Saturday, May 31, 2008

2008 Owyhee Fandango Day 2

Sunday May 25 2008

Another fine day in Owyhee county, another 55 miles for me and the Raven. Gretchen and I rode together on her horses Spice and Raffiq again; Connie joined us on Fly, neighbor Linda's horse, and Caroll the Belgian joined us on Jose.

Caroll was a bit nervous about her US ride debut... she didn't know Jose, she didn't want to hurt Jose, he had seemed pretty eager when she rode him the previous two days... Then there was the fact that she hadn't ridden in a while, and she'd never ridden 55 miles before, and there were likely some very sore muscles in store for her at some point during the ride, probably beginning somewhere near the 20-mile marker!

Connie and I assured her she would love Jose, because everybody (and every horse) loves Jose, but I think there were still a few nerves fluttering when Caroll woke up early Sunday morning.

Besides our 55-mile ride, which started at 7:30, there was a 100 and a 75-mile ride; many of the 100-milers were here hoping to achieve a qualification for the World Endurance Championship in Malaysia in November (which is: each horse and rider, as a team, has to finish 2 100-mile rides in the last two years in 13 hours and 20 minutes ride time, which was definitely attainable over this course). There was also a 25-mile ride.

Our three 'loops' were really one big loop out to the Snake River and back, with two out vet checks at the pretty Sierra Del Rio ranch.

A miniscule recap of the ride: dusty trails, scenic desert, wide deep blue Snake River, fertile irrigated farmland, no thunderstorms till after we were finished : )

And before we knew it, there we were, the last four miles to go on another great day of riding, good company, good strong horses. Raffiq was so strong and eager in the lead, I was almost sad to not have another 45 miles to go. (Though I didn't know Raffiq's thought on that.)

Here's a few pictures from the day...

For the detailed ride story, see Owyhee Fandango Day 2 ,

and for more pictures see the Fandango page.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

2008 Owyhee Fandango Day 1

Saturday May 24 2008

The Raven and I saddled up Raffiq, and with Gretchen and Spice, set off on the trails for the first day of the 3-day Owyhee Fandango endurance ride.

It was a wonderful 50-mile ride on nice easy trails - 3 loops out of basecamp - a half hour of riding in the desert rain on the final loop (OK... I could have done without the thunder right over our heads, which meant it was lightning right over our heads, because we all know how terrified I am of lightning), but it sure smelled good and felt good, and I swear you could see the desert sage and flowers turning greener and blooming with fresh growth right before our eyes.

The miles seemed to zip right along, Raffiq enjoyed himself (it's his third time on these trails), and Gretchen and I had a great time.

Here's a few photos.

If you want to see the detailed ride story, see Owyhee Fandango Day 1.

Lots of pictures on the Fandango page.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pre-Fandango: Friday

Owyhee Fandango: Friday

Friday May 23 2008

A whole slew of riders and officials arrived in Oreana basecamp Friday, including my pal Gretchen Montgomery from Bridgeport, California, coming to get her Merri fix. Gretchen and I used to ride together 3 to 4 times a week in the summers in Bridgeport, but now, I get to see her only once or twice a year. She brought two horses, and as it often goes in endurance riding, plans change. I was going to ride Bev Gray's horse True Colours on Day 1, but, it was decided that Amanda Washington could ride him on Day 2 since she needed a horse to ride, and since Colour only needed one ride, I could now ride Gretchen's horse Royal Raffiq - who I've done 750 miles on over the years - with Gretchen and Spice on Day 1.

Camp steadily grew bigger throughout the day as more riders pulled in with their rigs, from the fancy 5-horse trailer with living quarters up to the 70's campers pulling a 2-horse and the little truck and trailer with a tent on the side. Riders took their horses on rides or walks around camp, the radio crew worked hard on setting up their base station at the house, and horses were vetted in with the veterinarians Robert Washington and Michael Peterson.

I was dressed for a warm-up horse ride - chaps on and gloves in hand, when I was called on to make a last-minute chauffeur run to the airport. Connie Creech was my first pick-up; she would be serving as president of the Ground Jury in Sunday's FEI 100-miler. I've ridden with Connie on many Nevada trails and attended many of the rides she puts on there. We talked horses (what else) while we waited for the next person, Trish Dutton, who'd be the official ride secretary. Steph saw her in action at the New Years in New Mexico ride, and snapped her up for this ride. And, it turns out that Trish lives just down the road from my niece in Texas, where I first started my endurance riding 9 years ago.

I never seem to have enough time at endurance rides to visit with people - old endurance friends I haven't seen in a while, endurance friends I have seen lately but still want to visit with, and special old endurance friends from around the world - like Belgium and Guatemala, and new ones - like El Salvador and Spain. And this ride was no exception, because there were pictures to take and upload, horses to ride, horses to vet in, horses to gather and feed, gear to get ready, (like attaching my Raven bag to my saddle), an airport run to make, a ride meeting to attend, and of course, another great dinner to eat, catered by Owyhee ride regulars, Debra and Al of Blue Canoe Catering.

It was good to see international riders here, from Canada, Argentina, and Belgium, for the FEI 100-miler, and it was also great to see many of the usual local riders - including (among many others) Tom Noll and his famous Frank; Karen Bumgardner who'd be riding her gelding Thunder, the horse that got lost for 6 days in November (you can see the scars the girth left on him); Jim and Vicci Archer who'd be attempting their first 100s after 8 seasons of endurance riding; and Nance Worman and Chris Yost who would be attempting the 50 mile-100 mile-50 mile Triple, which they both accomplished last year. Let's take a minute to look at this closer.

Picture it: getting up early Saturday morning, doing a 50-mile endurance ride on one horse. Which in itself can be just enough to pleasantly tire you out. (And, by the way, after the finish, Nance would have to drive back to Boise for her step-son's graduation, and return to ridecamp late at night). Getting up earlier on Sunday morning for a 6 AM start (on another horse), riding 100 miles, finishing at least 14 hours later. Which, by now, would definitely wear you out, enough to curl up into a tiny ball in bed and not move for the entire night, once you got to bed, say, around midnight. Getting up early Monday morning, getting back on the horse you rode Saturday, and riding another 50 miles. These are a couple of obsessed endurance riders, no?

Tennessee Mahoney would also be attempting the Triple. When she left Colorado on Thursday with two horses, a few hours down the road she got a call that a tornado had ripped through her hometown, causing extensive damage to nearby property including her neighbors, throwing quarter-ton hay bales around, although luckily her house was not hit. What could she do? She kept on driving to Oreana.

New adopted local Connie Holloway, a Fairly Newbie, who just might soon become a resident of Pickett Creek here, would be riding her beloved Phinnaeas on a 50 on her birthday.

Fairly Newbies Shana Bobbitt arrived from 7 hours away with her horse MSF Sinwaan and her friend Lara Hall, for her 3rd endurance ride ever; Laurie Wells would be riding in the trail ride on Sunday, and attempting her first ride ever, the 25-miler, on Monday.

Then there was, of course, veteran endurance rider and local - the Raven, riding along with me in his Raven bag for his 3100+ miles.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pre-Fandango: Thursday

Thursday May 22 2008

That's it! I'm not looking at the weather report anymore! Now we're up to 70% chance of rain on Friday - which would actually be nice, for the dusty trails and the thirsty wildflowers - and no wind, which is great. However, now thunderstorms are added to the mix Saturday and Sunday, and you all know how terrified I am of lightning! Steph said, "You better ride fast!" We decided to stop looking at the weather report during the day, because it kept getting worse. But no matter what, it will be cool, in the 60's and 70's, great for the horses.

UPS and Fed-Ex are making trips several times a day 5 miles down the dusty road to the Teeter Rancho to drop off boxes of ride awards and glow sticks. John Favro is fine-tuning the lawns, and the rakes are still flying on some of the riding trails around basecamp.

More arrivals today: Christoph Schork's gang from Utah, Belgians Caroll and Leonard (whom I stayed with a lot last summer), Tony and Diane Dann from northwestern Idaho, with their cool gelding Strike I may get to hop on tomorrow. John and Deb, the ham radio operators are here to set up for the ride; this has become an annual event for their radio club. Tom Cerino, a massage therapist, is here. I bet he will be busy on Monday evening! Blue Moon caterers have filled the outdoor refrigerators for the meals starting tomorrow night.

Leo and I rode with Bev on her 3 horses; True Colours is a nice strong little gelding that Bev has her eye on for Tevis this year. Caroll rode with us on Jose. Caroll and I will ride the 50 on Sunday, Leo the 75, and Bev the 100.

And the wind blew on, and the trailers kept pulling in after dark.

At least a dozen people gathered around our dinner table for a meal I made especially for Leo and Caroll, who cooked me so many great meals last summer in Belgium. This is again what I like so much about endurance: people from around the world getting together because of a common interest - horses. USA, Scotland, Belgium, Spain, El Salvador clinked wine glasses. We were actually missing a couple from Argentina, and a Shaikha from Dubai, but they are due in tomorrow. And all the foreigners were very impressed with the local wine from the Sawtooth Winery.

It's Connie's birthday on Saturday, which she's celebrating by riding her beautiful black horse Finneas. She also made her special famous fabulous cake, and we had an early celebration piece for dessert.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Pre-Fandango: Wednesday

Wednesday May 21 2008

The sum of today: wind and more wind!

Candace Kahn, who blew in yesterday evening with her horse from Medford, Oregon, stayed ahead of the wind and rainstorm. She brought shorts to wear because it was in the 100's the week she left. It continued today - 20 mph with gusts to 37 - and tomorrow it will be even stronger. Great clouds of dust are whipped up from bare fields, and there's a fire burning 8-10 miles from here (going the other way).

Starting Friday, the winds will die down, but now, there's a solid chance of showers through Monday - some front stalled out in the Pacific. Normally it doesn't rain here in Oreana unless it says 100%, as we're in a rain shadow of the Owyhee mountains. But, you never know. As long as it doesn't say "thunderstorms," I'm good.

Today John and Susan Favro industriously went after more weeds around the house. It's really looking very park-like around here. Some of the near trails were raked by some ambitious rakers. Warning: don't take raked trails for granted, and don't let yourself get spoiled by this!

Dennis and Joyce Sousa pulled in from Hydesville California; Henry Griffin arrived sans his trailer, but with a pickup-load full of gear. He got a tail wind from Nevada. Bev Gray pulled in late evening from Utah with a trailer full of horses... one is for Belgian rider Leonard Liessens (due here tomorrow morning, with Caroll Gatelier) in the 75-mile ride, and one just might be for me on the 50.

Today I picked up a car-load of wine cases (we may not have a great number of riders, due to the exorbitant gas prices, but we will have fun), and I flagged our Tevis Trail. It's our one little steep hill-climb going out from the ranch about 15 feet long, then a narrow trail with a slightly steep dropoff that runs for another 50 feet.

Almost all the trails have been flagged... just a few more miles to go.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pre-Fandango: Tuesday

Pre-Fandango: Tuesday

Tuesday May 20 2008

Steph took off toward the north on the 4-wheeler to mark trail, and Carol and I took August and Mac to the south to flag the Hart Creek trail. Rushcreek Mac, a former Rushcreek ranch horse, is not sure he wants to be an endurance horse over a cow-pony yet, but he's for sure still a great gate horse and he's now a great ribbon horse. You just have to point him at a gate and he knows how to open it, how to position himself; and it took hanging two ribbons for him to figure out trail flagging. He'd stop as close to a bush as I wanted, and not move a foot, even when I leaned and hung off of him sideways like a trick rider.

Though it's been a terribly dry spring, there are a few little canyons of bright flowers. At the far end of Pickett Canyon, there are a dozen shades of Indian paintbrush, and just overnight, asters and penstemmons have popped out.

Back at the ranch, John and Susan Favro were giving the yard a last mowing and weed-eating.

A weather system started blowing in by afternoon, winds kicking up dust so thick you couldn't see the Favros' trailer out the front window. The mountains were whited out by a rainstorm and it smelled like rain... but the rain never made it to the house. The temperature dropped twenty degrees, so it will be in the 60's and 70s for the ride, perfect for the horses, but we'll all be kicking up huge clouds of dust from the dry trails.

Neighbor Carol's last mare had her golden foal at 1 AM Tuesday morning... when you pass by Lost Juniper Ranch just before you get to the Teeter ranch, check out the 3 golden babies by her cremello Quarab stallion in the pasture to your left.

Pre-Fandango: Monday

Monday May 19 2008

The first Fandango-ers have arrived...

Two-time World Endurance Champion Valerie Kanavy pulled into the Teeter Rancho ("the boonies," Valerie chuckled) early Monday morning with two horses and two grooms after a cross country drive from Virginia. Both horses are half-qualified for the World Endurance Championships in Malaysia in November - they've each completed a 100-mile ride under 12 km/h (13 hr, 20 min ride time) - and she plans to try to get the second one under their girths on this trip.

Originally she'd thought Steph was putting on an FEI 100-mile ride each day of the May 24-26 ride, and she was willing to ride a hundred on the first and third day (diehard!), until Steph told her we had only 1 100-miler. So after the Fandango, Valerie and her crew are heading to Fort Howes in Montana for the other hundred mile ride for her other horse two weeks later. She hasn't decided yet who she'll ride where. Valerie and her groom Laura Vilaregut - from Catalonia, Spain; last month she won the Junior Catalonian Championship - took the horses, King Ali Gold - who won the December 31 2007 New Years in New Mexico 100 miler, and Flash Flame - who won the 2005 Arabian Nights 100-mile ride here with Danielle Kanavy, out on a trail ride to get the kinks out after their long haul.

After dropping their horse trailer full of goods off earlier last week, then heading to California for the weekend, Susan and John Favro of Healthy as a Horse returned and set up their trailer and mapped out their shop set-up, and John played his mandolin for us while I fed the horses that are now penned up.

Ride manager Steph spent a long time on the phone finding a feed store that had hay for sale; John T went to pick up all their bales - only a small truckload, and a stock of gas for the 4-wheelers.
He also dragged the arena that will be used for the trot outs and set up the pens that some riders will use.

Debbie and John Knapp of the Boise amateur radio club had already shown up over the weekend to mark off an area for their radio set-up to cover the ride.

Wildflowers are mostly wilting in the dry heat on the trails, but Steph's vibrant garden radiates with colorful exuberance around the house. The locust trees have finally obligingly busted out in their new spring leaves, so basecamp is a green oasis in the high desert, awaiting the arrival of some serious endurance riders for the Memorial Day weekend.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Countdown to Fandango

Saturday May 17 2008

The 3-day ride here, the Owyhee Fandango, is one week away.

Trails are getting marked, pens being set up, weeds being pulled, road being dragged, horses are getting ridden, and we are keeping an anxious eye on the weather. Right now, depending on who you talk to it feels: numbingly hot enough for a nap (the horses), Great! (Steph), or stunningly hot enough to crawl in a deep hole lined with ice (me).

If you ride, you want to do it earlier in the morning, finish before 11 AM, or much later in the evening, after 7:30. Jose wasn't too excited about his 9 mile ride with August today. Neither of them were too enthused, so we didn't rush through it, instead doing a little bit of work and a little bit of grazing along the way. May as well take advantage of some of the green grass before it all withers.

Trails are deep and dusty - April was the 2nd driest April on record ("an eighth of a millimeter" of sprinkles), and May, so far, we've had nothing. The few flowers that have struggled out are now strangling with the dryness and the heat. The snakes are coming out, (fortunately haven't seen any rattlesnakes yet), and the birds feeding their young pause to pant in the shade between worm-fetching jaunts. It hit the 90's this afternoon.

Belgian rider Leonard said he wants a warm ride but scenic snow in the mountains. At this rate the snow may be gone by next weekend. Pickett Creek is running a little higher each day - enough to sweep the dogs off their feet if they cross it, and the snow is visibly retreating higher up toward the mountain peaks.

It is supposed to cool down by next Friday, into the low 60's, and depending on who you talk to, it will feel: great! (the horses in the ride), Brrr! (Steph), or just about perfect! (me).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Let's Go! (by Jose Viola)

Thursday May 15 2008

They all call me the Social Director wherever I go.

Well, why not? I always stir the pot and lead the activities with everybody.

Let's play! I can get anybody to play with me.

Even my half brother Kazam.

Let's kiss! Rocky is a good kisser.

Let's bite! You can see why I have so many bite marks all over me.

Let's roll! I find the best soft sand spots for everybody.

Let's take a morning post-breakfast nap in the sun!

Let's run! I always lead everybody, running in the Arizona desert or up the Owyhee canyon or running back to the house.

Let's go faster down the trail!