Thursday, July 30, 2015

Finally. A Ride.

I'm looking forward to a lesson tomorrow morning since I haven't ridden since last Tuesday! Work, Work, Work....Camping. I have been managing to hit the gym and stick to the chicken/brown rice/ veggie meals so hopefully I'm not too out of shape!
Looking forward to seeing this pretty girl!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Breyer Fest 2015

You know that your Father-in-Law is on point with your hobbies and interests when a BreyerFest ad arrives in the mail.

While it was a little late to book tickets I did reminisce fondly on the days when I sat with a "Stablemate" Breyer and an X-Acto knife scratching "hairs" into my pony to make it more textured per the instructions of "Just about Horses" Breyer Magazine.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

In Conclusion.....

We had a wonderful time. My favorite part? I loved "logging off" and just enjoying some QT with Paul. Instead of fiddling on our phones we read books, drank beer, paddled around, hiked, ate hot dogs, played Gin, and enjoyed each other's company.
Ready to go! Mt Shasta in the background!

Bottling some Spring Water

At the campsite!

Selfie Lunch Snack post Bear

Paddling out to the Springs

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Great Bear Scare of 2015

The trails in this park are not clearly marked. At all. No trailhead indicators- just some dirt paths and flattened grass made by tire tracks.

So when Paul and I realized that we had missed a turn that would have taken us past Splatter Cone and the Lava Springs we shrugged and were just as happy to be on some sort of trail wandering around the end of Big Lake and back towards the campgrounds.
Earlier in the hike Paul had lamented about the lack of wildlife sightings. Then as we paused for a quick drink, a giant buck with a huge rack of antlers crashed through the trees in front of us. My heart skipped a beat as I imagined a moose running full tilt into us.

Happy to be out of the woods, where every tree stump looks like a bobcat, we meandered along the edge of the lake- flanked by trees on one side and tall marsh grass on the other.

As we rounded a bend Paul suddenly told me quietly to stop. A bear he said. And sure enough, about 200 yards ahead of us, was the largest bear I've ever seen, wandering down the same path we were headed.

We made sure there were no cubs around and gave him his space, following a healthy distance behind. Every once in a while he'd stop and fiddle around and I'm pretty sure I caught him looking at us once or twice. My response? To turn away and stare at the ground. Yes- I would make a good snack.

Then the tough part. He had begun to wander through the tall grass to the waterfront and in order to get to where we needed to go, we had to walk past him and onwards up the trail. So I went ahead- every few steps asking annoying questions like, "what is the bear doing now?" "is the bear looking at us?" "are you looking at the bear?" "where is the bear?"- but never looking back, because I know if I did there was a solid chance I might panic and run. Call me a wuss- I don't want to get eaten by a bear while camping- what a way to go.

Past the bear adrenaline kicked in and we power walked a solid two miles back to camp. Poor Paul. I may have spent the rest of the evening planning my getaway should the bear make a visit to our site. Through the trees and into the lake in case you're curious. Every wilderness gal for herself.
Unassuming Hiker

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park

Paul and I were out of range this weekend camping at Lake Ahjumawi- a small park located in the remote Shasta Country, in Northeastern California- about 5 hours from our house.

Over two thirds of the park is covered by recent (5,000 year old) lava flows and the word "Ahjumawi" means "where the waters come together"- the 5 waters that come together form one of the largest systems of freshwater springs in the country.

But enough of the history lesson....

Paul planned this trip soup to nuts- which must have been challenging as the park receives only about 2,000 visitors annually- even googling for the above left me with only a few resources about actually visiting the park.

Access to the park is boat in only with three campgrounds (3 sites a piece) so we stopped in Reddings to pick up our canoe before carrying on to the public boat ramp known as....Rat Farm.

Paul had a ton of questions for the folks at the canoe rental- which was the best campground to stay at, the best route to canoe over, etc. The only tidbit of information we really got back was that when we got there, we'd know, by the crystal clear glacial water.

A smooth launch into the Lake and off we went! The views of Mt. Shasta were amazing and even though we caught a bit of wind, the scenery made the extra work worthwhile!

Paul had heard that the 2nd Campsite was the best- so we were off and gunning for that with the plan of unloading the canoe and then going off for an exploratory paddle (much less stressful without all of your supplies alongside). Aanndd we got lost. While we managed to find two of the three sites amongst the marshy inlets and shallow waterways- our 2nd campsite alluded us! Fast track what should have been a 60min trip tops to four hours and a massive sunburn later....we determine via our blogger post (who thankfully included their GPS) and an iphone Maps that we had found Camp 3 and Camp 1- with a rough estimate of where we needed to go for Camp 2.

I do have to say that we paddled the entire lake- to the point that our GPS was telling us we were on land (actually called "Shallow Lake") where we were pushing the canoe along with our oars.

The new plan was to start at Camp 3 and work our way along inlets and the shore until we found Camp 2. And so we set out exploring our first inlet.

Up until this point the water had been greenish and somewhat clear near the surface- often with seagrass and other greenery in the shallower parts. As we investigated the waterway, all of a sudden the water changed. It was crystal clear, very very cold, blue glacier water and I knew we had found what we were looking for!

Shortly after our Ja-She Springs discovery (no campsites- only day use) we found a hub of small fishing boats owned by the only other folks we saw that weekend, a bachelor party, and shared a campsite a short distance from their's in the coveted second campground- Crystal Springs.

I know right? All this secluded wilderness and we don't move on to another campground? It ended up that I enjoyed having campers close by after running into that black bear on Saturday! But that's a story for tomorrow!
After setting camp we did go back to the Spring for a *very* cold dip!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Finished Living Room

It's been one of those weeks where you set benchmarks and say- "if I can just make it to Thursday night."

Paul and I are camping this weekend and my week has been devoid of horse activities. So why not share the living room that we finally finished in the 11th hour before a family visit July 4th?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Private Flat Lesson

Today I meant to leave work at 2 to get to the barn with plenty of time to tack up for my lesson at 4. That didn't quite happen, and despite the hour prediction on Waze, I still made it in plenty of time. Whew.

But when I looked at the board I saw that I was the only noted 4pmer. And then I got a nervous- like preparing myself for the worst in case Diane forgot or something. Nope- she was there right on time and gave me a flat lesson like I've never had before. I have puppy wrists (floppy) and open fingers and I need to squeeze with my thigh because Ellie doesn't like the lower leg. It was just great to have the private time with Diane, not jumping, but working on things that will make me a better rider.

Monday, July 20, 2015

You Know When....

It's 4:30 on a Monday and you're absolutely buried at work and your well-meaning husband calls and says....."so you don't think you're going to make it to the gym tonight?" And you love him a lot but you want to scream (and I do in my mind), "NO I do NOT need the pressure of trying to fit it all in tomorrow just to get to the damn gym." And I try to stay sweet through gritted teeth and say something like "Whoopsy, I guess I'm going to have to buckle down tomorrow sweetie pie." Which is exactly why I need to go to the gym- I get very passive aggressive otherwise.

The reality of that little monologue- Paul doesn't actually care whether I go to the gym. It's 7:45 and I'm still at the office admiring this duo- my KMT transplant buddy, Emily, and son Leif! Adorbs (I can say that stuff this late in the day).

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Lots of Jumps- In a Row!

That's a lot of arrows in my diagram below. Why? Because we jumped a lot of fences in our lesson today! All in a row!

I've rewritten this post a few times because it's hard to put into words how wonderful things are without sounding as though the old program wasn't great. Because there were so many amazing things about it.

But Ellie and I seem to be thriving at Westhaven. After my first lesson the spurs came off.....because they weren't needed. Ellie is moving forward off of my leg and she is getting time in the rig and on hills to strengthen her back end.
No more sassy faces and crabby canter departures. Whereas I wouldn't dare attempt a flying we get them more often than naught.

We're jumping....a lot. There are still nerves to be sure- but they aren't as paralyzing as they were before. I am getting the focused attention that we need- whether in a private lesson or in our small groups. We're working over small fences building confidence (and pace, track, straightness). The below represents the first attempt at a 2'6" course....really ever. And it was just fine.

After our lesson I went with another rider out on the trails and through the hunt field on the property. I love riding with a group of adults. Similar to the equestrian bloggers- they are working professionals enjoying horses as a hobby. We all struggle with similar things and it feels as though even group lessons are tailored towards the individual rider.

Of course there will be struggles and challenges down the road- I'm just super pleased with the progress we're making!

Thursday, July 9, 2015


My parents were visiting for the Holiday weekend and seemed impressed that I was up and riding on Friday at 7:30 before meeting them later in the day. I rather sheepishly admitted that Ellie had a chiropractic appointment at 8 that we had to be done before. Because when you say out loud that your horse has a chiropractor in the company of folks who don't have horses it just sounds.... odd.

Tina is an Emma contact and has been in the biz of equine chiropractics for 30 years. She ventures to California monthly from her home in Oregon and worked on Ellie a few times while she was at KMT.
Tina was kind enough to come out to Westhaven for an appointment and also squeezed in some time to work on a few others before heading to the airport. I'm glad because it sounds like she'll be coming back on a monthly basis now!

Ellie tends to only need an adjustment every 8 weeks or so- just a quick pop to get her poll back in place on her right side. Tina gave us some carrot stretches and back exercises to do before and after rides to help in between adjustments.

Now I just need to find a chiropractor for myself!
A little crack! Ellie literally sleeps with her face in poop. 

Luckily Mom was on hand to help me with stretches! 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Longest Ride: Wilbur

It's been a long road with this one. Mystery lameness in September of 2013- just two months shy of our one year anniversary together. I posted about some of our first year milestones in my 2013 Recap.

MRI Results in November of 2013 that offered very little hope in the way of a career. If anything- his  severe level of lameness in November after having three months off already was any indication- he was just going to get worse and worse.

Back up to Marlene's retirement farm an hour and a half North of Oakland. It was inexpensive and she took great care of the horses. Wilbur lived there from September 2013- November 2014.

In November he came back to the Bay- to a 10 acre gelding pasture at Brown Ranch. I was cautiously optimistic with the vet report being "the best we could have hoped for." Even more so when he stayed sound through his next appointment in February.

In May he started his training program- twice weekly with Amanda. One workout on the ground and one in the saddle. And of course Amanda's report that he "rides like he hasn't had time off" felt like a weight off my shoulders.

What does one do when they've just been at show barns for their entire horse career? Who has had their horses cared for and maintained by others and are then thrust into self-care? Thank a lot of people for their support.
Thanks to my vet for all of her personal attention, not glossing over the hard details, letting me peer over her shoulder at x-rays, letting me spend all day at the vet while Wilbur was getting his MRI, and making sound recommendations.
Thanks to my friends and family- my cousin, Laura, and friend, Claire, in particular....who spent what felt like hours dissecting various scenarios and lending an ear.
Thanks to Marlene, Christina, and Amanda- these barn owners, managers, and trainers who have helped me keep Wilbur safe and happy and taken us under their wing.

All of this lead to Friday- my first ride on Wilbur in 1 year and 9 months.  It was pretty awesome. Amanda was on hand to help me saddle him up and try as I might to learn the cinches I was no match for a Western Saddle. Wilbur was fantastic- like riding a big couch. He skittered off at a dog by the rail but I felt secure in my saddle and settled him down. We trotted, loped. I posted and sat, fiddled with the reins and let him peer around.
And he was sound.
After our ride Amanda and Ann swarmed me like a ground crew (they were getting ready to move cattle and needed the saddle) and I slowly groomed while they got ready to roll. Wilbur was like a big pup- happy to be in the mix of the commotion amongst 5 horses getting tacked up.

Paul asked if I was going to make a habit of riding Wilbur. I'm not sure. Added rides means extra stress to the joints. But I think it's likely that I'll be climbing on bareback this weekend- if only to wander around the property. This guy has my heart and I'm so glad he's back in action.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Bales of Doom

I rode in an early lesson today as we determined that everyone would broil if we waited for the 4pm time originally scheduled.
It was great! I love these early rides- it's cool, the sun is coming up, I'm still feeling relatively optimistic about my day!

I've been enjoying the free form lesson structure too- with a warm up on your own with a few pointers before jumping.

We had several successful fences today but trotting over the hay bales stands out as a fun one. Diane has been showing the past two weeks and I've been traveling so when Diane asked me to trot over those bales of hay I didn't know whether Ellie had been over them already or not. Gamely we marched up, and clearly she had not jumped them previously, as she paused and then leapt over like the bales were going to sprout arms and grab her.

And then we trotted them twice more and she didn't give them a second glance.

I need to jazz up my camera roll with more horse photos- luckily my parents will be in town for the 4th and Ill make them take some snaps during the obligatory family barn visit. For now Felix will have to suffice.