Friday, March 30, 2012

USA Team Trial Vet In

Friday March 30 2012

We're in Texas for the USA Team Trial - a 100-mile endurance race from which 6 horses and riders will ultimately be selected to represent the US in this year's World Endurance Championship to be held in Great Britain in August.

The top twenty finishers and maybe 3 'wild cards' in tomorrow's ride will be selected to be on the 'Long List'; from those six will be ultimately be chosen to be on the US team.

It's a rather extraordinary gathering of the nation's best 100-mile endurance horses, and it will be an exciting race full of strategy and intrigue.

45 will start tomorrow at 7 AM.

You can follow the race live on

Below are a few photos from today's Vetting in.
Monk and Lindsay Graham

John Crandell's Heraldic - a freak of a horse. (2-time Tevis winner, 2-time Old Dominion winner, 2-time AERC National Championship winner, came back after bad injury, etc)

Scrutinizing a trot out.

Getting a bath.

Photogenic Team Monk! Lindsay Graham, Monk, owner Chris Martin.

Ellen Olson and SA Belshazzar.

Jeremy Olson and Noslos Banjara. (Olson-Noslos - get it?)

Kyoko Jukumori and Noslos Lightning Strikes.

Warming up.

Doug Swingley (4-time Iditarod winner!) and Stars Aflame.

A Kutt Above and Jeremy Reynolds.

Riverwatch - last year's Tevis winner. He'll be ridden by Heather Reynolds.

Former World Champion Becky Hart (1988, 1990, 1992), with No Repeat.

Up top is Kyle Gibbon and Julio.

Many more photos at

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mandolynn Hill Arabians

Thursday March 29 2012

On our way to the 100-mile Texas Team Trial qualification for the 2012 World Endurance Championship in Great Britain, we stopped at Dr Mickey and Michelle Morgan's Mandolynn Hill Farm Arabians in Aubrey, Texas.

Aubrey happens to be the birthplace of my endurance obsession - I started riding endurance trails just down the road in 1998. In fact, as we wandered around Michelle's farm, it seemed a bit familiar, and when I saw the training track in a big field at the back of the property, I realized I had actually ridden on this track. Talk about Déjà vu!

Michelle raises her Arabians mainly for the racetrack; some have gone on to perform well in endurance and other sports. She has some extraordinary-looking individuals - good bone, powerful, athletic, well-built and well-bred - and personable. I'll have more on Mandolynn Hill later, but below is a slide show sample, or you can see more now at

[slide show here]

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Stoner is My CoPilot

Sunday March 25 2012

Last time I hooked up with Stoner was in January in Arizona. We went on a fantasy flight through the desert.

We got back together again for some Colorado Rocky Mountain highs with some dear friends:

Kevin and Far

Rusty and Quake

Garrett and The mighty Fury

The foothills of the Rocky Mountains are not for pansies. They are for the fleet of foot, and the humongous of hearts. 

We trotted, cantered, galloped up mountains as if they were molehills, 15 miles of bliss. We flew together again, Stoner and I, through the Rockies, on the wings of a lithe, lovely endurance horse.

Thanks once again my friend!


Saturday March 24 2012

Road trip! Steph and I headed southeast to Durango, Colorado, for our friend Rusty's surprise birthday party. Total success, he had no idea all of us would show up!

We stayed with Garrett and Lisa Ford, and Garrett took us on a little ride in the mountains around his place. Garrett is riding his Haggin Cup (Best Condition at Tevis in 2010) winner The Fury.

Just gorgeous. People have been known to come to Durango for a visit, then never leaving. 


[slide show here]

Friday, March 23, 2012


Friday March 23 2012

Seriously? The first day of spring, it snowed.

The second day of spring, it blew gales.

The third day of spring, we had a good long ride, and afterwards,

the buffalo gnats came out!

Full force. Straight for the ears, driving the horses mad -
pinning ears and swishing tails,

shaking heads,

shoving heads under buddies' tails,

swirling in aggravated tight herds.

We totally skipped spring and went straight to summer - AND GNATS!


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Twenty Miles

Thursday March 22 2012

We are working toward our first 50 mile endurance ride of the season, the Owyhee Tough Sucker I, on April 7. Normally we'd have plenty of time to get the horses in tip top shape, but what with the bizarre weather - snow, rain, mud, hurricanes, repeat - and the trip to the AERC Convention in Reno, and an upcoming road trip where we won't be back home till 5 days before the Tough Sucker, we felt we had to get a 20 mile ride in on the horses.

We made a long loop toward the Snake River, trotting much of the way, on soft ground, mostly flat and with only gentle climbs. Even though the horses are starting to shed madly, they still have enough of a coat where they worked up a thorough sweat (yes, even Jose's eyebrows sweated again).

We were grateful for the most excellent strong cool breeze that caught up with us right near the end of the ride, most especially because the DANG GNATS are suddenly out!

By my GPS, we covered 15.7 miles (and if you add the 10%, that's 17 miles), close enough to the 20 we aimed for, in just over 2 1/2 hours.

I think *I* ended up much more tired than Jose - I was the one who needed the 20 mile ride!

[slide show here]

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

First Day of Spring

Tuesday March 20 2012

Cold, blowing, snowing as the day breaks. Owyhee mountains disappeared in the storm, horses hunkered down in a draw, or heading for the hay to keep warm.

I could be the only one in the country deliriously celebrating the snow on this first day of spring. 

If this is a preview of what spring is going to be like, I say, Celebrate! Bring It On!

(This is Google's cool doodle commentary on the first day of spring, by Marimekko, for people of the opposite persuasion, i.e. warm weather Folk)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Terror in Owyhee

Monday March 19 2012

Dark beasts in the night. Lumbering monsters in the day. Eerie bawling and squalling. Crashing. Moaning. Sinister smells.

Terrifying Creatures wander Owyhee at will, taking what they wish. No laws can control them, no fence can contain them.

And so it was that our horse herd was terrified by dangerous cows today. (Not that our horses don't see cows nearly every day of every winter, on one side of the canyon or the other.)

I'd driven the ATV up the canyon to fetch the herd. As often happens, the horses had drifted far up the canyon overnight. They usually come back in the morning on their own - but I discovered an invisible line drawn in the sand that they were afraid to cross: the Terrifying Cow barrier. Two cows and a calf (just a baby!) were in our canyon on our side of fence, between the horse herd and home, and no way were the horses crossing that line. They were trapped.

Where the sight of me on an ATV holding a bucket of grain and calling for them usually entices them to come, this time they had eyes only for the Terrifying Cows, who had started moving away from me and further up-canyon - toward the horse herd.

Tizzies ensued.

Like flocking birds (check out these spectacular links here and here!), the herd flitted this way and fluttered that way, one horse Perry (the mare who is oddly attracted to other animals) moving toward the Creatures out of curiosity, pulling the herd along, then Smokey dashing away in fright, pulling the herd that way, Perry circling and approaching the cows again, pulling the herd with her, Rhett spinning around and bolting in terror, swaying the herd his way - a ballet dance, back and forth, swirl, up and back, whirl, forward and back, twirl.

(Rhett's dislike of cows has been clearly documented.)

The three cows' (two cows and one calf!) inevitable path along the fence, to join up with mooing cows on the other side of the fence, drove the mighty, 11-strong horse herd to the far corner of the canyon, into a tight whirring ball of nerves. Should they bolt and run from the treacherous cows? Should they dare slip past them, towards freedom and home? Should they totally run away from the vicious cows, toward me across the river and toward safety? (Of course they didn't choose this option.)

The cows continued their march along the fence on past the tightly woven horse herd that they completely ignored, past a wired-shut gate where they can normally squeeze through. Former Rushcreek Ranch Cowhorse Mac split off from the herd (he's also sometimes afraid of cows - see Rhett's story link above) and bravely chased the baby cow, showing him who was really the boss, before dashing back to join the safety of the rolling Horse Ball. The horses swirled tightly around to face the danger of the retreating cow butts. The cows came to a wash, where they turned and went straight through the fence to join the other cows on the hill. (Imagined )Peril to the horses was over, but the fact that the cows had just apparated (check your Harry Potter dictionary) through a fence unharmed really agitated the horse herd. They whirled and ran, spun and froze, twirled and dashed back, froze, bolted again, danced like a flock of starlings in the sky.

I could not get their attention; I could not get them to come home. They remained glued to that spot close together for hours.

I never did get to ride today.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Nobody Here But Us (Wet) Chickens

Saturday March 17 2012

With odd weather all over the country, Owyhee is getting its share of wetness. It's so slick, there's no thundering down the canyon - the horses walk around carefully in the mud.

Everybody looks like a wet chicken, including the cats who run through the rain then stop to lick their paws - as if that will help anything.

Jose, up top, strikes a handsome wet chicken pose.

I think that of all the herd Mac most enjoys being dirty as he can get. It's probably like a dark-haired human going platinum blond for a while, only vice versa.

The salt block is a quite popular social gathering place in the winter. The mud probably gives it a special spicy flavor.

Stormy isn't irritated by being photographed as a wet chicken; he doesn't like being bothered when he's eating.

More of the wet stuff and white stuff to come! Winter is not ready to leave yet, and I'm not ready to let it go!

Friday, March 16, 2012

New Spirit Horse Herd!

Tuesday march 13

A new herd of Spirit Horses just galloped into my studio: Venus, Southwest, Ruby, Rainforest, Mediterranean, and Hippie Chic.

They're wearable horse art pins, and each is one of a kind, handmade of clay, wire, beads, and yarns picked up from around the world. They shimmer different colors in different light, and you can bend the legs to stand straight, trot, gallop, or fly.

Spruce up your outfit for dinner out on the town or the Oscars. Or hang your Spirit Horse in your home for good luck.

Each pin is approximately 3" long by 3" tall. . . not counting the long fluffy tail.

You can check out the pins, and other eclectic art from The Equestrian Vagabond studios - barbed wire broncos, Stormy 'toon cards, and of course equine photography. Email me for info on photographic prints, but you can order any of the art, including the Spirit Pins, directly from this page:

They don't seem to stay in their home stable too long, moving on to their new homes to spread good fortune. If you miss these, another herd will be arriving soon.


[slide show here]

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Eyebrows Are Sweating

Thursday March 15 2012

So said Jose, after the ride we squeeeeeezed in today, between days of gale force winds, rainstorms, slick ground, hurricanes, and more rain and snow (yay!!!) and slick ground to come.

Our first local endurance ride, the Owyhee Tough Sucker, is coming up April 7 - and our training has been sporadic the last two weeks and will be over the next couple of weeks, due to weather and traveling.

We took the horses on the Three Cheese Casserole ride - three layers of washes - 2 miles up a wash, 3 miles down another wash, and 1 1/2 miles up another wash and up onto a ridge. The sand is somewhat deep now, and with the horses still wearing partial winter coats (they have started to shed), it was a strenuous workout.

I don't ride with a heart monitor, so I go on knowledge - what I know the horse has been doing, and what he can take - and by how much he sweats. I've always heard that when the top of a horse's butt gets sweaty, he's either out of shape, or working very hard. I've never seen a scientific study on this, but I have found it to be accurate. And when their eyebrows are sweating, they're producing a lot of heat.

Unless the wind is just right, I can't hear my horse breathing when I'm trotting or cantering, but today I could hear Rhett huffing behind me on the third Cheese layer, and I used that to help gauge the effort the horses were putting out.

Today the horses worked up a good sweat under their saddle pads, on the neck and chest 

and shoulders, 

and between and down the back legs (you know, the 'shaving cream').

And the reward was a taste of the hint of green grass starting to color the desert.