Sunday, June 27, 2010

Groton House

Well, Groton House 2010 is officially over. I had a wonderful time, though it was definitely a weekend of high highs and pretty darn low lows. Here's what went down:


Kiki was first out of the Erickson horses, going bright and early on Friday morning. I did her usual pre-official-warmup ride, and I was thrilled to feel her light, supple, and obedient. She had been equally good the evening before on our first hack around the farm, and so I was quietly confident that she might be able to keep a lid on it for the dressage. And she didn't disappoint! She warmed up wonderfully, sat in the shade munching grass for a few moments (usually one of my biggest pet peeves to do when a horse has its bridle on but one of the only ways to pacify her so I've let it slide), and then trotted over to the rings without batting an eye. She laid down by far her steadiest and most obedient test she's done with me yet; I was so thrilled with her! She ended up with a 34.5 (a personal best mark for the two of us!) for 11th in a very big and competitive division.

(Oh no! "Toxic Tail" attacks!! The lack of hot water in our barn put a serous cramp in my tail-whitening routine. I've got to come up with a new strategy)

Ringo was next, and I must say he was quite bad. In his pre-ride hack, I took him up to the warmup just to let him get a look around, and he nearly ran away with me. When he wasn't barging through my half-halt, he was running sideways and threatening to rear. Bad bear!! But I kept it chilly and spent a good long time doing super relaxed walk-trot transitions, and he came around. By the end of our hack, he was doing half-passes and changes again like it was no big thing and felt relaxed and supple. I was very proud of him, because such a transformation means (hopefully) that he's starting to trust me a bit more. When I got back on for his official warmup, he was obedient and calm but felt stiff and flat. We put in what I thought was a pretty abysmal test, where he felt barely on the aids the entire time, but I guess I was a bit mistaken because we ended up tied for 1st on a 28! This is best best dressage score I've ever gotten (EVER!) and the first time I'd EVER led after the first day. Good man! I'm still not sure how that happened, but I'm definitely not complaining!

Cross Country

So, I won't lie, I woke up on cross country day feeling like I was going to vomit, and that feeling didn't go away until I was out of the startbox on Kiki, my first of the two. Why? I don't really know. It obviously wasn't the size of the jumps. I think I was just feeling a lot of pressure to give Kiki a good ride, and I wanted SO BADLY for things to go well with Ringo. I had such bad nerves that my vision was starting to get affected: when I get really nervous, I go from focused "tunnel vision" right through normal vision and into this sort of a diffuse glazed look. I can only imagine what I must have looked like (probably a zombie) but it definitely hurt my riding because I had a hard time visually focusing on the fence, which is one of the main ways I extract my (quite limited) knowledge of "seeing the distance." I was also struggling because this was the first time I've ever had two horses going at the same level, and I had such big nerves for Ringo that I had a very hard time giving Kiki the proper mental preparation. Every time I tried to sit down and think about what I needed to do for Kiki at each fence, my mind would automatically jump to what I had to do for Ringo.

(Kiki in warmup; our first time going cross country on grass together! So exciting!)

The end result was that Kiki got a pretty lackadaisical ride around the course. Fortunately, she was calm, relaxed, and totally in her element, so for the most part it didn't matter that she basically had a sack of grain on her back for most of the course instead of a rider. She's such a natural. Less fortunately, at the one part of the course where I really needed to step in and give her a firm and decisive ride, I failed: after jumping off the drop into the water complex field, I made a sloppy turn around to the entrance to the water, never put my eye onto the very narrow entrance into the water or got her completely straight to it, and then to top things gave her a smack with my crop in my left hand (NOT the open side of the question) when I felt her back off a bit, so that the end result was that she just kept cantering right past the entrance to the water to the right and never even saw the place she was supposed to go. D'oh!! I made a quick turn and she trotted right into the water, even from the atrocious angle I presented it to her at, and then jumped super boldly out of the jump out of water (her first!) on the other side of the complex. She then finished up brilliantly, and was even still just a hair under time even with her stop. I was so mad at myself, because the stop was bad riding, plain and simple, and she didn't deserve to have her record screwed up like that. She was so awesome and honest, and frankly took care of me multiple times at only her second time at this level. Sorry, Kiki!!

After getting Kiki done, my nerves felt much better, and I felt ready to actually ride when it came time to get on Ringo. And goodness, he was fabulous!! He was calm and attentive in the warmup and jumped great right from the start. He did still need to be led into the box, but then he went out and after one strong half-halt from me realized that we were NOT going 520 m/m this time immediately slowed down and proceeded to lope calmly around. What a good boy!! It was honestly the best round I've ever had with him, and made me feel like I'd been doing something right these past few months. We came in right in the middle of the Optimum Time window (securing that we were still in 1st place) and he finished barely even blowing. He's so cool.

Show Jumping

After such great rides cross country the day before, I actually didn't feel that nervous going into Show Jumping. I was fairly certain that if I actually gave Kiki the ride she deserved, she was going to be fabulous, and I was quietly confident that I'd done everything I could for Ringo in terms of preparation for this test. He was being so calm and happy in stabling, and had been so calm and at ease in the cross country warmup, that I allowed myself to hope that maybe the competition had brought out the best of him and that he was back to his old self (and, part of me was really hoping that we were going to win!).

Kiki went first, and she was fabulous. She came out a little pissy in the warmup but nowhere near as bad as she's been in the past, and by the time we got to jumping she had calmed down beautifully. The first time we jumped the oxer in warmup she clunked out the back rail rather lazily with her hind legs; she really never hits rails, and I wondering how this rub was going to affect her. She came around the next two times and jumped it the best I've ever felt her jump! Talk about a "good rub!"

(Jumping great in warmup)

We went in the ring and she took that excellent jumping she'd been doing in warmup and cranked it up another notch. She was jumping so extravagantly that, after the first three fences, I was worried she was going to scare herself if she continued that way. Fortunately, she seemed to settle a bit as the course went on, and though she was still giving the jumps PLENTY of room at the end of the course, she didn't feel nearly as frantic as she had to start out. We passed through the finish flags, and I was very surprised to hear the judge's whistle. Turns out I had missed the third to last fence completely! You've got to be kidding me! I've never forgotten my course in my entire life. I was mortified, but at least very thankful that the judge let me finish the last line before telling me. That way, Kiki got to go through the finish flags and feel like she'd done a whole course. She was so pleased with herself! And with good reason; SHE didn't know she'd gone off course! As far as she was concerned, she'd won! Still, I was really kicking myself because Kiki needed this score to help qualify her for the Novice Three Day at GMHA in August, and the stop would have been OK but getting a TE in the Stadium definitely is not. It doesn't look like she's going to be able to qualify, which is a total bummer as I was getting really excited, and worst of all it's because of my error, and not her lack of preparation, that it's not going to work out. Boooooooo.

(wahoo! what a good little girl!)

(Uh oh; here's where I started to worry she might be scaring herself)

(Nah, she's got it; she got more confident as she went)

(High-flying mare over her first ever triple bar!)

Papa and I got Ringo and Dually ready at the same time and walked up together; in the 12+ years we've been eventing, this was the very first time we've been able to do that together, and it felt really special. Being with my dad is the best part of shows, and it's something I really miss when I'm in California. I'm so excited that he's having a great time with Dually; they really seem to be getting along great.

Ringo was a little tense in warmup but nothing bad, and I was proud of the way I worked him through it. He jumped flawlessly, and I was really starting to feel good that we had a shot of having a good round. We went in, last of all, and I felt excited and ready. I made a sort of figure 8 circle to test out his flying change (a good indication of how well connected he is), and when he was late behind I should have made another circle and really gotten his motor going in hindsight, but he felt good enough and so I came around to the first jump, which he jumped fabulously. It was then a square right turn to the second and third, a six stride of two oxers. I was dismayed to feel that he'd landed on the outside lead, and spent most of the turn trying to get him re-organized instead of really sending him forward like my original plan had been. Still, I did get him re-organized, I got his hind legs underneath him, I got him on a decent length of stride, and I got him off the reins: the complete checklist of what he needs before every fence. We got to the 3' oxer on a medium short distance, and he stopped in cold blood. I was so frustrated, but packed that away for the moment, gave him a pat to reassure him, picked up the canter and came again, this time being even more forceful in the application of my approach strategy. Thank you, God, this time he jumped it, and then proceeded to have a not stellar but at least existent round. He added up in both lines (part of his stopping syndrome: refusal to go anywhere except pile-driver into the base) which was frustrating and doesn't really predict success as we try to make the jumps bigger, but at least he jumped.

We finished with 4 jump and 12 time, enough to shoot us straight out of the ribbons. It was just an added sting on a very frustrating round. For a good few hours there, I really thought I had a good chance of winning Groton House, which has been a dream as long as I've been eventing. For the future, I'm really running short on ideas on what to do. I gave Ringo the best preparation I could, and in our last school he gave me as good a feeling over the fences as he ever has. He jumped perfectly in warmup, even over the large oxer they had out there, and never once gave an indication of even hesitation. Then, he came around the turn and was just a bit disorganized, didn't feel for whatever reason that my very focused and direction corrections were adequate, and declined to jump a fence which, let's be honest, he could walk over. This is a horse that I've jumped 4'6" on; I can't describe how sad it makes me to not be able to get him around a 3' course. I don't know what I did to make this horse this f***ed up, but I'm getting pretty tired of it.

What's Next

So obviously, I'm a bit down at the moment, but I'm not out quite yet. I'm not sure what the future is going to hold for me and Ringo, but we're going to keep trying. I'm going to head up to get a lesson from Suzi in the next few days, which will hopefully give me some clues towards what a next reasonable goal is. I'm just feeling very lost at the moment. Kiki is going to have a light week, meanwhile, and then gear up for Huntington on the 11th, where it will be Rider Redemption time!! She doesn't have to change a thing; I just need to remember to pack my brain!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Groton House Bound!

(One of my favorite shots that I took of Groton House last year)

The trailers are packed, the tack is clean, the boots are polished, the ponies are clean (well, for the moment)... we're ready to go to a horse show! Papa and I will be heading out in about a half hour; we're taking one last rest in the relative cool of the house before facing the heat again (though a breeze has picked up and brought clouds in... hmmm...) for the final push.

I have to say that I'm really excited! I think both the ponies are in good places right now, even if I did wish I had a bit more time to get both settled in and relaxed at the farm before taking them off to a show. Both of them felt great today; I think I've given them as good a shot as I could to do well.

I probably won't be able to give another update until the weekend is over, as I'm sleeping at the show grounds in my trailer: we didn't get a hotel because we're only 45 minutes away but we did stable, banking on the fact that we'd have civilized enough ride times to give us enough time to get there in the morning and feed without having to leave at the crack of dawn... the gamble didn't work in our favor, though, when Kiki got all 8am ride times! So I'll be staying over each night to do night check and morning grain, while Papa can go home and do night check for the rest of the guys at home.

Wish us luck!

(The [in]famous Groton House water)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

First Lesson Back with Suzi, and Farrier Day!

(Ringo relaxing after his lesson)

Yesterday I really kicked in summer in style by having my first lesson with Suzi Gornall in almost 2 years! I've known Suzi since I was 8 years old and would attribute her teaching to pretty much everything I like about my riding. Especially after the rocky winter I had, I was really looking forward to getting back to having lessons with her and seeing if she could help get me back on track. Well, after yesterday, I think she's going to be able to do it!

I started out with Ringo first, and within a few minutes of watching me trot him around on the flat she had a pretty good idea of what his issues were and how to fix them. Just like I was talking about in my last post, she thinks that he's lost pushing muscles in his hind end, which is making him more anxious about leaving the ground (which can lead to the rushing into the stop behavior he's been showing). The real clarifying moment was, after she'd gotten me to move him forward into a much bigger and pushing working trot than I normally do (I felt like I was flying around the arena!), she asked me to go to medium trot on top of that. I asked and he felt like he actually lengthened quite well, but when I asked to bring him back to the original trot, he nearly wiped out because his hind legs were so far out behind him. So, we kept working those transitions at the trot, and then again at the canter, getting more and more greedy with both the collection phase and the extension phase. And what a difference! By the end of the ride he was forward, springy, and almost heavy in the hand (if you know Ringo, this is pretty amazing). He felt even on both reins and all four legs, and I really could feel his hind end jumping up to meet his front. Cool! We jumped an x a few times in that canter, and I could just feel that his attitude felt different and more confident. A couple of times he even went for a nice, balanced, more open distance (which again, knowing him in the past few months, is quite a change!). Suzi is confident that, with a few weeks of concentrated riding like that, he'll be back on track. Hopefully!

I then rode Kiki, who was also quite good. For her, the goal was to slow everything down until her focus was more on me and my aids than on everything else going on around us. It was a good day to practice this because there were people in the gazebo and out in the woods, so she was definitely a bit turned on. By the end, though, she had some really nice moments, especially at the canter. As with Dually, I need to add more transitions within the gait with her (once I've gotten her slowed and focused, where with Ringo I need to go out and get him moving!) to start putting a little more pressure on her to make her stronger. I'm excited to jump with Suzi next time!

(Good girl!)

After the lessons were over, both ponies (and all the other horses on the farm) got their feet done. Poor Phil (our farrier) was here for 11 hours in the truly sweltering heat we had yesterday, doing all 15 horses we have on property right now. By the last horse (Gibraltar, our 27-year old ex-logging horse who went on to be short-listed for the '92 Olympics in Eventing, who then went on to teach everyone under the sun and their cousin how to ride, and who is the official King of Black Brook Farm) he was totally torched. But, as usual, he did an amazing job and I was really pleased with how he did Ringo and Kiki's feet for a first time. Excellent!

(Phil works on Gibraltar, who is probably the hardest horse to shoe in the barn because, at 27, he's so stiff that it's really hard for him to bend his hocks long enough for Phil to do what he needs to do. But man, Gib tries hard! He's such an amazing horse)

(The best place on earth)

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Ponies were so much better today! I think they felt bad for how much they stressed me out yesterday (haha probably not but I can always believe). They both went straight out to their paddocks, chilled and ate grass all day with no histrionics, and then came in quietly at dinnertime and settled into their evening routine.

I can't describe how good it feels to be back home. It's hot, it's sticky, and it's perfect. I forgot how great it was to be able to leave the arena every day, even if its just to go for a little tool around the field. I did a little bit of field dressage with Kiki, which was wicked difficult because it brings out her lack of balance, but I think if used correctly is really going to help bring a positive change to her way of going. I just can't get frustrated when she inevitably loses her balance and goes ripping off on her forehand down the hill!

It's also really interesting to feel Ringo in the field. Our hill is not very steep or long whatsoever, and yet trying to canter up the hill in a light, slow, even balance is pretty much beyond him right now. I've been feeling this weakness come up as rushing in his lateral work in the canter and, I can easily imagine, would also affect his anxiety about jumping, but it was really informative to feel it so clearly in this exercise. I popped him over a few crossrails today after getting his hind end in gear on the hill, and he was wonderfully relaxed and confident. They were just x's, yes, but his canter had a really nice ease and cadence. I think I'm going to be finding myself going up and down that hill a lot on both horses in the next few weeks and months!

Here's what I'm talking about:

This is me and Dually (and my dog Wiley!) going for my last gallop before I left for college in 2008. As you can see, the hill really isn't much to write home about, but it was definitely enough to bring out both Ringo and Kiki's weaknesses. I'm excited to see how being able to use it can help us out!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Settling In and More Photos

Well, today was the ponies' first day on the farm, and I wish I could say it went perfectly smoothly. As I feared, however, Kiki and Ringo ended up getting VERY attached to one another on the trip, and did NOT like getting put in separate barns and then paddocks where they could barely see each other. There was a good deal of pathetic whinnying and running around, which really stresses me out, and then Kiki topped it by loping up to the gate, jumping straight out, and galloping around like an idiot trying to get to Ringo. I was walking out to try to calm her down when she did it, and it freaked me out so much I felt like I was going to throw up. I really don't like seeing the horses wild and running out in the fields; I can't get images of them slipping, falling, and shattering something out of my head. Since my dad's first horse broke his leg in a winter ice-related pasture accident about 10 years ago, I have some founding in this paranoia.

Fortunately, nothing bad happened and they did settle down eventually, but I was pretty green at the gills by the time I headed back up to the house. It's tough because I simultaneously really don't believe in giving in to them when they're being like this; allowing them to be together now just delays the issue. It doesn't solve anything. So, while they're weaning off of one another, it's about minimizing risk (and trying to keep my heart rate down as well as theirs'!). They ended up having a great and relaxed day right up until feeding time, where an error on my part (where I wrote the wrong paddock/stall assignments for them on the board) caused them to go nuts again. I got them settled down eventually and then actually had great rides on each, but it was a pretty stressful day for me overall. I hope they settle in soon (Ringo especially - Kiki is pretty much set).

Anyway, here are the rest of the photos from the trip:

(In Wamsutter, WY - a very, very open place)

(Driving in the Great Divide Basin - the only place in the country where you can cross the Continental Divide twice!)

(Nebraska Cows)

(Papa keeping Billie Jean looking fly)

(Kiki enjoying some Nebraska grass)

(Ringo investigates some flowers)

(The Gang in Grand Island, NE)

(Ringo approves of Ohio)

(Kiki was a fan, too)

(Ringo is a blur! Really it was just so low light that I had to use wicked long shutter speeds... I'm pretty sure he's walking in this photo)

(Pa tries to find the source of Billie Jean's engine trouble)

(Not a sight you see every day!! Especially since there are two ponies in that trailer!)

(The ponies being very good and patient while Billie Jean gets repaired in Conastota, NY)

(sooo cute)

(Precursor to the insanity that is their current separation)

Tomorrow I'm hoping they will be a little more settled. The paddock assignment error has also been fixed, so they'll have the best shot possible at being good. Hear that, Ringo and K-I? No excuses for anything but calm!!

Road Trip 2k10: We're HOME!! And Pictures, Part I

YAYY!! I'm writing this post from the lovely warmth and comfort of my own bed, after an incredible 3,000+ miles and 54 hours on the road. The ponies are tucked into their new stalls, munching New England hay, and I can't wait to introduce them to their fields tomorrow =)

It was a serious bummer to have Billie Jean break down, but hopefully it was just a one off as she drove back very smoothly the rest of the way. Phew!

And of course, now that we're home, here are some photos:

($7.99 machete in the Mountain View Wal-Mart the night before we left... why not?)

(Kiki in Weimar, CA, the very first fuel stop of the trip)

(Ringo peaks out on the Sierra Nevadas in Weimar)

(Pa driving through the Great Salt Desert in Utah, which was absolutely amazing)

(Creepin on trucks in the Great Salt Desert)

(Kiki looks out on the alien landscape in Delle, UT)

(Cheesin at the Sinclair sign in Delle)

(Safely in Salt Lake, the first stop of the trip!)

(Awww, what good ponies)

(My first steps on Wyoming soil! First impressions: bad muzak and surly employees... awesome)

More tomorrow!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Road Trip 2k10: Update

We're on the road again! Hopefully Billie-Jean is feeling all better; barring any more drama, we should be home before midnight. Fingers crossed!!

Road Trip 2k10: Uh Oh!

Well, after such a smooth trip something had to go wrong, right? When we left Ohio this morning (after an awesome sleep in until 6:30!) we heard a strange ticking/flapping noise, but we couldn't identify it's source so we kept going. All seemed well and the noise mostly went away as we traveled into Pennsylvania and western New York. We were going to be home before we knew it!!

Then, at the 5 hours to go mark, the lights started flashing. Uh oh!! The check engine light and a half dozen others, all while temperature gauge suddenly dropped to nothing. Yikes!! We pulled off as soon as we could and fortunately landed in moderate civilization so the there was a gas station and mechanic right off the exit. The mechanic's just been out and diagnosed the issue (frayed belt that busted a hole in the antifreeze hose) and is now fetching his tow truck to get us to the shop. This will definitely be the first time I'll have seen a hitched and loaded trailer on the end of a tow truck!

We're still quite optimistic that we'll be able to get home tonight. I'll keep the updates coming as we get them!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Road Trip 2k10: Safely in Ohio

Phew! After 886 miles and a solid 14 hours on the road, Papa and I are safely settled into our hotel in Sandusky, OH (home of Cedar Point, apparently one of the biggest theme parks in America - our waitress at dinner tonight spent 15 minutes expressing shock that we could stop in Sandusky and not ride at least one roller coaster). The trip today ended up being very long but also mercifully very smooth. We had to wake up at a completely ungodly hour, and after the past few long days on the road I was feeling pretty physically sick as we headed out to load the ponies. Fortunately, Pa is an amazing morning driver and took the unwanted first pre-dawn leg while I passed out, while I took over for the midday siesta period after lunch.

The scenery was quite pretty today but got pretty repetitive - it's hard when you've been spoiled by such strange and beautiful landscapes for two days solid. Still, we had a good day passing the time with Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass series (we're on the last one and have already finished Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - hopefully we can make it through tomorrow!) and playing "Name the State Motto" (Very hard - who new Alabama's is "The Heart of Dixie"? Or that Maine is "The Pine Tree State"?) and "Name the State Capitol" (easier - my dad and I are huge nerds).

The ponies were total stars the whole way, even though it was significantly hotter and more humid today than either of them have felt in a long time in fair-weathered Palo Alto. They both drank (Ringo took actual sips! Huge improvement) and ate with gusto. I'm very proud of them, and hope they can hold onto the good behavior for one more day.

We pulled into Maple Crest Farm, the ponies' stopover for the evening, just as the sun was setting. The owner came running out to greet us and was incredibly kind and knowledgeable right from the start. They have 55 Tennessee Walkers on property, all of whom seemed happy and well taken care of. It was also a welcome change to have her insist on seeing Ringo and Kiki's cogginses and health certificates; this is something that just isn't done often enough at these overnight facilities, and it definitely put Maple Crest high on our all-time stopover favorite list. The ponies got two round pens that are right next to each other and within close eyesight of most of the horses on the farm. They had a blast right off the bat, rolling copiously and letting off huge bucks to show off to the Maple Crest horses. After two days of being either in the trailer, in small box stalls, or on controlled hand walks and grazing sessions, I'm sure it felt great to get to stretch their legs a bit! They were just settling down to eat dinner as we left; hopefully they don't have too much fun tonight =)

Tomorrow is the last leg of the trip, and the shortest (at 731 miles). I can't wait to be home. Here's to another successful day on the road!

Here are a couple of photos we've taken on my dad's phone (just a preview of the hundreds I've taken on the digital camera!!):

(The open road in Wyoming yesterday)

(Pa behind the wheel just outside of Cheyenne, WY)

(The broaster chicken dinner at Tommy's in Grand Island... Epic. check out the light-up tinsel American flag in the background!)

(A big gorgeous Nebraska sunrise!)

(Crossing the Mississippi - Man, it feels great to be officially back in the East!!)

Road Trip 2k10: a Brief Update

This has got to brief because I'm writing from my dad's fancy pants new iPhone, which also has our directions (I'm also quite stupid at writing on this thing so can't do anything quickly. My computer has run out off batteries and I packed wayyyy too securely to get the chord out last night, but the trip is going quite well still. We got into Grand Island, NE, last night after a really beautiful drive through Wyoming, where the views were alien and stunning and we even saw cowboys on horseback from the road! The ponies liked Grand Island and settled in well, though neither finished their bran mashes all the way. Since they drank well and vacuumed up their hay, though, I'm not worried. They were definitely comfortable, as they were both flat asleep when we showed up to load them this morning! We had a moment of panic worrying that they'd escaped when we didn't see their heads right away, but after a few seconds of our headlights shining on their stalls, they both popped up very cutely and poked their faces out to say good morning.

Ringo has gotten better and better on the road, and actually took whole sips of water at our last stop!! Kiki continues to impress and, besides having released herself from her tie 4 times now, has been a model citizen. Good girl!!

The ride today has been pretty boring but relatively smooth. Papa and are still reeling from the all-brown Ultra Midwestern dinner we got at "Tommy's," a diner in Grand Island that specialized in "broaster chicken," which apparently is chicken that has been pressure-fried. Dad got it, and man, it was epic: a massive plate loaded with fried chicken, baked beans, and fries, all with a side of iced tea. We got pictures and I'll try to upload it when we get home.

We're in Indiana now and getting ever closer to our stopover destination of Castalia, OH. It's hard to believe we're almost 3/4ths of the way home!! Fingers crossed that the rest of the trip goes just as smoothly.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Road Trip 2k10: Part I - California, Nevada, Utah

Well we've officially made it one quarter of the way! Papa and I had a beoootiful drive up through Lake Tahoe (where we were above the snowline in Donner Pass!) and then across Nevada and into Utah, ending in Salt Lake City. The ponies travelled really well (though Ringo was, of course, a bit of a fuss budget), and Kiki especially surprised me with her maturity and relaxation on what has been by far the longest trip of her life. Big plus also: Ringo and Kiki are actually getting along! They will probably get a bit tired of each other by Day 4, but this evening as I was grazing both of them they shared a tiny square of clover and did nothing more than prick their ears at one another. Good ponies! I took tons of photos on Pa's digital camera but Papa forgot the uplink cable at home (since I don't own a digital camera myself, I don't have one), so the photos will have to wait until we're safely back in Carlisle. So here's a verbal break down of how today went:

3:45 am - wake up. Booooooooooo.

4:15 am - head out to barn; realize half way out there that I've left my bike in the dorm rack, where it will be thrown away if I leave it there over the summer. Detour for a quick rescue operation.

4:30 am - arrive at barn and begin the last stages of packing, hooking up, feeding, gastrogarding, and wrapping the ponies.

5:25 am - it's go time! We wanted to leave at 5 but hey, not too shabby.

6:00 am - NO SAN FRANCISCO TRAFFIC. Thank you, God.

8:30 am - first refuel in Weimar, CA. Ponies are lookin good.

10:00 am - snow in the Sierras! in fact, lots of snow! In fact, we are well above the snow line! And it's pretty chilly!

11:30 am - salt flats, steam vents, strange igneous rock formations, and an utter lack of permanent settlements make us wonder if Nevada is, in fact, The Twilight Zone.

noon - second refuel in Lovelock, NV. Banners all around town read: "Lock your love where your love is always locked." Really.

2:30 pm - pronghorn sightings! Awesome.

3:00 pm - third refuel in Elko, NV, "Home of Cowboy Poetry." The sign for the Restrooms at the gas station is spelled "Restroom's." Pa and I question what poets would hang out in a place like this.

3:3o pm - Nevada is gorgeous! Giant valleys, beautiful green riparian zones along flowing green rivers, glacial leave-behinds and stubborn igneous hangers-on make for a Nerd's Paradise, and Pa and I pass a great deal of time playing "Guess how far the horizon is?" and "What's that rock formation called?"

4:00 pm (now 5:00 pm with the time change) - We enter Utah, straight into the Bonneville Salt Flats. We spend an hour oohing and ahhing at pure white plains and floating mirage mountains.

6:30 pm - fourth refuel in Delle, UT, which appears to be a single dilapidated Sinclair gas station and nothing else. The ponies are still chillin, and we promise them that the end is in sight.

7:30 pm - hello Salt Lake City State Fairpark! After 15 minutes of wandering around the park, we find the barns and unload. I take the ponies for a nice graze while Papa gets the stalls set up. Both Kiki and Ringo look happy, calm, and generally no worse for wear, and eat with relish. We try to take pictures and fail miserably.

8:30 pm - ponies tucked in for the night, Pa and I find dinner and get awesome frozen custard at a 50's-esque diner near our hotel. A good end to the day!

Tomorrow is another early day, with the rest of Utah, all of Wyoming, and half of Nebraska to cover. Wish us luck!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Road Trip 2k10: The Countdown Begins

We're getting close! Tonight is laundry night, tomorrow the vet comes to drop off the paperwork I filed earlier in the week and I head over to jiffy lube to get Billie Jean serviced, and Sunday everything gets packed up and ready to go. I'm getting so excited! Both the ponies are feeling good and I've started introducing them to bran tonight so that I can use it as a hydration tool during the trip if necessary. Ringo is still suspicious, despite additions of salt, Gamma (super oil supplement), and sugar (aka: The Triangle of French Cooking - what pony could resist??). Kiki, on the other hand, took two sniffs and chowed down; I knew there was a reason I liked this horse =).

I'm going to try to blog during the trip; I've been looking at the photos from our last cross country odyssey-- when we took Dually, Billie Jean, and all my stuff to Stanford-- to get pumped! Here's Road Trip 2k8 in photos:

(Hacking in Michigan)

(Michigan sunrise... out over the soybean fields! Dually had no idea what to make of the soy, half wanting to eat it and half HIGHLY suspicious of it)

(Hacking out in Michigan again - improbably wearing a sweater in August? Who knows. The dude is so shiny!!)

(Dually surveying the Kum n Go in central Iowa with interest)

(BIG!! Windmills in Iowa)

(Dually eating grass in Ames, Iowa)

(Enjoying a good roll after a long day on the trailer!)

(An early morning at a truck stop in Nebraska. The gas station had an attached restaurant whose speciality was (shocker here) ... corn.)

(Nebraska corn fields)

(Nebraska cattle country, mercifully cloaked by fog. Also, check out that speed limit! God bless this country)

(Dually enjoying his pipe corral in Golden, Colorado: by far out favorite stopover of the trip)

(HUGE rock formations in Southern Utah. It's impossible to describe the scale and beauty of this region of the country. It may have been painfully, creepily lonely out in that windswept desert, and there may have only been gas every hundred miles, but it was my favorite scenic section of the trip by far)

(The open road on the Utah border)

(Lunar landscapes in southern Utah)

(Dually soaks up some Utah rays by day...)

(... and enjoys a gorgeous sunset in Parowan, Utah that evening.)

(Nevada in the wee hours of the morning)

(California at last!! It was 105ยบ at this point... I was pretty sure Dually was going to roast inside the trailer.)

(The Golden State)

(Our first ride at Stanford, our new home at last!)

Ahh, what a fun trip that was! I can't for the new adventures that this one will unfold.
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