Monday, April 29, 2013

Owyhee Tough Sucker II

Saturday April 27 2013

The Owyhee Tough Sucker II was another fun 50-mile endurance ride with Jose and The Raven! The Tough Sucker I was cloudy, cool, and rainy; Tough Sucker II was sunny, hot, and dusty

The start of dust on the trail

Long morning shadows on the Owyhee desert

The Owyhee mountains in the distance

Water stop for the horses

Jose, with his Elf Eyes, sees something very important off in the distance.

Jose staring off the top of the Hallelujah Rim Trail

Pelvic bone trail marker

Jose snacking on hay at the vet check

The Raven with Jose at the vet check

Seth and his draft horse finishing their first LD!

Heading out on Loop 2 around Wild Horse Butte by the Snake River

Go Jose!

I might have a hundred shots from this spot, but it never gets old or un-purty, and it's a tradition to pose from here now! With Steph on Rhett

 Nance and Zippy, Wild Horse Butte in the background

Jose looking and Deep Thinking

Laurel and Buffy, Linda and Ted, coming up out of the Birds of Prey Badlands

The trail was quite dusty by day's end!

Conveniently, Carrie had a birthday we celebrated at the ride dinner!

 Many more photos, and stories from both Owyhee Tough Suckers here!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Brush Me Not

Wednesday April 24 2013

Ever since I've known Stormy, starting on the racetrack in 1997, he has always hated being brushed. Many of my Thoroughbred racehorses hated being brushed; I assumed most Thoroughbreds were 'thin-skinned' for lack of any better idea.

With Stormy, it doesn't matter what I try - a hard brush (forget it!!!!), a soft brush (no!), a soft rag (no!), rubber glove (no!), a steel curry comb - most excellent for removing thick itchy loose hair (heck no!), a rubber curry comb (no! no! nothing!). You'd think he'd like his itchy hide being brushed, especially with the still-long winter hairs that are still clinging, but any brushing of the sort irritates him. He'll pin his ears, and if I keep brushing, he'll turn his head and snap with his teeth, and if I dare ignore that, he'll threaten to kick, or even double barrel, with his hind feet.

Of course he LOVES it when I scratch him all over with my fingers; you'd think a curry comb with finger-like projections would be similar, but NO!

A wise horseman once told me that if you brush and brush and brush (and bathe and bathe) your horse, he won't have his natural protective dirt and oil layers that can help keep the bugs from biting. It makes sense to me, especially when Stormy rolls and coats himself with a thick layer of Owyhee dirt.

Or maybe he's still re-living his childhood, always playing in the dirt and avoiding baths and preferring to stay unkempt.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Loneliest Little Flower

Sunday April 21 2013

The tiny seed dreamed. It yearned to burst up from under the earth and grow into the most immense and towering and important and beautiful of all the spring flowers, and to touch the Owyhee heavens.

It grabbed onto the lone raindrop that fell back in February and hid inside it, until the time came to drink. The seed became the raindrop which became a plant which became new life, shoving the sand grains aside and climbing upward, gulping oxygen and sunshine, shooting down roots and firing up a stem, spinning off brilliant yellow petals at the top and erupting into a stunning bright flower.

But above the earth the desert was endless and the skies vast and the flower found itself tiny and insignificant in the great Owyhee world. There it stood, anchored to the earth, a minuscule speck in the universe, unable to grow big and tall enough to reach the skies like it had dreamed, the solitary, odd, and unimportant flower in a sea of sand, no other plants or creatures around to see and share its beauty.

Until one day the earth shook near the little flower and the strangers came. Where there was nothing, 12 tall legs appeared, then shadows, then 6 more legs, then more shadows, then voices and neighs praising the beauty and bright color and intelligence and  bravery of the little flower that was clever enough to hold onto the little raindrop until the right time, and brave enough to emerge by itself and proudly hold court in the desert of Owyhee.

The lucky strangers went on and the little flower remained behind, bright and happy to be part of the earth and still touch the Owyhee skies and the creatures' hearts, happy to be the Loneliest, Prettiest, Little Flower in Owyhee, the center of the universe.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Stagecoach Etiquette #3: Rough Language

Thursday April 18 2013

To persevere with our continuing education on proper stagecoach etiquette, since one day we will likely return to this form of long distance travel, we peruse rule #3.

(Rule #1 is HERE; Rule #2 is HERE.)

"Gentlemen must refrain from the use of rough language in the presence of ladies and children."

This, like many of the rules, seems pretty obvious, and fairly easy for most gentlemen of the Western persuasion to accomplish (think: tip of the hat and nod, an eye wink, and 'Yes Ma'am'). Even the rougher sort can hold the bad language in until the stage pulls over for one of its quick stops on the route, at which point the rougher gents can spill out of the stage, void their mouths, and climb back into the stagecoach in peace for another couple of hours.

However, there is no fine print underneath this rule to instruct the rougher sex in how to handle the situation when the gentle sex and children use uncouth language in the close confines of a long-distance stage journey. Anything goes there, I reckon.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Owyhee Spring Showers

Tuesday April 16 2012

The Owyhee spring always brings the unpredictable weather: WIND, rain showers, sun, cold, WIND, thunderstorms, and the stealth snowstorm.

Twisted as I am, I was the only one on the whole crick who woke up thrilled to see a surprise layer of white on the ground this morning (possibly including the horses).

These are MY kind of spring showers!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Owyhee Tough Sucker I

April 6 2013

It was another lovely ride on my pal Jose, with good friends and great trails, under cool and cloudy and rainy and sunny and stormy skies, in the first local endurance ride of the season!

Jose vetting in with Robert the vet

An imaginative Owyhee trail marker

Steph and John up on the Hallelujah Ridge Trail

Jose doing his thang - observing the scenery and deep thinking

Headed to Wild Horse Butte

The Snake River

Steph and Rhett, me and Jose above the Snake River

We rode in an awesome desert-gulping rainstorm, enough to make the footing slick-snot slippery

And the sun came back out

And another storm cloud came!

See The Rest Of The Story and more ride pictures on

Thursday, April 4, 2013

OK, You Can Put It On My Resume

Thursday April 4 2013

Since his retirement from the racetrack (last year running: 1998. First year with me: 1999), Stormy has been less than thrilled with the post-racing careers I thrust upon him.

He hadn't planned on being a pack string leader for the Forest Service; he hadn't planned on being a wrangler's horse on a summer dude ranch.

Since moving to Idaho, he provides services as the Owyhee Handyman, Owyhee Bookmobile, Owyhee Mailman, Owyhee Building Inspector, and (his favorite) Owyhee Lawn Mower.

With Sarah visiting this week, he has been shoved into the new vocation of Riding Lesson Horse. Yesterday, he was not elated with this new posting.

Today, Connie set up an obstacle course for Sarah to (try to) maneuver the big handsome retired Thoroughbred ex-racehorse around at a trot.

At first, Stormy thought he was in heaven, with 6 grain buckets lined up in a row for him to eat out of! Alas, the buckets were not only empty, but the obstacles on the course.

I saw the finished product: even with the added obstacle of me, squatting by the last feed bucket, and with zero encouragement from Connie and the whip, Sarah got the old racehorse bucket bending (think: pole bending) - trotting non-stop in figure 8s through the buckets,

circling around the last one (and me)

and bucket bending back up the lane,

turning around and trotting the length of the buckets

and around the last one (and me) and trotting back up to the start before turning and coming to a halt.

Sarah and the Racehorse have got it down - and he is rewarded handsomely with a treat in one of the buckets!

OK, Stormy says, You can go ahead and put this on my resume!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Sarah and the Racehorse

Wednesday April 3 2013

9-year-old Sarah is out at the Owyhee Spa with her Aunt Connie, getting riding lessons on just about every horse that wears a saddle out here, from Trusty Krusty, to the Opinionator Finneas, to my retired Thoroughbred racehorse Stormy.

We talked up Stormy, showing Sarah pictures of Stormy winning races on the track, Connie galloping him on the track (top photo), and told Sarah he'd be a hard one on which to take a lesson. Not because he's wild, or fast… but because he is Lazy. He is so lazy, he has elevated the epithet to an Artistic Profession.

"He'll make you work!" I told Sarah. "He knows what to do, but he's not going to help you out!"

Climbing aboard the Big Mountain.

Jose supervises the stirrups positions on this 16.2 hand, somewhat round, ex-racehorse.

You can see Stormy is less than thrilled with this idea of being yanked out of retirement (and his approximately once-a-year-short-trail rides), into being a school horse. (Look at his expression!) 

Off they head to the torture chamber!

Sometimes Stormy took a little extra encouragement in the round pen, from Connie and her whip, when Sarah's short legs could not quite convince the big Thoroughbred to pick up a trot!

That's better!

Good enough to go outside the round pen! (still with a little extra encouragement.)

Strong legs and fabulous form!

OK, Stormy says, it wasn't THAT bad. Sarah is OK. And she gave me lots of treats when I was finished.

(P.S. He did not break a sweat. And he got a bucket of grain afterwards.)