Thursday, February 25, 2016

In which we wear silly dresses and ski

Last year, I participated in my first ski hash.

To review, hashing is a non-competitive multi-sport event that began (with running) in the 1930s in Malaysia. It's organized by a local club and is a great way to get some exercise, laugh a lot, drink a lot, eat a lot, and drink some more. What better way to exercise than with alcohol? Clubs are often referred to as drinking clubs with running/biking/skiing problem.

Around these parts, hashes are often runs, bikes, or skis. C'est la vie when you've got 4 seasons - you've gotta pick the mode of transport most adaptable to the terrain at the time! Two to three "hares" are designated before the event. They'll plan their route and false routes. The day of, they strike out a few minutes ahead of the "hounds" - everyone else - to set the trail. They leave signs for the hounds to follow that help direct them. But things aren't always very straight forward as those sneaky hares like to set false trail, too! As hounds set out on the trail you'll hear calls like, "ON ON?" "CHECKING!" "FALSE TRAIL!" and, if the correct trail is being followed, "ON ON!" If the hounds catch the hares, they get to pants them.

In addition to false trails, dead ends, splits, etc. on the trail, the hares will leave beer stops to slow the hounds down. It's in poor taste to leave beer un-drank on the trail! After the hash (and the multiple stops along the way), the whole group ends back up at the host's house for a potluck (and more beer).

Yeah -- it's a good time.

A lot of places now have Red Dress hashes. This is to commemorate a young lady from 1987 who went to visit a friend in California. She was wearing a red dress and heels when she arrived. Her friend wanted to surprise her by taking her to meet her hashing club who were about to have an event. The group joked that the red dress lady should wait in the car until the hash was over, so naturally she proved them wrong by running the whole thing in her red dress.

And thus....


We had a red dress hash on Valentine's this year. The hash club in the valley holds hashes on Sundays once every month or so. It's a blast to be so silly with so many wonderful people! This hash ended up being around 5 miles. Nothing too crazy. We had a blast!

20160214_14284220160214_14343520160214_14343820160214_14565420160214_145842IMG_20160214_201306IMG_20160215_104422Red dress hash Feb 14 2016

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


We had a few solid winter weeks and now the weather seems to want to trend toward the "thaw" side of the spectrum instead of the "maintain freezing" side. And you know what? Despite my love for skiing and all things fun in the snow, I'll take the thaw.

...especially after this past weekend! More excitement than I needed before 9am, for certain. I and my other ski patrol coworkers were able to evacuate over 200 people from the lift in less than 2 hours. Not too shabby; helps that this group of people work absolutely seamlessly as a team when shit hits the fan. And the best news is that miraculously everyone involved is OKAY despite the debacle. Grateful for that; miracle indeed.


The horses ended up having a 6 week vacation during January and part of February. It was unanticipated, but for the best. All parties are better for it. None of us had to suffer through frigid training conditions and all were happy for a physical and mental break - evident in amazing work products present in recent rides!

Griffin and I have had several short flatting sessions over the past week. The first two days back were ROUGH. The self carriage he was becoming so skilled at before the break seemed to be completely foreign to him. And I expected him to be rusty, but man, not as bad as he exhibited! Fortunately, by ride three, the light bulb came on and I had my horse back - and then some!

We have been doing almost exclusively walking and trotting because I want to firm up all the basics we'd covered before we canter again. Last Thursday he exhibited on of the best - if not THE best - work he's ever offered. We had complete self carriage with a loose rein just like you'd see in the pages of a classical dressage book. And it wasn't only for a few strides at a time as it used to be. Griffin maintained for a solid lap and then a lap and a half of the barnyard riding area (120 ft' diameter circle, roughly) at the walk and trot. Color me shocked (and thrilled).

Quite pleased with his weight this winter

All of our riding the past week or so has been with the bareback pad. Griffin is 10x more responsive with this than with the saddle (though, of course, I'll certainly ride with a saddle again in time). He's a sensitive guy and the subtle cues I can give from my seat with the close contact grant a better response from him than when I'm in the saddle. It's also a benefit to me as I'm granted a better feel of how he's using his body. I can feel the exact moment that he rounds himself onto the bit and his impulsion comes from behind.

Reading about what a certain sensation should feel like in a book can only do so much (it's hard to put words to such things!), but I tell you what! When this horse is collected in self carriage it's absolutely magical to ride. I feel like I'm on a CLOUD. He is so balanced and light. His ears flop hither and thither as he strikes forward with a steady rhythm. He's seems to be in a really happy place, too.

Pending the okay from my BO, I plan to set up a small dressage arena in part of the back field. There is plenty of space for my jumps and an arena back there. I'd like to give more structure to what I'm doing with Griffin and I need to proper space to do it! What I set up will be very mobile and a little ghetto, but it'll definitely work for us and shouldn't cost me more than $40 to pull together if things follow the plan I drew up. It'll take more time than money - and I'm okay with that. I'll certainly update on it all once I've completed it.


Q has been great lately, too. While we haven't really been in situations where she can exhibit a nasty spook, she hasn't offered much in the way of spooking behavior at all. That's very encouraging. I'd really like to be at a place at the end of this year where spooking behavior like she's been known to exhibit becomes a thing of the past. She didn't act that way for the first year I had her, so it's obviously something she's learned as a result of things I've done and I very much want to resolve it.

Q has been a lot more sassy lately, which is an indicator of more confidence for her. It's refreshing to see: pawing while tied after I've tacked her up, bobbing her head up in down with impatience, and (this one is a BAD thing that she was quickly reprimanded for) butting up against Griffin and humping her hind end up with threats to kick him when he was nearer to me than she was! Of course, the pawing and head bobbing behaviors aren't necessarily favorable, but Q's manner of exhibiting the them is mild in comparison to most.

I've had two rides on Q in the past week - one of ~3.5 miles on the trail and another of >7 miles accomplished by riding around the perimeter of the back field. Her attitude was very "game" for both.

I really enjoy riding Q on snow landscape. The dull landscape jives much better with her hypersensitivities to the environment. A world dominated by white with shades of brown, black, and grey is much less scary and suspicious to her. The contrasting colors and textures of a snowless landscape definitely cause more concern.

Kenai accompanied us on our trail ride and actually led most of it! Talk about a difference in how good he feels now as compared to last year at this time! The purpose of the ride was to test the TSF shoulder relief girth I'd purchased to try to alleviate our girth issues. We've only had the two rides so far (and only this one with elevation changes), but so far I'm REALLY impressed and quite optimistic about the future. Time will tell... I'll do a more solid review in a few months.

While not the most attractive photo (her body is curved toward the camera), I'm also really pleased with her weight.

The field ride was as equally uneventful as our trial ride (hurrah). In fact, the only issue during our 7+ mile jaunt was the proximity of her herd. Her steady mantra of, "Friends. I have friends. Did you know I have friends? I like my friends. Do you see them over there? Those are my friends. I want to be with my friends. Friends." is always coupled with a gravitational pull toward them that results in her bracing against any aids I apply to keep her on our track around the field. I swear, if I'd let her she'd have blindly launched us off the 7'-8' bank and over the creek in order to reach them sooner! She did eventually settle into some nice work on a VERY loose rein...but not until mile 5 or so. *eye roll*

The field ride taught me something new about Q the-horse-who-guards-her-personality-inside-multiple-high-security-vaults: she's a very ditzy blonde, despite her dark coloring. Some of this is due to her Arabian nature, absolutely. I also think the ditzy (for lack of a better term) is definitely a correlated behavior to the spooking. The spooking is the negative side of the spectrum and the ditzy behavior is the other side. She becomes so comfortable with her surroundings that she becomes scatterbrained. I can't accurately put words to it... Regardless, I'll take it over spooking any day! In my mind, it is a lot easier to manage.

Once I have a set arena area in the back field, I'd like to really focus on more dressage concepts with this little mare. She would benefit greatly from it. The trouble with doing it right now is that she is very focused on her herd at all times. To gain quality flat work of any kind from her I have to be absolutely 210% ON IT, which involves me thinking about 6 steps ahead and planning out exercises with quick "changes" to keep her mind on them. Having a delineated space will aid in my ability to plan out exercises better. With time, I'd love to work through an introductory dressage test as a part of her conditioning. The flow of different exercises in one of those tests would be great for her.

All things with time... ☺

Monday, February 8, 2016

A XC Ski Haiku Story

With laughter we start
Big smiles and bright clothes adorn us
As we ski uphill

Several pass me
Giggling as they climb up
Then they go downhill


We cheer and holler
Carving hop turns down the hill
Skis on snow go kksscchhhh

We climb up thin snow
Up, up through the trees we go
A cliff signals STOP


We talk, drink and laugh
Some jump the cliff on their skis
We whoop and applaud

We continue up
Winding through trees on thin snow
The dogs lead the way


Another short stop
Chips and dip and white lightning
Merriment abounds

Climbing continues
We seek the sickest tree lines
Patchy snow at best


We wind, weave, and dodge
Rocks, trees, and moss on our path
Giggling, laughing

And another stop
Before we wind and climb more
Seeking the sunset


Merriment and beer
Before we ski down groomers
Everyone smiling

An epic sunset
Tele turns race down the hill
Carving and sliding


All take a moment
Appreciate the present
A beautiful night

We reach the bottom
What an amazing journey
Robbie's Rad-Venture


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Onward, Ever Onward

And then, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, it was February.

Life is wonderful. Busy as the dickens, but wonderful. I can't seem to find the time I used to for keeping this space as updated as I once did! Surprisingly, it bothers me none.



January was mostly a vacation month for the horses as I focused on my jobs. 40 hours a week in the office at my "real" job and around 30 hours at the resort between Friday and Saturday keeps a girl busy. Sundays are my only "off" days this time of year; they are mostly spent sleeping in, enjoying large breakfasts and generally being lazy. Because 70-hour work weeks demand a lazy day to recharge.

I wanted to give both horses some time off in January. My busy schedule aided in this and resulted in me not even seeing them for 19 days. That's the longest I have EVER gone without seeing Q and Griffin! However, having a BO who is like a family member and another boarder who is out daily keeping a close eye on all of the horses makes it easier to take that kind of a break. There was one cold Arctic snap during this time period and my two were brought into the barn with the others to weather the event a little easier. The herd made it through the weather event just fine.

Prior to the big snowstorm - a separate winter event following the Arctic snap, I made it out to blanket my two and put their tails into mud knots to avoid ice balls building up from what promised to be a lot of precipitation and wind gusts >50 mph.

Actually, the mud knots went in on a Wednesday evening and the blanketing occurred on Thursday. There had been rain on Wednesday that left the horses wet, and I knew they'd be dry after the sun predicted on Thursday. I had a tight schedule of things to fit in that Thursday, so when I went by to throw their blankets on I did so while they stood in the field at liberty.

My two are so accustomed to me and are so trusting that I was able to schlep their blankets out into the field after dark and cloak them with minimal issue. In fact, Q walked right up stood in front of me as if to say, "Dress me, human." It surprised me and was quite comical! Griffin followed her lead and let me blanket him afterward. (He'd been more skeptical about the large, dark potential "monster" blankets than Q had been when I entered the field.)

When I visited the horses post-storm, I found them to be fat, happy, and dry. I took both out for short rides in the deep, undisturbed snow. It had compressed a fair bit from it's original champagne fluff, but it was still quite deep!

Overlooking the farm and the back field. Jumps are slightly visible far left center of photo in field.
Mud knot visible here. I adore this mare.

Griffin and I did a loop in the back field that involved w/t/c/gallop and me grinning like an absolute fool. There is just something about speeding through deep snow on a horse!

Q and I just pranced around in the barnyard for a time at each gait. I was able to set my phone on the fence during this little session to capture some media of how deep the snow was while we were riding.

The week after the storm event, Griffin and I celebrated 4 years together. January 28 is his official "Gotcha Day".

January 28, 2012
January 28, 2016
 I adore him <3

It's so hard to believe this is the same horse from four years ago!! He's come a REALLY long way. I adore him. <3


Ski season has been a bit lacking this El NiƱo year. However, I'm willing to forgive a bit because the large storm system in late January did bring us waist deep champagne powder that resulted in one of the greatest (if not THE greatest) skiing days I have ever had. How incredible! If such events happened with more regularity, I would buy fatter skis in a heartbeat! I just have a hard time justifying the purchase of something I may only use a few times a year.

Kenai riding the ski lift with Dave and I. He's a happy dog.
I've taken a photo in this exact spot for 3 months now. One left and I'll have an epic collage.
Trenched ski tracks.
With regard to the bottom right of us did NOT want to participate in the photo. ;-)

Overall, that snow event helped provide the best weekend of winter activity this season. Two full days at the resort followed by another day of XC skiing with Dave and Kenai - one daytime ski and one full moon ski. Everyone had a great time and each of us was sufficiently whooped by the end!


While the writing bug isn't biting me as hard these days, the reading bug is! I'm voraciously reading books and blogs alike. My commenting game is slacking, I'm aware, but I am reading along! And that's something.

Cheers to you all, I hope you're well -- and please, if you haven't, follow along on instagram (estout18). It's about all I can manage to keep up with these days. ☺