Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Las Vegas Week - Overview

OK, OK......I know that it's been weeks since we came back from Las Vegas and I haven't posted anything about the trip on my blog, but truly, with all that's been going on (my back, the gas leak, Christmas, etc.) I haven't taken the time to write it all down.

Now that I've written about my back and the fact that I can't ride for weeks yet I guess it's time I wrote about Vegas!

It was EVERYTHING I'd hoped it would be, and MORE!!!!

I can't begin to thank Sharon and Bill enough for inviting us to join them.  I'm hooked.  And so is Ken!  (They might need to start thinking up an excuse if they want to keep us from joining them next year.)

My rodeo experience prior to this was going to the Grand National Rodeo at the Cow Palace every year with my parents while I was growing up.  I will always remember dragging my parents through the barns looking at all the beautiful Arabian horses that were part of the show and watching all the different rodeo events after drooling over countless horses.

Fast forward to December 6-10, 2011 and the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.  

The package deal Sharon got us through NRS was amazing.  It included a suite at the MGM, transportation to the rodeo each night, VIP access to a bunch of things and awesome seats at the Rodeo for every night we were there. 

I'll describe a typical day.

We'd get up and meet for breakfast at one of a number of different eateries at the MGM.  After eating we'd head to one of the many shopping locations and spend hours walking the isles looking at an unbelievable volume of rodeo and horse related vendors.  We'd reach some level of mutual exhaustion (meaning, when the men finally had enough the women would stop shopping) and head back to the MGM.  We'd drop off our many shopping bags, change into rodeo attire (bling) and head out to dinner at about  3:30pm.  (We learned after the first day that we needed to eat BEFORE we were actually AT the rodeo or we'd be eating concession food - hot dog/pretzel - for dinner)  After dinner we would walk directly to the West Wing of the MGM to pick up the shuttle (full size buses) that took us to the Thomas & Mack Center (where UNLV plays Basketball, I'm told).

Our first night at the NFR

Sharon and Bill
There was a great "tailgaiting" experience in the parking lot.  A big tent with a bar & DJ (with girls dancing on the bar - no, NOT us!) and mechanical bull riding. (no, we didn't, either.)  A small arena for demonstrations.  The outdoor GAC television studio where they were recording the "Inside the NFR" shows. (Yes, Sharon and I were in the audience, just visible on camera.) And shopping. (yes, everywhere we went there was shopping.)

About 20 minutes before the rodeo started we would go inside to our seats.

We were always there in time for the National Anthem.

Did I mention they were awesome seats?  Smack in the middle of the arena, about 20 rows up.  Fabulous view of every event.  They'd start with Bareback Bronc Riding and end with Bull Riding.  In between those were Steer Wrestling, Team Roping, Saddle Bronc Riding, Calf Roping and Barrel Racing.  

Bareback Bronc Riding

Sharon and Bill were both very patient with Ken and me because I know we pestered them a lot asking questions.  But by next year I will have done a lot more homework so I'll know who's who and what more of the rules are.   I promise!

Bull Riding

When the rodeo finished we'd race-walk back to the shuttle (sound advice given by a friendly Cowboy (that's redundant, isn't it?) we met at the beginning of our first night) and ride it back to the MGM where we'd join the party at the Gold Buckle Zone in the MGM.  We'd have fun there for a couple hours and would eventually go to our rooms before starting it all over again the next day.

We did some variation of that schedule each day, except for Thursday the 8th.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gas Leak......

My plans to write more about the Vegas trip have been sidelined for a short while.

Last night when I came home from work I found Ken and our next door neighbor talking out by the mailbox with a PG&E employee.  It seems that our neighbor smelled gas when he went to get the mail.  He called PG&E and they told him to gather his family and evacuate!


Well, further investigation by the PG&E person with some kind of sensor found that while the leak level was 80 at the mailbox (I don't know what 80 is out of.  100, 1000?) it was 0 inside both our houses.  So we didn't need to evacuate unless we wanted to.

We all stood outside looking at both our RVs.  Hmmm.  Nope.  We'll leave them parked where they are and see how it goes.  I did, however, gather and 'evac' kit:  we have two dog packs full of emergency supplies and their leashes, our bird's food and her carrier, and some other things, all set by the door.

The PG&E guy (I never did get any one's name) stayed by his truck and warned anyone who came near the area (like the mailman) that there was a gas leak and not to light up.  He waited until the repair crew arrived before he left.

The PG&E backhoe - we hoped it wouldn't be used

We turned off our heater (figured they were turning off the gas and we'd just be blowing cold air around) and stayed indoors, out of their way, until we heard the jackhammer. 

Looking over our driveway towards our RV driveway and the neighbor's.

There was really nothing to do but go to bed at this point.

At 1am a look out the door showed the trucks were gone.  Cool.  They must be finished!

When I left for work in the morning though, there were cones around the hole.  

I talked about it all at work thinking that when I got home it would all be fixed.


This is what I saw when I came around the corner on my way home 

Our cul-de-sac was busy

The hole was now a trench

We think this is the broken gas pipe (but what do we know)

This picture shows a clamp on one flexible pipe and a whole lot of other pipes.  It truly makes me understand  the PG&E signs that say "call before you dig."

The backhoe must have driven over our bricks - there's tire tracks (ok - one tire track) and the bricks are all out of whack.

After thinking last night that everything was done, I'm not even going to guess if it's all done tonight.  I did take a short video of the backhoe filling in the trench.  But for all I know when I wake up tomorrow there will be ANOTHER hole.

We continue to listen to the equipment outside.  A new (to us) PG&E person came into the house and checked all our pilot lights.  We actually only had one.  Since we've never had our gas turned off before we didn't know if our pool equipment had a pilot light (nope - electric ignition) or if our house heater had a pilot light (nope again - electric ignition).  The only thing that did end up having a pilot light was our water heater.

Our gas is back on now.  The house is warming up again.  And I felt comfortable putting our evacuation 'kit' back where it is normally stored.

I have to commend PG&E because they came out IMMEDIATELY and they were very polite (apologizing repeatedly for the inconvenience) and they got the job done.  I think!  I guess I shouldn't say that until all the trucks are gone, our lawn and RV driveways are back to their original condition, and we don't smell gas any more.  (after all the bleeding of lines that they did our garage smelled really bad)

Here's to hoping that my next post is back to talking about Las Vegas!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Compression Fracture of the L3

It's been  a few weeks since I came off Blu and I'm still hurting.  I'm glad I listened to my Mom.  You know how sometimes when your Mom tells you you should do something and you say "ok" just to make them feel better, then don't actually do it?  (Yeah, me neither!)

But seriously.  When I was thrown from Blu Thanksgiving weekend I told my Mom about the experience and she told me about a friend who'd hurt their back and didn't go to the doctor for weeks (or maybe months?) and eventually had major problems.  She encouraged me to see the doctor and I said ok.  I called the doctor that Monday morning at 8:30am and had an appointment at 10:00am.  I guess you get one of those precious appointments that's kept available each day when you say you were thrown from a horse and hurt your back. (Hmmm - same thing happened when I said I had abdominal pain - got an early am appointment and ended up having my appendix removed.  I'm sensing a theme.)

I described the incident to my doctor and she checked my flexibility, my reflexes and my spine for tender spots and such.  She also checked out my foot/ankle and said it was sprained.  But it didn't hurt much in comparison to my back.  After the exam she said I needed to get an x-ray to rule out a compression fracture of my spine.

Compression Fracture??!!  As in broken??!!  No way!

She told me it was either that, or a muscle related injury.

I figured it was muscle related because the pain was basically like other times when my back has "gone out" except more painful.  But I went for the x-rays anyway.

When I left the doctor's office after the x-ray they told me it would take up to 4 days to get the results.  (Don't ask me why it takes 4 days to read x-rays!)  But Tuesday evening I had a message from my doctor that there was something abnormal in my x-ray and they needed to do an MRI.  I was to wait for them to call me to schedule an appointment.

I got that call on Friday at 4:30pm.  I needed to go in for the MRI immediately and could I make it at 8am Saturday?  Yuck.  I would have to get up at 7am on a Saturday.

But since I'd gone this far I figured I ought to go get the MRI.

I showed up before anyone else was at the office.  The technician showed up next and let me in and he set the MRI to do it's safety check while we talked.  I was in the MRI machine for more than 30 minutes!  A 1 minute test followed by an "you ok?" question (yep).  Then a 7 minute test (ok?/yep) an 8 minute test (ok?/yep) and then finally a 19 minute test ("you did great - the images are great").

When I was finished the technician showed me the images.  It was truly cool to see my spine, spinal cord, kidney, intestines, etc. just like you see on the medical shows.  To my untrained eye my spine looked fine.  I didn't see any obvious cracks or anything and I told him that I figured it was muscle related.

Shows what I know.

Sunday night the doctor contacted me to let me know that I had a mild compression fracture of the L3 and multiple bulging disks.  Yikes!

I'm incredibly grateful that the injury wasn't more serious that it was.  I'm walking and doing most of my normal activities, with the notable exception of riding.  The "fix" is to give it 6-8 weeks to let it heal on its own and let the pain be managed with medication.  No surgery, no brace, just taking it easy and not doing anything that might cause further injury it before it has a chance to heal.

Now that I'm a few weeks past the initial shock and major pain, I'm getting impatient to ride.  The weather has been absolutely beautiful on the weekends.  I'd say it's killing me to not ride, but truly, I am still VERY aware of how lucky I was and do not want to do ANYTHING that could affect the healing.  I do feel pain still, and get sharp twinges when I bend "just so" or move too quickly, so you can be sure I WILL be waiting the full 8 weeks and will get my doctors approval before I start riding again.

I'm also VERY grateful that my injury didn't affect our trip to Las Vegas (I got the doctor's ok to go) for the NFR and our Elvis wedding with Sharon and Bill!

More on that later!!!!  Hint: if you haven't already seen it, you can go to my YouTube channel now to see the video of the wedding....

Friday, December 2, 2011

Countdown to the NFR (and more) in Las Vegas

I am so fired up about next week I don't know where to start!

Since June, when we booked our trip, it's been a countdown.  I've had plenty of things going on between then and now that it seemed like it would never get here.  But suddenly it is only days away!

Ken and I haven't been to Vegas in about 6 years I think - when we went on a surprise trip (I'd talked with Ken's boss and arranged days off without Ken's knowledge, got airline tickets and a suite at New York, New York and greeted Ken, with our suitcases packed, at the door when he got home from work one day.  I handed him the airline tickets and said "guess where we're going tomorrow morning!"  What fun.).

The main reason we're going this time is because Sharon and Bill have wanted to go to the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) for a long time, planned it for this year and asked if we wanted to go with them.  Now I KNOW Cowboy stuff isn't Ken's #1 idea of fun, but I do know he really likes Rodeo.  So I asked if he wanted to go 1) to Las Vegas (the answer is always "yes") 2) to see the Rodeo ("sure") and 3) added the clincher that I knew would make it a slam dunk - "Want to get married by ELVIS?!?"

(I grin every time I think about that.)

The back story to # 3 - As long as I've known Ken, if he knows that someone is getting married he asks them "are you getting married by Elvis?"  And of course, laughter follows, because I don't think anyone ever thinks he's serious (except me).  Then, if someone is actually getting MARRIED in Vegas he asks with extra emphasis.  (Example - my brother Greg and his wife Yolanda, as a result of 9/11/01 events, moved their wedding date up and moved the location to Las Vegas.  Ken immediately asked Greg if they were going to get married by Elvis.  (As per the usual answer to that question)  He got "the look" and "NO!")

I'm sure, by now you know Ken's answer to my question # 3.  Well, actually, it was "Hell Yes!"

That set Sharon and me on that path that leads to here.

We IMMEDIATELY booked a package deal with National Ropers Supply where we each got a suite at the MGM Grand, tickets to the rodeo every night we're there, and a bunch of other stuff (parties, meet and greets, transpo to Cowboy Christmas (300,000 square feet of horse/cowboy/western related shopping  ie-"heaven").  We booked our airfare and figured we'd set the Elvis part later.

Speed up 6 months to November and the horse show season has finished and suddenly we're only weeks away from Vegas.  Time to plan the Elvis wedding.

I had NO IDEA how many Elvis weddings there are available in Las Vegas!  I know, I should have known, but truly, when you think of Vegas and Elvis weddings, do you think that there are literally dozens of chapels that each have their own Elvis? And each chapel has multiple variations of their Elvis weddings?

We could have chosen to get married by Elvis on The Strip (literally) under the Welcome to Las Vegas sign.  We could have chosen to get married by Elvis in a diner.
We could have chosen to get married by Elvis in our hotel suite.
We could have chosen to get married by Elvis on a helicopter at Red Rock Canyon.
I could go on, and on.

So, where did we choose to get married by Elvis?

At Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel.

Why? With so many choices (of location/venue and Elvises [is that a word?]) we were overwhelmed.  (Keep in mind that Sharon and I are both pretty sure of ourselves and willing to make decisions, so we don't "overwhelm" easily.)  So we did the logical thing and asked the Concierge at the MGM who they'd recommend.  It was a no-brainer to them.  They said "Viva Las Vegas."  They had the best Elvis (doesn't that sound funny?) and had a great reputation.

If you know me (and Sharon), you know that what started as a simple wedding by Elvis has evolved into "something more."  I can't give details yet (the grooms do read my blog) - you'll have to tune in later for that.   BUT....

What we thought would be just the four of us (and Elvis), now will include friends and family.

Both in person, and via the Internet.

We've had an amazing response to emails sent out letting friends know how they can attend "virtually" as well as a heart warming number of people who will actually be travelling to Las Vegas to witness the event in person!

In the words of the King:  Thank you, thank you very much (click it, you know you want to!)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Watching from the sidelines

My Blu

Saturday I woke up stiff and sore.  Todd's knee was swollen too.  But since he's the trainer he was all about getting in the saddle.

Me?  No thanks.  My back hurt, my ankle hurt (must have twisted it when I hit the ground) and my wrist was oozing.  I figured I've got a trip to Vegas, our wedding and many, many more rides ahead of me.  So I opted to not attempt to ride.  I knew with the injuries I had I'd heal fairly quickly and I didn't want to chance making anything worse.  And yes, right after I'd come off and while I was standing there assessing my injuries I wondered if I should get on immediately.  But I'm not afraid, I just want to be sure I'm not going to injure myself further if I got back on and he spooked or something and I didn't have the strength to control him (or myself).

So I watched from the sidelines.

And took pictures.

I just love this shot of Cody and Blu from Saturday morning.  I wonder how long it will be before his head is over Blu's withers?

Father and Son

Todd lunged Blu

Changing directions

Playing with my camera I took some video of the lunging 

Love the sunlight edging Blu

When Blu was all done with his workout he was a bit sweaty

When Sharon's and Blu's lessons were all done it was time to pack up.  I needed to head back to the Bay Area to pick up Ken and Sydney (Ken and Tim and Kim were helping their neighbors move).  After giving everyone hugs and making plans for next weekend Ken and I went to Super Burrito (in Millbrae) - best burritos anywhere and a must-stop for Ken whenever he's in the area.  I enjoyed their Super Nachos (well, only 1/2 a plate - it's a huge plate).

The drive home was uneventful.  Ken drove, though I wonder if I might have felt better if I'd driven.  Not because of his driving, mind you!  Being able to hold onto the steering wheel over some of the bumps might have been easier on my back.  It hurt less when I drove from the ranch to Millbrae, than when I was riding as a passenger from Millbrae to Roseville.

Sunday I'm spending on the sofa with my feet up and an ice pack on my back.  I feel pretty good when I don't move.  But I've been sneezing and each time I do it just kills my back.  Argh!

Mom says I should get checked out just to make sure things really are ok.  So I'll call my doctor tomorrow and see what she says.  (Thanks for the push Mom.  I love you too!)  My bet - the doctor tells me I pulled a muscle - it's what she says every other time I've gone in when my back is out thinking I have a pinched nerve or disk or whatever.  The pain I'm in now is exactly the same as those times.

I had to get launched sometime, right?

Thanksgiving weekend used to be a tradition for me and my horse.  I used to drive out to Castro Valley every Thanksgiving morning and ride Cre and give him a bath because the weather was always awesome.  When we moved to Roseville I also went out to see him every Thanksgiving, though he didn't always get a bath, since it's cooler up here.  Now that I have Blu I'm happy that I was able to keep at least part of my Thanksgiving tradition - I got to ride my horse on Thanksgiving weekend.

It wasn't Thanksgiving, itself.  Instead it was Friday.  But I believe it still counts!

Ken and I (and the zoo - Angus, Annie and Sydney) drove down to Millbrae on Thursday morning.  Thanksgiving Dinner at the Fancher's has been a tradition we've only missed on rare occasion.  We park the camper in Kim and Tim's driveway, hang out with their family, throw the football around (Ken, Tim and Ryan), play dress up (Kathy and Kim), and generally have a good time.  We all drive down to Ted and Shareen's and spend many an hour chatting and feasting on excellent Turkey (not to mention the deviled eggs that we pounce on as soon as they come out of the fridge) with all the fixins.  This year I also enjoyed a boat ride around the Foster City Lagoon after dinner.  (Had to work up an appetite for dessert!)

That's Angus and Annie and Bill and Christian - and all enjoying the beautiful day

Friday morning I said bye to Ken and Sydney and took Angus and Annie down to the ranch in the camper.  Sharon, Bill, Emilie and Christian all arrived shortly after I did.  We were all due for lessons.  We kept Todd hopping, that's for sure.  Emilie rode Rocky, then Bill rode Rocky.  Christian rode Easter.  Then Emilie hopped on Colonel - (a horse she was trying out) and Sharon and I got on our ponies.  Turned out Colonel needed a bit of work by Todd first - he doesn't get much arena work (Colonel - NOT Todd!).  Bill and Christian took off for home and with Colonel worked, Emilie got back on and the three girls rode together.

All was going fairly smoothly.  Emilie was walking Colonel to cool him down.  Sharon was jogging Nazz and I was working Blu.  Easter had been turned out in the big pasture next to the arena.  Each time Blu would come close to her they'd "have words" - she'd make "pissy faces" at Blu and Blu would do a little kick in her direction.  I didn't think much about it.  But then Todd asked me to pick up the lope.

We were right next to Emilie on Colonel (who's grey - Blu didn't like grey horses way back at Rancho Murieta but I didn't think anything about that until later) and Blu got his lead wrong.  Todd told me "NO" and as I was gathering him up to put him into a jog and back to the correct lead we passed up Colonel and Emilie and Blu gave a kick which popped me out of the saddle enough that I landed on the cantle (the back of the saddle).  I think that freaked Blu out enough that he started to crow hop (a stiff legged buck type thing that the saddle bronc rodeo riders ride for 8 seconds if they're successful) and then we came upon the fence.

Blu went left and I went right.

I landed on my butt (which has some padding luckily) but my spine compressed and made a sickening sound.  With Blu's hooves coming down next to me, my first thought was "get away from the hooves."  I crawled a couple feet and then stopped.  I realized that my back hurt something fierce!  I sat there for what felt like an hour but was probably 20 seconds.  What went through my head:  I figured if I was able to crawl I wasn't paralyzed (did I say that sound of my spine was sickening?) and I wiggled toes and took stock of myself and realized that I didn't think I'd broken any bones.  Todd was on his way over to me.  Emilie got off Colonel and Sharon was stopped on Nazz (when someone comes off a horse all other horse/riders in the arena freeze) watching me (she didn't see me come off - just saw me on the ground).  Everyone converged on me (Blu had run down to the gate at the other end of the arena) and we all took stock together.  I got immediate, appropriate care.  Todd helped me to my feet, kept an arm under mine as I figured out that I could walk (it's amazing how rattled you can get coming off a horse in an "unplanned dismount").  I'm not sure exactly how things went, but I do know that Todd got me Motrin and a bag of ice and helped me sit down in a chair once we knew I was basically ok - meaning I didn't need immediate medical attention.

Then Todd got on Blu.

They didn't go five feet before Blu did the exact same thing and Todd went flying through the air!  Holy crap!  The Trainer?!  I could barely move and I think we (Sharon, Emilie and I) were all in shock.  I mean it had only been a few minutes since I'd been "launched" and now Todd was on the ground!!!

He was OK, too.  His was a slightly more controlled dismount - and I say slightly only because he said he knew he had to bail and pushed off as best he could, though he landed on a knee that swelled up later.

So there I was sitting in my chair, still a bit shocked that I'd come off and I'm watching my trainer come off!

But then Todd got serious!  We'd both ridden in the bosel which Todd had said before didn't give you any control if something went wrong (now it's been proven) because the bosel would go up the nose and he'd tuck his head and that was it - it's all over.  So Todd went up to the barn and got a snaffle and martingale.  He put his baseball hat on backwards and mounted up.  I still laugh because I could hear Todd saying "Is that all you've got?!?" as Blu was loping around the arena all stiff legged and 'pissy.'  There were a couple comments like "you want to go fast - fine - let's do it!" and Todd basically worked Blu through it all, and got him loping slowly and with bent legs and finally jogging.

All I can say is I owe Todd a LOT!  He made me feel slightly less horrible because "the trainer" came off right after I did...not that he did it to make me feel better!  But really, I don't think I'm alone in thinking thank goodness it wasn't just me.  Blu did the same thing to the trainer!  And yes, I realize that sounds awful, but I guess you had to be there.  We're both smiling today.

And I also have to give big thanks to Sharon.  Since my back was 'out' and I couldn't bend or lift anything (not to mention the nasty rope burn I managed to get on my wrist that is still oozing) she took care of me.  She didn't sign up for this - remember I mentioned I'd brought Angus and Annie?  She fed the dogs, took them out on a walk and generally did all the things I shouldn't try to do.  Thanks Sharon!

As you can imagine, it ended up being a VERY early night.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sea Ranch Birthday

Saturday night it rained.  And rained.  And rained some more.  Did it matter?  Nope.  We had a great fire going and were having lots of fun playing Mexican Train.  The rain sounded great on the roof, but we could still hear the tunes from Ken's iPod.

I had a few points left over after this round.

Sunday was my birthday.  Ken gave me my birthday present before we came up to Sea Ranch.  He knew I'd like to have it for the whole trip.  I am thrilled to say I have the Cannon G12 - the newest generation of my previous camera (that Blu ate).  I'm still learning some of the new features, but it is really nice not to have to learn a whole new camera.  And it's nice not to have to unlock my phone every time I want to take a picture!  I've lost out on a number of photo opportunities as a result of that delay.

Ron and Christine gave me a funny card and two really cute Christmas ornaments.  My first Western ornaments - a Cowboy boot and a Western Saddle.  I sense a new theme for a Christmas tree in the house!  And with Cowboy Christmas in Vegas coming up in two weeks I don't think it'll be hard to get a good start on it.

Christine and I found humor in the fact that we got each other birthday cards with jackasses on them.  Hmmm, what does that say about us?  Never mind, I don't want to know!

The rain stopped about 9am Sunday morning, just before breakfast.  The sky was blue again in time for us to go on another walk.  We went to a different section of hedgerow and followed it to the Monarch Sanctuary (not in use by Monarchs anymore), but a great walk through a rain forest type ravine.

Ken and Ron with Christine in the background

There were markers every few feet identifying things.  

Where the trail starts is a box that contained one well worn copy of a handout explaining the area, but we didn't want to take in on our walk not knowing if anyone else would need it, and I didn't realize the walk was a loop where we'd be able to put it back when we were done.  Next time we'll take it with us.

This time we just walked and pointed out each marker as we saw it, wondering where some of the missing numbers were and how we'd missed them.

I didn't know that Sea Ranch used to be a big sheep farming area until the mid 1960s.  Here is one of the sheep pens.

The gate was picturesque

We walked over a few bridges 

Everywhere you looked was another pretty site

When we left the Monarch sanctuary we continued along a trail through the community and eventually got on a trail that lead to the bluffs.  Angus and I were in the lead for the majority of the walk and we let ourselves pick the way each time we'd come to a fork in the trail.  There was a pretty trail that wound down by the water and felt like a million miles from anything.

The scenery was just too beautiful.  Everywhere I looked was something new to take a picture of.  I can see why Ron and Christine have been coming here for years and years and rarely stay in the same house.  There are so many houses to chose from that it's nice to be able to try out different houses in different areas of Sea Ranch each visit.

I wonder where our next house will be???

P.S. I'm playing with the new Blogger templates to see if I find one I like.  Feel free to let me know your comments.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sea Ranch

My folks have friends that live here in Sea Ranch.  If I knew where their house was I might actually have knocked on their door.  But alas, when we looked in the phone book they weren't listed, and their house name doesn't appear anywhere that I can find.  Ah well.  Guess we'll just have to make do.

And let me tell you.  We're really suffering here.  Can you imagine having to stay in a beautiful home along the California coast, with windows looking out over the ocean?  Yeah.  You feel sorry for me.  I know.

We arrived last night about 8pm after an uneventful drive.  We took the MINI, which wouldn't be that unusual except that we had two dogs AND a bird with us!  And driving on Highway 1 in the dark, we weren't sure how well the dogs would do (with regard to car sickness).  We stopped a couple times to let them walk around, but otherwise there were no problems.  Though I think Sydney prefers the truck to the MINI.  She has to ride on our lap in the MINI and she gets her own seat in the truck.  Ah well.  Beggars can't be choosers.

Christine was here since Tuesday so she was nice and relaxed.  Ron arrived about 10 minutes before we did.  He was in the driveway with his flashlight to catch our attention.  This is the one house without a number at the street.  Would have had a very hard time finding it.  In the picture above you can see his truck peeking out over the top of the fence.  We would have had to drive up the driveway to see his truck (there are no street lights in Sea Ranch) to know we were at the right house.

Ken and Ron played Pass the Pigs (a 'dice' type game using pigs instead of dice - trust me - it's a fun drinking game) while Christine and I relaxed in the spa.

The rain held off until we were back inside and we could enjoy hearing it hit the roof.  Nothing like a relaxing evening by the fire with the rain pounding outside.

Today we slept in, and Ron made a great breakfast.  After breakfast (brunch?) we took a walk.  There's a hedgerow a couple hundred yards down the road from the house.

If you've never walked in a hedgerow let me recommend it. They're a long double row of Cypress trees that you walk between, and the ground is usually springy.  In the picture above you can see it goes on for quite a ways.  (a quarter mile maybe)

And if you keep your eyes open you can spot some interesting features...

Ken and Angus went down to check out the seals.  They stayed a respectful distance - though it looks like Angus is saying "I'm not looking!!!"

The hounds enjoyed climbing on the rocks.

We walked through some tide pools

Ron and Izzy and Ken and Annie looked for creatures in the pools.  No luck.

Ken is standing next to a blow hole.  Luckily it wasn't active since the tide was out!

The weather was breezy and cool, and the early afternoon was clear.  A perfect time for a walk.

Angus wasn't too keen to walk first along the bluffs.  He kept stopping and looking back at me with an expression of "Really?  You want me to walk here?"

And I guess there should be SOME proof that I was here.

And to finish off - a video montage from our walk.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I LOVE riding Blu in a Bosal

I just have to say that I am totally in love with riding Blu in a Bosal.  I know that's what I wrote about last week, but having just used it again this weekend, I'm well and truly hooked!

This link has a diagram showing the different parts of the headstall.  The part that is actually called the bosal is the nose piece.   It's very stiff and I'd say the only concern is that it may ding Blu's nose since a white nose is easy to mark.

Saturday I spent a lot of time in the saddle.  Probably 3 or 4 hours.  Only an hour of it was actual riding, during my lesson, but the rest of the time was totally nice.  We'd stood for hours and he didn't move - and I mean didn't move.  He wasn't fidgeting or moving his feet the whole time Sharon and Emilie were getting their lessons.

Emilie was first up, riding Rocky and working on flying lead changes and pattern work.  Because the workout was so intense it could only be done a bit at a time to give Rocky a chance to rest up.  So when she finished it was Sharon's turn on Nazz.  Once Sharon's lesson was done, Rocky and Emilie were on again.  Then it was my turn with Blu.  (I wore gloves this time - no holes in my hands from the reins this weekend!)

Remember when I mentioned that Blu challenged me a bunch and we figured that by me meeting his every challenge he wouldn't do as many challenges next time?  It appears to be working.  There were probably only 10% of the challenges and they were minor.  And his spook level is super low, too.  At one point I was going into the lope heading towards the side of the arena that has the giant hedge that has a road behind it.  A truck pulling a trailer drove by going the same direction we were.   You can't see the vehicles on the road, just hear them.  It sounded like a big metal trailer full of loose metal parts because it was making a RACKET.  We were keeping pace with the truck and trailer and not only did Blu not spook, he even picked up the correct lead.  Awesome!  And while we were finishing up our lesson Sharon and Emilie left the arena with Nazz and Rocky and Blu was left by himself.  Horses don't like it when every other horse leaves the area, and I'm sure he knew they were going to the barn.  He watched them leave yet still kept his head on the job.  I was so impressed with him.  I tell you, he is really becoming a bomb-proof gelding.  And we're going to work hard to keep him that way!

This video was from Sunday morning.  I used my phone to take the video.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Riding Blu in a Bosel

Last Saturday I drove down to see Blu - it felt like forever since I had seen him - 3 weeks since my last ride.  I was supposed to have driven down on the 23rd for a day trip, but after driving to Berkeley and San Francisco on the 22nd I was just too tired to contemplate the trip.  So I'd stayed home.  

There wasn't much that would keep me from making this trip!

I had hoped that Ken would be joining me.  Bill and his son were going to be there and since it was the weekend of Halloween we'd thought it would be fun to have everyone there.  But Ken didn't go and Bill and his son ended up heading home after their lessons.  Sharon and I stayed, though, and had lessons on both Saturday and Sunday.

I arrived before noon on Saturday and since the day was going to be packed full with Todd giving multiple lessons I immediately started getting ready.  Blu was turned out in one of the pastures next to the arena and had been running all over - making a nuisance of himself to the people riding.  But at least I knew he'd had a chance to get his yahoos out!  I saddled him up and Todd said he'd started riding him in a bosel and I should grab it, instead of the snaffle we'd usually used.  

Todd got on first and used the time to show me how riding with a bosel was different than a snaffle.  Since there isn't a bit, the pressure on the nose is different and the use of the reins is different.  You hold the reins much wider apart (what Sharon and I have called the 'flying W' for years) and sort of use the opposite rein than normal because of the way it moves the bosal on the nose.

Once Todd had gotten Blu to go through his paces it was time for me to get on.  Ouch.  Holy smokes those reins (called a Mecate on a bosel) were painful!  They were the classic horsehair style and were quite "pokey" with the ends of the hairs sticking out all over.  They were beautiful, of course, but ouch!

Once I got accustomed to the feel of the reins themselves I had to get accustomed to the use of them.  I'd say it took about 30 minutes to truly get the feel of how to use them.  Todd was pleased with how quickly I picked up the feel.  And Blu was fun to ride using the bosel.  It was quite different - not having that direct contact with his mouth.  I liked it - especially because I have to learn not to hold onto his mouth so much.  I need to trust that he won't run off just because I release his mouth.  And riding with the Bosel makes me trust him because I wouldn't have as much control over him if he DID decide to run off. 

I was loping and had a big smile on my face when Sharon, Bill and Christian showed up.  Their timing was great.

Since I'd not been on Blu in three weeks I was reluctant to get off.  Quite content to sit on him for hours, I chatted with Sharon while Todd went back to the barn to get ready for Christian's lesson.  Eventually I had to get off.  Much sooner than I wanted, but really, there was no purpose to just sitting on him.  So I unsaddled him and since the weather was fabulous I took the opportunity to give him a bath.  I'm not sure whether I'll be able to give him another for months, with the weather about to change.

With him all wet I could really see that his coat was getting long.  Not nearly as long as Cre's used to get, but long enough.  When I'd bought him in March he really didn't have a long coat at all.  I think that was probably because he lived inside, in a barn that didn't have a paddock, and was probably lit quite a bit more than at Todd's place.  Lighting makes the horse's body react differently - it thinks it's summer so doesn't get as heavy a coat.

I took a bunch of pictures with my phone while he was grazing and drying.

He's such a cool looking horse that it's fun to take pictures.  Though I've yet to do a 'formal' photo shoot - it's hard to do when I'm the photographer and horse holder!  For some of these photos I dropped the lead rope, realizing that he really wasn't going to go anywhere.

Once I put Blu away I grabbed a seat and watched the tail end of Sharon's lesson and Todd's ride on Nazz.

When all the lessons were over and Bill and Christian headed home, we went into the house and started fixing dinner.  It was the perfect opportunity to carve pumpkins but we didn't have any so Mike and I drove to the store and bought all they had - 3.  Cody drew the faces and carved two of the three and Todd carved the third.  I cooked the seeds and made three separate batches.  One was garlic salt, another salt and pepper and the third batch was an experiment that turned out to be delicious.  Cinnamon sugar!  Yumm.  Perfect with coffee (or so I understand - since I don't drink coffee I had to take their word for it.)

Sunday morning the sun was shining!  Another beautiful day and I got to spend it in the saddle!  There isn't much finer than a beautiful Fall day spent on horseback.

When I got on Blu the reins seemed to find all the holes in my fingers that they'd created yesterday.  Instead of having blisters I had holes from the horsehair reins (gives a new perspective on the agonies of wearing a horsehair shirt).  We discussed other options for mecate reins and when I'm in Vegas for Cowboy Christmas I'll be keeping an eye out for a show bosel with mecate reins that are COMFORTABLE!

The ride itself was great. 100% positive.  I'm not saying Blu was perfect, but for every challenge he put up I met it and overcame.  Gives me confidence and gives Blu the thought that the more I 'win' the challenges the less likely he is to put up more.  This will probably be one of those comments I'll look back on and laugh a year from now.   

I was camera happy - phone camera, that is.  Had been taking video of Todd on Rocky doing their flying lead changes and thought Blu looked really cool with the bosel.  At the time I took this picture I saw the shadow of my phone on his jaw and wasn't going to keep it, but what the heck.  He looks handsome.

Over all I'm really happy with the rides I had on Saturday and Sunday.  We walked, jogged and loped in both directions and we did lots of turns, using leg pressure 99% of the time.   I am looking forward to my next ride in two weeks.  I'm on call the weekend between and so I can't be out of town.  Ah well.  It'll be a chores and football weekend, I'm sure.