Monday, November 30, 2009

Wrap It Up

Sunday November 29 2009

Do you wrap your horses' legs after a ride?

I come from the racetrack, where wrapping legs was a given. But that was with horses that were stalled 22+ of 24 hours of the day. It worked better on some horses than others; some horses natually had tighter legs than others. On those that didn't, you could often see the difference in a tight leg and a filled leg if you didn't wrap them overnight. We left them on for 24 hours, but never more, even if we just took them off to re-rub and re-set the bandages.

We used different things under the wraps - furasin sweat, or mud, or mud sweat, a rub-down with alcohol or just dry wraps - you got a feel for what was best for each horse. Sometimes we stood a horse in ice boots then wrapped the legs. I did meet a physiotherapist recently who was against icing legs - she pointed out the circulation in horse legs is minimal enough, why would you want to make it harder by constricting blood vessels? The circulation is what carries the fluid out. I'm a big fan of cold-water hosing.

Translating bandaging to horses that are not stalled every day (i.e. endurance horses) - If my horse is going to be tied to a trailer after a 25 or 50+ mile ride, I would rather put standing wraps on all four legs to prevent him stocking up. If the horse is going to be turned out in a decent sized paddock after a ride, it depends on the horse, but I don't feel the wraps are as necessary because the horse is going to be moving around on his own, enough to keep the circulation going and the fluid from accumulating.

Does it really matter if your horse has filled legs in the morning? (Because if he's being ridden the next day, it will likely work itself out.) I don't know. I just prefer to have cool tight legs in the mornings on an athlete, and for a standing/penned horse, I find it most often helps.

Also if your horse cuts or skins a lower leg where it's obviously going to blow up, a furasin sweat works wonders for that. Does it take away from the natural inflammatory process, and is that bad? I don't know, but I use furasin sweats for those dings. Someone also taught me that if you put the plastic wrap outside the cotton wrap (which is against the leg) you get a better, longer-lasting moist sweat on the leg.

I also agree that if you can't put a wrap on correctly you might be better off not doing them at all, because you might do more harm than good. All it takes is practice. I had lots of practice - about 10 years' worth - at the track. A couple of years I was wrapping about 20 legs a day. And I had carpal tunnel at the time - in both hands, but the right one was so bad I couldn't button my jeans or tie my shoes or use a pair of scissors or hold a Dr Pepper can (horrors!). Try holding a leg wrap - much less wrapping one on - in a hand that doesn't work at all, and one that barely does. it was a challenge!

It's also best to use standing wraps (made of double-knit polyester) - not polos, not vet wrap - for standing wraps. The standing wraps have just the right amount of stretch in them for support, whereas the polos have too little, and the vet wrap has too much.

What's your two cents' worth? Add your piece to Ridecamp on

Friday, November 27, 2009


Friday November 27 2009

It is folly to think we have conquered them. We are foolish to believe we are in control.

We harness them, hitch them, cinch them, throw on loads, climb behind and aboard them, and have our way with them. We borrow their athleticism and take advantage of their instincts, convince them to race, chase cows, spin circles, bow their necks, dance, blaze trails; and we congratulate ourselves on our prowess. We convince ourselves of our dominance, when we really only briefly redirect their fear, their trust, their spirit; and we think we are free.

They could kill us or hurt us, and sometimes they do. But most often they let us use them, they let us guide them, direct them, work them. They don't have to, but they choose to give a part of themselves to us.

And when they share willingly with us, it's a gift, an amazing treasure.

Kazam gave me his best effort yet today - a bold, brave, confident horse on the trails who let me direct his fear and trust, who shared with me a portion of his power and courage and being. For a brief time, I felt free with Kazam.

(I think Jose had a talk with him.)

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Sunday November 22 2009

It comes - it really comes today!

The first 'real' snowstorm - more than a skiff. Small and insignificant and brief as it is, it clogs the air with fat wet flakes and leave a solid white carpet on the ground, enough to stand up on the fence rails and drop a thick blanket on backs and butts and tails and manes and my own locks.

I'm intoxicated with the sight, and delirious with the sounds: the rubbery squeaky crackle of every footstep in the snow, the muted-desert winter-silence but for the flakes that hit my hat and jacket - fft fft fft; the cows walking down from the mountains to Oreana a day late, bawling their cantankerous opinions "Mabel - I TOLD you we should've left yesterday!"

The snow stays for a few hours, just like the clouds; then it evaporates, just like the clouds, leaving only a cold wind and a golden light over the snow-covered Owyhees up the crick, and a promise of more serious snow to come this winter.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Got Curly?

Wednesday November 18 2009

Think of what it would be like if you couldn't have the one thing you enjoyed most in life. For you addicted horse people, that would be your horses. What if you had to give up horses, riding, everything, because you had a daughter who was severely allergic to them?

That's what happened to Shelly White, when she discovered her infant daughter was severely allergic to horses. Shelly couldn't even walk in the house after being around horses without her daughter having difficulty breathing. She eventually had to completely give them up - there was no other choice. She hoped that maybe one day down the road, say when her daughter was 20 and out of the house, she might get back into horses. As Anastasia grew up, she herself was "infatuated with horses," but she couldn't be around them.

When Anastasia was 12 or 13, Shelly heard about the North American Curly horse, which is known for being hypo-allergenic. When the 3-year-old Curly horse *Cuervo arrived at their farm in Summerland, BC, Canada, it was a life-changing event.

Not only was Anastasia able to be around *Cuervo, and start riding him once he was broke, but she eventually did everything on the palomino Curly - jumping, 4H, Pony Club, dressage, and endurance. And Shelly was rather astounded with his temperament. "I was used to Arabians - you know, a sometimes 'reactive' breed - but this horse was amazing. He came from a thousand miles away, but when he arrived, he was very calm from the beginning. He didn't barge into you or step on you, he was very personable - we were so lucky to have him!"

*Cuervo was such a good horse that Shelly soon got more Curlies. She picked up 3 mares from a Curly Horse Rescue, and they ended up becoming her foundation broodmares. She later got her own stallion - *Sandman's Magic - and now she has about 20 Curlies at her Curly Standard Place farm.

Known as North American Curly Horses, or American Bashkir Curlies, the name obviously comes from the curly coat they get in the winter, and their sometimes curly manes and/or tails. The curly coat sheds out in the summer, though the hair in their ears always remains curled. (The * before a Curly's name means they have curls in their coat, as there are some Smooth-Coated Curlies.)

The curly gene has been seen in most every breed; curly coated horses have been documented as early as 161 AD in drawings in China. The earliest indication of curly coated horses in America is from the 1800's among the Sioux and Crow Indians.

One theory as to how the Curly breed developed in America comes from the wild Mustang. When the curly coat showed up in other breeds, it was looked on as an unfavorable trait. When a Mustang showed up with a curly coat, it wasn't discarded. The curly coated mustangs in fact showed a high degree of hardiness, and rancher John Damele from Nevada is credited with starting to breed the curly coated mustangs, and crossing them with his working stock, in the early 1900's.

In 1971 the American Bashkir Curly Registry started up with 21 horses; now there a several thousand. ("Bashkir" is a breed from the Ural mountains in Russia with a thick, curly winter coat; however, there is no evidence that the curly coat in North American breeds is related. A photo of this breed was saved in a scrapbook by the Damele family, which is where the name for the American Bashkir Curly horse came from.)

Shelly White admits she sounds somewhat like a fanatic, but why not? "You can do anything with Curlies - driving, dressage, reining, endurance, trail riding. They like people, and in fact will seek them out; they are easy going; they will tackle just about anything without questioning you. They don't overreact to things, and they tend to think first before reacting. I've gotten spoiled with my Curlies!"

Besides breeding, raising, training and selling Curlies, Shelly's stallion, *Sandman's Magic, just completed quarantine, and now has frozen semen available for Europe and Australia. "Sandman will be a grandfather of the Curly breed in Australia!" Shelly has also donated a breeding to *Sandman's Magic to the current Curly Horse Rescue Silent Auction.

Shelly enjoys endurance riding as a family affair - the riding and camping with her kids - though Anastasia, now 20, still suffers from horse allergies. She rides her Curly mare *Spar's Barefoot Contessa

- produced from one of Shelly's foundation Curly mares - but is worn out at the end of the day. Shelly's son Shane has ridden *Cuervo

in endurance also. The family would like to do more endurance in the near future... I might have talked Shelly into trying one of our Owyhee multi-day rides. : )

Check out the Curly Horse Rescue and their Silent Auction, which began November 15, and runs to December 10, and consider bidding on some items.

Or, have a closer look at Curly Standard Place Farm. Have a talk with Shelly, and she just might talk you into your own Curly.

"Put a little curl in your world - you won't regret it!"

(Photos are Shelly's)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fixin' What's Broke

Wednesday November 11 2009

For one thing, I'm fixin' my rib. It's mending... really just annoying now at times rather than anything else. The prescription is plenty of exercise, extra calcium, and no more falling off horses.

For another thing, I'm fixin' Kazam, who broke my rib. The Great Rib Incident really isn't the problem, and didn't really contribute to what needs fixin' on Kazam, although dumping a rider and running 90 miles per hour for home in a panic on that day probably didn't make things any better.

What's broke on him is his self confidence. Though Kazam is Jose's half brother - calm, steady, smart, cool-headed Jose - Kazam isn't quite like that yet. He's sweet and smart and trustworthy on the ground, and he wants to be good under saddle... it's just a matter of translating that trust and self-assurance to riding.

The main cause is his sporadic riding and training. Due to various circumstances, Kazam has been a green horse for years - never graduated any further. Steph got him green-broke a couple of years ago, then he turned up lame, so he had time off. Connie started getting on him again last fall - at the time she had him boldly going out alone... and he went lame again so he had the winter off. Then nobody was around to put the time in riding him. He went to a trainer this summer for a month, then had more time off while I was gone. I started him back later this summer, and while I mostly rode him in company, he always had a traumatic time going out by himself. Then I left again for 2 weeks to Kentucky. When I got back, I rode him for 2 days, then went and fell off him and broke my rib. He had 6 weeks off.

I've started back on him again, and, since his biggest problem is going out by himself, that is all that we do. Every day.

And that's all we will do until he gets so comfortable with it that he dreams about wanting to do it. Some days are worse than others, but every day is better in some little way. Every day, he's a little less scared, or less reluctant, or less spooky; he's more relaxed or relaxed sooner, more able to control his panic. He does, however, know every shortcut home, just in case we get caught out in a heavy fog and I get lost.

This is what happened yesterday:

We were coming back home from a good ride. We crested our Tevis hill where we have a view of home. Kazam spotted his horse herd far up the pasture on this side of the creek - not a usual spot... and he started getting wound up thinking about it - Ohmigosh, the horses are not by the house, they are up there!!!!

He did keep his cool and remain responsive and controllable all the way home, but as soon as I unsaddled him and turned him loose, panic mode took over. He took off cantering up the pasture, over a hill and out of sight, whinnying for his mates.

I turned away, figuring he'd cross the creek up there and join them, but then I heard a mighty roar. Here came Kazam - running back toward the house, 300 miles an hour - ohmigod! - whinnying in hysteria, every thundering stride stabbing his whinnies with panic.

I gasped and my heart stopped: shocking - thrilling - terrifying - exciting - all at the same time. I've never seen a horse run this fast, warp speed, not a Quarter Horse in a quarter-mile race out of the starting gate. (Although I did ride a rocket ship once in the Egyptian desert... but that's another story.) I cringed as Kazam got near the barn, afraid he'd just crash into it. He swerved and shot past it and on down the side of the mare pen, sat on his haunches, spun a 180, started sprinting back up the pasture, dropped and spun toward the creek, leaped over it, and headed for his herd, still whinnying up a frenzy. Ohmigod!

Meanwhile, Rhett was already trotting back in this direction to see what the heck was going on - I could see a collision coming! But somehow they all jumbled seamlessly together and caught the electric current and became one tempest, typhooning back my way, blasting across the creek, cutting the corner of the barn at a tilt to the front pen (Stormy the fat boy much slower behind them, and carefully crossing the rocky creek), where they skillfully whirled and ducked and dodged each other in a great upheaval of dust - bucked, wheeled, reared, piaffed, spun, and head-down-double-barrelled in the air, just because they had four legs and they could. An exuberant herd romp!

And suddenly all was calm. One last snort. Sides heaved. Heads dropped to graze. Like nothing had happened. My heart finally jump-started and I drew breath again. Ohmigod!

This is what I'm working to prevent Kazam from doing under saddle.

On his daily solo rides away from the house, it takes a lot of time and patience. I always have a plan, but I don't always stick to it, depending on how he's doing each day. We never go the same way twice; we never rush; I never force him but rather ask him to do something, and make it so he can only want to do what I ask. Every horse is different, so I'm still learning what works best on him to get the best response. We follow trails and washes, and we ride cross-country. We climb hills, because Kazam is not an uphill horse (yet). We practice opening gates... he is getting almost as good as ranch horse Mac and once-upon-a-time dude ranch horse Stormy. When Kazam stops to graze out on the trail, I know he's really relaxed. When he passes by something scary without letting it scare him, he knows he's done good.

If it takes a whole winter of riding him by himself, that's what I'll do. However long it will take to get him going good is however long it will take.

That's our homework for the Owyhee winter.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hallowed Weenies Day 2: Utter Disaster

Sunday November 1 2009

I have a confession: even though I love doing endurance rides - I am seriously obsessed with them - I just HATE getting out of bed early in the morning before a ride. I think it probably goes back to my racetrack grooming days, when I got up at 4 AM, 7 days a week, for 8 months of the year.

I especially hate getting out of bed early with a night of zero sleep, and a dreadful headache so bad that I'm fighting nausea. Ugh. But no way I wasn't going to ride Jose. Plus I was riding with Steph and Rhett, and Annerose Carlile and GAC Ginger. Ginger is 10. Annerose is 72. She's got nearly 10,000 AERC endurance miles, and about as many entertaining stories to tell. (Like the time she won the Swiss Championship - I think she was in her 50's - after her horse did a somersault on the trail and landed on her and they got back up and kept going; there's a story about getting bees in her bonnet/helmet - but I didn't ask her about that one.)

And it wasn't just another 50-mile endurance ride, and it wasn't just another 50 mile endurance ride on Jose: it was the first ride since breaking my rib 5 1/2 weeks ago. I was definitely not going to miss this one. I downed many Ibus and hoped for the best.

And besides, Jose and Rhett are best buddies, and no way was Jose going to hang out in the corral today while Rhett went off and left him again.

It was chilly and breezy in the dark morning, but skies would be mostly clear for the day. Jose didn't want the bridle. He thinks he goes best in a hackamore. I know better. Bridle first loop, and maybe hackamore the second or third loop. Maybe not.

Off at 8:15 in the sunrise, starting east of Castle Butte, heading for Henderson Flat, site of the Utter Disaster in 1860. Cold strong breeze in our faces, fresh and eager horses, our long shadows pointing the way along the trail west. Jose wanted to fly, but he wasn't pulling hard on me. Rhett was working on pulling Steph's arms out of her sockets. Annerose cruised along on Ginger right behind us, always smiling when I looked back. There really isn't much better than riding a good horse on a trail in the desert sunrise. My headache was gone, I was really glad I got up this morning. : )

Turn north - no Indian attacks - to the Snake River. The river is a stunning blue in the golden sunrise, with little white caps kicked up by the wind. Ginger drinks at the first watering hole, but Jose and Rhett turn up their noses. Great footing along the river, the three horses cruising along the trail around Wildhorse Butte. We merge onto the Oregon Trail westward, where in some places you see the actual ruts worn by the wagon wheels a century and a half ago. We ride over the trail where a few years ago Tom Noll saw cougar tracks, and where I once saw wolf tracks big as my hand.

We make a figure eight loop and head back toward the morning sun, with dark Castle Butte framing horse and rider silhouettes. We thought Jose and Rhett might slow down since they turned away from their home and towards Regina's, but no, they keep pulling us along.

And with 6 miles left on the first loop: trouble. No more trail markings! For some reason, this little bit of connector trail to Regina's didn't get marked. Which way to go?? Fortunately, I was with Steph, who had marked the rest of the trails, and therefore knew which way to go, so I followed her. Lee and Naomi were with us, so they followed us, but there were three riders in front of us who got a bit lost. They were compensated for it, allowed to leave on the second loop before us so they wouldn't lose their placing. A conference between Steph and ride manager Regina and the vets also resulted in lengthening the vet hold to an hour, and dropping the last 7-mile loop, because the loop we just did, and the next one (a reverse of the first one) were longer than the 21.5 miles that were written down.

I didn't care, I was having such a great ride on Jose. He was drinking well and pounding down the food at the vet check (especially when Sandra held the dish for him). We heard Gary's Tennessee Walker stallion came out of surgery well after yesterday's colic, and it wasn't nearly as bad as they'd feared - great news.

Back out on the second loop. Do I put the hackamore on Jose? He thinks so. I think not. As we started out, our horses were relaxed, trotting along casually, on a loose rein. Then Steph put Rhett into a canter, and that was all she wrote. Glad to have the bridle in Jose's mouth, still. He was fresher this loop, having a great time cantering alongside Rhett. We did a lot of merry cantering on the flat stretches with perfect footing over the desert... how could you not??

Still the strong cool breeze blowing in our faces - which we were grateful for. In a few sheltered parts of trail with no wind, the buffalo gnats were horrible (think of those poor settlers in slow ox-pulled wagons). I spit them out of my mouth and blew them out of my nose and wiped them out from under the bandana that was covering my forehead and ears. Some of the bugger still bit me. Jose snorted them out of his nose in indignation.

Even though we were riding over the exact same trails, going the opposite way gives you completely different scenery. Didn't see those kissing rocks before. Didn't see those bluffs that look like a boiled over kettle before. The Snake River is a different color going this way. And even though I've done this Wild Horse Butte trail many times, I never get tired of it. I never get tired of riding in this Owyhee desert.

And Jose wasn't tired of it. He politely requested that we go faster, the entire loop. Never flagged, never let up, no matter which direction we turned. And best, most amazing of all? He finished the ride with a 40 pulse, and ended up tying for High Vet Score. Jose!

It turned out to be (like many, many of my rides are) one of the best rides ever. The Owyhee trails were awesome (even though I've done them before), the company great, the weather perfect, Jose brilliant.

Hallowed Weenies Day 1: Fairies on the Prairie

Saturday October 31 2009

Just give endurance riders the slightest excuse to get together, and they'll do it. Add in a near full moon, and a chance to play dress-up, and you end up with the 2-day Hallowed Weenies endurance ride at the end of the season in the Owyhee Desert.

And with it being Halloween, there were some scary things to worry about on the 50 and 25 mile trails: Day 1 you rode by "Dead Cow Farm" - an abandoned and rather creepy dairy; by the Idaho Ecology site - the P.C. name for the toxic waste dump near the Snake River; on a sloped trail right by a barbed wire fence; over an old bombing range; and during hunting season. Day 2 you rode over the site of the Utter Disaster Massacre, and, since not quite all of the last bit of trail had completely gotten marked, some of us got lost out there, and it's still hunting season. Yeah.

But the creatures still came out in Halloween droves. There were Fairies on the prairie, many Come to Save the World - a Musketeer, a Crusader, Zorro, an Oreana Cowboy (wait - that was a REAL Oreana Cowboy - Shane pulled Mary's stuck truck out of the sand while she was off riding in the LD), a Star Wars Jawa ("I can't abide those Jawas. Disgusting creatures!" said C3PO - who can quote that entire movie with me?), a skeleton (the horse), a soccer ball (the horse) and referee, Gumby & Pokey, Michael Jackson (who worked as our in and out timer), Where's Waldo, a college graduate, two pink flamingos, Pocahontas, a clown, an angel, of course a devil (someone stole the devil's cape and became impromptu Little Red Riding Hood), monsters, a drunken man on a mule, and Argentinean vaqueros. Steph commented later, "These were ADULTS! - this is GREAT!"

Even the Raven participated, dressing up as a Cardinal! (Someone, I'm not saying who, actually made that bird a costume!).

The Musketeer came all the way from New York City (New York City!) to ride. Sandra Fratelliere rode Steph and John's mare Sunny on her first 50, and it was Sandra's first ride in the Pacific Northwest.

The two pink flamingos were shedding feathers their entire 25 miles... some day a BLM bird biologist will be hiking out there, discover some pink feathers, and be amazed that pink flamingos have inhabited the Owyhee desert! The feathers actually served an extra purpose; since there weren't an abundance of pink ribbons to mark the trail (commented one rider), the pink feathers served as markers for those in doubt of their directions.

And Day One was all-new Owyhee trails. Basecamp was Regina Rose's house down the road from Oreana. Riders took off south, across the highway, up Birch Creek wash, (had a vet check), did a loop through scenic Birch Creek Canyon, (had a vet check), and back home. The LD's hauled out to the vet check to start and did their two loops, through Birch Creek Canyon, (had a vet check), then did a shorter out-and-back loop to finish.

After the awful weather the week before (that is just one point of view!) of wind, cold, rain, and a bit of snow - the weather was just perfect (a unanimous point of view): cool and partly sunny all day, and minimal wind. And the sunset was spectacular.

And even more spectacular was the dinner (for the second night in a row), cooked by Oreana neighbors Amy and Shane and Jessica and Isaac Riley and a couple of their friends. The indoor arena where we ate sounded like the Riley fan club: "OMG!" "This is soooooo good!" "I'm coming back next year just for the dinners!" And the family came around making sure you went back for seconds. Which was almost impossible after the huge firsts they heaped on your plate, but I think everybody managed. And then there was the dessert... The food truly was stunning (both nights) after a long working/riding/outdoor day.

All the scary trail obstacles were conquered with no problems. However Gary Pegg's Tennessee Walker stallion Gus's Mountain Mack, in the middle of the 18-mile loop of the LD, colicked. There was nothing for Gary to do but keep riding him, forcing him to walk in - if he got off to walk, the horse tried to go down. Annerose Carlile and her horse stayed with them; as soon as they got Gus in to the vet check the vets treated him and stabilized him, and he got hauled off to a clinic, where he immediately went into surgery. Awful news for everybody.

And our horse Rushcreek Mac wasn't quite right after he finished the 50. After it got dark, he was standing off by himself, away from Rhett and Jose and Sunny, not eating, and looking dull. Steph went to get the vet, Robert Washington; he checked Mac out and found a small compaction in the colon, but nothing he was terribly worried about. Robert gave Mac some tranquilizers, and stomach tubed him with oil and electrolytes. John sat up with him in the dark and cold, until Mac suddenly snapped out of it. We kept him separated (and Sandra got up to check on him in the middle of the night), and he was fine in the morning.

24 of 28 finished the 50, and 12 of 13 finished the LD, including a couple who came out from Oregon to do their first endurance ride on their Peruvian Pasos. They had a great time, and decided to brave the Utter Disaster Trail the next morning.