Thursday, January 30, 2014

PNER Convention, January 24, 25, 36, 2014

Ride season is off to a great start!  Monica and I headed down to the Portland Airport Sheraton last weekend, where the 2014 PNER Convention was being held.  We knew there was a good line-up of speakers, lots of vendors, the used tack sale and of course, the Awards Banquet on Saturday night.

We went down early Friday morning because Monica and Aarene Storms were sharing a vendor table and Monica wanted to get set up and start selling.  I think we were there and pretty much set up by noon.  Once I had helped her get most of her stuff in, I trotted off to check out the vendors and the used tack sale and to buy my raffle tickets.  Last year I made out like a bandit at the raffle and I was hoping to repeat my feat.  I brought a bunch of stuff for the used tack sale, both mine and my friend Cindy's.  I do have to applaud the people that organize and run the tack sale - it was overflowing with great stuff in a very small space.  I found a few 'must have and can afford' items and immediately bought them.  No waiting around or someone else will get the great deals!

I headed over to the raffle booth and bought lots of tickets, including 4 for the portable corral raffle (those were $5 each, the regular raffle being a $1 per ticket).  We had also brought a bunch of books to the Junior's Used Book Sale (along with every other person at the convention, it appeared), so I put them out too.  I did a quick look at the great stuff in the vendor area - everything from saddles to clothes to skin care products.  I then gave Monica a break so she could go check out the tack sale and vendors and sold a few Endurance 101 books and some of Monica's helmet charms.
Monica Bretherton photo
I learned a bit about Ride and Tie for a student.
Monica Bretherton photo
I'm not sure I could do Ride and Tie, although the nice people in the booth were very encouraging.  My running skills are very outdated (although they said some people power walk), but who knows.  I did go  from 'NEVER' to 'hmmm'.  All you can ask!
I got to chat with several people I hadn't seen in a while and got to meet a bunch of the 'Green Beans' as some of the newbies have taken to calling themselves.  In fact, something I really enjoyed about this Convention was the fact that there was so much aimed at newcomers to the sport.  I went to several of the presentations meant for newbies and even though I've been competing (lightly) for 10 years, I learned something new in each one.  There were some excellent questions.  It also made me think about the newbies that I'm helping along and gave me some good ideas.  We'll see if they agree later on...
Monica and I ended our Friday at dinner with a bunch of friends, both old and new and headed to bed early.
Saturday began with a good breakfast and then we went to the Endurance 101 talk, given by Aarene Storms.  There was a very good turnout of newbies and also non-newbies.  I really enjoyed her talk (and she asked ME to introduce her!).  We had to break before we really wanted to (tons of great questions, just not enough time) because next up was the General Meeting.  It seemed to be well attended and there was quite a bit of discussion, mostly polite, on quite a few issues.  The big one was the whole 'Should AERC be part of FEI endurance or not' discussion, that has been getting lots of attention.  What I found very interesting was that the whole debate started with the idea of distancing the AERC from FEI, up to the point of no longer participating.  After much discussion, much of it very, very good and well thought out, we voted for a motion to continue being part of FEI endurance.  It really was fascinating to see people change their minds, after they had heard all sides of the story.  Our FEI riders really had some excellent points and were able to get them across. 
After that meeting, I went to the talk given by Dr. Jen on lameness.  It was great, especially the videos she showed.  I think we all had a new appreciation for the hard work our endurance vets do at every ride.  Then I stayed for most of Dr. Vanwhal's (I think I have that right) talk on the hoof.  There were some really great slides.  Then I had to go get whatever hadn't sold from the used tack sale and check out the raffle table again.  I had a modest haul this year, I guess I used up my luck last year.  But wait...
We then all went and got prettied up, which only took Monica and I about 10 minutes.  We all headed down to the cocktail hour and then to dinner and the awards.
The Fish Creek Gang has a tradition of wearing prom dresses (often from a thrift store) to this, so as you might imagine, we were pretty, um, obvious?  There was a range of clothing from jeans to our finery, with every gradation in between.  Here is a photo from Friday night when we were figuring out our finery.
A few of the Fish Creek Gang/Pirates getting ready for our big party on Saturday.  Monica Bretherton photo.
We looked pretty much the same on Saturday, with perhaps a few dress changes.  We had our dinner and then the awards started.  In between awards, they gave out ride entries (with unwon raffle tickets).  I won an entry to Seneca Stampede.  I've never been there, so it sounds like a great time to go try it out.  There was a nice slideshow to go along with the awards and then towards the end, they did the drawing for the Hold My Horses portable corral.  We have two of them, but I had bought 4 tickets total, cause you can ALWAYS use more, especially as I'll be taking along some newbies this year.  And guess what?  My luck changed and I WON IT!  Whoo hoo!  I know Carlene took a photo of me fondling it, but I can't find it right now.  So, just imagine a big grin and me holding the corral rather possessively. 
After that, we partied for a while, got our dancing shoes on (or off in my case) and had a great time.  Monica and I didn't stay up terribly late and Sky Evans was sharing our room that night.  So, we had a 'girl's slumber party' and got to know Sky a bit better.  Monica knew her, but I had never met her.  We had a nice chat. 
Next day, Monica and I went to the New Board meeting and then headed home around 11 or so, after loading my corral into Monica's van (good planning there!).  All in all, a very good weekend!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Uncle Galen does his job

Yesterday, Monica and I took Galen and the young mare Mahri to the Redmond Watershed.  Mahri was foaled here at Cascade Gold and is the last of a line of wonderful siblings.  She's still quite green and this was her 4th total trail ride (maybe 5th?).  Anyway, she's still quite green.

Galen has really taken being "Uncle Galen" to heart.  He's great at leading the way on the trails, matching his pace to his charge behind and keeping an eye on whoever it is.  It's really kind of sweet how he keeps turning his head just enough to check on the horse behind.  He will even stop and wait if we get too far ahead.

His general unflappedness really helps those youngsters (and oldsters just starting their trail experiences) be calm. 

Mahri is pretty unflappable herself so far.  She's faced bicycles, strollers, dogs, all sorts of scary things on the trail with nary a spook.  She can be a little lazy, but in my book, a little lazy is WAY better than turn and leave at a high rate of speed.  As her fitness progresses, I'm sure her lazy will go away.

So, yesterday we took advantage of perfect weather (sunshine and 45 degrees on January 21st!), to go for a ride.

Mahri led a little bit and we also worked on her keeping her pace steady.  We had several photo ops where both horses got to practice their tripod stance.
                                                                Dueling cameras

Then, as we weren't out all that long (my ankle is still a problem, whine), we went over a bridge and then let Mahri go back and forth all by herself.  She studied the problem and then did a great job.  Of course, there was a little bit of help from Monica!

Mahri is really coming along and is for sale - if you're interested in a smooth, easy going not terribly tall horse who, while green, is taking everything in stride with great humor, she might be 'the one'.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Farmer Cathy

Yesterday was a beautiful, sunshiney day here in the often damp Pacific NW.  My lesson cancelled, so I could have gone riding.  But, seeing how nice the weather was and knowing that the growing season will be starting soon, I decided to be a good farm owner and do tractor work.

We compost all our stall leavings and paddock pickings and that turns into lovely, black, crumbly compost.  But, it doesn't do all that much good piled up in the manure pile.

So, my trusty Kubota and I spent 4 or 5 hours moving dirt around. 

This doesn't really give you the idea of how lovely and black the compost is.  This is one of our grass paddocks, that does double duty as an outdoor arena.  We bought the property back in 2003? I think, and at that time it was scrub alder with hardly any grass.  Years of adding compost, pulling alders, fertilizing and yes, outright coddling, have produced a lovely, springy grass paddock that can withstand a lot of traffic.

For those of you on the west (or wet) side of the Cascades, you can appreciate what keeping grass paddocks take.  If you turn horses out on them year round, they end up being dirt and mud paddocks.  But, on the other hand, when the grass is growing, it really, really grows.  I'm usually out there mowing 2 or 3 times a week, even with horses on it daily during the spring and summer.  In the winter though, they just look at it longingly.

Here is another photo of my compost spreading.  I tried to get as even coverage as possible, but we'll see how it works out in a few weeks when the grass starts growing.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Northwest Search and Rescue Trail Challenge, January 11, 2014

Wet and wild pretty much describes it!

Me, Monica, Julie and Keiko headed out to the first ever (I'm pretty sure) Trail Challenge at Lord Hill in Snohomish.  We knew there would be 6 obstacles over 6 miles, which we could do at any one of three levels, easy, medium or difficult.

After driving up the VERY STEEP HILL to the Quarry, 4 wheel drive recommended, Monica and I signed up.  Julie and Keiko had been responsible and signed up early.  We ended up with start times of around 11:30.

It was pretty soggy to begin with, mud everywhere, but reasonably warm (45 degrees probably) and we had lots of wet weather gear on.  Keiko on Cady and Monica on Mahri headed out first.  This was Mahri's 3rd ever trail ride, so Monica was riding as a 'companion' horse, there for the adventure, not to do the obstacles.  About 10 minutes later, Julie on Andy and Galen and I headed out.  Galen and I ride at Lord Hill quite a bit, so he knew where he was going, except the first obstacle was on a trail I'd never been down (that was kind of neat, finding a new trail).  He was SURE we were going the wrong way, so it took a bit to get over the first obstacle, which was a bridge.  But, we did it and headed up the hill.  There was some very tricky footing that looked like someone had slid off the side of the trail not to far along.  We kept to the other side of the trail and got to the next obstacle.  By now it was raining pretty hard, but we were cheerful.  Galen and I did the obstacle as a 'easy', where we had to open a rope gate and hang it on a different tree.  He was a bit puzzled, but did it.  Andy on the other hand, was sure that rope was an electric fence and horses don't go near electric fences.  So, Julie gave it a pass and we headed on.  By now it was raining even harder and as we trotted (to keep warm) up the trail, it began to thunder and lightning, almost together.  As part of the trail is in the open, by the time we got to the next obstacle, they had called the ride.  Just too dangerous with the thunder, lightning, whipping winds and heavy rain.  Of course, at this point, everyone was out on the trail!  So, we turned around and headed for the trailers in the shortest distance.  This is where knowing the trails helped.  A few people that had been in front of us seemed to disappear...they must have taken a different trail.  The wind was making the trees sway and groan, the rain was soaking us and the thunder and lightning happily slowed down a bit.  The horses were very ready to head back to the trailers, as they were soaked too. 

Julie and I were wringing out our gloves and comparing notes on where water was dripping down our bodies (I had water running down the backs of my legs under my half chaps and down the back of my neck).  Julie found out that her coat wasn't waterproof at all.

We got through some tricky footing (downed trees had necessitated an off road trail that turned into knee deep muck) and finally made it back to the trailer.  We untacked the horses, put coolers on them and loaded them in.  Of course, at this point, the sun came out and the wind and wild weather stopped. 

Monica and Keiko were still out on the trail - they had gotten further than us before it was called, so ended up doing the entire ride.  By the time they came in, Julie was in dry clothes, both of us had had some hot beverages.  I got a few photos of Monica and Keiko coming back into the camp.
                                                           Monica in red and Keiko in blue

They both had big grins on their faces.  Cady had done her usual good job and Mahri was pronounced "fantastic".  For a young lady on her third ever trail ride, Monica reported that she took everything in stride, never lost her cool, did everything that was asked of her and was cheerful the entire time.  It sounds like Mahri has a future as a competitive trail or endurance horse!  She is for sale.

After Keiko and Monica took care of their horses, they wrung out their wet clothes and we headed home.  I did make one wrong turn that meant I had to back the rig up about 300 feet, which I called my last 'trail challenge'.  But, we dropped off Keiko and Cady and headed back to Cascade Gold, where all the horses got warm blankets and lots of hay, before the humans got to go inside and get dry.

We all had a pretty good time considering the weather challenges, although if we knew how nasty it would get, well, we didn't.  It was pronounced an 'adventure' and we sure got some good stories out of it.