Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Spirit Horse Christmas in September

Tuesday September 16 2014

I didn't start it! It's bordering blasphemy, but last week I saw a Christmas display out in a chain store in town, and had to listen to Christmas music already!

Therefore, as it's never too early for Christmas, don't forget Spirit Horse pins! Each is one of a kind, handmade of clay, wire, beads, and yarns picked up from around the world. They're fun and fanciful; they shimmer different colors in different light. You can bend the legs to stand straight, trot, gallop, or fly. Spruce up your outfit for dinner out on the town or the Oscars. Or hang your Spirit Horse in your home for good luck. You can also hang on your Christmas tree or Festivus Pole. Each one comes with a little hanger like you'd use for a Christmas ornament.

Each pin is approximately 3" long by 3" tall. . . not counting the long fluffy tail, $20 each and $3 shipping for up to 5 at a time. Contact me at TheEquestrianVagabond at gmail dot com.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Breaking News: Animals May Have Emotions

Tuesday September 9 2014

WBUR's Here and Now just ran a piece, "Do Animals Have Emotions?"

I've seen similar studies before, and the more I hear these, the more I wonder if researchers who take the time and money and thought to do these studies have ever spent any time around animals. If so, I don't see how they would even come up with these questions.

Being around dogs, it is blatantly obvious that dogs can be happy, sad, jealous, in love, have best pals. Our dog Austin who recently passed on to the next rabbit-chasin' world *knew* his time was up. One look in his eyes, and anyone (or, perhaps anyone who is not a scientist researching if animals have emotions) could see he knew it, and he was sad about it.

Not everybody is lucky enough to be around horses, but if you are, it's so obvious that horses have emotions. If there are researchers reading this who are considering undertaking more of these amusing studies, let me save you some time and money with these examples:

Finneas, Grandson of the Black Stallion, is conceited and he can get embarrassed, if he's humiliated in front of his subordinates.

Stormy is very possessive of me, and when I'm loving on him, he gets jealous when other horses get too close, even if he's risking a thrashing by another more dominant horse.

Horses can get mad, as Finneas did when I left for the winter; he thought I'd up and abandoned him, and when I came back he wouldn't let me near him.

If you've read Chapter 23 of my book Soul Deep in Horses, about my horse Stormy, you'll know all about how Stormy and Tex became pals. Even if Tex leaves for a while, he always returns to Stormy's side, because they are BFFs.

Horses can have fun; some of them love to play. Just ask Jose, the Owyhee Social Director, who gets the entire Chapter 22 in my book.

I guess this all might be news to some people, or, perhaps I'm missing something here, but, Do animals have emotions? Uh - hello!?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Peeping Dude

Friday September 5 2014

Sometimes Dudley has a free choice day - he gets to choose the trails we ride. This particular day, he chose to come back down our home canyon, and halfway down, since he never forgets the location of a food source, he chose to detour past Connie's house. Connie wasn't home, but he didn't know that. What he DID know, is that when Connie IS home, if he waits long enough, (and if I call to her to come out), she will come outside bearing horse treats.

The Dude walked up to her house, and waited for her to come out.
 He stood there and looked around and waited, and waited…

And when she didn't come outside, he walked up to her porch and waited…

and when she didn't come outside, he walked up to the windows and checked to see if he could see her inside.

He finally realized she wasn't home, so, disappointed, he ambled on homeward.

Don't worry, he got plenty of treats from me to ease his disappointment!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dudley's Escort Services, LLC

Wednesday August 27 2014

Step this way, little lady, Dudley says to Smokey. I'll escort you down the trail.

Smokey is green-broke, learning the ropes of riding the trails.

Dudley is, well, The Dude, and while he can have his (exciting) moments on the trails, he performs his escort duties with aplomb as he accompanies Smokey along her future endurance trails.

Steph says Dudley is just following along, looking for something to eat. Well, Dudley is ALWAYS looking for something to eat, but in addition to that, he carefully watches over Steph and Smokey,

keeps a close eye on Smokey as they amble along,

keeps his cool when Steph works on carcass training with Smokey,

it's a giraffe carcass someone stuffed onto a sagebrush!
and just in general exudes casual calm, masculine confidence out in the wilds of Owyhee.

Not to mention the obvious - he's a knock-out gorgeous dude, a stunning creature to be seen out and about with.

Dudley is following in the hoofprints of Jose's Escort Services, LLC

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Austin: The Best Dog Ever

Sunday August 17 2014

His lifetime dream was to catch a jackrabbit. It was a pipe dream, of course - jackrabbits can run 40 mph (faster, I bet, when they are chased by a pack of dogs), and Austin could get up to maybe 10 mph on his best days, when his short legs got out of churn cycle underneath his wide (sometimes very wide) body (I liked to call him a white sausage).

He dreamed in his sleep of catching a rabbit - legs twitching, mouth quivering - and he loved to chase his dream on our Dog Walks. He was never discouraged, even though it was plain to everyone, him included, that it would never in a million years happen.

Then there was the day we were out on a Dog Walk up on the rim. A jackrabbit shot out of a bush. Girlie and Spigot were off like a shot after him, yelping in a frenzy. Quincy barked and gave chase too. Three dogs in three spastic directions, trying to run down a zig-zagging jackrabbit through the maze and hurdles of desert sagebrush.

And then there was Austin. He leaped to the chase - rather, in slow motion, his legs spun in place and he didn't get anywhere fast, as the rabbit and dogs had already zipped circles around him, sprinted through the next county and back already, as Austin labored up the hill, hard as he could go, panting like a steam engine.

Next thing I saw nearly knocked me over - Austin had the rabbit in his mouth. I think it was more like Girlie and Spigot chased and Quincy barked the frantic rabbit in a triple-back-serpentine-upside-down circle, and it just happened to leap into Austin's oncoming, unaware, panting-open mouth… but it didn't matter how he caught it, because Austin caught a rabbit. None of the other dogs have ever been able to say that.* I have never seen him so proud of himself, ever, not even when he ate half of Stormy's Christmas stocking full of horse treats, plastic wrapping and all.

I'm more of a cat person - cats mostly like you; they can be soft and cuddly or playful; they can take you or leave you; curl up with you or disappear for a few days. I guess I like their independence most.

It's few dogs that really get to me, but Austin was the one who got under my skin, when he rolled over on his back in front of me so I had to stop and scratch his ample belly, every time; when he forever hopefully chased rabbits; when he got his head stuck in a pumpkin;

when he ate half of Stormy's Christmas treats; when in his golden years he still fiercely chased (hobbled and barked after) the neighbor's big German shepherd (who kindly pretended to still be afraid of him); even, in the end, when he could only do the one thing he did best: barking at visitors.

Farewell, my pal Austin. They're all going to have some mighty big dog footprints to fill behind you.

Here's a video Steph made of a dog walk - Austin is the big white one with the big white wagging tail.

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*Quincy subsequently swiped the rabbit out of Austin's mouth, the cheater!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

City of Rocks: Ripped!

Tuesday August 12 2014

Oh, he's come so far. Dieting and working out every day at the gym, whether he wants to or not, The Dude is coming along nicely.

After finishing his first 50-mile ride in 6 years at the Almosta Silver City ride 2 1/2 weeks ago, (in fact, we won't even count that first 50-mile ride 6 years ago), Dudley did his second 50-mile ride on Day 1 at City of Rocks Pioneer Endurance Ride near Almo, Idaho on August 7. Steve Bradley took that fabulous photo up top. Dudley is a looker, is he not?

Belesemo Dude rode once again with his pal Belesemo Moon (and Lynne), like they did at Almosta.

Loop 1 took us up into City of Rocks National Reserve, climbing up and up and up, from the desert at 5800' to Indian Springs in the forested mountains at 7500',

then back down and down to base camp after 25 miles. We lucked out with overcast skies (but no thunderstorms!) and cooler weather all day - Dudley does much better in less-than-scorching weather, just like me.

Loop 2 took us along the Boise-Kelton Stage route and the Salt Lake Cutoff trail, into and through the park,

back up to 6800 feet, back down to base camp for the last 25 miles for the finish. Both Dudley and Roger looked fabulous after their 50 miles.

Dudley's favorite part of endurance rides is, of course, not riding with me, but that he gets to eat whatever he wants during and after the ride, and he never takes his head out of the grain bucket or the pile of hay, not even to breathe.

Dudley isn't the easiest horse to ride: when he's a good boy, he's a cadillac, but you better be ready for the in-between, when the mischief-maker is a bit of a chicken, a little spooky, and a bit of a smart-ass - and he's a big and powerful horse. A few days before the ride when I took him out alone on a short conditioning ride, lightning and thunder chased us home, and does Dudley care that *I* am scared of lightning? No, he's more scared of it than I am, and he tried to bolt home and couldn't have cared less if I came along with him. But I love Dudley anyway, particularly when he blinks those big brown eyes...

Dudley is looking mighty ripped after his second 50-mile ride, don't you think? (Of course, it's still best to look at him in the correct light at the right angle.)

But don't worry, he is not going off his diet, nor stopping his exercise!

More photos and stories from the 3-day City of Rocks Pioneer Endurance Ride can be ooohed and aaahed over at:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Happy Trails, My Friend

Wednesday July 30 2013

He cut a dashing figure, astride a horse beneath the pyramids of Egypt. He loved to ride, he loved to share the trails, and he loved to share his horses.

“It was obvious that Borcan - the blustery, formidable, woman-hating, breast-biting white stallion - loved Paul, and Paul definitely doted on this blusterball - and in fact all of his horses,” I wrote in Chapter 15: My King in my book Soul Deep in Horses.

“Norwegian Paul was one of the happiest middle-aged little boys I had ever had the pleasure to know. His wife was the Norwegian ambassador to Ethiopia, and while she was away, Paul played with his beloved horses. Just ask one little question about his kids - his horses - and his eyes widened and sparkled like sapphires and his face beamed with proud delight. Pull up a chair on his porch, above his stables, and he'll serve you a great cup of Ethiopian coffee (or a good cold beer), and instead of pulling out his wallet and dropping an accordion sheet of photos, he will point to his horses in the paddocks below and tick off their accomplishments as proudly as a father giving you a blow by blow of his kids' soccer games."

I wrote of riding Paul’s blustery stallion Borcan in the Egyptian desert, and of riding his rocketship Raad, one of the most thrilling and the utterly fastest, horse rides of my life.

“She got it right!” he wrote, reviewing Soul Deep in Horses. “Being the happy owner of two of the horses featured in this book, I have to applaud her take on horses who love people who love horses! She gets it terrifically right! Thank you Merri!” I could see his face beaming as he read the stories then wrote these words.

I’m glad Paul got to see his much-loved Borcan and Raad ‘immortalized’ in the pages of my book.  I’m glad he knew how much those rides meant to me.

I’d always figured on seeing him again and having more riding adventures with him next time I visit Maryanne in Egypt. But he left us unexpectedly, far too soon.

I have another tale or two to tell of riding Paul’s horses. I’m sorry he won’t read my stories about his beloved Prince. But somehow, I think he will still know, and I think he’ll be beaming, his eyes twinkling again, delighted with shared appreciation and mutual love for his horses.

And I know he’s already busy up there, riding new horses, finding new trails, telling entertaining horse stories to those who come to join him.

Farewell and Happy Trails, Paul, I’ll ride with you again one day over those new trails.