Friday, May 29, 2009

Rinse and Repeat.......

It's still raining. That is a good thing for the plants and fire suppression but not so good for riding. I used to ride in the rain when I lived in Florida but this Alaska rain is cold! The temps have dropped into the 50s during the day and the mountains in my front yard have a new frosting of snow. The weather is supposed to clear by Sunday afternoon. I hope we can ride then.

A riding group in Chugiak is hosting an Extreme Challenge Trail Ride in June. The flyer says "An obstacle course to challenge your skills and strengthen the partnership between you and your horse". The $20 entry fee goes for a split the pot prize. Sounds like fun to me!

I had a picture to post but Blogger won't let me. Maybe later......

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thank Goodness it Rained!

This afternoon it rained! We have been without rain for over two weeks and the last was just sprinkles. Today's wasn't much better but it filled the stock tank under the gutter on the barn. So the critters have water and the dust has been settled. I hope that the Red Flag Warning we've been under for the past month has been lifted but probably not. I have a bunch of leaves and trash that need to be burned.

The rain today meant we didn't get to ride. I did get the picture of Briar and The Mare in the beaver pond downloaded (Hooray for geeky 13 year old kids) Check out the water level on her jeans. When we rode last night I put Voosh in the river to the left of the picture, just past the dam. Then we rode in the river on the other side of the brush on the spit behind Briar. The river is fast and I have to be careful not to look at it. I must keep focused on where I'm going. Last year I got caught up in watching the river and gave myself a raging case of vertigo. Not fun!

I heard today that one of the ladies I ride with took a bad tumble yesterday. She was following Stefanie up the powerline hill when her horse turned and bolted downhill. At the bottom of the hill her saddle slipped and she came off. Even with her helmet on she has a terrible goose egg on her forehead, a mild concussion, 4 stitches on her chin and a drain tube in her knee. She was riding her young Arab gelding that she planned on riding in the Fairbanks CTR which is about 6 weeks away. Good thoughts and prayers are always welcomed.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Blogger Ate My Post!!

I came back to write about the ride tonight and found that blogger ate my last post!

Briar and I rode Friday evening. It's staying light until midnight so we take advantage of the cooler evenings to ride for a couple of hours. She chose to ride her Appy pony Strider since he is being loaned to a young girl for 4-H horse camp next week. Strider hasn't been ridden since last year. We wanted to give him a tune up for a beginner rider. Then my friend Christy asked if she could borrow Strider for the summer. She has a six year old daughter that needs a pony she can be ponied on. What a perfect job for an old horse. Strider will be 26 in June. He has a very colorful history. I actually have all the paperwork on him including his health certificate from when he came to Alaska on the ferry. His sire was a racing Appaloosa in Oregon named RJ Powder Bars and his dam was a registered QH named Buzzie's Honey. I know he spent two years in Glenallen tied to a bulldozer in someone's front yard. I bought him from an outfitter in Kenny Lake five years ago. He's been great. I rode him setting trail for the first Bald Mountain Butt Buster. Poor guy had to keep up with a Tennessee Walker and a 16 hand QH.

Saturday I was all set to ride with a group of people from the neighborhood. My crew was running a job in Palmer so I had to ferry trucks and supplies across the Valley. One of my employees was a no call, no show and the job had to be completed on Saturday. Guess who got shanghaied into working? So no ride on Saturday.

Sunday we spent almost all afternoon at a wedding but Briar and I got a ride in early evening. The group from Saturday had other committments so it was just us again. Then tonight (Monday) I bribed Briar into riding with me again. We rode for a couple of hours, down to the river and back. She put Strider in the beaver pond and it was so deep he had to swim! Voosh got right in the river and went where I asked her to. She did really well.

All of my rides have been no longer than two hours. I'm really looking forward to a longer ride. My biggest problem is that I can't get anyone to ride with me. Briar pouts almost the whole time she rides. It's like pulling teeth to get her to ride. Everyone else works 9 to 5. I'm hesitant to ride by myself for several reasons: It's more fun to ride with someone; There are very dangerous wild animals where I ride; and My horse is still basically green and I'd like a back up in case something goes wrong. If it comes to a question of riding by myself or not riding I guess I'll choose riding by myself.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Back in the saddle again

So after almost a week of being too tired to ride at the end of the day, Briar and I finally got a ride in. It was a short one, just an hour and a half. The field road across the hay field is finally dry enough that we can ride across the field to access the river trails. So we rode across the big open field and down the paved road to the gate. We need to make a new trail through this area since the tree roots have been exposed by two Competitive Trail Rides, several poker rides and the riding that the "regulars" do. It's not a long area and there's not much trail making to be done, just several small alders taken out so that we don't catch a stirrup on them.

We rode down Dead Horse Hill and the powerline trail was dry today so we rode to the river. The beaver dam was deep. I sent Briar across on the Mare to see just how deep it was. The Mare stands about 16.5 hands. The water came to the middle of her shoulder. I have a picture on my phone and as soon as I figure out how to download it I will post it. Briar rides bareback and her feet and legs got soaked. The river was up also due to the warm weather and the melting of the glaciers and snowpack still on the mountains. It's a little early to be crossing the river but soon we will be able to cross at all the regular places.

I haven't seen any sign of bear yet. Lots of moose, dog and fox tracks in the muddy spots. As soon as there are fish in the river though the bears will be around.

The return trip was uneventful. The barking dog came charging out of her yard but Voosh just flicked an ear. Nice trot around the field and up several hills. We finished the ride by going up and down the driveway several times before heading to the barn.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

He remembered!

My husband is time challenged. We've been together for 10 years, married for 5. Ever since I've known him he doesn't have a "timeline". You know, that line where all events revolve around a significant time in your life? Like the birth of a child, the purchase of a horse or a house, a death, some defining moment. I have several and can figure out when something insignificant happened because of it's relation to a significant event. He can't.

Birthdays, Christmas, holidays are not so important to me. I had lots of disappointments as a kid and I decided one day that if I didn't expect something then anything would be better than nothing. I do try to be better for my daughter and last year we even had a small Christmas tree.

Friday was my birthday. Last year my husband completely forgot about it. Not a big deal. I bought my cake and he gives me so much throughout the year that I don't expect a present. (Like the emerald ring he brought me from a trip back East and the monster emerald earrings this year.) This year, however, he and my daughter both remembered! She set my cell phone alarm several times throughout the day with the message Happy Birthday. And my husband gave me his cold.

So I've been sick since Friday morning. So far it's not as bad as his cold but I've been hitting it hard with Zicam and Airborne and lots of fluids. I've been able to do chores but I feel tired all day. Yesterday I sat on the couch and watched the Preakness (go Rachel!), the last ten laps of the NASCAR All Star race (poor Jeff but Yay Tony!) and finished reading Mortal Fear by Greg Iles (great book). Today I feel a little better. I need to move 50 bales of hay and pick up more grain at the feed store. There's just no energy left for riding.

But here's another picture. Maybe I'll just post pictures on the days I don't ride.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

In The Arena

Tonight I rode in the arena and learned some things about my horse. She is as responsive as I thought but is stubborn too. She doesn't like to be around horses that she doesn't "know". She rides well in the trailer but doesn't like to stay in the Walmart parking lot too long. (Too bad.)

We started fine tuning control tonight. She has the leg yield thing down pretty good so we worked on extending her walk, turn on the forehand and turn on the haunch. We're right at the beginning and I know we have a long way to go. I've been really patient with this horse because she's the last horse I will buy for myself and I intend to have her for a long time.

When I was a kid I showed several different types of horses. I was a rider, however, and not a trainer. I rode reining, pleasure, equitation, trail, hunter, jumper, 5 gaited and 3 gaited saddle horses. I worked Pasos for a job in college. So I know how to ride a finished horse but not how to get a green horse through the stages to be finished. This is really fun (but sometimes frustrating) to start from the ground up.

We rode for about 2 hours in the arena. They have barrels, poles, a teeter totter bridge and a fake pond. It was great to be able to work on those obstacles. Voosh didn't like the teeter totter at first because I rode her from the up end to the down. So the first step up made the bridge fall away from her. Took three tries to get her to put both front feet on it. Then she was fine.

We plan on riding in the arena again next week. Meantime......back on the trail.

This is another test...........

I'm trying to figure out how to post several pictures to the same post. You'll just have to look at boring pictures from Alaska. Can't figure out why that picture won't publish larger.

WHOO HOO! I think I figured it out.

I Survived a Spook!

One of my worst nightmares is coming off a whirl and bolt spook. It happened to me last year on my mare. She dumped me on the asphalt road half a mile from the house. She had been looking for an excuse for the whole ride and finally found it when the horse we were riding with got his feet tangled in a piece of wire and started bucking. Vooska did the whirl and bolt and I came off. Luckily, I know how to fall and didn't stick my arm out but landed on my shoulder. She took off across the hay field for the barn. My friend, who didn't come off, and I walked across the field and the silly horse came right up to me. I walked her back to the arena where I got on and rode for about 10 minutes just to show her that dumping me doesn't get her a reward.

Last night my daughter and I were riding along the end of the field headed over to the river bottoms. This is a main trail during the summer. There are two houses on the road, one has a dog that we know and is respectful of the horses. But this was the first time we had ridden this way this summer. So the dog blasts out of the driveway barking like mad. The owners are calling but she's ignoring them. Voosh does the whirl and I catch her before the bolt part. The Mare jumps sideways (image 1250 pounds jumping!) but Briar stays on.

I had lost one stirrup but the pommels on my saddle kept me in. I love that saddle!! It's a 1955 Hamley that my uncle gave me two years ago. That's worth a whole post of it's own.

We continued our ride through the gate and down Dead Horse Hill (yes, there's a reason it's called that) but the trail was too soft to continue on to the river. So we turned around and headed back the way we came. The dog was still there, came blasting out again but this time I was prepared for it. I kept Voosh facing the dog and she never did anything more than prick her ears. Amazing the difference in the horse when she can see what is coming at her.

We rode for just over an hour, just a nice walk on the trail. Tonight a friend is hosting training at her arena so we're off to try that.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I got a chance to ride last night. By the time we got home it was time for chores and I didn't get to post. My sweetie has the crud that's going around. I don't have it - yet (knock on wood) - but I'm not getting much sleep.

The horse did great last night. My daughter rode with me on The Mare. We rode for about 2 hours and covered between 4.5 and 5 miles. The trails are still soft so we stayed on the road for the most part. We did some exploring to see just how soft the trails still are but turned back when they sunk past their fetlocks. We can't get into the river bottoms yet, probably not until after Memorial Day.

Today I need to move fence panels and make a new pen for the goats. We plan on riding again tonight, just depends on how hard I have to twist my daughter's arm. Wonder what I can bribe her with today? She wants a new cell phone but oh my goodness she's 13 and she lost the last one. I did get a new phone (really gucci) for her but it was so cool that I kept it for myself and gave her my old one. The old was is the same exact phone as the one she lost. It's not "good enough" since she saw my new phone but she's 13!

Soon I think I will be confident enough to ride by myself. There's lots of people who ride in this area but it seems as though they all have their groups and aren't interested in riding with anyone else. Horse people are a very strange lot.......

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Short Ride is Better Than No Ride

I was determined that we were riding tonight. It seemed as though things were conspiring against me from noon on. Everything we did in town took longer than I expected. And of course the panel clips and bolts with the proper nuts were not where they were supposed to be. I had to bribe my daughter to help me with everything. She wasn't happy so she only worked at half speed (which is quarter speed for me). I was so frustrated!! The dog kennel got assembled though and the puppies are happy to be outside in the sun.

I sent a Suffolk lamb to his new 4-H home today also. Weaning weight was 56 pounds!

I watched the last 30 laps of Darlington while I ate a sandwich. The two racers I follow finished in the top 5 and Mark Martin won. Gotta hand it to him. He's doing well in a young person's game.

So then it was time to ride. After the other night I wanted to ride with someone so that we could play games and my mare would gain confidence in my leadership on the trail. You would have thought I asked my daughter to walk barefoot across burning coals. How I had such a non-horsey kid is beyond me. She wanted to spend the night at a friend's - the same one who spent last weekend with us, the same one she spends hours on the phone with. I said no So she sulked but did get on the horse and rode.

You know, it's amazing what the outside of a horse can do for the inside of a person. Halfway through the ride she started to perk up and by the end of the ride she was smiling and having a good time. So I let her go off and spend the night.

We did play leap frog, took turns being in front, trotted past each other, one would stop and the other go on, and all sorts of games like that. Voosh was so good about letting The Mare leave and come back or moving away from The Mare. She doesn't try to speed up or chase The Mare when she goes by. She just pricks her ears and watches. Maybe tomorrow I will ride by myself.

Tomorrow is the Stallion Parade. The Alaska Morgan Horse Association hosts a showcase for Stallions on Mother's Day. It's the first real horsey social event of the summer. Lots of people will be there and the weather is supposed to be great.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Work Interferred Again

One of the biggest reasons I enjoy running my own business is that I control my time.......for the most part. Mondays and Fridays seem to be the worst, especially since this is only the second week that the employees have been back to work We really haven't gotten into a routine yet. Usually I run payroll on Thursday night but I was scrambling to finish it at noon today. Then we had site meets, subs and suppliers to see, and the regular stuff of bank, post office, grocery store, feed store, etc. Not only did I run out of time, I ran out of energy.

Two of the ewes have mastitis so I'm doing injections twice a day along with an udder washing with betadine. The lambs are looking okay and are already eating grain so they should be fine. Tomorrow I need to get the ewes on the fitting stand and try milking them out. This will be fun. I'd much rather milk the goats.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

All By Myself

When I was a kid I would ride anything, anywhere, anyhow. My cousins and I wanted to be movie stunt riders when we grew up so we spent many hours throwing ourselves off the ponies at a dead run in the milk cow pasture. We would Roman ride on the drafts. I'm sure we gave our parents heart failure many times but at least we learned to fall off properly. Six years ago I came off an Arab mare bucking up hill. Last year I came off Vooshka on an asphalt road. I wasn't hurt badly either time and, quite frankly, the anticipation of coming off Vooshka was worse than the actual fall.

Now days though I'm older, somewhat wiser, and very much aware of what could happen. It makes me a more hesitant rider and I absolutely hate it. I hate the fact that I am thinking of what could happen instead of enjoying what IS happening. From my reading on the internet I see that I am NOT the only one that feels this way. But it's just this horse. I have seen her try out for the Olympic gymnastic team. She hasn't tried it under saddle but I'm constantly thinking "What if?". Fortunately I ride with some friends who understand. Stefanie is always telling me to BREATHE. And I find that it helps. I also talk to my horse and to myself when I am riding.

One of my biggest fears is riding by myself. It's the craziest thing but I am way more comfortable riding with someone else. Tonight though I actually took Voosh out all by myself. We stayed on the road for a bit and when she stalled out I made her go forward two more steps, then I stopped. Two more steps and we turned back for home. The trails on my place have lots of intersections and I use them for training. If I'm going to turn left, I ride straight for several lengths, then turn around to turn left (right). I just make sure that it's my decision which way to go. Voosh (and I) did great until we got to one point. Strider, my daughter's Appy pony, had been calling to Vooshka since we left the barnlot. She knows better than to call back but she was looking for a way to go home the whole ride. Finally she just quit. There was no making her go forward. After much coaxing and the application of the end of my reins, she finally took three steps toward the direction I wanted her to go. I stopped, threw away my reins and let her stand there relaxed for several minutes. The we turned around and headed for the barn.

I feel so much more confident after this ride. What is it that makes me feel this way? I know the consequences of poor choices. My brother has sat in a wheelchair for over 25 years after making the decision to drink and drive. I refuse to let this "OMG what would happen if" keep me from enjoying the things I want to do.

Today's picture is Stefanie riding Voosh 2 years ago. Can you tell we love riding the river? Actually, almost all our trails cross the Little Susitna River at some point.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

No Ride Today

I had hoped to get a ride in before my Livestock Council Meeting but it rained. That's a good thing though because my stock tanks were almost dry and I get most of the critter's water from a guttering system on the barn. My well is 431 feet deep and produces 2 gallons an hour. It makes life very interesting with the number of animals I have especially since there are 5 lactating Suffolk ewes and 2 milking Saanan goats.

I will make it worth your while if you stop by with a picture of trail riding in Alaska.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Another ride tonight just like the other. Voosh is becoming more responsive to my leg and the forward commands. We did several conditioning trots up and down the driveway and rode for about an hour. My general rule is that we have to ride for at least twice as long as it takes to tack up.

The weather has held - a little more cloudy and cool today but no rain. The trees have greened up overnight and spring is definitely on the way.

I may not get to ride tomorrow. There's some paperwork that needs to be submitted for a project in the Denali Park and I have a Livestock Council meeting. I intend to try really hard to at least get in a short ride.

Monday, May 4, 2009

No Ride Today

Monday morning means that I need to be in the office to get the week started. The company is gearing up for our summer and so far we have about 6 really good residential jobs booked. Then the maintenance crew has all the contracts from last year with the exception of the Tsunami Center. Dealing with the government is very interesting.

Tonight I presented senior awards at Colony High School for 4-H. Both graduates received a really cool chair with the 4-H logo and one of the guys received a $750 scholarship.

Tomorrow we are planning a ride. I found out about a clinic starting Wednesday for 4 consecutive Wednesday nights with Hugh McPeck. Unfortunately I have a prior commitment for the first Wednesday. But word is that the Giddy Up Girls will be having a Girl's Night Training Session once a week. Should be a lot of fun.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Another Day, Another Ride

Having this blog seems to be working at keeping me on my "streaks" of riding. The weather has been very cooperative too! It's been in the high 60s with blue skies and no wind. We suffered though such a miserable summer last year that we all have our fingers crossed for this one. The trees are showing just the barest hint of green. No flowers yet except the ones in the greenhouses or the box stores. The lows at night aren't below freezing but several years ago we got 6 inches of snow on May 5th.

Today I rode Voosh with my daughter riding The Mare, a Belgian/QH cross that is a dream to ride. She's my husband's horse, the closest thing I could get to a 4 wheeler for him. She's somewhere between 18 and 20 years old, about 16 hands high and weighs 1250 pounds. She goes where you point her and crosses rivers, mud bogs, creeks full of salmon, and has the smoothest jog ever. Somewhere in her life someone trained her and, if you know what you are doing, she will leg yield, side pass, open and close gates, and stand tied for hours. But if you don't know what you are doing, she will pack you around with her nose stuck in the tail of the horse in front of her.

We rode for two hours on the side of the gravel road past the house. We worked on forward and whoa. We worked on leg yield from one side of the road to the other. Then we trotted up the driveway and walked down twice, trotted up once then I got off and led her back to the corral. No problem with saddling today either.

This Is A Test.........

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Problem Solved.....I Think

Last June Vooshka and I were part of a group from Wasilla that went to the Caribou Hills Trail Ride in Nilnilchik, Alaska. Things were pretty tight at the trailhead. Vooshka was saddled, tied to the side of a big 4 horse LQ trailer beside a horse she has been ridden with quite a lot. There was just enough room for a person to walk between her and the truck parked next to us. Remember I said she was claustrophobic? Someone walked behind her and she went straight up. Thank goodness she had on a leather halter. The crownpiece snapped and she went over on her back onto the truck behind us. She slid down the hood, scrambled to her feet and took off. Everyone stopped. There must have been 50 people and horses there. Voosh trotted in a huge circle and came right back to me. Stuck her head into the halter and heaved a big sigh. After I checked her over and found one cut on her flank, I determined she was okay to ride and off we went.

Even though she never got a reward (not being ridden) she continued to rear and break snaps and halters when she was saddled while tied. It wasn't a rear out of fear but a very deliberate rear. She would go up until she felt the pressure from the lead/halter, then push that extra few inches to break whatever broke first. She never did it if she wasn't tied to something solid. I asked for help from several people but most said don't worry about it just don't tie her when you saddle her.

Not good enough for me. So Stefanie said she would help. When she was out last Monday her comment was that Voosh may be cinchy and that combined with her claustrophobia might be the cause of her problem. So we ran a 50' lead through the tie ring on the trailer and saddled her. When it came to cinching, we did that in three steps. No rear.

So tonight when I rode I did the same thing. No rear. In fact, she had her head down and her eyes closed.

So problem solved....maybe. We'll see how it goes tomorrow.

Tonight we worked more on forward and maintaining pace. She leg yields wonderfully. After about 30 minutes in the arena we went down the road, around the trail and up the driveway. My driveway has about a 30' elevation change on an easy grade. It's great for doing conditioning work. We walked up and down once, trotted up and walked down once, then trotted up and I got off, loosened the cinch and led her back to the trailer. A good ride.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Project Begins

One of my goals this year is to ride in the Northern most Competitive Trail Ride sanctioned by NATRC. The dates of the ride are July 17 and 18. Since I haven't ridden my mare since October I have a long way to go. I thought that creating a blog would "encourage" me to stay on track and ride every day possible.

I'm a 50+ lady (eligible for the senior discount this year!!) who has been riding since I was very small. I was a heathen child that would ride anything anywhere. My cousin and I lived and breathed horses. We were lucky that we had ponies and many places to ride them on the family farm in Oregon. I have a 13 year old daughter who will ride if I make her but is just not into the horses like I am. I finally gave up with her last year when I came to the realization that she had a pony because I wanted her to have a pony. My husband rides but prefers his snowmachine and four wheeler.

My mare is a registered gray Paint named Vooshka. I bought her at a garage sale as a two year old. She came with very few man made issues since she had been running in a herd on several thousand acres since she was weaned. Her biggest issue was claustrophobia. She had been caught just before she was two, halter broke then loaded into a 4 horse trailer with 4 other two year olds. (That's right 5 two year olds in a four horse slant load.) They were hauled from South Dakota to Alaska in four or five days. She was so leg weary when she was unloaded. All five of the horses came out of the trailer and laid down on the gravel. It took me over a year to get her back in a trailer. She still doesn't like a two horse straight but loads on command in my stock trailer.

On Monday evening (April 27) my friend Stefanie came over to put the first ride of the year on my horse. Stefanie is young and still bounces. Voosh saddled, lunged and rode like she had been ridden the day before not five months before. Stefanie walked, trotted and loped both directions in the arena. Then I got on and did the same. What a great feeling to know that the two years of groundwork and Stefanie's 45 days of basics two years ago stayed in this horse's brain.

So tonight I brushed and brushed since Voosh is still shedding. Then I saddled her and rode in the arena for about an hour. We mostly walked and worked on forward. This horse is lazy. I've been reading Mugwump's Chronicles and put into effect her suggestions for getting a horse to move. By the end of the lesson Voosh was moving off in an energetic walk with just a smooch and making the transition to a trot with the same cue. We also worked on moving each part separately.

The weather is supposed to be in the high 60s this weekend but the trails are still mooshy. Voosh gets her front shoes on the 22nd so we'll be riding mostly in the arena until whatever happens first.