Saturday, March 31, 2012

Small thoughts on small things

As I was filling up the baggies of mixed supplements that Blue enjoys twice a day, it suddenly occurred to me: We must have really shiny mice. And they probably have wonderfully limber joints well into old age.

Also have a theory for you: The smaller the animal, the longer the attention span. A fly will buzz around my head all day unless I kill it, but my horse wanders off as soon as the cookies are gone.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


One thing about boarding at a commercial stable—there are a lot more people around to give you guff about your horse's little foibles.

No, actually my new stablemates are too nice for that. But that doesn't mean they haven't noticed that Blue is a terrible influence.

To cause minimal waves in the local herd, Bob turned Blue out with a sweet old thing named Sunny. Sunny is 18 years old, and he is the first horse his young rider has ever owned. Sunny is absolutely the stereotypical "babysitter" senior horse; there isn't a mean bone in his body.

Blue, being a clever mustang, immediately began exploiting the trust everyone had in his pushover of a pasture buddy.

And that is how it was that I arrived out at the stable on Sunday to find my horse tucked into his stall in the middle of the afternoon. It turns out that Blue and Sunny were enjoying being out in the stableyard paddock (basically the awkward space between the the main barn and the arena). This paddock is used for gentle souls like Sunny, who would never dream of disrespecting a fence. One narrow, obscure offshoot between two outbuildings is blocked off with a single band of electric tape 18 inches off the ground. The tape isn't hot because it has never needed to be... until now.

Somebody figured out that he could step—or maybe hop?—over this piece of tape. And then, apparently, somebody else followed him out to do a little sightseeing. And that's how two horses ended up hiding among the Christmas trees on the back 40 and taking an hour to catch. They led Bob, and Sunny's young owner, and Sunny's young owner's beleaguered mom on a merry chase all over the property. The fugitives had just been caught when I arrived, in fact.


But Monday night I went out there feeling confident that the problem would be solved. Surely Bob had found a solution for the escape artist.

Imagine my surprise (and secret glee) when I pulled into the parking lot Monday night and my horse came trotting right up to the truck, followed by Sunny... and also by Echo, and Bob's two little sorrel arabs. As soon as Bob came out of the barn to investigate the commotion, Blue trotted off toward the blackberry bushes, and the whole herd followed him like a bunch of thousand-pound lemmings.

My horse is a trendsetter. Or something.

There really is a part of me that can't wait to see what the old trickster comes up with next. And another part of me that needs to figure out how to contain him in a ride camp this summer. It might finally be time to invest in solid corral panels. It's either that or leave the poor thing tied for two days. Clearly, he doesn't take the hint where electric tape is concerned.

Bob says that Blue has a wanderer's spirit. I can't think of a better personality trait for an endurance horse!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

As the crow flies...

Fun fact: The ridecamp for Foothills of the Cascades is less than 8 miles from where I'm boarding. But if you drive it, it is roughly 1 hour away.

Can I ride it faster than I can drive it? Maybe we'll try it sometime and see!

It gets a little steep in the middle part.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wet Side Story

Western Oregon resembles eastern Washington very, very, VERY little. You cross those mountains (or thunder down that gorge), and basically you’re in a different country. A very rainy country.

And sometimes snowy! Yay.

The West Side (AKA, the Wet Side) is home to people who have adapted perfectly to their environment. Store racks are laden with flannel shirts, cardigans and varying weights of raincoats because, dammit, sensible layering is the only way to win the battle with the weather. For example, on Sunday, we had rain. But we also had a period of warm sun. Then high winds. Then hail. Then rain. Then clear skies and plummeting temperatures. Either you layer, or you invent a self-heating shirt (I’m picturing the girl-on-fire costume in The Hunger Games).

Since I have arrived, I bought three more cardigans and a very spendy pair of muck boots. I would estimate that I wore muck boots in Walla Walla a total of twice a year. Now I wear them Every. Single. Day. I still need a “nice” raincoat for work. (For my birthday, before I left WW, Shana and Heather bought me a light raincoat for riding, but it stays too dirty for public wear… what with all the mud.)

This is the wet side. These people invented grunge. (Can you blame them?) They invented espresso stands and Starbucks because you need regular infusions of hot liquid to combat the cold, ever-gushing liquid from above. Their school playgrounds are covered—a phenomenon that my wet-sider husband finds perfectly normal, but which baffles me.What is the point of going outside to play if there's a roof over your head?

Horsekeeping in a perpetual swamp is a completely new experience for me.

I didn't take any pictures of the first place I boarded. But I kid you not, the mud was over my ankles in all the turnouts. It was slick and squishy and horrible. This new barn has a lot more gravel. It's still muddy but at least you don't sink in.

In Nebraska, we had plenty of precipitation (usually), but the sun and wind tended to burn the puddles off pretty quickly. The horses had free access to an old barn, but they hardly ever went in there when it was wet. They were a lot more likely to go inside on hot days to get into the shade and away from the flies. I didn’t blanket in winter because the horses could go inside if they were cold. And they were wooly. That was fine because I wasn’t interested in riding when it was 20 below outside.

When I moved to Washington, I was introduced to the idea of blanketing in winter for a couple reasons. For one thing, there wasn’t any shelter at Heather’s. Not even trees. For another, the winter weather was milder, so we were riding year-round. The blanket kept the worst of the winter wool away, so you could saddle up and ride without overheating the horse.

Now, on the wet side of Oregon, I still have Blue’s heavy turnout blanket for everyday. But I’ve been informed that I may want to buy a summer-weight rainproof turnout sheet soon because it is getting too warm and wet for a full blanket. 

With Blue’s history of skin problems, this is sure to be an uphill battle.

When in doubt, the answer is C. If you are a fan of the PNER Facebook page, you may have seen my post:
I think I already know the answer, but would you pick A or B?

Boarding option A:
• Full care $200/mo.
• 30-35 mins from home.
• Roughly 3 miles gravel trail on the property, multiple water crossings and lots of elevation in that space.
• Almost unlimited logging roads rideable from property.
• VERY muddy paddocks with hodgepodge fencing.
• 60 ft indoor round pen, no arena
• Owner is kind of old school on horse care. For instance, several of his horses have rain rot, which he says is OK because it always clears up in the summer. No frills here. :)

Boarding option B:
• Full care $375/mo.
• 20-25 mins from home.
• 1 mile of gravel trail on the property, water crossing, but property is pancake flat.
• 5 miles of dirt field roads rideable from property, also flat.
• VERY modern, well-run facility. Everything is clean, automatic, and top of the line.
• Two all-season outdoor arenas, one large indoor arena.
• Owner is very up to date and seems conscientious about supplementation and safety.
My initial boarding place in greater Salem—the place I "landed" when we moved—proved to be inappropriate for an endurance rider. I mean, I guess some intrepid person would find a way to make it work. But I was having a hard time doing anything but a few piddly minutes in a small, crowded arena. And then when I found that an important section of the "trail" I had been promised was paved and slick as snot from moss... well, there's only so much a girl can take.

So I decided to strike out for greener pastures, so to speak. I visited option A and option B a couple days apart. There were things I liked about both of them, but I wasn't sure. Of course, my PNER facebook friends identified my problems with both of them right away on and helped me see that I needed an option C.

And, indeed, that's where I ended up.

Option C is so great. It makes horses faster:

 It makes horses taller:
Meet Blue's new friend, Chance. When I stand next to him, I can't see over his back. His muzzle is literally as big as my head.

 It improves the weather:
Trails as viewed from the bobcat.
It's scenic:

More photos are here.

The inside of the barn is bright and open:
This is just the indoor exercise pen. There's a huge arena off to the right.

Plus there are trails. Five miles of lovely, lightly graveled trails:

Let's just hope the honeymoon lasts!

PS for Shana: There are these decorative metal cutouts all over the property. I thought you'd get a kick out of them :)