Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Branding Time

Wednesday February 18 2015

When the grass begins thrusting out of the sand toward the sun's warming rays, and snows commence melting in the mountains (never mind it's a month or two too early this year), and the cows have (already) dropped their calves, it's branding time in Owyhee County.

It's a time that neighboring ranchers help each other out: cowboys pulling up in their rigs with their horses, rounding up and pushing and sorting the herd into pens, getting busy with the calf roping; the horse-less helpers jumping in with the syringes, snippers, stampers and branding iron. The cowboys (and one cowgirl this time) make roping the calves look easy though it's only easy if you've been doing it since you were knee-high to a cow horse.

And oh, the poor little dogies… in one swoop they get roped, dragged to the fire, stretched and sat on, vaccinated, branded, ear-tagged, and, if they are unfortunate enough to be boys, snipped down there, every single step of which they object to, and bawl shameless and lustily. The procedures are done quickly and efficiently.

After the calves are all done, and everybody feasts on a big extravagant lunch spread the rancher has prepared (with help from several more people), the mama cows are sent one by one into the squeeze chute, and my, that is not a job for beginners nor sissies. Talk about mad cows. One of those rank things'll kill you if given a chance, particularly if you're grabbing her nose with tongs then twisting her (killer) head to the side to inject a wormer up her nose, stamp a new tag in her ear, jab her neck with a couple of shots, and brand her to boot while you've got her squeezed tight in the chute. Be careful, too, when she's let out of the chute, because she just might charge you so you have to leap up on the fence, and keep your legs up while the mad cow smashes into the long table beneath your toes, upends it and spills everything on the ground, gets tangled up in the table and falls down with it, then staggers up snorting steam and snot out her nose and looking for something else to smash into, particularly something two-legged, until she's finally chased out to the calf pen to hook back up with her baby.

But, back to the roping.

Neighboring rancher Ed chats before he unloads his two horses.

Just you wait little dogie, your turn is coming.

Ed dallies his catch.

This gal could hit her mark 90% of the time!

I loved the expressions on this guy's horse.

There's no escape little dogie!

Holding their calves.

Dragging one to the fire.

Oh, the injustice, the ignominy!

This young boy can't wait to help with the roping on his own cow horse one day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bored This Winter? Try Ski Joring

Tuesday February 10 2015

While dogs or reindeer pulling skiers as a means of travel in Scandinavian countries has been around for hundreds of years, the sport of ski joring (the Norwegian word skikjøring means ski driving), was first a demonstration sport in the 1928 second Olympic Winter Games in Switzerland, with skiers driving a single horse from behind.

Equestrian ski joring now consists of a galloping horse (in most cases!) pulling a skier through an obstacle course by a rope attached to the saddle. Leadville, Colorado's now-famous ski joring competitions began in 1949. Equestrian ski joring events occur in 5 U.S. states, with the national championships being held in Whitefish, Montana every year since 2009.

The Wood River Extreme Ski Joring Association hosted a weekend of ski joring in Bellevue, Idaho at the Swiftsure Ranch Therapeutic Equestrian Center, where local riders and skiers teamed up for a bit of speed and excitement. This was a straight course for a couple of hundred feet, with the rider required to grab one hoop, and the skier having to negotiate two jumps, a couple of cones, and snatch 6 hoops. $5000 was up for grabs.

There almost wasn't enough snow, after it rained the night before. There were a few mud puddles by the end of the first day.

Sprinting down the lane!

This horse was excited and ran more up and down like a hobby horse than forward.

Intense concentration by this rider who just grabbed his hoop, and his horse.

This horse was really excited!

Who needs stirrups?

Catching some air

This gal catches air in the saddle!

This horse had a mind of his own and wasn't listening to the rider's steering. The horse thought *he* should take the jump. They didn't fall!


This was the junior or peewee division. More my speed!

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Delicate Trail Issue

Monday February 2 2015

Let’s be frank, and address an awkward trail riding issue.

When the weather gets cold enough to form ice in water troughs, when it’s snowing and sleeting and blowing so hard that the wind chill freezes your eyeballs as you’re on the back of a horse, *it* will happen.

Your nose is going to run.

It will form little snot droplets that will hang, then drip, or fly away in the wind, or worse, land on your clothes unless you do something about it. This is precisely the reason why you must have the right kind of winter gloves - to wipe off the snot. Come on now, admit it, you all do it.

(Perhaps other less-rugged disciplines, say proper dressage riders, carry nice hankies or tissues in their pockets, but I venture to say that most endurance riders really aren’t that concerned with conventional snot protocol, and often don't have the spare hands to find the hidden wadded up tissue in some zipped-up pocket while handling a fresh snorty horse on a cold windy day.)

I have some nice riding gloves I use when it’s cool (others might say “cold”). But they’re useless when my nose starts to run.

I have some nice warm Noble Equine gloves that I picked up on sale. I thought they’d be the perfect winter gloves. They are indeed lovely and soft, and they do keep my fingers warm, but I discovered the one thing they aren’t good for is wiping and absorbing the snot off my nose. They just smear it.

My riding partner has the perfect gloves. They are warm and the perfect softness, so they keep her fingers warm and absorb snot. By the time you alternate gloves to wipe the snot, the first glove has dried already. She got them for $1 at a discount grocery store.

Inexpensive warm, soft, absorbent gloves are a great gift for the cold-weather endurance and trail riders on your list!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Trickster Dudley

Friday January 23 2015

Dudley cracks me up.

I decided a couple of months ago to teach Dudley tricks, and I joined Jain Brand's Horse Tricks Academy at

She's got step by step videos of building basics of different tricks, and points out that sometimes it's the horse that gives us clues as to what tricks he might already know. Dudley already learned from a long-ago trainer to bow - and we aren't even working on that trick yet. He already had a habit of throwing his head up in the air - as you see here from my 2008 post, America's Next Top (Equine) Model. I just turned that into a trick, by timing my training cues right.

Dudley and I don't practice every day, and when we do, it's only two carrots' worth: I cut 2 carrots into bite-sized pieces, and we practice a few tricks until the carrots run out. It's just a little fun during the day when he's hungry and wants a snack to eat!

I made this short video to show how he's progressing with minimal practice. As you can see from the video, he just cracks me up.


or link:

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Faceless I

Saturday January 17 2015

Piggybacking on National Geographic’s current “The Faceless Portrait” assignment, I’m doing my own (there are over 5000 submissions to NG, and they take rights to your photos) - Equus style.

Good equine photos should entertain, strike a chord, tweak emotions, tell a story. Here are a series of The Equestrian Vagabond’s Faceless Portraits:

Top Photo: A local cowboy riding out on his mustang in Owyhee County, The West, to help round up cattle

This cowgirl is gently interacting with a wary gelding named Delta one evening on Meg Wade’s ranch in Australia.

Auntie Connie gives 9-year-old niece Sarah riding lessons on 21-year-old Trusty Krusty, building Sarah’s foundation of endurance riding.

An endurance rider at scenic City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho, in the AERC National Championships, gives his horse a water break

Connie and young Firdinand take a quiet moment while training at Longacres racetrack

A young Belgium girl’s love for horses is written into this moment

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Golden Oldies

Thursday January 8 2014

They’re both at the distinguished age of 24, soon to be 25 (!!).

One is a gentle stout giant, half Orlov Trotter, half sweetheart; a retired endurance horse of Steph’s who saw the world. Tevis was his first 100. He raced in the 2001 Dubai World Cup. He finished the 1999 Pan American Championship in Canada and the 2000 World Endurance Championship in France. Now Krusty is ‘retired,’ though no good endurance horse is ever really retired in this life. That means he’s still used as a guest horse and trail marker, and he’s still doing occasional Limited Distance endurance rides, and doing them well (he got Best Condition with Steph in his last one in November).

The other is a towering handsome Thoroughbred; a retired racehorse, a former Forest Service pack string leader and dude ranch cowboy horse, who stole my heart and ended up in my modest stable of one. That he happens to be The Most Beautiful Horse On The Planet is pure coincidence.

Stormy is brought out of retirement once or twice a year, to either give Sarah a lesson, or to give a friend a first ride-of-a-lifetime, or to mark trail up the canyon and back.

Since they both deserve it, they get special treatment - Krusty gets an extra meal every night, and Stormy gets lots of extra treats. (He wanted me to make sure you all know German Horse Muffins are always at the top of his Christmas Wish List, in case you were wondering.) Sometimes he gets turned out in the yard to wander around and help with the yard mowing.

The Golden Boys are both so dignified that it’s a surprise and a treat to catch them playing together. Mostly it’s a good ol’ nip on the butt (Krusty is quite handy with his big teeth),

but now and then, I’ve caught them really going at it, baring teeth and rearing in mock battle like wild mustangs (that’s Stormy towering above Krusty up top).

They just make me smile - they’re Oldies But Goodies.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hello 2015

January 1 2015

The Owyhee view was breathtaking, the cold air breathtaking, the big handsome Dudley beast breathtaking.

Neither frost on whiskers nor frostbite on fingers, nor overnight temperature of 0* and morning temperature of 10* could keep us from a ride on New Year’s Day.