First day of fall!

It’s been pretty consistently in the 90s since we got here. I wasn’t sure if that was normal or not – I come from Memphis, where it’s in the 90s until some time in November usually. S said it’s been hot a bit later than usual. Today, fall arrived. The wind started howling down from the west, clouds went whipping across the sky in a bunch of strange patterns, and the temperature dropped 10 degrees. And I rode, alone!

Well, first I walked.

There was a guy with a backhoe digging a huge trench by Dixie’s pen when I got there. He was looking for a water line, without much luck. My psycho mare was… asleep. I got her tacked up and mounted, and we headed for the gate, where she decided she couldn’t possibly leave. She started that super-annoying backing up thing. I tried easing around to the side, but she was not having it. I wasn’t sure if she was honestly terrified or just being recalcitrant, and I didn’t want to force her into doing something too scary for her to handle… so we walked. I got the spare lead rope and led her down the road, on a small loop trail.

I’m kind of glad I did, just because I got to look at the sky. Another lenticular cloud was trying to form, and the cloud was between me and the sun. The sun was refracting strangely off the cloud and the corners of the cloud were lit up by rainbows! Not like actual arc-shaped rainbows, but the edges of the cloud were red / orange / blue / violet. So pretty!

Dixie acted a huge fool for the first 2/3 of our trip on foot. She’d stop and look around all panicked, and I’d have to coax her to walk again. Then she’d crash into me or step on my heels, and I’d yell and pop her with the lead rope. She couldn’t decide if she wanted to follow behind me on my left or my right. Jackrabbits tormented us. She was even a shit after we turned for home… but then she calmed down. She started properly following me, stepping where I stepped instead of crashing through the bushes beside me. She didn’t put on the gas and try to pass me. I was quite pleased!

When we got home, I put her bridle back on and mounted up again. We made it somewhat hesitantly out the gate and down the gravel road. We turned off on the dirt road by the neighbor horses, and I wanted to ride to a light pole, then turn around and gait back to the gravel road. She stopped two steps from the light pole and started backing up again. I sat real quietly and contemplated what to do while she backed and backed and backed. All I did was keep her head pointed straight ahead while she backed up a good 30 feet. When she petered to a halt, I picked up the reins and had her back some more. And more and more and more. After we went another 30 feet back, I softly halted her and softly asked her to walk. She had no problem whatsoever going forward after that!

We did a bit of gait work on the dirt road before S showed up on Summer. I went with her on a short loop, about an hour. I think this was my last day wearing a tank top!

Tomorrow we’re (wisely) giving the horses the day off. It’s supposed to be even windier and another 20 degrees colder – high of 68! I think I will take Cersei to Mount Rose for a hike. We can see if the aspens have started to change colors.

You spin me round (like a record)

(That’s the official title of the song you no doubt know as “You spin me right round baby” – thanks, Wikipedia!)

We had a very good ride Friday. Did the mining canyons and stayed soft. She relaxed enough around the boulders to just give them a very hairy eye and calmly walk past – no stopping and asking to spin and run, and not even any jigging past them.

Saturday we headed out with S and S and things were going really well! We were a couple miles away from the ranch, leading the way up a very steep and narrow canyon with deep sand footing. I had half-turned around to say something to the people behind me when a jackrabbit broke almost under Dixie’s feet. She did a zero-turn 360, and I did a 280 and went catapulting off her side. I had just enough time to think “don’t let go of the reins, dumbass” before it was over and I was on the ground. I did some kind of awesome front flip, because I ended up on my butt in the sand, facing my horse, holding the reins. I even managed to lean forward as I fell, to keep from yanking the reins. And Dixie, to her credit, didn’t even try to run. She’d just spooked hard when I wasn’t paying attention.

I got a drink of water, since I was down there anyway, and mounted back up to finish my ride. Once we got out of the canyon, on the dirt roads, Dixie decided she’d be safest if she walked between the other two horses. S from Cali’s horse spooked hugely at a decorative gate, and Dixie did a small instinctive spook with him, but that was all.

If I’m sitting right in the saddle, I can ride the spooks out – but I can’t be 100% correct on a 3 hour ride. You win some, you lose some. My butt’s fairly sore and I think I might skip riding today. If I do, I’ll definitely ride tomorrow.

Gone fishin’

The big problem with moving somewhere new is figuring out what’s weird and what’s odd but otherwise normal for the area. I’ve seen some odd stuff, but nothing really stunningly weird til today.

Cersei and I went across the highway and up a dirt road into the Peavine Mountains. I threw The Ball down a canyon until she was exhausted, then we headed home. Back down by the highway there were two guys standing in the road and one of them was waggling a stick…? As I got closer, I could see what was really going on – it was a fishing pole, and he’d somehow snagged the hook in the power line about 20′ above his head. I busted up laughing when I figured it out – then his buddy saw me laughing and started laughing too. As I drove past, he was pointing at my truck and telling the inept fisherman that yes, everybody thinks this is very amusing.

Soft, relaxed

We did the mines ride today – down in a canyon, past several abandoned old copper mine shafts. A new fellow came with us, S from California, on his bay paint gelding. This means there was a bay roan paint mare, a bay paint gelding, and a bay paint stud. We were extremely colorful, yet kind of repetitive!

Dixie was very brave. She balked pretty hard once, when we had to head downhill past a rock wall (scary horse killer rocks, who do they think they are, just standing there ominously) but I wouldn’t let her turn to run and she eventually moved past it. A short section of the ride is a steep downhill bit, over big boulders and small rocks – I’ve taken her on this ride before, but just gotten off and led her. Today she didn’t seem like she was going to rush it, so I gave her plenty of rein and she walked quietly down it like a large spotted mountain goat. Very impressive.

I mainly concentrated on staying completely soft and not bracing up and starting a fight. I realize I do this every couple of months – realize that bracing against her is counterproductive, and swear to be soft. Oh well, at least I remember eventually. Hopefully I’ll do better at remembering. Gotta keep trying!

It’s something different each time that reminds me to be soft and not fight the horse. This time, it’s Kate’s excellent post. Thank you!

EDIT: Wow, I’m a space cadet tonight. I forgot the most exciting part: we saw a rattlesnake! S was in the lead, and she pulled up when she saw him slithering across the trail. (None of the horses ever even saw the damn snake.) We watched him cross the trail and get into a giant sagebrush bush in safety, then we detoured well around him. Very pretty, definitely a rattlesnake. Probably a Great Basin rattlesnake, like this one from a couple weeks ago.

Pretty feet!

Trimming:
Oh my god, I finally have a good trimmer! Like I said, all the other horses at the new place have awesome feet, so I was really excited to get the trimmer out to balance Dixie. Of course I didn’t take before and after pics, but yall would be shocked if I had. Keep in mind, she was “trimmed” two weeks ago in Ohio.

The guy in Ohio was just a farrier who gave a perfectly standard farrier trim. I was never really happy with his work, but it’s hard to see hoof changes day-to-day. When she got here, her feet looked good from a normal person’s standpoint and substandard from a barefoot hoof nerd standpoint – long toes (hurf, cause she’s a TWH) and short heels, no roll, short laterally and long medially. She was sound though, and I’ve been riding her anyway. The rocks and sand were already starting to roll the edges, and she lost a decent chunk of that too-long outside wall off of her RF. (It was beautiful self-trimming, actually, cause it gave her that concavity on the sides that she needed.)

Joe, the trimmer out here, is an Olivo person. I am not up to date on the bickering amongst the barefoot people, so I don’t know if she’s the best in the universe or just second or third best, but I’m happy with him. He immediately saw all that I’d seen and more. He was very patient (and Dixie was very good!) and he didn’t bring her toes back too far. He spent about 45 minutes trimming her, then we talked for another half-hour – he had bones! I got to see an actual coffin bone, navicular, p2, and p3.

Sara asked how often the horses out here get trimmed – he said in the summer, they go 5-6 weeks, then in the winter, 6-8 weeks, depending on how often they’re ridden. S’s horses get ridden the most, so they tend to go longer. I think Dixie could go longer as well, because I’m riding her quite often, but I’m going to have him back in 6 weeks. I want all the underlying things brought firmly under control before we start letting her go two months between trims. We’re hoping to see some good heel growth and get rid of the fairly minor flaring in front.

Riding:
Before he worked on her, I took her out for a short lesson all by herself. She was quite sure there were wolves in the sagebrush, but I picked a destination (a particularly tall juniper, not far from the neighbor’s horses) and we rode there, dammit. Then we gaited back to the other edge of the neighbors and I got a very nice rack. Turned around and went back to the juniper again, then gaited back to the ranch. And past it! She was appalled, but cooperated. We didn’t go far past the ranch gate, just enough to prevent the habit of going straight home.

Yesterday we went on a short ride with S and saw more mule deer! They are even funnier looking than whitetail, what with the big goofy ears. Let’s play “who can spot the deer” – it’s much harder to see them in a picture than in real life! They were a little wary but generally unconcerned about us, and we stood and watched them for at least 10 minutes. Dixie was not quite convinced they aren’t equinivorous.

Group of deer

Click on the picture, and it’ll take you to my flickr page. When you’re sure there’s no damn deer in that shot, move your mouse over the picture and a little box will pop up to show you where they are. They are remarkably well camouflaged.

If that’s too much like one of those damn magic eye posters for you, here’s a pretty good silhouette.

Deer silhouette close up

And here’s a shadow picture of us, on the way home.

Me and Dixie 2

We went on a BIG ride Saturday, but I didn’t think to bring the camera, so no pics from it. Hopefully we’ll go back this weekend and I can get some shots of this stunning mountain we climbed. We’re probably 30 miles from Reno, but it’s so high up you can see the bigger casinos! And just huge gorgeous mountains everywhere else you look, and bright blue sky, and the light’s just magical, and there’s no sound at all but hooves thunking and the wind whipping through the scrub.