Monday, November 27, 2017

MDHT Fall Starter #1 Pro Photos

Thanks, Emma, for alerting me to this sale - I'd overlooked the email!

When these went on sale and part of my purchase was guaranteed to help wounded warriors, I couldn't help but finally buy some pro prints from Loch Moy on Sept. 10. We competed in the elementary division (finishing second) and schooled BN XC for our first time.

I have so much to improve on still, but I also have so much to be grateful for. I trained this horse from the ground up all by myself, I ride alone 99% of the time, and I am very largely self-taught with all things jumping - that we went out and conquered this childhood dream thrills me beyond words.

His happy ears and attempts to pull my arms off in his sheer excitement (so evident in the photos) say it all! This is only the beginning 💙

He wasn't super impressed with the height, but that's okay!

He still looked super cute

I love that even though this round was so scrappy, he was there for me and powered through

Happy relaxed ears!

I hope he's always so tidy with his hind end.

Turn and burn...or something. Mostly just awkward AF

So consistent with his little knees <3

First competition bank! He absolutely charged to this which made me nervous lol

Grif was very proud of himself afterward and attempted to throttle up more gears than I was ready for... in due time buddy!

His left ear on my asking if we seriously have to slow it down a few notches

His right ear on my asking if we seriously have to slow it down a few notches. Yes, Grif, seriously.

Now his determined/annoyed ears because I'm holding him back so strongly...
Sorry for the total lack of release, dude, but we are not ready to gallop pell-mell around this course yet!

Still annoyed, but at least I gave him a nanometer release

This jump is actually an elementary fence (the only elem XC photo they had)and you can see how much more relaxed we
both are. This level is below what we school so I was happy to let him power through a little more.

My face notes my nerves here... Grif was foot-perfect though! He's such a good boy even when we disagree on pacing.

Looking down at Griffin and telling him good boy...though I should be looking up toward the next jump!
Look at his tidy hind end though

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Introducing Taiga

It's okay little girl, you'll get less nervous about posing for epic photos with time.

Welcome, little Taiga, to the family!

My Black Friday this year consisted of spending 9-10 hours in the car to pick this little lady up and bring her home. She traveled really well until the mountains when I misjudged how early to move her from her crate in the back to the front for the windiest road ever. She tossed her kibble (and then tried to eat it, ew) before I could get her cleaned up and settled in the front with me for the rest of the ride. She insisted on cuddling with me in the quietest way possible and I might have died a little bit from the cute. Best Black Friday ever? I think so.

Sleepy eyes.

Taiga was born on August 29, though I've been waiting for her for much longer. 

See, it has been my plan since Kenai entered my life to bring along a second dog when he was somewhere between the ages of 6 and 8 (he will be 8 in March). I love the training process, but I knew training a second husky to be as wonderful as Kenai is (a very focused 2½ year process that has been maintained since) would be expedited if he served as a mentor to the second. And that's exactly what we're doing!

Meeting one of my parents cats. He was just as interested in her as she was in him. And no, he didn't swat her at all.

As with Kenai, the name Taiga was one I put a lot of thought into. I wanted a name that gave a nod to the breed's origins in the northern latitudes, but one that also had some sort of ecological basis because I am an outdoors-loving person and a scientist.

Enter: Taiga. A name that came to me out of thin air one day in the summer as I pondered what this little girl's name would be. I recalled that Taiga was an ecotype of higher latitudes, but couldn't remember any more detail than that. A quick Google search to confirm my recollection of the word's definition revealed that I was not only correct, but the name was perfect in more ways than I could have fathomed.

She is already putting herself in her crate after only 1 day with us.

(ˈtīɡə) noun - the sometimes swampy coniferous forest of high northern latitudes, especially that between the tundra and steppes of Siberia and North America. Origin: Mongolian (taīga).

The word taiga not only nods to the northern latitudes of the breed's origin, but is itself an ecological term referring to coniferous forests. I love coniferous forests of higher elevations - we have many islands of them remaining in our higher elevations of West Virginia and they're my favorite places in the whole state. A few of them are even swampy, which is an incredibly rare ecotype in the world - especially at my latitude.

Further, the word is Mongolian in origin. This surprised me and absolutely thrilled me to learn because I have a closet-fascination with Mongolia. The landscape is beautiful and wild, and much of their culture is steeped deeply in horses. I dream of traveling there to ride horses and camels across the steppe. Additionally, the eagle hunters of Mongolia have always garnered my utmost respect and awe.

Recalling. Look at this big safe space to practice being off leash! We've got nearly 100 acres of similar such spaces.

Not only does this name have a perfect meaning and history, it's got a hard and soft syllable that will facilitate her learning it. It doesn't sound weird when yelled (for when she inevitably doesn't recall immediately and I need to scream it across far distances), it can be spoken excitedly (in praise) and as a curse (when she's misbehaving).  Bonus? Other than the long I (ī), it doesn't sound like Kenai at all, so the two dogs won't become confused.

Smaller than Kenai's paws at this age by leaps and bounds. Both of her parents are smaller than Kenai's.

Taiga is from the same breeder as Kenai. While some may boggle at this because of the issues I've had with Kenai's knees, what happened with Kenai is NOT the breeder's fault. He has never before had a dog with issues like Kenai's. This breeder has been AMAZING at communication since I first messaged him about Kenai in 2010. He is a wonderful human and an incredibly responsible breeder of over 18 years. And in full disclosure, he even donated to Kenai's surgeries in 2015 and offered me a free puppy at a later date if I so desired - that puppy is Taiga.

Throughout the breeding of Taiga's parents, her birth, the puppy selection process, and time until I brought her home, the breeder has been AMAZING. I knew the morning after her parents had bred, I was notified within days of the birth, and I received weekly updates full of photos of the puppies thereafter. On top of that, he agreed to hang on to Taiga for nearly an extra month for me because of my Mexico vacation as I didn't want a new puppy to be stressed with a pet sitter or the pet sitter stressed with the new puppy's routine during my absence.

Look how dramatically she's faded! Even the breeder was impressed.
He said there is a chance her first shed could reveal a black and white coat. Time will tell.

The whole process was incredible and I can't thank the breeder enough for being so wonderful. I'm so very thrilled with this little girl (the smallest in her litter!) I enjoyed meeting not only her parents when I went to pick her up, but also Kenai's (!) and one of Kenai's brothers. (I picked Kenai up from the breeder's workplace due to some tight scheduling so I didn't get to meet his parents in 2010.) Every one of the breeder's dogs  was in great health. They've got a safely fenced yard to enjoy all of the time together in addition to their own kennels (though turnout is organized in certain groups to guarantee/prevent breedings as desired).

"I think I love it?" Taiga, probably

Taiga is as sweet as she could possibly be and such a quick learner (a double-edged sword for sure!) She's already played in a bit of snow for the first time and has been on several "big" (~1-mile) walks in our neighborhood. I'm so fortunate to live in the middle of nowhere on top of a mountain where we are the only full-time residents. There isn't traffic and there are rarely other dogs; it's the perfect place to teach Taiga how to be off leash safely. She's already recalling well after only 2 days together - freeze dried chicken liver treats facilitate this, of course.

I'm so excited to inundate this little girl with a lifetime of adventure. A winter of hiking and skiing will be a great start! I hope none of you get tired of puppy pictures...there will be an inundation of them the next few months!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Mexico Travels

I've been in Mexico for the better part of this month. One of Dave's best friends and his wife live [t]here in a small town called Jalcomulco in the state of Veracruz. It's a little adventure town in the mountains with rock climbing and a class V whitewater river. If it weren't for the difference in vegetation, language, and culture, it could be mistaken for Fayetteville, WV on most days. Green abounds.

The people of this little town are beyond friendly. And while the culture in this town is much of what I learned when I was in Spanish courses in HS (I learned just as much about the culture of each Spanish-speaking country as I did grammar and speaking), Jalco has some unique tendencies all its own (as any place does). My favorite of these, is that the locals communicate with various whistles before speaking if the person they're seeking isn't in sight. Different whistles can mean anything from, "Hey, how's it going?" to "Anyone home?" or "Let's go do something!" and those are just to name a few.

We've left Jalco to see adjacent towns like Coatepec and Actopan, but mostly, we ended up staying pretty local. This part of Mexico doesn't get much tourism by gringos, which is sad because it is absolutely GORGEOUS. Below, enjoy a chronological journey through our trip via my photos (all cell phone). We head home later today. It's been a fun few weeks.

Life in a hammock...that's basically been my trip. This is the communal kitchen/living room area in their house.
Enjoying the hammock on the first night while Michele, Roberto and Dave play music
More hammock the following AM
And more music before walking up to the climbing wall
View of Jalcomulco from the climbing crag
A need treehouse fort Sohoda (who developed the climbing area) built
Cerro Brujo, the climbing wall outside Jalco
Where Sohoda sleeps; his family have a house in town but he prefers this
Sohoda and friend playing instruments while Dave and Roberto gear up to climb.
I have a rotator cuff injury and sadly cannot climb.
Up, up and away!
One of many dogs I've encountered on my trip. This girl was standoffish but still wanted to
sleep on my foot!
They weren't sure if they'd max out the 70 meter rope, so Dave went up on Sohoda's
kitchen roof to lower Roberto. Rope wasn't maxed out fortunately, but better safe than sorry.
More time in a hammock while they climbed. 
And another evening of music playing at the house.
The donkey parked really close to our bedroom window. There are a lot of working donkeys around here and they bray 24/7
Enjoying the early sunshine
Sun beaming through the kitchen in the morning. Everything is open air - no glass windows!
We had to make a fire to help with bugs at the crag. The no see ums are no fucking joke down here. You should see my legs...
Such beautiful vistas! 75%+ of those trees are mango trees by the way. Jalco is a ecotourism and mango town.
Jalco and fires to burn the "trash" that are fallen leaves. They've got no concept of compost and just burn the understory.
Such a beautiful crag area. Sohoda has done an outstanding job.
Roberto and Michele's house. Rooms segmented out like pie slices below, open common area above (where hammocks are)
Sugar cane to the right, mango trees to the left
Gorgeous sunset vistas from the car on our way to Coatepec
Um yeah. Rattlesnake in the tequila....
And a....king snake? Roberto is not drinking the viper tequila, but mezcal, another agave liquor
Tacos al pastor and a corona
Tacos al pastor....more on this later...
Plaza within a bar we went to
It was a chilly 64°F this night, hence my jacket.
Pork rinds and tamarind margaritas - so freaking delicious!
The biggest freaking chelada-mix beer ever.
Streets of Jalco
Dave deciding which meat and cheese to order before going in, running his Spanish by me
The three amigos one morning
Puto = bitch. Dave and Roberto end many sentences in conversation to one another with "puto!" so it was only
 appropriate to pose with the graffiti lolol
A hobbit-esque home near the swimming hole we went to
Poza Azul (Blue Hole) local springfed swimming hole. Totally and completely gorgeous
Nature's infinity pool!
It certainly didn't suck ;-)
The drop here is deceiving, we were a good 30' above the next pool
Swimming selfies
Enjoying the cool escape from the heat - this redhead doesn't mesh well with hot weather!
An indigenous woman is causing quite the political stir in Mexico much like Bernie Sanders did in the
 US - we went to a part of one of her rallies in Jalco
Me. In a hammock. Again. 
Michele is a ceramist and taught me a bit about throwing pots
She made it look so easy!
Michele's quick example bowl on the left and my bowl on the right...
Mine was far from perfect, but it was okay for my first time!
Not going to fire it and take it home as their kiln isn't complete, but it would suffice as a dog bowl if I did.
Beautiful river views....
One of my favorite views of the whole trip! From a restaurant/wedding venue. They also have zip of the
zip is actually right in front of me in this photo but you can't see it due to the trees/clouds
Enjoying the view. We ate dinner right at this table.
The wedding area.
Similar topography to WV for sure.
A poinsettia relative...
One of many puppies encountered this week <3
Beans cooking in a crock outside someone's front door in Jalco
Local swimming hole in a pool between rapids
Roberto and Michele's backyard complete with pine apple, lemongrass, aloe, and other yumminess
View of the upstairs common area from the back yard
And again...
Michele's ceramic studio
Nice complete view of the upstairs area.
Tacos al pastor...a lot of pork that is repeatedly marinaded as it's rotated into the flame
And then they shave off the outside to be served a little at a time as they're ready
Roberto and Dave freaking love this place
Evidence of the unhealthy Mr Taco love of tacos al pastor
Neat composting toilet Sohoda built for the cerveceria (brewery)
Mike (originally from New Orleans) showing Roberto and Dave his cerveceria outside of Coatepec
He and his wife have done a beautiful job!!
There's even an outside area (featuring one of his wife's paintings) for bands, this was a local jazz group
Yet another vista of Jalco
Nubes (noo-behs, clouds in English) one of few huskies I saw on this trip...his "owner" would leave him tied and crying
without water most of the day (he'd dump it out in his distress) and I started taking him water and going over to console him
It isn't easy being a dog in a culture that sees animals more as things that serve a function than companions. This guy tore
at my heartstrings a lot. He was a total sweetheart - just a typical husky who needed more exercise than he was provided
and acted out as a result.
Another evening jam sesh
Eating pizza!
Bunch of climbing friends at dinner another night. Many of our dinners were on tables like this in the middle of the street
in Jalco outside of someone's home. They'd take your order and cook for you in their kitchen and serve you on the street.
We brought our own beer. Dave and I ate like kings most evenings for a whopping $2.50-5 total for us both.
Gecko on my yoga mat
A butterfly in a butterfly garden
Unfortunately all of the orchids in this garden had just completed their blooming period so there weren't any magnificent
flowers to enjoy, it was beautiful all the same.
Near Actopan above El Descabezadero, the birth place of rivers
Yep. That's a waterfall basically coming out of the middle of a wall of rock...
Another view. Waterfalls to the right and left of this staircase
With the water coming out of the wall....
And behind us
Loving the water and the cooler temperatures
So uniquely beautiful
Lesser falls coming out of the same wall of rock further downstream, that is a swimming hole at the base
People for scale
Bizarre unreal looking flowering structures on a plant
A very cool series of cascading pools elsewhere in the park
There were about 7 hottub sized pools where you could sit and enjoy the water.
 If someone in the top one pees in the water though everyone below will sit in it we joked.
The biggest waterfall...see the trail to the right? Yeah, we got a bit wet...
But it was so cool! Roberto and Michele
Dave and I
Always climbing something somewhere...
Picturesque swimming area above the falls
There was NO ONE up here. So obviously, we took advantage of the quiet and had a peaceful swim
Look closely and you'll see my stark whiteness as I launch off a small rope swing into the water
One more parting shot of the waterfall as we headed out
Central church near the central square in Actopan