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

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Poke in the Eye With a Sharp Stick

Wednesday January 27 2016

It was probably more like a piece of hay that poked him in the eye, but it was bad enough at noon to leave Jose with a weeping, swollen eye (surely aggravated by him rubbing it). In the desert, one might immediately suspect a cactus thorn as the assailant, but the poke probably happened a couple of days ago and was likely from stemmy hay.

Veterinarian Dr Stacey Sickler, a friend from seems like eons ago, was able to come out in the afternoon; and by staining his eye, we could all clearly see a couple of scratches on the bottom corner of his eyeball. She left us with antibiotic ointment to put in his eye four times a day for the next week or two, and this spiffy pirate mask (racehorse blinkers, with strong velcro holding an eye shield in place) for him to wear.

Though he doesn't enjoy having a sore eye, Jose thinks he makes quite the dashing, swashbuckling pirate on this ocean of desert sand.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

My New Friend: The Roadrunner

January 19 2016

Walking into Jose and Smokey's pen one cool morning to clean horse poop, I was startled to see a Roadrunner hanging out on the tack room porch. I froze, wanting him to stay a while. Jose walked right by him; Smokey walked right by him. I approached Jose and scratched his neck, 20 feet from Roadrunner. Roadrunner just sat there, blinking in the sunlight.

I slipped on the other side of Jose, still scratching him, now 15 feet from Roadrunner. He didn't care.

Jose walked off, and I casually took a few steps toward Roadrunner. He didn't flinch. I walked within 8 feet of him, and sat down. Roadrunner blinked in the sunshine. I struck up a conversation with him. I think he was listening.

After a while, he hopped off the porch and walked 2 feet closer to me. He pecked a bit in the dirt, then turned his back to the sun and fluffed up his feathers, so the sun would strike his dark skin which quickly absorbs heat. I like to think he was showing off a bit for me, too.

I kept talking to him, he continued to be unconcerned, and as soon as he warmed up enough, he turned back around, and stepped toward me again, digging in the dirt. And he walked toward me again, totally unconcerned, even if I moved my hands or shifted my seat. I was conversing with and sitting 4 feet from my new Roadrunner friend.

Roadrunners are fairly common in the southwest deserts. They have a zygodactyl foot - 2 toes are directed forward, 2 are directed backward. The X-shaped footprints they leave behind are said to be used as sacred symbols used in some southwest Native American tribes to ward off evil spirits, because the X-tracks disguise which direction the bird is traveling (it throws the evil spirits off track).

My close encounter with my new Roadrunner friend happened two mornings in a row. The second day I had my little camera with me.