An equestrienne's travel adventures around the planet, or, a traveller's equestrian adventures around the planet (occasionally on foot, sometimes chasing owls, almost always with The Raven). Just Ride - Anywhere!
I was getting a little antsy, seeing as we were 11 days behind the date of the start of last year's epic winter snowfall. The Owyhee mountains have actually held snow for about 2 months now (!), but down here, we'd had nuthin' until last night.
But this morning: a half inch of snow on the ground and a wind to chase away the icy fog that's been sitting on us for the last 2 weeks.
It's only a skiff, but it's the first one down here, and we'll take it!
(That's Hillbillie Willie, sporting the snow nose... why does he always look dorky?)
This little trick sort of developed on its own, when I started locking the two Hoodlums, Dudley and Finneas (show names Douglas and Finley) off the hay during the day. As compensation I gave them a little treat. One day when I turned them loose, I happened to be standing between them, and Finneas *thought* I wanted him to bow, and when he did, I asked Dudley to bow. It's become a ritual now (though I ask Finneas to "bow" and Dudley to "step").
Dudley of course knows lots of tricks (his favorite one right now is picking up a feed bucket), and Connie has taught Finneas how to bow and how to kiss.
The Hoodlums have previously worked as a team before, exhibiting how not to be afraid of a tarp,
When the talk shows shout screamingly and the tweets beller bellicosely and the harassers harass humanity and the bellyachers blame everybody else, I switch off and go saddle up Hot Pie. He doesn't care about any of that stuff.
We just head for the rim trail, stop and enjoy the scenery, take in the high desert Winter-Is-Coming air, eyeball coyotes, stink-eye the Oreana-bound cows, and appreciate the vastness and quietness of a little corner of Owyhee, where the only really important things are, Ride a Good Horse and Make America Hot Pie Again.
I call Belesemo Dude lots of names*, but Hot Pie (from Game of Thrones, naturally) is my favorite go-to. You can kind of see the resemblance - both rather rotund, and both love to eat.
My 4-legged Hot Pie has been marking and unmarking a lot of trail this last month, and he's quite proud of himself when he gets back home all duded up.
We even heard a cougar yowling on Hart crick on one of these occasions, and boy did he turn on his Orlov trot to get out of there, though no cougar in its right mind would've messed with the Dude all bedecked in ribbons. He's gotten real good at stopping at ribbons and standing very still, and, since he's pretty tall, letting me lean waaaaaaaaay over, one foot out of the stirrup and my heel digging halfway up his side to hold on, so I can reach down and grab the ribbons.
Yesterday he was looking all handsome, sashaying down the trail from his Unmarking foray, wearing 2 ribbon necklaces, wooden stakes strapped to his pack, and jugs bouncing off his saddle.
Belesemo Dude/Hot Pie is featured in this month's Postcard From Owyhee:
Yes, it was hot, and yes, I could feel him getting tired a few times Sunday on the second loop during the heat of the day (probably around 100*), when we were all 6 of us - horses and humans - sagging from the heat, and thirsty for need of water, but that big skinny Standardbred finished the ride with a pulse of 48. 48!!!!
Willie LOVED the mountain trails, particularly the overgrown two-track roads with blind corners that he zoomed around, ducking under trees that whapped me in the face (he's too tall and his neck is too long and too far down for me to throw myself down on his neck). I just hoped that we would not discover a moose or bear around one of those corners!
Oh, he's a charmer, that Willie. He had Dr Ruble enchanted, as Willie tried to help him fill out his vet card before and after the ride. He blinked his eyes charmingly at everybody in camp who said he was a big horse or a sweet horse. He pretty much has everybody charmed. He's a looker anyway, since he's (I swear) 17 hands, but it's his cute, inquisitive, kind expression that really gets everybody.
He's got a sense of humor, too. Within 10 minutes on the high tie at the horse trailer, he'd reached down and dumped out his water tub. I promptly filled his tub again, hauling buckets of water from the trough to the trailer, (in the heat of the day), and within 3 minutes, he'd dumped it again. Being funny, I guess, but it wasn't funny to me.
"Go ahead, dump your water," I scolded, and poked him in the nose with the bucket, "get hot and dehydrated the night before your hot 50 mile ride!" He looked aggrieved, (obviously not realizing the consequences of going thirsty) and apologetic. He didn't dump it again.
Instead, in the next 10 minutes, he'd pooped in it, exactly on target. I am sure he was giggling as I cleaned out the tub and filled it yet again. He didn't get scolded for that one because it was indeed rather hilarious.
I think you can say that Steph's Standardbred Willie's an endurance horse now. He's only 5, but has years of conditioning foundation under his girth as a racehorse (he raced at 2, I think), and he's put in his time in the hills and sand of Owyhee. He might get to go in another endurance ride or two this year… stay tuned!
One trick is Touch It; it started with my hat. When he started picking it up on his own, that morphed into Pick It Up. From that it's developed that he has to Pick It Up and hand it to me before he gets a treat. The handing it to me part really hadn't clicked - it's more luck that I can grab it before he drops it - but we really haven't worked on it.
The other day Steph said she left a feed tub out in the pasture, and to pick it up if I saw it. Did somebody say Pick It Up?
Connie and Sarah and I were out riding later, and I spied the bucket. I sent Dudley over. "Pick It Up!" I said. Dudley reached down, picked up the bucket, and when I reached for it, he handed it to me! Oh for a camera!!!!! Of course he got big praise and a treat for that!
I tried it again when we got back to the house, but instead he did his Spanish Steps. Not what I asked for, but he did them so well, I changed to the command for that ("Step" and a nudge with my toe on each side), and gave him a treat.
Today I fetched a camera after our ride, and tried to get Pick It Up of a feed bucket on video.
I walk up to the house, and I first see Audrey, the wispy terrorist cat, lounging ever-so-regally-catlike upon a step. For some reason she reminds me of Queen Cersei, smug, supercilious, so in control of things.
Next I see, two steps down, a fluffy scruffy baby bird, facing Audrey, peeping at the world. (Finch? Oriole?)
Well. What am I supposed to do? Let the terrorist continue terrorizing this little chick? It's obviously already been in the cat's mouth at some point, though I don't see anything broken or bleeding.
I scoop up the birdlet, who squawks in major indignation and consternation. Audrey glares at me, Really?
I follow the procedure I always do with injured birds who fly into a window and stun themselves or get caught by a cat: I drop some soft paper towels into a box, put the bird in the box and close it and put it inside the house in a quiet corner for a while - locking the cat outside. Either the bird will die or revive.
This little birdie revives somewhat, and after a while is chirping away inside the box. Well. *now* what do I do? Audrey is still on the front steps, wondering where her little bird toy went. I decide to put the little bird back outside where it was, and lock Audrey inside. Maybe the birdie's parents are somewhere around. They *should* be around, anyway.
So, I lock Audrey inside, scoop up the chick, and set it back outside in the grass near where I found it. It can flap its wings, but it makes no attempt to fly away or rescue itself. It chirps away, chirp, chirp, chirp, for an hour. Not a parent in sight. Inside, Audrey is getting obnoxious. Can't leave the cat locked in the house all day and night till the bird figures something out or stops making such noise.
So *now* what do I do? I let the cat out the front, but go scoop up the bird again. It struggles, then snuggles in my grasp again. We're old friends now. I go to the back yard and set it in the grass, but at the rate it's chirping, Audrey will be around shortly to resume baby bird terrorism.
I scoop up my bird friend again, and take it further out back, to near the creek, far enough from the cat, but, I'm sure, near other predators. Really, what else can I do but turn it loose. I set it up on a tree branch… and wish it well.
Mother Nature will take care of it, one way or another.
The Fire Talk. Comes with summer and thunderstorms and from a spring and summer that produced highly flammable and prevalent cheat grass and weeds after an unprecedented winter of moisture.
The Fire Talk came up a couple of weeks ago as we helplessly watched our B.C. Canadian friends evacuated, barred from going in or out, or trapped on their place surrounded by fires (so far, they are OK, and back home, but the fires are still on-going.)
What would we do here?
We're 5 miles down a dirt road - surrounded by cheat grass-laden BLM land. Between 4 residences, we have 20+ 4 legged equids (and a passel of goats and dogs and such). (And, if you count the next neighbors, add 15 or so more horses, though they have some big dry lots.) The main way out is this bumpy 1-lane dirt road. An alternate way out is a much longer bumpier 1-lane dirt road that leads up to the Owyhee Mountains, and eventually off in different directions.
We have a big water tank on a trailer… but what comes out of that is not much more than a regular hose's worth of pressure. We've mowed weeds, but they're still growing and they leave dried stumps behind. We have plenty of green grass and trees around the house, and some dry paddocks. Plenty of water spigots around if the electricity is on. A small generator or 2. But what is all of this if a fire is roaring, and a 40 mph wind is blowing, and the fire creates its own weather and wind?
We have several horse trailers, either 2 or 4 horse trailers… but 1 trip with each would not accommodate all the horses.
It depends on where the fire comes from and how close it is.
And when. Daytime? Middle of the night? More than once,I've been startled awake by a thick, acrid smell of smoke. I've jumped out of bed and run outside looking, hiking, climbing hills… trying to see from whence a fire might be coming (it's always been from fires some 40 and more miles away, but you wouldn't know it by the heavy smoke smell).
And it depends on where the fire comes from, and how close it is - that will determine what we do. If we have time to haul horses - great. If we don't, then what. Do we just have to jump in our cars and flee to save ourselves? I've got a bag packed by the door. I hope I never have to grab it, but I know where my keys are hanging. Do we have time to round the horses up and chase them out? Where? Up our canyon? Out the back gate east? Down the main dirt road northeast? Up the dirt road west? The barbed wire gates are open and ready if we need to chase horses up or down the road.
Nothing says patriotism more than a July 4th parade. Nothing says JULY 4th PARADE more than the custom Oreana Fourth of July Parade. You won't see the it on television or Twitter or in the newspapers. You'll only see it by special invitation, and a few select people get the honor of observing every year.
Parade mistress Linda put on her 11th annual Oreana Fourth of July parade, starring her various menagerie: war horse Ted,
various dogs (Goat Dog, Coyote Dog, and possibly others; Henry refused to participate; Edna the donkey wasn't interested this year), and various goats,
to her throngs of fans.
Hercules the horny jackass was barred from this year's activity.
This year's guest star was Yvonne's donkey Marie who stylishly showed off her panache.
Hillbillie Willie the ex-racehorse Standardbred's got a lot on his plate right now. Since he's now a bona fide endurance horse, and is in training for his next ride, he's covering a lot of local desert trails, exploring parts of Owyhee he hasn't seen before. He even got a hill and a loop named after him the other day, Hillbillie Willie Hill, the climbing end of the newly christened Hillbillie Loop.
Last week he went Around the Block (a 16 mile loop up Spring Ranch Road to the base of the Owyhee mountains, and back down Bates Creek Road), where he got an up-close gander at the foothills of the Owyhees, and waded through a sprightly flowing Pickett Crick, upon whose banks he grazes (on weeds) daily.
This week he put his exploring hat on again, visiting the old Wagon Wheel homestead on Brown's Creek, and, with August, discovering a couple of new trails we can return to investigate.
That horse loves leading down trails, watching new sights and sounds and birds and bunnies and (once) antelope unfold in front of him. He's bold and sure-footed (surprising for such a tall, lanky horse) and interested in the scenery of the Wild West, because this is where he's dreamed of coming to his whole life.
That’s the first question I thought to ask, after I signed up for a Cowboy Mounted Shooting clinic. Or is it Mounted Cowboy Shooting. See? I didn’t even know what it was called.
I signed up on a whim, just because they seemed to be wanting more riders, and, since it was something new which I really knew nothing about, well, why not?
And since I really had no time at all to think about it or read up on it, I put it out of my mind until the bullet question popped in my head. No, a friend reassured, it’s some kind of blank with black powder.
Which you could still injure or kill yourself with. I might shoot my foot, right? (No quick-drawing involved, I found later.) Or shoot my horse’s ear? Or faint from the heat (in Scottsdale in June, mind you), fall off my horse and shoot myself? But, no real bullets. Right. Good enough.
All the sign up page said was, Experienced Riders Only, of which I suppose I fit into that category, and Helmets Okay, or something of that nature, of which I fit into that category, as I don’t get on a horse without a helmet. It didn’t say anything about being Calamity Jane, which fits as I don’t always hit the center of a target (or, indeed, the target) when I’m target shooting. It didn’t say anything about having to wear a Western outfit, which is fitting, as I am an endurance rider. Riding tights it would be, with my riding shoes and fringy half-chaps. After all, if the Pope came to a MCS clinic, nobody would expect him to ride in anything other than his Pope robes, right?
Since I knew nothing, at all, of this sport, I decided to dive headfirst into it with no preconceived notions (read: complete ignorance). I didn’t read up on it. I didn’t watch any videos, other than a quick re-viewing of the first couple of episodes of Bonanza, where the good Cartwright boys are chasing the bad guys on horses at full tilt and shooting, bang bang bang.
The clinic opportunity was a bonus at the American Horse Publications conference. About 10 riders, from all imagined disciplines participated. Ross Hecox, managing editor of Western Horseman magazine, led a photography workshop. Excellent - any faux pas by shooting newbies would be duly recorded!
Clinic took place in 101* heat (did I mention Scottsdale in June?), but under the covered arena at the Horseshoe Park & Equestrian Centre in Queen Creek, Arizona. Giant fans with air conditioning distracted me from the withering heat, as did the iced tea with a tub of ice cubes.
Clinicians Kenny Lawson (of the Silver Dollar Ranch in California) and Dan Byrd (of Cave Creek, Arizona), both World Champion Cowboy Mounted Shooting competitors, brought trained horses and a sense of humor and patience for us pleasure riders, dressage riders, endurance riders, hunter-jumpers and Western show competitors.
According to Kenny’s wife Leann, Cowboy Mounted Shooting is the fastest growing horse sport in the U.S. The Lawsons recognized this training niche and successfully train horses and people for this sport (and other disciplines).
In the clinic we first learned the basics of cowboy mounted shooting equipment and gun safety, before strapping on our own holster and .45 caliber single action revolvers (yes, plural; you use 2 pistols) and tried our hand at shooting while walking past the balloon-on-a-stick targets on foot.
“Technique, technique, technique, not speed,” the instructors stressed. “It all has to become automatic.” Draw, aim, cock-fire, cock-fire, (5 times), holster gun one, draw gun two, repeat.
The ammunition spray (my non-technical term!) is quite forgiving, proven by the fact that I hit 90% of the balloons I shot at. And, bonus, I did not shoot my foot or my horses’ ears! I only failed rather spectacularly (all day) at not looking down at my holster when I switched guns. “Don’t look down, don’t look down, don’t look down,” Dan and Kenny kept reminding me. Of course I looked down, many times, because where did that hole for the gun keep going, anyway?
Next, racing (not!) the course on horseback and blasting at the balloons! The instructors followed each of us on the simple course, at a walk, or, when I wanted to get really adventurous, a jog. Bang! Bang! Bang! I actually hit most of the balloons. And of course looked down to holster my guns. But I looked pretty Bonanza-like, I’m sure, particularly in my endurance tights and purple helmet.
The funny thing about mounted shooting is this. We were all experienced riders. But the more we concentrated on shooting, the less we looked like we knew about riding, particularly me when I tried the roundy-round course. “Keep your arm straight, don’t cock yet, wait, fire at 90 degrees, wait, now.” Bang. “Watch your horse.” I was angling my horse way too close to the target. Correct the horse. “Stay focused on the next target.” Re-aim at the next balloon. Overcorrect my horse with my rein hand up high in the air. (Why?? I never ride like this at home.) “Pay attention to where you’re going, inside or outside the cones?” Correct my well-trained horse with just my legs, but forget I’m supposed to fire a gun. Oops, I already passed a target. Now my horse is steering herself inside the cones, since I am now giving her so many mixed signals, like a novice rider, that she has decided to help me out and choose her own path, and I pass another target. I’m trotting because I want to go faster than a walk, but that makes things come a whole lot faster. Now I can’t get the one gun holstered and have to look down (“Don’t look down!”) and then I can’t get the other gun out of its holster, and meanwhile I have figured that if I steer my horse outside the cones it gives me a little more time for shooting, then I accidentally signal her to canter, but then I can’t get a shot off because my thumb has slipped off the hammer improperly and did not cock, and, “Don’t cock your gun until you’re ready to fire,” well, you get the picture. And the pros do this at a sprint? And they have to execute a new and different pattern each time at a sprint??
I can see how the approach of doing it slowly, over and over and over, to establish the right steps and the right technique so that eventually everything comes automatic is the key, and I can see how this sport is addicting!
It was such a fun afternoon with some new friends and personable, entertaining clinicians, that I forgot how I hate the heat. And even though I rode like an amateur, I didn’t shoot myself or my horses’ ears. I can call my Cowboy Mounted Shooting day a success and hang up my revolvers. I’ll watch some mounted shooting competition on YouTube, and I’ll watch those Cartwright boys as they keep chasing the bad guys. And I’ll practice my riding skills on my endurance horses sans the guns!
"It is not for the faint of heart: a hundred hard-won miles of rock, dust, elevation, uphill (19,000 cumulative feet of climbing), downhill, (22,000 cumulative feet of descending), imposing mountains, plunging canyons, wild rivers, wilderness, extreme heat, suffocating humidity, effort, and luck - good or bad, all in various doses, across the Sierra Nevada mountains, in the dark and the light and the dark, all done within a 24 hour time limit. Time magazine listed the Tevis Cup as one of the Top Ten Endurance Competitions in the world…"
Saturday evening in Scottsdale, Arizona, my e-book Tevis Cup Magic: Taking on the World's Toughest 100 Mile Endurance Ride was announced the winner of the 2017 Equine Media Awards non-fiction book category at the American Horse Publications Conference. "You had me hooked from the first paragraph," the judge stated. "You have a fabulous, engaging writing style that grabbed [m]y attention and kept me engaged throughout the book.."
I was surprised to make it to the finals, and beyond thrilled to win. I was in good company among my peers. Thank you, AHP!
Dedicated to excellence in equine media through education and communication, American Horse Publications promotes excellence in equine media.
Tevis Cup Magic is available as an e-book (no hard copies, sorry!) on Amazon here.
And now will somebody please pass me the eyedrops, I can still feel the dust from the trail!
There was a little twist to this branding day. After lunch, a couple of cowboys mounted up and went in the Other Pen. Don's longhorns needed branding. Fortunately the longhorns are rather gentle compared to those mean ol' mama angus cows, and while it took some skill to stay out of their way in a smaller pen, and to rope those bigger horns while they were ducking one behind the other, it all went quite smoothly. Once a longhorn was roped, it just sort of gave up and didn't put up any fight.
Mo, the big black cat, is always getting in fights with some gray tomcat who keeps trying to sneak in to get his cat food. There's always a horrible yowling caterwauling ruckus when they clash. I run out to try to yell them apart. Half the time Mo comes out on top, and half the time he gets the crap beat out of him, but he won't stop (Audrey the Wispy Terrorist just avoids conflict, though knowing her, the tomcat is terrified of her).
I heard some awful caterwauling the other morning and ran out to see if I could find the cats. As I stood by the crick trying to locate them, this great horned owl flushed from a tree above me.
He may have been drawn by the ruckus… either for a meal, or else he's wondering what the heck is going on and would they shut up already.
He's beautiful and I love owls, but I hope he wasn't looking for a meal, and I sure hope he doesn't get Mo or Audrey!
It was branding day 5 weeks ago on local ranches. Friends and family gathered to help Don Barnhill brand his herd. Before lunch it was the new calves and a few new mean ol' mama angus cows that got branded and vaccinated.