Sunday, March 30, 2008

2008 Tierras De Al-Andalus: No Time To Sleep

March 30 2008

Really, there isn't, and that's what we need most. Day 2 of the Al-Andalus ride is over, there's 45 minutes left in the day, and I could use 24 more hours of work before tomorrow starts.

So far, it's been a terrific experience - mainly I'd say because the southern Spaniards are a blast to be around. The effort they've put into this ride is truly amazing. The logistics it takes to take care of 33 entries - some 47 riders and 52 horses, innumerable crew or assistance riders - with hotels, stabling, meals, transportation, start times, meeting times, party times, is staggering.

The scenery is lovely - great beach ride today, the food and wine good (special white manzanilla wine here in Sanlucar De Barrameda), the company terrific - new Spanish friends, reunion with Paul and Madonna from New Zealand; and Steph rode today and said it was fantastic.

Days begin around 5 AM - sometimes the horses are transported in the morning to a new starting place - and we get 'home' to a new hotel or bungalow every night around 6 or 7 PM - shower and get busy on the computers (no internet last night, so a big backlog of work), find time to eat something (preferably soup and flan for dessert), and already it's 11:30 PM, missed the partying, and only half done with work and not packed for tomorrow early morning.

Last year the ride took a day off, but this year it's a different city or village every night, so, we'll just worry about sleep in another week or so. The writing will have to come much later!

Till then... enjoy the pictures.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

My Suitcase Is Fish

Thursday March 27 2008

This is why I don't attempt to speak other languages.

It's rather silly of me to try, because sometimes I know just enough Spanish words to make it sound like I'm fluent in the language. When the person answers me with a barrage of Spanish though, I'm left looking vacuous, the rest of my Spanish having rapidly fled my head in a panic. I'm lost after the second word.

Steph and I noticed that all the Spaniards we've encountered so far have been extraordinarily friendly. I think I've discovered why. It might be my version of Spanish that makes them smile so broadly. For example: today when the hotel man retrieved our luggage, I meant to say, "Mi maleta es pesado" (heavy), but it came out "Mi maleta es pescado." My suitcase is fish.

Which was a silly thing to say anyway, because he was the one trying to lift it. I did get another big grin.

Mal (badly) mangled Spanish aside, we had an uneventful day. It started out with a long deep catch-up sleep - I made it up out of bed at 9:30 AM and managed to go down to the cafe twice for cappuchinos before Steph got up at noon. The lady at reception scolded us for missing checkout.

We successfully shopped for a libro (book) on Andalucia, the region of Spain Steph will be riding a horse through, and a SIM card for my phone, the instructions for which I successfully translated from Spanish. We caught a taxi to Dos Hermanas (and successfully chitchatted with the driver about the temperate - 22*C - windy spring weather), and moved into our new hotel room at the 4-star TRH Motilla Hotel, where we will be for the next two nights. Not much to sight-see in the immediate vicinity - just a nice quiet little neighborhood with a mall and a Burger King across the street. The Raven and I went out for a short stroll, where we found a tiny park, and the Raven found an olive tree to frolic in.

Tomorrow registration begins for riders at 9 AM, and vet inspections for horses begins at 11 AM at the Gran Hipodromo de Andalucia in Dos Hermanas. At 4:30 PM commences the first stage of Tierras de Al-Andalus, a 10-km "calentamiento," or warm-up ride. This will apparently take place on the racecourse. The offical website of the ride,, says it best: "Our intention is to make run all of the horses... The idea is to create a big squad of more than 70 horses running around the 2000 meters grass of Dos Hermanas. This can be very attractive for the TV show as well as for the spectators."

Very attractive for the spectators and photographers, and very exciting for the riders, I am sure. Hang onto your helmets, the 3rd annual Tierras De Al-Andalus, a 10-day, 500-km horse trek across Andalucia is about to begin. coverage

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Two Gringos in Seville

Tues-Wed March 25-26 2008

Wow, I have a great boss. Not only does she say, "So, where do you want to go? Spain? Malaysia? Australia? Oreana? The US?" (to which I reply, "Yes!"), but she also remembers me when we fly.

Steph, now being an Elite Flying Member, luxuriating in the cushy section of the plane with the roomy seats, plied with gourmet sandwiches and salads and wines and champagnes throughout, always remembers me in the ever-crowded peon section, stuck in an inverted cramped chair (you know the kind I'm talking about, where the seat - "in upright position" - actually angles you forward so your head is further forward than your lower back - the people who build these seats obviously don't ever try sitting in them), with the window 2 feet in front of me or one foot behind me so I got a crick in my neck looking out, with a Big Guy sitting right next to me and a little girl in the seat behind me kicking the back of my seat.

On the Amsterdam - Madrid leg, I watched as Steph again got bumped from peon to Elite seats, where I had a quick glimpse of the silver wine cart before they shuttered the private curtains on the front of the plane.

After our bread and water meal in the back section, here comes my boss, sneaking back in amongst the peons, and handing me... a HALF PINT OF BEN AND JERRY'S! The entire un-elite passenger list watched with envy, because nobody else's boss remembered them like this.

I put my time and effort in for Steph, though, as a pack mule. She's travelling with 2 big rolling suitcases, each at exactly the limit of 50 lbs, plus a quite heavy carry-on bag that does better sitting on a rolling suitcase. I've got my smaller rolling suitcase (about to break, actually), heavy backpack, shoulder purse and computer - straps draped all over me. Somehow the taxi man stuffed all our gear and us into his taxi for the ride from the Madrid airport to the train station; and in the station, to catch a train to Seville, I helped Steph out with her luggage.

I grabbed mine and one of Steph's big suitcases, rolling them both behind me through the crowds, noticing that the two suitcases behind me took up a very wide lane. We headed onto a step-less escalator, and as I stepped on and was carried upward, the 2 suitcases stuck fast behind me at the narrow entrance to the escalator, (I'd said, "Hmm, I don't think I'm gonna make it") and suddenly the whole world shifted and I was suddenly walking backwards still holding onto the suitcases. And I didn't dare let go!

"'m stuck..." I stated the obvious, but do you think my boss would help me with this suitcase crisis? No, she's doubled over laughing at me, (as are half a dozen other amused Spaniards whose path I have blocked), while I am stuck walking backwards on the escalator, stuck to two suitcases that won't move. Anybody following us with a video camera?

Small price to pay, I guess, for the Ben and Jerry's...

...and, oh yea, for being in Seville, Spain, getting ready for a 10-day horse ride across Andalucia. Coverage of the Raid

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

On The Road Again

Tuesday March 25 2008

Yes, it's that time. You know it's time for Steph to get going again, because she's been home for a whole 4 days. You know it's time for me to get going again, because the Raven is waiting in my backpack.

Steph and I are off to Spain today (well, that's the FIRST destination). Steph will be participating in Tierra Al-Andalus, a 10-day ride across Spain, (Lynne Glazer did a great job covering it last year - ), and I'll be covering it.

I'm then staying on in Spain and Portugal for a couple more rides, while Steph jets off to Malaysia... and now Bahrain has requested her presence for a ride in April. It's on the way (jt)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Ride of March

Saturday March 22 2008

On a beautiful Owyhee spring day, Nance and Joannie showed up with Nance's 2 horses, and Karen S brought Gil; Connie and Steph and I saddled up to join them for a mini spring endurance ride from the Teeter Rancho.

And a lovely 3rd day of spring it was, sunny, cool, a bit of a breeze (3 layers for most of us, 5 layers for Steph), 6 fresh horses thinking they were out for a mini-competition. Snowy Owyhee mountains in the background, little yellow buttercups starting to bust out underfoot.

We headed up and over the ridge on our short 'Tevis Trail', one that had gotten a bit narrow over the winter. Connie had said, "This didn't used to scare me, but now it does!" She took a shovel to widen it the other day. Over the next ridge to Spring Ranch Road, where the ranchers had politely hauled out some water for us to drink in three big tanks. (It's really for the cows, turned out to graze on the spring grass). Across now-flowing Hart Creek - which was bone dry a week ago - across Triangle Road to Browns Creek drainage. There's some nice washes over there that keep you out of the wind if it's a nasty day, and this nice trail is part of some of the Owyhee rides.

Except for placid Mac, the rest of the horses were all FULL OF BEANS. They took this as a serious competition. Nance's two horses Jazzbo and Quinn are still living on snow on their north-facing slopes outside of Boise, so they were hot to get out and going in the desert. Karen's horse Gil can get a bit excited in a crowd, and there are certain horses he does not take a shine to. Like Jazzbo. I put Quickie as the buffer between them, which she wasn't all that happy about, but she tolerated it for the first part the ride.

And you know how it goes when you're at the tail end of a long string of horses trotting along - whereas the first horse in the line is trotting along at a steady pace, the rest of the string is like an accordion, with the tail-ender getting it worst: trot, brake, trot, stop, start, trot, stop. I kept Quickie back so we could move along at a steady pace... but she sure didn't like that, because as most horses, she'd rather be right on the heels of the horse in front of her. Of course she doesn't like anyone on HER butt though.

Finneas was having his own problems - worrying about looking good for Quickie and keeping everyone away from her, whereas Quickie just wanted to go in front and go much faster. Finneas got to lead a while which made him temporarily happy, especially when Quickie was right behind him.

After 10 miles Quickie had had enough of being a buffer and tail-ender, and threatened to throw in a buck or two, especially when we went down little dips. Don't let her get her head down! She'd done her share of buffer duty, so I let her go up front the last few miles. I had my hands full keeping her strong, big, fast, natural Orlov trot down to a moderate 10 mph.

When we returned after our 14 mile workout, the horses all got some food and a good roll in the sand. Looks like the trails and horses are shaping up nicely for the first real spring Owyhee endurance ride, the April 19 Tough Sucker.

See you here!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Dear Jose II (by Diego)

Dear Jose,

I was sooooooooooooooooo excited when M said you were finally coming home from Arizona. I couldn't wait to run and romp and play with you because I have been so bored without you. Kazam your half brother is okay, but he's just no substitute.

This new older handsome guy Stormy arrived a few days ago, and I thought he was kind of cool when we met over the fence, so when he got turned out with us, I thought maybe he would play with me. I heard he used to be a racehorse, so I figured he liked to run, so I came running really really fast at him, throwing a buck in mid-stride, and burning a trail of dust behind me, to show him how very fast and athletic I am. I ran right up to his face, but he just turned away from me and I was so surprised my run just fizzled to a walk to a plod. I was kind of sad because my sprint was very impressive, but he just didn't seem to notice. I think he's missing his old buddy Woody, so he doesn't really want to play or have a buddy here, because he thinks maybe Woody will come see him.

So I just couldn't wait till you got back home Jose, you are my best buddy and we could get back to playing. We could run circles around everybody including the new racehorse.

And then yesterday the Big Trailer finally pulled in, and you and Rhett and some new girl got off, and, I was so excited to see you, and - you went in another pen. Why didn't you come to play with me?

Today it's the same - I can see you, but I can't get to you. The closest I can get to you is in the corner of the fences, but I can't find a gate, so I can just stand at the corner and look at you and wish you would come out.

I was so sad today, because I didn't know what else to do but keep going to the corner and looking at you and looking for a gate. I went up to M and she petted me and hugged me and told me you have to stay in the pen a while to make sure you and Rhett and the girl don't get sick again. M said it might only be a few days or a week or two, but even one more day is toooooooooooo long and it made me cry little tears. (Yes, that is a tear in the photo.) Please hurry and don't get sick Jose, because you are so close and I want to play with my best friend.



Friday, March 21, 2008

Just a Good Lookin Horse

Thursday March 20 2008

I've been keeping Stormy in a big paddock with a babysitter, Mac or Kazam, the last two days, where he can sniff the rest of the horses (including butthead Finneas) over the fence. He hasn't really been concerned one way or the other - he's all about eating every tiny blade of green grass and weed that is in the paddock. He hasn't seen green grass in over a year.

Stormy took advantage of our riding today - Connie and I rode Mac and Finneas - getting turned out with Kazam, Diego, and Quickie. Stormy didn't really pay much attention to any of them - he was off exploring, finding and stuffing as much grass as possible into his mouth, and probably looking for his buddy Woody, who he was with constantly in California for the past year.

Diego got caught in the round pen and got all excited when the others left him, then he remembered where the gate was, and came zooming out at a flat-out run (with a buck thrown in mid-stride), heading straight for Stormy. Stormy was unimpressed and uninterested, and I think Diego was a bit sad that his entertaining effort was unnoticed. (He's still waiting for Jose to come home to play.) Stormy walked up to one of the hay bales to check it out, and Quickie pinned her ears and threatened to go after him. He just dodged out of her way and ignored her, and later they rolled together, and she followed him around. (I hope Finneas didn't take special notice of this.)

Connie and I had a nice ride along the rim to check on an old hawk nest - we saw two, neither occupied - giving the horses a good workout, up and down some short steep hills, and counting the few snowflakes making it down here from the snowstorm ahead of us in the mountains.

When we got back to the house, we rode back among the horse herd - and Finneas went after Stormy, twice, with Connie on his back! Connie gave him big time What For, so I put off turning Stormy out there with the whole herd including the big butthead a while longer - at least until I have a truck and trailer here in case somebody needs a vet!

We put Finny and Mac back in the pen a while longer, leaving Stormy out with the other 3 until evening. I followed Stormy around with my camera.

He just makes the whole Owyhee herd look better, doesn't he?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

For the Birds

Wednesday March 19 2008

A Big Storm was supposed to come in - and the weather did say 90% chance of rain, so we might actually get a little - so, not so pleasant to ride (not that we're wimps or anything). And, Stormy can only take so much smooching all day long. So, what to do?

I went birding! Remember the captive riding bird biologist? Karen asked me to come check out golden eagle nests with her (by vehicle), to see if eagles have started nesting - laying and incubating eggs. She's been studying them for many years around here, so she knows where all the territories and nests are. All the nests are on cliffs high above either the Snake River or Sinker Creek. You can see the nests across the rim from you, but you don't really want to stick your neck out over the 1000' rim you're standing on, unless you are a daredevil, which we are not.

In one territory where this pair has been consistently nesting the last few years in one of two nests, and where Karen really expected to see eagles on one of them - there was no sign of eagles, or any activity - "decorating" the nests, or sprucing them up, with fresh greens.

Next territory had about 9 different nests; Karen found the two that have been used the last few years, and they looked like they might have been decorated. Now, looking at eagles nests is not that easy - even with binoculars they are often far away, and often camouflaged well in the cliff, especially if they haven't been used for a few years. You can't always see if a bird is sitting in a nest unless you can get a good position or angle from above it, and even if you do, the bird is often well camouflaged in the nest itself - and you better have a powerful spotting scope on a tripod. Often the birds will sit low down in the nest for hours, so if you don't see any movement, you might think it's empty. Last year when we rode out with Karen to check on a nest, three of us took turns staring through the spotting scope for 30 minutes before one of us realized that the rock we thought we were seeing was actually the head of an eagle on the nest - one of us finally caught the eye blinking.

We didn't have a good angle on the decorated nests, but later we saw 2 golden eagles soaring above the territory - an indication they are not yet (or maybe won't be) nesting. She'll come back out in another week or two to check.

It was a great bird day all around. We saw approximately 9 eagle nests, 2 golden eagles, 1 rough-legged hawk (which hovered very near us in the strong wind, then sat on a pole, giving us a great view), 2 turkey vultures (just saw the first ones of this season 2 days ago), 1 prairie falcon (they should be getting close to nesting), 1 red-tailed hawk, 1 northern harrier. And the real treat was a stop by a long-eared owl roost, where they congregate to sleep during the day. Karen had seen 8 at one time in there; today we stopped and walked through the wash, and didn't see any. We saw lots of whitewash and lots of pellets in the thick trees, but no owls - until we backtracked. Then we flushed 4 of them. Which was hard to believe, as I thought we'd scanned the trees we passed very closely, but obviously we'd walked right past them. Amazingly camouflaged they are.

It was a good way to pass the day if one wasn't on horseback.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My Prince Has Come

Tuesday March 19 2008


Finally, he arrived, last night just before dark.

Those of you who guessed - no, he's not an Arabian or an endurance horse, or just a guy.

It's my beloved horse, MY horse Stormy, 16-year-old Tia's Desert Storm, Thoroughbred ex-racehorse, grandson of the great Mr Prospector. Not such a great racehorse himself, Stormy - an average-Joe working racehorse, though he more than earned his keep - but he IS The Most Beautiful Horse On The Planet.

I was his groom at Emerald Downs racetrack in Washington in 1996 and 1997. My housemate kept saying, "You're going to end up with this horse," and I kept saying, "Oh no I'm not," (didn't want a horse, couldn't afford a horse, had no place to keep a horse), and I ended up with this horse in 1999.

Stormy followed me to Bridgeport California in 1999 where I worked for the Forest Service in the summers. He eventually did some work with the FS pack horses, leading strings into the Sierra Nevadas a few times. He was great in those wicked thunderstorms we got there - whereas I was terrified as we rode through them, he never flinched. He was also involved in a rescue of one of our pack horses that flipped with his load 40 feet down a mountain. The next few summers he worked as a wrangler's horse on a dude ranch - when his navicular didn't lame him up. In the winters Stormy would move to Ridgecrest California where he hung out with me and endurance horses.

Stormy loves me, but our post-racetrack relationship is built on a shaky foundation of misunderstanding. When I got Stormy, I told him he was "retired." I meant "retired from racing." He thought I meant, "retired from everything but eating." His work with the Forest Service pack string, and as a wrangler's horse certainly was not his idea, though he did flirt with and blink his big brown eyes at the girl wranglers, and they fought over riding him. When I ride him now in his later years (navicular permitting), that's certainly not his idea either. He'd rather just look pretty (which he does well) and eat (which he does very well).

Throughout the years, I've left Stormy for weeks, and months, at a time. I've had a few horses get upset and give me the cold shoulder after I have left them and returned, but not Stormy. Every time I return, he gives me a special nicker because he's happy to see me. It probably helps that I always come bearing gifts (treats), but he really does love me anyway.

When I started working for last March, and travelled more than ever and became more homeless than ever, I left Stormy in Ridgecrest, with Woody - one of his former retired pack horse buddies, in Shirley's care. I saw him for half an hour in September - 6 months ago - and not at all 6 months before that. He knew my voice the second he heard it, and he nickered his special hi to me. Somehow, he always knows I'll be back.

When he got off the van here last night, it was as if he was expecting me at the end of this epic trip. I was here waiting for him, just as he knew I would be. I put him in a pen with Mac, and had to go out and see him every half hour. He interrupts his eating (his first grass blades in 2 years!) to walk up to me for hugs, and he stands there accepting his kisses (then goes back to eating).

It's still hard for me to believe I have a horse in the first place after all these years, and now it's really hard to believe I can once again look out my window and see him!

And it will be back to our business as usual: in a week, I'll be leaving him again for a month...

But he'll forgive me again as usual.

Stormy photo gallery

Monday, March 17, 2008

Stood Up

Monday March 17 2008

That's right, after all that preparation and primping and anticipation yesterday, he stood me up.

Not his fault though - truck trouble - and supposedly he's not too far from here. He might still make it. If he's really coming.

But there's no answer when I call, so I don't know what to do, but just keep waiting and hoping.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Can't Stand Waiting

Sunday March 16 2008

Today, I have a BIG DATE. I couldn't really believe for the last month that it was happening, and since it became definite, I've been excited for days. Last night I washed my hair, and I couldn't sleep. Today I put on some fresh clothes, dabbed a bit of molasses behind one ear and apple behind the other... and waited, paced, watched out the window, checked the phone for messages, paced, bit my fingernails, sat around, got back up and paced, got butterflies in my stomach waiting for him to get here. Should I walk up the road to meet him? No, that would seem too anxious. I'm like a dog, staring out the window down the road at that spot he's going to first appear.

I expected him here by 4 PM, and that passed, and 5, and 6... what if, after all that, he really isn't coming?

More pacing and staring out the window. Can't sit and get anything done because I have to jump up and run back to the window every two minutes.

Connie leaves on a dog walk without me because I am waiting... the sun is getting close to sinking behind the rim... I'm outside putzing around because I can't sit still, and I miss the phone call: He'll be a few hours later, he was delayed by weather and truck problems.

But he's still on his way. I expect it will be dark when he gets here, and he's going to be pretty wiped out... but he should really be here in a few hours...

Friday, March 14, 2008


Friday March 14 2008

Good thing the Diva brought her attendant with her to the Owyhee Spring Riding Spa.

Today this visiting Diva gets up at noon (OK, it was 10:30)(she blames it on the cold - she's awake early but it's too hard to get out of the warm bed), and wants to go riding.

Well, she thinks she's in Egypt where you just sit like a Queen while everything is done for you short of boosting your butt up into the saddle. She sent her old decrepit dog Zico out to fetch her horse Finneas, saddle him, and lead Finneas up to her to get on, after she was done with her chai tea and her People (I mean National Geographic) magazine reading.

Once she got in the saddle, we three Queens headed out on a partly cloudy cool morning for a proper ride. Our first plan of going up the training wash was aborted when we came upon two girlie cows and one tiny baby cow - born last night or this morning. We gave them a wide berth and abandoned that wash for Blond Cow wash further east. We passed more cows - and another tiny baby - apparently cows like to choose the worst weather to introduce their offspring into the world.

At the end of Blond Cow Wash, at the top of Tamara's Hill, we suddenly had some dark blue clouds obscuring the mountains and heading our way. We'd be heading back home into those clouds, and it looked like we were going to get wet. Well, it makes us whine a bit when you have to go out into the rain to ride; but once you're already out riding and it starts raining, it's not so bad at all.

Two miles from home, it started spitting little ice balls and rain and snowflakes. But the horses strode boldly on through the weather... and by the time we got back home, the squall had passed and the sun was back out.

And as the Diva dismounted and took up her cushy position reading in the beach chair in the yard, Zico untacked her horse and took him out in the pasture and turned him loose.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Naughty Horses

Thursday March 13 2008

Thursday morning: Connie's all ready to ride (well, after sleeping till noon)(OK, 11 AM), but the horses had other ideas. After noon and a few cups of coffee, she ventured a ways up the canyon with the dogs to get them. She got up to the horses, gave Finneas a carrot, tried to bribe them along back to the house. They followed her back to the upper gate, stopped short, and as she called them from the green gate - the one that gets shut to keep them on the acres near the house - they wheeled and ran away.

Was it the wind that made them flighty? Or did they have a discussion: "Connie's back - that means we are going to have to RIDE! RUN GUYS!"

Connie came back with the dismal horse report, and I said "I'll go get them." I used my foolproof method - a bucket of oats and the 4-wheeler: ride out there, call them, hold the bucket up in the air, Finneas comes running because he's a pig, and the rest follow. Last time I gunned the 4-wheeler all the way back with them galloping down the road behind me.

They hadn't stopped running from Connie till they were three-quarters of the way up the canyon, and on the other side of the creek, no less. They saw me in the distance, I stopped, held the oat bucket up and yelled "Hey Guys! Finneas!" which always gets them running.

They started running alright - further up the canyon! I could only stand there, completely astonished, as I realized there would be no catching the horses today unless they came back down on their own.

Back at the house Connie dejectedly took off her chaps and helmet and settled on the couch with People magazines, while the wind picked up a gale outside, and I sat still dumbstruck at the behavior of those naughty horses.

Later, we saw the horses had come back down by the green gate on their own... but not yet INSIDE the green gate. Connie ventured out with a halter, easily caught Finneas this time (with a carrot), and hopped on him, and trotted right on in with the herd. I penned them up (with oats) and ran up to shut the green gate. "That green gate is staying shut while I'm here!" Connie said. "No more chasing naughty horses up the canyon!"

She rode Finneas a bit bareback then figured she better put a saddle on him, just in case he decided to buck. It was spooky windy, and it was his first time in over 3 months, since his accident, to be ridden.

I sent her off on Finneas into the wind, (fair weather rider here) and caught them after their ride up the canyon and back.


Thursday March 13 2008

It's 9 AM this morning; Connie and Zico are still out in the silver bullet sleeping - I expect they will till noon! as it's cloudy and rained a bit last night.

I fed the 3 dogs about 8:30, and I was sitting here at the table looking out, and I saw Girlie kind of slinking out toward the horse fence away from the house. If she'd just been walking I wouldn't have noticed, but she was slinking - and I noticed she had something in her mouth.

Uh oh - the cat?? A bird?? No... a horse brush!

She kept slinking toward the fence and glancing back over her shoulder at the house, slinking, glancing, guilt written all over her face and posture... She went under the fence, turned right, toward the mountains, kept slinking and glancing back, and slunk her way about 30 yards. She got to a tall post out there - started digging, and buried the brush! I watched while she dug with her front paws, carefully laid the brush in, and then pushed the dirt back over the hole with her nose, from all angles so it was smoothed out. Then Girlie slunk back to the house - stopping to sniff at two poles along the way (Hmmm, wonder what's buried there!?) and came back into the yard, still glancing at the house. Then she sniffed around the hitching post where we shod horses the other day, where she found a good hoof clipping, and took that to the gate and buried it at the post there.

So, now I have a lead on what might have happened to 1) that little bag of two carrots I left laying on the ground by the tack room I was going to feed Mac after we rode the other day (I thought I was nuts - couldn't find it anywhere) 2) one of my spurs that has completely disappeared 3) the TV REMOTE CONTROL!!! (Girlie WAS in the house the night it disappeared 5 months ago...)

I better not leave my Raven sitting outside anywhere!

Bee Gees Us

Wednesday March 12 2008

The house is now full of boxes of food, the fridge is stuffed... Connie is back for a couple of weeks of riding!

I was taking the dogs for their evening walk and we were halfway up our little Tevis trail when we heard her arrive. We turned around and went back to see her and Zico - they were already visiting with the horse herd who'd come up from somewhere - Finneas must have heard Connie's voice. Connie didn't even recognize her beloved Finneas at first - he's now brown (between coats) and not so chunky. It wasn't until she checked out his back leg owie that she'd read so much about that she knew it must be him, and when he started kissing her on the lips (begging for carrots) she knew it was definitely him.

We unloaded her truck - boxes and ice chests of food - the fridge is stuffed to the gills - and tubs of clothes and Sun magazines (hmmm... maybe she is moving in), and then, since she and Zico had been in the car for 9 hours, we took all four dogs on a walk. Up Pickett Creek as it got dark, we caught up on things and talked horses and cougars - like the old cougar poo in the yard, the possible cougar kill (a deer) up the creek in December.

It was a nice night - cool, no breeze, and a sliver of a moon just making it light enough to see that we were following the road. As we neared the entrance to the canyon 1 1/2 miles down, we were yakking away - the cougar thoughts still in the air - it happened very rapidly - we suddenly heard this Big Thing right behind us, and as we wheeled around this Huge Black Thing was right on top of us, and the adrenaline shot down my legs and up my spine and made my scalp prickle and we both screamed!

It was the whole horse herd, scaring the Bee Gees Us out of us, having run up behind us - soundless on the sandy road, Finneas - looking very black in the dark - in the lead.


The horses stopped short because we scared them with our screaming, Finneas looking rather mortified, not sure if he'd done something bad - he usually gets kisses and hugs when he comes up, not screams.

After we recovered our senses, but with legs still shaking from the adrenaline rush, we petted them all, and turned around to go back - continuously glancing back over our shoulders.

There COULD be cougars out here, you know.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Captive Rider

Sunday March 9 2008


Isn't it great when you ride with a doctor or dentist or lawyer - one of those useful sort of people? (Me being of the use-less variety). Be it kindness, ego, or resignedness they will likely answer your questions when you want to pick their brains, because that's their lot in life, being one of Those People, and, they are in a rather captive situation when you ride with them for 5 or 10 or 50 miles. What are they going to do, pretend they can't hear you for 50 miles?

Riding with Karen S, a Newly-Retired bird biologist is great; it's like having a captive doctor along. Instead of, "So, Doctor, I've got this problem..." it's "So, Karen, I have this feather/nest/skull..." and "What bird is that we're hearing?" and "When will the owls begin nesting?" and "Do the eagles prefer a tree or a cliff for a nest?"

Carol and I rode with Karen twice this weekend. While doing a loop toward the Snake River one day, and doing a loop toward Brown's Creek the other, we girls discussed birds and things. Like: the intricately woven hanging nests made of horse hair and baling twine, hanging in the bare poplar trees, waiting for the orioles to come back in May and the leaves to come out in March or April; Hoss the Raven and his girlfriend and how young ravens will nest (earliest known by Karen is two years old, and Hoss is 3 now); and the possibility of scouting eagles' nests from horseback in two weeks.

And, today, fittingly, we saw two golden eagles, and a high swirling column of at least 13 ravens.

Meanwhile the boys established Who's Boss Today of the trails. My horse Mac, usually low man on the totem pole wherever he goes, showed some gumption and enthusiasm on the Snake River day, pinning his ears several times at both easy-going August and cranky Gil, bulling his way to the front several times and merrily zipping along ahead in his big easy trot.

The boys had a couple of good rides, and I had some good rides, soaking up the bird info. I highly recommend riding with a captive Bird Biologist.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Four Queens

Thursday March 6 2008

The snow is gone (down here), the cold wind eased, the ragged coughing fits have ended - we're back in the saddle again!

The Four Queens headed up Pickett Creek, aiming for the southeast upper flats. Plan A was to avoid the half-broken gate Carol had to jerry-rig closed the other day, to keep the cows out and our horses in. "Let's go into the canyon and head up on top that way."

There's a nice amount of water flowing at the upper part of the canyon here, and the horses waded their way through the creek into the canyon. It was quite brushy and overgrown in places since the last time we'd been through there in October.

Some places, there was no way around, so Justy just bulldozed her way through thick branches and screens of brush, Carol fending off branches; and after everything snapped back into place, Quickie did the same, bulling her way through while I threw myself down on her neck to avoid getting ripped off of her backwards.

There was more ducking and dodging till finally we came to a downed tree.

We four queens stopped and looked at it. Carol got off to try to pull the tree out of the way, but that wasn't happening. But we didn't want to turn around and go back to That Gate.

Plan B. "Let's try going through the brush back there, up on the bank." The 2 mares hopped up out of the creek and into a thick stand of 5-foot tall sagebrush. Which ended in a solid wall of quailbush. Carol and Justy tried to bull their way through that but after 5 yards Justy had enough and turned around.

Plan C. I hopped off Quickie and bushwhacked around the other way, and came to a wall of rock and impenetrable quailbush. No horses going that way.

Plan D. Carol got off and tried the Plan B non-path again to stomp a path through the quailbush. We just had 10 more yards to get through and we were in the clear! But that wasn't going to happen. We four looked at the thick brush barrier. "If we were real cowboys, we'd get through that." "If these were real cow horses, they'd get through that."

But we are not cowboys, and our horses are not cowponies; we are queens, out for an easy ride. So, though you just hate to turn around and backtrack, we did just that, and headed for Plan E, the bad gate.

Which, after all that thwarted bushwhacking , sure was pretty darn easy to open. It's all in your perspective.

Through the gate, up onto the flats, we cruised through the miles on perfect trails in the cool sunny day, with snow-covered mountains framing our view in front and behind, the horses seeming to enjoy being back on the trail as much as we enjoyed being back in the saddle.

It felt great!