Friday, July 6, 2018

BIG HORN BOUND



Saturday July 7 2018

What with a very busy June, and with one thing and another coming up lately, and being semi-whiny-worried about the heat and migraines and stamina, I've been conveniently ignoring the fact that we're headed for the BIG HORN 100 in Wyoming on July 14.

But now departure day is 5 days away, so it's kind of hard to keep ignoring it.

Connie's riding DWA Saruq, I'm riding Sarah's horse Dezzie, since she can't be here; Regina our Big Horn Guru is hauling us there and crewing for us (yay!). 3 more Idaho peeps are planning to caravan there with us. 

Our horses are sound and fit, their last ride being a hard and fast 55 at City of Rocks on June 8.

Me? I'm fairly fit, but… for 100 miles? And for (my nemesis) the heat? 

I think I'll just continue to ignore that part of the equation for now, but it is time to think about starting to pack.

I haven't done a 100 miler since my Tevis Cup Magic in 2009 - almost 10 years! - and I probably haven't pulled an all-nighter for anything since then, either! I've never done the Big Horn, but if I did do another 100, this is the one I'd want to do.

So, I reckon it's time for me to face the facts and admit it and put it out there: it's official! We are bound for the Big Horn 100 starting line (knock on wood). 



Friday, June 29, 2018

Nyssa Nite Rodeo Part II: All the Pretty Cowgirls and Cowboys



Wednesday June 27 2018

The Nyssa Nite Rodeo's a big fast-paced, slick show, of cowgirls and cowboys, flash and glamour, dust and sparkle, speed and horsemanship, skill and daring, rough and reckless. 

The cowgirls with their long flowing hair and brilliant smiles, the cowboys with their swagger and stern stares (or cracking smiles after a successful 8 second roughstock ride) dazzle the crowd and bring the old Western way of life to the spotlight.

Yep, Garth Brooks knew what he was talking about when he sang about the broncs and the blood, the dust and the mud, this thing they call rodeo.










Monday, June 25, 2018

Nyssa Nite Rodeo Part I: All the Pretty (Rodeo) Horses



Monday June 25 2018

It was an honor and a treat to get to shoot the 73rd annual Nyssa Nite Rodeo in Nyssa, Oregon.

During three nights of fun and competition, luck, skill, timing, bad timing, rough, tough, fast and furious, the barrel and roping and bucking horses were impressive to watch.

Here's a sample of some of those fit, fast, athletic, smart, wily, wild, rank, well-trained, pretty rodeo horses.









More photos at:




Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Book Review: Foinavon: The Story of the Grand National's Biggest Upset



Wednesday June 6 2018

Jump racing makes me cringe, but I can't help being fascinated by it. The Grand National Steeplechase, held every year (usually in April) since 1839, at Aintree Racecourse in Aintree, Liverpool, England, is the granddaddy of them all.

Four miles 514 yards, 30 fences, none under 4' 6", except the water jump, at a height of 2' 6".

Foinavon: The Story of the Grand National's Biggest Upset, by David Owen, was a most excellent read. This 100-1 shot pulled off the win in a terrifically chaotic race in 1967. (In his previous race, one bookmaker had him at 500-1; he finished last.)

Pat, in the pink, my Irish jockey friend in a National Hunt race
I worked in an Irish National Hunt yard one winter (chapter 2 in my book Soul Deep in Horses) and same thing: I was fascinated, but watching our horses run over the jumps made me cringe, hold my breath, and heave a sigh of great relief when they returned to the stables. Our horses did have a fall or two… frightening for me, but all in a day's ride for the jumping horses and jockeys… and none were seriously hurt. 
our horse Castle Ranger almost tipping over on the landing, jockey loses reins; Ranger tumbles at the next fence but was unhurt

But I was captivated by this terrifically-written tale that for me was bigger than life, knowing Foinavon ran at some of the racecourses our horses ran over, and knowing exactly what these astounding athletic animals go through, as well as the people who work with them.

David Owen's storytelling reminds me a lot of Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit: thorough, engaging, and could not put it down till the end! 

(And then I found Foinavon's race on youtube... watch it after you read the book!)
one of the bigger National Hunt fences


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Cover Photo #48



Thursday May 31 2018

I've been waiting for the surprise to hit the fan. 

I knew my photo would be on a cover of Endurance News, I just didn't know which cover or when. It's the next June issue!

It just so happens that my 48th cover photo features my good friend Connie and her horse DWA Saruq (one I've ridden in a couple endurance rides), who was bred by my good friends Helen and Archie of DWA Arabians.

I kept it a secret, and the timing was such that I told Connie her birthday surprise was in the mail. Helen and Archie will be thrilled, too, when they find out. They breed wonderful Arabians, and they have long contributed to our sport of endurance, so it's lovely that one of their home-bred horses is now a cover boy!


Sunday, May 27, 2018

BEST FIELD TRIP EVER



Sunday May 27 2018

I knew we'd be getting to help band young ferruginous hawks on our field trip (a repeat of the one I did a couple of years ago), but little did I know we'd get to help with juvenile RAVENS also!

It's a local outreach program between the Boise BLM and the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area and Raptor Research Center that gives raptor (and RAVEN) enthusiasts like me a chance to go on a field trip with biologists to assist them in banding birds of prey (and RAVENS!!!).

Our first stop was a platform nest with 5 juvenile ferruginous hawks. As the adults circled in consternation high above (they are generally not aggressive), one by one the babies were plucked from their nest, and handed off to the arms of us eager hawk holders, each bird awaiting their turn to be measured and banded.

These babies, averaging about 30 days of age, are just about as big as they'll get, but their flight feathers have not fully developed, nor the muscling needed to flap those (one day) powerful wings yet. Nor are they aware of the strength of their toes yet nor the razor sharpness of their talons. In your arms, a ferruginous hawk baby will pretty much do exactly what he does when sitting on the nest: just sit there unafraid and seemingly unworried, not trying to escape. Two of them were even set down on the ground under the truck in the shade to await their banding, and they just sat there and waited patiently.

These birds are currently plentiful in the Snake River Birds of Prey Conservation Area, on the flats north of and above the Snake River canyon. Their primary prey is ground squirrels (of which this year there are approximately a billion) and jackrabbits, though they'll also eat insects, lizards and snakes. I told the little one I held that maybe one day he'd be flying above my place in a year or two.

Our plans had been to go to band a second nestful of ferruginous babies, but due to propitious unanticipated circumstances, we instead went to a RAVEN NEST to band 4 juvenile Raven babies!

Oh, my stars. I have held a Raven before, an adult that we crick neighbors rescued from a dog injury, and nursed back to health (and it was probably Hoss, the same crick Raven that Linda raised from a baby when his nest blew down years earlier), but it's still a thrill to hold a RAVEN, any time, anywhere.

This nest of 4 was conveniently ensconced in the crook of a weather station on the flats (not far from another ferruginous platform nest), and these babies were cranky and nervous and LOUD (and so were the parents shrieking at us flying above) and they *did* know how to use their beaks and very healthy vocal cords and their feet, on the ends of which were some rather sharp talons (though not as dangerous as the hawks'). They could flap their big wings just fine, too, and were probably within a week of fledging, and would then have been uncatchable.

The first Raven I held was a bit smaller and settled down well enough while I held him/her in the shade awaiting his banding.

The second Raven I held was handed to me after banding, and he/she was bigger and really perturbed and insulted and cranky and NOISY, and gripped strongly with his claws and wanted to flap away towards his nest. I named him BRUISER, but I held him firmly in the shade and told him, too, that one day maybe he'd be flying over my place and I'd say hi and he'd remember me.

While Ravens eat primarily carrion, they'll really eat just about anything. They'll eat other birds' nestlings and eggs, reptiles, insects, seeds, fruit, garbage. They're great opportunists. They're also  known for collecting shiny pretty things. They're very smart. And I LOVE RAVENS, if that needs telling.

The opportunity to do something like this really makes you think about the birds. They aren't always just a speck in the sky or a sentence in a news report. They lead a precarious life growing up on a nest in the wild, where it truly is survival of the fittest, from weather, predators, humans.

Conservation efforts you support or don't support can effect their future, for the better or the worse. If you've made the effort to go out and see a wild bird up close and *particularly* if you get to hold it in your arms and feel its heart beat, what happens to them might really matter to you. 

And, anyway, it's just a thrill if you love birds. If you've never closely visited or held a wild bird before, I highly recommend it!




Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Standardbred: Watch That Topline



Tuesday May 15 2018

After a year of successfully going down the endurance trail, and a good start this year (he won his 25-mile ride at the Owyhee Tough Sucker in April), now it’s time for Hillbillie Willie, Steph’s off-the-track Standardbred, to start going down the trail right.

He moves along easily, and fast, and easily fast and fastly easily, just like an ex-racehorse would, but he can be high-headed and heavy on the forehand - especially when he gets excited, when those hooves go CLOP PLOP CLOP PLOP CLOP PLOP CLOP PLOP.

If he can learn to drop his head, round up, get his balance better underneath him, it will likely keep him going sounder longer… and that’s what most of us want in an endurance horse, right?

So I’ve gone and done it, committed (see, right here in writing), to work on it. Aarene Storms and her Standardbred Fiddle are my inspiration; she says that getting Fiddle to ‘lighten up’ was huge for them.

I’m not great at it… kinda clumsy at times. So it’s a bit of me and Willie learning together at the same time, working out a language that gets the results. 

Connie got him started on the dressage-type work in the arena, giving him the idea of what’s wanted, and I’ve taken it from there, more or less. No, I don’t enjoy arena work - it’s work, and tiring, for Willie and particularly for me - but the good thing is, I really do see just a little improvement day by day.

Willie’s starting to carry his head a bit lower on his own, he can hold a round collected shape longer, and I can now often get it while trotting down the trail, even in company. And it’s all getting a wee bit easier for him to do. Of course, the big test will be getting him to be able to do that and relax in an endurance ride… which may be a ways down the road. He raced for 2 years, and probably trained for 2 before that, so that instinct is not going to be so easily erased or replaced. But we're on it.

So watch that topline. He's grown a wee bit of a butt from working and endurance riding hills for a year, and his giraffe butt has mostly disappeared. One day, we may see his body changing shape for the even more better. 

Maybe.

Hopefully!