Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Whole Lotta Dudley

Wednesday June 30 2010

Can you say... Beach Ball?

Dudley kind of fell off the Diet Wagon. Once he does, it's laborious (and painful) for him to shed the pounds and climb back on.

Well, he is still quite handsome, don't you think?

He's a WHOLE lotta Dudley to love.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The West Selection Trials

Monday June 28 2010

Chris and MONK take a walk (above).

Cheryl and Reason.

This little puppy was literally thrown at Charisse a few days before the ride when a couple of drunks drove by in a pickup. "She looks good with you. Give us some gas money." So for $23, Charisse had a new puppy. We suspect she was stolen from somewhere - she wasn't hungry and her belly was full; and she was already smart (made her way each night to the back of the horse trailer to relieve herself, came when called (various names), and stayed around Charisse's trailer even if she followed people or horses around). Carl was resistant to having another dog. "We have enough mouths to feed at home already!" The Raven slept with and watched over the puppy.

See how resistant Carl is?

Soon Puppy was following Carl everywhere. "She's not my dog!" No sir, certainly not.

Team Malibu Huddle and Hug.

The final haircut.

Charisse and Talon, Christoph and Stars Aflame head out on a loop.

Pamper your rider when she comes in to a vet check!

The Bucket Brigade lines up and waits for incomings (horses).

The Bucket Brigade in action.

A group on a loop in the desert.

This enthusiastic soul has tattooed the name of his horse on his arm! (You know who you are!)

Team MONK.

Jeremy and Smitty head out on a loop.

Resting at a vet check under a tent.

US Team Veterinarian watching a horse trot out.

Heather and Sam, Jeremy and Smitty out on another loop.

"This is not my dog!" (Famous last words by Carl. The puppy has now been named "Saka" after Sakajewea, an Indian woman we all know who was stolen from her family then sold or gambled away to her husband. Saka now has a great new home with Charisse and Carl and is part of Team Malibu Endurance.)

Mum's The Word

Sunday June 27 2010

Just returned home from an interesting weekend as *CREW* for a friend of mine at the west coast selection trials for the World Endurance Championship (at the World Equestrian Games) in Kentucky on September 26th. There will be 5 US horses and riders in the race.

Charisse Glenn has two horses qualified for the WEC; she asked me, along with several of her other friends, to come crew for her this weekend, and we happily jumped at the chance.

It really wasn't a selection trial anyway, more of an early exhibition trial of what the horses and riders are capable of, with the Chef d'Equipe, the Team Veterinarian and a couple of other veterinarians and several selectors watching the horses and all their parameters before, during and after the ride. Three 'trials' happened this week, in Maryland, Illinois and Oregon, with all qualified horses and riders hoping to make the WEC team required to attend one of these. Riders were asked to take their horses certain distances at certain speeds... and that's all I can say.

Even though I was wearing my Malibu Endurance team crew Tshirt and hat, and though I crewed all day Saturday for Charisse (and everybody else who needed help), I was approached by more than one selector saying: "You're that reporter aren't you?" ("Yes, but I'm CREWING this weekend.") "Good. That's good." I was practicing crewing for Tevis, and I figured crewing for a high stress event leading up to the World Endurance Championship would be a good prep for me.

So, I am unable to tell anybody anything about what happened at the 'selection trials', other than no horses were 'selected' for anything. I can say that any rider and horse that came to either of the 'trials' in Oregon, Maryland or Illinois this past week are welcome to go to Illinois in a couple of weeks, to stay there for 6 weeks to train and exhibit their horses' abilities again, from which the 5 team members will eventually be chosen some weeks before the WEC. It's a big commitment of money and time - i.e. your life - to pursue a dream of representing your country in what we might call the Olympics of horse sports. It's certainly a shame, with all the talented horseflesh and riders, that only 5 will be chosen for the endurance race. (Previously in other World Endurance Championships held in other countries, the home country was allowed up to 11 horses/riders - Malaysia in 2008 and UAE in 2004 - I haven't been able to get a definitive answer as to why this was changed this year.)

I can also say it was a fun, and interesting weekend, and I learned a few things I can safely share.

Double check that your horse's heart monitor is accurate by comparing it with the reading you get with a stethoscope. You might be surprised at the difference. (This does me no good however... I can't hear a heartbeat through a stethoscope - it's like the can't-hear-thunder syndrome. And I ride slow enough that I don't need a heart monitor.)

This isn't a secret, because this is the second time I've seen this, though for a different reason. I saw people backing a horse up a few steps before trotting it out for a vet at a vet check. In this instance, it was done to get the horse to balance and collect itself better, instead of starting all strung out.

Try putting boots on your horse's hind legs at home first. Then try putting ice boots on your horse's hind legs at home first. Walk him around in them so he knows they are on his legs. And if you have to rip them off, don't get kicked in the head! (Nobody was, but that's a good thing to know.)

If you really want to desensitize your horse to any situation that might arise on a ride, arrange for a staked-down tent to get caught in a whirlwind and rip straight up into the air right near your horse. If he doesn't have a heart attack or run away to China, your horse might possibly be on his way to becoming bomb proof.

It's a good skill to be able to convert miles per hour into minutes per mile. I, of course, can't do this without a calculator. (Or, just buy a GPS that will tell you that.)

And most of all, if you want to have fun during a stressful time, have a good crew.

We did.

If you want more information about the US endurance trials, and would like to start cheering for some horses and riders, sorry, I can't help you... You might check out Monk's blog at: FEIRedhorse - I'm sure Chris will have an update soon.

I'll post a few photos from the weekend tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Select Few

Wednesday June 23 2010

The World Endurance Championship will be held in Lexington, Kentucky this year on September 26th. (Picture is from last year's flooded pre-ride in Lexington.)

This week - crammed into ten days - selection trails among the dozens of qualified horses and riders are happening in Illinois, Maryland, and Oregon. The US chef d' equipe Becky Hart and 5 selectors will be looking at horses and riders in a simulated endurance race of 80 miles. Final selections will be made in August.

There will be 5 slots in Kentucky - just five.

I'm going to the trials in Oregon starting tomorrow. Not as a snooping photojournalist, but as crew for friend and qualified rider with two qualified horses, Charisse Glenn.

Now, I've crewed on endurance rides before - like, for myself - so this weekend will be different, as I'll be doing some serious crewing for someone with a serious goal. A friend of mine said, "Carry a sponge in one hand, and a hoof pick in the other - and you'll be ready for anything!" I've got the Raven with me too, so we'll be bringing Charisse and Bogart and Steele some good fast Mojo.

And, I truly have no competitive bones in my body, so this will be a good look at the inside competition, tension, and excitement of the folks hoping to represent the US in endurance this year at the WEG - World Equestrian Games - the Olympics of the horse sporting world.

The photos will probably be limited, and the reporting may be mum for a while - but be patient. Stories will come.

Plus it will prepare me well for crewing TEVIS this year... which is another story to come!

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Raven Tale

Monday June 21 2010

I hike up Pickett Creek canyon to the Narrows, to check on a Raven nest in a little cave in the cliff walls.

I climb up on the opposite cliffs and look directly across at the nest. It is empty. The young have fledged, and ten yards to the side and a little higher, two young Ravens are hopping about on miniature boulders, slightly worried about me because Ma and Pa Raven are squawking up a storm, educating their young about humans.

The two youngsters, smaller than the parents and with still-partially white beaks, hop back and forth between the rocks, watching me. One Raven disappears. The other youngster walks, and hops, and watches me, undecided what to do, while the warnings of Ma and Pa still echo loudly off the canyon walls.

Next I check the Raven nest up Bates Creek. Where there should be noise, there is an eerie silence. The nest is empty, but the young should still be around - somewhere.

And they are. Or one is, at least.

I first see a pile of Raven feathers in the grass below the nest tree. Pin feathers with thick shaft coverings and a raw piece of meat, possibly part of a wing.

And then my eyes fall on a black lump in the grass - a dead young Raven. No obvious wounds, but laying by the pile of feathers of what was probably his sibling, one foot still grasped around a little tree branch.

Did a hawk get one and the other fell out of the tree trying to defend him? He would have been able to fly. Why didn't he fly away? Why was he not touched by a predator? Where were the parents? I touched the beautiful little black raven body, soft and shiny, and whispered good journey to him.

That afternoon the parent Ravens were near the house. I know them by their voices - the female's is unusually high and the male's is unusually low. He was in a tree above the barn, croaking a low lament:


Sunday, June 20, 2010

With a Bang

Sunday June 20 2010

Summer arrived today.

It has nothing to do with the date, or the summer solstice (which is tomorrow), but the advent of the Owyhee summer storms - like the spectacular intense and short one we had today (interestingly, exactly 24 hours ahead of the solstice).

Deep dark clouds built up over the Owyhee mountains. Even I could hear the thunder all around. Then suddenly - bang! It sounded like rifle fire. Crack! BangCrackBangCrack! A machine gun. Dozens, suddenly thousand of them, cracking off the metal roof of the house and barn, the ground alive with jumping white pebbles of hail - not just falling, but being flung down to earth so hard they leapt a foot back into the air.

The horses! I thought, and threw on a hat and jacket and ran out to the front pasture. (I'm not sure what I would have done if they were galloping in a panic.) They ran around briefly, but quickly formed into a tight ball,

their butts hunched to the stinging ice balls, tails tucked under butts, some heads down to the ground. In protest they'd whirl around again and toss their head at the storm, then again turn their butts to it.
The hail hurled and roared - on the roofs, on the grass, on the dirt, on my hat and on horse butts. It lasted just a couple of minutes - and it was past.

And the sun came out.

The horses went right back to grazing.

A few of them had a roll to shake off the pummeling they'd had.

After his roll, Jose came up to compare notes with me on the hail.

And the sun shined, and the ice balls melted as the first real Owyhee summer storm moved on.


Saturday June 19 2010

We've been regularly riding out, and fast, but today was a different kind of ride. While we have some horses that you better have a good seat on (especially if you're in front, and you're going fast : ), we also have some that can take beginners out.

Andy and Pati passed through here in December and they've graced us with their presence again.

Today we took them on a ride, only the second time either of them have ever been on a horse - and neither of the first times were very comfortable.

Andy got on Dudley - the Dude -

and Pati got on big ol' Krusty (ex endurance horse who ran in the US, the UAE, and a European Championship in France, and now thinks retirement, and eating a lot, are the best ideas in the world).

Krusty's a bit intimidating to behold for beginners, because - well, he's so huge. Pati's eyes were wide as Steph saddled him up,

and they got wider still when she found herself sitting on top of him.

I was going to take my horse Stormy along for the ride, but Jose kept trying to stick his head in my halter. He kept insisting. So - I took Jose - and got on him bareback for the first time.

He was a bit startled at first when I landed on his bare back (from a step stool! I can't jump 3 inches), and he launched forward, but in a few strides he understood what I was doing - though it felt strange for both of us - and he was agreeable (as he always is).

Our horses plodded along like a good Dude string, heading up Pickett Creek canyon, up to the notch.

At the end of the mile and a half, I had a horsemanship test for the Dudes. "Everybody stop, turn your horses around to face me, and line up!" With a little coaching, Andy and Pati turned their horses around. Krusty thought he was headed home so he kept going. "Make him stop! Good!

Now make him back up! You can do it!" And Pati did, getting him backed up and lined up with the string: the Owyhee Dude String.

We headed home, our Dude horses taking care of our Dude riders - which included me bareback on Jose, because I felt like a beginner at that!

Andy and Pati look like naturals in the saddle, don't you think?