Friday, November 18, 2016

Just. Beautiful.


Friday November 18 2016

Owyhee: expansive views and empty spaces and hiding places, where coyotes and sage grouse and Ravens and the occasional big horn sheep and cougar roam. These hinterlands are a sacred space. Here is no room for darkness and angst and turmoil, only a place of quiet and of inner peace, of simple stark beauty, and, on the back of a horse, freedom and joy. 

I love a good wild place. I love empty quarters. I love to stop on a canyon rim with a grand view, and look, listen, inhale, to feel. I love the silence, the secrets that only one walking or riding can find and fathom.

Is it just a coincidence that the two horses I have spent the most time and miles riding - Jose and Dudley - both love to stop on hilltops or scenic spots and admire the view? I didn't teach this to them. They just do it. Both of them will stop at a majestic spot with a sweeping view, and they will look. Not just look, but analyze, appraise, and comprehend, and, I'm certain, appreciate it. 

Just. Beautiful.

*The top picture I posted on FB got so many views and comments, it deserved a blog post!



Monday, October 31, 2016

Sweet Senility


Monday October 21 2016

It's late, cold wind howling outside, and I've just about taken that last step into dreamland when a horse whinnies.

Huh? That's a bit odd. Sure, we have plenty of horses out here, but they don't stand around in a herd together and whinny at each other. I couldn't tell who it was or where it came from.

Then another somewhat panicked whinny - that's my horse! Stormy must be separated from the herd! I heard the whinny moving around - he's left behind, and he can't find the herd; and now there's no way I'm going to sleep, listening to my panicked horse running around in the dark trying to find his mates.

Connie says Stormy's a bit senile… and I think she's a bit right. He's 25 now, and he doesn't really rush anywhere anymore, and he's mostly motivated by food, and me. In that order. If I go out to see the herd, he'll come up to me… unless he's eating, or unless he's headed to food. If he's headed to food, he'll mow right past me, as if he doesn't even see me standing there.

He'll often be left standing at the hay feeder eating when the herd leaves to roam up the canyon. Or, he'll be grazing up the canyon with the herd, and they'll leave to start heading home… and he's left behind. He must be so focused on eating that he doesn't notice them leaving. 

It's not till I yell, "STORMY! Come on ThurBred!" that he'll look up from his food and realize the herd has left him, and he'll start moseying along after them.

Same thing must have happened last night during the wind storm. Great. How was *I* supposed to find the herd in the dark on 300 acres?

I crawled out of bed, got dressed, grabbed two headlamps, and plunged out into the cold wind. I went directly to the back pen, where Stormy came up snuffling and sniffing to me, I lost my herd!

"OK, Come on Stormy, we'll try to find them." I walked through the pens out to the front, Stormy at my side. He whinnied now and then (the herd will rarely ever answer when one horse is left behind), but he was content to follow me because he knew I'd save him and reunite him with his friends.

It was darker'n the inside of a cow (says a friend's husband) but for the brilliant stars in the sky. My two headlamps barely pierced the desert, as if the wind was blowing the light back at us. Sagebrush and rabbit brush glowed ghostly in my lights, but I couldn't see any eyeballs blinking at us. I had no idea where they'd be. Across the creek? Just up in the front pasture along an old drainage ditch out of the wind? Or way up the canyon? Or way up the canyon across the creek? There was no way of knowing. My lights were too dim to detect any fresh tracks, and we just had some rain anyway, not to mention an endurance ride, so it would be hard to tell what tracks had been most recent.

Stormy followed me contentedly, throwing out a whinny now and then, as we headed up the canyon. The cold wind singed my ears and made my eyes water. We walked on and on, searching for reflected eyeballs, Stormy sniffing the road like a bloodhound. 

I walked about a half mile up, and realized how futile it was looking for the herd. They could literally be anywhere on the 300 acres. I stopped, ready to turn around and lead Stormy back home, maybe grab Mufasa and lock them up together so Stormy would have some company.

Then I heard a whinny - it was Smokey calling to Stormy! Bless you Smokey! I walked another 50 feet up the road, and there were the eyeballs looking at us, wondering what the heck I was doing out at midnight strolling in a wind storm with my senile horse.

Stormy didn't show any emotion as he reunited with his herd, because of course he knew I was going to lead him to them.

I turned around to walk back home, and the whole herd followed me all the way back with Stormy. I told them all to keep an eye on the old man from now on.



Friday, October 14, 2016

Owyhee Canyonlands Day 3: Can o' WhoopAss


October 14 2016

What I want to know is, who fed Finneas a can of WhoopAss before his 50 mile ride on Day 3 of the Owyhee Canyonlands??

This will not be much of a pictographic account of Day 3, because there were few moments where I could take one hand off the reins to take any pictures. Finneas was a two-hander, tougher-than-snot, total-concentration mount on Day 3, because 1) he hadn't done an endurance ride since June, 2) he was a fired up hot potato in his last couple of conditioning rides, 3) he spent the last 3 days before the ride cooped up in a small pen with the herd, 4) he always has to win, and 5) he's the Grandson of the Black Stallion, and don't you forget it, because he surely does not.

Thinking I'd ride with Sarah and Connie was a mistake… I should have just taken off in a Bubble (LOVE the Bubble - no riders in front and no riders in back for a ways), or waited 15 minutes after the start. But no, I tried to start with Sarah and Connie and that was a wash before I even crossed the starting line. Oh well. We went onward, or should I say, Finneas took charge and pulled me onward and upward.

We had a few little Bubbles on the first loop where I got a bit of a respite, but the rest of the time it was like this:
Finneas: "GO-GO-GO-GO!"
Me: "NO-NO-NO-NO!"

and back and forth we argued negotiated. Finneas already has a heavy winter coat (!!! hopefully this means a long snowy cold winter in store!!!!!!!), and I wasn't about to let him go as fast as he wanted to go (which was winning, like he knew he should be doing).

Finneas is a very rude snarky-barky horse when he passes others; he tries to mow them over, and if he can't do that, tries to cut them off… I came upon several riders in a wash that we passed, and I apologized ahead of time and re-apologize here for his obnoxious grandiose Grandson-of-the-Black-Stallion behavior, though I was successful in not allowing him to blow anybody into the side of the wash. I told Finneas they were all just going to be passing him later, but he didn't care.

Connie said later, "I hope you didn't tell them it was my horse!" and of course I told everybody that Finneas bulled past, "It's not my horse! It's Connie's horse!" :)

After a couple miles when we got to a disappointingly empty water trough, where I got off to lead, and let everybody we passed go back by us. Finneas was not impressed with my decision, but there you go.

Finneas walked the hot and steep uphill Hart Creek ridge, and we had a somewhat nice Bubble on the way back to camp. I was surprised he pulsed down pretty quick, since it was hot, and he's so hairy.

Connie and Sarah weren't too far behind us, but I made sure I left on loop 2 in another nice Bubble. But on loop 2, Finneas wasn't big and bad Grandson of the Black Stallion, he was just a relaxed, fun ride. He took on a steady trot and carried it for miles and miles. We caught and passed a couple of riders (he was either polite about it, or I took him way wide, just in case), and he didn't really care about it this time, just kept up his steady trot. 

The last 12 or so miles were completely solo, relaxed, and delightfully uneventful - just right to evenly balance out the boisterous first loop. 

An entertaining ride on the Grandson of the Black Stallion!

More photos and a recap of the ride at:



Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Owyhee Canyonlands Day 1: Rockin' the Dude



October 11 2016

Coming off his terrific 50-mile ride in the AERC National Championship in Utah last month, Dudley and The Raven did 55-mile Day 1 of the Owyhee Canyonlands in our back yard.

Here's a pictographic account of the ride.

We headed out with Connie and DWA Saruq, and Sarah and Dezzie across the Owyhee desert toward the Snake River Birds of Prey Conservation Area. Steph and Smokey started out with us too, but they smoked onward after a while.


The Hallelujah Trail


First vet check, lots of yummy food! (Dudley's favorite part of endurance rides)


Headed for the loop around Wild Horse Butte,


along the Snake River,


and on the Oregon Trail. (Dezzie is saying, Stay back, Dude!)


vet check 2, more yummy food!



headed for the Birds of Prey Badlands


almost home!


That makes over 800 miles for Belesemo Dude!
 

You can see more on the ride at:
http://www.endurance.net/international/USA/2016OwyheeCanyonlands/



Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Dudley's Excellent Championship Adventure


September 27 2016

Dudley travelled to Utah for the first time for an endurance ride, he rode on an island for the first time, he finished the AERC National Championship 50 miler for the first time, he rode with buffalo for the first time, and he got his stomach pumped for the first time!

Wait - what?

I rode The Dude in the AERC National Championship 50 on Antelope Island State Park in the Great Salt Lake. We finished next to last, but that's not the point. The point was, we rode nonchalantly amongst the buffalo on the island, and, since I'd convinced (well, almost convinced) Dudley that they were just Big Fat Hairy Cows, he had pretty much no problems with them. 

He Stink-Eyed some of them away from a water trough that we wanted to drink from. 
We had to pass through a herd on the trail, and he just stink-eyed his way though them, even though buffalo sound exactly like Khaleesi's dragons on Game of Thrones, with breathy fire-breathing gurgling rumbling coming out of their buffalo throats. If you don't watch Game of Thrones, this is what dragons sound like (around 0:56 to 1:02).

The only time he got a little scared was when a big bull laying near the trail lifted up his hind foot to scratch his head. That did not look like a normal cow, and Dudley scooted waaaaay wide off the trail.

We rode with our new best friends, Simone Mauhl and Boogey. The boys got along great together.

Dudley felt great after the ride… felt better every day in fact. And except for some hand-walking around camp several times a day, he was stuck in his pen at the trailer… feeling better and better every day. I was reporting on the event, so didn't have time to ride him around any more.

So, what happens by Saturday afternoon, right about the time that the front-running 100-mile riders are coming into camp for the finish? I see the back horse trailer door wide open. I see Dudley's head down, and he doesn't hear me and pop his head up to look at me when I call to him, like he'd been doing all weekend. 

UH-OH, oh $hit.

Dudley had finally figured out how to open the back trailer door, where the grain was stored, and he got into 2 bags of senior and oats. Well, I freaked out. I cussed worser than the worst cussing sailor or pirate in the history of maritime cussing.

I had no idea how much of the grain he ate; I only knew that Dudley is prone to laminitis, and he has foundered before. Ohhhhh, I panicked and howled and beat my breast and moaned and cursed and cussed some more. Dudley knew he was in big trouble. 

I was afraid he might colic or his feet would be destroyed. Neighbor Cindy suggested activated charcoal, which she has treated her naughty pig of a horse before, when he got into grain. It can be used to treat toxic ingestions and as a form of gastrointestinal decontamination.

I found Kathy Backus, Dudley's favorite sweet new vet. (Sadly, she'd been pulled on the 100 mile ride - sad for her, but lucky for me and Dude!). Kathy soothed my panic, sure, she had activated charcoal and she'd bring it right over. 

Dudley thought this nice, happy, fun, laughing vet was so sweet, but - wait, what was she doing, putting this syringe of nasty black crap down his throat!?!? Ooooh, it was so horrid, but the vet was so nice and happy and competent, he just kept swallowing it and wrinkling his nose, and she finished and petted him and laughed and left, and I told Dudley, "Well? THAT'S WHAT YOU GET!"

I still don't know how much grain he ate, but I do know that he did not founder, and I do know that I learned a big lesson that I already should have known, with Dudley around - ALWAYS LOCK THE DOOR TO THE GRAIN.

Dudley pouted and wouldn't look at me the rest of the evening. I took him out on a long moonlight walk that night, and he seemed fine. 

In the end, he was fine. He must not have ingested enough grain to cause damage, though to him, I'm sure the icky treatment was worth whatever grain he got!

It was a good ending to a most excellent Championship adventure.


You can see more photos from the National Championship rides, including more buffalo, and more lovely scenery, and read a few more stories at
http://www.endurance.net/international/USA/2016AERCNC/


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Santiam Cascade: 37 and 73


Wednesday August 17 2016

When I finished the 50 mile ride at the Santiam Cascade ride near Sisters, Oregon this weekend on Dezzie, that made, over my endurance obsessed life, 37 different horses I've ridden for over 7300 miles in competition (The Raven too!) - some for just 25 miles, some for over a thousand. (And Lord Knows how many different horses, on how many training miles!) But, who's counting? The point is that I've gotten to ride a lot of horses, all of them different just as people are different, and all of them that I learned something from.

Junior Sarah couldn't make it to the ride, so the Raven and I were Sarah's jockey on her horse Dezzie. We rode with Steph and Smokey, and Connie and DWA Saruq. The ride was a bit dusty, and a bit rocky, but I always like to say, relative to what? Dusty compared to my Tevis ride? Oh, I think not! Or, rocky compared to Nevada rides I've done? Nope! Besides, the heat is always the toughest factor of all for me. It's all part of endurance riding.

We had a fun ride near the Three Sisters, a complex volcano with 3 peaks: North, Middle, and South Sister, all above 10,000 feet, all still carrying a good bit of snow, which I totally wish I could have been close enough to go roll in!

It did get hot, into the mid-90's, but with my cool vest, and a Mission Enduracool neck gaiter given to me by Lynn Rigney, and dunking both, and my helmet, at every water trough, conveniently placed every 5-6 miles along the whole ride, I managed to stay not too hot. We sponged the horses at every trough too, and slowed down on the last loop at the hottest part of the day.

We finished with plenty of horse(s) left, fit to continue for the next ride on the calendar!

A full recap of the ride is here:

These two below are fabulous ride photos by Jessica Wynne photography… check them all out at https://jwynnephotos.smugmug.com/Santiam-Cascade-2016/ !






Wednesday, July 6, 2016

To My Forever Friends Sue and Kevin


Wednesday July 6 2016

I hope you can still hear me.

The day you left this world, the bottom fell out of mine.

When you left, you sucked some of the oxygen out of the air. 

You stole away some of the light and laughter in the world. 

You each left a corner of my heart in shreds, one that will never quite heal.

Your light, your laughter, your hugs, your joy, all of it stolen from me, from all of us, too soon.

Nobody asked my opinion, but this is it: It was unfair and I wasn't ready.

I look forward to the day I can laugh about the memories, instead of cry about the sadness, when thinking of you.

I will always, always think of you both when I ride.

Farewell, my dear friends. See you again on the other side. Until then, happy trails on good horses.