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.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rocky Gets A Flying Lead Change Lesson

Sunday Bill's horse Rocky got a lengthy lesson on flying lead changes.  

Todd rode Rocky for a couple hours, working on flying lead changes off and on starting before Sharon and I had our lessons and continued through our lessons.  It was interesting to watch and learn.  

Todd started out with simple changes.  Lope one direction, break down into a jog then go into the lope in the other direction on the correct lead.  Repeat as necessary.  From there Todd progressed to directing Rocky at the fence any time he was going to ask for a lead change.  If he wasn't going to ask he didn't head towards the fence and would just circle.  Heading towards the fence was designed to force Rocky to make a decision, and Todd would prepare Rocky to make the correct decision by opening up his leg (taking it off Rocky's side) in the direction he wanted him to go.

It was a great learning experience (for me AND Rocky).

Since I don't have my usual camera anymore I thought I'd use my phone.  I took some photos and video.