(Not a) Wild Pack of Family Dogs

Headed out on the sloppy slushy muddy trails today. Dixie was unusually skittish at the beginning of our ride, behind the pueblo house. She is a spazz and I’m used to that, but it seemed a bit different today, so I started thinking about coyotes. And I got that Modest Mouse song stuck in my head!

We rolled on down toward the mines. We’d just gotten down the hill by the flat bit of trail near the Road to Nowhere when Dixie slammed on the brakes. I looked where she was looking and saw several coyotes about 50′ away. They are so amazingly camouflaged – I saw three or four, but there could’ve been more. We sat and watched them for a few minutes. Often coyotes move along, doing whatever they do, so I was waiting for this group to keep going.

They didn’t. They stared at us, and for the first time, I really viscerally understood why horses get nervous when you stare in their eyes. One would stare at me – and I’d stare at it – and then I’d realize that another one was moving, so I’d watch that one and it would stop and another one would start moving. All of a sudden I realized they were trying to flank me to get to Cersei (who had no clue they were there).

I whistled to Cersei to turn around, and once she’d passed behind us I let Dixie turn to follow. The coyotes immediately moved in closer, so I wheeled Dixie and ran her a couple feet at them. The coyotes were not remotely afraid of us, but they did stop when we charged. Then Dixie and I turned and lit out for home. Dixie was so freaked out she kicked at Cersei as we cantered past her. Dear, sweet, innocent oblivious Cersei was unfazed by getting kicked at, but she did put on a burst of speed once she realized we were gonna go fast.

I let Dixie canter uphill til she got tired, then pulled her down to a rack and risked my neck by checking behind us a few times. That was pretty pointless; you can’t see them unless they’re moving, and I dared not turn around for longer than a second or two. I never saw them again, and about a half-mile later Dixie relaxed and we walked on in.

I am very aware of where Cersei is at all times, and she’s a good dog with a really strong recall. It’s still really risky taking her, and it would completely break my heart if they got her. I’m not sure what to do, really – just accept the risk and continue taking her, or price out an air rifle and try to tag one the next time they start hunting my dog? I could get a regular rifle, but that would be even harder to desensitize the horse to.

My broken heart is on the mend

I had such an amazing fantastic ride today, and I realized about halfway through that I trust Dixie, finally. I don’t miss Champ quite so much. I love my hot hardheaded spotted yak!

Stats: 7.24 mi in 1:45, 4.1 mph.

I wanted to do 10 miles, but didn’t quite make it. If I really want 10 miles without dealing with traffic, I have to do two loops of the mines, and that’s just so psychologically boring and daunting – head out, “finish” the ride back at the barn, then ride back out AGAIN. So I just wandered and explored and made the whole thing a little bigger.

We started off behind the pueblo house, then headed down the sandy trails toward the mines. Took a detour and cantered down the Road to Nowhere and it was absolutely wonderful. I wasn’t nervous at all, and Dixie was incredibly responsive 😀 Then we worked our way all the way down the mine canyon – over snowy rocks, downhill – and I just gave her her head and she picked her way downhill like a very large mountain goat.

I think ~C will know exactly where we went next – I went exploring up a gravel jeep trail I’d noticed off to the west, and I ended up on top of a hill where I could see Pyramid Hwy and Alamosa Dr. I’m pretty sure it leads to the boarding stable on the other side of the hill – the gravel jeep trail had old rotten hay and horse manure spread in the low spots. Getting to the top of the hill was a steep climb, so we took a breather for a minute then headed back down. I kept a little contact, stayed very light on her back, and asked her to walk, and she was perfect.

Dixie really had no sense of self-preservation when I got her, and she’s really gotten so surefooted since we came to Nevada. 😀

Slogging back home out of the canyon was hard. Deep, soft, wet sand and a slight but neverending incline. I kept her pushing at a walk, and every now and then I’d ask for some speed. I think we cantered once more on the way out and racked a couple times.

Persistence pays off

Today was another of those days where I felt like all these slow miles and all this planning and worrying IS actually paying off. I can look at my spreadsheet of distance/time/pace info, and I can look at my horse, and I can really tell she’s getting fitter. This is so cool!

I only had an hour to ride, so we did trot/rack sets up and down the short gravel road, then one loop behind the pueblo house. Total was 4.11 miles in 52 minutes, at a pretty respectable 4.6 mph average. I kept the trot/rack sets fairly slow, at about 7 mph, and kept the walk sets fairly fast, around 3.5 or 4 mph. When we got back to the pasture, she wasn’t sweaty! YAY!

I stuck with the new plan of keeping Dixie moving and not letting her think about the invisible monsters. When she’d get really nervous and reluctant, I’d let her stop just til she twitched an ear back at me – under 30 seconds – then I pushed her forward again. It worked very, very well – last night it snowed, so we were back in that scary white alternate reality.

After we got back, we worked on trot-out again. She is still all bug eyed about me holding that whip and making her move out, but she’s starting to get the idea.

Today was one of those exceptionally beautiful days. The sky was pale blue with tons of huge puffy dramatic clouds, the mountains were beautiful with their patches of fresh new snow, and the roads were mostly dry. As AareneX says, it’s good to be alive. And it’s very good to be in Nevada.

I eat my words

It didn’t snow all morning, so I went to town for groceries. Then it started to snow, but it was more like snow drizzle. I called it lame Memphis snow and kicked at the slush and headed home. The snow gods got very angry indeed and it began pouring down snow. They closed Donner Pass so there was tons of traffic on the highway headed north, and it took me like 25 minutes to go 5 miles. Then I stopped at another grocery store (I’m picky, what can I say?) and watched people spin out like retards.

I have decided driving on snow isn’t much harder than driving in the rain. I spent about 10 years driving tiny lightweight ricer sports cars, with no ABS, usually with bad tires, and those things will hydroplane and slide with any amount of water on the road. Driving a medium weight truck on a couple inches of snow is pretty similar… except that (almost) everybody around me is also going very slow.

We have plenty of food, and we’re home safe, so whatever happens is ok with me :)

Trot, hooves, snow

The forecasted snow for yesterday never appeared. I stayed home because the weather sites were so insistent about that 100% chance of 3-5″. Today they said the same thing – no, really, 2-4″ of snow, 100% chance. I couldn’t stay home another day, so snow be damned, off I went to visit Dixie.

The wind was howling at S’s, so I’m glad I wasn’t planning on riding. I picked Dixie’s hooves, then worked on AareneX’s method of teaching the trot out. It took a while to get a trot on the longe, but eventually we got it, from both sides. Then I had her start off on a circle but kept her going straight, just for a couple of strides. Lots of praise and we were done.

She had one very “good” spook, too. I never hard tie her to my truck; I just loop the lead around the cleats on the side of the bed. Yeah, she could get loose, but where’s she going to go? Straight back to her buddies or straight over to the hay barn. There’s a small risk that she’ll get loose and totally lose her mind and hurt herself, but I’ll take the chance.

I’ve got a plastic bin in the bed of the truck, with horse treats and beet pulp stored in it. I was rustling around in there (like she’s seen a million times) and a piece of ICE fell off the lid while I had it raised. Dixie got all bug-eyed and bolted backwards about 10 feet, taking the rope with her. Then she stopped and snorted, and I told her what a good girl she was and slowly lowered the lid and walked around the side of the truck. She looked at me and at the bin for a while, then, all on her own, she sighed and dropped her head. I clicked and slowly walked over and gave her a treat. I’m so proud :) She saw a scary, got spooked, then calmed herself down.

Then I took hoof pics. I measured her feet, too, but I’m not sure if I measured right. I think I will measure them again next time I go up there.

The wonky foot (LF) still looks really weird and lopsided to me, but I am just not worrying about it. I’ve never had a horse that would fearlessly trot on gravel before. I’ve never had a horse with such a tight white line, and so little flare, and such round feet. The LF is asymmetrical, but it seems to work for her. It’s endlessly amazing to me how her feet went from horrible to mediocre by going barefoot, then mediocre to amazing by living and riding a bazillion miles in the desert. Horses are remarkable!

Ok, pictures. Click to embiggen.

Right front is the high-heel hoof. I rasped a bit at the heels, but that looks like live sole in the buttresses so I left it alone. After I took these, I went back and rolled the toe wall a bit more. And her frog looks puny, but it just peeled off a layer last week.
Right front solar

The whole capsule looks long, but I am certainly not going to carve at her sole to make her hoof shorter.
Right front side

Left front is the wonky one. This is after I trimmed a bit of the medial toe to maybe help with the breakover. I’ve been trimming a smidge of medial toe about once a week, but I haven’t noticed a huge improvement.
Left front solar

The whole foot looks very weird in this picture. I don’t know if it’s the dirty walls, the way she was standing, the gravel, or if her foot IS weird. Shrug.
Left front side

After I got pics and measurements, I headed back for home. Right as I got off the highway at our exit, it started snowing. I am such a southerner, I got the giggles about it. SNOW! Eeeee! Now it’s pouring down snow and I’m trying to decide if I want to go to town tonight for the BCH meeting.