the buzz from Bumble Bee

(That was horrible. I apologize for starting the new year off with cheesy, punny post titles.)

I had a blast at the “Lead, Follow or Get Out of My Way at Bumble Bee Ranch” ride (henceforth referred to as the Bumble Bee ride) this weekend. Attending rides is the absolute highlight of my job — I love interacting with riders and had such a great time meeting so many new people this weekend, or finally putting faces with names of folks I’ve either spoken to over the phone or emailed.

Bumble Bee was a new ride, put together by the same management team that does the “Lead, Follow or Get Out of My Way” ride at McDowell Mountain Park in November. I hope Bumble Bee becomes an annual event, because it’s an absolutely gorgeous location with a great basecamp and, from the little bits I saw along the way and based on what I heard from riders, fantastic, beautiful trails.

Friday was my “work” day, being available as a Renegade rep to answer any questions people might have had, check boot fit, make boot adjustments…pretty much anything that pertained to Renegades.

Saturday I was volunteering, which started with me heading out at 0-dark-thirty, navigating via headlights over a 4-wheel-drive road to man a gate that riders would be passing through fairly early on into the ride (within half an hour of the start…not the time to be getting off and wrangling a combo of a gate + fresh horse). I like doing gate work — it’s fun to say hi to all the riders and watch them pass by.

After gate duty, I went scuttling back to camp to start my job as one of the Master Timers. This is the third ride I’ve had that job, and I really like being in the thick of all of the vet check action. Plus, my organized little brain actually enjoys tracking all of the data. Weird, I know.

(I think my ride stories are probably more interesting than volunteer stories…there’s a lot more drama and entertainment as soon as the four-hooved factor gets added in.)

All in all, it was a really fun weekend. I’m really enjoying still being able to go to rides and socialize and reconnect with all my endurance buddies.

Slacker photographer-r-us this weekend, but I got a few pretty pics of ridecamp and such.

The pavilion where dinner and ride meeting was held.
The bucket in the foreground was the P&R area.
The sign really says it all…
Gate duty Saturday AM. Killing time between riders,
jumping up and down trying to keep warm in 30*.
Driving in to ridecamp late Friday morning.
Yes, this is still Arizona.
At least it didn’t involve rain or snow.
Sunrise Saturday AM. 

*crickets*

I know, I know. It’s that quiet around here of late.

I’d admit that I’m kind of a horrible, inconsistent blogger. But y’all knew that anyway.

I’ve been a combination of busy and not-busy. Busy with things like work, and the holidays. Not so busy with things like actually riding my horse.

And truth be told, I can only make endless circles in the arena sound exciting so many times. So this weekend, we took a walk around the neighborhood. I think the pony enjoys seeing me hoof it next to her sometimes versus toting my butt around all the time.

The neighbors across the street had a new addition to the front of their property: Goats!

The Pony Who Stares At Goats

Mimi would like a goat. Her best friend at one of the boarding stables was Trixie the pygmy goat. Trixie would, when she was allowed out of her pen, hang out in Mimi’s stall and shared the pony’s hay.

Four-legged weed whacker

Then we came back to the barn and ate grass next to the driveway for about .5 seconds. (It’s non-existent in the pasture right now, so I’m paranoid about her level of exposure to too much green stuff. )

Fortunately my work life is keeping me busy. There’s some days I scratch my head and wonder how in the world I got so lucky as to be one of those people who actually gets their dream job?! Seriously, I love what I do. I enjoy talking with people, especially hearing their stories about their horses.
Two weekends ago, I went up to the McDowell ride. My purpose there was two-fold: Friday, I was working, available as a Renegade representative for anyone who had questions or needed help. Saturday, I was volunteering as one of the in-timers, the same job I did at the ride last year.
It was so awesome to be a part of the endurance community again. My goal for this upcoming year is to attend all of the in-state rides that I can as a company rep. Until I’m actually competing again, this will serve as second-best, and it’s still keeping me involved and social.

Saturday morning ride start. 75s out on trail, waiting for the
50s to start checking in.
(One perk of not riding: I was up at 5:30 instead of the 3:30
wakeup I would have gotten had I been riding and had to
get ready.)

Color-coordinated. And cold.

The ride went really well, as far as I could tell. The weather was perfect. It was downright cold up until about 11 in the morning, at least for me sitting at the timing table. Around 2:00, the clouds blew out and it warmed up enough to where I was comfortable in a t-shirt…which meant I was sufficiently re-heated to be able to handle the oncoming cool evening.

The last of the 75s were in at 11, which was awesome. I barely had time to break out the hot water, ramen noodles, and cocoa.

Despite what the photo shows, it’s actually a
lovely matte cocoa color. I added the custom
Renegade orange racing stripes.

And my one impulse buy at the ride was actually useful: new helmet. I looked at my old one and realized it was about two years past its “best by” date (which is approximately 5 years past the date of manufacture). That’s not ideal…

Of all the things out there to purchase, this is one of the more justifiable ones. I’ve yet to test it out — it’s so pretty and I don’t want to mess it up! — but it’s the same as what I already have, the Tipperary Sportage 8500…just about 6 years newer and a different color.

The only thing better than doing a ride…

…is helping out at one. Or in this case, after one. Dad and I trailed the ponies up to McDowell Mountain Park yesterday to help de-ribbon the trail from the latest Valley of the Sun ride, which had been held Saturday.

A little bit of background history: we used to ride McDowell quite a bit, about 5-6 years ago. We stopped because the last time I rode, I nearly got dumped half a dozen times because of all the mountain bikes that kept popping up behind us, and every time they would so that, Mimi would aabout hit the stratosphere. Not my favorite cup of tea. Around that time, we discovered the nice, quiet San Tans. Well, sometime in the last five years, Mimi has learned to contain her reactions, and yesterday, when she spotted a biker, she would simply stop and look behind her, and we would move out of the way. Yes, horses typically have right of way, but McD has always been very popular with bikers, and with that many of them on the trail going at the speeds they do, it’s just easier to move off the smooth, wide trails and get them to slow down a bit as they pass.

Now, onwards…

We met up with Stephanie DuRoss and ride manager Irene Murphy around 10a.m. to get our trail assignments — we had a 14 mile loop in the northwest corner to de-ribbon. A good bit of it was on lovely, groomed, wide single track. I think we both ended up hand-walking about half of it, for various reasons: 1) some of the ribbons were clipped to really low bushes, and even Short Stuff and I couldn’t reach them; 2) Beamer was rather on edge, it being only his third ride out since October and full of energy, being in a brand new place, and having bikes jump out from beind him every 10-15 minutes; and 3) I’m doing my best to hop off and walk with Mimi in an attempt to bring her back slowly without overstressing her hocks. And packing my butt around for the entire very slow 14 miles fits the definition of stress.

The trail is absolutely beautiful, though. Small, undulating hills, twisting, curving trail, smooth, groomed. I can see why the finishing times at the first two VotS rides were fast. We got pretty good at “trot twenty feet and stop” because there were a ton of ribbons out there. Some of them I could snag on the fly, but both Mimi and Beamer got a wonderful session in manners and anti-buddying training. It was very difficult for the pony to stop at a tree and wait for me to get the ribbon while her brother trotted ahead to the next one. But by the end of the loop, she was stopping on a relatively loose rein, waiting for me to get the ribbon, and then waiting for my walk or trot cue before moving off. That alone was worth going up and de-ribboning. But the best was still to come…

We were about 3/4ths of the way through pulling ribbons, and were just coming off the smooth singletrack trai lwe had been on for the first 8 miles or so. We turned a corner, looked down a small hill into the sand wash, and saw a herd of wild mustangs!!! There were five of them in the herd, all congregating around the head of the wash, grazing on some sweet grass growing on the banks. They were completely unfazed by our presense. We stood on the hillside for a few minutes watching them, then made our way down to the wash. At this point, the ribbons were tied on, management having run out of clothespins to fasten them, so each ribbon required stopping at and untying or carefully ripping, trying not to lose little pieces in the process.

As we’re standing in the wash, yanking at ribbons, the herd starts moving around us. The lead mare walks across the wash to another stand of trees and more grass, followed by a youngster who looks like he might have been her baby from early in the previous year, followed by the stallion of the herd. He was phenomenally beautiful. Big — probably 15 and a half to 16 hands, beautifully proportioned, and elegant head, tree trunk legs, and the most perfect feet. All of them had feet that looked as though they had been freshly trimmed by a farrier. Talk about your perfect mustang roll.

There was another mare that was hanging back on the other side of the wash, and a young bay who looked as though he was about two years old. He started crossing the wash, stopped, loooked at Mimi, then started slowly coming up to us. I very quickly jumped off at this point, listening to the little vocie in the back of my head whispering “geldings don’t naturally occur in the wild.” Eep. Not wanting to deal with possible repuercussions of that particular meeting (Hmmm…Mustang x POA…that would probably be a fantastic endurance horse!), I stood in front of Mimi, blocked the mustang’s path, and directed him back to the other horses.

It was the coolest experience ever, seeing how the human body language-horse body language thing is so similar, and so effective on a horse that has rarely, if ever, had human hands on him. A strong block with the shoulders and upper body, one arm extended to suggest direction, the other arm used to move him along from behind. He looked at me, then slowly pivoted and walked back to the herd. That was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had in communicating with a horse. I now see the appeal that some people find in working with mustangs.

As soon as the herd showed no signs of wanting to come back for more, we moved on (still hand-walking), and five minutes down the trail, come across a small herd of open range cattle! I couldn’t tell what kind they all were, other than a juvenile-looking one that I’m almost positive was a Brahma. He had the floppy ears and grey color. We stop in the wash, they stare at us, we stare at them. Pony gives the Patented Penetrating Pony Stare, guaranteed to wilt any cow standing in her way. It works. They turn around and scramble away, heading up over a little rise. The young Brahma bucks as soon as he reaches the rise, thus confirming our belief of how Beamer got him name.

Beamer’s registered name is Brahma PFF, and we’ve been in constant debate as to how his name came about. The first theory is that he is named after Brahma, one of the Hindu gods of what is their Trinity, essentially equivalent from what I understand, to the Christian Trinity belief. Or something like that. Eastern religions aren’t a strong point in my knowledge base. Considering his half-brother’s name is Shalom, we’re thinking there might be some exporations of Middle Eastern/Far East cultures here.

And then I met a Brahma cow a couple years ago. I’m thinking this is the more viable option. 1) They’re both grey. 2) Brahma’s have a large hump on their backs. Beamer has very tall withers. 3) They’re both very sweet-natured and gentle. They Brahma I met had the same soft look in his eyes as Beamer. 4) They both buck as though they’re trying to give the soles of their hooves a suntan. So there you have it: My conclusion? Beamer was named after a cow. *shuffles off to laugh hysterically*

McD is clearly a wild park. It’s over 20,000 acres, and there is a ton of wildlife there. We heard coyotes singing from about 4p.m. onward. I saw several desert cardinals fluttering around the trailhead that morning.

We finally finished around 5p.m. Clearly not hustling, but I was really happy with how the ponies did. They were both bright-eyed and full of energy when we got back to the trailer. They obviosuly retained their conditioning from the fall quite well. Certainly better than I did, as I am kind of sore and crunchy-feeling this morning as I sit and write this. It’s mostly sore seat bones and upper thighs, probably from too much sitting and slow-going. My knees were majorly sore yesterday as I was riding, but they’re fine this morning. I made the mistake of not dropping my stirrups to addomodate that much walking. I have them set for trotting, which is just a bit too short for that kind of sustained walking. My mistake, but they’re kind of a pain to adjust, because I have to get in under my full sheepskin to adjust them.

I’m cautiously very optimistic after yesterday’s ride, and although we’ll see how the next several weeks go, I believe I will be taking Mimi to the Valley of the Sun 25 in February! I’ll be taking Cindy’s horse Harley to Wickenburg at the end of this month to do the 25, but if all goes well for training and starting to increase the speed and distance with Mimi, we’ll be at McD in February!

And wouldn’t you know it…yesterday was the one day I didn’t bring my camera!!!