Sunday, April 6, 2014

Today, The Cows Won

Sunday April 6 2014

We got this cow-moving thing down. (Maybe not the fence-fixin' so much, but definitely the cow-moving.)

A rancher's cows have taken up residence on our upper 200 acres (and Connie's 40 acres) this spring - and why wouldn't they? Abundant grass and water, a 'nursery' to have their babies and raise them in safety, while the BLM land they're supposed to be on is scanty with feed, and the water is a long way away.

We've fixed some fence (over and over - the barbed wire is very old and not cow-sharp, and therefore not much of a deterrent), but once a week or so, after the cows either hop the fence or bust through it (calves just slither right through), Connie saddles up Tiger, and I saddle up Dudley again (sometimes Steph joins us on the ATV), and we moooooove the cows back on up the 200 and out the gate back onto BLM land. Last time there was a bull in with them, and he obediently mooooooooved out with his harem.

We'd gotten good at it. I don't know if Dudley's done this before, or if he's instinctively just a smart cow horse (he's smart at everything else). Tiger's getting brave and smart on cows too, with all the mooing and hollering and "HYAH!"ing; and even the cows have been getting smart. Last time they obediently mooooved along steadily in single file, up the crick much of the way before they let us turn them up the hill, and moooooove them on out the gate.

Today was that time of the week again. We saddled up Dudley and Tiger again, and today Sarah and Krusty joined us to mooooooove 30-40 cows out again. It was Sarah's first cattle drive.

The cows and calves were harder to drive this time, as if they'd get bogged down in quicksand along the way. They'd mush up into a pile like a freeway traffic jam, then they'd split up and down and left and right, scatter back down in the crick, break away back up in the tall sagebrush.

Long about the time we finally got them pushed up 195 acres and turned toward the gate, we saw the problem. The bull did not want his harem to leave paradise this time.

We 3 cowgirls and cowhorses pushed the cows and calves on one side, while on the other side the bull was busy running the line pushing them back toward us. The cows didn't know who to be more worried about - 3 brave and strong cow horses and 3 hollerin' bawlin' cowgirls, or one big bull that was getting madder and madder at them.

We cowgirls perceived we were no match for a mad bull, and we sure didn't want to get him mad at us, too. And since we're some pretty smart cowgirls, we admitted when we were whooped.

So we gave up. The bull and cows stayed on the upper 200. We rode home.

The cows won this round. Might be time to quit pretending and call the Real Cowboys and Real Cowhorses and Real Cowdogs in on the job.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

New Release! Soul Deep in Horses: Memoir of an Equestrian Vagabond

Tuesday April 1 2014

It's here!

Clinging to a four-legged rocket ship among the Pyramids in Egypt. Riding a racehorse on the Curragh in Ireland. Winning a first endurance ride in Texas. Flipping a packhorse down a cliff in California. Flying on a Lord of the Rings horse in New Zealand. Cowgirling it in Idaho.

All of these serendipitous equine adventures, and more, are disparate pieces of a puzzle that have merged to create the eclectic, nomadic lifestyle that Merri Melde lives every day with horses. And none of them might have happened if she had not first met the racehorse Fred, who taught her how to fail spectacularly at her dream job.

It's not the destination of new dreams but the journeys toward them that allow Melde, by chance or by divine intervention, to experience such diverse escapades and to come to know and love such magnificent horses as Harry—a fire-breathing dragon who gives her a great gift; Zayante—one of the country's best endurance horses; Jose—an Avatar and Kindred Spirit; and Stormy—The Most Beautiful Horse On The Planet.

In Soul Deep in Horses: Memoir of an Equestrian Vagabond, Merri Melde paints a vivid portrait with her moving words of a unique life irrevocably entangled with horses—the beauty, the humor, the thrills, the fun, the fear, and above all, the love that goes deep down into the soul.

Part memoir, part travel and horse-riding adventure book, this heartfelt narrative packed with excitement and emotion will appeal not just to horse lovers, but to anybody who has ever experienced failure and success in following their dreams, and anyone who has ever lost their courage and rediscovered it once again.

Available now on! - click here.

If you're wanting an autographed copy, you will be able to order directly from my website around April 15 (then allow a couple of weeks for delivery). I'll announce this option when it's available.

I hope you enjoy the ride!

And sign up here for The Equestrian Vagabond Dispatch for publishing exclusives.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Fence 'Em Out

Saturday March 29 2014

Idaho is a state with "Open Range Laws", meaning livestock has the right of way. Cows wander in and scare your horses off and eat your hay? Too bad, you have to fence them out. Bull charges you out in the open? Too bad, he has the right of way. You hit a cow out on the highway? Too bad, you are liable and you get to pay for your car damage and reimburse the rancher. (We know to drive very carefully on the highways in the winters and springs here.)

The property owner has to fence unwanted livestock out. (Idaho Code apparently allows counties to create "herd districts" where the animal's owner is liable for any damage it causes, but I expect there aren't many herd districts in the state; and anyway, land previously used as open range can't become a herd district.)

There are plenty of twists and turns within this law (such as, what defines a "lawful fence"), but the basic law is, if you don't want the cows on your property, you have to maintain the fencing to keep them out.

We get the occasional cow or two or three every year up our canyon that we drive on out (although if it's a bull, we call the ranchers to come get their bulls! We don't mess with bulls), but this year, many, many cows can't resist our green grass and the delightful bubbling crick up the canyon. 

This winter, we're doing a lot of moving cows out, and we're doing a lot of fencing 'em out. Hammering the little U-nail-jobbers is good hand-eye coordination practice for some people (ahem), and besides, driving cows is excellent cross-training for the endurance horses, some of whom are afraid of cows. 

It's just part of life in the West!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

"Get Ready For the Ride of Your Life!"

Sunday March 23 2014

That's one of the quotes from Bobbie Jo Lieberman's blurb about my upcoming book, Soul Deep in Horses. You'll see her full blurb, (as well as author Milton C. Toby's blurb), on the back cover of the book. Bobbie is editor of Trail Blazer magazine, so I like to think she knows what she's talking about.

Here's the copy on the back cover, to give you a taste of what is to come:

Merri Melde knew early in her existence that horses would be her life. In Soul Deep in Horses: Memoir of an Equestrian Vagabond, she paints a vivid portrait with her moving words of a unique life irrevocably entangled with horses - the adventures, the beauty, the humor, the thrills, the fun, the fear, and above all, the love that goes deep down into the soul.

Part memoir, part travel and horse-riding adventure book, this heartfelt narrative packed with excitement and emotion will appeal not just to horse lovers, but to those who have followed their dreams, and to anybody who has ever lost their courage and rediscovered it once again.

“And still I willingly run down that trail alongside them, dancing in their hoof prints, discovering the next unforeseen dream and finding the next treasure, reverently and deferentially clutching the next gift they unselfishly share with me. The desire to ride a trusted horse is almost a physical ache, a fathomless void to fill, something I am helplessly bound to pursuing the rest of my life.”

As you can see up top, The Raven got his claws on the first proof copy, and he's busy with the final proof-reading. Scheduled publishing date is April 1st!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Owyhee Spring

Thursday March 20 2014

The Old Farmer's Almanac says of the first day of spring: "Ah, spring! This season brings increasing daylight, warming temperatures, and the rebirth of flora and fauna."

The Owyhee Herd says of the first day of spring: "Ah, spring! Shedding horse hair, wisps of green grass to munch on, cows on the hillsides to stare at and run away from, sunshine glaring off the ice-sheened Owyhee mountains, brisk wind, romping in the breeze."

Happy Spring Equinox!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Online Horse Shopping is Like Online Dating

Monday March 10 2014

Have you ever used an online dating service where the person you're interested in isn't quite what he or she advertised? (I haven't, but I've heard things.)

Have you ever gone horse shopping online and found the horse isn't quite what he or she is advertised? (I haven't, but I've heard things.)

He says he's 6' 4" and slender, healthy, family values, good looking, good job, good income, outdoorsy, handy at everything. Attached photo is, well, handsome - tall, buff but not overdone, taken in the outdoors where he sure looks at home, a photo that rather takes your breath away and makes you take that chance and hop in the car and go meet him at the cafe across town for coffee.

Ad says the equine is a bay 6-year-old gelding, 15.2 hands, sound, well-broke, good bloodlines, very athletic, makes a good fill in the blank prospect, is personable and willing. The photo attached is, well, handsome - taken out on the trail under saddle in the perfect collected trot on a loose rein, a photo that rather takes your breath away and makes you take that chance and hitch up the trailer and drive across country to meet him and pick him up and bring him home to your barn.

When you get to the cafe, well, Mr Possibly Perfect is neither handsome nor tall nor slim (the only thing slim are his manners); is unemployed; lives outdoors because his on-again-off-again girlfriend just kicked him out again; gets annoyed because you aren't stacked (even though you didn't advertise that you were) and that you don't pick up the tab for his $12 9-shot expresso that he finished in one gulp.

When you get to this new barn across the country, well, Mr Equine Possibly Perfect is at least 3 inches shorter then advertised; 9 years old at the least if you're lucky; a chestnut; fat and out of shape and as far from athletic as a banana slug; is short-strided and rough as all get out; and barn sour to boot when you try taking him outside the arena as he swishes his tail and pins his ears at everything you ask of him, which is really just going forward and turning in circles, because he doesn't have a "Whoa" gear, then gets annoyed that you don't give him a bucket of grain afterwards for putting up with you.

Every once in a while, you get lucky, and you find the human or horse to be a fantastic specimen beyond what was advertised, and you live happily ever after.

But, not so often.

P.S. That's The Dude up top, but he wasn't and isn't for sale! I just wanted to show a goooood lookin' horse.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Chariots of Fire

Sunday March 2 2014



That's what you heard when you stood on the rail, as two (or three) pairs of horses pulling chariots and drivers thundered down the stretch in the Idaho State Chariot Racing Championships at Rupert Downs, Idaho, on a cool and muddy March weekend.

I'd never heard of chariot races, besides the Ben Hur days, even though they're pretty much limited to Idaho and Utah, and a few areas of Wyoming.

I didn't know what to expect - wild and crazy people and horses, crashing chariots, riffraff spectators. It was nothing of the sort, and it was nothing short of exciting fun. There were no crashes, the horses were ripped - cut - as in nice, sleek, finely-tuned Quarter Horse racing machines, and it was a friendly family atmosphere.

The Silver Creek Chariot Racing Association, which hosted these Idaho State Chariot Racing Championships, was formed in 1975. The racing season starts at the end of December and runs through the end of February; many of the winners here will go to the World Championships in Ogden, Utah at the end of March.

Fifteen races were run over a muddy track. The horses run over just about anything, I was told - dirt, mud, snow. Most of these horses race on the flat tracks in the summer. This is a way of keeping the horses fit over the winter. Besides, it's obviously a lot of fun.

Most of the horses were decorated festively, with pompoms and ribbons in their manes and tails, sparkles or glitter or gems on their butts, bright colored blinkers and colorful harnesses. Their stables had taken time and care to deck them out, and the horses knew they were something special.

It sometimes took a handler for each horse, or a pony horse for each, to escort them onto and down the track, but once the horses came out of the gate, they were focused and fearless, fast and furious, thundering down the track with their drivers leaning forward, yelling encouragement. Some races were won and lost by nostril hairs.

"I thought these people were crazy to drive these chariots," one guy said, "and then I did it. Now I'm hooked!"

It's easy to see why!

(If you're around Odgen March 22-23 and 28-30, you might want to check out the World Championships!

Here's a slide show of a few photos of the day:

(or link to album: )