Monday, September 13, 2010

And We're Off!

....well, ok, we WERE off. Off most of the summer. Being in Arizona, it was a hot summer, and riding in 115 degree heat is not fun. I won't do it. Besides the snakes, the heat is unbearable. We xould have trailered up north, but my work schedule simply did not allow for it, as it would require overnight trips to make it worthwhile. We did work in the Queen Creek public arena many mornings, working on gait. Both Santana and I HATE arena work. Boring!!!! But we did it just to keep going. And 7 am wasn't tooooo hot many mornings. WE also took a couple of riding lessons from Charlie Hill, who is an amazing horse trainer who won the Mustang Challenge several years ago, and who was a friend and student of the late, great, Ray Hunt. We learned some great stuff from him.

Two weeks ago, the weather here started to tease us. So, we decided to go for our first trail ride of the season. Short, one hour, in the San Tans. Yahoo!!!! Hindsight being twenty-twenty, I should not have opted for his first ride in four months to be with a group of seven horses. He was feeling good, and was not happy about the horses in front of him and behind him trotting up and down hills, and he really thought he should be able to take the bit and do as he pleased. Fortunately, I am not a complete dummy. Good ol' Vickey and Dakota were with us, so, I put Santana behind "The Great White Butt" and Dakota kept Santana from becoming unmanageable. We finished that ride, and it was fine.

That was a Friday. Vickey and I decided to go out again the following Tuesday. ( last week) It was just the two (four) of us, and Santana was a perfect gentleman. He was his normal self again, listening to me well. We did the same one hour ride. It is still too hot to go out longer, and, Santana needs to get legged up a bit before I push him a little longer.

A couple days later, Susie and Tommy were ready to ride. So, off we went. Same ride. One hour. It was great. Both boys were so good, and they were both so happy to be on the trail. It was a long, boring summer for them.

Today, we went out with a bigger group. Me, Vickey, Susie, Vickey's sister Kathy, and a long time friend of theirs Lea Ann. Before we got on the trail, we were in the parking lot. Wainting to head out, I look over at KAthy's trailer to see my buddy Vickey with her jeans down around her ankles. What???? She got bit by a spider and it really hurt. I had given her a "Santana Trail Safety Vest" for her birthday a couple of weeks before. I told her to get her bug bite-sting spray out of her vest. She did and her sister sprayed it on the bite and it immediately felt better. Yea! Glad the vest came in handy already. Anyway, we got out on the trail. Santana was feeling great, and he walked right out. In fact, he left the others in the dust. He was just walking but walking at a very nice speed. The others were busy talking and relaxing which was fine, but Santana and I were on a mission, which was to maintain a nice forward walk, maintaining a 3MPH walking average. There were lots of "roller coaster" sections on the back part of this trail, and Santana was good about listening to me and slowing down and walking on the ups and downs. Given his druthers, he would rush through all of it. Anyway, unlike our first ride out of the season, he listened well to me despite the group of horses around him. (of course they were behind us most of the way.) It was a nice ride.

We are waiting for the weather to break so we can start going out longer...... and for the snakes to go away!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Santana the Forest horse

Well, after the close call with the rattler, we decided to head north this week. We went towards Pine, Az, which is about 2 hours north of here. I had scoped out by car several trailheads up in that area a year or so ago, and decided I wanted to try this one. Vickie is always game for anything. She is the best riding buddy ever. She has helped me so much with Santana and myself, I am so lucky and blessed to have found her.

Vickie has a sister here, Kathy, who rides, and who has a great, 30 year old paint Harley. Well, once Kathy found out our plans to go to Pine on Monday, she took a personal day from work to come along for the adventure as well!

Kathy and Harley were already at Vickie's house at 8am when I swung by to pick them up. We loaded the trailer with everything we needed for the day, and headed up. After about two hours we got to the trailhead. Tall pines everywhere. This was a new environment for Santana. While he did live in a similar town, all of his under saddle work has beed in the desert. I wasn't sure what he would think of the canopy, and big trees down everywhere ,and logs and stumps and all. It would be another "FIrst" for him.

I had gotten some trail maps together before we left home. After consulting my buddies, we decided out adventure for the day would take us to "Dripping Springs." We saddled up and off we went. This ride was completely in Tonto National Forest. There were some trail markers, but early on we weren't sure if we were on the right trail to the springs. After a while we found a sign that confirmed were were correct. These were HARD trails, very hilly, lots of rock. Santana was a little full of go at first, but as soon as we hit the rocks, he slowed way down, concentrating on his footing. In some places, if he didn't get the correct foot in the correct place, he would be screwed. He really managed VERY well at all of that, thinking, and figuring out what he had to do. I try to just stay out of his way in these spots, and let him work. I think he has learned through our adventures together this year, that I will help him if he needs it, but that I TRUST him to be able to get us through less-than-desireable footing situations, allowing him to own the task at hand, and to do what he needs to do to get us through it safely. I think that this is the beginning to that great relationship that we are developing. There was also a lot of blow down blocking the trail which made maneuvering a littler trickier. There had been a fire here as well, so lots of ash, and you just don't know what the footing is under that ash...

Eagle Eye Vickie saw a red fox off the trail. (I never saw it. She sees everything!) The trail came to a very long and steep ascent. About half way up, Harley stops as he needs a breather. He is 30, and has earned the right to do just that. What a good horse he is. You would really never know he is 30. He acts about 15 most of the time, and loves to go. Good trail etiquette dictates that Vickie and I stop our mounts as well. Santana could have made it up without stopping, but it was far more important to keep everyone together and the horses all happy. Upon reaching the top, we were now on an old access road, way on the top of the mountain. The views were spectacular. We were at about 6500 feet, according to my GPS. Snow was still abundant on the mountain tops across from us. So cool! (hey, when you will in the desert, seeing snow from a distance is cool. I grew up in the snow bely, and have no desire to actually live in the stuff) After a short time, we reached Dripping Springs. This was just that (see photo) a small spring with water dripping from the rocks above. It was obvious that this was a VERY popular watering spot for the elk, as there were elk hoof prints everywhere around that hole. We decide to have lunch there, and we did. The trail continued on, but there was a lot of blow-down, making it impassable. And, it really was time to head back anyway.

All the tricky thing we had to do going up the mountain, we now had to do going down, which, is harder. Again,so long as Santana has to watch where he was putting his feet, he was slow and steady. But as soon as we reached any sections of trail that were "smooth" (no rocks) and sort of flat, he wanted to GO! He will make a great endurance horse! He has the brain of one already. That is the equation he needs to have. "We can make up time here mom, lets go!!!" He is such a good boy, and a cool horse.

On our way down, in one of the canopied areas, Vickie, who is in front of me, yells " Horny Toad, Horny Toad" as I look, I see her flying off her horse (on purpose) and proceeds to DIVE after the toad, which she catches. How she saw that thing, I am telling you. She has AMAZING critter eyes. Proudly she displays her catch, we get some pictures, and she carefully releases him in the same spot she caught him. I won't tell you how old Vickie is, but she has grown children, And the dive she made after that toad would make most 15 year old boys envious.

I was surprised we didn't see any elk, as there were fresh dropping everywhere. And, as was our goal, we saw no snakes as it was too cold for them there yet. Yippee!!!!

We made it back to the trailer, loaded up and came home. It was great fun. Although, I could have done without the snake reports in the SanTans of snakes slithering out from under horse trailers in the parking lot, and snakes in the trails.

Yep, we are headed north again next week.

Ghost Town, Rattlesnake, and Margarita

Vickie and I decided it would be fun to take a field trip and trailer up to the Ghost Town by the Goldfield mountains. This used to be a gold mining town in the late 1800s, and has been renovated as a first class tourist trap hot spot. No trip to valley is complete without the obligatory visit to the Ghost Town, where you can have lunch in the original 1887 saloon.

So, we picked Vickie and Dakota up at about 9 or so, and got up there around 10. We parked on BLM land just next to the ghost town, saddled up, and headed off. It was very green, lots of tall green grasses. We decided to play it safe and stay on the wide open old mining roads, as with all the tall grasses we didn't want to risk running into a snake on the single track trails. They should have still been in hibernation, but it was getting warm (not warm enough yet for them) but the grasses were tall, and if they WERE out, we wouldn't be able to see them in the grass.

We actually started out in a wide wash. Fine. Santana is getting into pretty good shape these days, and he wanted to go. I didn't. We had some conversation over this, and after about ten minutes, he agreed with me. Good boy. The wash led us to a wide mining trail, heading up into some small foothills. My friend Vickie can't see to dial a cell phone, but, past about two feet , she can see a needle in a hay stack. She has amazing "I see nature" eyes. Not too far up the road she spotted three mule, obviously enjoying the bountiful grasses from all the rain we have had this winter. Cameras came out, and we started to take pictures. This time, she kept one hand on her reins though, so as not to repeat the coyote incident....

Once we got our fill of mule deer, we continued on, sticking to the mining roads. I was about 20 feet behind Vickie when almost simultaneously I heard her yell "snake" and heard the loudest rattling and hissing sound I have ever heard live. She scooted forward and turned around. A huge rattler was coiled and ready to strike from the side of the road in the tall grass under a small tree or bush of some sort. He was VERY unhappy bout her being there. Good friend that I am , I froze. I wasn't going any closer. No way. This was unusual snake behavior, because he has every chance to move away as he felt her coming towards him, AND, she wasn't that close for his to already be ready to to strike. It isn't like she almost stepped on him. The snakes are out early, disoriented as they have been forced out of hibernation early due to the rains flooding them out of their dens. Yuck.

So, there we were. My legs were like jello. Vickie and Dakota were on one side of the snake, us on the other. Vickie and I decided that we could just go back, have lunch and a margarita at the sallon, and we would be FINE wit hte short ride. We were both shaken up by this. Only problem was, Vickie still had to get back by that very ticked-off large, venomous reptile. After several minutes, he lowered his neck and flattened out. Good, and bad. She couldn't really see him anymore to know where he was. Mojave Green Rattlesnakes are VERY aggressive, and will come after you. We didn't think it was one of those, not green enough. (we have 17 species of rattlers here...) So, she decided to lope past him and stay as far to the side ofthe road as possible. (we were hoping there wasn't a mate close by... after hibernation comes breeding season..) I moved Santana further up the raod to give her room, and they came on through with no troubel. The rest of the ride back to the trailer, we were on high alert, nervous, and just wanting to get back to the trailer.

We made it back to the trailer without another sighting. However, once there, we hade to check under the trailer to make sure there weren't any snakes under it. (this happens frequently here...) Satisfied that our rig was snake free, we unsaddled and watered the horses, and loaded them into the trailer so they could have thier lunch safely, while we wlaked yp to the saloon to have ours. Vickie ordered a margarita to calm her nerves. I was driving, but I had a sip of hers just because it seemed like the thing to do. We decided at lunch that we needed to head to higher ground wher ethe snakes weren't out yet, and decided next week we would head towards PAyson, where overnight it is still in the high 30s. Perfect!

Springtime in the SanTans

Vickie and I continue our adventures. We lost Suzie a couple weeks ago, as her hubby who flies helicopters in Afganistan was home for a couple weeks.

We had an unusual amount of rain this winter. Thanks El Nino. Vickie and I have been looking for the wildflowers for weeks, and yet, they just weren't blooming.

They were just starting to bloom on this ride. Unfortunately, so are the rattlesnakes. All the rain has flushedthem out of their homes early. They should still be in hibernation. Lots more info on that in the next post, "Ghost Towns, Rattlesnakes and Margaritas."

Anyway, we are getting gyped out of a month of good and very pretty riding. Bah!

Santana and I go to School

wow... its been a while since I've posted for my boy. We've been very busy, good intentions to post, but just didn't... so, here are some updates.

Santana and I attended a Larry Whitesell clinic in Cave Creek March 11-14. Larry is a nationally renown natural gaited horseman, who believes in natural collection to get a horse to gait, NOT just sticking a big shanked bit in their mouths, ventroflexing them, to make them gait. I had never attended (as a participant) any horse clinic before, but I had LArry's DVDs and had been working on his method. His method really isn't his. He is the first to tell you that. It is basic dressage principals and exercises. These exercises enable the horse to relax, get his balance naturally and properly, which will enable him to do what he is genetically predisposed to do, which is gait. So simple, yet, so hard.

Santana had never been away from home like this before. The clinic horses (12 in all) were housed in a mare motel type barn with large run outs. He had never been in such a small confinement before, but he wasn't nervous at all, or restless, or anything. He acted like this was old hat. I know he laid down to sleep because his tail and mane were full of shavings each morning. He eat well, drank well, pooped and peed well. (only us horse folks get soooo excited about poop and pee!)

The clinic was held in a covered arena, which was surrounded by pastures full of horses. Ok, he wasn't too sure about the covered arena, but after about ten minutes he was fine. He was more interested in everything else going on around him... the horses moving in the pasture 800 feet away, or, the little yappy dogs that were just outside the arena, belonging to folks auditing the clinic. He was a little A.D.D. Curious about everything else going on around, and not really paying any attention to me. Not that that was a huge detriment, as I was the one needing to learn the exercises so I could do all this stuff at home.

It was fun to mingle with other gaited horse folks. I was amazed that I knew several people there already. I enjoyed camping in my trailer and visiting with others. There were people there from Wyoming, Utah, California as well as AZ.

Anyway, I learned a lot, and have been practicing the exercises with him almost daily, and he is starting to get it. I think he is humoring me right now, but eventually, he will understand that there was a reason for all of it, and be appreciative that I chose to take the time to teach him right, so that he doesn't live a life in pain from improper balance and collection JUST to get him gaiting right away.

Monday, February 8, 2010

ya gotta get back on that horse!

Sooooo. I had optimistic hopes for getting back on Santana last Friday, which ws three days after my "unplanned planned dismount." I still ached a bunch, but figured I could ride.

Then I remembered that i destroyed my helmet, and that I needed to replace it first. So, i had to drive almost an hour each way to go do that. Well worth the trip, but with work and all, it meant I would n't ride until today.

Vickey and Dakota were waiting at "the bus stop" at 9:30 and Santana and I picked them up and headed to the mountain. Once there, we ran into a couple friends who, had started out, but saw us pull in and came back for us. One gal was riding a very green and slightly nervous horse.

I was a little nervous getting back on Santana after my wreck. I mean, did he remember all the bucking and that I came off, and would he decide that if he didn't want to do something I asked of him, he could just buck and get me off??? I was still WAY too sore to hit the ground again. All these little things were running through my mind. The little green horses running up behind us, which bothered Santana, was really bothering me. I wasn't breathing right, ect. I finally asked them to head away, which they were going to do anyway. Another day, ANY other day, and I would have been fine with them and he green horse, just not TODAY.

Vickey and I continued on a very short loop, and I quickly settled down. Santana was his usual super calm self again, and I felt better about the overall situation, and most of my confidence had been restored. Vickey says she seriously doubts that he even remembers bucking, or anything that happened that day he got attacked by cholla, it al happened SO fast.

I got that ride out of the way, which I needed mentally, to assure myself that this hadn't turned my calm, wonderful boy into some kind of crazed man-killing horse maniac. I am ready to go again, or will be when all the pain in my hip and elbow are gone. Both are still quite swollen. That won't keep me off the trails though.....

Great ride, new trail, big ouch!!!!

Last Tuesday the Three Horsequeteers set off to trailblaze the other end of the San Tan park. There were some proposed trails on that side that we hadn't checked out yet, and, it had been years since any of us had ridden that side, and we were curious as to if the county had improved what had been a VERY hard trail going up and over Goldfield Mountain.

Which would have been fine, if we had actually taken that trail. But, we didn't. We set off in a different direction, still following what appeared to be a trail, of some sort....It was beautiful back there. Enough rain had fallen to where things are starting to get green. We followed a trail along a ridge until it just, well, stopped. Vickey went off on foot to scout it out, but reported bak that there wasn't any continuation. So, we walked to ponies down a very steep hillside to join up with another trail that went, well, who knew where. We followed this single track through some pretty rough terrain. There were several VERY steep climbs along ledges that really worked the horses hard. There was one section that Suzie and Vickey walked their horses horses down and up. I knew Santana could do this, mountain goat that he is. The pictures above show me making Vickey come BACK to me to get my camera so this would be documented. Of course, it is VERY steep in real life; the camera just doesn't capture the depth of the terrain. We got buzzed by a helicopter that was obviously flying ilegally, way too low. None of the horses reacted at all though, such good ponies! Somewhere on one of the climbs, Vickey lost a pair of sunglasses. I lost a lip balm. If only those were the only casualties of the day....

We started to find arrows scratched into the ground, (see pic above) so we figured these were put there by the park people to mark to proposed trail additions. So, we started to follow them. No we were on a flat of sorts, not on ridges with steep hills. Out of nowhere, Santana, my mild mannered, quiet, calm little guy who never even spooks, lost his marbles. He went from zero to three hundred in a nano-second. He was violently attacked by a huge amount of cholla in his hind right leg. The little horse went to bucking and flying around, trying to escape the excruciating pain he was in. I couldn't control him, and with a cliff coming up, I decided to bail. My choice to land in was rocks and cholla, or rock and cholla. I opted for the rocks and cholla. I dropped my stirrups trying to "plan" my dismount, but, with all the bucking, I just got launched rather indignantly. But it was ok, because I used my head as a brake, as my helmet skidded about three feet in the rocks, after my body landed in a cholla. I landed on my right hip and elbow. Turns out, my helmet had deep etched scratches and a crack. That would have been my skull. To all you who think helmet are for sissies, I really wish you would reconsider....I couldn't move for about ten minutes. The girls were able to catch Santana (who didn't go anywhere really, once I came off, he came looking for me. I thought he was going to run me over...) and worked at getting the cholla out of him. Vickey said it was quiet deep in him , and his entire leg was covered in it on the backside, from his hock down to the ground. He must have had it in his tail, and he swatted himself hard with it, and that was that. Poor guy, was scared to death. He settled down fast though. After about ten minutes, I was able to stand. I held on to Tommy, but was feeling light-headed, and Suzie said I looked pale. I opted to sit down and wait a few more minutes. My hip hurt really, really bad. Thanks god I had my helmet on, or it would have been a helicopter ride out of there for me. I "watered the bushes" to check for internal bleeding, and there wasn't any blood in my urine. I startind to work at getting the cholla out of my hands arm and right thigh. The one funny picture above is of my right hand, cholla-style, the day after...) I put duck tape over my thigh, as it was in my jeans too, so, it just kept poking me. The duck tape worked. After about 30 minutes, Idecided I was able to walk out, but didn't think I could get on a horse. My hip hurt too much. To go back the way we came would have been hell. The terrain was really rough, and hills were very painfiul. I looked at my GPS, and it told me if we kept going the direction we had been going, ther ewas very, very little terrain change, AND, a service road of some sort was close by. I knew that that raod would get us back around to the San Tan trail, and to another service road, and back to the main parking lot. Vickey had called Jon and he was bringing their truck and trailer to meet us there so we could "horse Taxi" back to our trailerson the other side. Suzie mounted up on Tommy the Girraffe, as she could scout out that road my GPS said was up ahead, to keep me from doing any unnessecary and painful backtracking and extra walking. Vickey walked Dakota with me and Santana, and she had to help me up the only two litt;e hills there were till we hit that service road. We walked that road a while, and then saw a brown and white park sign (big sigh of relief) that labled the San Tan trail. I knew EXACTLY where we were then, which was a nice feeling. We hiked about three miles back to the main trail head. Jon played taxi , and we all got home safe and sound. Vickey saved my bacon that day and night, dringin me to get xrays (nothing broken) and to work that night. She's a keeper, alright.

It may sound like a bad day, but really it was a TON of fun.... until I hit the ground....but I can't wait till I am al healed and able to go out and try that AGAIN!!!! (the trail, not the bailing off part!)

Friday, January 29, 2010

jusr another beautiful day...

So today Vickey and I headed back out to ride. No agenda, just a ride. Jon lost his hatband running around the desert on Tuesday, so he came to go back out and retrace our route from Tuesday to find it. So he went one way, and we went another.

The horses were good. We got to the area where all those coyotes were a couple days before, and Dakota (who was leading) was being VERY cautious. He remembered. And he was gonna be really careful not to get eaten. But, we didn't see anybody.

We ended up doing a longer loop on account of it was such a nice day. We did 10 miles, and, we did it "backwards" from the way we normally do it. IT is amazing how it looks like a completely different trail when you go the other way around. In one section, back in the back, there was a big area that had lots of freshly uprooted trees. Big trees. WE think a micro-burst, or the 80MPH winds we had the previous week, must have taken all of them out. Shame, too. Big trees and cactus just turned over in place. At least we only saw a couple of Saguaro that got killed. Those dudes are TOUGH. Amazing, as their root system is only about 8 inches long.

Santana was pretty good. I had to get after him to walk off faster when he took the lead. I can feel him wanting to gait, but not quite sure how to put it all together. We attend a LArry Whitesell clinic in MArch, which should be invaluable to both of us in that endeavor.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

what an adventure!

So, this morning we set out again, trying to figure out this trail that the park manager had inked in on a trail map. Vickey's hubby Jon was able to join us this time. He was jealous of our adventure the day before. That, or he didn't trust the two of us to stay out of trouble. And, trouble did find us.

We set off on the quickest trail to get us back to the starting point of "working backwards" to the elusive proposed trail in the back of the park. This took us on a well travelled, popular trail that goes between two small mountains. It was an overcast, cool, kind of creepy morning. On our way, I saw two coyotes run across the trail. Vickey saw them too. then, seconds later, we saw two MORE run across. Out came the cameras, we love getting pictures of these critters. Well, whodathunk, after four coyotes were spotted, a pack of eight more ran across, very close to us. Dakota, who was in front (Santana WAS leading most of the way, but then decided, just before the first coyote sighting, he wanted Dakota to go first.....hmmmm. Wonder why? Send the white horse first!) decided he should turn around and go back away from the coyotes. Vickey was busy playing Ansel Adams, and, lost her balance and came off Dakota. (who was a good boy and stood there looking at her like, "what are you doing down there? There are wild animals here, get on and lets get OUT of here..!" She was fine, it was a slow motion fall. She did end up with cholla on the back of her coat, but fortunately it didn't go through to her skin. I got my leatherman out and pkucked her back. By this time Jon caught up, and he luckily he didn't see her fall, or the comments would have been flying! By the way, Santana didn't react at all to Dakota's reaction and Vickey's fall. This boy is a keeper. We all saddled back up again, the coyotes seemed to be circling us. I did have my Glock on my hip, but, was hoping I wouldn't actually need to use it. Yeegads! The horses moved on down the trail, VERY cautiously. We were after all, still surrounded by at least 12 coyotes. There had to be fresh kill on the ground. Not too far ahead was a hiker and his dog. While we spoke to him, a biker came through as well. We warned both of what was ahead, and we stared back on our mission. Not a couple minutes later, the loudest ruckus I have EVER heard in the desert. The coyotes were all howling and barking and carrying on. I think the hiker and his dog got to them, and the coyotes were threatened by the dog thinking it was gonna get their kill, or, there were two pack of coyotes fighting over the kill. We waited for a few. And, being brave, decided since we didn't hear any screaming, that the hiker, dog, and biker made it through ok. WE kept going. After a mile or so, the horses "calmed" down meaning they weren't looking for predators. They never spooked or anything, they were just walking very cautiously. But then they got out of scent's way. amd we were back on task. The skies cleared and the sun was out. I found the point marked on the map called "The Gap." This used to be my favorite lunch spot, before the parked closed it off. But, we had our Golden Ticket's, and could go where ever we wanted. And I needed this spot to try and see the proposed trail that would take us all the way to the back of the park. I saw what I needed to, and we were off. Sure enough, after a couple of miles in a wash (with more paw prints...) we ended up at the back fence line, and found the gate marked. We saw the house that we went behind yesterday, and, we were right. The only through there would be to cross that ravine (Snowy River) . We were in the right spot yesterday. IT is just impassable right now. Bulldosers could make it accessable, but I doubt the county will want to put that kind of money into it. But thats why we werethere. To ride these proposed areas and report back with our findings. Jon marked several waypoints and coordinates on his GPS, and, we headed back. Our mission was accomplished! We started back, and took a brief lunch break. We ate, then headed the rest of the way back to the trailer. It was a really fun day.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Golden Ticket!

So, today was an awesome day. Vickey is involved in everything in Queen Creek, it seems. She has been asked to attend meetings regarding our San Tan Park, and give input. Well, she was asked by the park manager to ride some proposed trails in the park, according to a map he had made, and give him feedback on the proposals. And, lucky for me, she invited me to go along!!
So, the bus picked Vickey and Dakota at 9am, and with our "Golden Ticket" in hand (the map of proposed trails) off we went. We were so excitd, because this gave us permission to bushwack, and basically go willy-nilly throughout the prk. This was a top secret covert mission. Even the park hosts didn't know anything about the proposed trails. We went back to the very back entrance to try and find and follow the trails he had proposed back there. We had gotten a lot of rain, and the bushwhacking was slow going. It was very rocky too. WE saw on the map that we needed to get around Rock Peak. There was a house there as well, but, we knew the house couldn't be IN the park. We finally found a very nicely groomed path, linedwith rocks on each side, that went towards the house. It looked like we were going up the driveway, and we really didn't want to get shot for trespassing, but, we knew it was IN the park, and couldn't be private property. I thought Dakota should go first since he is white, and white is the universal symbol for peace and surrender...... Sure enough, it took us up around behind the house. It was really rocky now, and, in order to continue on to where the map said we should be, we would have had to do a re-enactment from the "The Man From Snowy River." There was quite a steep ravine there and, the footing was really bad. I decided at this point, that the Park manager must have just used an Etch-a-sketch to draw the proposed trails in. It was too dangerous to go on, so we turned around and went back to the trailer. Santana's feet were soft from all the rain and lack of anywhere dry (besides his stall) to stand. The rocks were a little hard on him, and he was being VERY careful. But through all that bushwacking and the very hard work asked of him, he acted like a seasoned 15 year old horse. Such a good boy. His feet held up quite well despite being soft from the rain, and we were traveling through and over boulders.
We left that trailhead, and went back to our usual trailhead to check out some other proposed trails. These were more "familiar" as they were trals we all used to ride before they closed them off. We set off again, following more familiar trails that we had ridden, but not in years due to the park closing them off. But it was so nice to be out there, where nobody else had been in a long time. It was quiet and peaceful. We had such a great time, and it was geting late, so, we headed back to the trailer. I told Vickey I was SURE I could find that silly trail that ended in Snowy RIver fashion if we hit it from the other side first, and went backwards..... she was game, so we planned to head out again tomorrow. Stay tuned....

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

weather woes...?

Build an ark.

If I had been listening to the fine folks who forecast the weather, I would have built an ark in preparation for this week's weather starting yesterday, Monday. There are/were three huge storms, that were to bring us massive rains and massive flooding. Our first storm was supposed to hit yesterday. It was a little overcast, and there were a few light showers, but, I didn't see animals coming in two-by-two anywhere. I could have ridden, but was scared off by the weather reports. I didn't want to get caught back in a wash when a flash flood came through. Silly me, I shouldn't have listened to the weather folks on TV. This morning, the second storm was due in. But, it was sunny and wonderful at 8am, so, Suzie and I met at the San Tans to ride. We set off on a shorter route, but decided it was soooo nice to go and take a longer back-trail loop to make a ten mile ride out of it. It was super windy though, and the horses, who hadn't been out in five days, were a little fresh. Not naughty fresh, but, ears pricked forward at every little thing , and all the strange noises the wind was resonating. But it was a beautiful ride, and we figure it will be the only ride we get in until next week, because the really big storm is due in on Thursday and Friday.... It did start to cloud up by the time we got back to the trailer, and, at 6pm, as I type this, it is raining......maybe the weather folks sometimes know what they are talking about....maybe.

(the picture is of Tommy working in the San Tans..)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Another field trip

I had always wanted to go on some "field trips." Exploring places I had heard about but never been to. Suzy and Tommy are willing participants, so, we decided to go to the Spur Cross Conservation area. This is about two hours north of me. I had heard that it was very pretty up there.

"The bus" picked up Tommy and Suzie at 9am and we were off on out adventure. It took us two hours to get there, but it was worth the drive. It was very pretty. This was part of the county park system, so my annual parks pass was good here too. It was a Tuesday, and a beautiful day. We were the only trailer there. Hmmm. wonder why.

It didn't take us long to figure out why. Two words. Rocky and elevation gain. Ok, that was three words. We started out on the trail and almost immediately had a water crossing. Santana thought it might be easier to drink the level of the water down first, then cross. We crossed the creek, and then started a very long, steep, rocky ascent. The horses were working hard, and I wished I had put boots on Santana. I mean, I know he has great feet, but this was ridiculous. Once we climbed that. There was another ascent. and another, and another. The view was gorgeous. The horses were huffing and puffing. We had a map of the trails with us, and headed for a loop marked for horses. We started down it, but decided to turn around shortly into it. It was really only suitable for hikers, and maybe mules. Tommy wasn't used to this kind of thing, and I was worried about Punkalicious's feet. The way back was a little easier as it was almost all downhill. But still rocky, and loose rocks at that. We rode for a total of about two hours before getting back to the trailer. With a two hour ride home, and wanting to avoid rush hour traffic, it was a full day.

Silly cowhorses, cactci are not meant to be eaten...

So, we went on another group ride, this time with only six horses, as opposed to the 16 we went out with on Santana's very first group ride... Two of the riders were cowboys; ropers to be specific Cowhorses are used to working only in arenas...not so much out on the trail. Santana led the way. He was walking right on out at about a 3.5mph walk. The much bigger horses weren't keeping up very well. At one point, I saw a horse coming up behind us, without a rider... hmmm. I stop and look behind me and see one of the cowboys on t he ground. Vickey had to go and fetch his horse. Silly horse decided to reach out and grab a chunk of cholla, which is NASTY cactus. (See picture above) She grabbed, and then she bucked in protest to the cactus sticking to her muzzle. Ouch. We girls had our leatherman tools with pliers handy, and the cowboy was able to get all the cholla out. The rest of the ride was uneventful. Santana likes to walk out, and I can no longer stick him behind these slower horses and make him plod along. He will not develop the muscles he needs to gait by plodding along.

I know, its been a while...

Yep. Its been a while since I've posted. Not because we haven't been out riding, we have. I've just been REALLY busy with work too, so, getting on the computer has been almost non-existant.

Ok, so I'll update you all on a couple of rides we've done recently......

Friday, January 1, 2010

Another first, First group ride

Well, yesterday was Punkalicious's first ever group ride. He had never been out with more than two other horses before. This was the third annual "Circle your Wagons" ride put on by a friend of mine. This year, it was out half way to Yuma, I think, in the MAricopa Wilderness area. Which, is 20 miles past Maricopa, by the way...
Thankfully, Vicki and Dakota were able to go with me. This turned out to be HUGE for me, or I don't think I would have gotten through the day. I picked them up at 7am (ugh, after not getting home from work the night before until about 11pm...) After about an hour and a half, we foundsigns that brought us into the parking area. About the parking area.... we were about 50 feet from a VERy active fright train track. About every 20 minutes, a BIG train would go through. Not the best place for horse parking...Santana wasn't too sure about these very loud things at first. HE danced around a bit, but never blew up. Once everyone arrived, we took off on out ride. Santana was fresh, and raring to go. I was very unsure obout this, there were about 16 horses, and he was certain that he needed to lead the ride. I was certain that he did NOT need to lead the ride, and hence, we had a differing of opinions. Thank goodness for Vicki. She kept me calm and talked me through the first few minutes; minutes that I thought I might not survive. I don't have any experience with this situation. But he never was dangerous, no threat of bucking or rearing, he just wanted to GO. We had to go through a tunnel, under the RR tracks to continue on the ride. Everyone had to dismount as this was only about 7 feet tall. He had no issues with the tunnel. He just wanted to go. I was told this was a "crushed granite" trail. It was very rocky. Another chance to test his bare feet.
Anyway, we all re-mounted once throught he tunnel, and we were off. I had to keep zig--zagging Santana across the trail to let him "go" with out letting him have his way of passing everyone. This was the conpromise we made. He did a lot of trotting, but never tired. The trains kept passing through, as we were riding parellel to the tracks. He did very well, and we did a ten mile ride. The trail was very flat, nothing challenging except the trains! After we got back, we had a little cook-out at the trail head with the folks on the ride. IT was a fun day.