Tuesday, January 24, 2012

1/1712 Ranch Life ride

Tobe continues to be enrolled at the Jerry Tindell Mule & Horse School, so after working on commands and posture in the arena we relaxed and went out for a stroll in the high desert.

Length: 3.4 miles
Duration: 1 hour
Difficulty: None! We just went for a walk around in the cold windy desert. A dog did come out to defend his property, that was the only scary moment, but we chased him back inside his gates three times before he finally realized this mule was not going to be a victim!

Altitude gain: 479 feet
Grade: 1

 The drive from the coast up to the high desert takes me 3 hours............ and I see amazing things on the highway! This was the biggest set of tires I have EVER seen, slowly heading up the Cajon Pass.
 And there's the 4,000 foot elevation sign at the top of the pass, WAY above my humble beachside home. It is pretty epic for me to make the trek out to do lessons, but if I don't I won't improve, and Tobe can get perfectly tuned up and I'll just erase it! I'll pet it right off of him!
 There's Jerry Tindell in the arena, he may look like a little elf way over there but he SEES EVERYTHING and if he tells me often enough I do too! Today, after reviewing the videotapes from last week, I was able to start to correct some things that have been very difficult for me to learn. I would still catch myself beginning to do them wrong but then I'd stop and correct the movement .... thats the next step toward better control.
 Tobe is pretty sure HE knows it all already, I think. He's waiting for me to catch up. Right now I'm learning two vital and compatible things. First, to use my feet and legs to give the signal for what I want and not just my hands. Then, to recognize and respond when he does the right thing and back off, let him know he did it right. The timing and awareness required are a big challenge for me.
 Never ceases to amaze me how interesting things look from the back of a mule. I really wouldn't want to just go for a walk down this dirt road, but riding there is an opportunity and a challenge! It is such a multifaceted activity, stretching awareness on so many levels. I can be paying attention to my posture, or to his ears and other signals about what he is looking at. And then if I am feeling like a rush I can ask him to canter, and we fly along and it is my manifest equestrian destiny, to feel at one with my mighty steed.
 The strange entrance to the electrical power station, clearly not a place we need to explore the inside of.
 This canyon drops down and has palm trees in the bottom, and a wealth of old junker cars that look like generations of hot rodders have used it for a lovers' leap. I lobbied for a trip down into it ... but my companions were timid, and I was in that mode just a few brief years ago, so I am always in concordance with the cowgirl rule that you ride to the comfort and ability of the least rider. The MOST important thing is that no one get hurt.
 As the afternoon sun started to slant we headed back, hot coffee and conversation around the kitchen table were starting to sound mighty good.
 Two ravens watched us go by from their high wire observation post. Hugin and Munin, Odin's birds, thought and memory.
 Back at the ranch I got Tobe untacked and set up with a bucket of treats and then took photos of some of the other students enrolled as his classmates. This set of Clydesdales are learning to be a matched hitched team for pulling wagons.
 This young buckskin filly is just learning she's a horse, and getting a good start here.
 Blue the mule, he knows it all already, he's along for the ride.
 Earl mule, he's lived here so long he is sure everyone works for him.
And this white horse had one normal dark eye and then this amazing marbled eye, part light blue and part dark. Quite the sight! You just never know what you'll see if you keep looking!

1/8/12 Tenderfoot Trail Ride

Once more back out to the desert. Tobe is continuing to study with with Jerry Tindell, so we did a lesson in the round pen, which my employee ColinFraser filmed for my later review, and then several of us went for a ride out in the desert. 

Length: 4.6 miles
Duration: 2 hours
Difficulty: None. Walking on the dirt roads, a little bit on trails through the desert, just exercising the animals and taking a spin out into the neighborhood.

Altitude gain: 193 feet
Grade: 1

 Tobe is an A student at the Jerry Tindell Mule and Horse School! He likes being here!

 He waited patiently as everyone else saddled up and got ready. He's always up for a ride out.
 My employee ColinFraser, who is much more at home behind a Macintosh computer than holding reins, is an adaptable creature and manifested his inner cowboy on the ever steady mistress mula Diamond Lil. In front is Bonito, whose massive dapple grey head contains a very big mule brain.
 In deference to animals with health issues and novice riders we took it slow, and just tooled around the dirt roads in the high desert.
 As timeless as the desert seems, looming between us and the Eastern mountains is a gigantic electrical power generating substation.
 I figure in the new year I will make a point of taking portraits of the people and animals I ride with, so here is Carrie Gordon on Jerry Lee, her mounted patrol gelding.
 ColinFraser on Diamond Lil, the sort of mule who makes sure everyone knows that she is the decider.
 Joni Tindell Bennett riding the muy bueno Bonito.
 And here is Lisa Wicketts with her matching blonde mare.
 If "The desert is an ocean with its life underground..........." then these are the pirates of the sand.
 And then it was time to trace back along out hoofprints and return to the ranch.
Where Tobe waited patiently for the carrots and treats that he knows I will reward him with.

Monday, January 2, 2012

1/2/12 First New Year Ride in the High Desert

It was delightful to get a start on the New Year with a ride into the desert. Tobe and I did a lesson with Jerry Tindell in the arena, and then went for a walk, just the two of us, in the slanting afternoon light to enjoy being together. I'm working on focusing on less hands and more leg, and Tobe is glad I'm doing that! The more I can tell him clearly what to do, the better mule he can be. 
Onward into a New Year with more skill and more adventures!

Length: 2.6 miles
Duration: 1 hour
Difficulty: Not! Walking on the Edison access dirt road, trails through the desert, or roads cut for the housing developments that have only partially materialized. The presence of off-road minibike riders was unnerving, roaring down the desert trails, but they never came too close.

Altitude gain: 111 feet
Grade: 1
View 1/2/12 New Year Desert in a larger map

Tobe waits patiently to see what I might be suggesting we do.
I tell him first we are going to do a lesson, and he thinks he is going to show ME a thing or two he's learned in the week since I was last here. He is a star pupil at Mule School. We worked on side-passing, and lateral flexion, and the less I use my hands and the more I use my legs the better we can do it all. I am humbled, he is a very good mule and I am becoming a mule rider. As I improve, he always keeps up.
After the arena work I wanted to take him and just go for a walk in the desert, so we headed off to the land of the Steel Kachinas.
The power lines have an access road cut underneath them that heads back toward the highway, the old route 66, so I thought we'd just go explore that a bit. I'm always amused that I'd never want to just go walk over there and take a look alone, but add in the companion aspect of walking my Irish Wolfhounds or riding Tobe and instantly random places seem worth investigating.
Joshua Trees dot the landscape, and our shadow looked like a Knight and Medieval war horse in flowing jousting drapery.
More realistic is this shadow against an estate wall, Tobe is fixing on the sounds of the minibikes ahead. Fortunately they are so extremely loud that we would have plenty of time to exit a trail if they were barreling towards us.
We continued down trails and then AT THIS POINT HE STARTED TO SNORT and refused to go ahead, and upon inspection I could see crows massing on something in the desert................ it was time to let Tobe be the decider. Whatever that dead thing was he didn't want to investigate, and I agreed. It took a bit of a discussion to make it clear we were not going to run away from that smell, a learning moment while we turned and walked away calmly. I will always praise a mule's sense of self-preservation, but I don't want to have to hang on if he wants to bolt. We negotiate.
And that's an overview of the Jerry Tindell Mule and Horse School, where Tobe is getting gold stars and attitude adjustments and skills and thrills.
While I work on relocating my business and getting up and running in the new location for the New Year Tobe will continue to stay at the school for a few more weeks, getting ready for the adventures and Lucky Trails we will have in this Good New Year.