Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The 2009 Chief Joseph Trail Ride


We were to meet at 6 AM at Shaw Truckworks, Andy's truck shop. We got there pretty close, then had to wait for the late people to show up. It was at least 7 AM by the time we left. We met up with my grandparents and their friends on the edge of town and caravaned to Idaho where we picked up a couple more trucks. We got to Montana and the first camp after 11 hours of driving. We stopped and watered and walked horses 3 times during the trip. At the first stop, we discovered that somehow Toby and Sparkles had switched places. Dazzle was in the front minding her own business.

We got to the camp which was on a river. We tied the horses to the picket-line and relaxed. We missed the brand inspector and check-in as we got there late. We packed into a couple pick-ups and went into Darby for dinner. We took over a little restaurant and filled them up so they closed for the evening. It was fun.

The trip wasn't too bad, especially getting to ride most of it with Melissa and Ted and Norman in Andy's pick up. The horses did fine, even Dazzle who had never trailered more than an hour away before.

We made breakfast for ourselves and Melissa and I crawled onto Dazzle and Sparkles bareback with no helmets and flip-flops to go check in with the brand-inspector. Trudy led Toby. We discussed how we were totally breaking all our own rules. We made it through camp to the inspectors and slid down. Dazzle checked in easily since I already had her brand inspection down before we left down. Toby had to get a temporary inspection there and Sparkles already has her permanent from the first time she did the ride.

We checked in and got t-shirts and pins and teased by the guy checking people in. He has been on the ride for years.

After we were all checked in, Melissa helped set up camp and get things ready for dinner. Trudy and I needed to get the horses ridden so they wouldn't be sitting a whole day after trailering 11 hours and before riding a long ways Monday. Melissa was able to come at the last minute. We tacked up Western and headed down the road we had gotten to camp on. It was a long dirt and gravel road. The horses were a little nervous, but relaxed pretty quickly. We reached the end of the road and turned up a new road that wound up the mountain. We trotted and then I let Dazzle canter and Toby and Sparkles followed. We cantered a few minutes and Trudy had a great time. We could see the camp down below, it was really neat. By the time we got back to camp we had been riding about 2 hrs. I burned my nose and Melissa got sore knees from riding in a western saddle. But it was fun.

Back at camp, we rode through all the camp sites and got down to the river. We rode through the sandy beach into the river. It is solid rocks. They all went right into the water. Dazzle went in up to her knees and had a wonderful time splashing the other horses.

Later, we changed into swimsuits and headed down to the river. Melissa observed that you can tell all the equestrians because we all have brown arms and faces and the rest of our bodies are pasty-white. lol.

Dinner was the first meal the crew was responsible for cooking for camp. We got to meet the crew. I already knew most of them from previous years. Big John, Little John, Marcia, Diane, Ervin, Jessica, AJ, Charlene, Laurel, Ted, and Melissa. Charlene was the lady that came to study under Norman from Ohio. She was awesome; always cheery and hard-working, not a complaint all week. We found out at the end of the week she was really sick, but didn't want to give up and go home. They hope to hire her next year. Laurel had been with the crew in past years, but somehow I hadn't met her before. She is awesome. She lives in southern Oregon and currently manages a horse ranch. Trudy and I are going to go see her at the end of the month when we head down to watch the Appy show at Bresda Ranch.

Rode out with the journal photographer, Tafra. She rode Toby. Trudy rode with a scout since she is a Jr. Scout. They were a little nervous on the road we had to ride out of camp, yes the SAME road we rode on the day before. Once we got into woodsy areas they were fine. We stopped a few times as a whole group for potty breaks and took turns holding the horses. Lunch break, more potty breaks. The whole ride was pretty easy terrain-wise. We had to ride along a river a long time at the end, then through town. My butt hurt so bad I was about ready to cry. My knees were sore. Riding down the main street was fun. Every sort of scary truck and bike and trailer were going by us and Dazzle didn't bat an eye. She is used to all that. I guess she would be good for parades!

Back at camp I was exhausted. It was about 15 miles. I spent the evening trying to find someone to ride Dazzle for Tuesday. It was supposed to be 25 miles and I knew if I did that, I wouldn't be able to ride the next day. I managed to get Kevin and Tafra to agree to the challenge.

I helped feed, tacked up my horse in her pink gear, because all my gear is pink, and sent Tafra on her way. As the horses were leaving, one of the horses reared up, the rider pulled back and the horse flipped over on top of him. Kevin and some other important figures took him to the hospital. The horse was fine. BUT, it meant he had to trade with Tafra later than expected. They were supposed to trade at noon. They ended up trading about 2 pm. Really, it was probably more even that way. He came into camp to report much teasing over the pink gear, lol. But, he said she was good. Jumped the ditches, but other than that. I was very proud of her. That day ended up being 31 miles! I cooled her slowly and blanketed her.

Sparkles and Toby seemed very sore, so Trudy didn't send them out to ride. I tacked Dazzle up in my Dressage gear and she was fine. No one would be riding with us since Toby wasn't going and Tafra had been going to ride him. We headed out. I rode with Mrs. Bobbitt a bit, but Dazzle didn't want to go the same speed the whole day, so we migrated over the group at her leisure as she walked faster and slow and fast and slow. I was pleased when she crashed through muddy spots and went unhesitating over ditches. Went in my Indian Bozal, she was okay. I didn't make her walk a certain speed though. Another 15 mile day about. When I got back we massaged Dazzle and put liniment on her and her cooler until she dried. She didn't act uncomfortable at all.

Trudy and Sparkles headed out together, but Toby stayed in camp again so he could for sure go out Friday. Dazzle and I went Dressage again and figured out a better way to attach the saddle bags. You can wedge them under the back of the saddle and they won't rub because the English pad is under them. Worked a lot better than having them in front, but I didn't drink as much because it was harder to get the bottle out with it in the back. Rode by myself until after lunch when I teamed up with the Bobbitts again. At lunch I asked a lady to hold Dazzle so I could take a potty break and when I got back she told me that Dazzle had called for me when I got out of site. Dazzle is never affectionate so that is a real change for her. Apparently she IS kind of attached to me. = )

The afternoon found the most BEAUTIFUL flowers along the trail in the woods. It was like a fairy land. Nice trails through the trees. it was so pretty. Towards the end of the ride I got sick of arguing with Dazzle over her speed because she wouldn't listen in the bosal and my arms were getting tired of pulling her to a walk all the time. I switched back into my bit and she was instantly well behaved again. It turned out we were almost back in camp by that time, but I guess it doesn't matter because at least she had to behave. We walked through a wide creek to get to camp. She went in like it was nothing. I walked around camp, then went back and she didn't want to leave camp so we had some spinning and asking, spinning and asking until she would leave camp. When she did, we went back to camp for rub down and liniment.

Melissa got to ride on Friday. It was supposed to be a 2 hr ride. There was a lot of stop and go. It turned out people were watering their horses in places and they weren't supposed to be because it was a short ride and the land owner didn't want us using the water. So because of that it turned out to be a FOUR hour ride. Melissa rode Toby in my Dressage saddle and I rode in my Fabtron. We got to go up the side of the mountain and look down on the battle field. It felt like a long ride since I was so tired from the whole week.

When we got back we rested a little, then went to the museum. We looked at the exhibits and then headed back to camp. At dinner we found out the final count of the miles for the week was 92.2! Now when I look at Dazzle online it says her mileage for the Chief Joseph Trail Ride. Pretty cool!

Saturday we had to wait for everyone else to leave, then we loaded a donated horse into the trailer with ours and headed back to Idaho. We dropped off the gelding that was donated to the Nez Perce Foundation and trooped the rest of the way home. We were SO tired, but it was fun and by the end of the week we were almost used to the early mornings and sore limbs.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Yey! Dazzle Is Now Pointed!

I just check the Appaloosa.com website and they updated the points finally; when you go to Show and go to Search Lifetime Points, and put in Dazzle Me again....she has 4.5 points in Dressage!!!!! I was only expecting 2 as I didn't think they'd count Trail. Only 15.5 more points till our COA, lol. I'm so proud of us!

Big Day Tomorrow - Big Week Ahead

We have everything packed, all the tack in the trailer, shipping boots and halters set out for in the morning. Sparkles and Toby are in the back paddock to leave from here in the morning. We get up early and are to meet at the Shop and leave at 6 AM. My grandparents and their best friends are going as Non-Riders in their RV. They are going to follow us all to the first camp which is in Darby, Montana. The refrigerator truck, the U-Haul, the live-in Featherlite, and the stock trailer are all going from here. Our horses are riding in the stock trailer, then during the week it will be the trash trailer for the camp. At the end of the week they will dump the trash and we'll take the horses home. The Featherlite is going to be our RV for the week. We are sleeping on the converted couch, in-laws are on the bed, and Melissa and Ted and whomever else are sleeping in the horse part and tents. They took out the dividers so there is lots of room. It's exciting to see all our tack in the tack room of the trailer!

I am SO excited, but also nervous about riding so much every day. I hope Dazzle handles it well and enjoys it. I hope I'm not miserable all week, lol. I look forward to all the people and hanging out and drinking and talking and laughing over everything. I am not very social at home (too busy with horse) so the Ride is our main outlet for friends during the year. Hopefully I will return with pictures and stories!

Short and Sweet

Thursday I decided to be smart and ride BEFORE it was hotter than the sun in the yard. I caught Daz with her bridle, brushed her back off (which she stood on the porch of the tack room for), then led her to the arena. I led her to a chair, stood on it, then walked her up next to it. She actually stood beside it and didn't turn to face me. She suddenly seems WAY taller then she is. I put a leg over and boosted up, reminding myself how I'm always telling Dazzle to "just get up there". Dazzle stood stalk still.

We walked around the arena and I felt fine so I asked for a jog. We jogged around a bit. She has too much withers, lol. Her back is kind of spiny. I would have cantered but I decided I would regret it. So, we left the arena and just walked around the property a bit; behind the shed, up the drive way, down the drive way, up to the neighbor's house. Then I had a conversation while sitting on her, we went up the steep hill between the his driveway and mine, and then back to the tack room.

It was a nice ride. Last time I rode her bareback I felt really insecure and could barely relax at a walk. I couldn't jog at all. I used to race and jump bareback, all over the property and the neighborhood orchards. I wish I was still that secure. Maybe we'll get back three, I would love to be able t show in Bareback class.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

More Than One Way To Skin A Cat (Or Ride Dressage)

Yesterday, Wednesday, I baby-sat the neighbors a few hours in the afternoon. Ashley had Tori over and she looked nice with her hair red and a haircut. She is such a pretty young lady. Maddy was upset as she didn't want to stay with me for whatever reason, and Nick seemed a bit uncomfortable around me, probably because he doesn't stay with me much. Ashley hadn't been granted permission to ride. So, I decided I was tired of sitting around and handed her the video camera and we headed down to the horses.

I tacked up Dazzle and it was HOT. I was dripping all over. I settled all the kids in the corner of the arena and mounted up. We walked a little, trotted some circled, cantered both directions, including an attempt at leg-yield at the canter, trotted more, walked on the long-rein, then I got down and put Maddy up for a picture. She was wearing her helmet but in flip-flops. Ashley had video-ed me, so after taking a few shot of Maddy I helped her down and got back on, informing them we were almost done as it was SO HOT. We did everything again for stills and then I rode up to them and I felt like I was about to throw up it was so hot. "You're gonna have to lead her for me", I told Ashley and got down and handed her the reins. I untacked her and hosed her down, then hosed her chest off more once the wanter got nice and cold. She didn't complain.

She was SO good. I haven't been able to watch the video yet as the computer refused to play it, but there are some nice stills. I still can't turn by toes in while posting or putting weight in the stirrups, but my heels are down and my legs are passive.

I was reading Dressage posts on the COTH forums and someone was complaining of the same problem I have; can't turn the toes in because of leg conformation, and someone finally said that riders with much more serious physical problems ride higher levels than us at the Para-Olympics, so we should quite complaining and just figure out a different way to ride to make it work. That person is right. There has to be a ton of people out there with injuries and not perfect conformation riding at higher levels. Toes out is not the most serious crime against Dressage and definitely easier to work around than a bad hip or one arm. It goes with the I was reading a couple months ago; I just have to find a different way to ride that suits my body, doesn't injure me or hurt, and gets the job done. These last few rides have been wonderful. I feel like we're on to something promising. I hope Melissa sees the same as it's been feeling. I am afraid it's just my imagination or something, lol.

The Arab Kicks In

Tuesday, Ashley was finally able to ride and I had stolen Michelle. We all tacked up and headed into the field. Dan was spooky right off. He stood better for Michelle to get on, then shied going through the arena opening into the field. He wouldn't go into the grassy lane first and eyed everything down the lane to Grandma's. We went around the edge of the field and he was pretty good, then spooked himself walking over a sprinkler pipe. We went to the edge of the field by the road and Michelle walked him over the pipe several times until he did it without acting terrified. Then we went to go around the block. He spooked at everything. Michelle finally decided it wasn't the evening to work on this as she didn't have enough time so we went back and rode home. It took an hour to do all that, so it wasn't a short ride even though we didn't go far.

Ashley and Gypsy didn't have a completely smooth go of it either. Gypsy doesn't like standing very long for mounting. Ashley was taking too long to get on (by her standards) and took off. I had to catch her on Dazzle. I told Ashley she had to make it a swift, smooth movement and just get up there. She was really frustrated by this time as they'd already spent 10 minutes arguing over standing still, but she didn't complain, she just got up there, Gypsy starting to walk off and I told her to discipline her for it. She made her stop and got her foot in the stirrup and all was okay. They did well the rest of the ride. When we got to the gate next to Grandma's Gypsy remembered the training from the session they had a while back and stood next to it while Ashley pushed and pulled the gate. I was quite impressed she had retained it that well. Quite promising.

Dazzle was good the whole time. We were western and she likes that. I let Ashley ride in my Dressage saddle, so that was she and Gypsy's first trip out of the arena in a snaffle and Dressage saddle.

Michelle and Dan and Around the Block

Sunday Michelle came over to ride Dan for the first time since his arrival here. We tacked up and he managed not to freak and try to kill himself being tied. We mounted up and headed into the field. Dan was being pretty good, so we headed to Grandma's house. We walked through the field there and along the side of the road so we could see cars. There weren't any. Michelle said she had been told Dan had never been around cars before, so that's what we were trying to train on. I told her the sure-fire method of getting cars; step a hoof on the asphalt. Sure enough, his hoof touched the road and suddenly there were 3 cars from either direction coming down the road. We waited for them to go by. Dan did nothing. I told her they usually don't care unless some idiot honks his horn and, cue idiot, some guy in a van honked all the way past us. We headed around the block the busy way. Dan was great. A giant horse trailer went past and lots of cars. He only shied at a person, an address marker, and mail boxes. He didn't do anything dangerous, mostly just wanted to get a good look at things.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I Made Ashley Cry

Today, Michelle was out to ride with us again (she is not able to ride Dan till Sunday per Wrenn's instructions) and Ashley and I were excited to have a group. I videoed some and took some low-pixel stills.

First, Maddy had a little lesson on Gypsy in the Dressage saddle. Ashley led her around. I just watched and didn't hold on to her this time. She did really well. They ever trotted and I didn't jog along side holding her pant leg. I videoed part of that. She probably rode 15 minutes.

Next, Michelle videoed and I gave Ashley a lesson...or a yelling-at, whichever. This was the first time I had Ashley ride Dressage on Gypsy without warming her up for her first...and it was obvious. She couldn't get her to go on the bit. She was getting frustrated. She was about to cry. She tried to get down. I told her to stay there and just do what I said, I told her what to do to get her to flex and respond. She did was I said; hip-release basically, and magically there was a difference. She gets frustrated and stops using all the parts of her body and makes it worse. There is so much you have to keep track of when riding; legs, hips, arms, elbows, shoulders, wrists, hands, head, it's hard!

She finally got it worked out and they had some nice circles and she relaxed enough to canter left a circle or two. Next, Michelle got on and enjoyed a big horse for once (her parent's horse is 14.2H) and a big walk. She got her on the bit quite a bit and pronounced her a very fun horse. We got her to canter a little even though was nervous to try.

Ashley gave Gypsy a bath and I tacked up Dazzle and warmed her up at the canter. She was being amazing; both leads, no wrong leads, I did all three circles to the right, trotting in between so she had to pick up the right lead every time, then to the left just cantering the whole way. I was able to ride with some weight in my heels and my legs quite. I held my whip and I only needed to use it a couple times. She is starting to understand! It's so liberating not to be struggling to kick her to keep going! She stayed in the canter until I asked for the trot. Super!!!! Maybe we'll actually get to work on being on the bit in the canter soon.

Next, Michelle rode Dazzle while I worked with Dan on stopping and backing with his handler more sharply. He seems to be a fast learner. Then, I yelled Intro B for Michelle to ride as she's never actually gotten to ride a test in a show before and it's been years since she got to practice one. She liked that, they were a little all over the place, but it was better than the first time I rode through it this last Spring.

Last, Ashley got on Dazzle and I gave her a fairly hard-core yelling-at, I mean lesson. She has a hard time remembering to steer with her legs and not her hands. It's hard to steer, control speed, and keep a horse on the bit at the same time. I haven't required too much from her up to now, but she's old enough and has enough ability that I can ask more from her. So, we were working on canter and she was getting frustrated with me requiring transitions in a certain place, with Dazzle dumping her hip in/out, etc. Finally, I wanted her to canter the whole arena and not let her drop to a trot at the ends. She keeps trying to ride the corners like corners instead of like half a 20 m circle. She keeps letting her trot so it's to the point I'm sitting in my lawn chair yelling across the arena, "Whack her NOW, NOW, don't let her trot!" and she starts screaming back at me, "I CAN'T!" lol, and starts crying. Finally she adds that her ribs hurt, which she should have said before as I understand ribs hurting, she means her side aches and I get that sometimes too, but I Can't isn't going to cut it. So I had her walk the arena and cool her down for a bit. She probably rode half an hour and was doing great even though she was frustrated a lot of the time. It's good for her, she isn't used to working when she rides and now that's she is past a kid's horse she gets to learn to use all the stuff I've been preaching at her since she was 7.

She is thinking maybe she wants to show Dazzle next year, so that would be a blast. We could share her like we did Thunder. If I get Ashley a membership with ApHC and CRHA she could help get the points needed to get Dazzle her COAs and ROMs if she placed well enough. She seemed to recover from crying just fine and we plan to ride again tomorrow after the farrier does their feet. Dazzle is getting shoes since she has to have them for the Ride and Gypsy is getting a much needed trim. Hopefully she is less trippy after that.

A First For Spotless

Michelle came over to ride with Ashley and I on Wednesday the 8th. With her there to spot, I tacked up Dazzle western, but a chain on Spotless' halter and...ponied him for the first time. Dazzle hasn't really ponied before (other then Thunder once to cool him down after a trail-ride for a circle or two) and Spotless has never ponied in any form. I had the chain on because he tends to like to try to drag you across the arena when lunging. With the chain he behaves really well.

I got on, Ashley handed me the lead-rope and we went several circles getting Spotless used to staying with his head at my knee and not getting ahead or behind us. That went well, so we jogged and he did that fine, though he thought it was way too slow. We went both directions and he was so super I decided to try canter. We took a nice lope, probably the slowest lope-iest lope Dazzle has ever done and Spotless...trotted to keep up, lol. After I finally stopped laughing over that I called it good and we put him away. WHAT a good boy. While we were standing before I got down I leaned off Dazzle onto his back and he didn't care at all.

Next, Ashley tacked up Gypsy and I got on for about 15 minute and warmed her up. She was WAY better than the last time we worked Dressage. I worked her to the right which is her harder side, then was sore from her and had Ashley get on. I yelled instructions from a lawn chair, Michelle watched from the small arena where she was walking Dan around. He refuses to stand tied to the trailer; he breaks his twine and runs to Mister's paddock.

Ashley did really well, got her on the bit a lot more consistently. So, I told her to canter. It was her left so should be easier. I warned her not to get scared because her gait is so much bigger and to remember she cantered her western so she can do it English. She got the canter without TOO much jarring trot before hand and I was very proud of her. She did a couple circles and then walked her around to cool her down.

Next, we tacked up Dazzle in the Dressage saddle and I warmed her up, then Michelle rode her and then Ashley rode her. Michelle enjoyed how easily she goes on the bit. Ashley cantered her for the first time ever. They did great. I'm secretly hoping she will comfortable enough to show her next summer.

Dan Meets The Group

Dan is a 14.3H Arab gelding owned by Wrenn, my new boarder. Michelle is training him Dressage to show for his owner. He is going to board here and Michelle and I can school together; very exciting!

Tuesday the 7th Wrenn and Michelle came over to see how Dan was settling in. He ran right up to them from the paddock but told them he had made awesome new friends. They brought him out to walk him around and brush him. Michelle lunged him off his lead-rope with a bag-on-a-stick.

Wrenn has a nice gel-seat western saddle for trail-riding and she let me try it on Dazzle. It feels a lot different from mine, but it's not bad. I might get to take it on the ride. That would be neat. I figure if I use a different saddle every day I won't get as sore. I rode a few minutes in that saddle, then Michelle spotted for me and I worked Spotless.

I groomed Spotless, then put my spare Dressage saddle on him. It was his first time in a Dressage saddle. It didn't fit too bad. He couldn't have cared less when I tossed it on and cinched it up. I lunged him with it on and stirrups banging. Then I put on side-reins and lunged him some more. He was great. I can't wait till he's three!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Adventure's In The Woods on the 4th of July

For the 4th we trailered up to Trudy's place. We loaded up and her and Andy's horse and continued on up to the Litt Creek trail. We headed to the trail head which had the scariest foot-wide patch of mud at the bottom. It was either go through the mud or jump a ditch with pokey sticks. We all at to get down and lead across. Toby (formerly Turbo) went across without too much trouble. Trudy got Sparkles across, Ashley convinced Gypsy across...and then there was Dazzle and me. She would NOT cross. I got back on and tried to get her across mounted. She reared, I spun her in circles, asked again, etc. Finally, Andy came back to help me. I got back down and broke a branch off a limb on the ground. Andy held her lead-rope (which is why you bring them with you when you trail ride) and I whacked her across the butt with the branch until she got annoyed enough she jumped the mud. Such a drama queen.

We headed up the trail. I was told it was not a drop-off trail, nothing too challenging. Yeah right! There was a lot of it where I prayed we would die. Straight down that you'd never survive falling. Every time there was mud we had to leap it, of course, and she would then spaz and try to fall off the cliff. We me it all the way to top alive. We let the horses rest for a long time, then headed over to where there was water. Dazzle wouldn't drink a drop. Gypsy and Toby tanked up, Sparkles took one sip and dazzle ripped pieces of bark off the trough.

It took 3 hours up the mountain and only 1 down. "Down" was less scary for the most part since we'd already survived "up" and since it was steep it was a little easier to keep them walking versus trotting/cantering. This is one of the situations where they really reveal that they're animals and have no sense about things. They don't consider tumbling off the mountain. They would tear up the trail if allowed, even though they would probably end up rolling 2000 ft down the mountainside. Scared the crap out of me.

So, we all made it alive. No one coliced; we did a good job cooling them down. Even Gypsy at 24 with 1 eye and not a lot of trail experience made it the whole way. She was a little stiff right after, but was herself after a night.

Why do I do this when it terrifies me and I spend the whole time asking myself what I was thinking? I guess because riding it what I do to challenge myself mentally, physically, etc. And, if I don't want to get stuck in a nice little circle-the-arena routine, I have to force myself to do what scares me and live through it. Someday, when Dazzle is all trail-savvy and no longer tries to kill us, when we can actually get a certain cow in the right place in the right order, when little kids do lead-line on her and she wins them a bit ribbon, I will be happy I spent so much of our training terrified, frustrated, dripping with sweat, confused, exhausted, and determined to do it again tomorrow.