Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Owyhee Feathered Hooligans

Wednesday July 29 2015

Up before dawn, to bed long after dark; during all hours of the day, these Owyhee Gang Bangers are causing a relentless rowdy, raucous, roisterous Raven ruckus.

From the Raven nest up Bates Crick came 5 or 6 juveniles. They must have joined up with the gang of 2 or 3 juveniles from up the Pickett Crick canyon. And my, they are a formidable feathered bunch of ruffians.

They fly about in a mob, never failing to state their opinions, on everything. Constantly. LOUDLY. EMPHATICALLY.

Hollering, cawing, shrieking, screaming; while swooping in the air, bouncing in the trees, strutting on the ground. They scream from fence posts. They shriek from the hillsides. They shout in the horse pastures. They screech in the air. There's no mistaking where they roam, up and down the crick. You can hear them a mile away.

Everything is important to juvenile Ravens, and everything is open to copious discussion and debate. That's how they learn. Testing, sampling, turning over rocks and leaves and sticks and having endless discourse about everything, all at high volume. Except for a few hours of darkness when they are finally worn out from their long important days, they never SHUT UP.


"AH! A MEAN KESTREL IS CHASING ME!" "ATTACK THAT KESTREL!" "FLY AWAY FROM THAT KESTREL!" "BAD KESTREL!" "LET'S ALL GO GET THAT KESTREL!" ((The Ravens and Kestrels around here have an ongoing, eternal war.)

etc. On and on.

Any time they fly near me, I call out, "Hi Ravens!" They look at me and go on screaming. If they're strutting about in the field nearby, I'll holler at them, "Hi Ravens!" Oh, they notice me, pause in mid-strut and look, then go back to their pertinent investigations and shrieking. They enjoy scrutinizing horse poop, sashaying from poop pile to poop pile in the pastures; I wonder if the horses notice the constant Raven Cacophony?

The noisiness is not just about sharing learning. It's a sort of defense system. Whereas some birds will hunt and move about by stealth for safety, the noisy gregariousness of the Ravens serves as a veritable gang against would-be predators, and as a very noisy warning system if anything seeking a Raven dinner is approaching, while they are about their busy tasks of discovery and higher academic learning.

They don't respect many boundaries - they don't turn off their generators when it's bed time, and the underage delinquents stay at the bar long past closing time. They're back at the bar far too early in the morning, demanding the sun get up and start the day already.

But I don't begrudge my Raven hoodlum neighbors. I love the noisy little buggars. They provide delightful, endless entertainment!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Beautiful at Any Angle

Friday July 24 2015

As he ages, he stands a little bent over at the knees; his withers get sharper as his belly sags a little further downward. He's getting gray hairs. He'll often stroll in after the herd runs back down from the canyon, although if he puts his mind to it, he can still turn on the afterburners and lead the charge. He seems to know he's getting to be an old man; he and the other old man Krusty hang out together a lot.

But none of that matters, because Stormy is beautiful at any angle, any light, any distance, any pose.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Bandit Springs: Forest Dude

Saturday July 11 2015

He's a Desert Dude, used to wide open spaces and few trees that monsters can hide behind (only small monsters live behind sagebrush).

Bandit Springs last weekend in Oregon was Dudley's first forest endurance adventure. He went with his pasture mate Smokey and his neighbor August. The best part, of course, was the grassy meadow we camped in. Ohhhh, that rich grass smorgasbord reaching to his kneecaps, that he loved to stuff in his mighty mouth at every opportunity!

You can see he's scarfed the tall grass in his immediate reach, and he's plotting how to reach the rest

It was Dudley's first time on a high tie, which I was a bit leery of, since we were camped in such a tasty meadow. Middle of the first night, he was pulling and yanking and squeaking and stretching that high tie so hard, he woke us all up, and Steph took the high tie down and I tied him right to the trailer.

My biggest fear for Dudley at that ride was him getting loose, and getting lost in the forest, and me never seeing him again. Horses have gotten lost before. And guess what happened the second middle of the night, right before our Saturday ride. He got loose! Suspicious noises woke Steph and Carol up (they were sleeping in the horse trailer; I was sleeping in Helen's freight liner.) He was on the other side of our trailer, devouring an entire bucket of beet pulp!

Now my second biggest fear, almost as big as the first, is Dudley getting loose from his trailer and getting into every single bucket of grain in Ridecamp. Fortunately, he was easy for Carol to catch, but who wouldn't be, after a big satisfying bucket of beet pulp, from which he was still licking the crumbs? He had pulled his entire halter off his head, but I think it was from scratching and trying to rub behind his ears, because he was very itchy there. Nevertheless, Carol put his halter on tightly, and I gave him a stern lecture, because he scared the crap out of me (and a hug because I was so glad he wasn't lost), and I went to bed praying he would have no ill effects from a bucket of beet pulp. Needless to say, every time he made any kind of noise (banging his hay net against the trailer, sloshing water while drinking, peeing, or farting) I instantly sat up, wide awake, and looked out to see if he was still tied to the trailer. I didn't get any more sleep before my alarm went off at 5 AM.

Carol and August led Steph and Smokey, me and Dudley, out onto the trails for the 50 mile ride on Saturday. We had a twenty mile loop back to camp and a vet check, then a 30 mile loop, with an out vet check. The previous day we'd gone out on the 10-mile loop for exercise and to get used to the scary forest monsters, like fallen monster trees, scary tree stumps, and a herd of over 50 elk whose bugling squeaking trumpeting calls so alarmed our horses that we all jumped off before they ejected us. The elk herd seemed to want to make our acquaintance, and I left the horses, screened behind trees, and ran out to scare steer the herd away from us. Yes, a person on foot can turn away an entire elk herd that's bearing down on you!

On ride day, our horses weren't scared o' no stinkin' tree stumps or monsters. Or elk, which was fine with all of us, because they might have still been a bit alarming. The horses know the difference between deer or antelope, which they know, and elk, which they do not!

Dudley's other favorite part of the forest ride was the two wild turkey feathers he found, that he had me stick in his bridle. (Dudley always finds things: feathers, neat rocks, deer antlers.).

And his other favorite part of the ride was the vet checks where horses had a treat of oat soup waiting for them!

The other best part of the forest ride was the cool weather and the rain. Everybody I talked to only knew Bandit Springs as hot and dusty. We got lucky this year, the 25th anniversary of Bandit Springs. It was so pleasantly cool in the morning, in the 60's to 70's, and in the afternoon, scary-looking thunderheads built above us and finally blanketed the sky with heavy dark clouds. After the vet check, a delicious rainstorm, with no lightning!, soaked us and turned the trails to slick-snot mud, as we plodded through the dark forest, the pine and fir trees beating with dripping water. My other favorite part of the ride, besides the forest trails, the Ochoco Mountains, riding a big handsome beast, and the rainstorm, was the lovely trill of the hermit thrush which serenaded us all day long.

Always mugging for the camera!

Our horses walked the entire last 12 miles or so, because the mud was so slick. But we finished before the cut-off time, and our horses looked and felt absolutely great afterwards. The six Pickett Crick Musketeers did it again!

oops, not quite a wide-enough angle lens!

And the other best part of the ride was the 25th anniversary handmade ride award necklaces and key chains made with jasper and quartz rocks hand picked by ride manager Janelle and her son Spencer from Doyle Spring on the trail. The Raven had a hard time picking his favorite one.

And the best best part is, Dudley's not just a desert horse anymore. Now he's a Forest Dude!

More stories and pictures from the 25th anniversary of the Bandit Springs ride here!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Spirit Horse Magnets!

Monday July 6 2015

I can think of only one good reason for it being so bloody hot here. My Spirit Horse art pieces were so soft and flexible, I was leery of the pins bending right off them.

Enter the Spirit Horse Magnets!

They'll do just about anything a Spirit Horse Pin will, without the pokey part.

Each Spirit Horse is one of a kind, handmade of clay, wire, beads, and yarns picked up from around the world. They're fun and whimsical; they shimmer different colors in different light. You can bend the legs to stand straight, trot, gallop, or fly.

Hang your Spirit Horse in your home or horse trailer for good luck.

Besides you're not going to the Oscars till next February, so you won't be wearing a pin on your designer gown for a while.

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

Here's the gallery slide show:

Or link:

And click on the tab above, Buy Spirit Horses! for more details and photos of the Spirit Horse Magnets, and Spirit Horse Pins.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Those Little Flycatchers: Say's Phoebes

Friday June 26 2015

It's a productive year in Owyhee for Say's Phoebes. A pair nested on top of the porch light on the front porch, right by the front door - the busy front door with constant traffic from people, cats and dogs. The birds like protective ceilings for their nest more than they dislike close proximity to people.

The Phoebe babies were spilling out of their nest April 25, and not even the people-busy Tough Sucker endurance ride, nor the evening Teeterville Jam (2 banjos, 2 guitars, 1 fiddle) on the front porch interfered with all 4 babies fledging soon afterwards.

It was such a good year in Owyhee, the Phoebes double-brooded.

June 15, four new ones were piled in the same nest, fuzzy and hot in the heat.

Thursday, June 25, spilling out of their nest, at least 2 of them fledged.  I happened to see the first one fly out of the nest into the nearest tree.

I then saw a second one fledge, onto a deer antler hanging off the lattice of the front porch. Maw and Paw Phoebe hung out with him, kept an eye on him.

I sat still and quiet for an hour, watching, taking pictures. My arms and legs cramped, my hands went to sleep, but it paid off waiting and watching, when Maw or Paw brought him a bug! That's the top photo.

The remaining two babies weren't quite ready to leave the nest, and they kept hoping for one more bug to eat.

This rather drab-colored flycatcher has a distinctive and plaintive "Peeer" call. They eat insects by nabbing them in flight, or by hovering over them and snatching them off the ground. They may winter in the Southwest and as far south as central Mexico, and they migrate north in early spring, nesting as far north as northern Alaska.

The size difference between the parents and offspring isn't that great… except for the Big Mouths on the babies!

Don't they look dejected that no food is forthcoming?

I'm a Raven and Bird of Prey fanatic, but these Say's Phoebes are intriguing, and what a treat, getting to see these little birds from the second brood fledge!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Owyhee Outlaws

Wednesday June 24 2015

Call it the Pickett Crick Roost. The wily Owyhee Outlaw Bovines have been hiding out here for quite some time. Months, possibly, because it was a couple of months ago that Connie said she saw a few cows and calves up Pickett Crick. All the cows should be up near the mountains and a few drainages and several fences over by now.

I'd been up and down the canyon on horseback several times in the last month or two, and I never saw any cows. But just last week, Connie happened upon them in their hidey holes in Pickett Crick. "About 6 of them," she guessed.

We called the rancher, because it was too far for us to drive them onward, and we didn't know where they were supposed to be by now anyway. And they probably would have been a bit too wild for us.

Two of the rancher's boys arrived with a couple horses and dogs and a trailer; they'd herd the cows down to our place and into a round pen, then run them into the trailer.

It took a while for the boys to find and flush the cows and calves out of the crick, and to get them to agree to all head down the canyon. Turned out there were more like a dozen of them, with calves wilder'n snot, and some of the cows were a bit rank, too.

The boys and horses and dogs gently eased the cows down along fence lines toward the house and the round pen. A couple of wily calves tried to make a run for it, but the cow dogs took care of them. It was one of the cows that, when they got close, decided, nope, she was *not* going in that round pen, because she liked her Pickett Crick Roost just fine thankyouverymuch, and she busted loose and all hell with it, the herd scattering and stampeding back up-canyon.

Horses and dogs took off after them in a cloud of dust, and after some more wrangling (and setting up another panel that would angle the cows in the round pen gate), the boys and horses and dogs convinced the herd to squeeze into the round pen.

One cowboy rode back to fetch the trailer. He backed it up to the round pen, and got all but 4 calves on the trailer. It took 3 cowboys on foot, a couple of dogs, and a couple more fence panels to guide/squeeze those Owyhee Outlaw Calves into the trailer, and then off they headed to their new mountain hideout, to continue their wild and wily ways.

Friday, June 19, 2015

2015 A Drive in the Park: Day 1

Friday June 19 2015

Last weekend, I got to shoot "A Drive in the Park," an American Driving Society-sanctioned 2-day Horse Driving Trial and Combined Test in Nampa put on by the Treasure Valley Whips Carriage Driving Club.

This Combined Driving Event consisted of 3 competitions: Day 1's Dressage and Obstacles/Cones, and Day 2's Marathon.

Driving dressage takes place in an arena, testing the skills and obedience of the driver and horse over specific patterns and gaits. Obstacles/Cones is a timed course through course where drivers steer their horses through cones in a specific pattern. The more advanced levels have smaller gaps, and some of the steeds speed handily through this course.

Day 2's Marathon course (this one under a mile), wound in and around the horse park through different obstacles, weaving through gates in the correct sequences, up and down ramps, and at all but the training level, the water obstacle.

What I love about the driving is that people of all shapes and sizes and colors and ages drive horses of all shapes and sizes and colors and ages, in singles or doubles or teams of 4, pulling wagons, carriage, and carts of all shapes and colors and sizes. As one friend said, "In endurance you see… Arabians. And Arabians. And maybe an Arabian cross. Here, you see everything."

Everything from Arabians to Miniatures to Morgans to Fjords to Saddlebreds to Irish Draft crosses to Hackneys to Standardbreds to Thoroughbreds to Connemaras. (An amusing but apt classification is "VSE" - Very Small Equine). The Minis think they are monsters. I can time my shots to a certain stride at the trot, but when these business-like Very Small Equines cruise through the cones courses and their little legs spin like egg-beaters, it's time to just hold your finger on the shutter. Some of the ponies were proud high-steppers, the Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds ground-eating trotters, the bigger teams smart and athletic, and oh, so impressive-looking when they moved in step together.

The whole gallery can be seen here:

Following are a few shots from Day 1's Dressage and Cones/Obstacles.

A smart team!

My friends Jan and Strider. I specifically went to A Drive in the Park last year to watch them.
Today Strider was very excited to be in the spotlight. Sometimes he had a hard time trotting. He wanted to canter or gait, wiggling around all over like a wet noodle. He had fun, and so did Jan!

All business!

I loved this handsome fellow

Loved these Fjords too

A colorful duo

One of those high-steppers!

A talented matched pair

The Irish draft crosses in step (the light one is half Andalusian; the bay half Quarter Horse)

Another smart team of Connemaras

Handsome horse, big wheels!