Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Packing Yuks

Tuesday January 30 2007

An old horse packer friend of mine named Cricket and I were once talking about some of my packing travails. (Namely, my mule’s saddle pad would slip out from under her loaded saddle every two hours like clockwork, and I’d have to stop, tie up the string, remove her from the string, untie and unpack her load, resaddle her, reload and retie her pack, tie her back in the string, and continue down the trail till the next unscheduled saddle-pad readjustment stop two hours later).

Cricket said, “An old packer I knew once put his head in his hands and told me, ‘Sometimes you just want to sit down and cry.’”

You can practice balancing loads and loading up your pack animals and tying on loads at home, and you can walk your string around their home environment in rehearsal, but the only way to learn how to pack with horses out on the trail is to pack with horses out on the trail, and learn the mistakes along the way, (hopefully with the guidance of experienced packers), and hope you and your horses don’t die.

Had dinner with some horse friends the other night, one of which was Quenby, who with the crewing help of her partner Charlie, horse packed the Pacific Crest Trail a few summers ago. (I’m writing an article on her for Trail Blazer magazine which will be out this summer.)

We shared our inevitable misadventures every packer – the pro and the novice - experiences, which, while at the time of the episodes were not funny at all, but which, in retrospect (since we and the horses survived) were so funny, we were rolling on the table laughing with tears in our eyes. Charlie was laughing so hard he couldn’t get his story out.

Packing is, we concluded, not fun. It’s stressful, it’s not remotely romantic unless the day went perfectly (the odds of that are about 100 to 1) and, come to think of it, the whole endeavor of packing is really just a big pain in the butt. And that’s when you have perfect weather, experienced horses, a known route with no obstacles.

Between the three of us, we’ve survived: slipping and flipping loads, unbalanced loads, stalking cougars, getting stuck and detoured by downed trees, getting lost, having pack animals that are smarter than you are, unloading and reloading heavy packloads (multiple times per day), watching your riding horse run off away from you down the trail (with your whole pack string attached), getting dirty, tired, exhausted, scared, and losing weight till your chaps don’t stay up around your hips anymore, flipping pack horses down mountains (Quenby and Charlie did it twice – the same horse in one day!), and, need I go on.

But still, for me, it’s an addiction. Ask me if I want to take someone on a pack trip (especially with my Forest Service horse buddies), I’ll always say of course!

Packing the PCT one day? I wouldn’t say no.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Curse Lifted...?

Sunday January 21 2007

I took all the precautions I possibly could to humanly help ensure a successful completion in the Fire Mountain ride on Raffiq. (The rest would be up to the Horse Gods.)

Day 3 and 4 of Death Valley, Raffiq’s butt end cramped up at the beginning of the ride, because it was quite cold (he worked out of it Day 3, but ended up turning around on day 4 and not riding), and at Friday night’s pre-ride meeting, the head vet reinforced my concern by warning against cramping rear end muscles on a cold morning. So I rigged Raffiq’s saddle with a butt blanket for the Fire Mountain, and I’d make sure to get him moving around a lot and loosened up before the start of the ride.

Last year, Gretchen said she hadn’t been riding with anybody in particular – Raffiq can ride by himself, but he prefers company – so maybe that contributed to his being unsettled, and to his bolting. So, I hooked up with Jackie and Stan and Bev and Pam at the start. Raffiq really likes Odyssey and especially Fadrika, so he’d be riding with his good buddies, and hopefully be more relaxed. I’d also start with a bridle on, instead of his sidepull, for a little more control.

And, I’d pay attention. When you ride a horse a lot, just like when you’re with a human a lot, you get to know him very well, what he’s thinking, how he’ll adversely react in certain situations. You recognize when these situations might surface and you can be prepared for them. But then, often, because you know him so well, and things have been progressing smoothly, you tend to doze at the wheel. I’ve ridden Raffiq about 700 endurance ride miles, and countless training miles, (I wonder the proportion of those that I’ve zoned out…), so I know him quite well, and so I’d try to stay alert the whole ride.

About 55 riders started the 50-mile ride just before a cold sunrise over the Mojave desert. After a controlled start led by Gloria in her SUV, a group of about 20 fast riders cruised on up the wash, while the rest of the herd took their time strolling out. Raffiq was a little wound up, but I was prepared for the worst he might do at this point (bolt) and with everybody else around us walking or slowly trotting, he quickly calmed down and quit pulling on me. I was a little concerned with him cramping up behind, but with the butt blanket, and with our slow and easy start, I didn’t worry about it any more after 15 minutes.

I really really hate getting up early, but, if I have to be up, there are few things in life better than being part of a herd of horses and riders starting out on a 50-mile ride, trotting along a trail as the sun is coming up. (Especially when you are on a calm horse and the weather is perfect, i.e., no wind!) The riders ahead kicked up fine dust that rose from the desert earth, enveloping silhouetted horses and riders in front of the rising golden sun.

We’d cruised along smoothly for an hour, Raffiq comfortably and happily following along (he often has to lead, so he likes following when he can), when, at a right hand turn on the trail, Odyssey, in the lead, spooked at a can, (a little can!) and parted company with Jackie. Jackie wasn’t hurt, because she landed in sand (and no cactus!), but oh man, it’s just hard to come off a horse. Jackie’s butt pack broke, and while she gathered her belongings and horse and wits back together, humans and horses all took advantage of the break, for a pitstop, scratching itchy horse heads on human shoulders, shedding layers, and tightening cinches.

Regrouped, remounted and back to cruising down the trail, winding around creosote bushes and prickly pear, a few just starting to show some pink spring color, circled by ravens (I think they fly along to check on my raven that rides with me), the carefree miles rolled under our feet till we approached the water stop – the infamous water stop where Raffiq had last year’s notorious bolting episode. In fact I had just finished saying something to Stan about it, when something goosed Raffiq in the butt, and he bolted off the trail! And of course, here I was, riding along blithely, with both hands not firmly on the steering wheel.

I yelped, “Whoa!” and fumbled wildly for the reins; I got a hold of the left one and cranked back, which turned his head left while he was still climbing and leaping forward. My right hand found the right rein and I hauled him back to a stop, thankful, now that we were off the trail, that Raffiq hadn’t found a cholla to fuse with again.

We stopped for water and to snack on the hay hauled up by volunteers, then we got back on the trail. The photographer was there again, and Gretchen had wondered if the photographer had contributed to his spooking last year… here again Raffiq was amped up, trying to run on the heels of the horse in front of him, bolting forward as if something was goosing him in the butt. I hung onto him, and once we cleared that hill, he settled down.

Hmmm, maybe Raffiq coincidentally got a bug up his butt at the same place, or maybe it is something on this particular hilltop that’s got something on his equine psyche.

The trail continued on, winding through the sandy hills, up and down and around Nature’s artfully placed boulders of all shapes and sizes, the horses and riders leaning first one way then the other as the horses zipped left and right. Back down a soft gentle grade to the desert floor, our group sailing along effortlessly at a smooth trot, I was paying attention, with both my hands firmly on the reins, being aware and prepared for the unexpected, when Raffiq suddenly stumbled and all four feet collapsed.

There was a split second there, as Raffiq floundered, where my instincts thought, Are we going down? and I was prepared to bail, (I knew I was leaping off to the right) but before I could get the words “Oh S***!” out, Raffiq had recovered, and we continued trotting along. I don’t know if I’d helped pull him up or not, but he didn’t go down, and I didn’t lose my death grip on the reins.

Loop 1 was 14 miles, loop 2 was 16 miles, another fun trail, much of it cross-country through the desert on trails I hadn’t been before, and back into camp for an hour lunch break.
Raffiq ate for the whole hour, and we headed back out for the third and final 20 mile loop. Bev’s horse had an “inconsistent lameness” at the vet check, and she opted not to continue. Pam had left us, but Connie Hughes had joined us the last loop, so the four of us went out together. Raffiq led the way energetically out of camp… for a block. At that right turn, he was looking at his paddock and his pasture mates, who were standing there looking at him. Raffiq had thought he was going home. I had to wait for my riding partners to make the right turn, and I had to convince Raffiq to follow, told him he’d get to come back home here after we did another 20 mile loop.

A nice slight cool breeze had come up, keeping our horses with their thick winter coats just cool enough to be very comfortable. We took turns leading the way (Jackie stayed on another big spook of Odyssey’s, from a Horse-Eating Boulder lurking behind a creosote bush). When Raffiq took over, I had to hold him back (and I’d switched to the sidepull), because he knew he was headed to the out vet-check near the Trona road, where there was water and hay waiting for him. There was plenty of water along the trail, and hay for snacking at each stop. Plenty of volunteers, radio-check people and water and hay haulers, and one stop with a mounting block for grateful riders with tall horses! (And horses tend to get taller as the ride goes on).
The pace picked up a little heading home for the last time – I had to tuck Raffiq behind the others because he was getting a little too enthusiastic.

We finished the ride at about 4:30, when the sun was hovering above the hills to the west, and the clouds were gathering for a picturesque sunset. Perfect day, perfect weather, and, a successful completion for Raffiq in the Fire Mountain ride!

Of the 55 starters, about 17 were pulled, half of those as a rider option. Tammy Robinson won Best Condition with her horse TR Charutu.

For Raffiq and Gretchen, the Fire Mountain curse probably wasn’t a curse, it was just one of those things. Either way, Gretchen said, “From now on, you can ride Raffiq in the Fire Mountain and I’ll ride another horse!”

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Curse of the Fire Mountain...?

Thursday January 18 2006

I was going to ride Spice in Saturday’s 50-mile Fire Mountain ride, but she’s ever so slightly lame. A week after the last day of the Death Valley ride, where she was pulled for lameness in the left front, she came up lame in her right front leg. Puffiness in the ankle, and tender to poking. Not swelling of a tendon type, but maybe suspensory ligament strain/sprain? Could this be from the ride? Or from running around and tweaking it in her paddock?

I wrapped her leg a few days, gave her bute for a day or two, and gave her another week off. Took her out on a few rides, she seemed fine, felt really strong and wanted to go, didn’t feel off, didn’t look off when I trotted her out (though it’s not that easy to watch and diagnose as you’re running alongside a trotting horse), no puffy ankle, no tenderness.

Until yesterday. The ankle was a little puffy, and she seemed a little tender to flexing that ankle. I had Bev watch me trot her out, and when trotting her in a circle, Bev thought she was slightly off in that right front.

OK, so she’s out of the Fire Mountain. Gretchen and I want to do the 3-day Eastern Mojave Scenic in 4 weeks on Raffiq and Spice, so I’ll give her another couple of weeks off and watch the ankle.

So that leaves me and Raffiq for the Fire Mountain. (Gretchen can’t come down.) Now, Raffiq and Gretchen have attempted the Fire Mountain ride the last 3 years or so, and Raffiq does not have the best record in it. Or, maybe it’s the combination of Raffiq and Gretchen, or maybe it’s just Gretchen isn’t meant to do this ride… we’ll come to some conclusion after the ride on Saturday.

Three years ago I think Gretchen got bucked off of Raffiq in the ride. She may have been bucked off twice, although I think they did complete it. I’ll have to confirm that. Or maybe I don’t want to know.

Two years ago, she had hauled Raffiq down here, and the day before the ride he was tied to a Sky-hook on their trailer, and something spooked him, and he pulled back, and back, and back, and the Velcro connector or snap came apart or broke, flew back and popped him in the lip and he flipped over backwards (at least he was on sand). He ended up with a big fat lip (and feeling very sorry for himself), and it looked too painful to put a bridle on him and ride him the next day. So she turned around and went back home.

Last year, I was riding with some other people, so I only saw Gretchen and Raffiq at the start of the ride. My group rode pretty fast and finished pretty early, but when we got back home, Raffiq was already in his paddock. Hmm, I wondered how he’d finished so fast without ever seeing him pass us. Well. On the first loop, after stopping at a water trough, as they were heading back onto the trail, something spooked Raffiq from behind, and he bolted, took off at a dead run across the desert, dumped Gretchen, and ran off. “He kept going, but I didn’t,” said Gretchen. Gretchen ended up with a skinned face and plenty of bruises (at least it was on sand and no cactus!), and Raffiq had a leg-full of cholla stickers, when they finally caught him. Wicked cactus that is. They had to use pliers to get the stickers out. Gretchen didn’t know if Raffiq got the cholla before he bolted or after. Either way, they didn’t finish.

I’m going to start out Saturday morning with a bit on Raffiq, I’m definitely going to put my seat belt on tight, and I’m crossing my fingers!

Monday, January 8, 2007

Social Butterfly (by Stormy)

Monday January 8 2007

That’s me!

When I started going out for walks with my mom it was kind of fun for the first three days because it’s been a while since she could spend any real quality time with me, and she starting taking me out only a little bit at a time, a little bit further every day, walking around the block one way, walking around the block the other way, walking two blocks the next day… so I never got nervous or anything. I like things so much better when I’m not nervous!

Well then while I was really liking the time my mom was spending with me, I didn’t really want to go out on those walks, because, well, I am a bit lazy, and I don’t like any kind of work any more, because when my mom got me off the racetrack (where she’d been my groom for two years), she told me I was retired. I of course thought she meant I was retired from everything but eating, but apparently she just meant retired from racing. We still haven’t gotten that issue completely settled. So now once in a while when I’m not lame from my navicular I have to get ridden, either in an arena (boo!), or go out in the big world by myself.
I’d just as soon spend quality time with my mom with her standing and just petting (no brushing, I hate brushing) and admiring me and feeding me carrots, like she does when I’m out on the Hunewill Ranch in the summers, but oh no, now I have to get my big lazy butt to work and take her on a ride before I get any carrots. Of course, it’s not a hard ride or anything; all we do is walk, and if we get to a soft path we trot a little, not enough to even make me take a deep breath. But, it’s still work, where I could be back in my pen just being petted!

However, if I have to come clean, it’s really not so bad going out to work, because it’s not like I’m totally working hard, or even really working; every day we get to visit and hang out with somebody who pets me and admires me tells me how beautiful I am, which is pretty cool (because I am).

Every day before we leave my place, Shirley comes out and visits with us for a while, and one day 2 other people keeping a horse at my place visited with us too for a while, (all of them said how handsome I was, to which I fluttered my eyelashes at them and gave them the big moon eyes while looking very modest), then today we went to visit Astrid. Astrid gave me carrots over the winters that I stayed at Jackie’s place when my mom wasn’t around. Astrid thinks I’m beautiful too. Today she took our picture and petted me and tried to bring a black cat to visit me, because I was looking at the cat and wanted to sniff him. I like cats a lot better than dogs, because we had a cool cat Edmund at the racetrack that liked to sleep in my stall. I don’t like dogs because they always jump up and bonk me in the nose. Astrid picked up the cat for me to sniff but I guess I was just too big and beautiful because the cat leaped out of Astrid’s arms in panic scratching Astrid with her claws and hit the fence on the way down and ran off. Oh well, I like white cats better anyway.

And today while walking across this field of creosote bushes and cactus, there were jackrabbits jumping out from under me all over the place as usual (they don’t scare me like they do Raffiq and Spice and those other Arabs), when suddenly here’s this jackrabbit, rocketing towards us. Huh?

I hesitated in my walk just slightly and popped my head up, because this was quite unusual, and what do I see next but a coyote chasing this rabbit at us!

Suddenly the coyote saw us and she checked herself a little bit, like Whoa! Wasn’t expecting a horse out here! The rabbit got away because he ran right in front of my front legs, and the coyote diverted her path away from us. She kept casually loping on past us and looking over her shoulder at us. She’d probably never seen such a beautiful horse like me before!
I also like looking at all the horses that we pass in pens. They like to stop and watch me walk by because I’m beautiful and I like to stop and watch them watch me. Whenever I pass Raffiq’s place, he screams at me and I whinny back. Raffiq and I have lived together a few times. He’s a little guy but he’s always the boss wherever he goes. I haven’t met Spice yet but she’s seen me a few times and I am pretty sure she thinks I’m beautiful too. Today we passed a big herd of mules (I had a mule Brenda for a girlfriend once) in a pen. They were running around like a bunch of foals in springtime, chasing each other, throwing up their heels, nipping and kicking at each other. I watched them a while. I think they were showing off just for me.

And you know, I don’t get nervous at all out on these rides! I just plod along (my mom says I have a big 100-mile walk, but I sure hope I don’t have to carry her 100 miles!) looking at the scenery and birds and rabbits. And you know how a lot of Arabs always spook at flapping plastic bags in the bushes? Well not me, because you never know – there might be carrots in those bags! I always go up to the bags and stick my nose in them and investigate. I haven’t found any carrots yet, but I know that one day one of those bags will have some!

Okay, so I guess going out for easy rides isn’t such a bad thing.

I wonder who we will get to visit next!

Friday, January 5, 2007

Spice is a Dork

Friday January 5 2006

1. The first night at basecamp of the Death Valley ride, after being tied to the trailer for a while, we took Spice and Raffiq on a walk to stretch their legs. Raffiq walked ahead, Spice followed – limping and stiff! I couldn’t believe it. “She’s tied up!” As in, muscle cramps. One might see this from feeding a horse a lot of grain over a few days with no exercise, then taking her out on a hard fast ride without warming up. But – tying up just standing at the trailer for a few hours – what the hell?!

She limped stiffly and crabbily along with her ears pinned behind Raffiq. My visions of riding 4 days of Death Valley came to a sudden end.

Gretchen said, “It’s the blanket.”

I stopped and made sure the blanket was loose enough, not constricting her movements. No, it was loose, and she was still walking very short in front and shorter behind.

I headed straight for the Duck’s trailer. The Duck (the head vet) and Melissa, another vet, were both there when I popped my head in and said, “My horse is tied up! Will you look at her?” They both looked at me like I was nuts. “How can she be tied up? You haven’t even ridden her yet!”

They came out in the dark to look at her; the Duck poked her butt muscles (Spice got mad and kicked at him) to see if they were bunched up, and he had me trot her out. The butt muscles felt normal, and she trotted out pretty normally, and they said “She’s fine” and sent me off still looking at me like I was nuts.

But as soon as we left there, Spice was stiffly hobbling along again. “She’s tied up!” I insisted.

Gretchen said again, “It’s the blanket. She doesn’t like blankets.” I thought Gretchen was full of baloney, because how could that cause Spice to walk like she had a serious medical problem, but, to humor Gretchen who couldn’t be right, I took off Spice’s blanket. I led her off, and she walked like a normal horse! Spice hates blankets so much, she won’t walk right in them! And she did it every time I walked her in a blanket! I started taking the blanket off her when we went on a walk, then putting it on when we got back. Dork!

2. Do you think Spice could walk in a straight line down a trail? No! If you let her have control, she will ping-pong all over a road, one side to the other, like a drunken sailor, walking off the road, back on the road to the other side, walking over the rockiest parts, and of course tripping over every rock in sight. If you correct her and make her walk in a straight line, she will, but she will soon preferably switch back to zig zagging all over the place. Dork!

3. Do you think Spice could carry her body straight down the trail? No! She’ll be going along like a normal horse, then space out (she does this a lot), and her neck will cock slightly to the left (or sometimes the right) and she’ll turn her head up and sideways and make funny faces with her mouth (with or without a bit). Can you envision what this is doing to her spine? We’ll be booking a chiropractor for her soon. You can straighten her up, then a few seconds later she’ll drift back into trotting in the crooked position. Dork!

4. Sometimes, Spice just gets crabby. Maybe it’s just the mare thing, but boy, when she feels like it, she pins her ears at me, say when I’m doing her a favor and checking her legs while she’s eating, or she’ll even pin her ears at Raffiq (who’s her boss) if she’s in a grouchy mood. Dork!

5. Spice eats freshly planted trees that have green dye (hopefully just food coloring) all over them, needles and bark and all, and gives herself a belly ache. Dork!

But, she does like my riding companion Raven.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Stormy Day

Thursday January 4 2007

Yesterday I started working with Stormy again. I may move him over here to where I’m keeping Raffiq and Spice and Buddy, and that will involve walking him over here. Now, most of you probably have horses that will just follow you somewhere or that will be ridden somewhere with no problem.

Stormy’s not like that. Now, he is, as you all know, the Most Beautiful Horse On The Planet, but I will admit, he is not the smartest. He gets terribly insecure when he’s by himself – when you take him away from horses he’s been hanging out with - and if you push his little brain too far, he wigs out, and when he wigs out, he’s scary, because you don’t know if he’s going to blow up, flip over, panic and run, or what.

A few winters ago down here in Ridgecrest, I figured I’d start riding him out like we do the Arabians. Well. The first time we left the security of the back yard and all the horses there, he lost it about 2 blocks from home. His eyes rolled back in his head, his brain shrank to nothing, he fell sideways, reared up, stumbled into creosote bushes, head up in the air, completely unresponsive to me, just lost his marbles. I’ve been on one horse that flipped over, and I managed to end up standing on my feet while the horse fell on his back, and I don’t care to try that again. Even when I got off, Stormy couldn’t completely get it together, was just unreachable till I got him back home.

That’s when I learned, really learned, every horse is different and must be handled differently. Sure, I could have stayed on and kept riding him, and beat him into his senses (well…. maybe), or just hung on and hoped he’d not flip on me and he’d eventually get over it, but, my philosophy is, if you push a horse through something he clearly is not ready to handle, you are damaging him more than helping him, and you could be putting yourself at risk. If a horse gets to the point where he’s just about had too much, and you can back off and retreat right before he reaches it, the next day you can take him a little further before you back off, and the next day you can get a little further. This way, in a few days, HE has gotten to a certain point on his own without stress, instead of in a few days maybe YOU had gotten the horse to the same point with a great deal of stress he may never get over, and you never know how exactly he’s going to react to that anxiety, being a prey animal.

That’s how it worked for Stormy, anyway. I started over with him. The next day we went out, I handwalked him half a block off the property and back, and he wasn’t so nervous. The next day, I handwalked him the other direction a half a block and back, and he was better. Next day, I led him around the whole block. Next day 2 blocks. Next day 2 blocks the other direction. Along the way we’d stop and he’d do his tricks of pivoting on his front end, pivoting on his hind end, backing up, sidepassing – in other words, listening and responding to me. Next day I saddled him up, handwalked him 3 blocks and rode him back the last 2. Next day I saddled him up, handwalked him 2 blocks, rode out another block and back the 3 blocks. It went this way for weeks, always going out just a little bit further, always taking a little different path, and by the end of winter, that silly lazy fat insecure horse of mine was doing our regular 5 mile hill-climbing training loop by himself with no stress. He didn’t whinny for anybody out there, he didn’t get nervous, he didn’t try to run back. It took many many really boring walking rides, always walking out and back to get him there, and eventually he got to where he’d trot out most of the way and walk very calmly and lazily back. In fact, he conquered several trails, and got Stormy Summit West, East, and South named after him.

I was pretty proud of the Most Beautiful Horse On The Planet (If NotThe Smartest).

Next winter I saddled him up to ride, took him out, and 3 blocks out, he was starting to wig out, just like last year. You may have a plan, but your horse may dictate what the plan for the day really IS going to be.

So, we started all over again, handwalking one block next day, handwalking 2 the next day, handwalking 3 next day and riding back, etc. Slowly we worked back up to the 5 mile solo rides again, with no stress. Some might say I’m babying him, but I prefer to think I made it easy for Stormy to perform without trauma, and without killing me. Eventually his navicular gave him so much trouble that he was rarely sound enough to do a long (is 5 miles long? Maybe to a Thoroughbred ex-racehorse who’s been told he’s retired) ride.

Well, this year, I’m at least going to stroll him with him around a lot, so yesterday, we started on that. I took him out and we did some of his ground tricks, then we went on a little walk off the property. We went half a block one way and came back, and he handled that so well I was tempted to try a whole big block first, but I just didn’t want him to get to that point of anxiety. So we walked back past the house and walked a half block the other direction and back.

He handled that so well that today we walked around the whole block, and, in fact, as we were coming back, I decided to hop on him bareback.

Well, thinking and doing are two different things, because I have never been known to leap real high. At the DVE ride I was bragging rather facetiously that I had a four inch jump. I tried jumping on Stormy and only ended up kneeing him in his ribs. I tried again and bounced right back off his side. Stormy turned his head back, as in Why are you kicking me! Just get on!

Come on, I thought, he’s not THAT big! I tried the one-legged leap and ended up clinging on his side. Okay, so I have a 2 inch jump. I had to acknowledge that I wasn’t going to be able to jump on him, until I spied a little ditch on the other side of the road.

I hopped on him easily there, and we headed back, walking calmly. With only the lead rope tied to his halter, Stormy was still good about stopping, backing, turning, sidestepping when I asked. His brain was working!

And man, what a big horse he is! (Uncomfortable bareback, with those prominent withers.) I’m used to the small Arabs, whose ears I can always reach up and scratch, and I can’t even reach all the way up Stormy’s neck! He’s got a big free and easy walk also. It’s a hundred-mile walk. Maybe I can get him into shape to do 100 milers! (Don’t tell him I was joking about this, he won’t think it’s remotely funny.)

Now I’m having visions of maybe actually getting him out on some short rides, because he feels pretty sound. Of course we are just walking on dirt roads right now, where the footing’s soft.

One thing we really do need to work on is trailering. He used to handle trailering okay, but the last time I loaded him (in November to ride from Bridgeport to Ridgecrest), he was reluctant to load, and when he finally did, I was about to tie him up, and he suddenly flew out backwards. Very bad thing, if he’d been tied. He’s always had a hard time backing out of trailers, because at that last step where his hind foot steps down onto the ground, he gets really nervous about it, and he throws his head up in the air and slams his head hard on the top of the trailer. (Anybody have a topless trailer?) It happens every time, because he gets nervous that the trailer is going to hit his head, so he throws his head up and sure enough, the trailer slams his head.

Spice has gotten worse lately too about flying backwards out of a trailer; if you don’t get her untied before she starts flying out, she’ll get hung up and could break a leg, or hurt you if you’re in the trailer.

I don’t know how to reverse this behavior. Must find someone to help me out with this. Trailering is scary enough with well behaved horses.