Monday, December 6, 2021

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

December 6 2021

Robin Schadt tracked down these win pix of my Standardbred Hillbillie Willie on the track, courtesy Crystal View Photos, from his previous racing life.

Willie’s race record is 2 wins from 21 starts as a 2-year-old (2 starts) and a 3-year-old, at Running Aces in Minnesota and CalExpo in California. At 3, starting January 4th, he raced almost every weekend through July 19. (!!!!!!!!!) (At which time he possibly strained a hind suspensory or tendon, as that was his last race.)

He started Endurance at age 5, and now has 1015 AERC Endurance miles (and one 25-miler).

You can see he was a pacer on the track, but lucky for me, he defaults to a trot on the Endurance trail. He loves his second career as an Endurance horse, and he really loves being outside here in the West, zipping along trails and stopping to watch wildlife.

These are the pix from his 2 wins. I love getting a glimpse of him in his former life. Look at him fly!

Thank you again Robin and Crystal View photos!

top photo - he won his first start as a 2yo

bottom photo - he won by a nose as a 3yo (he's on the outside)

Friday, December 3, 2021

This Standardbred Likes Pigs


December 3 2021

After a sunny winter ride, Willie and I dropped in on Linda and her Menagerie for a friendly visit.

This time, he was much more relaxed, hanging out with his friend dogs and pigs and horses and mini-donkey and mule, and way more interested in the pigs, Porker and Pig.

Linda has trained Porker to sit for a treat. She says, "Sit," and Porker sits and opens wide for Linda to insert a treat (watch out for those porker chompers!)

Willie was fascinated with the beasts and the spectacle.

He got a treat from Linda too, because he's so handsome,

but ooooh those pigs are intriguing!

How could you not love this face!

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The 1000-Mile Standardbred Hillbillie Willie: Part II

A great accomplishment turns into not-good-then-thankfully-ultimately-good-depending-on-your-perspective long-a$$ day

PART I is here.

by Merri Melde

Willie still did not drink at the finish. I did not like that. That is not normal. He passed his vet check (with a 54 pulse, not unusual, particularly with his winter coat). 

But I did not like that look in his eye. And back in his pen, he wanted to roll. That is NOT NORMAL for him. I called Jessica and Jake the vets over. They listened to his gut sounds again and heard gas in the upper right quadrant. “If he wants to lay down or roll, let him,” they said. “It can help move things around so the gas can pass.”

But it didn’t help, and after a while, when Wilie got up and still looked uncomfortable (pulse was high 40s - still good), he got a muscle relaxer shot.

That seemed to help. The pain left his eyes, he started eating normally, took a drink, and his pulse dropped to the low 40s (normal for him after a ride).

But after an hour, the pain came back. His eyes showed pain. He laid down again. Rolled some, and laid there, higher respiration. When he got up again, vets checked him out again. Movement in all gut quadrants except for that upper gassy right. Pulse up to 52. Not good sign. I started feeling sick. Give him the works, I agreed.

He got Nasogastric intubation, to quickly get electrolytes and fluid directly into the digestive system, to help get things rehydrated and moving. 

There was no reflux (a good thing). After a while there wasn’t much of a change for the worse or better, so we set him up for fluids. Got him going on 10 liters. Time passed. It got dark. Jake had to leave, but Jessica sat with me in his pen watching him as the hours passed, waiting waiting waiting praying and waiting for a poop (not so unusual waiting for that after a ride where they’ve been steadily pooping all day a little at a time; Barack in the next pen had not pooped yet either). 

Willie started eating a bit, his pulse remained in the 40s, and the gut quadrants had more activity… but the upper right still gassy.

Willie started shifting his weight around at 10 PM; Jessica said let’s take him for a walk and see if that will help him poop. She unhooked him from the fluids, and we took Willie and Barack for a walk… and  within a few minutes, I have never been happier to see a pile of (good looking normal) poop come out of Willie’s rear end! (Barack pooped too!).

But when we returned to the pen, Willie went right to laying down. He got up and laid down 3 times. I was getting nauseous. Jessica said to wait just a little longer. And finally,FINALLY you could see Willie relax, tension leave his body. When he got up again, his pulse was still in low 40s, still movement in quadrants, still some gas in upper right, but a little better. She hooked him back up to the fluids and Willie went back to eating - like a normal hungry-after-a-ride horse. And he took a good drink! And he farted! Twice! And he peed!

All signs pointed to him having recovered. When the fluids finished, Jess unhooked him and we turned him loose, and he walked to the side of his pen, and dropped off another big pile of good looking steaming poop! And all good gut sounds!

Well, try to go to sleep after that. I didn’t really sleep, but didn’t hear my alarm at 3. I got up at 4 to check on Willie, and he was dozing, and I was excited to see 3 or 4 more piles of poop in his pen.

In the morning he had even more piles, and was eating and acting like a normal horse.

Thank the lord. But what the hell happened. What caused it? Gas colic is the simplest and most common type of colic; it can happen to a pasture horse. A horse has almost 70 feet of small intestine and about 25 feet of large intestine, so he’s got a helluva lot of space where gas (or kinks or blockages) can build up. Any kind of blockage can occur anywhere, and when a horse is exercising, fluids are pulled away from the gut to the muscles, so that dehydration can exacerbate the situation. You’ve all had gas cramps at one time or another, and they can be quite painful till they resolve. Can you pinpoint a cause?

What could I have done to change it? (besides not riding at all). We certainly didn’t ride fast (we finished in 8 1/2 hours; he’s previously done this ride 1 1/2 hours faster). He hasn't had a hard season - this was only his 5th ride this year. He drank well on trail - until he didn’t midway on the last loop. He ate and drank great at lunch. We always let the horses eat hay for a while before we give them any grain at lunch, and that is a wet mash. I gave him the normal amount of electrolytes I’ve always given him - a scoop in each feeding (once a day, and as much as he wanted to eat at lunch, after eating hay first), starting 2 days before.

Should I have let him go faster? He felt so phenomenal the whole ride, maybe I added more stress to him by keeping him cranked down much of the ride. Did his winter coat have anything to do with it? (He’s done rides with a winter coat before, on hotter days.)

When he didn’t drink at the second water tank he should have dunked his head into, I could have stopped and gotten off and walked to camp - but that would have taken me longer to get back on foot, not to mention the stress of being separated from his buddy.  

Was it just a random thing? Who knows. It all just sucked. I even hate reliving it by writing about it.

I’m just kicking myself - what caused it and how could I have prevented this? (beside not riding)

I don’t know if I will ever want to ride him on a 50 again. It may be so stressful for me (like if he doesn’t drink at a water tank) it may not be worth it. Maybe he will just be a 25-mile horse. Maybe he’ll just be a trail horse.

So, our great accomplishment turned into a not-good-then-thankfully-ultimately-good-depending-on-your-perspective long-a$$ day.

And he’s fine now and says thanks to all for your concern!

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The 1000-Mile Standardbred Hillbillie Willie: Part I

A great accomplishment turns into not-good-then-thankfully-ultimately-good-depending-on-your-perspective long-a$$ day

Be sure and read Part II when it comes out tomorrow.

by Merri Melde

Last ride of the season. 50 miles on Hillbillie Willie the Standardbred. If we finish, it’s over 9000 miles for me (and The Raven!) and 1000 career miles for him (!!!!).

He’s got a bit of a winter coat, but he’s super fit, and he’s riding with his best bro DWA Barack. Since it was the Owyhee Halloween ride I started to dress Willie as an Appaloosa, but I got halfway done on each side of his butt, and it looked more like a…. spider web and not really even a good spider web, and then he went and rolled, so I gave up. So he really went as a 1/4 Appaloosa, 3/4 Standardbred. 

After his Autumn Sun start last month, this start had me a bit nervous… I didn’t know if Willie would be a firecracker again or good - but this start was so good. The two boys walked out of camp together and calmly started trotting down the 3 miles of long straight dirt road, despite being able to see other horses and riders ahead of us. It wasn’t a big field of riders - 14 in the 50 (and 12 in the 25), the weather was perfect - stayed cool all day - and footing spectacular.

I rode with Convict Connie, Dept of Corrections

All day I marveled at Willie. He really seemed to be enjoying himself. This horse was born for the trails, not the racetrack. So strong and forward and always wanting to go faster. Even when we were headed towards home (basecamp is 10 miles from home, and we rode within 2 miles of home) and then turned away, Willie was like, “Yep, headed this way now, let’s go!” He drank well on trail, found tiny bits of grass growing along trail to snack on (often he is all business and won’t take time to munch, but this ride he allowed himself the leisure of grass snacking as long as Barack was doing it too!). He ate and drank well at the lunch break, and he bombed out on loop 2 with the same relish.

Let's go faster already!

All systems were go… although Willie didn’t drink at the second-to-last water trough out on trail. Nor the last one. Hmmm. He should have dunked half his head in and drunk. But at the last trough we were almost within sight of the finish and Ridecamp, so maybe he was just waiting for that. 

He finished strong, and this marvelous Standardbred completed the ride, 9000 miles for me (and The Raven!), 1000 miles for Hillbillie Willie!

Didn't my sister take some great pix!

But…. next comes Part II...

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Firecracker Willie and the Autumn Sun Endurance Ride

October 24 2021

He’s gonna blow…

Any minute now… I thought, as I walked a lit firecracker around Ridecamp. Hillbillie Willie pranced beside me, neck bowed, eyeballs rolled forward, as a long squeal like I’ve never heard - like 20 seconds long, Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! - slipped out between his curled lips. He was just on the edge of exploding.

This would be my fourth year shooting the Autumn Sun Pioneer ride, but gosh, I sure wanted to ride Hillbillie Willie there one day. I’m not sure if Ride Manager Jessica Huber suggested it or if I did; it became a plan. This year I’d shoot 2 days and ride 1 day.

Willie’s pals DWA Barack and DWA Saruq accompanied him to Ridecamp. The plan was that Willie and Barack would ride on opposite days, so Saruq would be the babysitter with the one left in camp. That didn’t quite turn out as planned, and it was Saruq that could have used the babysitter on day 3, as that was the day Willie and Barack went out together on Sunday on the 50.

Which meant that Willie was in a small pen for 3 days, and he just about couldn’t stand himself, especially when I took him out to walk by himself, away from his buddies.

I’ve ridden this horse in Endurance for 5 seasons now, and he’d never been so tightly wound, and so buddied up with his bros. I ride him by himself all the time at home and he’s just fine, but this time that just didn’t translate to Ridecamp. 

I saddled him up Saturday afternoon for a pre-ride warmup, climbed aboard the sizzling firecracker, and trotted him out of camp, and up the road, hoping he would just trot and not prop and buck! Fortunately his legs are so long that it’s not easy for him to buck, and it’s just easier to channel that energy forward, so LET’S GO! I told him. Blow off some of that steam. Defuse that bomb about to detonate! It wasn’t a long warm-up ride, but it did take a little of the stuffing out of him (and I stayed on!), and he was a little calmer back in camp.

At the start of Day 3’s 50, he was happy, since he was headed out on trail with his best bro Barack. (And Barack had done Day 2’s 30-miler, so he was like - eh, whatever.) But I was back aboard an electrical shorting fuse the first few miles of the ride. When Willie is hot, he bows his neck like a tough racehorse (keep in mind the Standardbred racehorses go with their heads high up in the air). He looks like he’s pulling hard but he really doesn’t, but with every stride he slipped along faster and faster, and I kept having to check him. I finally had to stuff him behind Barack for a while, and once we started climbing up the canyon, and the boys started huffing and puffing, the real Hillbillie Willie started to come back to earth, a forward, energetic horse, going along on a loose rein (most of the time).

I lucked out riding Day 3, with loop 1 being one of the most scenic trails of Autumn Sun. This trail is what gave Ride Manager Jessica Huber the idea to put on a ride here. Winding up through a series of canyons, on a trail far below rhyolite cliffs and rock formations, Willie watched his footing on the trail while I scanned the ridges for a cougar, like Tracy and Tom saw last year. I didn’t see any, but, like my Forest Service ranger friend once told me when I complained I never saw any cougars, “Oh, but they see you!”

Some of the trails were lava rocky and technical, requiring a horse to walk and pay attention, much of the trails were smooth 2-track where you could move out on. Willie and Barack worked well together, rotating being in front and behind and beside each other (though Willie always erred on the faster side of trotting), and while Willie tends to take a ride VERY SERIOUSLY, he’s learned from Barack that sometimes it’s OK to stop and grab a few bites of grass, or at least grab them on the go. 

On one stretch the ranchers’ cow water troughs we were allowed to use were empty - the ranchers had just drained them a few days before for the winter. Willie was thirsty, and he was terribly disappointed to find the bottom of one trough covered in cow pies (likely the cows' opinions on the empty water trough!), and by God Willie made his way over to an icky looking cow pond where he sunk to his ankles in cow muck as he sucked down the murky liquid. At home we liked to keep our water buckets and troughs so clean, but this was good wild desert water (next year’s ride will be a week earlier, so the springs/cow troughs will still have water).

The weather was perfect, not too hot, not too cold, trail conditions perfect. We crossed the finish line tying for last place, tying for the coveted Turtle Award (fun turtle aprons made and donated by Lynn White), and just for grins I showed Willie for Best Condition (knowing we had no chance at that, since I’m a featherweight and we finished almost 2 1/2 hours behind the winners). 

And what a super surprise and treat, High Vet Score went to Hillbillie Willie!

Jessica's dad Wally Bodenhofer took the pix on day 3 so I could ride. Yay!


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Justify’s First Owyhee Mule and Donkey Crop Available for Adoption!

Tuesday October 19 2021

Sure, we all know that 

• a mule is the offspring of a male donkey (ass) and a female horse

• a hinny is the offspring of a female donkey (jenny) and a male horse (like Justify)

• a donkey is an ass or a jenny, and can produce mules and hinnys. 

But since Justify is just a bit magic, he produced his first rare crop of mules, hinnys, donkeys, and jennys, now up for adoption. 

Each has its own unique personality, conformation, and ear length and floppiness, and are roughly 9-10” tall. You get to determine which is a mule or hinny or ass or jenny. 

Each Owyhee Mule/Donkey is created with love out of genuine recycled baling twine fresh off hay bales, so in addition to owning a very unique objet d’art, a piece of The West, of course you’ll also be helping to save the planet from choking plastic or toxic burn fumes.

Owyhee White Nose

Owyhee Dark Blue Nose - note this one won 3rd place at the Western Idaho Fair in Boise this summer! (but you don't get the ribbon :) )

Owyhee Pink Nose

Owyhee Light Blue Nose

Owyhee Green Nose

Owyhee Lemon Yellow Nose

Owyhee Green-White Nose

Available for adoption fee of $75 (add $5 for shipping per horse, USA only). Comes with  bragging rights, naming rights, and the justifiable magical ability to make people LAUGH!


See the gallery of Justify’s offspring out in the world here:

**100% recycled… made of baling twine, used buttons, stuffed with used horse magazines

***And thank you to the soooo many of you who have sent me your baling twine instead of burning it or throwing it away! You are contributing to beauty and fun and hilarity in the world!

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Cross-Training the Standardbred Endurance Horse

Thursday September 23 2021

Sure, you can break up the trail conditioning miles with arena work (gaaaahhh)(which we do occasionally and somewhat reluctantly), but there’s nothing better than Linda’s Menagerie Training Center to stimulate and broaden and strengthen the equine mind. Sure, your Standardbred has been exposed to so much at the racetrack, so he’s not too spooky, but you won’t find this situation at racetracks.

Because what horse couldn’t use exposure and ‘sacking out’ with a passel of polar bears (big white dogs), tiny dogs, cow dogs, goats, more goats, Ted the Wonder Horse (and benevolent dictator), Hattie the spotted mule (and sweet beauty queen), Hercules the mini-donkey (who follows Linda around while poop-scooping, walking so quietly and patiently waiting for treats), Edna the donkey (and loving steamroller), Hoot the mini-mule (and little sh*t), and, best of all, the biggest training tools of all, 2 huge waddling pigs, Pork and Pig. (Many of these animals choose, or don’t choose, to participate, or not participate, or start to participate then decide to go home in the middle of, Linda’s annual Oreana July 4th parades

It’s such a chaotic zoo, especially when you first walk in the driveway. Your Standardbred will not be sure as to what he should most worry about: the shaggy circling (but friendly) Polar Bears, the milling goats who really would just like a pet, the short and stubby and wiggly wiener dog Booger, the chasing heeling dogs, or - THE PIGS!

Chatting outside with Linda with her Menagerie swirling around, as if absolutely nothing is abnormal, your Standardbred eventually relaxes, and even wants to follow and sniff the goats around a bit. 

But those pigs - that is something a Standardbred might not quite figure out. When Linda calls the goats and pigs to come get a few treats (so that the goats don’t follow us home, because sometimes they go on unsupervised Walkabouts), the pigs ‘run’ toward Linda, slow-motion waddle waddle jiggle jiggle, and your Standardbred will follow their progress with a very puzzled look on his face.

By the time you leave, your Standardbred has a whole ‘nother arsenal of unusual situational bomb-proofing experiences that you won’t quite get anywhere else.

And Willie’s such a social beast he’ll remember that he always has ‘different’ kinds of friends at Linda’s - especially those pigs!

Friday, September 10, 2021

Old Selam Pioneer: This Standardbred ROCKS


Saturday September 11 2021

All three 50-mile days at Old Selam Pioneer on Hillbillie Willie: that was my long-range goal this year. What with my healing shoulder and other commitments, and only one 50 under Willie’s girth at City of Rocks more than three months earlier, it was a flexible goal. Three days would be super. Two would be awesome. Heck, I’d be ecstatic to ride and complete one day with Willie and both of us come out of it unscathed.

It just so happens Old Selam has become one of my top three favorite endurance rides. I miss the forest and mountains, the smell of the pine and fir in the early morning dawn. And the FOOTING, my God, the footing, is unequaled in any ride I’ve done anywhere in the country. 95% of the ride is soft, rock-free dirt. It is a tough ride - there is a lot of climbing and descending, but there’s so much good ground you can move out on over all the loops.

It’s one of Willie’s favorite rides too, for the cool mornings, and the ‘slop’ at the vet checks (rice bran and oats and carrots and apples in a soupy mix), and the GRASS, ohmigosh, the grass. And he loooooves those partially overgrown old winding logging roads, flying around those blind corners eager to discover what, or which 4-legged thing, might pop up. (Fortunately, we have yet to meet a moose or bear suddenly and up close.)

It’s Willie’s fifth season of Endurance. He’s come *such* a long way from racehorse to Endurance horse. I’ve worked hard on making him into an Endurance horse that I like: one that starts out calmly, is controllable in any situation, one that doesn’t run up other horses’ butts (like I’m sure he did while racing), one that doesn’t pull pull pull, one that doesn’t go down the trail with his head up in the air and his back arched.

At Old Selam we teamed up with Willie’s bromance herd-mate DWA Barack for the first time. The pace was a little slower than Willie is used to, and it was a little faster than Barack is used to. On Day 1 Connie and I both got good human workouts managing our horses (like when one got too far behind or couldn’t see Bro around the corner, or when one climbed a hill faster than the other). 

Willie’s a flat-lander horse. Hills are hard for him. Over the years he’s built up decent hind end muscles, but while he can power trot up gentle inclines and declines, steep climbs and descents are just not easy. But in the ride he tackled them with gusto, particularly when Barack was easily climbing ahead of him.

We all finished in a ride time of 8:45, fit to continue, and we were all whooped at the end of the day. 

Debbie Grose pic

*I* sure didn’t feel like doing Day 2, and Willie was tired enough and didn’t need to do Day 2, so we skipped it. The original goal wasn’t that important! My fabulous horse was more important. We both enjoyed the day off, eating and hydrating a lot, taking a long walk and grazing on the abundant and varied grasses that Willie craves now that he’s a desert horse.

Day 3 we saddled up again and our boys worked so much better together! Willie would trot along slower, or faster on a loose rein (just responding to my legs or seat cues) with his neck bowed, eyeballing Barack beside him. We could space out further, get out of sight, then catch up and pass without either of them getting worried.

Willie tends to take a ride so seriously, no dilly dallying around, but Barack showed him on this ride that it’s just fine to stop now and then to graze, and how to grab grass and munch on the go. And we girls ate a lot of refreshing Otter Pops from the ice chest at one of the water troughs (another reason this is a favorite ride of mine, nothing better than frozen Otter Pops in the middle of a hard hot day!)

Crockett Dumas pic

We completed Day 3 in 8:49, and, can you say a finish pulse of 48 (both days!)?

I’m sooooooooo proud of my Standardbred Hillbillie Willie!

Thank you Steve Bradley for the awesome ride pix!