Sunday, August 17, 2014
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.
*Quincy subsequently swiped the rabbit out of Austin's mouth, the cheater!
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
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
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.
Monday, July 28, 2014
Monday July 28 2014
Something about Duran Duran gets your blood pumping - it's OK, you can admit it. For some reason, their songs seemed the perfect fit for my video of the Eagle Extreme endurance ride in June. Steph rode Batman, and I rode my pal Jose. And of course The Raven rode along, as he does every endurance ride.
While there's actually nothing wild about Jose and Batman and The Raven, the Wild Boys flew along the trails, danced into the sunrise, gave us another fun ride.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
From the brink of obesity to the finish line of an endurance ride, it's been a long (dieting and exercise) trail for Belesemo Dude, aka The Dude, aka Dudley.
When Steph got him back in September of last year (she'd sold him in 2011), he had some bad feet to repair, and he got fat with the herd over the winter. When he started his serious diet and exercise program in February, he just had a hard time letting go of that extra insulation. He's how you define an "EASY KEEPER."
Some days it was hard to get up and go to the gym (trail) every day. We did it anyway. I felt his pain. His sweat stained my half chaps. But slowly, ever so slowly, some of the padding thinned out and firmed down to muscle.
Our main goal was to keep him sound and get him fit; the long-range goal was possibly a 50-mile ride at the 3-day City of Rocks ride August 7-9… but... only one day at a time.
He'd come along well enough that I knew he was fit enough to do at least a 25-mile Limited Distance ride at our backyard Almosta Silver City ride July 19. But a 50? I wasn't sure. Dudley could still lose another 50 pounds or so, and he's not too good in the heat (just like me!). I kept an eye on the weather: if it would be over 90 degrees with no breeze, we'd ride the LD with John and Sunny. If it would be under 90* with a breeze, and company to do the ride with… possibly the 50.
On Friday, the next day's forecast said 88* with a breeze. And then the first rider arrived in camp, and that's when the obvious decision was made. Lynn White, with her horse Roger - Belesemo Moon - would be attempting to complete Roger's first 50 miler (Lynn had pulled rider option on 2 previous attempts). "Third time's the charm," Lynn said. Dudley hadn't done but one 50-miler 6 years ago. Dudley and Roger are cousins (their sires are half brothers). So of course the terribly handsome Dudley and terribly cute Roger - the awesomely cool Belesemo Brothers - would ride the 50 together.
We'd take it one loop at a time. If they finished the first loop in good order, we'd do the next loop; and if they finished the 2nd loop in good order, we'd go out on the third and last loop.
Aside from the lit stick of dynamite beneath me for the first couple of miles, Dudley and Roger marched steadily over the first 25-mile loop, taking turns leading, trotting a steady 7-8 miles an hour. Both Lynn and I rode with heart monitors to keep an eye on our beasts' beating hearts.
Dudley didn't take long to pulse down at the first vet check, standing in the shade and getting hosed with cool water (I hosed myself down too!); it only took a couple of minutes. By the time vet Matt Dredge could check us, Dudley's pulse was 56, and his CRI 56-52. Yay! (He'd pulsed in on Friday at 40, which surprised me!)
Roger took a little longer to pulse down, but they both passed the vet check with mostly A's. (Dudley had a "B" on gut sounds - how is that even possible!?!?) 1 loop down, halfway done; 2 more loops to go!
The 12 1/2-mile Rim Trail loop 2 was a shorter but hotter loop, and Dudley took a few more minutes to pulse down at vet check 2, and his CRI was 64-60. But after the final loop 3 (a repeat of the second loop), he pulsed down faster than both loops! His CRI was 56-60, but he got A's on everything, including gut sounds!
"Who's first?" Regina asked us when we rode in to the finish. "We're tying!" I said. "For 11th place?" "Absolutely!" And, unknown to us till later, two more Belesemos finished right ahead of us! Flora Gertsch and Belesema Epic Diva were 9th, and Bethany Sargeant and Belesema Finalia were 10th. I'm pretty sure it was a historic Belesemo Arabians endurance moment.
Dudley was pretty proud of himself after he finished (though not near as proud as me). He had two most favorite parts of the endurance ride:
Carrying The Raven on their first endurance ride together.
Eating as much as he wanted during and after the ride!
City of Rocks, here we come!
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Wednesday July 16 2014
I was astonished to see my horse Stormy playing in the water. All these years, I'd never seen him do that. He's a rather dignified old retired racehorse; I've rarely see him play at all, although Jose the Social Director has taught him a few glamorous moves that Stormy pulls out of his hat once a year or so.
But water? Stormy is a Water Dragon? I never suspected!
We have the perfect little pond where Stormy can teach the rest of the herd a thing or two about playing in the water.
Stormy, The Most Beautiful Horse On The Planet, is the star of Chapter 23 in my book, Soul Deep in Horses: Memoir of an Equestrian Vagabond, available on Amazon.
Monday, July 7, 2014
Monday July 7 2014
His stomach dominates his existence, though I like to think I occupy a little corner of his affections, squeezed in behind the hay, rice grass, kosha weeds, and treats.
I think he loves me, even though, since he's FAT, I lock him up at night and restrict his hay intake. Even though I saddle him up and make him work every day. Even though I make him huff and puff and drip sweat.
Dudley's 12, and has only a single 55-mile completion on his endurance record, back in 2008. He road-foundered after that one, and has had bouts of laminitis and a tendency toward FATNESS over the years. Steph raised him, sold him in 2011, and he came back here in 2013 because, well, he's kind of part of the family, and you just can't help but love Dudley.
We were pretty good buddies when he left in 2011, and when he returned here last year, I was happy to see him, but he seemed… sad. As if he felt he'd been abandoned by us. He wasn't mistreated by any means in his new home, but I think he felt we didn't like him anymore, so we sent him away. (Oh, if he only knew how much it broke my heart to see him go.)
In the trailer ride back here in 2013, he bit a horse in the back rendering him un-rideable for a while. (I think Dudley was feeling rejected yet again, being sent away in the trailer again; I think he was acting out.) Back in the herd here, he was no longer herd boss but was chased around by many of the horses, and he often spent time standing off by himself away from the herd. My welcome-back pets and my hugs didn't really seem to sink in for a while. I swear his feelings had been hurt, and he didn't trust that he'd be staying here.
Over the months though, he regained some status in the herd, and over the winter he slowly morphed back into the old Dudley, as his confidence grew that he'd be staying here. He once again became the old Dudley forever scheming how to Get More Food, plotting how to escape his Fat Pen so he can Get More Food, working those big brown eyes and innocent expression so we'd feel sorry for him being so hungry and he could Get More Food.
After he got FAT over the winter and I started riding him again in February, every day, we've developed a strong relationship. Even though he can sometimes be lazy on a ride, even though he can spook, even though he can bolt, even though he can be a chicken occasionally and not be thinking of me (and would instead run to save himself, not me, if, something scares him), Dudley loves me again.
My modest goal for him is to ride him in and complete a 50-mile ride at the City of Rocks ride in August. If we make it, great; if we don't, I'll keep riding him every day, because The Dude needs it, he's my pal, and I know he loves me, almost as much as food.
Attentive Dudley studying a trail map Steph is drawing in the dirt.