Sunday, March 15, 2009

Virginia City St. Patrick's Day Parade

We went to our first parade with Sugar.  It was in my favorite city, Virginia City, NV.  Virginia City is an historic city filled with lots of shopping, historic places, and, of course, ghosts.  Millions and millions of dollars worth of gold and silver was mined here in it's heyday.  And thousands of people died underground in the mines, as well as above ground it the many bars and brothels that abounded during it's heyday.  

The parade coincided with the Mountain Oyster Festival.  While I'm not inclined to eat any testicles, be they sheep, pig, or beef, the aroma of them cooking smelled good and tempting - but not tempting enough to actually eat them!

When we arrive in Virginia City, we decided to park at the end of the Parade Route.  We had the entire parking lot to ourselves to decorate the carts and the horses prior to setting out for the beginning of the parade.  We had an uphill climb after leaving the parking lot for the parade line-up.  This gave our horses a chance to expend some of their energy and excitement prior to the parade.  Sugar was so worn out from the uphill climb, she stood and snoozed for the hour prior to the parade even with flags flapping in her face from the entrant in front of us.  She was so calm through out the entire Parade, that I suspect she has been in parades before.  The ONLY thing she looked at was the first manhole cover we passed, and the rest she barely noticed.

Pictures from the day can be seen here:

Sugar was so good, I am hooked on mini's and can't wait for our next parade!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

WHAT? ANOTHER HORSE? Are you crazy?

Guess I am, crazy, that is, because get another horse is exactly what I did.  Not just any horse, mind you, but a miniature horse, trained to drive.  I got her at Bruce's urging, if you can believe that!  You see, Bruce likes to play Santa at Christmas.  This past Christmas, while Bruce was playing Santa for the hospital employees' children, friends of mine (who work in the Lab at the hospital) brought their miniature horses and gave cart rides in the parking lot, and one miniature was inside the hospital getting pics with Santa and the children.  I was working late, and went down to see Bruce as Santa, and, of course, I had to go outside and see the mini's all hooked up to their carts.  Well, my friend, Lisa, forced - yes - FORCED me to take one of the mini's for a spin around the parking lot.  That was all it took - I was hooked!  What made it even better, is Bruce/Santa came out to get a pic in the cart, and he even took the mini for a drive - and enjoyed it!  So we figured Santa would need his own little mini to come and visit the children next year.  After all, the reindeer have to stay at the North Pole until Christmas Eve!

I didn't need much urging to start horse shopping!  There is nothing better than horse or tack shopping, you see.  I had definate  ideas on what I wanted, though.  First, it had to be cart broke - I don't want to have to train anything else around here!  Second, it needed to be a larger mini - over 32" at the withers - since it would have to cart Santa/Bruce around.  I quickly found several on Dream Horse, and my favorite was Sugar, who came complete with her harness and cart.  Here is a pic of Sugar from her sale page:

What could be better for Santa than a pure white horse?  What was even better, is that Sugar was in Half Moon Bay, California, just a few miles down the road from where Lisa grew up.  PLUS, her mother still lived there, so we could stay overnight at her house when we went to get Sugar.  So, Lisa and her daughter, Leann, and I took a weekend and made a road trip to Pacifica, California.  I drove my truck and trailer over the Pass to Sacramento, where Lisa took over and drove the rest of the way.  She not only knew where she was going, she was used to driving a horse trailer in the crazy traffic outside of San Francisco.  Here is a video of our drive on the outskirts of San Francisco:

After arriving at Lisa's mother's house in Pacifica, we went sightseeing, riding the Pacific Coast Hiway in her mother's convertible BMW.  Yes, it was mid-January and we had the top down!

The next morning, we drove an hour down the Pacific Coast Highway to where Sugar was located.  They were at the top of a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  While beautiful, there was no place to ride, and I was missing my desert.  Anyway, Sugar's cart had a wheel problem, and it had one good tire, and the other was only on the rim.  So, there was no way I could test drive Sugar on a rim.  However, Leann was small enough that she probably wouldn't ruin the rim if she rode in the cart.  So, Lisa did a bit of ground driving Sugar first, then allowed Leann to drive her.  Leann did a great job of putting Sugar thru her paces with Lisa giving directions.  Then, Lisa deemed Sugar safe for me!  Here is the video of Sugar's test drive:

We loaded Sugar in the trailer and headed home!  I was now a mini owner.  Lisa drove most of the way, thank goodness, as I didn't know where I was going and Lisa had more experience driving a horse trailer in all that traffic.  Here is a little video of coming back over Donner Pass on I-80:
The road is worse than it looks.  I also find it amusing that just the day before on the coast, we were riding in a convertible with the top down!

Stay tuned for mini adventures!

Saturday, November 22, 2008


These pics open myself up for ridicule, but I feel it is important to realize that there are bumps in the road, and those bumps can be overcome. Bolting is a bump!

And we continue on with our trotting. The important thing is to continue like nothing has happened. Did I smack him in the mouth with the bit? Of course, he caught me by surprise, but he will learn that bolting is uncomfortable, and being a calm, relaxed horse is easier.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Progress with Andi

Andi is my Icelandic gelding. He is almost 6, and I've had him since he was 11 months old. He started his saddle training one year ago with a trainer that I trust. Andi has always been a horse prone to panic and bolting. I know there are those that disagree with me, but I firmly believe this panic/bolting behavior is bred into the Icelandic for the "showiness" in the competition ring. Not all Icelandics are like this, but there are enough in a breed that has low numbers to have it be a concern to breeders. Some bolting in the Icelandic are due to poor saddle fit and training. But there are still enough horses out there like Andi who have had good, kind, training, and proper fitting tack that it is time for the breeders to get their head out of the sand.

Andi's panic and bolting came out to the extreme this past summer as I was attempting to train Andi to a harness and a cart. He got the nickname "little yellow freight train" after bolting thru a 16' pipe corral gate in a panic. After more training, Andi proved he did not have the correct temperment for a driving horse, and I saw that I really had to get a handle on his panic behavior and re-train his mind. Some horse trainers say to control the mind you have to control the
feet. I disagree. I think that to control the feet, you have to control the mind. I use clicker training to control the mind. This type of training is based on 100% positive training and no punishment. Wrong behaviors are ignored, and correct behavior is rewarded. This gives you a horse who wants to work for you, work with you, and wants to please you. After all, a horse is a prey animal, and to a prey animal, punishment means he is going to get eaten.

In the past, I have refrained from lunging Andi because he lunges in panic mode, and goes faster and faster until he is in a blind panic. Well, this then was the perfect place to start. I started just walking and whoaing. Andi got clicked and treated for nice, calm walks, and smooth transitions from whoa to walk. From there we progressed to calm trots. It took a lot of time, patience, and carrots to get a calm trot on the lunge. Today was the first day I asked for a canter on the lunge. I set my camera on the fence and filmed part of our session:

Andi and I are progressing quite well. Andi is learning that speed does not mean he has to run for his life, and I am learning to trust him more. Andi is the type of horse who can read your mind. Since he is so overly sensitive, I owe it to Andi to become a better rider, so I've also been taking equitation lessons on Andi, and we are improving as a team. We have come a long way, and we still have a long way to go. Here are a couple of pics from my last lesson:

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Andi gets his winter haircut

Andi has gotten the thickest winter coat already, and it's only the first week in November. Since a horse grows it's winter coat based on the amount of daylight, and not the cold, he is WAAAAY overdressed for our 60 and 70 degree weather. I had done a lousy clip job on him last year. I say lousy because while I own clippers, they are not heavy duty clippers. So I asked my friend and neighbor, Sharon, to clip him for me and she agreed. Here is the outcome:

Sharon did a beautiful job! Lucky for me, she used to clip for competition horses, so her being a clip perfectionist just makes Andi look all the more sexy in his new haircut! And now, he doesn't get so overheated and soaking wet when he gets ridden. By the time the bitter cold nights of January and February get here, the clipped areas will have grown in enough to keep him warm.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

High Desert Classic Endurance Ride

Whisper and I went to the High Desert Classic Endurance Ride with the intention of doing Saturday's 30 mile Limited Distance Ride. Ride Camp was located at the Boy Scout Camp at Fort Churchill on the Carson River. We have been to this camp many times for trail trials, trail rides, and this was Whisper's first camping trip over 2 years ago. Whisper and I got to camp by 1pm on Friday afternoon, and we got a nice choice spot that would provide Whisper shade no matter the time of day. I don't go out in the camper much by myself, so was quite proud for getting set up, the propane turned on, and the hot water heater turned on by myself. Here is Whisper settled in quite nicely in camp:

She even looks ready for a nap here! Luckily, Whisper is a very good camper and is content to be tied to the trailer. She has plenty of room to move around, and would be able to lay down if she desired. Of course, having a full hay bag in front of her at all times helps! Under her number on her hip, I placed a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon. This is October which is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, after all!

My friend, Jaimie, was due to arrive before dinner. She was going to help me and be my crew. She also used to do a lot of endurance rides, and was going to help me find someone safe and sane to ride with the next day.
5:00 AM Saturday morning, I got up, got Whisper a new bag of hay, started up the generator and put on a pot of coffee. The 50 miler's started at 7:00 AM, and we 30 miler's were to start at 8:00 AM. I got Whisper booted up in her Easyboot Epics, tacked up and was mounted at 7:30. Whisper was cool as a cucumber - and this was only her second ride! We wandered over to where my ride partners were, Peggy and her granddaughter, Brittany, and they weren't quite ready so we wandered around camp a bit. I was joking with Whisper to "calm down" because if she was any calmer, she would have been asleep. I was quite pleased by her demeaner! It's way easier to hop up a horse than it is to calm one down! Finally, we headed out to where the starting line was, and started out about 8:20 since we wanted the "hot shoes" to get a good chance to get out of sight of our horses. To get to the start, we had to ride a trail parallel to the highway before we crossed over it. Whisper had never been that close to fast moving traffic before, and had never seen an 18 wheeler, let alone one going 65mph. She acted as tho she had seen traffic daily! What a good girl! The ride to the vet check was close to 16 miles, and we went up and down hills, over a railroad track, paralled the railroad for several miles (all the while I was praying no train would go by) and about 2 1/2 miles from the vet check, Whisper had a good trip, but recovered, but then slung her head back at me several times. This did not bode well. I did take a couple of pics while we stopped and Peggy opend and then closed a gate for up. Peggy is dismounted, and I also got a good pic of Brittany on her 1/2 mustang. The last pic is Princess Whisper.
Once at the vet check, Whisper trotted out for the vet (the famous "Duck") and he said to go remove Whisper's boots and come back because she seemed "off". We were both hoping that there was a rock in her boots. No such luck. Evidentally, there was a rock on the trail with Whisper's name on it, and her ride was done. We got a trailer ride back to camp on the ambulance trailer with another horse, a 50 miler, that had a rock on the trail with her name on it! Oh well, that's part of the heartbreak of an Endurance ride. When we got back to camp, I found another vet who verified which foot was bothering Whisper with the hoof testers. He did find an increase in the pulse to that hoof, but no swelling, so he recommended at least a week off. Whisper had on boots with pads, and even if she had on shoes with pads, that same rock may have found her. Here is a link to our trail that was downloaded from my Garmin 305 GPS with heartrate moniter:
If you go to the map, then click satellite, then below the map, click google earth, you can zoom in and see the trail. This is a really cool feature of the Garmin 305.
Peggy and Brittany finished in time and got their completions! I may not have gotten a completion, but I met new friends and had a great time doing it! That's why the sport of Endurance is so much fun! The people are the best anywhere! We stayed for dinner and the awards ceremony and enjoyed a good night's sleep in the camper before packing up and heading home at around 10:00 AM Sunday morning. By then, Whisper didn't seem owey on her foot at all just walking around camp. Now we have all winter to get her feet in condition along with the rest of her!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Where did the Summer go???

Here I am sitting in my hotel room in Hawthorne at my second job, looking at the mountains with a dusting of snow, 23 days left until the most historic Presidential Election, wondering, "Where on earth did the summer go?" And, oh my goodness, I havn't written in my blog since July 12? Lazy, lazy, lazy...well, not really, more like busy, busy, busy. So, what's been happening since then? Well...

I have been riding Whisper regularly with my friend down the street, Sharon. Sharon is a 3 Day Eventer, so conditioning her horse is simular to Whisper's conditioning for Endurance. With one BIG exception - Sharon would like to do canters and gallops, and Whisper does these annoying "whoohoo" bucks when I ask her for speed, and since I would rather not get launched off my horse at 18mph, I tend to keep the speeds down. We are cantering on a regular basis, just not fast enough for Sharon's horse, Phynn, to get in a good canter gait as his stride is so much bigger than Whisper's. At least riding with Sharon is pushing my envelope and making me do things I have been afraid to do in the past.

With my rides on Whisper getting longer and faster, Mom just didn't have the ability to keep up, so Raven now has a job! After getting ridden maybe 6 times in the past 2 years, Raven is now the "mom horse". Of course, since she is fat and out of shape, Mom has had to slow down and shorten her rides for me and Raven. Raven is enjoying her job, and now winnies at me when I go out and get a horse. Raven and Whisper vie for who is going to go first.

Andi got a break from riding as I had been concentrating on training him to pull a cart. I went to a couple of clinics with him, and he freaked out over wearing blinders and went crashing thru a 16' pipe corral gate going full speed. I worked with him another 6 weeks, but I just don't think I want to put in the time to make him a driving horse. So I will begin riding him again after next weekend.

What happens next weekend, you ask? Well, Whisper and I have a 30 mile Endurance ride out at Fort Churchill. Even tho it has been snow flurries all this weekend, next weekend it is supposed to be in the 70's, so it should be perfect for an Endurance ride. She will be wearing her new saddle, a Specialized which I am able to tweak and fit perfectly to her back. She will also be wearing Easyboot Epics on all 4 hooves instead of shoes. So I will be able to see if I have everything "tweaked" correctly after doing 30 miles in 7 hours.

Bruce and I went on a camping trip in September. Bruce ended up inviting his department at work to meet us there, and we all had a great time. With disel prices pushing $5/gal. we stayed fairly close to home and went to Berlin-Ichthiasaur State Park about 90 miles away. Here is a slideshow I put together of our trip:

Last weekend, we took the Amtrak from Reno to Truckee. The train follows the Truckee river and stops just short of Donner Pass. It was breathtaking and !cheap! at $23 round trip per person. The train ride was just over an hour, and not nearly long enough, so in January or February, we will take the train on over to Sacramento and spend the night and return the next day. It should be beautiful going over the Sierra's in the snow and I am looking forward to it! Here is a slideshow I made of the train ride:

Well, that's the quick catch up! Hopefully I will have a successful Endurance ride to write about after next weekend!