Thursday, October 31, 2013

Annual Embarrass-A-Pony Day

Or, "Happy Halloween."

I have many a fond memory of the October POA shows and annual costume classes, in which my creativity usually overrode common sense and my pony's good nature was put to the test.

Mimi escaped humiliation this year as I got the decorating urges out of my system this past weekend at the Bill Thornburgh ride with Kaity and her ponies. Kaity supplied the decorations and the ponies; I supplied myself (and my tights).

witch hat tied to his headstall, and little mini-hats clipped to
his mane braids

rear-guard decoration featuring glittery spider
and metallic skull-and-bat garland

thoroughly festooned in seasonal orange

Kaity *almost* has me beat in the "all things orange"

Monday, October 7, 2013

best-laid plans

"No ride plan ever survives first contact with reality."

It's a Monday morning, and I'm insufficiently caffeinated to come up with a witty title about best-laid plans going awry and whatnot.

When we last left off, I was getting ready to go to Man Against Horse to ride the 25 on Liberty. Well, long story short: See above about "best laid plans going awry." I didn't end up going to the ride, which is a bummer, but part of endurance riding is the ability to be flexible and willing to have plans change at the last minute.

And after yesterday, I am now harboring suspicions that my pony got wind of my plans and jinxed me so that she would have the chance to go out and ride.

And ride we did!

Angie came down and fetched me again, and we went off to Usery Mountain Park. Mimi was super-happy to be out again and has decided Angie's gelding Patrick is no longer "babysitting charge" but rather "newest and bestest boyfriend" material. 

Normally extremely territorial about her precious space bubble -- and woe to any horse who dares even look at her food -- she was letting Patrick nuzzle on her, share food out of the same hay net, and in general act like a dopey, lovestruck teenager.

It was hilarious, and slightly disturbing -- but better than the alternative of seeing her "hellbitch" face.

the equine equivalent of whispering sweet nothings

It was a perfect day to be out -- breezy, temps in about the 80s, clear skies. The park was surprisingly un-busy -- I'd figured on having to fend off tons of other trail users since it's a popular place, especially on weekends. I think we encountered maybe half a dozen other people out there. Go figure. 

a nice clear section of trail
The worst part about Usery is the prolific amounts of cholla that grow not only ridiculously large, but very close together -- cholla groves, so to speak. One of these days I will remember to actually pull out my camera and get photos of said impressive cholla groves, but for now, take my word for it -- this isn't an area for horses with questionable steering. A clear grasp on right and left is a very good idea, and leg yielding even more of a plus.

And since even the best horses can't always avoid the vegetation that bites back, carrying a "desert survival kit" is a saddle pack essential. It can be tough to pull those cholla bobble out -- you grab them and they just stick to you. Easiest way to get them off to to flick them off somehow -- my weapon of choice is a mane comb that you slide between body and bobble and flick it away. Other people I know carry hemostats, pliers, or even a dinner fork. Cholla are also one of the main reasons I ride with half chaps.

which way?

The Usery trails tend to be shorter mileage, but they interconnect in such a way that its easy to end up with a decent mileage ride. In our case, we pretty much did a loop around the southern perimeter for a total of about 10 miles.

twin cactus

And the footing tends to be a mixed bag. Parts of the trails are super-smooth and very barefoot-friendly.

leaving cool hoof boot tread impressions

And then other sections are quite rough and rocky, necessitating a slow-down in pace, and hoof-protection for the more tender-footed.

enough rocks to make them watch their feet

By the time we were done, Mimi was revved up and ready for more. Her oncoming winter coat had her rather sweaty, but she was bright-eyed and bouncing back at the trailer, including completely forgetting all of her ground manners and trying to run off with me when I did a post-ride in-hand trout out. Gold star for enthusiasm, minus ten gold stars for demonstrating complete lack of grey matter between the ears.

But look at this happy face:

Go Pony loves to go

Despite my normal insistent on excellent ground manners, I couldn't even get mad at her...I was too busy laughing at her enthusiasm. You wouldn't know she's 20 years old...not when we had moments when I was threatening her with a running martingale, or being absurdly grateful for grippy reins when she thought "canter" meant "blast back to the trailer."

Conventional wisdom says, "20? That's kind of getting old for a horse..." and then I remember Snappy was still doing all day long shows and lessons (including gymkhana and low jumps) well into his mid-20s, and didn't go on "lesson lite" duty until he hit his late 20s/early 30s. He too was a half-Quarter Horse POA with a work ethic the size of the western half of the States. So based on that, I should have some good years left with Mimi. Even if we never do a competition again, she's far from being done as a trail horse who is safe, (mostly) sane, and just a flat-out blast to ride.

After all, what's a Go Pony to do but go?