Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Fire Breathing Hillbillie Dragon

October 7 2020

He'd had a solid 4 weeks off since his 50-mile ride at Old Selam, partially due to smoky skies, and shoulder doctor's orders (mine). The last week he'd been zipping and ripping and romping around the pastures here, sparring with his herd-mates and Sneaky Shark-attacking Disco.

So I figured Willie would be pretty raring to go on a training ride. I left him in charge (as long as he made the right decisions) as to which forks in the trails to take, and what gait he wanted to use.

I rode a fire breathing dragon! Trotting, cantering, pacing, blowing sparks and snorting smoke, and when we hit Frodo sand wash, he wanted to roar up it, way faster than I wanted him to or needed him to (plus he was feel-good spooky, and I didn't want to dismount involuntarily!) 

But what's so good about Fire Breathing Hillbillie Willie Dragon is that while he is hot as a firecracker and powerful as a freight train, he doesn't pull! He snorts, he bows his head, he high-steps and powers up the trail on a light contact rein.

Makes me feel like the Khaleesi!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Hillbillie Delight at Old Selam

Monday September 14 2020

Old Selam was only Hillbillie Willie's second endurance ride of the year. I was a little nervous about the first five or so miles: at his previous ride at City of Rocks, this Standardbred ex-racehorse (owned by Steph Teeter, ridden by me) was hot hot hot, pulling and yanking, rooting, throwing his head up, mouth gaping open or chomping on the bit. He wore me plumb out those first miles, and while it was great to be back in the saddle, I sure wouldn't call them fun miles.

I suspected the bit might have something to do with it; I'd seen some signs on training rides he was no longer thrilled with the bit he's been wearing for four years, so after the City of Rocks ride I experimented, and changed it, from a Kemberwick three-piece mouthpiece to a Kemberwick solid bar with a little whoop-de-do in it. (I tried a simpler three-piece snaffle and he did not like that either… I think the broken pieces now irritate him.) While it's a heavier bit, he seems to be much happier with it. Who knew he would decide he didn't like the bit he's always worn, but there you go.

As at City of Rocks, we rode with Willie's former ranch-mate Smokey and Nance. Jack didn't go with us this time, since Debbie Grose was ride manager and wasn't comfortable riding while managing. But Smokey and Willie had a fun ride together on the 50.

And Willie was a gem throughout the day, even at the start of the ride. He was hot to trot, but there was no yanking, pulling, jerking, chomping, and he was moving along with his head lowered, without me having to ask!
just look at him! ❤

Willie looooooooooooves charging along the winding two-track overgrown logging roads through the forest, always eager to see around the next bend, bear or moose or no.

Ooooh that feeling, when your horse is fast and smooth and forward and steady and strong, not spooky (except for coming around that one corner and seeing… two big concrete blocks just sitting right there… where he slammed on his brakes, then jumped back to a trot), powering up hills, slipping to a smooth canter and back to his big trot…

It's taken many years to get him to this point. Of course, he's not always like that, smooth and rounded up, and I call him a continual work in progress, but those great moments, minutes, and miles, are getting longer and more frequent. (Figuring out the bit change really helped.)

:) :)

Photos of Willie and me by Steve Bradley!

For more stories and photos on this awesome Old Selam ride (that you don't want to miss  next year), see:

Friday, August 14, 2020

This Old Horse

August 14 2020


Fed Ex man came to deliver something the other day, and he was concerned about the horse standing out in the driveway/road out front. “I’m worried he might run off.”

Not the slightest chance of that happening. That’s just my Golden Oldie Stormy, 29, (a.k.a. Old Farticus) who just hangs out up there occasionally. He and old man Krusty (R.I.P.) used to wander out there and eat grass, stand in the road and doze, just hang out together. 

Now that Stormy’s old and doesn’t have enough teeth to eat hay, he gets full range of the place, wandering wherever he wants to eat grass (and he gets yummy mashes twice a day). He doesn’t care anymore if the herd leaves him; he just wants to eat and doze. Sometimes he’s on the grass on the pasture; sometimes he wanders out front and mows the grass; sometimes he hangs out in the road snoozing, the equivalent of an old man falling asleep in his lazyboy taking an afternoon nap. Maybe he dreams of the days he and Krusty, the two old patriarchs, hung out there together. 

Sometimes you have to drive around Stormy because he won’t move out of your way, but there’s no danger he’s going to run off anywhere. Except back to the house if he hears me open the door to the feed room on the other side of the creek, because while he has Selective Hearing, he’s got ears sharper than a spy for the sound of that squeaky door, which brings him running!

Just in case, though, I got this sign made for him.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Hot New Release! Turn Right at the Sarcophagus

July 7 2020

Hot off the e-press!

Turn Right At The Sarcophagus: An Egyptian Adventure is my latest travel adventure e-book. It's already a #1 New Release in Egypt travel!

This one isn't just a book about horses. But horses are a reason I ended up in Egypt. If you're a horse lover or a travel fanatic, this travelogue taken from my journals of my first trip to Egypt will give you a little entertaining taste of both. 

You'll meet Maryanne (many of you know her!) and her zany, entertaining animals, ride horses in the countryside, visit the Giza Pyramids and the Khan Al-Khalili market, explore the backroads of Giza, tour the Sinai, climb Mount Sinai and wake up uner Mount Sinai in a Bedouin camp, and gallop a horse through the desert around pyramids.

The print book should be out August 10.

Happy armchair travel-reading!

Monday, July 6, 2020

The Umpteenth Owyhee Fourth of July Parade

July 4 2020

Way up a crick from a tiny little town in Owyhee the best little July 4th parade in America takes place. 

For the umpteenth year, rain or shine (it’s always shine), Parade Mistress Linda and her random Critters put on a homemade parade for a few select guests. 

Each year, you never know quite what the parade will bring (neither does Linda…). Linda may have plans, but her horse, mule, miniature horse, a randy mini-mule (who was gelded shortly after that one year’s parade), donkey, jackass, dogs, etc, get dressed up, but they all have free choice to participate in whatever capacity they choose.

This year Linda, aboard Ted the Wonder Horse, carrying Our Nation’s Flag, ponying Hattie the Spotted Mule, led the procession of assorted dogs, and was joined by our dog Luna and, briefly, my horse Stormy until Hattie the Mule kicked him and he left, no longer interested in parades. Linda’s goats didn’t come all the way up this year, (we missed them!) and the pigs simply refused to leave Linda’s driveway.

But as usual, it was the best parade ever, the best kept secret in Owyhee.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Hillbillie Willie: City of Rocks...Dynamite...Ninja Attack

June 26 2020

I rode a lit stick of dynamite for 6 miles.

Well, one could hardly blame him for being a hot crackling explosive. City of Rocks was Standardbred Hillbillie Willie’s first endurance ride of the season - his last one was last October.

Rooting his head (and the bit) up and yanking it down and jerking it to the sides… no amount of (exhausting) leg-leg-leg or rein jiggling or one-rein pressure or rein wrestling or pleading got him to stop doing that for the first 6 miles of trail in the 50-mile ride. Giving him a loose rein would have put him 5 minutes ahead of the front runners even though we started 10 minutes late. 

It was Day 3 of City of Rocks in Almo, Idaho. Willie did all 3 days last year, but this year just one day was best for him, since he’d been away from endurance so long and wasn’t as fit at this point as last year, and this is a tough ride, and he’d be going hard as usual, and wanting to go faster than I wanted him to.

Willie rode with his mentor, Master Yoda Jack (and Deb), and his former ranch mate Smokey (formerly Steph’s but now Nance’s horse). 
I knew they’d set the perfect pace for and match strides well with Willie, because those two rode Day 1 together. Jack’s always the consummate professional, always calm and steady, a good influence on Young Jedi Willie. Of course, Willie ignored him for the first 6 miles because his former racehorse memories and instincts were in the forefront of his imagination, even though most of the other horses and riders were far out of our sight. Willie plumb wore me out. I could put him in front, in the middle, or in back of our group, and for 6 miles I got yank, pull, root, head toss, mouth open or bit chomp.

But somewhere near the border of Utah when we turned a corner onto the Boise-Kelton Stage Route, heading for the stage station ruins and the intersection of the California Trail in City of Rocks National Reserve park, 
Willie transformed into the endurance horse I know, settled down and moved along at a steady long trot, loose rein, ears forward and relaxed. (Whew!) The three compatriots cruised the two 25-mile loops together through the park, climbing on loop 2 to 7500 feet at Indian Grove.

All was smooth sailing… except for the lunch break, when I was waiting to go back out with Deb and Nance, and I tried mounting Willie by stepping up onto an almost-empty water tub… which collapsed into Willie (i.e. attacked him, dousing both of us with the water left in it), and I fell into him (resembling an attacking Ninja warrior) and scared the bejeezus out of him, and he panicked and flew backwards, and I kept holding onto his rein hoping he’d stop and recognize me for the clumsy human I was, but he didn’t, and he kept backing and dragging me face-first in the dirt, and we created a huge dust cloud and attracted a cluster of shocked people, and finally I had to let go, and ouch my kneecaps hurt because that’s what I’d landed on first, and when I plowed to a stop and lifted up my head out of the dirt and looked at Willie, he was 15 feet away from me snorting, head down with HYUGE eyes, wondering, Why did you attack me? Brian picked me up out of the dust and humiliation, then I had to approach and comfort Willie and assure him that it wasn’t intentional and I hadn’t really attacked him! (Oh, I see a cartoon in this.)

And then all was well for the rest of the day… except my kneecaps were bruised and it took two washings afterwards to get the dirt/mud out of my tights.

Monday, May 18, 2020

What's on Your Travel Bucket List?

Monday May 18 2020

In this bizarre, incomprehensible earthly time of not traveling, I'm savoring a lot of memories of travel that I've been lucky enough to do throughout my life. Starting with my first 6-week backpack trip in Europe in 1989, an adventure that opened up my eyes and mind to - well, a whole new world, I've come to learn that travel is in my blood. I love maps. I love travel adventure books. I love discovering unknown (to me) places. I love travel.

There is nothing that compares to experiencing new cultures and places and people. Nothing else feels like waking up in a new country and smelling the morning scent of a place on the other side of the world. Each one is unique and lodges in your memory cells, and decades later, a photograph from that place can trigger those smells and feelings again.

I like how adventure traveler Mark Jenkins described it in To Timbuktu: A Journey Down the Niger, how he felt after living for a year in Europe as a kid: 

"We were just dirt and snow kids from the high plains of Wyoming when the rest of the world got lodged inside us like an arrowhead too close to the spine." 

That same travel arrow lodged in my small-town Texas spine. I've spent several cumulative years of traveling (some horse related, some not), to some 36 or so different countries, and it never fails to intrigue and fascinate me, to quicken the pulse and have all my senses on high alert to all the possibilities, when stepping off a plane or train or bus in a new country.

Ever since that first trip to Europe, travel always seemed natural. See a picture of a foreign place, think, wow, I want to go there - and you just go. Our world is here for the visiting - go see it!

And note, I'm less an adventurer than a traveler, though plenty of unexpected adventures often tended to come my way. For the first backpack trips I always went solo, but most often met up with travelers along the way. In my backpack travels, I've hiked the Himalayas, 
sailed in Norway, walked in Alexander the Great's footsteps in Greece and Turkey, rode a camel on a multi-day trek in the desert of Jaisalmer, India, ridden a mad-house solidly-packed third class train across half of India, paddled Zimbabwe's Zambezi River through crocodiles and hippos.

Some travels were completely horse-related, and I've met cool horse people around the world. I've ridden a beach in New Zealand, 
galloped by pyramids in Egypt, ridden a horse on the sacred Curragh in Ireland, tolted beside an ice-covered volcano in Iceland. 

I have more horse stories to tell. I have many travel stories to recount. Some of my travel journals will make their way into book form. My first travel book, which should be out soon, will tell the tale of my first visit to Egypt. 

And there are sooooo many more places on my Travel Bucket List, so much more of the world to visit: I want to trek to K2 basecamp in Pakistan, tramp through Greenland, hike Patagonia, ride in Argentina, ride in Lapland. 

What's on your Travel Bucket List?

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