Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Owyhee Menagerie I

Wednesday June 29 2011

Some people take their dog for a walk every day. How boring.

Neighbor Linda takes her whole Menagerie for a walk (and she only needs one halter!): Mama the miniature horse, Holler her baby mini-mule, Bee the Border collie, Goat Dog the dog, and Edna the donkey.

Edna loves Goat Dog and she follows him everywhere. They roam Linda's property... and sometimes beyond... and Edna won't come back unless Goat Dog does.

Sometimes the gang comes over for a visit, stays a while, startles the neighbors ("what the hell is that!?"),

and then they head home.

It may seem odd to some people, but Linda and her Menagerie fit right in with us folks on the crick.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cheap Thrills No Frills Day 2: It's Good Fun

This is what I love about endurance riding in this country:

it's fun.

The Owyhee Cheap Thrills No Frills endurance ride proves my point.

You can name a trail the Booby Rock Trail. Could you do this in an FEI ride in France or the UAE? I don't think so.

You can follow your long shadows to the Owyhee mountains and back in a day.

You can race the 50 miles if you have those competitive bones in your body; you can win and tie with three old endurance friends (and get a pair of cool sunglasses for your award), like Bill and Sue and Lee.

You can ride slow and finish last or close to it every ride - and not only get the occasional really cool Turtle Award for doing so, but you might have a 5000+ mile horse that you hope to do 10,000 miles on, like Carla and the Khid, who came from Colorado to do the two days.

You can ride with a friend whose horse reaches 3000 miles, like Nance and Quinn!

You can ride to see some great scenery - even if you live here and get to ride here all the time and marvel at it every day.
[slide show here:]

You can have a horse that gets Best Condition almost every time he's ridden: Fire Mt Malabar has six starts this year and six Best Conditions (Day One here with Lee, Day 2 with his wife Naomi); you can ride a horse to her 6000 miles, like Annerose Carlisle did with Ginger. (Annerose thought Ginger got 6000 miles at the Fandango in May, but she was 10 miles short. On Day 1 here, she got it!) You can come and do trail rides if you don't want to ride 25 or 50 miles. We love to have you! You can come and do your first 50 mile ride, like Judy and Milan from California, or or Estelle from South Africa, and Shim Sham!

You can ride your horse that you just love love love on his first two LDs like Linda and Ted!

If you're a horse, you can wallow in some mighty fine grass after 50 or 100 miles.

You can drink some wine and tell tall tales, and you can have great dinners:

and you can act silly.

If you're lucky, you get to ride someone else's horse, A THOUSAND MILES TOGETHER, like me and Jose and the Raven - THANK YOU STEPH AND JOSE!

If you're lucky, you can just come to an Owyhee ride, and have fun!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cheap Thrills No Frills Day 1

photo by Steve Bradley!

Saturday June 25 2011

Top photo - Me and Jose: another completion, and 990 miles together! Still holding our breath for our ride tomorrow.

Booby Rock!

So much water in the desert!

Great Owyhee skies.

Jose enjoys the great scenery.

Intruder Canyon notch.

Climbing the Hart Creek knife ridge.

Five more miles to go!

Nance and Quinn: Quinn reaches 3000 miles today! (Not to mention 2 Tevis buckles).

Linda and Ted (Stormy's buddy) finish Ted's first ride!

Frills for Jose and the boys after a hard day's work.

Frills for the riders - the best pot luck dinner ever!

No Frills ride awards for participants!

More No Frills - John and Robert the vet get the Hoedown on!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ready For Some Cheap Thrills

Friday June 24 2011

A decent little group turned up for this weekend's Cheap Thrills No Frills endurance ride; tomorrow there are about 35 riders in the 50, 8 in the 25, and a couple of trail riders.

It feels like a family affair again, just a bunch of friends with a common obsession getting together to have a trail ride - a long trail ride for a long weekend. Our friend Sue from Utah finally made it, after truck troubles and broken hand problems kept getting in the way for two years. Carla and the Khid are here from Colorado. Estelle is here from South Africa! (Though she's been living in Idaho the last year, she still gets the Farthest Traveller Award.)

The humans may get No Frills here, but the horses are in heaven with the special grass pasture Steph grew and opened for grazing. We call it our little Sierra del Rio pasture, in honor of the Sierra del Rio Ranch on the Oregon Trail that lets us use their ranch and grass pasture for our out vet checks on our May ride.

Jose is ready raring to go. I just recently realized I have 940 miles on him. The plan is for me to ride him both days on the 50s. That's all I'm saying about that right now, but I'll be holding my breath for two days.

The forecast is for 72* and no thunderstorms tomorrow. Bring on the Cheap Thrills!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ribbon Boys

Thursday June 23 2011

It's not all just schooling together, eating and hanging together, and romping together; the two BFFs, Stormy and Tex, sometimes work together, too.

Today their assignment was to mark the last bit of trail (as in, a whole 3/4 mile of trail) for the 2-day Owyhee Cheap Thrills No Frills endurance ride this weekend.

Since the convoluted in and out trails from base camp required a bit more concentration, I made the ribbon Hula Skirts (in honor of our friend Dudley) the night before. Tex would mark the Out trail with his 3 colors, and Stormy would mark the In trail with his four colors.

Tex had never worn a Hula Skirt before. It didn't faze him in the least.

Besides, his Bud Stormy was wearing one and it didn't bother him at all.

The boys did the hard work - standing still - while Linda and I untangled and picked out the right ribbons to pin onto the bushes in the correct directions.

Having completed their assignment, the boys surveyed a job well done. They'll sleep well tonight, knowing riders won't get lost for their hard work (on 3/4 of a mile of trail!).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Trail Colors OMG

Wednesday June 22 2011

Not to scare you or anything, but this is just two days of Owyhee Cheap Thrills No Frills endurance rides. Steph emailed me this map (with "trail colors omg" as the subject line) so we can hang the right color ribbons going in and out of basecamp.

Confusing? Only if you're trying to hang all the ribbons, in and out directions, at the same time. Shouldn't be confusing if you're riding, as the ribbons will be pretty clear, and there are pie plates galore directing you where to go, for reassurance. Some even tell you what to watch out for, like deep sand and gopher holes.

I have this mishmash to hang out (Stormy will do his share tomorrow!); Connie and Judy have one trail to check; and Steph will re-ride one more trail to check up on it - and then we are set.

It's demoralizingly hot today, in the 90's - Owyhee seems to be lying lethargically, waiting for a thunderstorm to happen or something - but Saturday and Sunday will be in the mid to high 70's, with no thunderstorms predicted. Couldn't be more perfect for some cheap thrills on another Owyhee endurance ride!

One more word about the ride: pay attention to the name: Cheap Thrills, No Frills. Two days of fun trails (especially the "Booby Rock" loop), good scenery, and potluck dinners. The hot showers probably will work, and if not, there are plenty of garden hoses around. If you're coming expecting to win a 4x4 Toyota Pickup when you cross the finish line as the winner each day, and to win saddles for your Top Ten finish awards, lower your expectations a bit. The ride awards will give you a cheap thrill, though they will be memorable.

Bring your fun bones!

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Sunday June 19 2011

Every spring, we seem to have some plant that runs so riotous as to become memorable.

One year it was the Indian paintbrush. Last year it was the globemallow wildflowers.

This year it's the cheat grass. Proliferating beyond all sensible proportions. Thick carpets of it, sometimes knee high. The horses like it when it's green; but as soon as it turns reddish brown, they aren't much interested in it.

Which is a shame, because that's when the seeds start sticking to everything. They get in your socks and shoes, and drive you mad with their irritating skin poking. I've heard rumors it can get in a dog's ear, pierce its eardrum and go all the way into the brain. I wouldn't doubt it because it's wicked stuff, able to work its way around to places unwelcome - I expect it has barbs that anchor it from going backwards.

It's an invasive species in many places - sometimes you'll see it called an "infestation". Rapid elongation of the root system and prolific seed production help it elbow out the native grasses. It can germinate in the spring or fall and is very adaptable to new environments.

It comes up earlier and uses up the water and nutrients needed by other perennial native grasses, and it has a short growth period and therefore is highly flammable earlier than native grasses. And it's so thick in this part of the country now - even more reason for me to be afraid of lightning.

And it gets into and sticks to your Easyboot Gloves like crazy. Judy had warned me of it. "I spent HOURS getting the seeds out of my boots yesterday!" Carol had put duct tape over the velcro straps of her horse's Gloves. I did the same, but the duct tape failed and slipped during our ride, making the velcro a super magnet for the seeds.

After some experimenting, where Steph found that taking a scissors blade and scraping it back and forth over the seeds is the best way to remove the worst of it, followed by tweezers for the individual near-impossible-to-get pieces, it still took me over an hour to clean the boots.

Judy suggested I try vet wrap around the velcro straps next time. Anybody else had this problem before?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Things We Do For Love

Saturday June 18 2011

With the 2-day Owyhee Cheap Thrills endurance ride coming up next weekend, people have been asking about the trails. "Will there be new trails? I don't like to ride the same trails every time." "Will the trails be the same? My horse likes trails he's familiar with." "Will it be rocky?" (Hello, this is southern Idaho with mountains and beautiful rock canyons!) "Will there be a lot of sand?" "Will it be flat?"

I expect that a number of people who have not put on an endurance ride are unaware of the time, thoughts, ATVing, riding, hiking, marking, unmarking, re-marking, re-thinking, agonizing, and more, that go into putting on a 2-day 12, 25, and 50-mile trail and endurance ride. Do you go for easy trails? Beautiful trails? Challenging trails? Stay up near the mountains where it will be cooler and we don't have to haul water? How many loops, how many miles, and where are the vet checks and where is the best place and timing for the veterinarians?

Steph could make it easy on herself and just mark the usual near and pretty trails with all the vet checks in camp, but she is always driven to find new trails and show off more of the spectacular Owyhee country, so she's spent the last 2 weeks scouting new and less-used trail. The prettiest one that we couldn't use in May because of high water in Alder Creek, we can't use now because the cows are late moving up into the mountains and the owner doesn't want us riding through all the cows (with a potential of left-open gates). A shame because the fields of purple and white lupine are lush and stunning right now. Beautiful Sinker Canyon was another possibility, but the water in the creek is too high. Who would have thunk it - too much water in the desert!

Today we bushwhacked up the little-used Pickett Creek trail, to find a route to connect up with the trail that comes home from Booby Rock (yes, it looks like a Booby). We weren't the only ones laboring with love to come up with new trail: Rhett and Mac were the intrepid, brave beasts who carried us up through Pickett Canyon: splashing through raging rapids, ducking under low branches, diving through tree- and vine-covered dark tunnels, bulling through brush that possibly contained Horse Eating Monsters.

Moving up the creek, we came to one spot where a submerged Forked Tree Branch Monster grabbed at the horses' feet; Rhett was nervous scrambling through it, and uncharacteristically, Mac became a little unnerved because he couldn't find a decent foothold while his feet were being grabbed. He thought about where he was going to place his feet, hesitated, thought about turning back; but upon urging forward, he thought about it again, carefully placed his feet, and splash-scrambled through it. He had a big snort afterwards, shaking off the tension. (On the way back, we removed this Underwater Monster.)

At another spot in the creek there was a downed tree, with a trunk the size of my thigh, blocking our progress. I dismounted and held Mac and Rhett down-stream on a small sand bar while Steph plunged into the chilly, knee-high water and, with the little saw she'd brought along, sawed it into pieces.

The horses couldn't quite see her, and they warily eyed the sounds of cracking branches around the bend in the creek. "Big floater, coming down!" Steph yelled. "Uh, you might want to hang onto the horses!"

Rhett saw it first, a big - Loch Ness Creek Monster bobbing along the creek on the water's surface, approaching us. He snorted and scared Mac, and got ready to jump if it was necessary. I kept talking in a normal voice, and the log passed without incident. No problem, until, "Here comes another one!"

Rhett snorted again at the next Loch Ness Creek Monster floating down at us, and all was well... until... one of the branches from the log grabbed his leg as it floated by. Rhett ripped a loud snort and leaped straight up in the air; Mac couldn't see what Rhett was snorting at but he was sure it was some kind of Water Death; he crouched down like a cat; I tripped over a rock and fell over backwards on my butt. Luckily the horses didn't jump forward and I didn't turn them loose.

Steph waded back past us to saw loose this log and branches (sawing by feel, under the water), which had now become hung up on a curve in the creek; and after pussy-footing around and trying not to get my feet wet (I hate wet feet!), I gave up and walked into the creek too, and helped pull the logs out for easy passage.

We slopped back up onto our horses, and worked our way up the creek, climbing out when another big downed tree blocked us (too big to saw). Steph sawed through the branches to make a path above the creek. Mac couldn't see her - only saw the tree moving and making funny noises - and he worried about a Tree Monster that might jump out and attack.

After some more bushwhacking, we reached the beginning of the Booby Rock trail, and we turned around and test-rode the trail back (in the direction the ride will be going).

We'd done it - found and marked the final few miles of loop 3 of Day 2, and and Rhett and Mac had been on a great adventure.

It was deemed a success, and the horses proclaimed very Lionhearted Souls for their brave bushwhacking.

But, after much thinking, all the riding, sawing, clearing, bushwhacking, marking trail, re-thinking, and agonizing, Steph decided to not use that trail because of some technical sections and all the water coming down the creek.

But that was okay, because the riding and exploring adventures are all for the love of endurance riding.

[Slide show here]