Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Owl Haven

Wednesday May 11 2016

What a great owl spring it is.

It's been years since long-eared owls inhabited the upper crick, so it was a treat to finally see a pair back. Used to be there were half a dozen that day-roosted in the thick vine-draped cottonwoods along the crick. I even found a nest one year, with two babies on it.

These owls are quite skittish. If they weren't - if they wouldn't flush away from me, I likely would not have noticed them. Even with very careful searching, if they don't move, it is unlikely you're going to spot a long-eared owl. They are very difficult to see when they want to look like a tree. You almost have to train your eyes to see them before they materialize in front of you, kind of like those 3-D drawings where you have to let your eyes focus on another dimension before you see the picture in the patterns.

After flushing this pair a couple of times, and after searching carefully up the crick and spying what I thought *had* to be owl nests, though I could not see owls on them, I picked a cloudy day (for better lighting), grabbed my binoculars and camera, and crept up the crick hunting for owl nests (while keeping my eyes peeled for a cougar!).

I snuck up the crick (though really, with owls, there is no sneaking. They see you long before you might see them) to where the owls usually hang out. I'd take a few steps and stop, look with my eyes, peer through the binos, and think like an owl. Creep a few more steps, search, think owl. 

The thick vines are sometimes impossible to see into or through. So I studied spots which could possibly be long eared owl nests. Which should be owl nests. I found a forked tree trunk draped with vines that even 20 feet away from, using the binos, I could not see into. But it felt like an owl nest - had to be an owl nest - and after 5 minutes of studying this drape of vines from different angles, I realized I had been looking at a long eared owl on the nest the whole time!

Incredible how camouflaged they can be. 

Once I figured out for sure this was an occupied nest, I moved away. Heading further up-crick, I wanted to see if I'd flush her partner. There's a tree limb that's covered with owl poo, so obviously an owl roosts there. I crept up to that one very slowly, trying to see a perched owl, but despite my intense searching and gazing, I did not see the owl before he flushed. I found it very odd that he flushed upstream, instead of downstream to the occupied nest. Then it crossed my mind to check a couple of the possible nests I'd seen there earlier.

And sure enough - with the good lighting - I was staring right at another occupied long eared owl nest! I was only 20 feet away from this one so as soon as I snapped a few pictures, I left her alone. 

And today, mama owl still sits on this nest, but on the first one, look at what I found peering at me, sitting above his nest! There may have been more than one spud, but this one was obvious. I didn't hang around long, because mom was distressed, flying away and trying to lure me away from the nest. (This little spud is pictured up top also.)


More owl news is the pair of BARN OWLS day-roosting in a neighbor's empty barn. Eight years here and I have never seen barn owls here. This pair is also very skittish. They don't seem to be nesting in the barn. We tried to creep up on these owls one day, but one flushed into some trees along the crick - and I was lucky to spot him. We searched the barn, and peered in and around some large stacked hay bales, and other nooks and crannies that barn owls like, but didn't find a nest. I'll have to do more snooping around.


There are also some great horned owls nesting up the other crick.


And I'm sure the resident screech owls are also nesting, but after 8 years I have still not found their nest! The male toots at night, and some days he'll roost in a big tree in the back yard. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Come A Running

Monday May 2 2016

I love it when the herd answers my whistles and comes thundering down from the canyon when I call them back for the night.

Here Jose leads the gang, with the still-snow-covered Owyhees as a gorgeous backdrop in the evening sun.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Happy Birthday, Old Man!

Wednesday April 13 2016

It seems like suddenly, he's gray, hairy, swaybacked, and old. Stormy, The Most Beautiful Horse On The Planet, turns 25 (!!!!!!) today. 

For the first time, he didn't hold his weight over the winter; his belly sagged and his spine sharpened. He may have a touch of cushings disease, because he won't let go of his thick winter coat. Some of us think he might be getting a bit senile, though if you saw him heading for his grain bucket or the grass pasture, you might not think so.

Gray hairs have sprouted on his face - around his mouth, over his eyes, at his temples, places on his back and butt. 

He still has a couple of short sprints left in him, though he's hardly ever in a hurry (except for his grain!). If the herd leaves him behind sprinting back down from the canyon, here comes Stormy a few minutes later, waddling down steadily, because he knows he'll eventually get here and his treats will still be waiting for him.

I can't believe I've had this lovely horse for so long. I got him as an 8-year-old in 1999 after his racing career (I was his groom at Emerald Downs). He joined me in California where I worked for the Forest Service on trails; he did some work leading pack horses in the mountains, and carrying wranglers on a dude ranch in the summers (he loved the girl wranglers best). In the winters he hung out with endurance horses - a couple of them somewhat famous - swapping racing tales with their endurance tales.

He later joined me here in Idaho, where he hangs out with more endurance horses. His only jobs now are eating and getting smooched on. 

He may be an Oldie now, but he's a Golden Oldie. And no matter how hairy, how dirty, how scruffy he gets, he's still The Most Beautiful Horse On The Planet.

Happy Birthday Stormy! 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Music To His Ears

Monday March 21 2016

Dudley has some thrilling news to share.

After 2-plus HARD years of Tough Love Forever Diet + Exercise, Steph has proclaimed that Dudley can EAT MORE FOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He was fat, his feet were bad, and he ate. A LOT. He got FAT. That's when the dieting and exercise started. Eventually Dudley's feet started getting better, and even though he still had a Salad Butt Bowl (i.e. FAT on his tail dock) and a (beautiful) cresty neck, The Dude finished 4 endurance rides in 2014. But he still had to stay on his Tough Love Forever Diet + Exercise schedule. He worked sooooo hard!

The next year Dudley's Salad Butt Bowl shrunk to a Teacup, and his neck crest got smaller, and though Dudley liked to call it all muscle, it was still extra FAT. He still finished 6 endurance rides in 2015, including one where the vet called him "between fleshy and fat." (What did he know!)

Regina kept The Dude on the Tough Love Forever Diet all winter while I was gone, and when I got back in February and Dudley started back exercising again, his Butt Teacup was gone, his neck crest was almost gone (makes his mane longer and prettier!), and by golly, Steph said she thought Dudley didn't need to lose any more weight because he looked pretty much like a NORMAL HORSE! In fact Steph thought Dudley could starting eating more!

Those are the three best words ever, music to Dudley's ears: EAT MORE FOOD!!!! 

So, watch for The Dude on the trail this season, and watch him EAT MORE FOOD!

And check out this Postcard From Owyhee featuring The Dude!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Don't Eat My Cats

Wednesday March 9 2016

Great horned owls will roost up both cricks here, and occasionally I hear them at night. They don't normally hang out around the ranch during the day, what with all the horse/people/dog activities. But in the morning when I went out to feed Dudley, there, right on the crick by the driveway and not much more than horse head-height in a cottonwood tree, was a big beautiful great horned owl.

With spring leaves yet to sprout, it was easy to spot the big lump of an owl sitting in the branches.

He wasn't worried about me at all; I could get pretty close. 

*I* was worried, about the cats that roam the ranch. All 4 of them would make nice juicy morsels for the owl, or the family he's probably about to raise (his female is likely on a nest up one of the cricks). Twice, we lost 3 of 4 kittens. It was surely either owls or coyotes that got them. I can still cry over Sinatra, who was The Best Kitten Ever.

The owl in fact stuck around till nightfall. All cats were accounted for next day, but they would be such easy pickings. They don't seem to be aware of danger that can come from the sky.

I love owls, and I love having the owls around, but Don't Eat My Cats!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Woe Is Me

March 5 2015

Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Deep dark depression, excessive misery
If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all
Gloom, despair, and agony on me

Oh, just look at that pathetic face up top, buried in my jacket.

One amazing endurance season in the books with 4 completions at age 14, after coming back from obesity and some really bad feet. Followed by another even more amazing endurance season with 6 completions at age 15. Followed by the winter off.

Dudley thought he had retired a champion, never having to face the rigors and sacrifices (i.e., dieting and exercise) of getting into condition to do 50 mile rides, ever again.

Dudley's fantastic efforts earned him a jacket last season from our local riding club, SWITnDR!!

But alas, I got back from a winter down south, and put The Dude back to work.

Ooooooooooh, that howling and moaning is not the coyotes singing in the hills at the moon. It is moaning and groaning Dudley, with the gloom and agony of getting back to work. 

Encouraging him to get started on the trail in the mornings is like moving through molasses. In January. Back East.

Oooooooooooh, he really knows how to work the long sad face.

(But seriously, he's pretty darn proud of himself after he's completed a good workout. The Dude is still fit, ripped, and NOT FAT anymore!)

chin resting on hitching rail, sooooooooooo tired!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Seven Grand (With The Raven)

Jose, Tough Sucker

February 5 2016

I didn't have any particular goals when I started riding endurance in 1998, except to ride, ride, ride. 

7000 AERC miles later, it's pretty much the same: all I still want to do is ride, ride, ride (with The Raven).

If this were my Oscar speech*, I'd have a long list of thank you's that you'd have to sit through. But I'll shorten it up for this 7000-mile landmark.
Dudley, City of Rocks

I'm a bit of an unorthodox one in the endurance riding world, as I've never owned my own endurance horse. To be sure, I do own Stormy, The Most Beautiful Horse On The Planet, but he's a Thoroughbred ex-racehorse that I didn't feel the desire or need to try to turn into an endurance horse. 

Instead, I rode for the 'normal' endurance people, who inevitably have always had extra horses that needed Rode. So I Rode and Rode and Rode, Lots and Lots and Lots of training miles, and 7000 AERC endurance ride miles, with The Raven, in Texas, California, Washington, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah (and even a 12.5 mile ride in France!).

Jose, Tough Sucker

I rode the USA endurance rides with The Raven on 36 different horses (and many, many more miles on horses for just training rides, but not endurance rides). Some were good horses, some were naughty horses. Some were favorite horses, some were not. Some horses I rode, with The Raven, only once, for 50 miles. Two horses I rode, with The Raven, for over a thousand miles (Royal Raffiq and Jose Viola!). I have learned something from every single one of these horses, and on every ride, I still learn something.
Jose, Death Valley

I've gotten to know some fabulous people through endurance riding. I've gotten to do some terrific rides, with The Raven - some memorable standouts are all 5 days of the Owyhee  Canyonlands (alas, this ride is no longer 5 days long) on Jose one year with Connie and Finneas; the Moab Canyons (alas, now gone - a crime!) on Jose with Steph and Batman; the Virginia City 100 on Royal Raffiq; Tevis on Big Sky Quinn, generously shared by Nance Worman.

It just goes to show you that endurance riding is a catch-all kind of sport. You can ride any kind of horse, any distance you want, with any kind of goals you want, or no goals at all. You can ride for awards, or you can just Ride. You can ride with a Raven. You really don't have to own your own endurance horse. You can ride just about anywhere around the world. And best of all, you can just Keep On Riding! Preferably, with The Raven!
Zayante, Death Valley

*No, I've never had a desire to be an actor, but I'm prepared to give an Oscar speech

But if you really did want to listen to my whole list of thank-you horses, this would be it:
Windswift Barak (Rocky), Masrita, Zayante, Graywing, Senorita Margarita (Maggie), Royal Raffiq, Rocketman, Fire Mt Redman, Oak Hill Kindred Spirit, FC Cloud, Camille BC, Fire Mt Odyssey, Oak Hill Quigley, Definetly Spice, LJ Jasuur Haraka (Jasbo), Krugerand (Charlie), Rip Tyde, Fire Mt Fadrika, Nature's Quicksilver (Quickie), Jaziret Bey Musc (Rhett), Rushcreek Mac, SSS Razzmatazz (Razzie), Jose Viola, Amazing Kon, Big Sky Quinn, Z Blue Lightening, Thunder's Hattrick, Kustom Kavalier, Phinneas, MiLon, Amara's Sonata (Sunny), Marble Leiten (Bodie), Ravenwood Dark Desire (Batman), DWA Saruq, Rushcreek Drover (D), Belesemo Dude (Dudley!)

And, technically, The Raven actually has 5 more AERC miles than I do, and he has two Tevis buckles, where I only have one! 

But that's a story for The Raven to tell later.
Zayante and Raffiq, Death Valley