Saturday, March 29, 2014

Fence 'Em Out

Saturday March 29 2014

Idaho is a state with "Open Range Laws", meaning livestock has the right of way. Cows wander in and scare your horses off and eat your hay? Too bad, you have to fence them out. Bull charges you out in the open? Too bad, he has the right of way. You hit a cow out on the highway? Too bad, you are liable and you get to pay for your car damage and reimburse the rancher. (We know to drive very carefully on the highways in the winters and springs here.)

The property owner has to fence unwanted livestock out. (Idaho Code apparently allows counties to create "herd districts" where the animal's owner is liable for any damage it causes, but I expect there aren't many herd districts in the state; and anyway, land previously used as open range can't become a herd district.)

There are plenty of twists and turns within this law (such as, what defines a "lawful fence"), but the basic law is, if you don't want the cows on your property, you have to maintain the fencing to keep them out.

We get the occasional cow or two or three every year up our canyon that we drive on out (although if it's a bull, we call the ranchers to come get their bulls! We don't mess with bulls), but this year, many, many cows can't resist our green grass and the delightful bubbling crick up the canyon. 

This winter, we're doing a lot of moving cows out, and we're doing a lot of fencing 'em out. Hammering the little U-nail-jobbers is good hand-eye coordination practice for some people (ahem), and besides, driving cows is excellent cross-training for the endurance horses, some of whom are afraid of cows. 

It's just part of life in the West!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

"Get Ready For the Ride of Your Life!"

Sunday March 23 2014

That's one of the quotes from Bobbie Jo Lieberman's blurb about my upcoming book, Soul Deep in Horses. You'll see her full blurb, (as well as author Milton C. Toby's blurb), on the back cover of the book. Bobbie is editor of Trail Blazer magazine, so I like to think she knows what she's talking about.

Here's the copy on the back cover, to give you a taste of what is to come:

Merri Melde knew early in her existence that horses would be her life. In Soul Deep in Horses: Memoir of an Equestrian Vagabond, she paints a vivid portrait with her moving words of a unique life irrevocably entangled with horses - the adventures, the beauty, the humor, the thrills, the fun, the fear, and above all, the love that goes deep down into the soul.

Part memoir, part travel and horse-riding adventure book, this heartfelt narrative packed with excitement and emotion will appeal not just to horse lovers, but to those who have followed their dreams, and to anybody who has ever lost their courage and rediscovered it once again.

“And still I willingly run down that trail alongside them, dancing in their hoof prints, discovering the next unforeseen dream and finding the next treasure, reverently and deferentially clutching the next gift they unselfishly share with me. The desire to ride a trusted horse is almost a physical ache, a fathomless void to fill, something I am helplessly bound to pursuing the rest of my life.”

As you can see up top, The Raven got his claws on the first proof copy, and he's busy with the final proof-reading. Scheduled publishing date is April 1st!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Owyhee Spring

Thursday March 20 2014

The Old Farmer's Almanac says of the first day of spring: "Ah, spring! This season brings increasing daylight, warming temperatures, and the rebirth of flora and fauna."

The Owyhee Herd says of the first day of spring: "Ah, spring! Shedding horse hair, wisps of green grass to munch on, cows on the hillsides to stare at and run away from, sunshine glaring off the ice-sheened Owyhee mountains, brisk wind, romping in the breeze."

Happy Spring Equinox!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Online Horse Shopping is Like Online Dating

Monday March 10 2014

Have you ever used an online dating service where the person you're interested in isn't quite what he or she advertised? (I haven't, but I've heard things.)

Have you ever gone horse shopping online and found the horse isn't quite what he or she is advertised? (I haven't, but I've heard things.)

He says he's 6' 4" and slender, healthy, family values, good looking, good job, good income, outdoorsy, handy at everything. Attached photo is, well, handsome - tall, buff but not overdone, taken in the outdoors where he sure looks at home, a photo that rather takes your breath away and makes you take that chance and hop in the car and go meet him at the cafe across town for coffee.

Ad says the equine is a bay 6-year-old gelding, 15.2 hands, sound, well-broke, good bloodlines, very athletic, makes a good fill in the blank prospect, is personable and willing. The photo attached is, well, handsome - taken out on the trail under saddle in the perfect collected trot on a loose rein, a photo that rather takes your breath away and makes you take that chance and hitch up the trailer and drive across country to meet him and pick him up and bring him home to your barn.

When you get to the cafe, well, Mr Possibly Perfect is neither handsome nor tall nor slim (the only thing slim are his manners); is unemployed; lives outdoors because his on-again-off-again girlfriend just kicked him out again; gets annoyed because you aren't stacked (even though you didn't advertise that you were) and that you don't pick up the tab for his $12 9-shot expresso that he finished in one gulp.

When you get to this new barn across the country, well, Mr Equine Possibly Perfect is at least 3 inches shorter then advertised; 9 years old at the least if you're lucky; a chestnut; fat and out of shape and as far from athletic as a banana slug; is short-strided and rough as all get out; and barn sour to boot when you try taking him outside the arena as he swishes his tail and pins his ears at everything you ask of him, which is really just going forward and turning in circles, because he doesn't have a "Whoa" gear, then gets annoyed that you don't give him a bucket of grain afterwards for putting up with you.

Every once in a while, you get lucky, and you find the human or horse to be a fantastic specimen beyond what was advertised, and you live happily ever after.

But, not so often.

P.S. That's The Dude up top, but he wasn't and isn't for sale! I just wanted to show a goooood lookin' horse.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Chariots of Fire

Sunday March 2 2014



That's what you heard when you stood on the rail, as two (or three) pairs of horses pulling chariots and drivers thundered down the stretch in the Idaho State Chariot Racing Championships at Rupert Downs, Idaho, on a cool and muddy March weekend.

I'd never heard of chariot races, besides the Ben Hur days, even though they're pretty much limited to Idaho and Utah, and a few areas of Wyoming.

I didn't know what to expect - wild and crazy people and horses, crashing chariots, riffraff spectators. It was nothing of the sort, and it was nothing short of exciting fun. There were no crashes, the horses were ripped - cut - as in nice, sleek, finely-tuned Quarter Horse racing machines, and it was a friendly family atmosphere.

The Silver Creek Chariot Racing Association, which hosted these Idaho State Chariot Racing Championships, was formed in 1975. The racing season starts at the end of December and runs through the end of February; many of the winners here will go to the World Championships in Ogden, Utah at the end of March.

Fifteen races were run over a muddy track. The horses run over just about anything, I was told - dirt, mud, snow. Most of these horses race on the flat tracks in the summer. This is a way of keeping the horses fit over the winter. Besides, it's obviously a lot of fun.

Most of the horses were decorated festively, with pompoms and ribbons in their manes and tails, sparkles or glitter or gems on their butts, bright colored blinkers and colorful harnesses. Their stables had taken time and care to deck them out, and the horses knew they were something special.

It sometimes took a handler for each horse, or a pony horse for each, to escort them onto and down the track, but once the horses came out of the gate, they were focused and fearless, fast and furious, thundering down the track with their drivers leaning forward, yelling encouragement. Some races were won and lost by nostril hairs.

"I thought these people were crazy to drive these chariots," one guy said, "and then I did it. Now I'm hooked!"

It's easy to see why!

(If you're around Odgen March 22-23 and 28-30, you might want to check out the World Championships!

Here's a slide show of a few photos of the day:

(or link to album: )

Sunday, March 2, 2014

And The Winner Is….

Sunday March 2 2014

Gold Dust.

I had nearly 200 votes from readers when I asked them to vote on a cover photo for my upcoming book, Soul Deep in Horses: Memoir of an Equestrian Vagabond.

The voting percentages:

#1 Gold Dust - 44.4%

#2 Stormy Herd - 20%

#3 Stormy Water V - 11.2%

#4 Doobie - 8.8%

#5 Harry - 4.8%

#6 Stormy Water I - 4.1%

#7 Dusting - 3%

#8 All photos - 2.4%

#9 None of the photos - .8%

Plus two write-ins for my avatar

I randomly numbered all the voters who chose Gold Dust for their first and only choice, and I used a random number generator to pick the winner of an autographed copy of my book.

I'm thrilled to award it to Imke Lamsma from the Netherlands! (And I'm also happy one of the "Anonymous" voters didn't win, because that person might have been a little hard to track down : )

This brings back happy memories . . . I first visited Imke and her family in the Netherlands in 2007 when she was a wee shy horse loving 8-year-old girl, who had just recently completed her first 8 kilometer endurance ride on her Shetland pony Panter.

Imke is on the right

Nearing my publishing date of April 1, I will post the resultant cover that I will design from this photo.

Thank all of you for participating - one voter coined it as "my Tribe" participating in my book journey. I appreciate all of you who took the time to write comments - many of them very well thought out. They often made me see my photography in a different light. I am glad you have all chosen to be a part of this ride, and I hope you'll all enjoy the finished work.