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[RC] July horsenews - Mike Sherrell

July horsenews

       Horses grazing without any shade on a hot, dry, sunny California 
day want .5-.75 gallons per hour, assuming my 5-gallon buckets really hold 5
gallons. (If you set it up so that they run out of water a couple of hours
before you want to bring them in, they?re easier to catch.)

       July 1, first day of what was to be 3 days of ridecamping from Stockton,
Traveller and I set out from the UOP campus along the Stockton Diversion
Canal. We got a good 25 miles in, much very nice; turned around way out in
the orchards to the east. Nearer to town there were some campers along the
canal, seeming like new-style gypsies, for one, a college-age boy and girl
seeing the USA with a dome tent and a suite of camping gear, not just the
standard-issue derelict alcoholics that one usually finds under the bridges.
Then there were a couple of co-eds in swim suits pushing boogie boards into
the water ? I was too decorous to gawk. But in the hot afternoon, further
out on the border between housing and farming, I did stop and stare for a
long time. Three adolescent boys were splashing under the bridge with a big
black dog. Two boys and a girl in a long cotton skirt, about 8, appeared on
the levee top and came down to join them. Then came some girls of about the
three boys?age, one leading by the hand a toddler she must have been

       Saw the movie Beowulf and Grendel ? the Icelandic horses were totally 
to watch, zipping across meadows and pebbly beaches carrying these hulking
warriors, mostly tolting but sometimes cantering, furry pasterns like

       Granada is kept in a small paddock so her left hind suspensory, injured
either by slipping while running in the winter mud or being kicked, could
heal. After an ultrasound the vet said the tendon fibers had grown back
without much disorganization or scarring, but in the area of the injury the
tendon had thickened and shortened. So my idea was that by letting her walk
around in the paddock as much as possible, encouraging it by feeding her
last so she?d pace impatiently, maybe she would stretch the tendon out
gradually, but in the relative confinement she wouldn?t have enough room to
run and maybe reinjure it.

       An apple tree hangs over her paddock, and apple season is beginning. One
day I saw her standing up on her hind legs and stretching her neck up for an
apple high on the tree ? it was awesome, spectacular; I think she reached
higher than the top of the barn. And when she did it twice in quick
succession it made me think her hind leg couldn?t be bothering her that much
and maybe she was ready for me to ride her a little, to see if it was time
to bring her back, start to stretch out that tendon a little faster. And so
we?re up to about ten minutes of gaiting around the arena. She doesn?t seem
to be off, and what?s more she spontaneously puts weight on her injured left
leg by lightening up her right rear when it is time to lift that hoof to
pick it.

     I have to say that this horse?s gait is the most amazing on any
Peruvian I?ve ridden ? it?s like being rocked on a spring-mounted porch

       In the middle of a ride at Hamilton, got off the horse for one reason or
another, and was appalled to find a barbed wire barb ? the double-pointed
twist with a hole in the center where it wraps around the wire ?  embedded
in my saddlebag. Could have been embedded in the horse.

       Reading a book about the evolution of insects, I find that horseflies
started out drinking dinosaurs? blood.

Finishing up the first day?s Stockton outing, Traveller and I were crossing
a field of fallen-down dried grass that I was scouting for a campsite. We
were under some palm trees that had been shedding fronds, many of which, it
developed, were lying criss-crossed covered by the grass. Traveller stepped
through something with a snapping sound, and started limping. I didn?t see
anything, so I led him the last couple of miles back to the trailer. Next
morning his left front pastern was very swollen and he was limping badly. So
we came back home and I laid him up for a couple of weeks, thinking he had a
sprain, although eventually I came to think that more likely it was a bad
scrape. I fed him only a little less than his working diet, and in about a
week and a half he went from lean to a little bit fat.

       With Traveller recuperating, I started riding Grandiosa. After two 
weeks of
conditioning, Jean and I took her to Rift trail at Pt. Reyes with Margareta,
Jean?s excellent mare. I had got Grandiosa?s gait to a reliable four-four
but it was uncomfortably bangy, so I decided I had better make one final
try, before I went back to Traveller, to see if I could smooth her out by
going for more of a sobriandando with reaching under. We did get it going
pretty good. Plus, following Margaretta up the hills Grandiosa learned how
to canter (and when she learned that she had learned how to canter, she
started trying it out in various situations). Also, after four encounters
she learned that I want her to go right up to within a foot of a gate before
I get off to open it.

      It is so gratifying to have a horse learn useful things. I had
forgotten how much more manageable mares are than geldings like Traveller.
Grandiosa still doesn?t have a lot of rides under her girth, and she?s
really nervous, but unlike Traveller would have, she stood up close to the
blackberry bushes so I could stand in the stirrups and get the ones the
pedestrians couldn?t, and she even held steady while a bicycle whizzed past
4 feet away ? the cyclist unexpectedly ejaculating enviously at my reach.

     On the other hand, riding Traveller can be like riding a cannonball.

       I like the paso club playdays, so I went to a playday at Skyline Park in
Napa that I had found on BAEN.com, the Bay Area Equestrian Network. But it
turned out to be all girls, the oldest of whom might have been 17,
practicing what they?d been learning in their riding classes. So Traveller
and I took a turn through the Society of Creative Anachronism camp, with it
horseless ersatz medievalism, and then took off and drove around Napa
looking for places to ride.

Just east of the Napa River we got into the county water treatment fields,
where we started a fox out of some shrubbery and, to my regret, a white owl
who had been laying up in a row of eucalyptus trees waiting for the sun to
set. I?d have rather let him rest. Traveller gaited beautifully in the soft,
grassy dirt, but then he got overamped by his own fast action and by the
wastewater sprinkling machines ? huge rainbirds, taller than a rider, big
heavy arms pulsing at what must be less than 60 beats a minute, shooting the
water out in hundred yard arcs. His gait, which I usually have to keep
pushing away from the huachando unless he gets really up, went beyond the
paso llano all the way to the trotty side, the first time that?s ever

       This was the weekend of the great heat wave, and where we were it 
hit 107. As the heat built up, T started acting like he was having a problem
with his back end, to the point that I thought briefly of equine
encephalitis. I stopped to inspect his feet, and his hind shoes (but not his
front), shiny as polished silver, were hot to the touch, almost as hot as if
they?d been soaking up direct sun, even though we?d only been on dried grass
and a little dirt. This was water district land, so it wasn?t hard to find
some runoff a few inches deep for him to stand in while cropping the
greenery, and when we left he no longer acted like it hurt to gait. But he
had lost all his pep, so we gave it up and went home. It wasn?t too hot to
be out in, just too hot to work in.

       Last weekend of July, back to Stockton. The heat wave was over. 
Saturday we
went up the Calaveras ?river?, more like the Calivaras ditch, but good for
at least five miles out into the fields and orchards. On the way back we
stopped for water at a shallow, low-banked irrigation ditch, and Traveller
went down on one knee to get to it. I got pretty thirsty too, and on the way
back I hid him in a ditch behind the flea market and went in and ordered a
shaved ice from the handwritten list posted on the cart from the monolingual
vendor, and it wasn?t English. Looked like the vendors and patrons were
about 70% latino; more vegetables being sold than I would have expected.

       When we got back to Go, it was still before 5, so I trailered up to some
little waterway we?d been along before, this time to go through the walnut
orchards along the track on the opposite bank.

       Walnut orchards can be spooky. No matter how bright the day, they?re 
dark and shady. Everything is quiet, muffled by the trees, and you can?t see
more than 20 or 30 yards. There might be vigilant, malevolent people
lurking, hostile to horsemen because walnuts are harvested by shaking the
trees and scraping them up with machines, and hoof divots in the soft soil
sequester the loot.

       We passed a small section that had sprinklers chattering. It seemed like
someone must have just been there, or might be coming soon, because it didn?
t look like they covered more than a tenth of the orchard, so they must have
been turned on and off frequently. Then, a little ways off in the orchard, a
little behind us, a dog began to bark ? a small house dog, to judge by the
pitch of his voice, and not far beyond the range of view. If I owned a
walnut orchard, I?d definitely put my house in the middle of it.

       We camped out under a bridge that night, and Traveller drank seven 
of water right away. I don?t know why people (and trolls) are so likely to
choose under a bridge as the place to be along a waterway, when it?s not
raining or there are trees to shade them, but we do. After all, the traffic
overhead makes them noisy, and they?re easy for the sheriff to scout. But
after Traveller and I got settled, a couple of bums came along the opposite
bank and stopped under the other end of the bridge, and after a few
semi-coherent exchanges, went silent too.

       The next day we tried the Mokulumne Aqueduct. It is actually a buried
pipeline belonging to East Bay MUD, but there is an unforturnately not
completely continuous right-of-way over it. I say unfortunately because it
runs from the Oakland hills on the west side of the Central Valley to the
foothills of the Sierra, and in the area east of Stockton it is generally a
flat, smooth, mowed grass boulevard 100 feet wide with trees or cultivated
fields on each side. Despite pushing forward very aggressively, I was able
to make it no further than six or eight miles northeast, where a couple of
large, scruffy white dogs barked at us from the opposite side of a fence
that we couldn?t pass or circumvent without significant physical risk or
substantial property damage. The dogs were lonely, and after a little while
were glad to be petted.


Mike Sherrell

Grizzly Analytical (USA)
707 887 2919/fax 707 887 9834


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