Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Hillbillie Willie: Cucumber Cool at City of Rocks

Tuesday June 14 2022

I opted for riding the City of Rocks Day 3 25 on Hillbillie Willie because… why not? I took pictures on days 1 and 2 (photos are here) and Steve Bradley came and shot day 3 (photos are here), so I was free to ride on day 3. 

The 25-mile ride sounded good, and it couldn’t have had anything to do with being whooped with all the ride prep and trail marking (we help Regina put the ride on). I roughly guesstimate that all the trail marking and unmarking on foot that Connie and I do amounts to more than 25 miles each. Over the years Connie and I have got the system down, and we’ve found it’s much easier to just hike to mark and unmark trail than it is to saddle up horses and mark and unmark by riding.

Plus we condition-ride our horses most every day. And I just didn’t want to spend a long 50-mile day in the saddle (this ride is not easy and fast)(unless you're Christoph Schork or David Laws or Gabriela Blakely :), so the 25 sounded just perfect.

I was a bit nervous about the start, since Willie hadn’t done a ride since April 2 and I figured he’d be hot; and saddling up and warming up among the ‘regular’ Endurance riders were 5 “Pony Express” riders who regularly compete in 3-mile races, and they took off like Kentucky Derby starters breaking out of the starting gate!

But Hillbillie Willie walked right on out after them, unconcerned, beside Jill Haunold and Girl, and with Kitty Giles and Lady (who was on her 3rd straight day of LDs), not wound up, not upset that his pal DWA Barack had left an hour earlier on the 50-mile ride. It was going to be a fun day!

We made the loooooong climb through the City of Rocks National Reserve park counterclockwise up to the Indian Grove junction at 7200 feet, you know, the trail with the stunning views, and all the way back down in intermittent rain. Girl was easily able to match pace with Willie’s long legs, the two trading the lead and keeping a comfortable steady pace.

Our only glitch on the first loop was, just as we approached the water trough at Elephant Rock, we rode up on Connie and DWA Barack - Willie’s beloved bro Barack!!!!! - on the 50-mile trail. At the trough the 50s and 25s split, and Willie spent the next 2 miles whinnying for his Beloved Bro and looking over his shoulder (Barack did the same), but eventually he switched his allegiance back to Girl, because she was all business, and she was alright.

After lunch we had a fast-cruising easy 5-mile flat loop in the desert with Jill and Girl, and Willie finished up with a 48 pulse!

And I wasn’t complaining a bit that I did not have another 25-mile loop to ride. :)

I did, however, go out and hike several miles and unmarked a part of the trail that was no longer in use. :)

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Justify’s Owyhee Mustang C Herd Available for Adoption!

May 14 2022

From the family of sire JUSTIFYthis "C" crop of one-of-a-kind all-recycled** hand-made-with-love Owyhee Mustang siblings are recently-rounded up off the Owyhee Range. They are tamed and gentled and halter broke… the rest is up to you. They are easy keepers - won’t eat you out of the hay barn and are happy with just sunshine and admiration. Each has its own unique personality and conformation!

By adopting an Owyhee Mustang you are an owner of an authentic Wild West bronc, made of genuine recycled baling twine fresh off hay bales, so in addition to owning a very unique objet d’art, a piece of The West, of course you’ll also be helping to save the planet from choking plastic or toxic burn fumes.

Owyhee Black-Blue Nose

Owyhee Black nose

Owyhee Black-Purple nose

Owyhee Dark Blue nose

Owyhee Lime Green Nose - yes - it's a mule!

Owyhee Orange nose

Owyhee Pink nose

These Owyhee Mustangs are available for adoption fee of $75 (add $5 for shipping per horse, USA only). 

contact theequestrianvagabond@gmail.com

See the gallery of past siblings horses here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/5KMJVHCTnVzrf3KPA

**100% recycled… made of baling twine, used buttons, stuffed with used horse magazines

***And thank you to the soooo many of you who have sent me your baling twine instead of burning it or throwing it away! You are contributing to beauty and hilarity in the world!

#trashtotreasure #trashtoart #trashintoart #balingtwine #bailingtwine #balingtwineart #bailingtwineart #recycledart #repurposed #reclaimed #recycledbalingtwine #recycledbailingtwine #recycleme #wastetoart #waste2art #trashintotreasure #recycled #recreated #fiberart #buyhandmade #buyusa 

#owyhee #owyheeart #wildwestart #wildwest #owyheemustangs #idaho #onlyinowyhee #adoptawildmustang #adoptamustang #justify

Monday, May 2, 2022

The Owyhee Green Desert

Monday May 2 2022

I've never in my 15 years out here seen the Owyhee desert so outrageously verdant. We've had the craziest spring, with temperatures swinging wildly between 79* one day and 26* the next night. Waves of wet weather have come through, just enough at just the right time to send the flora into a frenzy of growth.

The desert grasses and shrubs and wildflowers are soaking up the moisture as color - all shades of green, carpets of knee-high yellow mustard, fields of purple flowers (blue mustard?), phlox, arrow leaf balsam root, Indian paintbrush, and myriad other flowers I have my own names for because I don't know the proper names for them. 

It's awful hard to get a good training ride on Hillbillie Willie, because all he wants to do is eat this spring's rare Nature's bounty while it exists - and who can blame him! If we do a 2-hour ride, that's because 1 hour is spent training, and 1 hour is spent eating.

As I told a friend, Let us bow our heads and remember this lush spring in a few months, when the flora is withered and gray, and the skies are brown with wildfire smoke that burns our lungs and stings our eyes. Amen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Hillbillie Willie’s Owyhee Tough Sucker 2022: Let ‘er Blow!

April 4 2022

The wind howled and the dust blew, but the Owyhee Tough Sucker 50-miler was a breeze for Hillbillie Willie

What to do with Hillbillie Willie at the Owyhee Tough Sucker, first ride of the season? Right after he completed the 50 at the Owyhee Halloween ride last November he gas colicked, and that was after he had felt super strong and phenomenal all day. I made changes in his feed and electrolyte program this spring, and he was fit enough to do 50 miles at Tough Sucker; and at the last minute decided to try him on the 50. 

He also went without pads for the first time, since his feet toughened up nicely over the winter, and since Tough Sucker isn’t too rocky,. I did put Hoof Armor on his feet before the ride, though the tubes were so old I didn’t get much out of them and I’m not sure they both mixed up the right concoction.

Despite the wind, which became rather awful in the afternoon, and despite the dust, which we all ate and absorbed, (and oooooh I felt for all the volunteers in camp!) Willie was his normal super strong and forward powerful self. Always preferring a higher gear, happy to follow or lead. He rode with his buddies Jack and Deb, and (former herd-mate) Smokey and Nance. Flash and Jackie joined us for the first loop but Jackie opted not to do loop 2.

The only kink in our well-laid ride plans was lunch time, when his camp-mate and bromance buddy DWA Barack was still out on trail, so Willie wasn’t interested in eating his normal grain, or hay. I hauled him and his food across camp to hang with his trail pals, but he still wasn’t interested in eating. When Barack got in for lunch, I carted Willie and his food back to our campsite, and he started nibbling - but would only eat alfalfa. He wasn’t interested in any of the different mixtures of grain I’d prepared for him. Was he feeling OK? Of course I worried, but the heart rate monitor I had on him went as low as 39 at one point, so I knew nothing was wrong. Just to be sure, I had Dr Jake listen to his gut sounds before we went out on loop 2, but they sounded great at the time.

Back out on trail we battled the wind and dust on the ridges, stopping for good green grass (!) in places in the valleys. Willie dunked half his head in every water trough on loop 2 and inhaled water like a camel. That’s music to an Endurance rider’s ears.

Willie finished in 6:57, with all A’s, and a good appetite. He cared much more about his food at the finish than he did his Bro Barack, but when Barack got back to camp Willie was ecstatic. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome of a tired but happy horse at the finish! (P.S., I was tired too!)

*photos by my sister Judy, who ate dust in camp all day!

Monday, December 6, 2021

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

December 6 2021

Robin Schadt tracked down these win pix of my Standardbred Hillbillie Willie on the track, courtesy Crystal View Photos, from his previous racing life.

Willie’s race record is 2 wins from 21 starts as a 2-year-old (2 starts) and a 3-year-old, at Running Aces in Minnesota and CalExpo in California. At 3, starting January 4th, he raced almost every weekend through July 19. (!!!!!!!!!) (At which time he possibly strained a hind suspensory or tendon, as that was his last race.)

He started Endurance at age 5, and now has 1015 AERC Endurance miles (and one 25-miler).

You can see he was a pacer on the track, but lucky for me, he defaults to a trot on the Endurance trail. He loves his second career as an Endurance horse, and he really loves being outside here in the West, zipping along trails and stopping to watch wildlife.

These are the pix from his 2 wins. I love getting a glimpse of him in his former life. Look at him fly!

Thank you again Robin and Crystal View photos!

top photo - he won his first start as a 2yo

bottom photo - he won by a nose as a 3yo (he's on the outside)

Friday, December 3, 2021

This Standardbred Likes Pigs


December 3 2021

After a sunny winter ride, Willie and I dropped in on Linda and her Menagerie for a friendly visit.

This time, he was much more relaxed, hanging out with his friend dogs and pigs and horses and mini-donkey and mule, and way more interested in the pigs, Porker and Pig.

Linda has trained Porker to sit for a treat. She says, "Sit," and Porker sits and opens wide for Linda to insert a treat (watch out for those porker chompers!)

Willie was fascinated with the beasts and the spectacle.

He got a treat from Linda too, because he's so handsome,

but ooooh those pigs are intriguing!

How could you not love this face!

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The 1000-Mile Standardbred Hillbillie Willie: Part II

A great accomplishment turns into not-good-then-thankfully-ultimately-good-depending-on-your-perspective long-a$$ day

PART I is here.

by Merri Melde

Willie still did not drink at the finish. I did not like that. That is not normal. He passed his vet check (with a 54 pulse, not unusual, particularly with his winter coat). 

But I did not like that look in his eye. And back in his pen, he wanted to roll. That is NOT NORMAL for him. I called Jessica and Jake the vets over. They listened to his gut sounds again and heard gas in the upper right quadrant. “If he wants to lay down or roll, let him,” they said. “It can help move things around so the gas can pass.”

But it didn’t help, and after a while, when Wilie got up and still looked uncomfortable (pulse was high 40s - still good), he got a muscle relaxer shot.

That seemed to help. The pain left his eyes, he started eating normally, took a drink, and his pulse dropped to the low 40s (normal for him after a ride).

But after an hour, the pain came back. His eyes showed pain. He laid down again. Rolled some, and laid there, higher respiration. When he got up again, vets checked him out again. Movement in all gut quadrants except for that upper gassy right. Pulse up to 52. Not good sign. I started feeling sick. Give him the works, I agreed.

He got Nasogastric intubation, to quickly get electrolytes and fluid directly into the digestive system, to help get things rehydrated and moving. 

There was no reflux (a good thing). After a while there wasn’t much of a change for the worse or better, so we set him up for fluids. Got him going on 10 liters. Time passed. It got dark. Jake had to leave, but Jessica sat with me in his pen watching him as the hours passed, waiting waiting waiting praying and waiting for a poop (not so unusual waiting for that after a ride where they’ve been steadily pooping all day a little at a time; Barack in the next pen had not pooped yet either). 

Willie started eating a bit, his pulse remained in the 40s, and the gut quadrants had more activity… but the upper right still gassy.

Willie started shifting his weight around at 10 PM; Jessica said let’s take him for a walk and see if that will help him poop. She unhooked him from the fluids, and we took Willie and Barack for a walk… and  within a few minutes, I have never been happier to see a pile of (good looking normal) poop come out of Willie’s rear end! (Barack pooped too!).

But when we returned to the pen, Willie went right to laying down. He got up and laid down 3 times. I was getting nauseous. Jessica said to wait just a little longer. And finally,FINALLY you could see Willie relax, tension leave his body. When he got up again, his pulse was still in low 40s, still movement in quadrants, still some gas in upper right, but a little better. She hooked him back up to the fluids and Willie went back to eating - like a normal hungry-after-a-ride horse. And he took a good drink! And he farted! Twice! And he peed!

All signs pointed to him having recovered. When the fluids finished, Jess unhooked him and we turned him loose, and he walked to the side of his pen, and dropped off another big pile of good looking steaming poop! And all good gut sounds!

Well, try to go to sleep after that. I didn’t really sleep, but didn’t hear my alarm at 3. I got up at 4 to check on Willie, and he was dozing, and I was excited to see 3 or 4 more piles of poop in his pen.

In the morning he had even more piles, and was eating and acting like a normal horse.

Thank the lord. But what the hell happened. What caused it? Gas colic is the simplest and most common type of colic; it can happen to a pasture horse. A horse has almost 70 feet of small intestine and about 25 feet of large intestine, so he’s got a helluva lot of space where gas (or kinks or blockages) can build up. Any kind of blockage can occur anywhere, and when a horse is exercising, fluids are pulled away from the gut to the muscles, so that dehydration can exacerbate the situation. You’ve all had gas cramps at one time or another, and they can be quite painful till they resolve. Can you pinpoint a cause?

What could I have done to change it? (besides not riding at all). We certainly didn’t ride fast (we finished in 8 1/2 hours; he’s previously done this ride 1 1/2 hours faster). He hasn't had a hard season - this was only his 5th ride this year. He drank well on trail - until he didn’t midway on the last loop. He ate and drank great at lunch. We always let the horses eat hay for a while before we give them any grain at lunch, and that is a wet mash. I gave him the normal amount of electrolytes I’ve always given him - a scoop in each feeding (once a day, and as much as he wanted to eat at lunch, after eating hay first), starting 2 days before.

Should I have let him go faster? He felt so phenomenal the whole ride, maybe I added more stress to him by keeping him cranked down much of the ride. Did his winter coat have anything to do with it? (He’s done rides with a winter coat before, on hotter days.)

When he didn’t drink at the second water tank he should have dunked his head into, I could have stopped and gotten off and walked to camp - but that would have taken me longer to get back on foot, not to mention the stress of being separated from his buddy.  

Was it just a random thing? Who knows. It all just sucked. I even hate reliving it by writing about it.

I’m just kicking myself - what caused it and how could I have prevented this? (beside not riding)

I don’t know if I will ever want to ride him on a 50 again. It may be so stressful for me (like if he doesn’t drink at a water tank) it may not be worth it. Maybe he will just be a 25-mile horse. Maybe he’ll just be a trail horse.

So, our great accomplishment turned into a not-good-then-thankfully-ultimately-good-depending-on-your-perspective long-a$$ day.

And he’s fine now and says thanks to all for your concern!