Riding & Groundwork on a Grey Desert Day

greyday090915WWe’re closing in on the end of the summer monsoon here in Arizona, rejoicing to have survived the worst of triple-digit heat paired with stifling humidity. To remind us that autumn is descending, the sky stayed overcast all day, providing a cool, contemplative atmosphere for riding lessons and ground exercises.

solangehasabsTwo of my rehab “graduates” put their riders through a comprehensive core workout, with the warmblood mare carrying her human through a soft sprinkle of rain in their first-ever connected, comfortable sitting trot sans stirrups.

So nice for horses and riders to feel the relief of a cool, misty morning after months of blazing-hot and sticky-damp sessions, even at the crack of dawn. And such a rare and welcome treat for me to work in relative cool later in the day as I walked my miles on the ground with one horse starting back to work after a year of healing and another entering a new phase of his education.

A gentle sprinkle of rain misted my clothing and their slick summer coats and beat a quiet rhythm on the metal barn roof. The young rehab horse practiced changing bend through the barrel in sweeping S-turns and perfected the fine-tuned lightness of my “pendulum” exercise. And the gregarious gaited gelding practiced impulse control – he’s got a bit of an oral fixation – and learned to “waggle,” the first building block in building the posture and muscle tone needed to develop self-carriage.

The forecast calls for a scorching weekend, hopefully the last hot gasp of summer, so the memory of today’s mild mist will have to carry us desert-dwellers through the waning season. Whatever the weather next Thursday, I’ll be back to work with these horses and people who make my days so interesting, rain or shine.

The View From My “Office”: March 2015

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At one facility today I worked under a blue “roof” scattered with brilliant white clouds, while in the distance the skies were darker, more threatening, and there was an ever-so-faint rumble of thunder. Such a strange thing to hear in the early spring when the mesquite trees are still skeletal forms with just the hint of pale green buds. I think we’re in for a summer of extremes, my fellow Arizonans.

Good-bye to Grass Ridge

Every fall for the past several years I’ve put on my graphic designer hat to create the program for the Grass Ridge Horse Trials, the longest-running recognized event in Southern Arizona.

This will be the event’s 46th year and, sadly, its last. The decision to close Grass Ridge Farm to future competition came after the January 2014 death of equestrien Nina Masik, who with her husband George owned the facility and founded the event in 1968.

Designed in part as a keepsake for exhibitors at the final horse trial, the 2014 program features a number of historical photos, including this one of Nina from 1975.

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I know many Arizona equestrians hold fond memories of Grass Ridge Farm and its annual competitions. I even dug out my own little piece of Grass Ridge history, a few photos from 1992 when I competed at Novice level – my first real horse trial and my first visit to the southern Arizona grasslands.

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If you’ve never attended the event, October 18-19 will be your last chance. And if you’ve been before and want a last look around this beautiful facility, don’t miss this opportunity. An active monsoon season left the grasslands gorgeous this year and the weekend is predicted to be sunny and warm.

Dressage starts at 8 a.m. and show jumping at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Cross Country begins at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday. As expected, the final event has attracted a large field of competitors, so come out to support the riders as they take part in this historic event.

Springtime in the Desert Means Wildflowers

Though we had a cool, windy day with a bit of rain yesterday, here in Southern Arizona spring is definitely in full swing. We’ve even had a few days in the 90s to give us a taste of the summer to come.

Hard to believe much of the rest of the country, and even our neighbors in northern AZ, are still in the grip of winter. Snow, cold, high winds, severe thunderstorms, hail and even tornadoes were all over the news the past couple of weeks.

Here the wildflowers are brightening up the desert. Hope these photos brighten up the day for all those of you longing for spring.

(Select the thumbnails to see larger images)

 

 

Mother Nature Paints the Skies

One nice thing about the evening horse feeding and cleaning routine is that I’m out and about to enjoy Tucson’s amazing sunsets.

This evening was one of those “Ooohhhh! Ahhhhh!” kinds of sights, with a beautiful moon rising through an indigo sky on one side …

… and a gorgeous orange and pink sunset painted across the sky on the other side. Beautiful!

Wildlife Crossing

Half a dozen javalina crossed the road in front of me just before dusk one evening last week as I was on my way to feed my retired school horse. The next evening a pack of coyotes crossed at the same place at about the same time.

Made me wonder how the predators and prey share this trail. Is there a schedule posted somewhere?

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Share the Trail

Predators Monday/Wednesday/Friday and alternating Sundays.
Prey animals Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday and the other Sundays.
Please don’t litter. If you must poop on the trail, please use the plastic bags snagged on the brush to clean up after yourself.

Cross the road at your own risk!

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Monsoon Wildflowers

All it takes to make the high desert pop with color is a little rain. Here are some wildflowers from my travels on a monsoon morning near Sonoita.