but think they’re pretty much done for. They have all the leftover stores of honey and nectar from the far hive and in theory there should be Eucalyptus to forage now, so we’ll see.

It’s hard to know what did almost everybody in, possibly a combination of robbing wasps (there were soooo many this year!), mites, and stress from me checking in on them as an eager first year beekeeper trying to learn the ropes. Next year I’m going to get packages of bees from a new source and be more vigilant in some ways (robbing screens on earlier, more intensive mite control) while less invasive in terms of hive inspections. I definitely love the practice of beekeeping, so I’m going to keep at it. The dry, dry California weather (it’s eerie, I can barely remember the last rain) will present a new problem in the coming year, however, with much less forage available. Please wish us luck, it seems we will need it!

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Of course the year involved a good deal of crafting. Between O and I there are always a project or two and various supplies littering the house. O is particularly fond of anything involving tape or string, but my only-for-work pens and any strap-like horse tack also do quite nicely when constructing elaborate art installations in the house. I got really into making paper flowers. This is my New Year’s wreath:

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So there it was, a loooong glimpse at Full Hearts Farm 2013. We send our best, best wishes and lots of love to all for the coming year!

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Does Your Horse Get Paid?

Giving horses food rewards is an area that people have some strong feelings about. I admit that the common scenario with horses and treats looks more like a mugging than a training session. Picture a horse with his muzzle all over some misguided person who has trained the poor beast that humans loooove to be shoved and frisked and will hand over cookies when treated accordingly. The trainers I respect in the natural horsemanship world have differing opinions about treats- some will use them in some circumstances but some never do. For many years I thought of this as the high road, that if the relationship was good enough one shouldn’t need treats.

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Times have changed! While I don’t think anyone needs treats, I think they can be very useful. It was Robin Gates that shifted my opinions on food rewards for good. Robin does use treats in her liberty work with horses, with wonderful effect. She points out that some of a foal’s most salient first experiences are with it’s mother, who allows the polite foal to nurse and can push away one that is being rude.

When thinking about giving my horse treats, I think about what going to work means for me. I love my job and get a great deal of satisfaction from it. Would I go if I wasn’t getting paid? Nope. Would I go if someone made it very uncomfortable to not go and much more comfortable to go? Probably, but I wouldn’t feel as good about it as I do in the scenario where I get paid. Much of natural horsemanship relies on making the wrong behavior difficult for the horse and the right behavior easy. The reward in these methods is the release of pressure. I use these methods all the time with my horses. In the hands of a good trainer, a horse will gain a great deal of comfort from understanding that the human is a good leader and can be trusted enough to follow. These methods are very effective and mirror many of the methods horses use with one another to communicate. The difference between when horses use these methods and when we use them, however, is that horses get a lot more out of being with one another than they do out of being with the average human. We just don’t have an innate pull for horses the way they do for one another, quite the opposite. A horse must get over the fact that we look, smell and move like something that would like to eat them. Assuming that we care whether or not our horses like being with us, it’s worth looking at their motivation. I like thinking that my horses get more from our interactions than simply the avoidance of feeling uncomfortable. Hopefully knowing that I am the leader in the herd does help them relax and feel good, but I like to use food rewards to take things to the next level. What I strive for is fun for my horses. Yes! Fun! With treats the horse get into seeking mode, trying to solve the puzzle of what I want them to do with enthusiasm. Indeed, just like me, my horses get paid when they go to work.

Take hoof trimming for example. I trim my own ponies and I am not a speedy trimmer. My poor beasts have spent many an hour balancing hundreds of pounds of horse flesh on three spindly legs waiting for me to get the job done. When they are particularly aggravated by the flies tickling their ankles or just done with the whole thing they start wanting to take their feet back. It works to stop at that moment and do some groundwork to impress upon them that taking their foot away means a lot of hard work is about to be done by them. After this reminder the calm is restored, often for the rest of the trim. It is usually effective, but it’s not super enjoyable for me or them. Since I have started using treats, however, the horses grow interested at the sight of my trimming tools, usually will follow me into a stall to be trimmed and sometimes even lift their feet in polite anticipation as I am reaching down for them. The result is basically the same, I get the trim done, but there is a different feeling throughout the interaction.

Food rewards are really powerful, which is part of why I believe many people don’t use them. In no time flat you can teach your horse to be a complete jerk! Their use requires careful thought. At a minimum the horse should learn that coming at you with its mouth will not result in treats. It seems awkward at first, but training your horses to turn their heads slightly away from you before they will be given a treat will go a long ways to avoid turning your horse into a pocket diving disaster. It’s as simple as standing there with a treat he can smell in your closed hand and waiting for him to give up trying to nuzzle it out of you and look away- bingo! Give him the treat. Repeat till he gets it consistently and then be consistent in the future yourself- no treats for nosey ponies.

Also consider the relationship you and your horses have. It needs to be clear that the treats belong to you and that they are only given to ponies who are trying very hard to do whatever is being asked of them. The next picture is of where I found Annie after I went to put away some tools and organize a couple things in the tack room. She was standing there, hoping I would come back and give her a treat but not taking one. Those treats are not hers! Sure enough she was given a treat for that kind of respectful waiting.

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For best results, think about what your horse is doing the moment before he gets the treat and realize that he will believe whatever that behavior is will get him more treats in the future. You are always training your horse, even in the most casual of interactions, so don’t throw the power of treats behind something meaningless or downright negative. It’s common for horses to get a treat after coming back to the barn after a good workout. This is in fact an awesome way to encourage your horse to be barnsour (as though getting off their backs and leading them back to their buddies were not reward enough!). Use the cookie power for good! In teaching the horses to stand for trimming, for example, I only reward them when they actually have their feet up on the hoof stand. It is no good to finish a foot, put it down and give a treat because the horse stood so nicely while you trimmed. The horse will conclude that putting one’s hoof down is just the thing to do in order to earn a treat. Yikes!

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I haven’t found any magic in one treat versus another. Since they don’t make up much of the horses’ diet, I generally buy whichever ones are cheap and won’t dissolve into sticky powder in my pocket. For the portly or downright insulin resistant equines out there I recommend sugar free mints. Sebastian loves them! When he thinks he has been good he arches his neck, tilts his nose away and looks at me with one excited eyeball. I always think of it as him saying “please”.

How about you? Do you use food rewards with your animals?

A Dancing Horse Mobile

Pregnant ladies who love horses, I have one more thing to put on your to-do list:

Become friends with my dear friend Jill.

Pronto.

There are a zillion good reasons to befriend a person as kind and fun and thoughtful and interesting as Jill, but recently I uncovered a thrilling bonus reason:

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Jill is capable of making this outrageous adorableness, a dancing horse mobile!

Jill and I primarily hang out side by side on our horses or lounging on a dusty set of camp chairs beside a dustier trailer. When we get together the horse related chatter is so enthralling we don’t often discuss other pursuits, so when I invited her to make a square for baby R’s quilt I had no idea she was such an amazing craftsperson.

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Turns out she is! A crazy amazing craftsperson, in fact. This mobile was also accompanied by a CD of horse themed songs with liner notes that include all the lyrics. Oh yeah, and a beautiful quilt square of a lacewing. Apparently Jill is just awesome like that.

BTW, the photos do not do this masterpiece justice. Baby R’s room does not have generous light and this thing really works- moving all the time with whatever minor air currents flow through our house. Bad combo for getting great images.

Help Your Horse Walk

Like many competitive trail riders, I find the walk to be my horses’ most important gait. It is an area that Sebastian and I have found challenging. I would like 4-6 mph at the walk. Sebastian, after the initial excitement of the ride dies down, would prefer a pace more suited to sightseeing and frequent stops to sample the local flora. Maybe 1 mph. In the video below, Sue Corrie will give you some tips on influencing your horse’s walk correctly. Much of Sue’s teachings is based on the work of Mary Wanless- very good stuff. The video focuses on the way the rider’s seat connects to the horse’s hind end in order to control the tempo of the walk. It allows for a bigger walk that comes from stronger engagement from the horse’s hind end, rather than dumping the horse onto his forehand.

Here Sue is warming up Sebastian at a show. She is both on a long rein and her seat is actively connected to his back. She is asking him to use his hind end while he walks along, relaxed.

Here Sue is warming up Sebastian at a show. She is both on a long rein and her seat is actively connected to his back. She is asking him to use his hind end while he walks along, relaxed.

Before thinking about the concepts from the video, be sure your basic body alignment follows the classic shoulder-hips-heels rule: if a plumb line were dropped down from the heavens, it should pass through all those body parts. A way to check this is to imagine if the horse were whisked out from under the rider; the rider should always land on her feet. This is a good image to have in mind in order to stay balanced on ascents and descents, as well.

Sue talks about your seat bones in the video. If you are having a hard time knowing where they are pointing, you can sit on your hands to get a feel for them. Alternately hollow and round your low back to feel how those “flashlights” shine backward and forward. Find the spot where they point straight down. In this position you have the best chances of “plugging in” to your horse’s back and influencing his movement properly.

A final thing to keep in mind is that the movements that Sue describes are probably not as big as you might imagine. Big movements with your seat are very uncomfortable for your horse. Imagine moving at some speed down a trail with a big, sloppy backpack moving all over your back. Ouch. Now instead imagine a tightly packed backpack that is well secured to your back. Ahhhh. Be the tight backpack! Riders who *look* relaxed on a horse are riders with very active core muscles that hold them still in relationship to the horse. They can influence their horses easily because they are not sending a million extra signals to the horse through meaningless floppy body movements. Pay attention to the change in Sebastian when Sue uses her seat to make bigger movements and shove him forward- not a happy boy.

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Initially you may need a helper on the ground so you can figure out how to coordinate your seatbone going down and back when your horse’s hind leg on the same side is in motion. In order to speed up the walk you will actually feel like you are opposing the motion of the horse to some extent as you take the lead and tell the horse to put his hind leg down at a faster pace. Instead of letting the horse’s movement carry your seatbone at the current speed, think about your seat bone being connected directly to your horse’s hind hoof.  Tell that hoof to come down sooner with a faster down and back motion with your corresponding seat bone. Change the speed your seatbones are moving at but keep the movements small- no floppy backpacks! This feels opposite to what lots of us do instinctually to try to get our horses to walk bigger- exaggerate the way our hips move naturally at the walk. This exaggeration may cause your horse to take faster steps but it will also shove him onto the forehand, hollow his back and make his back end trail out behind him. Done correctly, Sue’s method will have your horse reaching farther under himself with his hind end. The increase in speed will be powerful and correct.

Good luck! Find the Big Walk!

Fancy Shmancy, Kick Butt With A Mustang!

This last weekend Sebastian went to his first Dressage show at Yarra Yarra Ranch in Pleasanton. After less than two months of Dressage training, I had what I thought were realistic expectations for a horse whose breeding selected for the ability to stay sleek and fit on five mouthfuls of grass a day and the domination all the other scrappy stallions on the range. My goals are for Sebastian to learn to move to the best of his ability and to gain experience going places and not being a silly beast. A horse that carries himself well will stay sound in the long run, and a horse that goes places without fuss is just a delight to have. So the feedback from a judge and the competition are interesting elements, but not the things I really expected to define the day as a success.

The training has been a major indulgence. It is only justified by the fact that Sebastian needs to stay in work to stay healthy and I am too pregnant to tie my own shoes, much less ride a horse. I have him out in Brentwood with Sue Corrie and she has been doing an amazing job with him. What a difference a handful of weeks can make! In preparation for being worked and shown through the cold months he even got a real show hair do- a full body clip. Not a single heart or star shaved in! We were super serious.

My camera battery conveniently died halfway through the show, but here are Sue and Sebastian in the warm up arena:

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Bastian, getting his Dressage face on.

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Stillwater’s Bastian, aka Lucky # 244.

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Tiniest horse in the warm up ring.

Sebastian took the change in scenery quite well, only occasionally worrying. Someone *crazy* had installed some terrifying brick pavers in the aisle the horses cross to enter the show arena, which required a lot of loud nose breathing and very wide eyeballs to cross. Fortunately they were not as deadly as they first appeared.

His first test (Training Level, Test 1) he got a little distracted and initially bungled picking up his left lead canter, but I felt it was a great first ever go in a Dressage class. Apparently the judge agreed- he scored a 68.958 and won his class! I was stunned. This was not at all what I was expecting from a real live Dressage show. Little range ponies can win?? Very disorienting. Also awesome.

Now it is true that I am awash in all sorts of prenatal hormones and therefore a bit prone to waves of emotional intensity, so I am not embarrassed to say that the second class (Training Level, Test 2) actually made me tear up. Sue rode him very well and it was just lovely. He didn’t have big extravagant warmblood movement or rhinestones glinting in his browband, but in my eyes he looked like he pretty much did belong there in that fancy arena. I felt so satisfied as we waited the hour it took for the class to finish (it was a big class). Then I was blown away again- he scored a 71.429 and won the second class! It was surreal.

Sue and Sebastian, victorious!

Sue and Sebastian, victorious!

Here’s to hoping this pending baby will wait until after February 10th to arrive so I can watch the next show. Until then, we will bask in the glory!

Imagine Riding a Horse Through An Oven. For 7 Hours.

Sebastian is getting to know the signs of a pending NATRC ride: a bath with soap at 9 in the morning, silly looking braids for the forelock and tail, much awkward maneuvering of the truck and trailer around the paddock in order to get a hose to reach the water tank, etc. During this prep day I also convinced B to take a short work break to install the latest bit of awesome camping gear I have acquired. After the last ride I was talking up the overhead ties that lots of folks use to secure their ponies to the trailer. They allow the horse much more room to move and make them a little less likely to be tangled up with the trailer as they eat or lie down. After running through the pending holidays and realizing that nothing was coming up soon to use as an excuse to get me one of these things, B said “Hey, I want a HiTie for Father’s Day!” The man has not only been studying his Husband Handbook, he has added a few new pages. Turns out “short” is not the length of time needed to drill a set of two perfectly spaced, level holes through 3 layers of steel, but we got it done and it was worth it. Well, it was worth it to me and Sebastian (sheepish grin).

My dear friend Jill went early to the Round Valley camp site and saved us the exact same spot we had last year, including the exact same inconveniently placed bush that served as a marker of my poor horse trailer backing skills once again.

Here is Bastian enjoying the relative freedom of his fabulous HiTie. Yes, that’s the bush and its friend making bunny ears on the trailer.

Jill’s horse Pokani has the TieRite model.

 All went fine with the vetting in. Carol, the veterinarian judge, ordered no snakes at this ride so we didn’t see any of those. Last year there was a very generously sized rattle snake found in camp, so I was thankful. The best part of the vet check was when Carol said Sebastian’s body condition score (a measurement of how fat or thin a horse is, on a scale of 1-9) was a 6! We have had huge struggles in this department- last fall he was an 8 (fat). At home I do a lot of feeling for ribs and poking at the spongy fat pads at  the base of his tail, doggedly trying to measure the imperceptible day to day changes in his weight. Recently I have been hoping he was down to a 7 (fleshy), so when I heard 6 (moderately fleshy) I was so excited! Moderately fleshy! When I gushed to Carol about this later in the weekend she did backtrack a bit- apparently he is somewhere between a 6 and a 7, or perhaps a 6 for his body type. But who cares- anywhere close to merely “moderately fleshy” is a huge victory for my “air fern” (Carol’s expression for an easy keeper). In solidarity with my pony I gorged myself at the potluck before we got the low down for the ride. Rumors had it that the temps would get up to 104, so the open riders had a loop lopped off their ride. No such luck for the Novice and Competitive Pleasure riders. 24 miles it would be.
The night was another long series of randomly timed whooshes! and thumps! from Sebastian’s hearty eating habits. I tried to focus on how wonderful his gut sounds have consistently been at vet checks and not stress about the lack of sleep. Less trailer rocking happened with the new tie system. He did lie down for a couple of hours so we both got a bit of sleep.
The morning temperature was far too balmy for 5 am. By the time we left at about 7:15 it was continuing to warm. The start was a gentle up and down followed by another long flat. Lots of room for the ponies to be frisky, and Sebastian was no exception. Frustrated by my outrageous request to walk at the start of what was obviously a high stakes horse race, he had to let out a small but expressive buck. Made me wish for a nice big hill, but that was a few miles out. Fortunately Jill’s horse Pokani was being a total gentleman and setting a good example. Once we got to the floor of Round Valley we were able to do a long, fast trot to settle out some of the frisk. Pokani is 17 hands tall with a nice big stride (another leggy creature with a 6mph walk- swoon!), so Sebastian had his work cut out for him keeping up.  Soon we were on a several mile climb that looked like this:
It was steep and an excellent use for extra pony exuberance. Also it was beautiful.

Here I am with my stubby… um, compact and efficient at dispelling heat… pony.

After many ups and downs we had the first horse fitness check. I was delighted that Sebastian came in at a 9 and 3 (pulse of 36 beats per minute and respirations of 12 per minute after 10 minutes rest). Apparently his upbringing in the mountains of Nevada had prepared him for the rising heat.
Shortly after we came upon a terrifying obstacle in the trail. Sebastian had not originally realized how dangerous the situation was, but Poki left the trail hurriedly to keep a safe distance.
Jill was laughing! That fool!
Look at this ROCK OF DOOM!
At this point Sebastian was starting to realize the dire position we were all in.
But summoned his deepest courage to snort at the rock from close range. My hero.
It must have been sleeping. Didn’t eat any of us.
The temps continued to climb. I was pleased that Sebastian got an 11 and 4 at his next pulse and reparation check (pulse of 44 beats per minute, respirations of 16 per minute). The volunteers were excellent about providing horse and human water at every opportunity and I was drinking like crazy to keep up. Unfortunately I didn’t have any electrolytes for myself, so Sebastian shared his paste. Eduramax tastes okay, in case you’ve ever wondered. From the looks of Carol’s concerned expression and the number of horses being attended to, this was the vet check where a lot of horses were found to be in trouble. The heat was really taking its toll and the number of pulled horses was rising (by the end of the day 6 or 7 out of 34 were not able to continue). Region 1 of NATRC focuses the judging of the horse on soundness, rather than creating obstacles to assess the horse’s manners on the trail. Carol commented on Friday that this kind of heat makes the veterinary judging straight forward. Any fitness, soundness or metabolic issues are very likely to show up under this amount of stress.
After the check we rode out onto a long, exposed ridge with conditions that B describes as “God’s Hairdryer.” The wind was warm and strong.
Sometime after this totally staged moment where Sebastian and I were in the lead (Pokani was the lead pony at all times), I suddenly found myself riding a terrified steed at a gallop, closing in fast on Pokani’s tail. After a second I realized that the wind had came up very strongly and at just the right angle to turn my penny into a flashing, rattling noisemaker that Sebastian was certain did not belong on his back. Nothing like figuring out that some part of you is what is scaring the daylights out of your horse. I was able to hold it down with one arm and ride with the other, but it made for a tense rest of the loooong ridge, dealing with passing horses and shortening and lengthening the reins with only one hand available.
I was so happy to eventually see the lunch break come into view. Given the heat, they held us an extra 15 minutes at lunch to help everyone recover. I sponged down Sebastian, who was looking like a Zebra with crusted, white tracks of salt all over his body. It was such a dry day that the sweat would dry almost immediately. It was spooky to reach down during the ride and feel an essentially dry horse neck in such heat. I also hosed myself down and choked down some sustenance- salted ham and cheese wraps.
Our third pulse and respiration check was a 10 and 2. I would have been very pleased with those numbers at a first check on a cool day. Phew! Good boy!
Not too many pictures were taken after this point in the ride. It felt a like sort of a frivolous use of energy. But here is Jill going down that long hill that we climbed in the morning. Or maybe it was a hill closer to the P & R. Things have blurred.
The long downhill at the end of the day was a challenge. Especially for the poky pony. Sebastian is, shall we say, careful going downhill and does not think it prudent to rush. Turns out he is not, however, against a small buck in protest when he loses his leggy partner around a blind corner. This was very effective human training on his part. I hollered to Jill and she very graciously made sure not to lose sight of us again. He is still a slow walker. Sigh.
I was so delighted to see the valley floor after that long descent. I was less delighted to ride into the dense, smothering heat that was rising from that floor. The air was still and for the first time all day the heat really felt oppressive. We needed to make up time and the ponies, strangely, had plenty of energy so we trotted through that oven. Turns out it was 108 or 109 at that point.
Definitely no pictures from the rest of the evening at camp. I felt like I was wading through soup. We tucked the horses into their meals and water and gave them thorough baths. Both of them ate and drank very well all day, thank goodness. Both Sebastian and I were less than perky at the final vet check, but we did okay. I had an exciting wave of nausea in the line to the Mexican dinner feast, but held it together and took in a very restorative mountain of food. The awards ceremony was especially nice because the Horsemanship judge, Jamie, was so positive and took the trouble to name several people individually and describe things they did very well on the trail. Sebastian won his Novice class and we got  Novice Sweepstakes again!!! I think we have to retire now. No way to keep up that streak.
I reconfigured hay nets again and we both slept pretty well that night, although I was still slick with sweat as I laid down to sleep at 10:30 pm.  In the morning the tough Open and Competitive pleasure riders were preparing for their day 2.
All I can say is wow.
Jill and I did the obligatory photo sessions with the awesome loot that we won.That’s a leather halter with engraved nameplate for the first place in Novice Horse to go with that beautiful cooler for Sweepstakes! So fancy!
Jill won a very cool ride time watch for her first in Novice Horsemanship and Pokani won second in Novice horse. Here Jill is circumventing the do-something-spastic-so-the-horse-puts-his-ears-forward routine that is usually the responsibility of the photographer. Thank you Jill!
In the end it was a really great weekend. A hard ride in heat like that was not what I would have chosen to do if I had control of the weather, but really it was a gift. It pushed our boundaries (I had no idea that we could do something like that!) and gave me some excellent perspective. I think the conditions of most other Novice rides will seem easy after that one. Knock on wood!