Monday, December 19, 2011

12/19/11 Happy New Year

So 2011 wraps up.
We did not have one last ride, like I'd hoped, but I did do a lesson with Jerry Tindell out at the ranch and Tobe was flawless, completely healed from his back injury, and now I am inspired to get on with 2012 and the learning focus will be about ME, my developing lighter hands and better posture and moving up to a better more responsible riding technique. JT is the man who can teach it to me, and Tobe is the mule who can do it all............. time for ME to step up and raise my riding up a notch.
I'm ready!

Happy New Year from Pat Fish and Tobe Mule!

Monday, November 28, 2011

11/28/11 Jerry Tindell Ranch High Desert ride

After being unable to ride Tobe for more than a month I was thrilled to spend my birthday going on a short trail ride with friends. Tobe is attending the Jerry Tindell Mule School for the Winter, an equine boot camp, and I am making weekly trips out so that I get educated too!

Length: 2.6 miles
Duration: 1 hour
Difficulty: Very easy riding. We took it slow, and just went for a stroll on the sand roads dividing up the gridded out houses and abandoned properties that fill the high desert now.

Altitude gain: 0 ft 

Grade: I

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All tacked up and ready to GO!
Tobe is still a bit afflicted, and in the arena was not walking properly, mysteriously glitching, but once we got geared up and headed out into the desert he was smooth and calm........... so he will continue to be in school and under observation and for today I got the pleasure of riding him and not feeling him hurt or trying to avoid pain. I have to be positive and think that he is healing up, and we will have many more adventures together.
Two of the gals who also study with Jerry Tindell made a point of being available today to ride with me, so that I could spend my birthday on the Big Guy. Thanks Carrie! Thanks Cat! That's my little BrenderUp trailer parked behind them, and the ranch dog Ruby sneaking up behind.
This is obscure, but up on that roof are a dozen peacocks...... just one is visible if you really look....... so riding by is always an audio delight as they call to each other and fly up to the roof for safety.
There's Carrie cruising along on Diamond Lil, a steady little appaloosa mule who definitely knows her job.
Once upon a time not long ago, when JT moved out to Oak Hills, ALL this was open desert. Now the giant kachinas of powerlines stretch across the horizon, and in the housing boom the valley was gridded up into plots for sale. Ancient sentinels like this old Joshua tree still stand watch.
Since the plots of land are large many have paddocks with horses, and almost all have a posse of junkyard dogs guarding them. If the dogs come out to confront us they meet Tobe the Attack Mule and we charge THEM and run them back into their yards! HA! Who says mules are prey animals!
This is what really GETS me, the abandoned properties. Many, like this one, have their roofs half on....... looks like the funding simply stopped one day, and work ceased and someone walked away and left it to the bank. So they are frozen in time, and wait for the weather to take them down. And the desert, which is never forgiving, abides.
A shadow play, with Tobe leading Lil.
The thing about Lil, she really does think she's in charge. Not all that unusual for a mule.

This is JT's apprentice Cat, and her calm quarter horse Roxy. Just look how mild and compliant it is, this horse seems like a dog that just wants to do the right thing. A bit of a contrast for those of us who ride mules who can't help but express their own opinions when we ride them.
That's why we need Jerry Tindell!

And here is Jerry Tindell and his daughter Joni Tindell-Bennett. 
He is the patient and perceptive teacher who has been my guide for several years as I proceed in the endlessly fascinating and challenging process of learning to ride. 
Joni takes care of running the office and organizing the business so JT can focus on the students, both human and equine.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

10-22-11 BCHC Live Oak Camp & Ride

The BackCountry HorseMenAndWomen of California had their annual Camp & Ride up at Live Oak, and I went out for a stroll with some mule gals.

Length: 6.2 miles
Duration: 2.5 hours
Difficulty: Very easy riding. But Tobe has had a "hitch in his get-along" since Catalina that appears after a distance, and today it kicked in pretty severely at 1 hour/3 miles. His back legs seemed to be in pain, and he was very difficult to handle on the trail, and after the ride I took him to the vet for xrays and ultrasound to try and determine the problem. He'll be on layoff, on painkillers and anti-inflammatories for two weeks. 

Altitude gain: 960 ft 

Grade: I

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 When we arrived at Live Oak Camp this mule deer and friends crossed the road right on cue.
 Tobe was happy to go out on the trail with some pretty mules, in a place we very much like to ride in.
 The chalk hill rides above the river plain, we usually do a big loop and then end the ride coming down that white trail on the right.
 The first access gate, made to keep the cows and wild bucking horses inside. I so clearly remember how insurmountable this gate once was, and now I can open and close it from Tobe's back. The gate didn't change, I did.
 First view of Cachuma Lake. A beautiful sight, and this is the jewel of local riding areas.
 It is pretty well dried out after the summer, but just traveling across empty areas has a calming effect on equine and human.
 The stately oaks are such an iconic symbol of the Old West.
 The bucking horse mares and colts have no fear of riders, and Tobe always calls to them and it is a bit of a rodeo to keep him from running off and becoming a wild thing.
 The dry riverbed, the same one we crossed at belly-deep fullness this winter. In a land largely without seasons the ebb and flow of water in the frontcountry and the grass cycling colors are welcome markers of time.
The shadow riders survey the terrain.
And then patient Tobe got fussed over at the Alamo Pintado equine veterinary clinic, with the latest in ultrasound and xrays, as if he were an expensive racehorse from one of the nearby thoroughbred farms. For now, the Rx is rest and anti-inflammatories, and we'll hope to be back out on the trail in a few weeks. Poor guy!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

10-18-11 El Woodie

Tobe had a week off while I scrambled with business concerns, and in mule fashion he let me know today that he was NOT happy about having had a boring week. He was cranky, which made me frustrated, so we opted to just go for a 90 minute walk out on the Elwood Mesa rather than something more ambitious. Lots of bicycles and hikers, lovely weather, just a stretch of the legs. 

Length: 3.7 miles
Duration: 1.5 hours
Difficulty: Very easy riding. We just took a stroll. The only scary parts were the bicyclists who came up rapidly behind us without warning and the geese, who were having a very large assembly.

Altitude gain: 130 ft 

Grade: I

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 In dappled light the eucalyptus groves are a pleasant buffer between the housing areas and the Mesa.
 The groves are home to lots of monarch butterflies, which can be seen fluttering whenever you visit the area all year long if the day is warm enough. Some nesting areas are forbidden to us, where the trees are covered with resting butterflies, so here we skirt the edges.
 Turning out onto the Mesa there is a marine layer coming up from the South. Clear and hot here in Goleta, it was socked in fog in downtown Santa Barbara.
 Ever-present on the horizon, the oil rigs. Today in my fancy it looks like a tattered pirate ship at anchor.
 The colors! The intense blue of the sea and sky, with the marine layer a pastel grey coming up on the horizon like another set of islands.
 The mirror shimmer lagoon is filled with resting birds.
 Yes, yes, both Tobe and I would rather be up in the front country mountains of the Los Padres Forest than on a golf course in suburbia, but better to have a short walk than another day bored in a paddock.
 Even on such a manicured world as a golf course the geese are a wild element. A very big gaggle were presenting a hazard, and Tobe was NOT at ALL sure they were safe to pass by. Thus I do not have a close-up photo.... it was a both-hands-on-the-reins kind of promenade as we went past, even though the geese honked dismissively at us and waddled just a few feet out of our way, I couldn't be sure they wouldn't all take wing.
Ah, the Shadow Lad, admiring himself perhaps, or thinking how tasty that highly cultivated grass might taste.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

LAPD Mounted Platoon 10-8-11

The annual LAPD Mounted Platoon fund raiser ride, that I decided to attend just to get a feel for what the people who do mounted police work are like. Everyone I met was very pleasant, and I am sorry there is no opportunity for me to volunteer with a similar organization in my area. I donated a $100 gift cerTATficate to the silent auction, and had a lovely lunch afterwards. Tobe was the only mule in attendance.

Length: 14.3 miles
Duration: 5.5 hours
Difficulty: Very easy riding. In deference to the fact that there were 100 riders in the group the trails were all on either asphalt or dirt roads traversing Griffith Park in the mountains just above Hollywood. Good for conversation, not challenging. 
Altitude gain: 1750 ft 
Grade: I

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 We met up at the LAPD Mounted Platoon headquarters on the edge of the LA River, bordering Griffith Park.
 The first order of the day was a briefing, introduction of dignitaries, and description of the ride. Then we walked out on city streets with heavy escort and prepared to enter the park.
First, up and over a freeway overpass, over the LA River and  the 405, with both water and cars rushing beneath us and eedjits honking at the sight of horses above.
There I am between two men who turned out to be high ranking captains of their respective divisions. It was a real pleasure to meet them, and have enthusiasm for equines as common ground.
 We headed up into the park, and 100 people is a very big group, a long line of slowly moving animals and fine for conversations. Everyone I met, from commanders to captains on down to mounted officers who regularly work the streets on horseback, was a well-spoken and interesting individual. It did my heart good to have a day spent in the company of people who take great pride in what they do, an image of police not often presented in the media.
 Looking out into the smog, the towers of downtown Los Angeles.
 The first sight of Griffith Park Observatory, familiar to millions as the place James Dean played chicken in "Rebel Without a Cause."
 Going into a massive tunnel, the sound of all those hooves was a bit deafening. Good de-spooking!
 Coming out of the tunnel, a beautiful crepe myrtle tree in bloom.
 We stopped frequently to let out of condition horses catch their breath. Tobe got a lot of interest as the only representative of his kind, and he behaved well.
In fact, we both had a nice time and Tobe is quite stoic about whatever I ask him to do. In this photo he looks like he is pulling a wagon, leaning into the job. I look like I'm sitting in an easy chair, a pretty accurate indication of who is doing all the work on rides.
 But I could tell he was seriously bored. Coming off of our technical trails triumph on Catalina this was just going for a walk in the park. On roads. But he humors me and goes where I ask him.
 This was the photo I was so looking forward to taking, and unfortunately this was as close as we got to the famous HOLLYWOOD sign. I had suggested to the parade organizers that they arrange to have an equine event photographer document the ride, and set up in a place where people could pose with the sign in the background. That didn't happen, but I did think people would have liked the opportunity to get souvenir photos to show they had ridden in this famous place. We would have had to go on a different route to make that possible.
 From the highest vantage point, looking out over Glendale and seeing the smog of LA wafting in from the right.
 Looking out over the central downtown Los Angeles section, and that speck in the central horizon is a helicopter that came up from the downtown LAPD division and buzzed us, squawking the intercom. I thought it a bit reckless with that many skittish horses up there on a mountaintop, with steep drop-offs at the trail edges, but hey, cop humor or rivalry between divisions I guess.
 Then on the way back down an elderly man who was diabetic passed out in the saddle. Fortunately quick thinking people caught him before he fell, and he was administered some trail mix bars and gatorade. If you are going to have a medical emergency on the trail you probably couldn't have chosen a more capable group! Later we saw him at lunch and he looked just fine.
The last act was crossing over the LA River to get back to the Mounted Platoon stables. The river was rather swift flowing from rainfall 3 days before. The slick concrete was a bit of a challenge, but we bunched up the animals and there were no problems. There we are in the middle, setting a good example of wearing a helmet!
Another interesting day of asking Tobe to do something we hadn't done before, meet lots of people and animals, and look out over the smoggy city of Los Angeles and be glad we live in Santa Barbara, and head home tired and happy.