Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Billeous Farewell

October 31 2007


Wouldn't you know it, Steph goes and says she's taking my favorite horse Rhett down to Arizona for the winter. Then she goes and says she's taking my other favorite horse Jose Viola down to Arizona for the winter. Well, that would be OK, because I had this new other favorite horse to ride, Billy, owned by Kevin in Arizona.

Billy's 10, a smart, friendly people-horse who had a year off at the Teeter Spa (loves his days at the Hair Salon, loves carrots, loves hugs), and is now a hairy orange round pumpkin. Time to get him going again. I rode him two or three times, and each time I was impressed by his eager, forward way of going and dazzled by his unbelievable power going up hills in our very short return-to-training rides. In fact, I was having slight Tevis fantasies - you know, nobody buys Billy, so I get him back in shape, and just happen to be around during Tevis next year, and just happen to be the only one available to ride him, and he finishes, and Kevin sells a Tevis horse, or, keeps him and rides him himself the next year in Tevis.

Then, Kevin tells me BILLY is going away. He's found a new home in Montana. Sigh - guess I'll have to choose my new favorite, AGAIN, from the four or five other horses here.

Billy does have a friend here, unbroke 3-year-old Diego, who's very intelligent and as friendly as Billy (and loves his time at the Hair Salon too), and as nosy and mischievous as Jose Viola. And then, maybe my OWN horse will be my favorite horse - Stormy may get a ride to Idaho this winter from California.

Well anyway, since Billy's leaving about 4 AM tomorrow, and I'm not climbing out of my warm bed for that, I said my goodbyes to him tonight. We had a 10-minute scratch session, under the jaw, on the neck, shoulders, back, butt, tail, back to the head and neck, with Diego trying to horn in on the action. In fact, we had a threesome going there for a while - me scratching Billy, Billy scratching Diego, Diego scratching me, and when Rhett came up to join in the fun, I moved him into my spot and slipped out of there.

So long Billy, have a happy life with your new owners (how could he not). See you somewhere down the trail.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Petroglyphs Trail

Petroglyphs Trail

Sunday October 28 2007

Beware when your friends tell you they're going on an EXPLORING ride. Don't be afraid; just be prepared to get off and walk if you get in a pickle (we didn't), and bring a Goodie Bag (I didn't) : (, and bring plenty of clothing (I did).

Carol and I met Karen just outside of Murphy for an Exploring Ride to the petroglyph boulders along the Snake River. We got permission to drive through some private property to get onto BLM land, and we were going to try to make a beeline to the road-to-the-rim-to-the-trail that drops you down to the Snake and boulders.

It was just the perfect Owyhee day - not too hot, not too cold, no wind. The only bad thing was the bugs. Our horses came prepared, and Karen came prepared with a bug face hat (fits nicely under your helmet), but Carol and I got plenty of arm exercise waving bugs out of OUR faces. At least I had a bandana, which prevented the bastards from getting into my ears, like they do the horses. And those bugs do know exactly where ears are, on horses and humans.

We headed out in the right direction, toward the Snake, intending to hook up with the same road Steph had taken the endurance ride over a few years ago. We came to a row of telephone poles, where we knew we needed to take another road off in a northwesterly direction... but was this the right road? Funny how you may ride over this same trail once or twice every year (or, sometimes every day!), and think you know it, but you really don't know exactly where you are, because while the landscape of hills and washes and sand and sage and grass looks different, it still somehow looks the same. The differences can be subtle. Did the road usually turn west? Was that hill the one we always passed? Did the wash start here, or was it further on? I don't remember that slope of land. Or do I?

We took this road, but when it turned west we abandoned it and took another road-trail-cross-country north. And turns out we went about 3 miles the wrong direction. We still ended up on the rim of the Snake River - waaaaaaaaaaaay up high on the rim of the Snake River - but far from the trail down that we were seeking. So we cross-countried in the direction we should really have gone, and finally ran into our road, and trail. And went down to the petroglyphs, gave the horses a drink in the Snake, and climbed back out, taking the road all the way this time, knowing exactly where we were. In fact, I recognized the very hill where I'd seen a black wolf running very fast 2 years ago. It turns out we had been on the right road in the beginning, we just got fooled when it jogged to the west. As we crossed the marked Oregon Trail, it really made me think about how hard it must have been for those pioneers 150 years ago. We ride this land every day and can get lost - how must they have felt?

It was a long day - 5 1/2 hour ride, but the weather was still absolutely perfect when we got back to the trailers, and Carol had waiting in the truck the best gorp I'd ever eaten in my life.

Lesson learned: I've already packed my saddle bag with a Goodie Bag for the next long ride.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

They Don't Make 'Em (Us) Like They Used To

Friday October 26 2007


That refers to the hard-working ranchhands and farmers and miners of the old days.

Carol and I had a barbed-wire fence to fix - it had been cut last year and allowed easier and safer access for our horses onto the rangelands (and to avoid nearby property where we weren't wanted anymore). It was time to fix the fence and put in a proper gate, because the cows will soon be turned out on that piece of BLM land to graze for the winter. (And to stand on the roads - if you drive this way, watch out for dark cows standing on the highway in the middle of the darkest nights.)

We had to bring a 12' stretch of fence back over the wash and reattach it, and further down sink 2 fence posts for a gate, connect the barbed wire from the other side, and stretch and tighten all 4 strands of wire.

Rick brought the backhoe, so we didn't even have to break our backs digging 3-4 feet down in the rocky soil. As we watched the backhoe sometimes struggling to get through the rocks, we studied the rest of the fence that went out of the draw in both directions, up the hills - original fence posts from probably at least the early 1900's, all in a perfectly straight line, and most all standing straight up, not a wayward angle to a one of them... and we thought of the rest of the fence over the hills - all of the fences - that we couldn't see. Hundreds, and thousands, of hand-dug fence posts holes; hundreds, and thousands of fence posts cut and hauled there, eyeballed straight and planted in the holes; hundreds, and thousands of strings of barbed wire strung and tightened. (Have you ever picked up a coil of barbed wire? Amazing how heavy it is). All that man-power, shovels and muscles, no back-hoes to help.

And while out riding later Carol took us over the remains of an old canal, many miles long - also from at least the early 1900's. It started at the headwaters of Bates Creek in the mountains, carried water down to Bates Creek Canyon and below, to irrigate fields for food to supply the mining cities. All dug by hand and mules with plows, and following the slight downslope of the land just right to keep up a slow but steady flow of water. Of course, there was much more water back then and the canal has long since dried up, as have the creeks that used to flow heavily.

Today we've got machines to do just about all the heavy work we want to avoid - machines that replaced a lot of human workers and subjugated the lands. I guess it's called progress, but we've also lost a lot of human manpower and womanpower skills along the way.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Owyhee Treasures

October 25 2007


Besides riding every day, it's become written in stone that I must walk the 3 dogs every day. I started it when I got back from Europe last month, Connie took it over when she came to visit (both times) and I've done it since.

Girlie the cow dog and Austin the mixed big round sausage about flip out when I head out the door with my Walk game on, Austin wagging his tail till he about knocks himself over, and Girlie leaping over Austin and spinning 360's in the air. Quincy the semi-senile golden retriever (but improving with exercise) can't go anywhere without carrying a rock. She has to pick out the right rock to take with her, always one that's just a little too big for her mouth. She'll pass several over till she gets the Perfect Rock. We can be hiking up a steep hill, and Quincy can be panting like a dog, can't get enough air, but she won't put the rock down. Silly dog has to pick up and carry rocks everywhere.

We usually do some climbing and following ridges. I'd like to do some more owl hunting - in May I found a long-eared owl up one of the creeks, trying to snooze during the day - but 3 dogs clattering through rocky creekbeds carpeted with crunchy golden cottonwood leaves sound like a herd of elephants, which encourages any resting owls to abandon their posts long before we get there.

Austin and Girlie are always hunting rabbits; when they spot one, off they go in a frenzied yelping chase. Austin is hopelessly big and slow (once a rabbit doubled back on him within a few seconds, and he continued on up the steep hill, yelping frantically and running crazily till he almost passed out), and Girlie is ALMOST fast enough to catch a rabbit, leaping like a graceful gazelle over the big sagebrush. Quincy just cruises along with her silly rock she picked up.

Well... I guess I pick up rocks too. I've always been a rock collector, leaving a trail of cool rocks behind everywhere I've lived. I used to carry cool big rocks in my truck cab, until a woman told the story one day of rolling her truck and getting slammed in the head with a coffee cup. After that I put my rocks in the back in the camper shell.

I can't help but pick up rocks here in Owyhee county also. Cool shapes or colors or breed (what's the word for 'breed' in rock terminology?). It's hard to find a perfectly round, or egg-shaped, or square, or rectangular rock. I found one perfect smoky quartz crystal, but Carol said one of the neighbors goes around planting those everywhere. I was a bit skeptical of that until one day not far from there I came across an actual machine-polished rock. Oh well, still a found treasure!

Other treasures: I found a small worn deer antler one day, and Jose the horse came across a nice 4-point antler on a ride. There's a few owl pellets from under a light pole that a great-horned owl sits on some nights. And today - what fell out of the tree right in front of the house, but a perfect bird nest!

About the size of a softball, it looks like a perfectly knitted and woven bag, made of black and white horse hair, straw, baling twine - taken apart into individual strands - leaf stems, dried oat grass stems, and some sort of stuffing (out of a couch??) lining the inside and woven into the walls.

And it's woven onto 2 small branches, as if they were knitting needles and the loops still on the needles, as if the birds were in the middle of knitting another round.

An absolutely incredible work of art, by one or 2 little creatures some people might (mistakenly) call dumb. Just goes to show you that after we humans destroy ourselves and the earth, these little creatures will still be around, going about their miraculous business.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Owyhee Riding Spa


Sunday October 21 2007

We saved the best for last.

We plan that here at the Owyhee Riding Spa, you see. Take you out on a couple of brutal cold windy rainy stormy days, on a rather rough horse, then the last day give you a taste of Owyhee heaven: smoother, very sure-footed horse, perfect sunny fall day and great company. It was indeed perfect today, the kind of day that makes your insides melt like butter: frost in the morning, bright sunshine, snow plastering the near mountains, bright fall colors, pleasantly cool for riding later in the morning.

Today we put Tamara on Mac, and Connie rode her beloved Finneas one last time (well - last time this visit. She said "Oh I'll be back! Like maybe next week!") I rode my pal Jose Viola, and Carol rode her mare Justy.

Tamara woke up this morning obsessed with posting. "I want to learn to post!" Between the three of us, we tried to instruct her on how to post, but on the whole 5 hour ride she may have only posted a few times by accident. The best advice for learning how to post is, just ride! A lot! (She still looked good and comfortable on Mac though.)

We'd planned to make our way up Pickett Creek Canyon again, catch this one road out further up the canyon, make a loop around onto Bates Creek road, and maybe up into the foothills of the mountains a little.

Well. Things don't always go as planned. We squirmed our way up the beautiful canyon - the trees getting brighter yellow up there now - and missed that road out of the creek. Carol thought she saw it after we passed it, up on the opposite hillside, but I kept insisting there was another road further up canyon. So, we pushed on, finding some cow trails, or blazing our own trails through sagebrush which got taller and wider. The creekbed was too overgrown so we had to stay above it as we got deeper into the canyon, and the walls got a bit closer and steeper. There were still cow tracks - they are still making their way down out of the mountains for winter - so I kept thinking there HAD to be a way through.

We passed 2 spots where the tiny trail narrowed to one-hoof-wide size, and had a bit of a steep drop-off. In fact, when Jose's right leg slid off the trail and down before he caught himself on the first one, I cringed, and for the next one I about closed my eyes when he slipped on that one too. I didn't say anything to Tamara ahead of me, but that made me nervous. Later Connie, who was riding behind me, said the same thing! I wasn't worried about Tamara though because she was on Mac, who is the sure-footed-est horse we have.

We finally reached a spot where we got stopped by a steep, rocky hillside, too tall and convoluted sagebrush, choked creekbed, and too steep a climb out of the creekbed up the other side. We had to turn around.

I did NOT want to re-cross that narrow strip that we had been over, and neither did Connie. Carol suggested just climbing up the steep, rocky hillside behind us. OK with me, I just wanted to get out of this canyon now. It was steep enough for us to get off our horses, and so we led them up on foot, having to sidehill back and forth for much of it. Finneas was stumbling all over the place, and once Connie fell, and he almost slipped on top of her. Not because he was nervous, but because he kept trying to eat everything along the way and he wasn't paying attention!

We huffed and puffed and gasped our way to the top of the canyon. By then we were peeling clothes off and even the horses were sweating. Gretchen and I refer to this kind of riding/exploring/evacuating as Bushwhacking (last time we did that in Bridgeport, Spice almost drowned in a bog). Carol said "That's called Going Western, girls!"

We decided to abandon the original plan - we could have done the Pickett Canyon loop backwards - and instead continue back towards home but do a big detour down to Hart Creek and the old Homestead.

That turned out to be just as terrifically beautiful, and, since we were doing the trail backwards from what I've always done it, for me it was like a totally new trail. I saw things I'd never noticed before, including an old wall structure at the Homestead, and new Badlands cliffs, and the Oreana Savannah cabin tucked away up Hart Creek, where the owner was working away.

"Hi!" we hollered. "Great day, isn't it?" "Fabulous!"

Indeed it was, this 5-hour trail ride in the Owhyee Canyonlands. On our last mile home, Hoss the Raven sat on a little sagebrush on top of a little hill 20 feet away from us and watched us ride by, dispensing his good Raven Karma.

At the Owyhee Riding Spa, we treat you right: horses to fall in love with, dogs to sleep with; good Raven Karma from Hoss, and we take you on some good therapeutic rides. You take home Owyhee-forever memories and (perhaps, like Tamara) days of sore muscles as souvenirs. But it's a good hurt.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

No Divas

Friday October 19 2007


"Can my friend Tamara come here too?" Connie asked. "She rides! She rode with me in Honduras!"

"Sure, as long as she's not a diva!" In other words, no whining about accommodations (no four poster beds here), food (how could you, with the Trader Joe's delicacies and a fridge full of food in the house!), horses, or scenery.

"Oh, she's not! We've travelled together, camped together, she rode with me in Honduras, she's done the owl job with me." Ah - if she's been on some spotted owl hikes, she must be pretty tough.

So, Tamara jetted in from Seattle this morning, we picked her up, and brought her to the Owyhee Boonies. While she didn't check in four bags - two of them full of food (she was on a prop plane), she did manage to smuggle some more Trader Joe's goodies in her one checked-in bag (eark chocolate edamame, wild rice, tortellini, dried fruit, ginger snap cookies!).

Despite the dark heavy-laden clouds (we hadn't seen the mountains all day) and the 80% chance of rain, we bundled up, and saddled up three horses, throwing Tamara up on Quickie, who is maybe the best guest horse.

Tamara was having a wee bit of trouble at first... didn't really know how to post, her legs went way back, toes went down, was pitched a bit forward, was kind of hanging on to the reins for balance, was stiff, and was getting thrown about at the trot. And Quickie has a big trot.

Tamara didn't look too worried, but Connie did. She gave Tamara a few instructions, had her trot around a bit more, then we lit right out on the trail, Connie leading the way on Finneas, Tamara next, me following on Jose Viola. I was kind of wondering why we left so fast when Tamara wasn't quite that comfortable... and Connie later said she thought she heard the door open and was afraid Steph was going to step out and say, "Hey - I think you better not take Tamara out on my horses!" So she wanted to get out of there and on the trail fast.

Once we got down in Blonde Cow Wash, Connie didn't look back for a while - she picked up a trot and kept going. I was watching Tamara ahead of me, but very soon she looked like she was quite comfortable in the saddle, and I said so. I think it was only about then Connie dared to look back. She said later, "I was thinking, Ohmigod, I've got three days left here to ride and I'm going to have to WALK the whole time!"

We didn't hear any whimpering from Tamara, so Connie kept up a brisk trot on Finneas up ahead. Really, from my view, Tamara had adjusted quickly to riding. "So when did you ride last?" I asked her.

"In Honduras! Two years ago!"

"That's it?!"

"And once more, for about an hour, a month ago."

Oh! Tamara must have been starting to hurt very quickly, because really, you don't use some of those horse riding leg muscles doing anything else, but she never uttered a complaint, about her horse (we didn't tell her till we got back that while Quickie may have been the least complicated horse to ride, she was the very roughest), or the stormy weather, strong cold wind and some spitting raindrops. Well, she did ask once, "Is it okay that my legs are numb?" "Oh, sure! I wouldn't worry about it!" She really looked quite comfortable in the saddle. I think there's a real horsewoman in there.

We took her about 12 miles and we trotted much of it, no mercy for the person who hadn't really had her legs beaten on like that except for one day two years ago. And she really looked like she enjoyed it. We took her along the Rim Trail, great views down into Hart Creek, with the stormy, snow-covered but still mostly obscured Owyhee Mountains in front of us.

Wait till we put her on a smooth horse and take her on a ride on a beautiful warm sunny day, which is what Sunday is shaping up to be!

Of course, we'll have to see if Tamara can walk in the morning.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Flagellate Club

Thursday October 18 2007


Carol and Linda and I are forming a new winter riding club. It's called the Flagellate Club. We are going to verbally harrass, scourge, humiliate each other into riding every day this winter. No excuses, no whining; we must get out and ride every day. Extreme weather will be the only exception, and that's only if it endangers us, like thunderstorms (I do NOT do lightning), dumping rain, hurricane force winds. "Wah, it's cold!" we decided, won't count unless the ground is icy and treacherous.

I'm going to have 4 or 5 horses to ride. Carol has plenty. Linda has only two, I think, so she might possibly have a legitimate excuse for not riding EVERY day.

Guest Flagellates are welcome to come ride our horses or bring your own; you will only be subject to utter scorn if you get here and change your riding mind (extreme weather excuses withstanding).

We haven't actually set a date to start the Flagellate Club, which is a good thing. Because while Connie is here and is a good example because she wants to ride EVERY DAY, Carol has backed out twice this week. Once because she was working (well, okay, that's a good excuse), and the other, "I'm going into town." Once we start Flagellating, that will be a very questionable excuse. Yes, we do live way out in the Boonies, and sometimes we must go into town (like, say, if I run out of Ben and Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch ice cream, or half and half for my coffee, no WAY am I getting on a horse), but we'll have to weigh that excuse, when we use it, against the weather to see if that excuse always coincides with cold weather.

As for The Raven, he'll ride anytime, anywhere; he never has excuses. (He's not afraid of lightning either.)

We might start the club when Steph is gone to warmer climes, when we really must get serious about keeping horses in condition.

Or, we could put it off a little longer until the weather gets a little warmer...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ice Balls and Big Bunnies

Wednesday October 17 2007


The forecast keeps changing, but there's some form of wet weather heading our way. The rain prophecy has veered between 20 and 40% in the next few days; once it said thunderstorms tonight (yikes!), and now it says 80% chance of rain tomorrow.

We woke up to a good layer of snow in the mountains (about 15 miles west), with brisk chilly breezes and clouds picking up as the day wore on. It was one of those Mountain Moving Storm days - when the sun and storm clouds play hide and seek, making the mountains look closer, further away, revealing different shapes that you think you've never seen before. Sometimes the mountains were completely obscured with dark clouds, or whited out with mini snow storms.

Connie and I couldn't talk Carol or Steph into riding, and we couldn't shame them into it. They both were busy working, but, it couldn't have had anything to do with the somewhat cold weather, could it? We went out to ride anyway, because Connie is here to ride, and I just like cold weather!

We rode up onto the north bluff on Finneas and Mac, with serious clouds hanging over the mountains behind us, and little blue streaking rain squalls sprinkled on the plains around us, interspersed with pockets of sunshine.

Mac was at first convinced there were cougars, or Horse Eating Bunnies hiding in the sagebrush we passed, and then when a mini-storm of little ice balls blew over us, he trotted sideways, trying to keep his butt to the wind. ("This is what we do in Nebraska storms!")

We went a few miles along the rim of Bates Creek, with the wind, then dropped down and crossed Bates Creek (dry), and returned along Blond Cow Wash (so named after the blond cow in the 6-cow gang out there). Approaching the cows, Mac at first thought they might be cougars, but then he realized they were cows - Beloved Cows!! His head got higher and higher as we got closer. Oh, wouldn't he like to just herd them up and drive them down the cow trail! Instead, we walked with a stately grace right through the middle of them, the girls calmly watching us pass, and headed for NoDog trail. (So named so we can avoid the trail that goes by Linda's property where several of her BIG white dogs like to give chase to passersby).

Turning a hill corner - OHMIGOD! Horses slam on brakes. Two startled, big healthy does bounded across our trail and over the hill. We've been seeing scary jackrabbits on our rides here, and those were the two Biggest Bunnies our horses had ever seen! In fact I wondered if Mac's seen very many deer, because he stared, frozen, after them a long time with his heart pounding.

Back down to the ranch, where the wind had picked up, and the temperature had dropped. We gave the horses their oats (and a big treatie: carrot covered with molasses!) then turned them loose. They joined the herd that had waited for them, and they all took off up canyon. We went inside for a nice hot cuppa java.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Connie in Wonderland

Sunday October 14 2007


"Hey, these fall colors look great through my goggles!" Connie's doesn't have sunglasses with her so she's wearing her racetrack goggles, which are tinted red.

On this spectacular fall day, Steph, Connie, Carol and I rode way up Pickett Creek Canyon toward the mountains, doing a bit of exploring on a loop. The first part we had to literally bushwhack our way through the creek in the narrow canyon, where the last two floods (2003 and 2006) tore through the canyon, ripping out some trees, washing out bridges and roads downstream. In fact Connie and I waited with the 4 horses while Steph and Carol sawed and dragged big limbs out of the way so the horses could get through. We still had plenty of close passages to duck under and big logs to step over.

We made our way through the creek bed to where the canyon opened up, rode above the creek bed on the cliffs above the gold mine, then back into the creek bed. Downstream near the town of Oreana (where the creek is dry now) the trees and bushes have already turned bright autumn colors. Up here it must not get quite as cold yet, because they are just now turning: the cottonwood trees yellow, the quail bush orange and red, dried up poison oak a beautiful maroon-red ground cover. Not a good place to get bucked off in the pretty, dead-looking poison oak, because they can still carry the active oil for 5 years, even if dead.

"Wow, these colors look even better without my goggles!"

We climbed out of the creek up onto the flats and cross-countried to Bates Creek road, followed the road back down through Pickett Creek, where a herd of cows were hanging out, on their instinctive annual fall trip down from the mountains. A rancher in Oreana breeds these cows, and every new generation follows their elders down from the mountains when the weather starts to turn.

Discoveries: possible new trails for next year's rides along some new washes and chalk cliffs, an unusual mysteriously positioned and uniquely female-anatomy-shaped rock formation, one big 4-point antler (heavy!) that Jose carried back home in his saddle pad (I always wondered what that short little pocket in the saddle pad was for - too small for a water bottle, but now I know it holds a deer antler just right!). Connie of course brought her Goodie Bag that we all snacked from, including the 4 horses. Rhett and Jose really liked Trader Joe's dried pineapples and strawberries.

Another great ride on a perfect fall day in Owyhee...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Hoss With No Name

Saturday October 13 2007


The big black horse came to the Teeters last fall from neighbor Carol with the name Blackie. Ugh. When I was here back in May, I thought I had the perfect better name for him: Hoss. The name came from the orphan Raven, Hoss, that neighbors Linda and Carol raised last year (after he and his siblings fell out of their nest), and who still hangs around here.

He's John's horse. After I left, John changed his name to Cap'n.

"Uh oh," said Carol, "that's not a good idea. He'll start thinking that way." Indeed, Cap'n is now captain of the 7-horse ship here... or he thinks he is. He's actually a step below Rhett, who doesn't flaunt his high seat, but he will put Cap'n in his place if necessary - but Cap'n avoids these showdowns to keep up the appearance of being Bossman.

Cap'n is big, a boss, and is used to having things his way. If everything you ask him to do is his idea, well, that's great. If you ask him for something that is not his idea, well, he throws little tantrums. On the ground, he gets in your face, he gets in your space, he'll plow you over if you're carrying, say, a handful of alfalfa that he'd like. On his back, he wants to go, he wants to be in front, and he doesn't want to stand still. (He doesn't yet appreciate the Kodak Picture Posing Moments.) He's not at all mean; he just treats you like all the other horses, where he's the boss and naturally always gets his way. Apparently, Carol said, his former owner was intimidated by him.

Connie rode him on an LD at the 5-day ride with Carol and I. I was riding Mac, and Cap'n and Mac seem to have a thing going on. Mac seems to hang out a bit with Cap'n's girlfriend Quickie, and Mac is at the very bottom of the totem pole. Mac would probably rather not be on the same planet as Cap'n, especially riding with him, and Cap'n would rather always be in FRONT of Mac, not behind him, as Connie sometimes asked him to do. We changed his name to Deckhand that day, to take him down a notch or two - to have to prove himself and earn his way up before he could be called Cap'n again.

Cap'n also accidentally gets called Mac. You know how your mom sometimes calls you your sister's name? And calls your sister by your name? For some reason we just get Mac and Cap'n confused a lot. I'm sure Cap'n doesn't appreciate being called the name of the lowest horse on the totem pole - what an insult!

As to his domineering status, inspired by some Clinton Anderson DVDs that Steph and I have been watching, I took Cap'n out to do a little ground work with him. I am no Clinton Anderson, and it didn't go so well at first, because Cap'n knew what was happening - he was being asked to do things that he would rather not do - and he didn't like it. His first responses were just to bull his way past me. We did finally work things out: when I asked him to move - forward, backward, front end or hind end - I expected an immediate respectful response. (He'd obviously learned and been asked to do all this ground work before.) He eventually agreed to this, but it was with such an aggrieved expression it made me chuckle.

Yesterday Connie rode Cap'n for the first time since the ride, and when she started with spurs on, he knew she meant business. She only had to touch him once with them, and he was immediately on his best behavior. In fact, she took the spurs off right away, but again he had SUCH a chagrined expression, I had to laugh again. He's got quite the Personality - he's a Big Black Boss on the outside, but a big soft marshmallow on the inside.

And today, while riding him and Quickie, Connie and I decided all his names just were no good. Blackie, Hoss, Cap'n, Deckhand, Mac - they just weren't working. Cap'n IS John's horse, but John isn't here.

We used to come up with great names for my horses at the racetrack, when I groomed and Connie galloped. We tried on a few new ones for Cap'n during the ride: Truman, Berrick, Saalish (better for a mare), Capote, Winston, Sven... then came Finn - Finneas. The more we used it, the more we liked it. Quickie and Cap'n went out on the ride, and Quickie and Finneas came back to the ranch.

So, John, you'll have another new horse when you get back.

Friday, October 12, 2007

(Goodie) Bag Lady

Friday October 12 2007


About ten years ago, I flew one way to Colorado to visit friends and relatives, with a one way train ticket back to Seattle. After the visit, my friends dropped me off in front of the Denver Amtrak station. Someone was getting unloaded from the car in front of us.

"OHMIGOD - CONNIE!" "OHMIGOD MERRI!" She was also taking the same train back to Seattle. We'd had no idea. And that was the first time I learned the technique of carrying Goodie bags of food with me. She'd come prepared against those Amtrak meals, which in those days were expensive and not so great. She had bags of Goodies - popcorn, fruits, veggies, crackers, soups (we bummed hot water off the kitchen), etc. That extra food came in very handy when our train was delayed 36 hours because of one of those common Amtrak winter delays in those days.

Second lesson on the Goodie Bags: doing spotted owl work with Connie. That work involved a lot of driving, and a lot of time spent waiting, much of it in the dark, all of which passed better with good CDs and bags of Goodies to munch on. When I rode in her truck with her, there was barely room for me to squeeze in around the maps and big Goodie bags. I outfitted my truck the same way: always a big Goodie Bag within reach. You never knew when you'd be stranded out in the Boonies for hours, or days, and the thought of being stranded without food was the most worrisome aspect of the whole, sometimes scary, job.

And being a Vagabond, and often living out of reach of big cities with cheap groceries, I tend to carry boxes or bags of food with me wherever I go, especially if I pass a Trader Joe's. Those of you in the West and Northwest know what I'm talking about.

When Connie came to Owyhee for the 5-day ride 2 weeks ago, I'd told her we lived out in the Boonies, far from a store (well - only 45 minutes). It triggered that Panic Alert in her, and she brought a big box of groceries, most from Trader Joe's, (that we never got through) with her. Since she immediately got addicted to endurance riding, and said she was coming right back for another visit, she stored the food here.

And she immediately bought a plane ticket back. And took orders for pick-ups from Trader Joe's. Seeing Steph and I are out in the Boonies, far away from a store (well - only 45 minutes), and very very far from a Trader Joe's, we gave Connie our special orders. We were kind of serious, but kind of joking, but when I picked Connie up at the airport last night, she was standing at the curb with FOUR bags (fly Southwest! They'll let you check 3 bags!) One of them, big enough to stuff a pony in, was full of food (and heavy enough to be a pony) that Steph and I had ordered, and more food that Connie had brought, JUST IN CASE we ran out. Connie's cache did not take into account the entire car trunk full of food I'd just bought at the local store, on her orders, before picking her up.

"I'm NOT leaving the ranch while I'm there. I'm there to ride. I am NOT driving into town!"

She brought so much food, and so many DVDs to watch, that we may not have time to ride. Or we might just get too heavy to ride.