Saturday, May 27, 2023

Willie’s Endurance Swag

May 27 2023

But wait: there’s even more for Hillbillie Willie!

After the surprise of the vest from AERC for placing in last year’s Northwest LD mileage division, and the surprise of his AERC Northwest Best Condition first place halter, Willie had more swag coming!

I knew he would be getting these awards, (and some, like the cool bench, he got for Best Condition at the Halloween ride), but it’s still thrilling for Willie’s performance last year to be recognized in our awesome little SWITnDR (SouthWest Idaho Trail and Distance Riding) group. Willie and I won’t be making a habit of garnering prizes, so we’re enjoying it while we got it!

Standardbreds rock!

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Spotted Wonder

May 25 2023

Hillbillie Willie and I don’t often see anybody out riding in the desert, but coming over a hill last week, surprise! There were our neighbors, Linda on Hattie and Linda’s Menagerie of dogs. (The pigs and goats must have stayed home this time!)

Willie has met Hattie and Company at Linda’s house, but this was the first time he had seen the spotted mule out in the desert, much less with Linda's Menagerie, and much less carrying Linda on her back!

Linda has done a phenomenal job with this wild long-eared thang, from barely catch-able young mule to being ponied in Linda’s July 4th parades while riding trusty Ted, to becoming a riding mule.

She has taken the time (years) to slowly bring this mule along to where she can ride Hattie out alone in the desert. Don’t they look fabulous!

Monday, April 3, 2023

Annnnd… We're Off at Owyhee Tough Sucker!

April 3 2023

The 2023 ride season started for Hillbillie Willie and me at the local Tough Sucker ride that we help Regina put on down the road.

For me it was a tossup as to whether we’d start our season with a 25 or a 50. With the same crazy winter most all of us have had this year, (this Ice Princess is not complaining :) ), and because at home we have so many cows out all over the place it’s hard to get a long hard sustained workout without running over baby calves, Willie wasn’t as fit as I’d like. He *could* do a 50 as this is not a hard ride, but he would be best fit for a 25. Then there was the usual Tough Sucker weather to deal with: it’s always windy, and more than anything, I hate the wind. HATE the wind. Plus there would likely be some rain/hail/snow showers to go with the wind. I was leaning toward the 50, but I’d decide in the morning.

In the morning, after I saw that Willie had not eaten much (I’d brought along some new hay, which, bummer, apparently he does not particularly like, though he didn’t eat much of his regular hay either) nor had he drank much. That was the clincher. We’d do the 25 and consider it a good training ride for our next event. 

We struck out on the trail with one of Willie’s cute friends, Girl, ridden by Jill. We’d ridden together at City of Rocks last year on a 25, and they’d matched up well. Girl set a smoking pace out of Ridecamp and we kept it up for most of the 16 mile first loop. Trails were just about perfect footing - soft but not gopher-holey, and no dust to speak of yet! I always ride Willie with a heart rate monitor now, so I kept an eye on that. While he was running 10-20 beats higher at times that he normally would when he’s fit, he was handling it well and dropping on downhills or flats. And he was enjoying the quick pace with his cute partner, who always made sure Willie respected her space. We loved the winding canal trail after the Snake River.

It’s fun to watch Jill and Girl; Girl is all business and they have both put in a lot of time doing dressage work. She moves along the trail so nicely and balanced.

We eased up a bit the last couple of miles, and Layne and Atlas caught up with us and passed us. It was Layne’s first Endurance ride back after back surgery and a long recovery/rehab process, so this was a big test for her!

Willie wasn’t interested in any water on trail, nor did he want a drink from the troughs when we got back to Ridecamp for the vet check. However, when I picked up a sponge bucket full of water and held it up for him, he took a nice drink. Hey, whatever works! He only took a minute to pulse down to 60, so, so far I was quite pleased with his ride.

I took Willie to his pen for food (he wanted his grain, no hay, though later he did munch on a bit of alfalfa), and by the time I remembered - oh yea, I forgot to take him to the vet, (how long have I been doing this???), his pulse was down to 48. Yay!

We hooked up with Girl and Jill for the 9-mile second loop, which we took at a more casual pace. 

At the finish, Willie pulsed down right away, just behind Layne and Atlas and Jill and Girl. 

We went back to show for Best Condition in an hour; Willie’s CRI reflected a  horse that wasn’t fit yet -  44/52, but that was not bad at all! We had a fun ride which was a great conditioning ride, which will help us toward our next Endurance ride.

And best of all, we finished before the crap weather hit. Bigger wind, rain/sleet/even bigger wind/dust/mud/ice pellets. Willie was safely ensconced in his blankets either dozing or munching, while the braver riders and horses kept doing their thing out on trail. Of course, once you’re already out in it, it’s not that big of a deal, but once you are finished and your horse is tucked away and comfortable and you are hiding in your car out of the elements, you’re grateful you’re not out in it.

A super special shoutout goes to the Volunteers Extraordinaire, Barb, Ann, Tami, Pam, Yvonne, Roz, Lynn and I sure hope I did not miss anybody, for toughing out that weather to patiently wait for riders to come in and pulse horses down. You guys rock! And that of course includes thanks to ride manager Regina and our super vets Jessica and Jake, out there in the storm vetting horses in as usual, with smiles on their faces, until the last ones came in! And thank you Steve Bradley for the photo!

Saturday, March 11, 2023

But Wait: There’s More for Hillbillie Willie!

March 11 2023

I got an unexpected package in the mail from AERC…. opened it up and inside a plastic bag was a heavy, nice yellow halter.


I figured they must have had extras or something??? Or sent it to the wrong person??? There was no note in the envelope. Well, it would look very nice on Hillbillie Willie unless I needed to return it to AERC or whoever it was meant for.

I’d been so busy the last couple of days I never got around to opening the plastic bag and figuring it out. 

Finally last night I had time to pull out and have a look at the halter and - what?! - it has a brass plate on it:

2022 AERC Regional LD BC

Northwest - 1st Place

Hillbillie Willie

Ohmigosh! I’ve never gotten first place in anything in AERC’s year-end standings ever!

Best Condition awards go to one of the horse in the Top Ten finishers of a ride, and it factors in time, vet scores (soundness, hydration, heart rate recovery), and weight carried. Obviously the more weight a horse carries, the harder he works so he rightly gets more points for that in the figuring.

Best Condition awards are so rare for me than I can count all the BCs I’ve gotten in over 20 years of Endurance riding: four. (And Willie got three of them last year!) 

I almost always finish mid-pack, and I just don’t weigh enough to get a high enough score if I ever do end up in the Top Ten and get to show for BC.

So - ohmigosh! Thank you Hillbillie Willie for your hard work and being such a fun horse to ride and being The Best Standardbred Ever, and thank you AERC for making my day/week/year!

Friday, February 10, 2023

A National Award for Hillbillie Willie!


February 10 2023

“Um… I think you’ve made a mistake,” I replied to the email I got from AERC, saying, “Congratulations on a great ride season! We'll be ordering an embroidered award vest for you…”

It couldn’t be me and Hillbillie Willie. We indeed had a great super fun ride season, but we only did one 50-mile ride and seven LD rides last season. 

But no, they insisted, we got “5th place for Regional LD Mileage Championship in the Northwest!”

One season, umpteen years ago, Jose Viola and I ranked near the top of our Featherweight Northwest division in 50-mile rides. I would glance at the current results from time to time throughout the year in the AERC magazine because I was surprised I got to ride so many miles and stayed up there in the rankings. We got a vest that year too! But since then I’d never ridden enough miles to even pay attention. So I was completely unaware Willie and I ranked anywhere for anything last season.

Now, when you magnify our award and look at it kind of like a horse pedigree, it’s kind of like our award is somewhere down in the fourth generation with dozens of other cousins among eight regions, and it's more accurately a Regional award given by the National organization, but toMAto toMAHto, it was such a fun surprise, and it means so much to me what Willie and I accomplished, and how much fun we had last season.

I love my Standardbred, and WE LOVE OUR VEST!