Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Picket Post Trail

If you head up US 60 from Apache Junction towards Globe, just past Florence Junction is a sign for the Picket Post Trail Head.  I have driven past many times and always thought it would be cool to go check it out.

Now I have a riding buddy....who boards her horse with me.  Which isn't to say that I don't have other riding buddies, but this riding buddy is a cross country trail fanatic and I mean that in the most awesome way.

We had planned on heading up to Payson but I have a show to get ready for (to sell at, not compete in) and my time is really limited right now so I decided I could not really go for all day trek.  We opted for the Picket Post which only took about 20 min to drive to and was, in a word, AWESOME!

It was every bit as awesome as I had hoped it would be and we really only explored the tip of the iceberg.

I took my "trusty" steed Trax, and she rode her Walker, Cody.  I gained a lot of respect for her horse on this trip.  He is as sure footed as any mule, and seems to have endless energy.

I will let the pics do most of the talking here in just a minute, but I want to tell a little bit about the trail.  This is a very rocky ride.  I would not recommend taking a barefoot horse up there without boots.  Luckily Trax has shoes on now, and I was happy for it.  I think he was too.  It starts out with lots of little ups and downs, the trail is a two track and their are cows foraging around you as you ride.  As you go the ups gradually become steeper, and there are less downs than ups.  I cannot even begin to guess what the grade of the climb was and I was a little unsure of how my horse would handle it.

Once again I under estimated the magnificence of my pony.  He rocked those rocks and climbed those hills pretty easily.  I let him pick his pace going up the hills.  If he wanted to trot or lope to get up them, who was I to argue, as long as once he got to the top he slowed down before vaulting over a cliff.

Those two were taken before the climbing started.  The next 3 were taken at about the half way mark of the "up".

If you follow that ridge down to the point and then imagine what lies below that...that is where we started out

We could have ridden over closer to that mountain but thought we chose a less steep hill.  We were wrong. 

Ear Shots! 
This is a pic of my riding buddy.CW

We pushed onward and the next climb was huge and very steep but the horses seemed ready to go for it, so up we went.  About half way up poor Trax started puffing pretty hard, and then it seems as though he was limping.  I thought maybe he had a rock so when we reached what we thought was the top we stopped and I checked his feet.  No rocks, but perhaps a bruise.

Then we turned around and there was yet another very steep hill behind us.  We opted not to go any further this time, simply because both our horses are out of shape.  No sense killing them the first time around.

So we turned around and headed back down.   God performed a miracle that day because suddenly Trax's limp was healed!  This is at the bottom of the last hill we climbed.  The pic doesn't accurately show how steep it was, or even that it goes on around the bend and then up another fifty feet or so.

 Heading down we had a hard time keeping up with old 4WD Cody.

Coming down we found a second trail and followed it, but all it did was loop back around to the original trail that we had followed.  But we passed this which in real life looks like someone left a giant pile of stone marbles laying.

At the trail head again we weren't quite ready to quit so we wandered over to the "Arizona Trail" which is more for hikers but horses are allowed.  It is narrower though.  We saw a cave which turned out to be a tree (LOL) and then we just kind of meandered and followed that little one lane trail.

It took us out to the US60 and we could have crossed under it through a large culvert, but opted not to.  Instead we followed a wash for a bit then bushwhacked it up a hill and then we saw the coolest little "place" for lack of a better term.  I assume it is there for the cows, but it had stone walls, a cistern, windmill, and a long water trough for livestock.

We had to get pics under the trees.

And then we saw Don Quixote tipping his hat to the windmill.  (and I have had that song in my head ever since)  I cannot explain to you why I thought of that except that when I think of Don Quixote I always imagine a drawing I saw of him which depicts him as being tall and scraggly and he is facing the windmill here.  

After that we either had to go back the way we came or blaze another trail. We chose to blaze and Trax lead the way up a sheer rock face and never once took a misstep!  I was pretty dang proud of my horse.  He was a perfect gentleman the entire ride, he handled some pretty tough terrain and never once did I feel unsafe, or like he was going to go out of control.  I do however think it is time to start looking for a different saddle for him. As much as I have loved my Circle Y, I noticed today that it is starting to put a lot of pressure on his left shoulder.  Not sure why, but of course horses bodies change through out their lives, and saddles do get worn out. So maybe it is just time.  

Of course every ride ends with the sweaty pony pic.  

If you are ever in the area and looking for a good ride, I would recommend this trail, however it is not for the faint of heart.  I cannot wait to go back and take one of the other trails!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Its About Darn Time

I'm still so busy I have no idea which direction I am going in half the time, but even with that I still have managed to get more riding time in this week than I have in months.  

I think it was Monday, a nice over cast day I saddled up a paint horse and we hit the desert.

He was super thrilled about having to go at first but once we got to the desert he did really well.  I put it in over drive and he just went.  We hit some uncharted desert this time through some gates and almost all the way to the main road the connects my "town" to Apache Junction.  We did some gratuitous fence checking for the owners (leasers) and had I actually had tools with me, I would have even stopped to fix a spot which someone had cut. 

 The weather was gorgeous, he was feeling good and we pretty much loped or trotted the entire ride.  We went 12 miles, which I felt was pretty good since we had not been out there.  It was an uneventful ride but I did get a few cool pics. 

A few days later one of my boarders CW, sent me a text and asked if I wanted to do a trail ride with her. So on Thursday we went out again. This time I took Killian and Sassy.  She was on her horse Cody  I don't have any pics of this ride but I can tell you that her Walking horse lives up to his name.  He really moves out and Killian was doing his best Eyore imitation. Sassy chose this trip to pick random stopping moments, which dang near ripped my arm out of my socket.  I finally had CW get behind her and smack her on the butt. After that she kept up just fine.  

I really enjoy CW's attitude about riding. She is just a little bit older than me, and her theory is that if her horse says, "I can't" she is bound and determined to show him that he can.  Her horse is pretty gosh darn broke.  We didn't ride too far because I didn't want to over do Sassy. She is doing pretty well right now, and I want to keep it that way.  

However, we have decided that next week we are going to trailer up to Payson and ride the Mogollon rim.  I will take Trax for this I think. Trax moves out better so we will be able to keep up.

Today was another big day for us.  The place where I bought Melody was having sorting practice and I decided to go. I didn't get to Friday night, and I have really been wanting to try Trax on it.  I have not had Melly in a trailer since I brought her home and she banged herself up loading.  

Yesterday I loaded Trax, and then asked her to load.  It took some doing but she finally went. I wish I could get her to back out. She is so long in the body and insists on trying to turn around, which gets her kind of stuck, so then she vaults herself out of the trailer.   I finally removed my rear tack, and collapsed it completely and loading became a dream.  Unloading is still like launching a potato out of a canon!

This morning we headed out early and I was pretty nervous.  I shouldn't have been it all went fine, but I tend to get nervous on the way to new events.  

Once we got there I warmed up Trax first and was a little surprised at how mellow he was. It took very little to get that nice easy lope out of him, and I was really happy with how he felt under me.  Then I warmed up Melly who of course just needed to limber up those old bones.  

I watched a few rounds of sorting and then gave it a shot. These cows were really fresh, and wicked fast. Melly did great inspite of me and it was nice to have someone shouting out pointers as we worked.  I learned a lot about proper gate position and heard a lot of "Drop your hands! Let her do her job"  My biggest problem is that I still am a little heavy in the hands, and need to use more leg and less hand.   I did get better as we went.

It was a little disheartening to sort with a 9 year old boy who totally out rode me.  Of course I did learn later that the horse he was riding was his dad's competition horse, but still the kid was good.  I mean really good.  

I did about 4 rounds on Mel, and then decided to get Trax.  I loped him around a little and then asked if I could do a round really slowly on him.  Another gal joined up with me and gave me some guidance while we slowly pulled cows out of the batch.  Trax stayed calm and with each cow I asked for just a little bit more from him.  By the last cow, he was getting right with it, and doing great. 

In the time I have been working with Trax I have been trying to get him to move his feet with a little more "purpose" behind it.  However without having cows to work, all he knew was that I was just pushing and pulling him around.   Today I gave him a reason to move his feet with quickness and he actually responded.  

He cut left and he cut right, keeping his hind end in place and although it was only once, it was progress and I was super happy.  

I gave him a break and then we did another round.  He did pretty good gave me another nice cutting move and then about half way through he fell apart. He got a little too hot and instead of stopping when I needed he ran through the gate after the cows, and I knew I had lost him.  I did get him stopped and asked the gal to wait a minute while I got control of him again, and I did sort of, but it was never as good as it was in the beginning. We finished the run and then I took him back to the arena and loped him back to me mentally and we worked on stopping again.  He finally gave me a gorgeous stop so I got off and loosened his cinch.  I was pretty happy with my boy.  

I did two more rounds on Melly, the first one was good, the last one was horrid, but it was all me.  I was hot and feeling a little dizzy and decided to call it a day.   Here is me and my "team".  I am excited to keep on this path with these two.  I think if I take it slow with Trax he will actually be quite good at this, but I can see where teaching him not to leave me mentally just because he is having to work hard is going to be vital.  However, I think that if I can accomplish that it will be huge in the bigger picture for Trax.   

I got some good advice, and I have things I know I need to work on when ever I have a chance to work the slow cows here close to home. 

I have one other thing I want to show you all.  Its a saddle that I have been working on.   I bought it at a yard sale, I knew when I bought it that it was not a high quality saddle, but I had someone looking for something like it so I went ahead and purchased it.  Then I got home to tell her and found out that she had purchased another saddle from someone else.  

Here is the before pic

I wish I had a close up of the conchos, they are like silver painted plastic and the whole saddle was sprayed with a clear spray paint.  

I spent a good amount of time trying to get that clear coat off so I could oil it, but once I did that I could never get a good even color on it.  So I ended up having to add some color, and I also took off all the cheapo bling and added some good stuff.  

I am not in love with how it turned out, however, I put it on FB for sale when it was done and have someone who says she loves it and is going to buy it next week.   Here are the after pics.

I have one last thing to show you, just because you can never have enough cuteness.  We have kittens here now, from the cat who used to live next door but now lives with us.   The dark one is a calico her name is Ellie, and she will go to live next door.  The solid Orange one is Tank, and I want to keep him. He reminds me of Mason sometimes.  The Orange and white one is named Go Go, and he is going to live with BEC.  His name is Go Go because he is quite the explorer. He was the first leave the closet where they were born, and the first to climb the barricade.  They are so much fun, and I live for early morning kitten play time.  They live in the saddle shop now, and I love having them out there.  So I leave you with Kitten Cuteness. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

A little bit of Saddle time

We finally got a little bit of rain....ok so more like record levels of rain in a single day, which cooled things off nicely for a minute but then when the sun came back out really cranked up the humidity.  But I did take a minute to enjoy some of that coolness and took Killian and Sassy for a little jaunt.

Sassy had just had another Electromagnetic therapy session for her shoulder, and it sure does make a difference for her.   Her feet are pretty much completely healed and as long as I keep her toes short, she stays pretty sound there. However, if she does not get her exercise her scar on her shoulder adheres to the muscle again and gives her issues. Also she seems to have a knee that bothers her on occasion.  Its always something with this mare.

It was sprinkling just a little, which felt pretty awesome, and I went ahead and made her wear a saddle for the trip.  I want her to get used to being saddled again, as I want to start putting actual rides on her pretty soon.  We made it around the block with no issue, other than Killian being a complete bone head and wanting to push through my hands the entire trip.

When we got back to the house I tied Sassy up, put on her Back on Track Knee Boots, and let her stand and "soak".  Then I took Killian back out.  You should have seen the look on his face!


My arena was under water, so we stuck to the dirt road in front of the house and practiced trotting and stopping, loping and stopping, and if we were leaving the house and loped a way he gave me a nice easy lope and a beautiful stop on the hind end.  If we were headed towards the house it was more like "I'M MAKING A RUN FOR IT AND YOU CAN'T STOP ME!"   Finally he gave me a good one, in the right direction so we called it quits.

I didn't think I was going to be able to sort on Friday because the arena said if we didn't get more people it wouldn't happen. I managed to round up two other gals so we got to go.  I didn't take Killian this time which required Miss Melody to carry me down the road and too the arena all by herself.  She only spooked about 10 times but they were little spooks and I was ready for every one.

The other two gals were late so the Arena Guy (Teele) and I did a couple of rounds together. When the other gals showed up, he let us have at it, so we did 3 way sorting teams.  Mel did so good, and I was quite proud of her...for a while, then she started acting like she was afraid of the cows when ever they headed towards her.

At first I was going to just push her through it, then a light went on and I took her out of the pen and got off.  She was too hot.  We had been sorting non stop for an hour.  Usually you sort a round and then take a break while someone else goes. We weren't doing that and I had been out there longer than anyone.  I walked her around, gave her a long break, let her relax, and then we went in and did 2 more rounds. She did really well again, and I stopped there.  After that I just watched the other gals go.

Then came the time to ride home in the dark.  Since I am not sure if she has night blindness or not, I had a headlight on my cap so we could see where we were going. There are no street lights in our neighborhood, and there was no moon either.

This is when I learned that a single light moving around on the ground in front of her was much scarier than the dark, so I shut it off and we headed home.  This time I kept her in the middle of the pavement.  I felt that it was safest there since I knew that nothing would touch her feet there.  If a car came we simply moved to the side of the road and waited for them to go by. She handled the headlights coming at her fabulously.  I was quite proud of my girl.

The next day CNJ asked to come and use my arena (Oh CNJ I almost forgot to upload your videos- will do that today) and so while she was here riding her mares, I pulled Trax out and rode him.

Back when I had saddled Sassy it had rained on my saddle pretty good so I had taken it to the shop and and started cleaning and oiling it, and decided to go ahead and make the repairs it has needed for a long time.  Well it is still out there assembled, so I used the old cutting saddle on him.  It is the first time I have ever ridden him in anything but the Circle Y.  Trax is very sensitive in the flank and so I have always been leery of using a rear cinch on him.  I know that being a rope horse he has had one on him before, but not in a long time.  However he handled it just like a broke horse should, so as usual my worries were for naught.  He was a good boy for me and we had a nice ride.  It was short and sweet, but I was happy.

Then CNJ got her surcingle out for me and ground drove Sassy for me.  My goal for that is to get Sassy moving more off her hind, and off of that front end.   I had tried it before but couldn't really get a good movement from her.  CNJ got gorgeous movement out of her.  She looked so nice moving, and once again I fell in love with my little mare.

By then the mosquitoes were eating us alive and it was time to go.  I'm hoping to get some riding in this week as well.

The saddle shop is coming right along, got my first cleaning and repair job in.  It is amazing how many saddles I run across that come out of the factory with the Blevins Buckles on backwards.  This causes the strap to hang down into the stirrups which can be very unsafe.  I have learned how to reset the copper rivets, and turn them around.  The saddle I am working on had that problem but not anymore.

Eventually I will get mine back together.

Now I have to go, TC is hounding me to get off the computer.   First blog post in weeks, and he acts like I have been here for hours! ARGH!