Monday, October 28, 2019

Hillbillie Willie's Hallowed Weenies

October 28 2019

Saturday, October 26, would be Hillbillie's last ride of the endurance season, 50 miles at the Owyhee Hallowed Weenies. For the last week, the weather forecast had been fabulous, still and cool. Two days before, weathermen predict godawful winds, to start Friday night. I was sure hoping they'd just made a miscalculation, or a Halloween prank.

The winds woke me in the middle of the night. I looked at my clock: 3:41 AM. That's it, I'm not riding, I thought. I don't have to ride. Staying in bed. Problem solved.

I didn't sleep, for the wind, for the next 3 1/2 hours, when my alarm went off. When I poked my head outside, the gales weren't as terrible - down here in the canyon anyway. I knew they'd still be bad up on top, but, if you don't have to saddle up and start in the wind (or rain), then it's not so bad when you actually ride into the weather.

So of course I saddled up Hillbillie Willie, and we followed Connie and That Guy (trick riders for the Halloween costume contest) aboard DWA Saruq for a 50 mile jaunt in a hurricane across the Owyhee desert. 

And lordy, was it a hurricane. It was Stink Windy. It was Cussin' Windy (yes, I said a few choice words at times.) It was so windy, that it wasn't even dusty, because any dust kicked up by a horse's hoof was already in the next county before the next hoof fell. It was so windy, Connie may or may not have tried talking/yelling something at me, but all I could hear was the wind roaring in my ears through my bandana. It was so windy, that much of the time I felt completely disconnected from Willie, who, bless his Standardbred heart, just kept trucking along like it was nothing. He was a superstar! Although he did uncharacteristically bolt 3 times throughout the day - from the odd, loud flapping of my heavy jacket, even though it was zipped up and snug on me. Neither of us had ever heard that sound before!

Likely there was a high vehicle wind warning for the day, because up on top of 17-hand Hillbillie Willie, yea, I felt it! Especially up on the Hallelujah rim trail, it knocked me about, and had me leaning into the wind at times so I couldn't get blown off Willie and over the edge of the rim. At times we got a welcomed treat of a wind-blocked wash, where it was practically balmy for a few minutes (and hot), and then we'd creep back out into the chilly gale-force winds.

Our vet check was back in camp, down in our canyon-hole, where it was just breezy and almost pleasant. Loop two was a reverse of loop one - different scenery but the same wind. Oh, there was some more cussin' from us humans, but our horses motored along like it was no big deal.

Hillbillie Willie finished up fabulous and strong and sound, making a clean 5 starts in 5 finishes this year, 255 miles. That included his first 3-day ride at City of Rocks where he couldn't have impressed me more!

Now it's time for a winter of getting lazy and fat… though I'm still waiting for the day Willie carries any extra poundage!

For more stories and photos on the ride, see:

Monday, August 5, 2019

Riding the Continental Divide Trail at Top O The World!

August 5 2019

It was the third annual Top O' the World pioneer endurance ride in Eastern idaho… this was my first time to finish a ride there. Fabulous and challenging trails. We did day 1's 50 miler and I got to ride on the Continental Divide - how awesome was that!

Connie rode Finneas and I rode her horse DWA Saruq.

Ridecamp is in a sweet spot in the Targhee National Forest.

great grazing for the horses! Jose Viola is eating and, of course, gazing at things in the distance

Connie, Regina, and Kat enjoying morning gourmet coffee!

Suzy Hayes' and Lynn Lee's 3 horses escaped one night and didn't come back till morning, fortunately all in one piece. Suzy was sooooo happy!

Connie and Finneas on the top of the world at about 9500'! on the Continental Divide Trail, looking West

Look really close, and ridecamp is a little white dot down in that green strip in the valley

Photobombing on the Continental Divide Trail!

Another high meadow on the CDT. We met a through hiker here. His trail name is Peanut. Connie met some through hikers the next day who said Peanut is a legend. Look him up!

Much of the ride we had a nice bubble - had the trails to ourselves. Here we leapfrogged with some other riders on loop 2

A lower meadow on loop 2

The famous Dave Rabe and Cocamoe Joe. You can tell it was pretty chilly because Dave has a sweatshirt on!

Yea. This thunderstorm grew quickly and raced towards us - 3 of us had 15 minutes to blanket the horses and batten down the hatches before….

…the heavy rain and hailstorm hit! horses hunkered down with butts to the weather and heads down

Connie and I hiked and unmarked a 7 mile loop on day 3. Just as beautiful hiking as it is riding!

More on the ride at

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Hillbillie Willie's City of Rocks Endurance Ride: Day 3

July 6 2019

Hillbillie Willie's quest for all 3 days/155 miles at City of Rocks - his first 3-day ride!

Day 1 and Day 2 down, one more to go!

Day 3's 50 mile ride was a repeat of Day 2's (minus a little 5 mile loop): a loop in the desert towards Utah and along the Boise Kelton Stage Route, and into City of Rocks National Reserve along the California Trail. Loop 2 was up into the park to a high point of 7500' and heading back down in a big scenic park loop.

Today Willie and Jack were joined by Fancy (and Nance) again, and Belesema Anna and Chris. It was another beautiful cool day and the horses did great. Willie never missed a beat, never flagged, never was uninterested or unenthused. He really loved going down the trails, and it seemed so effortless for him.

When the four of us crossed the finish line together, holding hands, Willie felt just fabulous. He pulsed in, at the end of 3 days and 155 miles, with a pulse of 44. 44! 

My final post summed it up: Oh. My. Gawd. I LOVE THIS HORSE!

A few pix from the day:
On the Boise Kelton stage route, Twin Sisters peeking over the horizon.

Headed for Twin Sisters on the California Trail, one of the main roads through the park.

A pair of our heroes, Dave Rabe and Cheys Cocamoe Joe

Lunch time in camp! Willie loves to eat. He's not a voracious eater, but he eats the whole time.

Heading up into the park

One of my favorite trails, Geowatt

Nearing the high point at 7500'

Deb and Jack… yes, it was a wee bit chilly at times up high (but felt great)

Descending one of the prettiest trails, which we refer to lovingly as Rat Poo trail because of all the packrat nests in some of the rock cliff clefts

Cat Cook took this of the eight of us at the finish - Willie was absolutely amazing, it was one of my most favorite rides ever!

More stories and ride photos at:

Monday, July 1, 2019

Hillbillie Willie's City of Rocks Endurance Ride: Day 2

is this a good lookin' horse or what!

June 30 2019

Hillbillie Willie's quest for all 3 days/155 miles at City of Rocks - his first 3-day ride!

Willie finished up his 50 miles of Day 1 at City of Rocks with no problem. He felt fine the morning of Day 2, and was happy to get saddled up again (and eat while he was doing it - he loves to eat at rides!). OK, here we go on Day 2's 55 mile ride!

Admiring our shadows on loop 1, out on the desert toward Emigrant canyon before heading into City of Rocks National Reserve and the California Trail.

We are on the old historic Boise-Kelton stage route. The landmark Twin Sisters granite spires are just peeking up over the hills on the right.

Enjoying a fresh spring water trough; Twin Sisters on the very left

Our escorts Deb and Jack. Just below the Twin Sisters spires, you can see the remains of the old stage stop

Just one of the bazillion pretty trail shots on loop 2 in the National Reserve park

Just after we reached the high point on the mountain at 7500 feet, a rather spectacular cold front/storm blew in. Clouds must have been racing through the pass and down into the park valley at 50 mph. We were somewhat sheltered by the mountain we were on. Fortunately I had enough layers with me to put on and stay warm, though I sure coulda used a pair of gloves for a while. The horses did great in the cold!

We were joined today by Nance and Fancy. We all 3 finished together - horses did just fabulously, and Willie felt terrific.

2 days down - one more to go!

More stories and ride photos at:

Friday, June 21, 2019

Hillbillie Willie's City of Rocks Endurance Ride: Day 1

June 21 2019

When I saw Deb and Jack (Jackpot Jackson), I knew I wanted Jack as Willie's mentor/riding partner at City of Rocks. Jack is big, big-strided, and steady. I just knew he'd keep Willie calm during the start - which to me is the most important part of an endurance ride. I'm getting too old (and wimpy) to have a hot horse at the start of a ride (ahem Finneas!). Once I get through the first 5 or 10 miles, Willie will calm down... but isn't it nice just have a calm horse from the start!

I sort of stole Deb and Jack from Nance and Fancy and her riding partner, but, this was all about Willie :)

And you know what happened? The start went perfectly. Jack was relaxed and in no hurry. Willie absorbed all that, and he was relaxed, and in no hurry - none of that bouncy-hot-wiggly-jiggly-pacey bone-jarring trot/pace/trot, worrying about catching the competition ahead him.

Even when Mike and Taladega went by us at the start, both of them having a discussion with each other about slowing down and enjoying the scenery, Willie just trotted on, steady and relaxed with his mentor Jack.

The entire day, in fact, was just beautiful, mostly sunny with a lovely afternoon edge-of-a-thunderstorm, and calm steady and smooth! Willie felt great from start to finish, and he finished Day 1 fit and ready to continue on to Day 2!

on Box Top trail, early part of loop one in City of Rocks Nat'l Reserve. It's one of my favorite scenic parts of the park. We're following Deb and Jack, and in front of her is Mike and Dega, who have come to somewhat of an understanding.

This is Kimi Linnell and her Standardbred mare Sego Lily. We got to leapfrog each other a couple times on the way to and in Castle Rocks State Park. Go Standardbreds!

Willie leading the way back home, on the Lathe Trail in CORNR

The incomparable Deb and Jack, catching the edge of that storm that didn't scare me!

More stories and ride photos at:

Monday, June 17, 2019

Hillbillie Willie Takes on City of Rocks: Pre-Ride Prep

Sunday June 16 2019

It was Steph who suggested I try riding her horse Hillbillie Willie, the off-the-track Standardbred, in all 3 days of 50's at City of Rocks Pioneer endurance ride on June 6-8 near Almo, Idaho. It's takes place in and around City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park, and it's the first 'leg' of the Idaho IronHorse 'triple crown', the other 2 being the 3 days of the Top O' The World Pioneer in July near Spencer and the e-day October Autumn Sun near Gooding.

What a great challenge! Willie is only 7; it's only his third year of endurance riding. Could he do three days in a row?

During his first year, he finished 5 out of 6 50-mile rides - his one pull resulted from bruised feet during a ride. That's when we learned that he didn't have real tough feet (is that a Standardbred thing? a racehorse thing? just a Willie thing?) and he needed pads. End of that year he was AERC's high mileage Standardbred, presented by the United States Trotting Association in partnership with the AERC. He also finished 2 back-to-back 50's at the incomparable Moab Pioneer ride at the end of the season.

Willie finished all 3 of his 3 rides last year (one 25, two 50s); this year he'd completed April's Tough Sucker 50 before City of Rocks.

I've spent the last year working on calming and slowing him down, getting him off the bit, collecting, going down the trail with his head lowered and relaxed, and ingraining a steady (not racy) trot. Though I can fake it, I'm always a little nervous at the start of his rides, because I don't want him to get nervous and wound up. It wastes a lot of energy, and it can be rough to ride. At City of Rocks, whether we did 1 or 2 or 3 days, I just wanted him to have calm starts. I wanted one riding partner that could match his big stride and who would be a good mentor, and I hoped he could ride much of it on a loose rein. And I didn't think ahead to doing all 3 days; we just went vet check to vet check.

Pre-Ride highlights:
Willie says hi to his pals and mentors, whom we rode with in this year's Tough Sucker: Cousin Hawk (JAC Winterhawk - 2500 miles and 6 BCs) the gray, and Uncle Mal (Fire Mtn Malabar - 7300 miles and 48 BCs) the bay

Willie meets the famous Dave Rabe (72,000 miles) and his amazing grays, White Cloud (10,000 miles), Rushcreek Okay (8800 miles), and Chey's Cocamoe Joe (6400 miles)

Willie and Jose play in the stinky mud pond, after which I took Willie to vet in and didn't clean him off for Jessica the vet. She loved him anyway.

Willie (r) meets new Standardbred pal Sego and Kimi Linnell!

More photo stories to come, and more ride photos & stories at

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Hillbillie Willie and the Mormon Crickets

Wednesday May 1 2019

GAAAAHHHH - a new mormon cricket hatch, a swarm of millions! 

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the ground starting to move ahead of trotting Willie - we'd powered up the Rim Trail and rejoined Spring Ranch road, heading toward the Owyhee mountains when it began. But it wasn't the ground moving; it was a million little inch-long crawling jumping flopping things - baby mormon crickets!

In some cases, baby animals can be ugly-cute (think warthogs)… but there is NOTHING cute, at all, about any-sized mormon crickets. Disgusting creatures. Mormon crickets can't hop straight; they just flop, in all directions, sideways and upside down. When one dies, the others swarm and eat it. They can make highways dangerously slick when they get run over (then the others swarm to eat the dead ones, and get run over, etc). There are never just a few mormon crickets, which one could cope with, but swarms. They get big and bulbous and they are uncoordinated and ugly and creepy and gross. Even horses think so - just ask Hillbillie Willie!

Willie's spook is more of a duck-jump, and when he saw the ground begin moving beneath him with these strange crawlie-jumpy things, he began duck-jumping back and forth and back and forth, because he didn't know which way to spook! He lowered his head and shook it in aggravation, and the durn crickets bopped him in the nose when they flopped upward, and he really disliked that!

I urged him to keep up his trot - I mean, he for sure wouldn't want to walk through those things, and *I* was for sure not getting off to walk, and I was for sure not going to fall off - can you imagine the horror! Most scary were the bushes with clumps of flopping crawling crickets beneath them, making the leaves shudder and shake. 

We rode through at least a mile and a half of these creatures, and every single one was a baby - not an adult in sight anywhere. Where do they suddenly come from anyway - spontaneous combustion??

They reminded me of the White Walkers, the walking dead in Game of Thrones - they just kept coming on and on, swarms of them. I've heard of the crickets dying and making bridges of the dead bodies to keep moving onward across a creek. (Like Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 3, where the dead made a bridge to cross the burning barrier - creepy!)

While I gagged and bemoaned out loud this dreadful event, Willie bravely kept up his trotting through the incessant pool of mormon cricket babies. When we finally left their territory, Willie was still shaken up a while - trotting along and lowering and shaking his head as if to shake off the daytime nightmare!

above photos is Hillbillie Willie on another ride…. not pictured are the mormon crickets. If only I'd had a video camera!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Hillbillie Willie's National Geographic Moment

Sunday April 21 2019

"Get off the web and into the wild" is the campaign of the PNTS - Partnership for the National Trails System. PNTS is encouraging people to "pledge to turn your gaze from your phone and computer screen to your natural surroundings and explore a park, trail, wildlife refuge, or forest near you - even your backyard. You never know what you might discover!"

Easy for me - Hillbillie Willie and I get into the wild on a regular basis. We're surrounded by BLM high sagebrush desert, 6 miles below the Owyhee mountains, in the southwest corner of Idaho, in one of the least populated counties. On just about every ride we see some kind of wildlife: deer, antelope, sage grouse, chukar, coyotes. Willie - the off-the-track Standardbred racehorse - is quite sensible and doesn't get alarmed: he enjoys encountering the wildlife too.  
The very day I took the PNTS pledge, Willie and I had a fabulous National Geographic moment.

As we started riding down the narrow and at-places-steep Tower Trail ridge, we surprised a herd of 8 mule deer in a fold of the hills below us. We stared at each other momentarily, till the deer decided to evacuate. However, instead of moving downhill away from us, the lead doe angled straight ahead and up, aiming for the trail we were on. As we popped around a little corner, the herd had just reached the narrow trail 15 yards ahead of us; their sensible option was to run on down the trail, or to seemingly irrationally leap over the precipice down the 80-degree cliff.

There was a moment's hesitation before the lead doe committed: then she hurled herself over the edge. One by one the others followed unquestioningly - like a waterfall over a cliff - catapulting, catching air, landing 20 feet down the slope before touching ground again. The adrenaline enveloped the herd as they hurtled downward; when one stumbled she'd leap and fly another 30 feet downhill; when another almost fell down she sprinted faster down the hill with the others rocketing recklessly after. The herd's mad charge left dust curling down the cliff and they were gone before Willie even got to their leaping platform.

If I can anthropomorphize here a bit, there may have been a touch of prey-fear in the deer, but what I really sensed was arrogance - their utterly unrivaled and untouchable grace and speed, knowing that, even if this little human had wanted to, I did not have the capable mount, nor the guts, to follow them; and even if I was the Man from Snowy River and gave chase over the cliff on my horse, I could not have gotten anywhere close to them. The deer picked the steepest cliff - because they could.

A camera would have gotten a fabulous video, but I had my hands full with an excited horse! Willie gave off his own excited Deer Snort and I had to use a bit of focused riding to keep him on the trail.

It was an extraordinary deer encounter neither of us will ever forget!