Tuesday, September 30, 2008

2008 Owyhee Canyonlands 5-Day Ride

Tuesday September 23 2008

Another fall arrives and with it, another renewal of the Owyhee Canyonlands 5-day ride in the high desert of southern Idaho, and another gathering of a great fun group of endurance and trail riding friends, and a diverse group of horses (and 2 mules).

It's starting to get a bit harder to justify driving anywhere to endurance rides nowadays, but they came anyway: from Canada, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, and California - many of them took two days to get here - and of course Idaho. Attendance was down a bit, but the enthusiasm was high. There was the regular jovial Northwest group that comes year after year, and there were some newcomers, some of them part of a big group of Gaiters - riders on gaited riding horses, Tennessee Walkers and Paso Finos.

Not only was the unusual gait of those horses evident (they pace instead of trot, a sort of rolling motion interesting for the vets to watch 'trotting out'), but the presence of the riding group was conspicuous by the rousing cheers every night at the awards dinners: "Go Gaiters!"

There were the usual appreciated Owyhee amenities: nightly dinners by Blue Canoe Catering (Debra and Al), flush toilets, and hot showers. A good group of vets - Gene Nance, Robert Washington, and Michael Peterson - were here again, and the regular riders knew that at least one or two of those dinner nights would probably have an educational lecture by Dr Peterson, and, if we were really lucky, one of his famed Cowboy Poems.

The weather was just about perfect - mid 40's in the mornings, and high 70's to low 80's during the day. And if you were lucky enough to ride on Days 1 and 2, your trails were perfect - we had a good dumping of rain on the Sunday before the ride (the first time it's rained since oh, about 1942), which packed down the horrendous dust we've had all summer. The trails were pretty dusty by Day 5, but really, that's part of riding anyway, so there wasn't much complaining, just extra Ahhs and Ohhhs after the evening's hot showers.

The trails were mostly over BLM land, altitude around 3200', through picturesque canyons and washes and on flats and scenic ridges; crossing streams and following old trails through fiercely blooming yellow rabbit brush (conducive to sneezing). Starting times for the rides were a leisurely 8 AM for the 50's and 9 AM for the 30's

If you happened to not be tired enough every night to pass out, you could hear the resident great horned owls and screech owls hooting... but after the first day of riding, even the horses were sleeping soundly through the night.

Monday, September 22, 2008

That's Alotta Bull

Monday September 22 2008

It happened again - another of Rohl's bulls hanging out up our Pickett Creek Canyon. (You think it has anything to do with us leaving the gate wide open up there?)

THIS time, I stayed off all equines, cowhorses or no, and Steph stayed off all equines and took the 4-wheeler to help Rohl and his cowhorse and cowdogs.

When they'd brought the bull down to house, I heard Rohl say, "He's a jumper," so I hung by my dead-lame horse in his pen to keep him quiet. I didn't want the bull jumping in the pen with my horse although I'm not sure exactly what I would have done if he did. "Go away bull! Shoo!" At least this bull was smaller than the last one, but he was still a BULL.

Instead the bull jumped/fell over a fence into our yard and Rohl followed him out the driveway. The bull then went through a tape fence into the grass pasture where Rohl finally got a rope on him. His horse and dogs held him till two more cowboys pulled up in a second trailer. "Where you guys been, on a hay ride?"

They jumped out, quickly unloaded their cowhorses and left the trailer open for the bull. Rohl's saddle was about to slip over his horse's neck from holding the bull, and he had to let go just as Cowboy #2 got his rope on him.

While a small crowd of endurance riders gathered to watch, Rohl got the end of his rope back, Cowboy #3 helped run both the ropes through the front of the trailer; and Rohl and Cowboy #2 pulled from the front while Cowboy #3 encouraged the bull from behind by pulling on his tail and trying to shove him forward. He finally hopped in.

Cowboys #2 and #3 loaded their horses in the compartments behind the bull; Rohl loaded up his steaming horse in his trailer and they headed off down the road.

We really ought to shut that gate up the canyon, so we don't get any more bulls here at the Spa, especially with the endurance ride starting in 2 days... but I don't think the gate works anyway.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Wednesday September 17 2008

Wow - I had the best ride ever today on Quickie, with Carol and August. Quickie usually doesn't have too much enthusiasm going out - especially if we're on our own, so I'm still rewarding (bribing) her, with carrots in my pack. (August has also figured out where the carrots are - he reaches over while we're walking or trotting alongside and tries to unzip the pouch they are in.)

Today we headed out a new wash I'd never been in (henceforth known as August Wash), and Quickie willingly enough kept up with August as we wound several miles down this wash, slightly downhill all the way, to the highway.

There we took a carrot break, and went along the highway till we hit a road for the return trip. When Quickie - half Arabian, half Orlov trotter - somewhat reluctantly heads out on the trail, she Arabian-trots. When she's headed home and she's into it, the Orlov comes out.

The Orlov breed was developed in Russia in the late 1700's when Count Alexei Orlov crossed Danish warmblood mares on Arabian stallions. They're popular in Russia and Scandinavia now for harness racing, and many are used around the world in driving sports. They're described as "sure-footed, endurable, robust, strong, tough," with "impressive trotting action" - all of which fits Quickie to a T, mostly on the way home.

Quickie's sire was Nature's Ballet, aka "Blue," who was owned the latter half of his life by Lari Shea (see her full story on Nature's Ballet). Blue was a son of Natourschik ("Nature Lover"), a 17-hand Orlov stallion donated as a thank you gift to an American by the Russian Premier, Nikita Khrushchev, in 1959.

Two other Orlov stallions were donated to complete a "Troika", or hitch of three stallions pulling a carriage, where the center horse trots, and the two outside horses canter with their heads and necks bent exaggeratedly to the outside - see this amazing picture. Natourschik was the center horse in his Troika, which toured around the US for a while.

Lari got Nature's Ballet - Blue - when he was 14. Over his endurance career, Blue completed Tevis 5 times in 5 attempts, and completed 2000 miles of the 3000 mile Great American Horse Race in 1976 (New York to California in 100 days).

Steph bought Nature's Quicksilver - Quickie, and Nature's Kruschev - Krusty, (both by Blue) from Lari Shea, as a 5 and 4-year-old. Krusty was a huge black gelding - 16 hands and (recently) 1250 lbs; he had a trot as fast as Quickie, and he competed in the 1999 Pan Americans in Canada (finished 9th), the 2000 World Endurance Championship in France 2000, and the World Cup in Dubai in 2001.

Quickie, now 18, has a bit of an attitude, (the carrots go a long way in convincing her she wants to still work), and she'd never ever have participated in a threesome pulling a carriage, had anybody been foolish enough to try. But she can fly at the trot when she wants to.

And we flew on the way home today. And we were maybe only going 3/4 speed, a big ground devouring trot, (maybe 15-16 mph?) but she kept it up, mile after mile. Carol and August were at a hand-gallop to keep up with us. When Quickie needed a breather, she'd slow down to a walk for a short stretch, then on her own she kicked back into high gear. Even at half-speed, I was just amazed. I let her choose her own speed - she didn't have to work hard, and she could have walked if she wanted, or she could have gone at an easier, moderate trot, but she didn't want.

She was probably marveling at her own great trot, and I know she was having fun, too.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Pledge Allegiance

Thursday September 11 2008

I Pledge Allegiance

...to the Carrot...

There's absolutely nothing wrong with using carrots for bribes, or rewards, or just plain treaties, you just ask any horse around here.

Finny and Jose get them to learn to bow.

Diego gets them because he's just cute, and Stormy gets them because he's soooooooo good lookin.

Dudley gets them because he gets a reward for being penned up so he doesn't eat so much.

Mac and August get them out on rides because they are great treaties.

Quickie gets them out on solo rides because she diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiislikes going out on solo rides, so I use them to reward, some might say bribe, her along. I'll say "Whoa" to her after a hard stretch, she'll stop, and turn her head back and wait for a carrot. Sometimes she'll stop on her own and turn her head back for a carrot. Today, for example, was a 3-carrot ride.

It gets her down the trail and keeps her from depositing me along the way.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Owyhee Trails

Monday September 7 2008

Pikes Peak, one of the best-known 14,000' peaks in Colorado (but only the 30th highest), was around a looooooooong time before it got named after Zebulon Pike, who first tried to climb it in 1806. Of course, that's not counting any Indians, who likely climbed it long before then, and ignoring the fact that the Ute Indians already had a fine name for it, Tavakiev (Sun Mountain).

What's it take to get at least a trail around here in Owyhee named after ME? Well, all it took was going and raking it for an endurance ride. My trail is at the end of Pickett Creek Canyon. You'll be coming down it on two of the days of the Owyhee Canyonlands (and notice the absence of rocks when you do!)

I've taken to naming a lot of the trails around here. Makes it easier than, "Let's take that trail over that way..." "Which one?" "You know, the one down there where the trails fork..." "Which trail fork?" "Well the one after that little hill..." "Which hill?" "Well, the one before the draw..." "Which draw?"

There are: the Training Wash (basic uphill sand wash for getting out of shape horses started back), Brown's Creek loop (in the Brown's Creek drainage), the Tevis Trail (20 yards of a steep narrow trail that leads out of here), the Rim Trail (our most scenic trail, on which we only take people we really like and who will really appreciate it), Hart Creek (the other really scenic trail we only take people we like on, or people who can sit in the saddle a long time, or people who don't get nervous on knife edge ridges - though really, it's not that bad), Blond Cow Wash (a blonde cow was in it once), Dog Trail (which goes above Linda's house), No-Dog Trail (to avoid the dogs from Linda's house on Dog Trail), Tamara's Hill (the first hill Tamara conquered here on horseback), the Badlands Loop (hills that look like the Badlands in South Dakota), the Bilbo Baggins loop (I rode Billy, a cute little hobbit-like horse on this trail), the Frodo Baggins wash (a secret branch off the Bilbo Baggins loop that we hope no motorcycles ever discover!), the Candelabra Gate (which is one way to get to the Bilbo Baggins loop), and so on.

So now, when I say "Let's do the 3 Cheese Layer ride," everybody knows it means to go out the Tevis trail, take the Training Wash up, cross over and take Spring Ranch Road Wash down, take a left at the Water Tank Crossing, and at Four Corners turn left up Blonde Cow Wash till you get up on Steph's Ridge and head home via the Training Wash crossing and Tevis.

They might not show up on any Topozone or Google maps, but at least everybody around here knows the trails I'm talking about. But we'll give you maps at the Owyhee Canyonlands endurance ride, so you don't have to memorize all my trail names before you ride.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Takin' One For the Owyhee Team

Sunday September 6 2008

It's September already, which means fall (MY FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR!) is coming, as is the 5-day Owyhee Canyonlands Pioneer endurance ride September 24-28. Time to start getting ready.

John's constructing something, which looks to me like it could possibly be a Teeter Bar and Saloon; Steph made the maps for the 260 miles. And she's out raking. I believe that it is entirely possible that one year, the entire 260 miles of the Owyhee Canyonlands ride will be rock-free, setting a new high standard for ride managers and organizers the world 'round.

Today I took the 2 fastest dogs, a saw, and brush cutters, and raced the 4-wheeler down to the end of our canyon and started clearing a passage through Pickett Creek Canyon. It will just be a short piece on one of the days - very rocky, but it's SO scenic, that Steph just had to include this little portion.

I may be really sorry I volunteered to do this job. While the dogs were staying the heck out of my way, I was sawing branches and tree trunks and dragging them out of the creek, and clipping branches and vines - clingy insistent gnarly vines - vines with 3 leaves, when a long-buried phrase started ringing in my head, "Leaves of 3, let them be." Uh oh. Could these be poison ivy? Poison oak? Surely not! Although... I have seen poison oak up this canyon before...

Well - too late now, somebody's gotta do it, and I've already got it all over my arms - and wrapped around my legs, and - eek! Now on my face. Dang! Nothing to do but keep ripping the vines out, so horses and riders won't get them all over themselves when they come through.

I brushed up to the turn up out of the canyon, flushing a long-eared owl on the way : ).

The dogs and I headed back to the house, where I hosed myself off good with cold water, hoping it wasn't really poison oak or ivy I'd gotten into.

Don't worry, OCP riders, I've got your back. The canyon passage will be clear of questionable vines for you when you get here so you can concentrate on the scenery!

So how long does it take before poison ivy or oak starts to itch?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

How's Them Apples

Saturday September 6 2008

Yesterday evening, Stormy was hanging off by himself, grazing under some cottonwood trees by the creek. I was on the way out on a walk with the dogs and stopped to pet him, and saw he was chewing and sort of foaming at the mouth - what the - !?

Rather frantically, I grabbed his head and looked at his mouth - and he spits out a small red apple. Apple - who put an apple here!? And such a small apple? I looked up, and there above me - an apple tree full of little red apples. What? I've never seen that before!

I asked Steph and John later if they knew we had an apple tree right out there. "Apple tree?"

I walk near that group of trees every day - although maybe this was the first time the tree produced apples. First time, anyway, I've seen that the horses found the apple tree, too.

Anyway, I picked some from the branches I could reach, brought them in and tried them (quite tart!) and today I made Apple Crisp. Tastes sooooooooo good, especially with ice cream!

Stormy got the bowl of little apple cores : )

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Owyhee Step Recovery Program

September 4 2008

I have a Problem.

I've tried and I've tried to cure myself of it, but it just doesn't work. I JUST CAN'T STOP IT.

Some of you know what I'm talking about.

It's leaving the water on when I'm filling up troughs. I've left rivers and floods in paddocks everywhere I've lived - Texas, California, Washington, Idaho. I often leave the water on for hours. Once (OK, maybe twice, or... more than that... ) I left it on overnight and flooded a pen - the horse was left standing in a tiny dry corner of the paddock - though at least much of the water eventually ran off into the creek and got re-used somewhere else - so it wasn't THAT big of a deal, right?

This Problem is not quite an addiction, but it still requires some kind of a Step Program to help me change my ways. At least I have admitted I am powerless over the Water Problem, (step one) and I cannot control my compulsion without help.

Steph THINKS she has the solution. She says, "Just STAND THERE while you're filling the trough!" But - stand there for 5 minutes waiting for a trough to fill? I CAN'T! I have feed to mix, horses to feed, horses to move around, fly bonnets to put on or take off, fly bonnets to find (after Mac pulls Jose's off), heads to rub, ears to scratch, ears to smear with Swat, smooches to pass out, hugs to share, buckets to pick up, hay to fetch and put out for Finny and the Great Orange Pumpkin who are STARVING and can't wait ONE MINUTE LONGER for a water trough to fill before they eat, gates to open and close, and on and on... see why I can't just stand there and waste five minutes? (And that's just one trough - there are at least 5 to keep filled. That would take 25 minutes!!)

I've tried what one magazine suggested (a national magazine - see, I am not the only person with this problem), leaving a hair band on the faucet, and when I turn on the water, I put the band around my wrist, to remind me to turn the water off; when I turn the water off, I replace the hair band on the faucet. Well, that doesn't work, because I end up - while walking off and doing other chores - pulling my hair back into a pony tail with the hair band that happens to be on my wrist, because it gets in my way, and I forget all about the real purpose of the hair band and the water I've left on.

Even when I've tried standing there and watching the trough fill, then okay, it's done, Turn Off The Water, and I walk toward the water spigot - but have to go through a gate first - and immediately space out that I didn't actually shut the handle off and I go inside and hours later somebody finds the back pen flooded. Or, one time I actually waited (and fretted) there and watched the trough fill for 3 1/2 minutes (couldn't stand it any longer), and I actually turned off the switch - I clearly remember turning off the switch - and went in the house, and Steph found the front yard flooded hours later, because I'd TURNED OFF THE WRONG SWITCH.

See, even when I DO stand there to turn off the water, it just doesn't happen.

As for the recovery steps, the Sponsor thing is not happening for me. Steph, trying to be my advisor by suggesting I stand there and wait for the trough to fill - just doesn't work. I try to make amends for my errors, live a new life with a new code of water behavior - but it's really hopeless - hasn't happened my whole life and I don't see things improving.

John (who has also admitted to forgetting and leaving water on) suggested just putting the water on at a trickle into the troughs, since I'm not going to stand there and wait anyway, and since I'm going to run the trough over anyway. I said maybe I could remember to do that, so that when the water runs over for hours, it won't flood so bad. This is the second big Step in my Recovery - or should I maybe call it my Redirectional program - at least reduce the damage.

On the other hand, as a benefit, my Water Problem helps keep the dust down, albeit in a very localized area. Right? Maybe I don't need to reform.

Come to think of it, maybe I don't even have a problem.

Old Selam - Day 2

Sunday August 31 2008

Back in 1862 Moses Splawn and George Grimes discovered gold in this area, starting the stampede to this part of the Boise Basin - and Grimes got the creek named after him that we are camped on and riding along. Two miles north of New Centerville, (the "town" we are camped outside of), was Centerville, a booming mining town in those days. All that's left now are a few pieces of lumber where there were once 3000 people and a hotel, stores, stables and saloons. An old stage road is nearby, linking to some other old ghost towns. Today, obvious evidence of the gold rush is remains of the extensive placer mining for miles along Grimes Creek. You can even clearly see the dredged up creek beds on Google Earth. What we didn't do back then to get at the riches in the earth - and what we still don't do now to do so. We rode along and crossed the torn up creek during much of today's ride.

Jose, who had been left at the trailer yesterday and probably logged 25 miles running in his pen, was so worried he'd be left behind today, that when I went in the pen this morning to put a halter on Rhett, he came up first and stuck his nose in the halter. "Don't worry Jose, you get to go today with Uncle Rhett!" We sent Mac home with Carol and Rick, so Mac wouldn't have to fret in his pen by himself while we were gone.

Today's trail had some hills but in general was flatter and easier - and just as nice, through Ponderosa pine forests on nice old logging roads. Steph and I fairly flew through the first 20 mile loop. Or, at least I thought we were flying, till we heard some steam-engine-sounding thing on hoofbeats bearing down on us (Jose heard him first, was trying to look over his shoulder). It was Dick Root on his huge handsome (some might debate me on that) half-mustang Rocky, zipping right by us with a huge trot. We followed after him around the next bend - but he was already gone, no horse, no dust, nothing!

We did come to one very steep slick uphill climb that Jose and Rhett clawed their way up; I was sure glad the rain that threatened last night (with thunder!) only lasted a few dust-spattering minutes, because this would have been heck to climb if it had been wet. The horses expended a lot of energy getting up this - luckily it was the only real hard steep hill of the day.

Back in camp we had a 45-minute hold before our next 15-mile loop, a repeat of yesterday's first loop. Rhett was getting tired now, yesterday's hills having taken much of the steam out of his engine, so our pace slowed down. Rhett would run out of gas going up the hills, and he could feel his hocks on the downhills, so we'd slow to a walk whenever Rhett felt like it. Jose wasn't really in trail attacking mode today, preferring instead to follow or go beside Rhett. Plus, I he likes to sight-see. If we're walking along, he'll stop on a little rise, and turn to gaze behind him, and around him. Not an Ohmigod-there's-a-cougar-back-there look, but a taking in of the scenery.

It was cooler today, with a bank of clouds headed our way, and the wind picking up - the cold front coming in. It looked briefly like we might get rained on, but the clouds bypassed us, and it stayed sunny and pleasantly cool the rest of the day.

Back in camp for another 45 minute hold, then back out on the trail for the last 15 mile loop, part of it a backwards repeat of today's first loop. As we were going out, here came Laurie Wells, finishing the 30, hobbling in on foot beside her horse, wearing a knee brace on her left leg. Sure, her knee hurt, but she won the 30! (And finished 2nd yesterday).

We communed with nature today, beyond riding through and appreciating the beautiful trees in the forest. Heading away from camp on the last loop, we disturbed two ospreys that were having little birdies for lunch. We stopped a few times on the trail for a treat - thimbleberries! Some of them were just ripe and ready to eat - bright red and sweet-tart and velvety. I gave one to Jose but he wasn't impressed. Jose found a nice red-tailed hawk tail feather - which I stopped to pick up for him - and not a quarter mile down the trail, he found a wing feather - which I also stopped to pick up for him. And we saw a coyote just off the trail (we tried to stretch our imagination into making him a wolf, but we couldn't) - could it have been the one that almost dumped Brian off his horse yesterday?

The last part of the last loop was very pleasant, and flat, but seemed to stretch out a long ways too... maybe because my knees were starting to hurt. Rather it's my kneecaps, where it feels like they've been busted with a hammer. It mostly comes on from riding a lot at the walk (they killed me when I led pack strings), and though we didn't walk excessively this weekend, nevertheless I did ride a hundred miles (almost), and there were a lot of downhills. It was the right knee that was becoming almost unbearable by the time we reached camp (but I bet you, if I'd have had 50 miles to go, it wouldn't have become intolerable till mile 49 1/2), and I had to ride Jose right up to Keith the vet, and rather slither off Jose, landing on my one (questionably) good leg.

As Laurie Wells sat in a comfortable lawn chair with her leg still resting in the brace, her husband Paul came up to help me. "I can trot him out for you!" just like he did for gimpy Laurie. Good thing, because I couldn't put any weight at all on my right leg for a few minutes. People were a bit concerned, but I said it would go away (it always does). I couldn't complain too much (I couldn't walk, that was all), because think of the how the horses were feeling the hills in their muscles and joints. Steph trotted Jose out for me, and he looked great, which was the important thing. I hobbled beside him back to the trailer, and after a half hour, my kneecap had returned to normal. The horses contentedly buried their heads up to their eyeballs in horse feed.

Tonight's human dinner, anther potluck, was smaller but still delicious. It was colder too, with the front and the wind, everybody coming dressed in layers. Cindy Bradley brought a potato dish that was to die for. Tom Noll insisted the name was "Funeral Potatoes," but "Cindy's Old Selam Taters" sounded so much better! Oscar, whose land we were camped on, dished out ice cream to go with a cake, and Cini Baumhoff had supplied various flavors of Dorothy's Fruit Syrups that her family makes and that are also to die for, especially the Razzleberry that I had to wrestle Liz Smallwood over. Luckily she was distracted by calling out the ride results so I got an extra helping. Lots of extra prizes were handed out above and beyond the completion awards (Tshirts yesterday, caps today, with the SWIT&DR logo).

Laurie Wells was cheered as she went up for her first place award in the LD, to cries of, "Next is a 50!" Laurie said "I know my girl can do it, I just don't think my knees can do it!" Oh, but we all know how we endurance riders love to ride through pain...

This ride was put on by the SWIT&DR club - Southwest Idaho Trail and Distance Riders - and there were many, many of them riding, or helping, or both. There were many additional volunteers including Sonny and Marilyn Hornbaker - Marilyn hobbling about on crutches after breaking her femur 5 weeks ago the evening before the Pink Flamingo ride, and ride photographer Steve Bradley and his wife Cindy.

It was a great collaborative effort to put on an excellent 2-day ride over historic gold rush trails in the Boise National Forest... and a good time was had by all.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Old Selam - Day 1

Saturday August 30 2008

Remembering Mac's great anxiety at the Pink Flamingo ride when he started by himself, this morning I parked him right behind August's black and white butt, ridden by Carol Brand, and a cute gray mare ridden by Chris Sampson, and we intended to stay there for 50 miles. We started out in a small group which included Steph and Rhett, Nance Worman on a rascally Jazzbo, and Tom Noll on the forever going-too-slow Frank (this is Frank's opinion).

You know how, at the start of a ride, all the things your horse SHOULD know go out the window for the first few miles (or, in some cases, the first 50 miles)? A lot of our horses were doing this - Mac forgot legs and reins, although he wasn't bad at all, just pulling and tossing his head in the excitement of the start. Jazzbo tried unsuccessfully to buck Nance off twice, one of them a very sneaky move when he came to a dead stop in the bottom of a gulley that the trail crossed. Naughty horse! Frank naturally thought Tom's idea of pacing at the start was RIDICULOUSLY too slow, ("Come on Tom, this is a 2-day ride, not a 5-day ride, I can go much faster!") and for the first oh, 7 miles at least that I saw, Tom was double wrapping the reins around his hands while Frank motored along with his head up in the air and cocked sideways. But I expect that continued much of the two days, as Frank knows much better than Tom the faster pace he should be going at!

Mac settled down nicely after a few miles, and remembered how to slow down when asked. He has a big, high action trot, but it's pretty smooth, ground covering, and very efficient. One really nice thing is he never stumbles over rocks, always places his feet just right, so you don't have to pay as much close attention to the trail as you do with horses that trip over rocks or ruts.

We overlapped several people on this first 15-mile loop, including Tammy from Hood River riding a gorgeous gray Tennessee Walking Horse stallion, and Diane and Tony Dann who were mostly behind me. They had the big responsibility for a while of riding Raven Drag - keep an eye on my Raven in my saddle bag. "Your Raven fell out! Just kidding!" When they were no longer behind me, I had to keep reaching back to make sure my Raven was still there!

We rode with Tom and Nance enough to get into one of those odd, entertaining conversations that often pop up during endurance rides - this time the subject was underwear. "I wear biking shorts." "I'm not wearing any!" "I forgot to pack extras!" "I have some extras you can borrow!" "The second time I met X, I was coming around a corner on my horse, and there he was in the middle of the trail, cutting off his underwear with a pocket knife." And so the stories go.

We were on great trails - mostly old soft logging roads winding along the contours of the hills through ponderosa pine forests on private, federal, and state forest lands. You could imagine how, a hundred and fifty years ago, there were some huge trees here - until all the mining activities started wiping them out. Now they're all second-third-fourth growth modest trees. The morning sunlight slanted through the trees, golden shafts of light defined by the dust kicked up by the horses' hooves.

Ride camp - on the private property of Oscar, who kindly let us use it - was at 4150'. We climbed to 5000' at some parts of the ride, and there were a lot of ups and downs all day - strenuous for horses not used to hills, and as riders our muscles felt it too. Loop 3 was the hardest - lots of whoop-de-doos (that the motorcycles make : ( ) so we did a lot of walking, which made for a long loop, and it sure seemed like a looooooooong 10 miles anyway. And then we had an hour vet check.

After the hungry horses ate and ate and ate, then they dozed, and then we had to wake them up to do another 10 miles - and already it was near 4 PM! (Now is when that 7:30 cushy starting time didn't sound like such a great idea). Mac felt a bit tired on the last loop - but once he got going, he got right back into that efficient rhythmical trot and cruised right along. He showed how smart he was by cutting the corners all day - taking the shorter route - of every logging road turn with no prompting from me.

Now, I have to emphasize again that Mac is from Nebraska, flat, grassland Nebraska, and he's become a bit spooky here in the Owyhee desert, especially when he's in washes among tall sagebrush. I mean, Horse Gods only know what kind of Boogie Horses could be hiding behind or under the big sagebrush that could EAT HIM! And here - we were in a FOREST for Horse Gods Sake, so just imagine HOW MANY Boogie Horses that could be hiding behind and up in those big tall standing up things, and especially those laying down dead things and body stumps of dead things (I mean - what killed them??) that could also EAT MAC!? But Mac of course had no problem cruising along behind two horses, since August is a friend of his, and the other was one cute mare, and especially since those two would have gotten eaten first, being out front.

Now despite all the monsters out there, Mac showed tremendous bravery by taking the lead, on his own, on the second loop, without spooking, for, oh, about 30 yards! He then dropped back, and I praised him for his initiative and daring. Then, on the 3rd loop, about a mile out from camp, he cruised to the lead, on his own again, for about 1/2 mile! Well, okay, maybe it was 1/3 of a mile, but he did it without spooking! Then he let himself be overtaken again. That was great progress - leading, in a spooky forest, by his choice! Next time, maybe we can double our progress, with Mac leading 60 yards, and then a mile!

The scary parts of the trail turned out to be behind us before I realized they were scary - the cross-country was no problem at all, and we timed the roads right. Well, except for the last few yards of one...

A truck was coming towards us pulling a very noisy flatbed trailer. We had a steep drop-off on our side, and just before Mac and I got to our turn off the road, the idiot driver sped up (some drivers think scaring horses and riders is funny, haha), and Mac started dancing sideways and backwards - back end toward the drop off - as the loud scary monster suddenly got closer and louder. I talked him and petted him through it, even as I pretended there was no way Mac could back up over the edge and flip us over backwards. It was really a close one, but Mac made it safely to the turn off without any disaster - so next time some idiot driver tries to haha, make the horsie flip over the cliff, maybe Mac won't be as scared of it. (Ride manager Cini Baumhof was right about the danger of some of the peabrain drivers!) But that was it - we timed the other road crossings right (it seemed that on this dirt road, every driver is required to pull a very noisy trailer of some sort), no dangers lurking under logged areas we had to cross, no stormy weather (in fact, it was quite warm in the afternoon).

Now, on the fourth and final loop, we were all getting a bit tired as it was getting close to 6 PM - long hot day, hard ride. I was fondly reminiscing about the last ride, where, at the perfect spot on the trail, some fine young man was standing on the side of the trail with an ice chest full of frozen Otter Pops, which went down mighty smoothly on a very hot day. "Oh, remember how," I said, "at Pink Flamingo in the middle of that one loop, someone was out there with an ice chest of Otter Pops? Oh, I wish..." and we came around a corner, and there, on the side of the trail was an ICE CHEST (sans the nice young man) - "Oh my god!" - I slid Mac to a reiner stop and jumped off and opened the ice chest - full of "OTTER POPS!!!"

I grabbed and ripped open an orange one and almost collapsed from the first bite. Mac thought it was a carrot, but, sadly, I was so greedy, I did not share. (I did at least give him and August carrots throughout the day). I confess I had another Otter Pop as we rode off, getting juice all over my hands and reins and saddle packs, oh my, they were so good. I'm going to be spoiled at all the Northwest rides from now on...

We got into camp just before 6 PM, and Mac passed his final vet check - he'd completed his first 50, on a tough hilly ride. Yeahoo!

A potluck meal with some great food accompanied the lively ride meeting conducted by Liz Smallwood. 21 of 24 riders finished the 30, and 52 of 56 finished the 50, and several trail riders participated today on a 15 mile loop. A big milestone was reached by Canadian rider Brian Malkoske - he got his 5000 miles today, although at one point he almost came off his horse... A coyote shot out of the brush and right under his horse's legs as they were trotting along. Brian landed up on his horse's neck, but managed to stay on. Maybe it was one of the coyotes I heard last night!

It was quite a lovely trail today, marked very well, with good company - a fun day on my first Old Selam endurance ride.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Wee Hours

Saturday August 30 2008

I was curled up under sleeping bags and the stars having a good snooze, when in the middle of the night, some music woke me up. What the -? You know how it is when you can't quite wake up? I wasn't completely conscious, trying to figure out who could be playing music at this hour - surely all endurance riders were sleeping? Surely they could let ME sleep?

I thought at first it was neighbor Chris Sampson - must have been her alarm clock. Turn it off Chris! Why was she getting up so early? It stopped. I drifted off.

Got woken back up by the strange music. Oh no! Not that loud screeching Hindi music that will go on all night! But wait - I am not in India. And then it stopped. I drifted off.

It started up again. What on earth - ? Wait - I know, it's the early morning Call to Prayer. No - wait - I am not in Egypt. It stopped. Back to snoozing.

It started again, a low "Ooooooh..." I whipped the pillow off my head - the "Ooooooh" picked up in pitch into a howl - WOLVES!!! I was wide awake now and I was in the mountains of Idaho and I had been hearing a wolf pack! I'd heard of wolves in this area - WOLVES! And they were on the move. I woke up once more to a wolf pack, and once more to a coyote pack. Had to be a great omen for the ride!

(Great examples of what I heard here.)

Old Selam - Here We Come!

Friday August 29 2008

Well, lucky me, John T volunteered to stay home and feed all the critters (approximately 19 horses, 4 dogs, an unknown number of cats, and 4 birds) for absentee owners along Bates Creek for the weekend, which meant I got to go with Steph to the 2-day Old Selam endurance ride around New Centerville, Idaho. A new ride for me in a new area, and a forest as well - a double treat!

The ride is named after an old cart horse, Selam, who was used by a couple of prisoners in escape attempts from the old 1800's Idaho State Penetentiary near Boise - see Tamara's story on that. The trail is also right in the middle of one of the old Gold Rushes in the Boise Basin. Idaho City, 7 miles down the dirt road from New Centerville, was, in 1863, the largest city in the Northwest. Now it's a historic town, (population about 450), and the county seat of Boise County. During the peak of the rush, in 5 years, almost $24,000,000 of gold came from the Boise Basin mining area. In today's prices that would be... $396,000,000 (according to one calculation). That's a lot of old riches we'd be riding over.

I'd be riding an ol' ranch horse, Rushcreek Mac, on Day 1 - his first 50 - and my ol' pal Jose on Day 2 in the 50. Steph planned to ride Rhett both days. Steph and John hadn't had much luck at Old Selam over the years - several pulls because of lameness and one from metabolics, the unfortunate experimental treatment of which lead to several days in the hospital and a big vet bill for Quickie. (The treatment hasn't been used since!) So I was hoping for better luck... lift the curse maybe (if that's what it was)?

I had my doubts I could do that after the ride meeting. You know how most ride managers go over the details of the trail - every turn, every rock, every groove in the trail, things to watch out for... well I have a rather short attention and absorption span, and all I got from Day 1's trail directions was: danger!. Cross-country trail across a logged area on some loop: "Walk through it!" On one loop, we had to ride a couple hundred yards along the dirt road between towns - "Dangerous!" because of the speeding cars. One loop we had to cross this road - "be very cautious!" - because we didn't have a clear view of the road...

It sounded rather daunting! Better just to tell me, "follow the pink ribbons loop 1, checkered ribbons loop 2..." (and give me a cheat sheet because I can't even remember that) and leave me surprised by the perils of the trail.

Then there was the coming weather. Head vet Robert Washington said this ride was sometimes hard on horses, not just because we were in the mountains at 4100', but because it could be below freezing in the mornings, very hot in the afternoons, then freezing again at night - extra stress on a hard working horse's body. And we were supposed to have a big cold front blow in Saturday - someone said winds up to 60 mph, temps below freezing at night...

The start and vet check times were adjusted to take that into account. The start would be moved back to 7:30 AM (woohoo! sleep in till 6 AM!). There would be 4 loops for the 50's: 15 miles, a half-hour vet check; 15 miles, a half-hour vet check; 10 miles, an hour hold, and 10 miles. There was a good turnout: 56 entered in the 50 miler, 24 in the 30 miler, and several for the trail ride.

Well, I'd try not to worry about the trail, just worry about staying on Mac's back tomorrow, since he was an anxious, wigging-out horse on his last LD ride at Pink Flamingo.