Monday, November 24, 2008

I Luv My Horse

Monday November 24 2008

It's not often I can ride my horse Stormy, what with me being gone a lot, or having plenty of endurance horses to ride, or his being lame much of the time from navicular.

I took him out today, after not having been on him for a while, and he was so amenable to going out, we took a longer trail. He had a good uphill, sandy workout up Stormy Wash (hard work for a fat boy). Nearing the top we took a different route, one that led us all the way up onto Steph's trail on top of the ridge.

When the 360* panoramic scenery rose into our view Stormy stopped in his tracks. His head popped up and his eyes got bigger - I could just see the wheels in his brain churning as he saw Hart Creek and Brown's Creek drainages and further ridges to the southeast, the Owyhee mountains to the southwest, Bates Creek and the flats to the northwest, and the distant Snake River canyon, and the Boise mountains to the northeast. 'Wow! What a view! I've never been up this high before!'

Used to be, I'd take my Thoroughbred ex-racehorse out for a ride, and when I got a little too far from home, he'd lose his marbles and panic, and I never knew if he was going to fall over or flip over, and he'd wash out and be a nervous wreck. He couldn't stand still, and he'd lunge or want to bolt blindly, until I dismounted and led him home. Since then I'd learned to take it slowly with him - go out a little further each time, and always a little bit different direction, so it's never a big deal for him.

Today we went a little further then we'd ever been, and he was actually enjoying himself - he even trotted some of the uphills (!) (probably pretending to be an endurance horse, after hearing them talk about their exploits).

It's so great having a good ride on a willing, curious horse. Of course it doesn't hurt that this grandson of the great Mr Prospector, and great-grandson of the great Northern Dancer, is The Most Beautiful Horse On The Planet, either. And he's mine!

He stood there at the top of the ridge for a good half a minute soaking up the view, before continuing to meander contentedly down the trail.

I Love my horse.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Owyhee Gold

Sunday November 23 2008

Next-door nighbors Rick and Carol Brand, Lost Juniper Ranch, struck gold in their back yard.

Not the nugget kind, or the bullion kind, but the 4-legged kind.

LJ Owyhee Moonstone - Stoney - the Brands' cremello Quarab stallion (the one that Quickie fell in love with in October) dropped his first foals this spring: a light palomino filly (LJ Owyhee Sandstone), a palomino colt (LH Owyhee Calcite), and a buckskin filly (LJ Owyhee Mica). They are fuzzy and they shine in the autumn sun. Every week I have a different favorite one. (Today it was the buckskin.) Stoney, by the way, loves to babysit his kids. He's very protective of them.

Carol had been handling them since they were born, and once she started teaching them to lead, they picked it up quickly and were leading pretty well after 4 days. They got a little 'vacation' in the summer, and when Carol picked up the lessons again, they were a little rusty - and opinionated, and Big.

She put the halter and long lead ropes on them, and they got used to dragging the ropes around, feeling their weight on the ropes when they stepped on them. They remembered their leading lessons quickly, and Carol works with them a little bit every day. They lead, (if they balk, a tug on the butt rope assists them in moving forward), back up, turn, and pick up their four feet. Every week one of the babies takes turns being Naughty, but in the end, they come around and see the wisdom of giving to pressure.

They're all 5/8 Arabian, 3/8 Quarter horse. The palominos have quarter horse butts, and the buckskin - the slightly smaller one, but the total BOSS - has an Arabian butt. All of them look like they're going to have a bit of size to them. They're very curious - they knew I was a new person in their pen, and whoever wasn't having their leading lesson came up to investigate me. I couldn't keep my hands off their thick gold fuzzy coats.

Just come have a look and try to not fall in love with these gorgeous babies. I dare ya.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bring Yer Compass

Saturday November 15 2008

It's in the fine print of the Owyhee Riding Spa riding contract, the one that you don't sign and don't get to see when you come for a visit. "You better be able to hang on, because if you fall off, we won't look back, we won't stop, and your horse probably won't either, so you'll have to walk home. Better bring your compass."

Connie's friend Dan came for a visit, and since we like Dan, we took him on the scenic Rim Trail for his first ride. "So, when was the last time you rode a horse, Dan?" I asked, as Connie took off on Finneas trotting down the trail (not looking back). "Oh, about 8 years ago..."

Dan's mount Mac took off after Finneas at a trot. ("Oh! Dan's trotting!") Connie didn't look back, and Finneas didn't slow down. Mac fell into a canter to catch up. ("Oh! Dan's cantering already! I guess he'll be okay!") Connie never looked back. Probably one reason Connie didn't look back (besides she really wanted to ride and she didn't want to turn around and go home, so she was just hoping Dan would stay on) was that Dan got a call on his cell phone (!) and was yakking on it (!!) as he rode up the short steep Tevis trail (that scares some people).

Connie spared Dan no mercy; we headed for the Rim Trail, trotting fast and cantering much of the way, and Dan, who was maybe a cowboy in a former life, undulated right along with Mac and his big trot and rolling canter. Jose and I rode drag, with the job of taking pictures and worrying about Dan.

We followed the winding, hilly Dog Trail till we hit Spring Ranch road. We stopped and waved at one of the ranchers, hauling down a couple of cow horses and cow dogs in his trailer from the mountains; then Connie took off on the trail at a canter.

Dan and Mac moved right along, though Dan looked like he was having a wee bit of trouble slowing Mac down at times. There wasn't too much to worry about (we thought), because Mac wouldn't try and pass Finneas (we thought). As we took the road that leads uphill onto the Rim, we kept cantering... and that turned into a sustained gallop.

Wow, I thought - we are really moving! But Dan's not screaming, and he hasn't fallen off yet... and then our gallop turned into a run, which was really really fun, and amazing... but, I was thinking - what the hell is Connie doing up there! From what I could see when I glanced up from my horse, was Connie and Finneas sprinting up front along the road to the Rim, making no effort to slow down, and Dan following on Mac at a full out gallop, (and Connie never looking back), but I had my own marbles to pay attention to - Jose had almost tried to buck a few times earlier at a canter, and I had never ridden Jose this fast, and I'm pretty sure nobody had ridden Jose this fast. In fact the only time I'd seen any of these horses move so fast is when they come sprinting down to the house from up the canyon every day. I was ready to catch Jose's head if he tried to put his head down to buck, but he seemed to be enjoying this new experience as much as I was.

Dan was still sitting his horse just fine, not tipping over to one side or anything, and not showing airspace in the saddle, and instead of screaming he was doing quite a bit of YeeHawing, so I forgot about worrying about Dan, because heck, Jose and I were having SO MUCH FUN!!!!

We raced along the trail, manes and tails flying, hooves pounding, wind howling in my ears, and I held Jose back just enough so that he didn't catch up to Mac, because I didn't want Mac grabbing the bit and running off with Dan, and catching Finneas, who wouldn't have let Mac get in front of him no matter what...

Finally, Finneas started slowing down, and Mac slowed down, and Jose agreed to slow down too.

"Yeahoo!" "Yeehaw!" "Yahoo!"

"I couldn't slow him down!" Connie said of Finneas. "Well I was wondering what you were thinking up there!" I said. (She never looked back.)

"That was the best ride I've ever had!" said Dan.

I was thinking just about the same thing of Jose, and I know Jose was thinking the same thing.

We paused to look at the view over the rim, but better than the scenery was rush from the sprint we'd just had.

Best of all, Dan didn't fall off and didn't need need his compass to get home.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Saturday November 15 2008

So, with a herd of (uh... how many horses do we have here?) 10 horses or so, it's a brainteaser trying to figure out who can go together, who can stay behind by themselves for a while, who can be the babysitter, who goes in which pens on what diets, who gets more hay time in the big hay pens, how to keep the others occupied while the Three Musketeers get their grain...

Dudley is kept separate from my horse until he gets his deadly back shoes removed - I'm sure he was the one who kicked Stormy in the front leg, which, by the way, is steadily, but slowly, healing. The two lardbutts both get locked up anyway for their morning and evening meals. Four horses are on various states of diets.

I won't turn all 10 out together (especially with Dudley shod behind), so I'll turn them out in various groups, where the free ones can roam up and down the canyon - and they do get their exercise in, running back down to the house several time a day, and then wandering back up-canyon.

In addition to having LOADS of personality, Dudley is an Escape Artist Extraordinaire - he can get out of anything if he puts his mind to it. I have seen him studying how I snap or chain his gates shut. Fortunately he's been amenable to being locked up in his pen for his meals. I tell him it's a Special Treat Pen and so far he's believed me. Although, this is where he escaped from when he was little, by climbing up onto the cattle chute and walking up and jumping off it. I've got it roped off now, but I know that won't stop him if he really wants to get out. That wouldn't be so horrible, except that I don't think it will support his weight anymore if he does get up there.

Last winter, when I was gone for 5 days, and the neighbors had to watch the place, Dudley showed up at Carol's house in the middle of the night with the whole herd, looking in her window. I think he wondered why everybody had left them, and he wanted some human companionship. Once Carol saw him stick his head through a swinging gate, and lift it up, unhinging it, letting it go, and leading everybody out. I saw him get out of a pen by sort of bulling his way through the gate till it was halfway hanging off its hinges, then he very carefully stepped through the rungs and got out, leaving the gate still half hanging. He's very methodical, and very careful. (It makes me think - imagine how my horse would panic and kill himself doing any of those things!)

This morning as we went off on a ride, I left one mare in the big hay pen, and Dudley in the nearby round pen for company for her. The rest of the herd was free to wander around. There was hay to clean up in the round pen, and I told Dudley he was getting another Big Treat, since he's forever on a diet. He was happily munching away when we left.

As we returned from our ride, we passed the herd grazing on the upper 200. As we got closer to the house, I was gazing at the distant round pen... "Hmm, I don't see Dudley."

"Me neither. Wait - I saw Dudley with the herd!"

"Wait! I did too! Geez - he must have let himself out of the round pen." Which wouldn't have been that hard to do because the sliding gate latch isn't very secure. But wait, I thought... I am pretty sure I tied it shut with the lead rope also...

As we got closer: "Holy moly - look at the round pen!" "Oh My God!"

This is not something you want to see when you return from a ride: "round pen" is now a triangle pen, horse is gone. No panels are separated, none are laying down.

Do you know how much ONE five-foot tall panel of the round pen weighs? About 25 lbs. Dudley moved 12 of the 15 panels, drug one side of the round pen about 10 feet inward. The panel that contains the gate is not tied or chained at the bottom, and there is a gap - if the pen is half collapsed. Did he move the panels with his teeth? (I've seen him use his teeth to try to lift gates.) Did he observe this small gap (very likely) and try to use it to his advantage - like shove his neck under there and use his muscle to lift and drag the pen? There was a deep hoofprint at this 'corner' he made so he was using some muscle there.

"S***!" I said, jumping off Jose and leaving Connie to unsaddle him. I was afraid Dudley was hurt up there with the herd. I grabbed a halter and ran for the 4-wheeler. "If I scream, that means I need help!"

I raced out there on the ATV, having swimming visions of the worst: big bad Dudley, smart thinking Dudley, hopping along on 3 legs. And as I held my breath, here came the herd trotting toward me, among them a big chunky bay, a running, bucking, farting Dudley. I checked him all over later - not one scratch, not one line marking his coat, no bumps or bruises - only one little smidge of dirt on his left knee. Dudley wasn't divulging any of his secrets - was only wearing his most innocent expression... with a little worry that he was going to get in trouble again (he got hugs).

We did find the rope that I'd tied around the gate undone, and the sliding panel of the gate actually open - his dragging and lifting must have loosened it. So he either crawled out underneath the whole thing, or he walked right out the gate after he loosened it with his jimmying and lifting (and the gate fell back shut, since all the panels on that side are leaning inward).

I've always said Dudley should be in Cavalia - he's extraordinarily clever (and very sensitive), and look at all he can do with no training! He would put all those other horses to shame. And he's very handsome, and he's got a great personality, and great expressions.

He's better than any magician: Dudley the Unbe***lievable!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Who's the Boss

Friday November 14 2008

Coincidentally, today Karen C on her blog posted Letting the Horse Be in Charge. It starts out: "Just back from a really fantastic ride on Chief."

Same here - I was thinking what a great ride I had on Rhett today, and how I let him do his own thing on the trail - I was composing the story in my head as we rode along.

Rhett's one of the best endurance horses I've ever been on. I do some days have to gently encourage him to go out on the trail at the beginning - as opposed to staying at home and getting fed treats, or taking me on every shortcut home, just in case I don't know the shortcuts are there - but once he gets into it, he's into it, and I let him choose what he wants to do. I pick the general direction we head out, and he picks the trails around and back home, and the speed he wants to go.

Doesn't want to take the trail up that steep hill? OK, he chooses the road and he chooses to canter along it. He wants to take the hilly, winding Dog Trail back home? OK, he rolls to a gallop up every hill, walks down the other side, picks up a trot again when it flattens out, then enjoys tearing around every corner (and I hope we don't meet anybody coming from the other direction!). He usually chooses to slow down to a walk at any downhill, steep or not, and he'll slow down to a walk over rocks. When the trail looks good, or when he just feels like it, he picks it up again. At one spot today, he went from a canter to a gallop to a flat out run.

One day we went out on the Rim Trail, and he cantered along a spot he usually does, but he wasn't into working hard that day. We spent most of the rest of the trail along the rim at a walk, only picking up a trot at a few places. And then he spotted something to his right - 3 horses on the next ridge over, going in the opposite direction. They were like big bugs on the horizon, but I'm sure Rhett knew they were horses, and he was fascinated by them. He wasn't nervous or excited - he just wanted to watch them. We'd stop and stare, then he'd go back to walking along the trail. He'd glance over, keeping tabs on them, then stop and watch for a while again. Once we must have stood there for a full minute. He continued that - walk, stop and look - until they had become just specks over our shoulder, and then finally disappeared. That same day we came over a hill into a wide wash, and there was a coyote on the other side. The coyote stopped to look at us; we stopped to look at him. The coyote decided to keep on moving, and Rhett curiously watched him until he disappeared over a hill.

When Steph was training him one year, she took him on the Badlands loop that has a nice mile-long uphill soft stretch with perfect footing. The last time I took this trail with Rhett, he was SO into it, cutting the bottom corner at a canter, shifting to a gallop and working hard all the way to the top. Another spot in the trail was a shorter but steeper uphill, and he just laid it down and sprinted to the top - yeahoo!

He just attacked these parts of the trail, and maybe it was partially learned instinct because he was always asked to canter or gallop here, but part of it that day with me was certainly that he ran because he wanted to. I never asked him to exert himself.

He might spook once in a while, but not seriously enough to try to get me off - he's playing, and he's so strong and balanced, he makes me look like a decent rider, perching motionlessly over his flying mane as he rips along the trails. I look like I know what I'm doing, but it's all about Rhett knowing what he's doing.

Thanks Rhett, for another great ride : )


Friday November 14 2008

I woke up this frozen morning to hear, then see, Canadian geese migrating, about 20 of them, in the staggered line that provides the drafts that help them fly easier. They were honking encouragement to the leader.

Only thing is, they were flying north-northeast.

And maybe that wasn't encouragement they were honking at the leader.

"Hey! You're going the wrong way! Turn left!" "Gus? Honey? Pull over! We need to look at the map!"

"Bernice, I know where I'm going!"

"Gus, we're lost! We should stop and ask for directions!"

(And you know you never say that to a man who's lost.)(This was an actual conversation between my aunt and uncle when I was younger.)

And so they kept flying northeast, and ended back up in Canada.

Or, perhaps they were just taking the scenic Owyhee detour en route to warmer climes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Yin and Yang

Tuesday November 11 2008

Day and night. Sun and moon. Summer and winter. Revealing what is obscured, and obscuring what is revealed. Cold and tranquil, hot and aggressive.

Finneas and Mac are the Yin and Yang of the Owyhee Riding Spa. They go great together on rides: seemingly opposing forces complimenting and balancing each other out perfectly. Black and white; leader and follower; brave and chicken; aggressive and mellow; vain Pretty Boy Grandson of the Black Stallion, unassuming son of a cow horse.

Finneas must be in front, or he is extremely insulted. Mac must be in back, or he's extremely spooky (any bushes bigger than a bunny - look out!).

When Finny's out front, he trots along all nice and relaxed and smooth, head down, ears eagerly forward. When Mac is following him, he follows along all nice and relaxed and smooth, head down, ears cocked back.

When they change positions, their body positions change (and you better hang on! ). When Finny has to go behind Mac, he shakes his head angrily and throws it up and down, with his mouth wide open, tongue over the bit, he lunges forward (and sometimes bucks), and pins his ears back. When Mac's in front, his head flies up like a giraffe, ears pin-pricked forward, eyes popping out of his head, body crouched down and moving forward like a cat, very light on his feet, very hesitant, all nerves and fibers on high alert.

Here's Mac when Finneas is leading - head down and relaxed, ears back. Here's Mac in front, leading the way ("Ooooh look at that scary sagebrush!!!") - head up high, ears pricked forward, wide eyeballs, ready to leap away from HORSE EATING EVERYTHINGS. (I missed getting the picture on the trail through the big sagebrush, as, with one hand holding the camera, and my other hand loosely holding the reins, and not paying attention, Mac threw in a huge spook and I almost fell off).

Here's Finneas, when Mac is in front: pissed off, ears pinned, mouth wide open, tongue over bit. (I missed getting a picture of his lunge and buck and Connie up on his neck.)

Yin and Yang made it home okay after their ride and schooling session. Black horse rolled in the gray sand, white horse had a good roll in the black mud.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Sunday November 9 2008

What Would Jose Do, in wet, muddy, gray, soggy, dismal weather like this?

He would play, of course, with his half-brother Kazam.

They romped and played, reared, bit, bucked, kicked, nipped, spun, leaped, perfection in timing and balance, enough to make a World Champion cutting horse, or a Spanish Riding School Lipizzaner jealous.

Then they took a time-out for a water break.

Then they went back to romping.

Then they rested.

Though Jose couldn't interest him in playing, even my horse Stormy gamboled and bucked, twice leading the pack in a gallop down to the house from up-canyon.

Plenty of horse things to do on a gray day.