Monday, November 18, 2013

Mustang Extraordinaire: Lady Jasmine

November 18 2013

Whatever you do, don't call her little.

This 13.2-hand originally-wild now-17-year-old mustang mare has already accomplished more than most horses have in their entire careers.

Janet Tipton, of Erda, Utah, didn't even pick out the 3-year-old at the Logan wild horse adoption in 1999. The mare who was destined to become Lady Jasmine picked her.

"I didn't want a mare - I'd never had a mare before," Janet said. Her husband Cliff had his eye on a different mustang, "but she kept watching at me as I walked around the building." That's how Lady Jasmine, who'd come off the Antelope Valley Herd Management Area near Ely, Nevada, came to be part of the Tipton family.

She'd been rounded up about 6 months earlier, and was unbroke. Janet and Cliff started working with her at home, and the first thing they noticed was not her size, but her big attitude: "She was kind of very dominant!" Janet said. "She ran over the top of me the first day I worked with her. Her attitude was like, 'I don't care how big you don't think I am!'"

Cliff started her under saddle, which went fairly well, at first. On the third ride, she bucked Cliff off. Twice.

"So, we went back to square one with her. We worked on some things, fixed some things that needed fixing." Cliff rode "Ladybug" for a year before Janet started riding her. Those two spent a lot of time and a couple of years trail riding, getting to know each other; and meanwhile, Janet had cast her eye on the sport of endurance riding.

"I did a ride on a friend's horse in 1999 and was hooked on the sport, but spent the next 5 years reading and studying everything I could get my hands on. And also to build my nerve up." Janet figured Ladybug would have the right attitude for endurance.

The pair finally debuted together on the endurance trails at the Strawberry Fields Pioneer ride in April of 2004. They completed the 30 mile ride on Day 1 and the 25 mile ride on Day 3: "We barely finished in time, but Ladybug had all A's" on her vet card." The rest, you can say, is endurance history.

In the October 2013 Moab Canyons endurance ride in Utah, Ladybug became the highest mileage Limited Distance AERC endurance horse ever, with 3985 miles.

And a few weeks later on November 9, in her last ride of the 2013 season, the Owyhee Chills No Frills, while finishing 4th on the 25-mile ride, Ladybug reached 4010 LD miles, and won her 20th Best Condition award. (Her first Best Condition award was in 2007 at the Owyhee Fandango.)

finishing the OCNF - Photo by Sandy Smallwood

Her record currently stands at 154 completions in 156 starts (the pulls were a rider option, and an overtime).

The pair has done 1 60-mile, and 4 50-mile endurance rides over the years. Since Janet is a heavyweight rider, and Ladybug is not "little," but 13.2 hands, Janet is careful to pick the longer distance rides out for her.

Ladybug has about an 8 miles-per-hour average trot. She'll willingly go alone or in company, in front of a group, or in the middle, or behind, though she doesn't love being last. "Everybody knows the last horse will get eaten!"

But Ladybug is not only adept at the sport of endurance. She's also competed and participated in Extreme Cowboy Challenges, dressage, drill teams, and parades; she's been a lesson horse, a pony horse for kids, and she's pulled carts, "though she doesn't like that much. Ladybug LOVES to chase cows too," Janet said. "I have done cattle sorting on her and she is awesome. Always seems to know the cow we are after."

The mustang breed has become the centerpiece of the Tiptons' lives. In 2003, the Tiptons formed the IWHBA (Intermountain Wild Horse & Burro Advisors), an adopter support and mentoring non profit for people with mustangs. Over the years the organization has gentled, trained and placed over 200 mustangs and burros.

It was all thanks to Ladybug. "Ladybug was our try first mustang and the start of so many wonderful adventures for us. Not just the distance riding trail but in the wonderful people we have met along the way and the amazing places we have visited.  She has given and shown us so much that we find ourselves wanting to pass that along.

"The ultimate thrill for me is when someone comes up to me at a ride and says they adopted a mustang because of Ladybug. What an ultimate compliment and so very awesome."

Over her 10 seasons of endurance competition, Ladybug has done rides in Utah, Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, and California. "She tends to do best at multi-days. She just gets stronger every day." Janet's goal over the coming years with her mustang is to make the Decade Team - riding your horse in an AERC-sanctioned 50 mile+ endurance ride for at least ten ride seasons.

This big-hearted mustang with the Big Attitude will surely accomplish just that.

Photos by Merri Melde

Monday, November 11, 2013

Owyhee Chills No Frills: Three Dinks

Monday November 11 2013

You wouldn't think that 8 months into the endurance season we'd be riding 3 green unbroke horses.

That's about what it was like on loop 1 of the last local ride of the endurance season, the Owyhee Chills No Frills ride put on by Regina Rose.

Steph rode her unbroke 2-year-old (OK, 22-year-old) 6400+ mile gelding Rhett, Amanda rode her unbroke 2-year-old (OK, 7-year-old) gelding Chant, and I rode John's beloved unbroke 2-year-old (OK, 9-year-old) mare Sunny on the 50-mile ride.

Rhett was being a total Dink for Steph, head up in the air, yanking her arms out of her sockets, and trying to sprint the entire course. Chant was being a total Dink for Amanda, although I couldn't see what exactly he was doing because Sunny was being a total Dink beneath me, cantaloping, trolloping, jigging, gaiting, be-bopping, jigalotting, jigaloping, and pogo sticking her way along.

At one point halfway through the loop (you know, when they should have been getting a little tired and settling down), the three of us got off and walked our horses a half-mile, ostensibly to 'stretch our legs' but really to give our horses a little mental time to unwind a bit, and let another group of riders move on out of our sight.

We bounced along very familiar trails along the Snake River, around Wild Horse Butte, and over the Oregon Trail, but a lot of it was a blur. Didn't seem to take much out of the horses though, as Sunny pulsed down at the vet check at 44, and Rhett pulsed down at 48. Rhett is never 48!

Instead of vetting, Robert was for the first time crewing for Amanda, and he sent her out on loop 2 on time. Steph and I were… delayed for reasons that have to do with Betty White.

It's a good thing the second 25-mile loop was a repeat of the first loop, because I didn't see much of the first loop, for trying to stay on my twerking horse.

Amanda and Chant ended up on their own ahead of us for 8 miles or so on loop 2, and Sunny and Rhett were Born Agains on loop 2: mature, seasoned endurance horses, trotting along purposefully on a loose rein. Sunny can be so dramatic at times, but here on loop 2, I was riding a totally different horse. In fact, someone should check her tattoo number, because maybe I was riding a different horse, I'm not sayin'.

They were both so relaxed and easy I got to witness some pretty spectacular scenery. Sure, we've all done the Snake River/Wild Horse Butte loop many times; but this time of year, the Snake is particularly deep blue, flanked with golden grass and the white-leaved Russian olive trees and spotlit by the autumn-angle of the sun in the sky.

It was around the picture-worthy Snake River Russian olive trees where we turn away from the Snake that Amanda and Chant caught up with some other riders, and we caught up with Amanda and Chant; and we three went back to riding our DINKS for a while. But once the other riders moved on out of sight, soon our Dinks settled down again, and we were back on our fabulous Loop 2 horses.

Regina had even found new trails for us (after 7 years or so of these Owyhee rides), over new pieces of Oregon trail complete with old original wagon ruts, and up a nice previously-undiscovered winding wash. We three picked up a nice gallop for a ways on a two-track dirt road, 3 perfectly behaved horses on loose reins, galloping through the golden Owyhee afternoon. Steph said, "I'm sure glad to be us right now!" The horses thought so too!

We were back in camp for the finish before we knew it, eating Regina's delicious homemade soup that perfectly hit the spot, and the horses diving into their alfalfa and grain.

It was a great season-ending ride (again!). 18 of 20 finished the 50 mile ride, with Beverly Gray and Jolly Sickle winning, and Karen Steenhof (2nd place) and HMR Redstone (Rusty) won BC. 9 of 10 finished the 25, with Cortney Honan and Splendid SR winning, and Janet Tipton and Lady Jasmine getting BC. Thanks Regina, and thanks Dr Matt Dredge for driving 3 1/2 hours to vet the ride!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Zayante, 2013

November 7 2013

Destined for the Arabian show ring in the early 1980's, but instead picked up for $100 by a horse trader because of an unpaid board bill at the now-defunct Baywood Arabians, the paper-less gray gelding nicknamed "Paco" first started his working life as a pack horse in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

A lucky twist of fate landed the gelding - renamed Taco - on the Fire Mt Arabian ranch of Jim and Jackie Bumgardner, in Ridgecrest, California, in 1990. Lucky, because he ended up where he was meant to be: on the endurance trails.

He shortly found a home with Bob and Julie Suhr, in Scotts Valley, California. "We put him in a corral overlooking Zayante Canyon, named after an Indian tribe that once inhabited it," Julie said. "Taco let out this gigantic bugle call to tell everyone he was here and he had a new name as of that moment."

For five seasons, Bob and Julie owned and rode their Superhorse, who went 5000 miles without a pull – that’s 89 straight rides, on distances of 50 to 100 miles, including 4 straight Tevis finishes, 42 Top Ten finishes, and 5 Best Condition awards. He gave the Suhrs' daughter Barbara White - she's the leading finisher of the Tevis Cup, with 32 buckles - her 20th Tevis completion in 1994.

It was the 1992 Tevis ride on Zayante that was one of the fondest memories of Barbara's life. She recalls: "Except for passing two other riders, I rode those miles from Francisco's to the finish line alone. It was so strange to be out there in the dark by myself, on a bright white horse who wanted to go with such eagerness. I remember frequently slowing him down and turning a flashlight on my heart monitor to make sure his pulse was still recovering, then letting him go again.

"It was a special night for me - warm, moonlit, and solitary, except for Zayante. And, except for the sound of the river and his footsteps, it was quiet and personal. It didn't seem that it could be the very same day that had started out in a mad rush of horses from the point of beginning, full of trail gridlock, jumpy animals, nervous people. Instead it was a very special evening, not an organized event, just me and a very special equine partner racing through the darkness to a finish line in Auburn.

"I get emotional simply reminiscing about that magical night."

In 1995 Bob and Julie decided to sell Zayante because he was rather spooky. They offered him back to Jackie Bumgardner, under the condition that she no longer call him Taco.

Jackie and Zayante continued on Julie’s original quest to reach 100 rides without a pull. Not only did they accomplish this; in Zayante’s 100th ride, the Gambler’s Special in April of 1996, Zay and Jackie finished in first place.

Jackie and Zayante hitting 10,000 miles in the Geo Bun Buster on March 16, 2002

Zayante went on to reach 13,200* miles, 5th on the all-time mileage list, over his 15-year career. His record stands at 241 completions in 252 starts, with 20 of 25 100-mile rides completed, and 5 Best Condition awards. He excelled in multi-day rides, and he gave 19 different lucky riders memorable rides over his career.

After he retired in 2005, he lived at Jackie Bumgardner's ranch until 2011, when his best buddy, Sierra Fadrazal +/ (8430 miles, Pardner's Award with Jackie in 1998) died. Then he went to live with Nick Warhol and Judy Long in the Bay Area of California, until November 5, 2013, when he passed on from a bout of colic.

He was probably born in 1979 or 1985, which would make him 34 or 28.

Zayante, you will be forever missed.

*Zayante's AERC records say 13,200; the list of high-mileage equines says 13,255.