Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Secret Trail from Home

When people ask if I ride from home, generally the answer I give is, "No."  Although our house in on a 1.1 ac. plot, Diego only has a small corral out back, and we're pretty much surrounded by other homes and subdivisions

However, I'm not being entirely honest.  While I do trailer out for 95+% of my rides, I DO have a "secret" little trail that I can access from home.  However, I certainly do not consider it green horse friendly.  Thus, while I could trot along merrily with my experienced horse Sinatra, Diego has only been hiked along portions of the trail, and I've never tried to ride him on it.  But we're a one-truck family now, and I don't always want to hitch up the trailer and drive anytime I want to get out, so I've decided it's time to rediscover my little hidden gem.

Please excuse phone-quality crappy pictures.

From my house, I walk down the road past the neighbors and then catch a gravel easement road that runs a couple of blocks up to the main street in and out of our neighborhood.  Dogs go on the lease and we all scamper across the street and over a bit to access another gravel road that runs behind a group for about 6 houses, and has a couple of tight squeezes between fire-access emergency gates, before accessing the lower (southern-most) portion of the Upper Reach for Thomas Creek.

Upper Thomas Creek - At about 9,000 feet, the headwaters of Thomas Creek originate in a lush alpine bowl about two miles north of Mount Rose peak. Flows from fifteen or more springs come together in a large meadow and form a meandering channel. Then the stream flows east down a steep, rocky canyon filled with aspen trees, willows, service berries, choke cherries, wood rose, alder and other woody plants. The area is alive with dense carpets of native grasses, sedges, and rushes.

The upper reach of Thomas Creek is relatively undisturbed with the exception of a dirt road and multiple use trails. The creek emerges from the canyon near Timberline Road and flows down through low density housing developments (this is the bit I've been riding).

When we first arrive at the creek, there's a small shallow crossing where the dogs like to lie in the water and get cooled off and drink.  I then stay on foot for the worst part of the single-track trail, which all occurs in the first 1/2 mile or so after reaching the creek.  Here are some photos:

Mud Puddle in the Aspens

Jess shows the way
Sketchy bit of single-track uphill,
this is steeper than it looks

More narrow bits,
this is dropping off sharply on the right

Along the canyon wall,
views of the golf course

Views of Arrowcreek Golf Course,
I think this is the end of the front 9

From a prior day, Diego trying to figure out
the sound of golfers teeing off

We can follow along the creek for quite a ways, actually all the way to access the main Thomas Creek, Jones Creek, and Whites Creek trail heads near the base of Mt. Rose, all of which go up further into the wilderness area.  For now, we've only been going two miles or so up to where Arrowcreek Pkwy crosses the trail, and heading back home from there.  I've been taking my pruning shears and clipping off the overhanging bits here and there as we go.  For now, I'm probably riding about 1/2 the trail and walking the other 1/2.  Diego obviously isn't very physically challenged by these excursions, they simply don't qualify as conditioning rides, but they're very mentally challenging and stimulating for him.  Last night we had "discussions" regarding which grass clumps he was allowed to stop and munch on.  He thought that ALL grass clumps should be allowed, as soon as his mouth was empty.  I had to kick him and argue a bit to advise him that NO, he could only be stopping when *I* said so!  He's also learning to be brave and be out on his own.  To look before he startles at something, because it's probably just the (stupid - per Diego) dogs yet again, and to watch where he's putting his feet.
We did have one incident last night that caught us both by surprise.  Where we've been stopping to turn around is a more open "meadow" portion of the trail.  I generally let him graze a bit and then we turn around and go back the way we came.  Last night, he made the turn, and then for whatever reason, stepped off the edge of the trail, up the small embankment that was covered in grass - so much you couldn't really see it.  Poor boy, his left front foot slid on the edge, across his body, and we both ended up laying on the ground on the side of the trail!  He simply had collapsed down onto his shoulder and rolled onto his side before I quite realized what was happening!  Thankfully my shoe was tied loose and I pulled my foot out from under him without any effort.  We both got up a bit startled and shaken, but no worse from the wear (although my foot at the time was feeling a bit squashed, and my knees were knocking).  I walked and trotted him down the trail just a bit to access that he was okay, and then mounted back up to continue home. 

I'm hoping to continue these excursions on a more frequent basis.  As we both build up our confidence, we can traverse further in a lesser amount of time.  For now, it's a lovely little "secret" trail that we're able to enjoy, right from home!

Photographic evidence of my poor, abused, starved horse:
Diego gives the restaurant accomodations
4 stars!

Monday, June 6, 2011

NASTR Ride Musings

Well, Diego and I got pulled.  Bummer.  =(  However, we did 36 miles and he's not broken, just footsore, as confirmed by the head vet, Jay Mero.  In looking back, we had several very good things happen at this ride:
  • I mounted up in camp and rode out of camp with a happy horse at a walk.  He was a bit "up" when I first got on, but settled nicely and went on down the road like a big boy.
  • I got to ride with some very fabulous ride partners, Nancy Upham and Gretchen Montgomery.  Both of them are fabulous ladies who I love to share the trail with, so it was a very, very fun ride for the entire time I was out there.
  • It was a tough ride, very technical and rocky terrain, with a lot of climbing.  Diego did all the "hard" parts since the last 14 miles we didn't do was mostly all the downhill back to camp.  =)
  • Since Gretchen and Nan's horses are both seasoned mares, Dig got to work on his big boy endurance trot, i.e. going along at 9 mph rather than 6-7 mph.
  • There was a TON of grass along the trail.  Diego learned the art of "grab-and-go" eating.
  • We both did a great job taking care of ourselves, eating and drinking, both on the trail and in the vetcheck. 
I have a few theories on why Diego came up footsore.  Mainly, he's continuing to land toe first.  With horses, ideally you want a heel first landing.  In looking at the pictures from the ride photographers, you can clearly see him spiking his feet into the ground toe first, and the dirt being kicked up by how he's driving his foot in.  I've been working to bring his toes back each time he's trimmed.  However, I last trimmed him the Thursday before the ride.  And I trimmed way too much off to expect him to do a ride two days later.  I should have been more cognizant of the timing of the trim.  When I had my other horse in shoes, I would ideally have him shod about two weeks before the ride.  That's what I should have done with Dig.  A good balanced, make-them-shorter trim two weeks to a week and a half before the ride, and then just a quick touch up if need be to ensure the boots fit correctly.

Enlarge to see the dirt poofs from his "spiking" his toes

The other item I'm going to look into is the possibility of some deep seated thrush that may be causing heel sensitivitiy.  Things have been pretty wet this year and there's a good chance he could have something brewing in there that isn't overly obvious.  I was dealing with some thrush off and on all winter, so it's possible that it's more deep seated and not being resolved with just some standard over the counter topical treatments.

My other concern for why he's landing toe first is saddle fit.  He has a long laid back shoulder, and I need to ensure that nothing is pinching and causing him to restrict his stride.  I noticed that he was having to take about 1 1/2 steps to the other horses' one stride this weekend.  He's just not truly reaching out and using himself.  He may be doing it because his feet hurt, or because the saddle fit isn't ideal (I'm still playing around with fit and padding).  It may be a combination of all of the above.

At least the cure for sore feet is relatively easy - some time off and easy light riding.  He should be all better in a couple of weeks hopefully. However, getting to the root cause of the issue, and resolving whatever the problem may be, is my main concern now.
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