Thursday, July 3, 2014

Weekend Shenanigans

(Yes, Saiph, I chose that word because I know Charles despises it. But I lurv it so much.)

Saiph and Charles flitted over to play in Appalachia this past weekend. I'd jam-packed the weekend for them, as one does, and we barely had a moment of down time as a result!

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Friday: They arrived around 3p. Their arrival triggered the beginning of my barn beach party.

Beach? Barn? "What's that?" you say. Well, I live in a barn. In a field. Where sun is full strength nearly all day (atypical in our narrow valleys where mountains tend to block the sun for part of the day). What better place to set up a beach and play all day?

Okay, okay, so I didn't set up a *beach* because the thought of a sandbox lingering around where both of my cats would inevitably take up litterbox residency didn't appeal to me. But we DID have a kiddie pool, some of those koosh water ball things, a slip-n-slide (that never got setup), an EZ up tent for shade, beer pong, ladderball (or as we called it in college: testes toss), crochet, a grill, and lots of coolers with lots of alcohol.

I had a fair turnout of folks and we had a great time.


Games set up in the yard

Saiph's photo

Saiph's photo

My super attractive boyfriend
Saiph's photo

Ski patrol friends; T in middle
Saiph's photo

Saiph's photo

Getting our rear ends whooped
Saiph's photo

Men. Doing Man Things.
Saiph's photo

Side eye.
Saiph's photo

Saiph's photo

Hannah forcing Hodor to accept love. Hodor saying HODOR.
Saiph's photo

Boyfriend and I
Saiph's photo

A sneaky photo of Saiph and I that Charles took
Saiph's photo

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Saturday: Mike headed off early for his 24 hour shift; this left Saiph and Charles and I to our own devices until the following day. I tossed some breakfast together before the three of  us headed out to the barn for the day to get in 10 miles or so; Charles really wanted to see my WV trails.

Now, I'm sure Saiph will have much more to detail on the specifics of our ride than I, as riding these trails is my norm and I just tend to chalk it up as "just another day, just another ride". Though, we did head out onto some new-to-me trails though. Saiph aboard Griffin, Charles aboard Little Bit, and me on Q.

The short of it: We climbed some steep shit. We went fast and slow. We saw a pretty view. And I'm one step closer to figuring out just how to get down to the river (must. map. gps track.). Saiph and Griffin led nearly all day (he was a doll for her). But Q and I did lead some.

The analyzing part of it: With Q's advanced spooking of late, I haven't been doing as much leading with her. When I do (since the OD), I'm praising the shit out of her. I'm trying to micromanage her less, too. I praise and talk to her as much as I can, and in the process, I try to just leave her to her own devices and let her work through things. I put my mind in a calm, yet focused state as I gaze down the trail. I do my very best (work in progress) of ignoring all of Q's "looksies" at things. I note them enough to be able to praise her for only looking and not acting out any more. I talk to her and tell her about the sticks and rocks and leaves.

Apparently, we're making some progress with the whole Liz Doesn't Micro-Manage the Mare and the Mare Gets Praise for ALL Things because Q's spooking was almost back to normal (whereby normal is providing the stink eye to offending objects and dancing *slightly* to the side, not slamming on brakes, ducking, and spinning).

Q did have a couple of Slam the Brakes spooks, but two were from a walk (in response to *gasp* Dead Leaves on a Branch), and her reaction was slightly slower than typical. She seems to be reacting in a knee-jerk reaction kind of way when she spooks; her body making the maneuver before her mind has a moment to go, "Wait a minute, leaves aren't scary". There was the slightest hesitation as she stopped and attempted to turn (blocked by me). I directed her to look/face the offending Dead Leaves on a Branch and she wasn't overly concerned at all. Praise. Move on.

Another unique behavior for her on this ride was her attitude. I'm not certain if she is coming into heat or what part of her cycle is influencing this, but she was WITCHY! She's not usually so witchy undersaddle. She exhibited pissier than typical attitude throughout the ride, but it was most accentuated once we'd turned for home, down, down, down the mountain.

She was pissy about Little Bit riding up her butt as we came down the mountain, which is completely understandable and even acceptable in some ways. I told Charles to watch it unless he wanted to be kicked, and he backed the little gelding (Q's boyfriend in the field) right off and remained 1-3 horse lengths away for the remainder of the ride (about 3 miles). However, despite LB being off Q's rear, she began snaking her head, ears pinned, teeth bared, to nip at Griffin (in the lead). She mostly just lipped at his tail and flank, though that snakey mare head made her seem like she would do more. (Though, in writing this I realize that she wouldn't do more than that. Since day one in the field with the other horses her behavior is FAR more bark than bite. She has dramatic witchy snake-mare faces and related gesticulating that she exhibits toward the other horses, but she never has struck out or tried to bite whenever I have been observing. Her body language alone has always kept others at a distance without any physical contact.)

View down toward the river.
Saiph noted that despite Q's antics, Griffin was completely oblivious. I was checking Q to keep her from being able to really "get" him, too.

Finally, as we were near the end of the descent, Q, unabashed by my feeble attempts to reprimand her (I was too busy giggling like mad at her behavior because it was so different for her (this is how she used to behave WAY back those first several months when I had her)), snaked her head forward with a little bit more commitment than she had been. I slapped her on the neck with my hand with an accompanying, "HEY," my typical You Better Watch Your Behavior and Pay Me Mind, Horse! response.

Now, typically when I do this kind of thing, Q will get all aflutter because *heaven forbid* I reprimand her. (A reason why I suspect MY behavior is playing a large part in HER behaviors undersaddle on trail lately.) In this instance though, Q more or less flipped me the bird! She pinned her ears and gave me side-eye in response to the reprimand. I shouldn't have, but I laughed a LOT more. Because c'mon, here is my little mare whose usual response is "OMG THE SKY IS FALLING" when I reprimand her typically and now she's giving me the middle finger. It was just too much. I had to laugh. I MUCH prefer this attitude to her crumbling around me. This kind of attitude is a cousin to Confidence and Confidence is what this little horse needs so much more of!

Going down a steep ass hill
Photo does no justice
Perhaps, in hindsight, Q's behavior through this stretch was due - in part - to my being so relaxed and amicable about everything going on (in addition to my efforts to be calmer with her throughout the ride). I wasn't micromanaging her. I was only correcting her when she'd snake forward, but it was just a, "Hello. No." and then I'd quit.

Once in a slightly more open area, Saiph wondered aloud if Q's behavior toward Griffin could merely be a, "Get out of my way! I want to lead!" Kind of thing. No sooner had she mentioned this when Q took a slight opening to blast past Griffin! Zoom! We cantered by him, her ears going from pinned to SUPER eager as she took the lead. (She has eager forward ears and she has suspicious forward ears and these were the eager pair.) She continued to canter with her eager ears for a good ways before I requested she slow a bit so we didn't kill the already taxed Little Bit who isn't accustomed to so much cantering. We slowed for a short time, but then picked back up the canter again.

She had one more Slam on the Brakes spook on our final homestretch through the woods while we were in the lead. This time though? She just slammed on the brakes (from the trot) and Looked at the offending object. She thought about it for a second more, then moved - with slight hesitation - forward toward home. PRAISE.

Saiph on Griffin, Chalres on LB
Coming down the steep ass hill
Photo STILL does no justice
I have an inkling of a feeling that her attitude about things as we headed home, and then her better response during her final spook is due in part to her having a larger goal/focus: Home. Until very recently, Q has not shown as much interest in going home with speed. Mike and I have taken several faster rides recently though, and if we're going at a trot and canter nearly the entire time we're going Away from the barn, why would we slow them to walk when we head Home just to make a point of  "no running home"? As long as our pace is the same heading Away as it is heading Home, I have no great issue with letting my horse travel fast in the Home direction. Our fast rides recently have consisted of me on Griffin leading the Away charge and Mike on Q leading the Home charge. Griffin has a better lead head for the beginning than Q does; by the time we head home, Q is usually more relaxed about life and we let her lead. This also is making Griffin not RUSH home  as he has a much greater tendency to do than my little girl (who has always cared less about the direction we're going, showing no great favor for heading anywhere once we're Off Home Property). Quite the hypothesis, but its something. Those recent rides, coupled with a big change in herd dynamics (something I will post more on in my next post) may be some catalysts for change in Q under saddle.

Beyond that last spook, Q was good for the remainder of the ride. I dismounted and jogged with her down the final steep hill, and from there we were on the homestretch. Out of the woods, into the back field all three of us let the horses pick up a slow canter (or whatever LB's gait is for that speed), to the creek.

Griffin, miffed he wasn't allowed to roll here
Little Bit and Griffin drank heartily at the creek while Q just gazed around as if to say, "C'mon you wusses. That was nothing! 10 miles does NOT merit drinking like this." Griffin tried for the third try of the day, to paw and roll in the water (he'd previously made the attempt with two puddles). Saiph laughed and told him no, pulling his head up away from the water. Griffin tried a few more times before we left the creek, denied each time.

We stopped in a patch of long green grass after the creek to chat with my BO about the ride. As we were chatting, Griffin, with very minimal warning, just lay down with Saiph. My BO laughed, noting that her gelding who is a year younger than Griffin and every bit as much of a character used to pull that kind of shenanigan with her all the time. We all laughed and laughed at him. He just lay there quietly lipping at the grass around him, completely unconcerned. It was his final, "Screw You" to Saiph for not letting him roll in all the water. (And may have also been in part to it being his third ride in as many days - the hardest series of workout he's had in his little life.)

With patience, and after much laughter, Griffin stood back up with Saiph aboard and plodded stately to the barn as if nothing had gone amiss. Such a dork, that horse.

Griffin being a pill.
Finally getting up.

Overall, a really fun ride. Great to see some new trails with friends. Great to start making some connections in the right direction with the little girl, too.

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We'd rushed through the end of our ride with hopes of making it to the Venezuelan restaurant in town that we all love before their break between lunch and dinner. We pulled up to the restaurant to find that they wouldn't be open until 4:30 as their lunch hours on Saturdays were no longer existent.

We ran a few errands, grabbed showers, and headed BACK to the restaurant (with Kenai! Yay outdoor seating). With full bellies, we headed east to Dolly Sods - a request Saiph and Charles had for this visit.

We cruised up there amidst mist and rain, arriving right as the rain had ended.

We all wandered around the Bear Rocks overlook, Kenai THRILLED to be out and about for the first time since tearing his groin in March.

We even hiked a ways down a trail so I could show them how diverse the habitat types are up there.

A beautiful evening!

My wild husky running far away from me. (not)

Yesss my precious.

Post hike beers. Locally brewed!

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Back at home, hours later, Saiph made an INCREDIBLE chicken dish and some tostones. SO FREAKING AMAZING. I love her cooking. Nomz.

We didn't last too long after our full bellies though. And that was okay, we needed rest prior to whitewater rafting the following day!

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Sunday: We rafted the Cheat River Canyon. It was my first time rafting the Cheat (I've done the lower Youghigheny, upper and middle Gauley, middle and lower New, a river in Denali Nat'l Park, and a river in Costa Rica. I've additionally hardboated (kayaked) on the Potomac, 'Doah, and Yough. (I dated a hardboater for many years, so my exposure to whitewater - especially in this State - is heavy.)

We met Mike along the commute, picking him up from the end of his 24 hour shift. He would be guiding one of the rafts. My coworker T also met us at the river, too.

Saiph hadn't rafted before, so this was quite the experience for her. She was apprehensive at the beginning because of the guides scare-tactics. I tried my best to assure her it was fine and to ignore them (my time with river rats has dulled my responses to their antics), but I don't think it did much to help. I used to harbor a lot of apprehension when I was a hardboater, so I could understand where her fears were to an extent. Though I have a feeling she was blissfully ignorant to some of the things I was fearful of only because she'd not had the experiences I did with whitewater (e.g., knowledge of hydrology and flows, the types of consequences that result in drowning, or dealing with deaths of friends from whtiewater rec.). All the same, she balled up and did the damn thing.

River time being what it is, we started 2 hours late and were on the river 2 hours longer than we'd anticipated. I really felt for Saiph and Charles who'd hoped to be on the road home a lot sooner, but at the same time, I was nonplussed at the order of events. I'd been broken in to the concept of river time years back. I used to spazz and gripe and moan about it, but years of complaining and worrying got me nowhere; I was surprised how much that past conditioning came into play with my calm attitude on Sunday!

The Canyon was fun. It was nice to be on the water again. It was great to play with Mike in a realm he worked in for years (he's guided for 5 years in WV). The body soreness I achieved from a day of hard paddling was almost pleasant the following day, different as it was from riding muscles.

I wish I had pictures to share, but Mike's reputably waterproof Otterbox Armor case took on water. -_- So there is no working phone and no photos to share. If we are able to get it working, I'll post them at a later date.

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It was great to visit and play with Saiph and Charles yet again. I look forward to their next visit in a month! Mini staycations are the best when you get to share them with friends.

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