Catalina camping trip

Holiday shenanigans abounded this weekend when I loaded up the Go Pony, the puppy, and myself and headed down to Catalina State Park for an overnight camping trip. It was the puppy’s first camping trip, and since my plan for her is to be my ridecamp and travelling companion, it only made sense to get her started early on the whole idea.

As for the pony? She was beyond thrilled to be going. It was her first camping trip in nearly four years, only lacking all of the typical pre-ride prep such as a bath. (She got to go in all of her filthy pony glory and her “sparkly whiteness” was still commented on.)

I was able to borrow a friend’s truck/trailer to go down, complete with gooseneck trailer space for sleeping. Both puppy and pony traveled well, Artemis in her crate in the truck with me, and pony happy because she was by herself. (Not exactly prone to lone travel anxiety, that one. She seems to prefer an open trailer, only bellowing once when she got in as we were leaving, and upon arrival at the campground.)

Of course, this still being 2013, the Tire Misadventures weren’t quite done with me, and I had to deal with this on the trailer before even pulling out of the barn:

better to discover it now than on the road…

At least it was on the trailer, not the truck, and I had it changed in about 15 minutes. Then the pony was loaded up, and we were on our way!

puppy goes on An Adventure

I didn’t hear so much as a peep out of the pony, and after her customary first five minutes of crying and squirming about being shut in her kennel, Artemis quieted down and slept pretty much all the way down.

Catalina State Park is about an hour and half drive from the barn, and it’s a nice, easy, smooth drive — perfect for someone hauling an unfamiliar rig. (I’m also completely sold on gooseneck trailers now.)
The whole point of the trip was to meet up with endurance friends Lucy and Patrick, who were spending their holiday horse camping at Catalina. Catalina seemed to be a super-popular designation for the weekend — fortunately, they saved me a spot to park as well as snagged a corral that morning for Mimi to stay in. (Yay for not having to listen to the pony attached to the trailer all night. Love her, but she’s active — she rolls, she boings her hi-tie, she clatters buckets, she rubs, she slings her hay manger around…)
Pony installed in her temporary weekend home

This was one of those trips where I was super-grateful to have the experienced pony along — no drama or fuss from her, being an old hand at this whole camping thing, so not having to worry about her left me free to deal with the puppy.

late afternoon sunlight on the Catalinas

morning sunrise over the Catalinas

The beauty of camping trips is the ability to kick back and not really have any pressing schedule to follow. (I’m sad to admit that the last horse camping I did for fun, and not associated with being at a ride, was back in 2009. 2014 goal: Change that.) Just doing a single-night stay meant that I didn’t have a whole lot to set up, either.

But winter in the desert does mean chilly nights, and I broke my cardinal “no dogs in bed” rule and let Artemis into my sleeping bag to stay warm. (Apparently I am a sucker for the “small, shivery puppy” routine.) I had a portable little propane heater, which was working pretty well right until the middle of the night when it ran out of propane, and I figured getting out of my warm sleeping bag nest would be more trouble than it was worth. Hindsight, maybe I should have at that point, since it got quite chilly in the next couple of hours, but I had extra sleeping bags, and managed to create quite a nest up in the gooseneck for us.
Artemis typically has me up between 5:30 and 6 to go out. This time, she poked her head out of the sleeping bag, then promptly ducked back in and snuggled closer. We both eventually dragged out of bed once the sun was peeking up over the mountains and it wasn’t quite as frigid, and went outside long enough for the puppy to relieve herself. Back inside, she requested (looked up at the goosebeck area and whined) to be put back in her nest, so I put her back up there, she dove into the sleeping bags, and stayed there for another couple of hours while I did pony chores.
(Having just seen Disney’s “Frozen” the night before I left, thoughts of eternal winters and ice and talking snowmen were at the forethought of my brain…)

Mimi was warm and toasty, ensconced in her fleece and sheet. She was also quite happy about not having to be up at the crack of freezing-cold dawn for an early ride start. I thawed out slightly by doing pony chores — feeding, watering, cleaning the stall — and once that was done, puppy was ready to wake up and join the world for things like breakfast and enjoying the sunshine.

Saturday morning was a chance to loll about and relax. Lucy made breakfast, we walked the dogs (they had Finn the standard poodle, who became Artemis’s new best friend), then Lucy helped me with Mimi’s hooves. I feel like I’ve gotten into a trimming rut — after a while, you either don’t see the problems or you’re not sure what to do differently to address them, and a fresh set of eyes really helps — and I like how Lucy trims, so she gave me some pointers, adjusted a couple of things, and the pony had pretty feet again. It also helped give me another good baseline to try to maintain when I trim. (Pony feet…a constant learning process.)
future ridecamp puppy watches the proceedings

Artemis watched all the goings-on from the safety of a camp chair — she’s still very leery of the horses, something I’m doing nothing to discourage at this point, since she has a strong prey drive and the last thing I want her learning is how to nip at horse hooves.

All of that done, we eventually got tacked up, stashed the dogs in Lucy’s trailer, and headed out.
Patrick on Fergus (buckskin) and Lucy on Roo (grey)

I’d never ridden the Catalina trailers before, and they’e gorgeous. A great mix of some technical bits, single-track, sand, and rocks, always with the magnificent Catalina range in view/overhead. I couldn’t tell you where exactly we went, other than it was around 11 miles, and we covered a whole range of trails, including heading back to a hidden waterfall. But I think the photos tell the story best…

rude pony showing how well she tailgates
(never mind death to any horse who tries it with her…)

gorgeous view only improved by the addition
of a cute grey pony

after seeing ‘The Hobbit’ before I left, I was getting somewhat
of a Mirkwood/Middle Earth feel…

first view of the waterfalls

Mimi and Roo could pass for twins

technical bits!
to my recollection, I don’t think I’ve ever done
steps with Mimi before…no big deal

in the lead and moving out

the creeks were running, and we probably crossed
water half a dozen times
(did we drink? of course not)

I honestly can’t remember the last time I had such fun on my pony. She was an absolute blast, and cast some major questions as to why she was retired in the first place. She was competitive, fast, strong, and definitely showing off for her new audience. I’m pretty sure she thought she was at a ride again, and SO happy about it.

The last couple of rides with other people, she’s been testing the limits a bit with her s-hack, sticking her nose in the air and generally ignoring my requests to travel nicely. So I put a running martingale on her…and oh, boy, was I glad for it. After all, it’s not every day your coming-21-year-old pony tries to run off with you…
I think one of the biggest differences was my attitude and approach to Mimi and her enthusiasm. I’ve always treated her like she’s made of glass, always afraid I was asking her for too much, trying to protect her. Riding as many different horses as I have this year has really given me more confidence in their toughness (yes, they can be delicate, but they can also be incredibly tough) and that I need to trust her to be able to handle herself. Well, she handled herself just fine, and we only had one “discussion” when she was too busy dinking around  in speed-racer excitement to watch her footing and almost face-planted at a fast trot.
Also, she-who-doesn’t-canter gave me some gorgeous, collected canters with a ton of impulsion and enthusiasm. And while I’m sure the adrenaline probably helped, I’m thinking some of her arena reluctance has been more mental than physical, since she wasn’t at all sore or tired afterwards. We did a total of 11 miles, and while her winter coat had her looking like a sweaty yak, she pulsed down immediately, drank well, and when we got back to the barn, jumped out of the trailer and tore off across the arena and pasture, herd trailing behind her.
The trip home was without incident — I even navigated a gas station with the trailer — and she was acting like she won the Kentucky Derby, trumpeting her return to the entire herd as soon as I pulled in the gate. 
If anything, this weekend showed me she’s not quite done yet, and I’m making plans to attend an upcoming NATRC ride in January with her. We will do the 9-mile fun ride, which she should easily handle. And this showed me that I just need to make a point to get her out more. I’ve got the opportunity to borrow the same rig again and more often, so I just need to do it. Getting out = happy pony and happy rider.
Next weekend is the Bumble Bee endurance ride with Liberty…can’t wait to see and ride her again, either! Great way to kick off the 2014 ride season. We’re doing the 25…should be a fun ride!
(And in other news, I changed my weight division for 2014…dropped down to Featherweight. My saddle, stuffed to the gills with way more than what I need/want to carry was the only thing keeping me in Lightweight anymore. )

the newest "herd" member

Meet Mimi’s new “little sister”:

She’s an 8-week-old Decker Rat Terrier. She’s also officially my first dog. Yes, I’ve grown up with the family dogs since I was two years old, but this is the first one that’s mine that I picked out, bought, and am responsible for being her primary caregiver and turning her into a Good Dog. (No pressure.)

She’s young, and she’s a terrier, so that means she has two modes: Play Hard and Sleep Hard. But she’s also very smart, and although she’s dominant, she’s trying very hard to be a people-pleaser and likes being with me.

For only being here less than 48 hours, she’s settling in well. Our main deal right now is potty-training and crate training, with a side of “I don’t like this, get it off of me” collar introduction.

I eventually intend for her to, at the very least, become a ridecamp dog. Part of the reason I chose a Decker was for their size — small enough to be portable, but very tough for their size and the endurance to go all day long. If I can find a safe place to do so, I would like to eventually start taking her on some short rides, but that will be a ways off before I even have to think about that.

The breeder she came from is also an endurance rider (Global Endurance), so she’s already been exposed to horses, and she’s well-socialized with people and other dogs. So it’s just on me to continue that training, which we will as soon as she has her second round of shots at the end of the month.

Naturally, she has her own blog: Squirrel Patrol. But I’m sure some photos of her will crop up on ehre from time to time. :)