Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Utter Disaster

Wednesday October 28 2009

If you ride up onto the flats above Pickett Creek and look to the southeast, three drainages over is Castle Creek, coming down from the Owyhee Mountains. Look northeast and you'll see where Castle Creek meets the Snake River, and part of the Oregon Trail and Castle Butte just this side of the river.

If you were here 149 years ago, following the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon by Castle Butte, you might have been riding into big trouble. On September 9th, 1860, (an alternate date recorded is August 1860) the wagon train led by Elijah P Utter (sometimes spelled Otter) was attacked by around 100 Indians, probably Bannock and Boise Shoshone.

There were 44 emigrants total in the group - 4 families (12 in the Utter family, led by father Elijah) and 2 Reith brothers. They had gathered together from southern Minnesota and Iowa and started on the Oregon Trail westward.

One of the biggest dangers faced by the emigrants crossing the country - besides injuries, illness, bad weather, wild animals, treacherous terrain, getting lost, and anything else under the sun - was attacks by Indians.

The Utter wagon train was attacked. The wagons were circled to protect the livestock the Indians were trying to stampede. The conflict stopped momentarily when the white men offered the Indians food. The wagon train started moving again, but they were shortly attacked again on Henderson flat. The fighting lasted into the next evening, when the emigrants again tried to move onward to the Snake River, as they and their stock were desperate for water.

The Indians renewed their attack; in total approximately 50 Indians and 19 whites, including Mr and Mrs Utter and 4 of their children, were killed. The Indians turned their attention to plundering the wagons; the remaining 25 emigrants fled and hid, leaving everything behind but a few firearms, and continued on foot down the Snake River, traveling by night and hiding by day.

A week later the survivors arrived at the mouth of the Owhyee River 75 miles away, where most were too weak to continue. The two Reith brothers went to look for help; the rest hunkered down here and waited for rescue, including 18 children.

After two weeks, more Shoshone Indians appeared at the Owyhee camp and traded some food for the last of the survivors' possessions, and stole their guns.

The Van Norman (sometimes spelled Van Ornum) family then struck out to look for help. Three young girls were taken captive by Indians; the rest were murdered. (The girls were apparently found several years later.)

By this time the Army was out looking for the survivors, having gotten word from the Reith brothers, who had finally made it to the Umatilla Indian Agency in Oregon for help.

The murdered Van Norman family was discovered by the Army, six weeks after they had fled their wagon train; and finally the debilitated party on the Owyhee River was found, 16 people who'd survived on berries, frogs, snakes, mice, a few fish from the Indians - and the bodies of a man, boy and infant who had died. Several young children had starved to death.

This Saturday, at the Hallowed Weenies endurance ride down the road in Owyhee county, we'll have something besides Halloween ghouls and goblins to ponder as we ride over the site of the attacks.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Tuesday October 27 2009

When Rushcreek Mac arrived here from the Rushcreek Ranch two years ago, he was a Working Horse. Didn't have a personality, didn't know what a carrot was, nor a pat, nor a horse hug. He just did his job.

Didn't take long to spoil him with carrots and treats, and soon he got to where he came up for treats, or scratches (but don't touch his face, he doesn't like that). And he learned to play. He learned that from Jose, the Owyhee Social Director.

Mac picks up and plays with things on his own, and he learned that he can engage Jose when he does this.

He got adept at pulling off Jose's ear mask and playing tug of war with Jose.

He picks up buckets and flings them around, and I've seen him picking up a stick and bonking it on Jose's head till Jose grabs the other end.

Today it was the broom. Mac picked it up and chewed on it a bit, then thrust it upon Jose.

They had a good sweeping session, wrestling with the bundled bristles, grabbing it from each other, whacking each other with the handle.

Jose started to leave, and Mac chased him with the broom.

That got them going again.

Great horse fun on a windy fall day, and just goes to show, you don't have to spend big money on those special horse toys. Feed tubs, sticks, ropes, dressage whips, brushes, and brooms will do.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Perfect Taste of Fall

Monday October 26 2009

It's a national pastime, isn't it? Going out for a drive to see the fall colors.

Here in Owyhee, to get your taste of fall, saddle up your beloved horse on the perfect October autumn day, and take a ride.

Up on the flats toward the Owyhee mountains;

down into Pickett Creek canyon where the cottonwoods are golden and the quail bush shouts in red, crimson, scarlet, maroon, sangria, burnt orange, rust.

Your horse cruises along, stops to pick at new green grass from last month's rainstorm; cool autumn breezes hinting of winter finger through your hair and tickle your nose.

Nature sightseeing on a perfect cool fall day in a beautiful country on a most beautiful horse (and, first post-busted-rib ride) - the perfect taste of fall.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Smokey's First Trim

Friday October 23 2009

It was a landmark day in four-month-old Smokey's life: her first encounter with a farrier. She got her first hoof trim.

Steph's been working on halter breaking Smokey, leading her, picking up her feet. I like working on moving her off pressure, front end, hind end, backing. She's very good, ("smartest baby ever," says an unbiased Steph), though she can show an attitude at times. Like when she's hungry - she'll double barrel when she's waiting for the hay breakfast to be delivered, or she'll balk during her lessons, if you catch her at a bad time - like when she just gets up from a nap and is crabby and needs some of Mamma's milk Right-Now.

Linda and Mike of Perfect Balance Shoeing were very patient with Smokey. They recognize that taking your time at the beginning will save you hours, days, years of headaches down the road.

Steph haltered and held Princess close (who could care less about Smokey now, it seems), while Linda held Smokey for Mike. At first Smokey objected - strangers holding her, a man trying to pick up her feet, and she was just not in the mood to deal with any of this. Fortunately she's still small enough she can't out-muscle a human, so when she tried to get away from Linda, she wasn't able to, and realized she had to yield to pressure - i.e. not try to pull or push away.

Once she stood for Linda, Mike used the approach and retreat method,

and, as soon as Smokey did what he asked - picked up a foot - he used the quick release as a reward. With enough approaching, asking, and retreating, Smokey was soon, without objection, and without further trauma, lightly picking up her feet and letting Mike hold them up and trim and rasp them while licking her lips.

First a back foot:

Then a front foot:

Afterwards, however, as soon as Linda took off her halter,
she ran right to Mama to nurse.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Where's the Beef?

Friday October 23 2009

Where's The Beef?

Who is this slim, shapely, handsome beast? Could this be Dudley, the perennial overweight buffalo-fat lard-butt pudgeball?

No matter what kind of diet he's been on, he can just gaze longingly at the big hay bales behind the fence and it goes straight to his hips. And everywhere else.

So in addition to putting him on a strict diet (AGAIN), we started him on this D-Carb Balance formula. It's for Insulin Resistant horses (we suspect Dudley is), laminitic horses (Dudley's had several episodes), and obese horses (DUDLEY).

The D-Carb is supposed to help the body use the feed as energy instead of storing it as fat. We started him on it on mid-September; he was in a large pen with Finneas - who drove him all day (somehow Finneas thinks it keeps the flies off his face to drive Dudley around all day long). They probably walked at least 10 miles a day, so Dudley was getting plenty of exercise, along with his diet of hay only, and the D-Carb.

During the 5-day Canyonlands Ride, Dudley was stuck in a small pen for about 8 days, and I thought he was getting a little slimmer, though that had to be my imagination, because he was getting zero exercise.

After the ride, he was turned back out to plenty of roaming around. I was gone for two weeks, and I come back to see: hipbones! Dudley has hipbones! And a neck that is not so cresty. The fat dimples over his butt are almost a memory. He's a horse that looks like... well, a horse!
I want to say he's not even so obsessed over food, because there are times I see him up the canyon just standing there and hanging out, and not looking for food, scheming for food, escaping for food, or scheming to escape for food.

I'm not saying this D-Carb stuff is a miracle, and I'm the world's greatest devil's advocate and skeptic, but, Dudley the Beefalo, for whatever reasons, is becoming Dudley Slim Jim.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Welcome to the Club

Thursday October 22 2009

I didn't realize it at first, but after I fell off Kazam and busted my rib, I became a member of an elite group. Tim Floyd let me in on the secret at the Owyhee Canyonlands ride when I told him why I wasn't riding. "Oh! Welcome to the Broken Rib Club!"

I'm sure lots of people break ribs, but a LOT of endurance riders are members of the Broken Rib club. I can't count how many times, just during the week of the Canyonlands ride, I heard, "Oh, (roll of eyes) been there done that, don't want to do it again!" "I broke 4 ribs!" "I broke 2." "I broke 3 ribs and punctured a lung!" (Note: the Punctured Lung Club is an E-LITE club, one I don't aspire to.)

So you can see why, instead of going to the doctor, I consulted my numerous endurance friends who have dealt with broken ribs, for advice. (Karen B said, "Gee, I don't know whether to be "honored" about being a broken rib consultant or not!")

Best most optimistic scenario for being able to ride again as usual without causing more damage (if I don't go out and fall off and re-break it - or go out and do a dumb thing again like ride an ATV on a bumpy road) is 6 weeks.

Which would just about fit the 2-day Hallowed Weenies endurance ride just down the road at the end of October right neatly into my schedule. That's almost 6 weeks. It's been a very difficult 29 days so far, turning down rides, watching people ride off and have fun without me. That's about as bad as the pain itself. (I can feel sorry for myself so very well, don't you think?)

But meanwhile, through the peevishness of sitting on the sidelines, I've rested enough so that the acute pain has gone away. Now it's more like a butter knife against my insides at certain times instead of a Buck Knife all the time, and I don't have trouble sitting up. It's mostly just twisting now that gives me the most problems. I'm always mentally calculating and measuring everything against, "Well if I'm riding and a horse stumbles, or spooks, how will it feel?" The answer now is, Not too bad.

And so my rehab has started. Besides warm water therapy, massage and herbal liniment, now I've added sit ups, and today, hiking. I went on an hour hike (with one little hill), the most I've done since I broke the rib. My lung hardly felt anything from heavy breathing.

Actually I will probably cheat a bit early, get on Stormy for a little ride on Sunday (special day, his half-year birthday more or less), so that's almost 5 weeks. That should be good enough, shouldn't it? I should be fine, as long as I don't fall off again (unlikely with Stormy).

You don't get extra credit or a promotion in the Broken Rib Club if you rebreak your rib or add some new ones. And Lord knows you people don't want to hear any more weeks of whining from me, so I'll be careful.