Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Owyhee Fandango Day 2: Substitute Jockey! - Part I

Saturday May 28 2011

Part I

It's never a good idea to give me instructions before I'm fully awake or had my morning coffee.

When I went to bed the night before, the plan was: I'd help with Day 2 of the Owyhee Fandango; Steph would ride Batman, John would ride Mac; and junior rider Ben from Utah would ride Jose on the 50, because the horse that Bev Gray brought for him to ride on Days 2 and 3 tied up slightly on Day 1. I would help get the horses ready, since Ben isn't familiar with Jose's tack or hoof boots, and so Steph could get the 50 milers started.

Some time around 5 AM or so, Steph knocked on my door and chirped cheerfully (on several cups of coffee) "Did you get my email?" "Mrpfh" "Great! I'm taking Krusty out with Linda on Ted to check ribbons and open gates for Ada this morning. And blah blah blahblahblah" "OK mrpfh"

And I went back to sleep. Almost.

Something didn't quite make sense and kept me from sleeping, so I might as well get up a little earlier, have some leisurely coffee before helping to saddle up the 3 horses.

But as the water boiled and I poured it into my French press and the smell of coffee flavored the morning air, something still was not making sense... Steph was going to ride Krusty this morning... for 15 miles before the start of the 50 where she's riding Batman???

Well, coffee would clear this up. The first sip... ahhhhh. Might as well check my email.

"YOU'RE RIDING!" is the subject. In the email from 5 AM this morning. The rest says, Steph is too stressed and busy to ride; Ben will ride Batman, John will ride Mac, and I WILL RIDE JOSE!

Oh dear - not ready! Gulp coffee! Grab toast! Find clothes! What to wear?? Cold? Rain? Wind? Quickly check weather forecast - 40% chance of showers, more than yesterday. The one vet check is in camp, so I don't have to pack a crew bag with horse gear or human food and extra clothes...

Where's the Raven??? Find the Raven! Grab more coffee! Run out the door! The Raven and I are going to ride Jose!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Awesome X 3

Monday May 30 2011

Three (unexpected) days of riding in the Owyhee Fandango:

Day 1 - 50 miles on Finneas - AWESOME!

Day 2 - 50 miles on Jose - AWESOME!

Day 3 - 60 miles on Jose - AWESOME!

Speechless! Grateful! Thrilled! Awed! Whooped! Ready to saddle up again!

(Photos by Steve Bradley!)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Owyhee Fandango Day 1: Solo Ride

Loop 1: 12 miles to the south across Hart Creek, to the Vet Check on Brown's Creek. Finneas and I start last of the 22 50-milers. He gets too competitive if he's got other horses in his sights, and since this is his first 50 of the year, I don't want him going fast and I don't want to fight with him. (Finneas is Connie's horse, but she isn't here to ride him because the poor gal had to go on a cruise up to Alaska. So she had me ride him.)

It's a cool, overcast day, just to our liking, with a good chance of showers in the forecast. We keep up a steady trot much of the way; the only thing that slows us down is the abundance of grass along the trail, which would be a sin for Finneas to pass up.

It's cool and breezy at the vet check, so our first hold is only 15 minutes. Then Finneas and I head out for the 25-mile Loop 2, going backwards. Steph and Rhett are riding up front in the correct direction to make sure the ribbons haven't been eaten by cows; and by riding this loop backwards, Finneas and I will check the Rock Corral trail I marked on foot, well before the riders going the correct way get there. That's where we are most afraid cows have sabotaged the trail markings.

Good thing we do, because the cows have, once again, eaten the turn ribbons at a hard-to-see trail. I put more out, and then we're able to move along faster. I have to pay attention to where we are going, since the ribbons are on my left and not always visible from my direction. I'm not sure exactly where the trail goes; so I bummed a map at the vet check to carry with me. I'd eventually find my way home if we got lost (and Finneas has a homing compass in his head)... but I don't want to spend our day wandering about trying to find the trail.

I am happy to note there is no hide nor hair of the Horny Jackass that attacked a friend's gelding last week and that I saw on the trail the same day. I don't know what Finneas would do with an attack donkey, but I sure don't want to be riding him if it happens.

In all my years of riding endurance, I can't recall riding an entire 50-mile ride alone. Finneas is a blast, willing and steady and not spooky (must be that part Thoroughbred or Appaloosa in him). Finneas does get a bit confused when we start meeting horses on the trail - especially Steph and Rhett in the lead. He is pretty sure, for a brief time, that we are going in the wrong direction and should be following them. After a dozen riders pass us, Finneas doesn't care anymore because he thinks he's going the correct direction and he's winning, and I don't disillusion him.

We meet a couple of riders at the old Crazy Woman Mine, where the grass is almost belly high, so we hang out for a spell so Finneas can mow some of it down.

It spits rain now and then, from the clouds playing hide and seek with the Owyhee Mountains. It's nice and cool and makes the day interesting. So far, no sign of thunderstorms (though I can't hear thunder), so I'm not nervous.

From the Crazy Woman Mine we follow a long stretch of cow trails/road to the lower part of the Brown's Creek drainage. Some ribbons have been pulled (or eaten by cows) so I have to keep an eye on the tracks on the ground to make sure we are going the correct way.

A water tub has been dumped - either by people or cows, which is a terrible shame because Finneas has not had a drink for 25 miles and he's now thirsty. Fortunately we are only a couple of miles from crossing Brown's Creek, and he's had so much grass along the trail, that I'm not too worried.

This really is God's country. It's amazing to ride by yourself far out here. It's spectacular. We wind in and out of washes, with cliffs and canyons dotting the landscape, and finally come into Brown's Creek where Finneas takes a long drag of water.

Refreshed, we climb up out of the canyon and onto a ridge, finally make a turn back towards the Brown's Creek vet check, on a road that seems to go on forever and ever. But the scenery is still awesome, the changing clouds are still fascinating, and there's plenty of grass for Finneas to snack on.

When we reach the vet check, to my surprise we aren't the last ones there. Finneas chows down on grain and hay and grass, while I stuff down the best hot dog I've ever eaten.

After our refreshing 40 minute hold, we start back home on Loop 3 - the same 12-mile trail we came out on. Finneas knows just where he is, and he cruises along. We start to play chase with the rain showers. Clouds are gathering with ferocity in the Owyhees, and dumping rain on random drainages and ridges. Up on the flats we get caught in one that spatters us with such stinging drops that Finneas is trying to trot sideways.

I'm trying to avoid worrying about the darkest clouds to our left because they just might be thunderstorms. I keep my eyes averted because I don't want to see lightning, and I'm babbling various tunes of "Good Boy!" to Finneas just in case there's thunder, which I would hear in this case because we are much too close to the storm.

I finally jump off to lead Finneas, both of our heads bowed against the raindrops, even while the sun hits us from one side. Finneas follows behind me to shield his eyeballs.

The shower passes (sans lightning and thunder!), and we both look like wet chickens. I climb back into a soggy saddle, but the bright sunshine quickly dries us off. I'm thinking we'll be home in an hour, plenty of time to beat that next wave of building clouds... but this wave is bigger, faster, and more ominous.

I refuse to believe there is any lightning or thunder in those clouds, and it won't matter anyway, because we're now on a ridge for a while - and instead I am mesmerized by the intensity of the storm that might hit us. We're going to get drenched, maybe blown off our feet. I look back from where we came and see streaks of a heavy downpour from blue-black clouds.

Finneas trots on unperturbed by the weather, and I just stare and marvel at this amazing country and land, still amazed that I'm lucky enough to be out here riding this horse in it.

We make it to our home canyon and drop down off the ridge just as the rain hits us - and the sunshine. We are wet and glistening at the same time.

The big black horse trots on in for a finish as the next storm begins building behind us.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Sad Little Ridecamp

Thursday May 26 2011

By early afternoon, the day before Day 1 of the Owyhee Fandango, it was a sad-looking little Ridecamp. Most years the front parking area is overflowing and the back area parking is full, all the way back into the Hermits and Perverts section in the brush.

This year only a few rigs are sprinkled around. Plenty of space for anyone who might feel crowded and need their space.

However, by the time head vet Robert Washington arrived to start vetting horses in at 6 PM, things were looking better.

Especially around the wine and cheese party sponsored by Vettec.

By the evening ride meeting, more trailers had arrived, and almost 30 riders had signed up for tomorrow's 50 and 25, so things were looking up.

I'll be doing the 50 with Finneas, riding drag (last) on the first 12-mile loop. On the second 25 mile loop I'll ride it backwards (Janet suggested "or, you could just ride backwards on your horse!") to make sure cows haven't eaten the one several mile stretch of ribbons I hung out on foot a few days ago.

I see two possible problems with this: I could miss a turn and we might lose the trail (I know it's my back yard, but I've only ridden out on this trail a couple of times, in the opposite direction!), or we might be attacked by the Horny Jackass.

At best, I'll have a great solo ride on Finneas. At worse, I could have some entertaining stories I can tell around the evening bonfire. Add a little more wine and cheese to that, and it won't be a sad Ridecamp after all.

More photos from the day here:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Batten Down the Hatches

Wednesday May 25 2011

Hurry Finneas, we gotta get going early to get 10 miles of trail flagged before the gusty winds and rain and storm front and possible thunderstorms get here!

My job is to mark the trail with ribbons, while Finneas' job is to sample the lush grass along the way. The grass is so thick in places that I can't find the trail we ride regularly. We have to do a lot of backtracking to either move ribbons or just pick a way through all the grass. Finneas doesn't mind because it means more sampling for him.

The wind is starting to blow stiffly as we top the sharp ridge above Hart Creek; and as we drop into our home canyon the wind is stronger. We get home just as the dust, then the rain starts to obliterate the Owyhee mountains.

The wind is gusting now, tending more towards gales. The horses have their butts to the wind and spitting rain, tails tucked under their butts, heads to the ground, hunkering down. Steph finally makes it back from marking trail on the ATV, exhausted from the wind, and frustrated once again by more trail sabotage.

By evening, gales are ripping across and through the two canyons - sure glad we are not riding up on the flats right now. The confused storm clouds spit rain. The wind swirls from the north and the clouds shove their way into the wind.

Then the wind stops. I step outside and see some rather unnerving-looking clouds, like nothing I've ever seen in southern Idaho before. Either I've been watching too many news videos of the awful tornadoes and devastation in the Mid-West and South, or these clouds really do look like they could harbor more than a thunderstorm. Streaks go one way, waves and bubbles move the other. I watch them a while, mesmerized and a bit nervous.

With the ride starting on Friday, over a dozen people have arrived already, running ahead of the storm. Hopefully the horses and trailers won't blow away, and hopefully I tied all those trail ribbons on the bushes tightly enough!

[Slide show here]

Horny Jackass!

Tuesday May 24 2011

You have to keep your eyes peeled out on the trails here whether you're on foot or on horseback: rattlesnakes, bulls, cougars, and... Jackasses?

Steph and I were headed out to mark trail for the Owyhee Fandango on foot and by ATV (we were pulling the horse trailer with the ATV inside) when we were flagged down on a dirt road by 2 gals running up to us from their parked horse trailers.

Turned out to be our riding friends Karen and Leah, a bit frazzled. "We were attacked by a donkey!"

Steph and I started to laugh... but it really wasn't funny.

"He was with those two wild horses that are back there. The two horses left when they saw us, but the donkey came running at us!"

Karen and Leah had hopped off their horses, but their other friend Linda was not so quick, because she suffers from osteoporosis. The donkey made a beeline for Linda's gelding, and after sniffing noses, the donkey tried to mount the gelding, with Linda still on him.

Linda was terrified and unable to dismount; Leah and Karen yelled at the donkey and threw rocks at him, but nothing would deter him from mounting Linda's gelding. He ignored Karen's gelding and Leah's mare - nothing but that bay mustang gelding of Linda's would do.

Linda finally was able to dismount, and they got the donkey away from her gelding; they started walking on foot, with the donkey following for three miles despite the yelling and the hail of rocks being launched by Karen and Leah.

They arrived at a gate and got their horses through and the gate closed, leaving the donkey braying on the other side; they mounted up to ride off, but within 2 minutes the donkey was behind them, having gone through the fence or gate.

Once they got up onto the flats, Karen took off at a canter for the trailers so she could come pick Leah and Linda and their horses up, as Linda was worn out.

Steph and I were still rather wide-eyed listening to this bizarre tale. Linda was now resting in a chair by the horses. Karen and Leah had come to warn us, since I was headed to flag that trail.

"Horny Jackass!" Leah says disgustedly. Luckily nobody had gotten hurt.

Indeed, as Steph and I pulled onto the road from where I would start hiking, there was a cream-colored donkey hanging with a herd of black cows. We passed him and he looked at us, same as the cows, unconcerned, and rather innocent looking.

Steph dropped me off and I started hiking, marking a couple miles of trail, keeping my eyes peeled for rattlesnakes and cougars and bulls. I flagged past a red-tailed hawk, circling and screeching above me, warning me not to go to her nest with two babies up the creek.

I passed the old rock corral;

I hiked beneath turkey vultures looking for anything that's been eaten by a rattlesnake or cougar or bull.

When I was headed back retracing my steps, who did I run into, but the Jackass! (Which means he went through the fence again.)

He appeared on the trail in front of me, walking my way. I saw him first. When he saw me, he didn't spook, didn't hesitate, just kept walking toward me. "Well, hello," I said, and he just kept his eye on me, and as he came closer, he detoured off the trail.

He wasn't in the least interested in me; he wasn't afraid, but he didn't want to get any closer. When he was parallel with me, about 20 yards away, he stopped and looked at me. I took a few steps toward him, and he started trotting on.

Once he was a safe distance away from me, he turned to look at me one more time,

then he moseyed onward.

Probably headed back to his mustang 'herd' since the gelding of his dreams was gone.

I'm not sure what to say about the second loop of Day 1 of the Owyhee Fandango... carry donkey repellent?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An Endurance Vet's Take on EHV-1

Tuesday May 24 2011

With the concern about EHV-1 still high, I thought this post was worth passing on.

Dr Susan Garlinghouse is the head veterinarian for the Montana de Oro endurance ride coming up June 4 in southern California. She's described as "always very sensible and not prone to panic."

From Susan:
There have been a lot of questions about potentially cancelling or rescheduling upcoming rides given the recent outbreak of EHV-1 in various western states, including California. The decision to do so remains with the individual ride management based on the risk in their area. Since I’m head vetting the upcoming Montana de Oro June 4th in Los Osos, California, which is going forward as planned, I wanted to put forward a few thoughts and suggestions for those entered. Management disclaimer: although I am a member of the AERC vet committee, and this post is in line with the committee’s current thoughts, please don’t take this post as being an official publication of that committee---these are just coming from me as a head vet, so take it as you will.

1) It just makes sense to keep yourself appraised as to the current progress of this outbreak in your area. Daily updates on the outbreak in California can be found at the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture here: http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss/animal_health/equine_herpes_virus.html

This includes specific information about numbers of horses exposed, displaying
clinical symptoms, numbers of horses under treatment or having died or been euthanized. There are also multiple links for information available on the AERC website at www.aerc.org . Please note that with one exception, all of the horses testing positive (currently seventeen of them throughout the state) competed at either the cutting event in Ogden, Utah, or at the event in Bakersfield, CA. The one exception is a mare that has tested negative to the mutant strain of EHV-1, but is displaying similar neurologic symptoms---she seems to be a coincidentally occurring case of the more common strain of EHV-1, but she too is under quarantine and treatment at UC Davis. I suggest every horse owner planning on competition in the near future check this website daily for updates on the progress of this outbreak.

2) Although this disease is definitely highly contagious, the virus doesn’t live for very long time in the environment (generally about a week and only under ideal circumstances up to a month) and is susceptible to virtually any kind of disinfectant---dilute bleach, betadine solution or scrub, chlorhex, hand sanitizers, etc. There have been anecdotal reports of certain service providers such as shoers and equine ‘dentists’ proclaiming they are cancelling all appointments for the next three weeks and throwing away all their equipment. If this is the case, I would like to volunteer my services to pick up and disinfect all those discarded tools, which you will then be seeing for sale on eBay within a day or so after a ten-minute soak in a bucket of diluted bleach.

The take-home message here is let’s use some common sense in biosecurity. The few properties under quarantine in So Cal aren’t going to be allowing non-essential providers onto the property to perform services, anyway, so it’s highly unlikely contagion is going to be transported to their other clients. If you feel strongly about it, ask your shoer if he would mind if you sprayed some alcohol or dilute bleach over their equipment before starting on your horse, ask him to wash his hands and to please not poke any of his tools up your horse’s nose. Keep in mind that at the moment, there are only six properties throughout the entire state with potentially exposed horses, and all of those are already under quarantine (most of them in the northern end of the state), so it’s really unlikely your shoer is going to be a source of EHV-1 coming onto your place in So Cal. Also keep in mind that all but one of the positive horses were those competing at the two cutting events---there have not been any cases of second ary spread of the virus. We are also already past the 2-10 day incubation period typical for EHV, meaning that in all likelihood, horses exposed to the disease that are going to show symptoms already have.

3) If you are entered for this ride, and you board at a quarantined facility, clearly your plans are going to have to change. If you board at a facility where cutting horses also board that competed either at the Ogden or Bakersfield event, then you should re-consider coming to the ride. At the very least, monitor any potentially exposed horses closely by taking a rectal temp twice a day---EHV first shows up as an elevated temp of 102 or higher, so if your horse is running a fever, don’t come---not only is he a potential risk to other horses, he’s too sick to be competing in endurance, anyway. Stay home and call your vet.

4) If you plan on coming to the ride (and I hope you do), then take a few additional measures en route. Don’t stop at any rest stops where other horses might have been recently, like horse motels, fairgrounds, show venues, etc. We all know plenty of places to unload and stretch our legs along the way that are unlikely to have recently housed cutting horses traveling to or from Ogden or Bakersfield, so use those out-of-the-way places, not the more public places. At this point, it’s unlikely a significant amount (if any) virus is still lurking in the environment outside of quarantined facilities, but it doesn’t hurt to be a bit more careful. Don’t use public water sources at horse stops, don’t use public corrals or tie rails, don’t borrow buckets or tack. Use some common sense---there are plenty of contagious diseases floating around out there totally aside from EHV-1, so just as you would (hopefully) take some additional personal hygiene measures when out in public yourself, take the same precautions when traveling to any event with your horses.

5) Finally, be aware that as of this moment, I do not plan to take any unusual biosecurity measures at this upcoming ride, other than possibly dunking my hands in a bucket of disinfectant between horses at checks and checking rectal temps on any horses that don’t look right. I’ll be asking the other vets working this ride to do the same. That might change as conditions warrant. If your horse is running a fever, I’m going to ask you to leave to protect everyone, includ ing you. The reality is that regardless of whether or not we disinfect stethoscopes between horses, change gloves and wash our hands, it won’t change the fact that the very nature of this sport and this ride in particular requires that a lot of horses will be camping and competing in close proximity, sharing common water and potentially feed sources (because we all know how horses respect sticking to their own buckets and not trying to steal the neighbor’s goodies) and snorting all over each other. This is a very tight campground without a lot of natural water sources available on the trail and my opinion is that we invite potentially more risk to the horses by limiting access to water and hay than we do from EHV-1. As such, it’s the owner’s individual responsibility to decide if the potential risks of EHV-1 and the limited biosecurity being provided are too high for their comfort level. If so, then they should stay home and ho pefully, we’ll see you next year.

Hope to see everyone on June 3 for check-in.

Susan Garlinghouse, DVM

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Owyhee Fandango: It's On!

Monday May 23 2011

Less than a week till the 3-day Owyhee Fandango endurance ride and it's one thing after another: EHV-1 outbreak, cancellations, having to re-route trails because of too many cows out and high water, having to re-route trails because of cancellations and therefore not enough riders to pay for the extra vet we'd need at an out vet check, trail sabotage...

And Steph just got word this morning from the manager of the Sierra del Rio Ranch, where we often have a vet check and eat and rest in their lush grassy fields, and where we'd be riding through with a water stop on Day 3 this year, and who are normally happy to see us, said that on advice of their veterinarian, it was better if they didn't have horses coming through.

That decided it. Steph said, "There's no way I'm NOT having an endurance ride! I've never cancelled an endurance ride, and I'm not cancelling the Owyhee Fandango! If it's just us riding, then it's just us riding!"

Head veterinarian Robert Washington issued a sensible statement yesterday:

"The purpose of this post is to provide facts about EHV-1 and the current outbreak. I am not telling you to stay home nor am I telling you to go to this ride or other events. I am merely trying to provide correct current information on which everyone can make their own decision. It is amazing how fast information can get out and around via all of our technologies. The only down side of that, is there is a lot of misinformation swarming about the disease outbreak.

I will start with some information about the EHV-1 virus. Since it is a herpes virus, it can live dormantly in asymptomatic horses for a long period of time. These horses can spread the virus when stressed. This is the reservoir for the virus to persist. This virus has been known about for a long time, before if was found to be a herpes virus, it was called a rhino virus. Historically, symtoms caused by this virus are cough, nasal discharge, fever, abortion, and in a few cases, neurologic disease. Contrary to what some would have you believe, this virus is very common and is the cause of a lot of the "colds" horses can get from time to time. Over the last few years, a neurotropic strain of this virus has been identified, and this strain has caused a number of the outbreaks over the last 10 or so years.

So, this virus and disease syndrome are not some new "superbug". A percentage of horses carry this virus longterm. A study was done on thoroughbred broodmares, and 40-50% were found to be carriers. Again, this virus is very common. Most horses over 2 or 3 have seen the virus at some point in their lives. These outbreak situations occur with a shedding horse due to the stress of travel and showing, and exposure to a large population of horses. Horse shows and events are always a risk of disease transmission. Everything from flu, strangles, EHV and others can be spread in these gatherings of animals.

This virus is not very hardy outside of the horse. It can be kept alive in a laboratory situation for around 30 days. Under real conditions, that period is less than 7 days. It is killed very easily by 10% bleach solutions, common disinfectants, and alcohol (hand sanitizers). The virus can be spread up to 35-50 feet via aerosol under ideal conditions. The virus is only spread via nasal secretions. In reality, this virus is not spread as easily as some information would have you believe.

At this time, the cases from this outbreak (there is another separate outbreak in Florida) are confined to farms exposed to horses that were at the Ogden show. Yes, there are new cases, but they are still on the farms where horses returned from Ogden. In reality, the risk of an endurance horse that has not been at an infected facility to catch EHV-1 at an endurance ride is no greater than it ever is.

It is always advisable to observe your horse closely prior to travel. Take his or her temperature prior to leaving. If they have a fever, nasal discharge, cough, or "don't seem quite right", it is always recommended to not travel.

At this time, there are no travel restrictions. Wyoming and Colorado have changed their health certificate requirements, but are open to travel. At this time the Canadian border is open. I will have a health certificate book at the ride in case we need to write some for people to return home, and I will check travel requirements before offices close on Friday.

If you choose to come to the ride, I would ask that you monitor your horse closely. All horses will have their temperature taken as part of the pre-ride check. Given the nature of what endurance horses due, that will be the only time they will have their temperature taken, as I know they will get hotter than normal during the rides.

To end all this rambling, disease spread is always a risk in gatherings of horses. It is my opinion that the risk of your horse getting EHV at this or any ride are no more than they ever are."

Well said.

For us, we're still getting ready for the ride. It just means changing some trails to accommodate the situations. Which means more ATVing (for Steph), more riding and hiking for us to flag trails.

As if we needed any excuses to ride and hike around here. : )

(and PS - just before hitting the Publish button, Steph sent out an email saying we DO have permission to use the Sierra del Rio ranch now - the Petroglyph trail is back on for Sunday!)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

All That Work

Saturday May 21 2011

Carol and I went out to flag 6-8 miles of trail down to the Snake River for next Sunday's Owyhee Fandango 80 and 100 milers.

It should only take a couple of hours, right?

Well, it would have if it also hadn't taken us a couple of hours to: shuttle one truck to one spot up on the rim, and our bodies to another spot; if a red bull of a farmer hadn't stopped us for trespassing (we were just cutting through one small part of his property on a dirt road, to avoid going miles out of the way, and I tend to read No Trespassing signs around here as saying "No Trespassing except for Me and My Owyhee Friends"); if we hadn't stopped for a yummy Murphy Burger for energy since we were right by there and it was already lunch time; and if we hadn't lost the trail many times in the oceans of thigh-high cheat grass that had taken over the prairie, trails and all, in the 3 weeks since we'd been there. Plus we had to of course spend some time enjoying the great weather and gawking at the wildflowers and scenery and birds along the route.

We got 'er done though, and just in time to avoid the sky-swallowing rainstorm (thunderstorm??) that got to us right when we arrived at our waiting truck.

We got back home and Steph was depressed. She'd been out marking more trail, and discovered a couple of miles of trail that she'd marked the night before was vandalized (ribbons and clothespins stolen) by someone I'll call Mr Grumpy.

We're not sure if Mr Grumpy hates horses only, also hates ATV/motorcycles, or just hates people in general. The ride is not on his land and not on his road, but when we have a vet check out in his general area (nowhere near sight or sound of his property), he and another family member start up their trucks and drive out of their way to tear up and down the dirt road, trying to scare (hurt?) horses (and people? I often wondered how he'd feel if, say, his wife or daughter were riding horses and someone did this to them, or how he'd feel if someone did get hurt). He's called the sheriff on us - for no reason, since we aren't on his property or road and we have permission to be there.

On top of that, it's one week till the ride, and Steph has considered uttering the "C" word ("Cancel") because of the EHV-1 viral outbreak that is making people skittish about coming. I am crushed that some good friends had to cancel, though I completely understand why they are not.

There are about 40 pre-entries, and there have been a few cancellations, though ironically the EHV-1 outbreak seems to be well contained. It would be a terrible shame to not have the ride because the trails are gorgeous now, with an extraordinary amount of grass, and wildflowers coming up, and copious amounts of water in the creeks.

Has all the work so far been for nought?

[Slide show here:]

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Fandango Flagging Begins

Friday May 20

Despite the outbreak of EHV-1, which has cancelled some events around the country, on advice of our head vet, and the fact that the outbreak seems to be pretty well managed, we are planning to go ahead with our 3-day Owyhee Fandango endurance ride next weekend.

Yesterday Judy and I hiked along the Snake River and flagged a portion of the route to Celebration Park, Idaho's only archaeological park. If you're riding the 80 or 100 miler on Sunday, you'll ride here, cross this bridge,

see these old ruins;
you'll see pelicans and cormorants and many other waterfowl, and if you look up at just the right place at the cliffs across from the Park, you'll probably see a golden eagle nest.

Today we flagged the trail to Upper Hart Creek for Day 1's 25 and 50. Mac was a little concerned when a herd of young cows ran up to us (thinking we were bringing them food? Thinking we were food? That's what Mac thought anyway.)

Steph went out on the ATV this afternoon; we have a couple of hikes planned (we could haul the horses, but it's just as easy - and nice - to hike along the Snake River and the Petroglyph boulders - and many more miles by horseback to do.

And of course, the weather will be perfect for everybody during the ride!

[Slide show here]

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Wednesday May 18 2011

I went out with retired bird biologist Karen, to check up on a couple of eagle territories.

The Brown's Creek golden eagles whose territory and nests I found last year, who raised a youngster last year, have two babies in the nest - big babies! (Note the one laying down in the back left of the cavelet.) The adults moved to a different nest this year on the same cliff face - a nice nest with a little cave, plenty of room, a choice between sun and shade, and shelter from rain and snow. You can see the eaglet in the sun panting from the heat. It wasn't hot today, but you can see why heat is a big killer of eaglets.

Karen estimates their age to be 6 weeks.

Mean fledging age is 63 days. A nesting attempt is considered successful when the young is 51 days old.

The golden eagles down the creek on the cottonwood tree nest are still raising their one eaglet! There's a big difference - size, feathering and maturity - between her (I'm just guessing it's a she) and the two cliff nest eaglets. Karen estimates this one to be 4 weeks old.

I checked on another canyon that was known to have historic eagle nests. I sort of 'rediscovered' these nests last year that haven't been monitored for many years. For at least the last two years, the territory has been unoccupied, though the whitewash around two of the cliff nests isn't so very old.

One can see why this nest might be undesirable from the big rock that fell in it...

though this one looks good to me.

But then, I'm not an eagle.

We'll check on these nests one more time - between the 51 and 63 day marks - to see if they can be labeled Successful.