Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Death Valley Escape

This ride has been on my "must ride" list for years and I finally got to go!! The locals call it the Death Valley Encounter, but for me it was a brief escape from cold and snow, and as I write this, it's 18 degrees so I'm ready to return!!

The day after Christmas when most people are shopping, I was trying to make my way through Boise. It was like being on a suicide mission with two big wrecks in the West bound lanes and more piling up as drivers ignored all the flashing lights warning them of what lay ahead. On my side, heading East, all the Einsteins were rubbernecking at the wrecks and then slamming on their brakes, only to slide off and land in the median. I was scared spitless, or something like that, the spelling varies. You don't get pictures of that since I was still doing my own driving. Once the other side of Boise I had to stop at the rest area and relax my shaking hands. Then onward to Gooding, meet the Cobbley's and stow my rig at Huber's.

The remainder of our trip was uneventful. We marveled at the sun and the rising temps, we were so excited to meet 60 degrees!!! We made it to Ely, NV and stayed at the fair grounds there. Brrrr in the morning. We piled in the truck and Mike says "where to today Miss Daisy?" "Oh anywhere warm will do nicely", I replied.  We made it to Trona, CA. and camp around 3'ish. I don't recall exactly we were all way too excited.

Camp was the Trona Golf Course and Country Club. It was a full campground but we found a spot half a mile from the vetting area and such necessities.

Then there is all the "get ready to go" stuff to be done. It was dark by 5 so you better hustle hauling water, feeding, organizing and putting goo in Brass's hooves. Dinner, ride meeting, set the alarm and get ready in the morning.

Now I won't lie. I "love" a good Duck ride.  The Duck and Annie Nicholson put on good rides, and Duck always promises you a cave with a bear to wrestle. I think our bear was rocks but you can find your own bear. :)  I have always counted the Duck as one of my endurance heroes. I love it when he says these are "endurance rides, not races". I fully appreciate that he points out we are here to ride in harmony with our horses and enjoy what the mountains and desert have to offer.


It was cold starting in the morning. "I can't feel my legs" Jessica said, as we marveled at the unstoppable Dave Rabe, in his signature shorts! The man has over 69,000 AERC miles now I might add. Somewhere along the "burro trail" we got into the sun, shed a layer, and then rode across the vast Panamint Valley to lunch. We had multi-million dollar entertainment as we watched the jet pilots fly maneuvers.

After lunch we again climbed over the Slate Range and had an easy descent back into the valley to arrive in camp after the sun had set but wasn't quite yet dark. Oh what a marvelous day it had been, the stunning views and vistas were unmatched! We had so much fun, Thunder and Brass did so well, that we signed up for Day 2.

Day 2 gave us two loops. A 30 mile loop where we backtracked up to the Slate Range crossing, then across more mountains on a very good old motorcycle trail, then up to the radio towers. Endomondo said we were at 3757 elevation at the top of something Peak via the Tower Trail. Then through Manly Pass, down Goff Canyon and into camp for lunch.

Our hope that morning had been to have a bit of a faster day but the slog over the Tower Trail and all had us 6 hours into the ride at this point. Ugh! Leaving at 2 for 20 miles we knew it'd be dark when we would finish. The horses were doing great, even though Thunder had been pretty warm and panted a lot during the heat of the day. However the trail turned away from camp about a mile from camp. Thunder was convinced I was the biggest idiot and horse could be stuck with. How could I possibly be going this way? They were happier when we turned back towards camp. And camp was a welcome sight!!
We vetted through just fine and because Thunder had gotten so warm earlier in the day, I had already decided I was sitting out day 3. Turned out Day 3 trail wasn't a lot different from Day 2 so no big loss.

Mike was happy as he had ridden two short rides on Khalid who is just beginning, I had my two days, but Jessica was going to try for 3. But when trotting Brass out he just didn't look quite comfortable, so she opted to not start. They went to town for propane etc., I went down to the vetting area to help Annie for a bit. Then I gave the horses a massage. It was a lazy relaxing day. I was completely happy with my two mid-winter rides on my wooly horse. All of us decided we'd gotten our money's worth, if we skipped day 4 and headed home we wouldn't miss any work. So as we spent the night at another fairgrounds, all the DVE riders were having a New Years Eve Party and steak dinner.

About noon I was back on the road in my own truck heading home. What a fabulous way to spend Christmas break and see 2017 out the door. Thank you again Mike and Jessica Cobbley for letting me travel with you. It was so much fun!!! Thanks Andi Sorrell for taking good care of the home ponies. What a great experience, I am so grateful! I want to do it again someday!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Merry Milestones

Every once in awhile a horse comes along when you aren't needing or even looking for one. Sometimes they can even turn out pretty good. Such is the case with The Big Brass. At the time he came, I had five horses and wasn't looking for a sixth, especially a half wild one with no training! Oh what a lot of work he has been. And not just for me either but for my friends who have ridden him and been successful him. You see Brass can be a bit complicated, you have to know how to read him, and if you can't, well - he will teach you. You also must possess certain skills to ride Brass. If you don't have them, again - he will teach you. I already have a horse like this, yes it is Thunder, so I didn't need two of them. They are so time consuming and the drama; holy cow! The rewards are many though when you can look back and see how far they have come. Kind of like peeling an onion and getting to new layers of their life, and yours.

In May 2016 when my friend Jessica Cobbley needed a horse to ride, I dangled Brass in front of her nose. Like any sick endurance rider, she grabbed the bait. Fast forward and they now have two successful seasons together and Brass is remaining at their house. The Big Brass surpassed his 1000 miles and is well on his way to 2000 as he currently has 1460 AERC miles! Congrats to Jessica and the Brassman for this wonderful accomplishment and I know they'll have many more! They have become a great team as Brass leaps around at the end of his lead rope in camp before a ride and Jess just stands there, calmly smokes a cigarette, and waits for the drama to subside! Then it's time to get on and go see new trails.

Besides seeing Brass get 1000 miles, I also had a goal of 2000 miles for Z Blue Lightening. Blue has always had set backs that foul up the best plans. When he was younger Thunder would kick him, or bite him in a strategic place, so then Blue had to stay home and not be ridden. This meant more miles, rides and attention for Thunder the red beast. Poor Blue, always left at home, and yet he didn't really care. He isn't the over-achiever his cousin Thunder is. I could take him to a multi-day as a spare and his attitude was, "No it's OK, you go have fun. I'll be camp lizard, and eat hay all day." In order to get Blue ridden and get some miles, since Thunder hogged the limelight, he was often ridden by my family and friends. Amazingly Blue has packed ten riders around the trails other than myself! That's a pretty rare endurance horse actually. One year I didn't even ride him at all!

This year Blue was supposed to go to a few more rides, as usual, it was one thing after another. He got a bad cough the end of May, in July before Top of the World he had some skin issues on his back. Then the ride I was going to ride for his 2000 miles was canceled and a few days later he got a nasty wound in his chest. On what I have no idea, may have been a kick but it was pretty deep and they're all barefoot so I doubted that. I was sure he was out for the rest of the year, still stuck at 1980 miles. I just said "Fine, he'll never get his 2000 miles at this rate!" But it healed quickly and I managed to squeeze in that very  last ride of the season to round off his AERC mileage to 2030! Maybe now we can finish up that Decade award. :)

Friday, September 8, 2017

6000 Miles of Red-tude

Red - tude? In case you aren't familiar with it, it's that go getter attitude that seems to belong to those dang redhead horses. Thunder is a pumped up, get outta my way and let's go kinda guy. I can grumble but he just finished out his AERC 6000 miles so I couldn't be more proud. The crooked legged beast just gets the job done!

We got off to  a slow start this year but after my wisdom tooth misery we made it to Top of The World and rode all 3 days. Photo by David Honan.
It wasn't my intention to do all 3, I planned to do 1 and 3 and trail ride with my BFF Colleen Martin. But Mike Cobbley said, "You have to ride day 2. It's the best because we ride up over the Continental Divide and it's really pretty." So OK I'll do days and two and trail ride on 3. Well the red beast was so rotten the last few miles in, trying to dump me, spooking and tossing that big white nose in the air saying "nanner nanner", that I told him he just bought a ticket to day 3! Made him happy because he was a bigger jerk the third day than he was the first! HA! Typical Thunder.

He finished Top just ten miles short of 6000, so close! Photo by David Honan

The next ride coming up was Old Selam and my daughter, Andi, decided she wanted to finish up her 5000. I gave her the choice of riding Blue or taking Rio on his first ride. She chose the big spotted beast vs the little scrawny grey. They did just fine although the first couple miles was a bit intense. It got really hot but everyone just kept a trucking up and down the hills. The completion of 50 miles at Old Selam got Andi her 5000 and Rio's first 50. And Thunder finished that 6000 and started the next 1000 miles because he isn't done playin yet! 

Monday, July 24, 2017

And So It Begins ..... Again

It has been 140 years since the war with the Nez Perce, and here I am - on land that was first inhabited by the Nez Perce. Gorgeous valleys and vast prairies lay before me and the snow capped Wallowas are watching over it all.

This was the 53rd year for the Chief Joseph ride, sponsored by the Appaloosa Horse Club, and yes you must ride a registered Appaloosa on the ride as it's all about the history of the Nez Perce and the horses. This year the ride reset to the 5th cycle and started once again at Joseph, OR. Each year riders complete approximately a 100 mile segment of the historic route of what is often referred to as the greatest retreat, until they reach the end once again at the Bear Paw Battlefield. All because the whites found gold and wanted to run the Nez Perce onto the reservation lands. Joseph was just one Nez Perce leader, and he didn't want war nor did the people want to be on the reservation, it was decided by council to escape first to Idaho, and later to reach Sitting Bull and be safe in Canada. There is far too much history to list here, many books are available as well as information online. Check it out for the full story. 

My BFF, Colleen Martin, and I arrived early enough Saturday, July 15, to unload Rio near Joseph, OR., and walk into town, meander through a few shops, and take pictures of some great statuary and murals around town. Then Molly got to play in the creek and cool down before we headed into assembly camp. Colleen was driving for my friend Dennis Schultz, so I could ride this year. I'd promised Dennis last year I'd find him a driver so I could ride instead of drive. Thanks Colleen for that opportunity. Admittedly this is not my style of riding, too much hurry and wait in this huge group, but I am glad that I went and rode it like I have always wanted to do. 

Sunday morning Rio got a quick ride before I took my truck and trailer ahead to destination camp. Then he got another ride that afternoon because my normally calm and quiet horse was no longer calm and quiet. BIG camp, nearly 200 horses and he was just a bit excited. Monday morning wasn't much different as over 165 riders set out onto the prairies heading North. 

During the weeks trails we traveled much of the Nez Perce hunting range and the lands they enjoyed. Some trails are not accessible. Not just because of land owners but because along the trail, there is simply no place to camp well over 100 large trailers and such. To me this is the biggest limiting factor. For example previous years of this leg ended near Dug Bar, down in Hells Canyon along the Snake River, but the road would rip the bottom out of many of the trailers providing they could even make the corners. In the early days of this ride most vehicles went to destination camp. Riders camped all week, tossing their belongings in the club Uhaul daily so it would arrive in camp each night. The few trucks and trailers were of modest size not today's 30 foot or longer LQ trailers. Each day camp, the entire kitchen, dance floor/stage, all the water, potties, etc.,  is packed up and moved to a new site. Driving on this trek is even an interesting experience, just ask one of those lucky folks who made the wrong turn and took the side trip to Imnaha. :) 

The second days route took us through Zumwalt Prairie, where over 300,000 acres of grasslands are home for elk and deer, all of what was once Nez Perce hunting grounds.  I'd guess we saw between 250- 300 elk. There are so many elk in this area that several special hunts are needed to thin the numbers for herd survival or many would starve. All through here are several little draws with a creek and Pine trees. Old homestead remains are scattered across the lands along with the occasional farm implements. 

There were numerous views of the Hells Canyon, Seven Devils mountains, the Eagle Caps and still the Wallowas. The route went up and down small ravines and traversed across very rocky ground as the trail headed towards the Grande Ronde through more trees. 

When we arrived at camp along the rim of the Hells Canyon there was a sizable fire burning. We saw a few planes dump retardant and some choppers with water buckets miles in the distance.  Talk about dinner with a few, lawn chairs lined the rim as riders soaked up the canyon views. 

The last day we wound around trees and draws as we left the canyon and ventured on to destination. It was an awesome week of new friends, old friends, fantastic food, good music, and many really nice Appaloosa horses. Saturday morning we all gathered for one last breakfast, we thanked the many crew members that make this adventure possible, said all our "see ya next year!" goodbyes and loaded up. Next year - Tolo Lake. See you there.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Snow days 2017

Another day of snow and drinking too much coffee. 

A day to be grateful for all the fun I had in 2016. Thunder and I had a great year, AERC 5000 mile horse, AERC Pioneer Standings, lots of PNER awards coming our way including the coveted Sandybaar Award for ten consecutive completions. Thunder is a nut but he is my nut so I have to ride him! Some days it's hard to be thankful for him but he is an incredible horse. 

I had a great time riding the others too, getting Peanut going under saddle was my summer challenge. A day to look forward to the many more "spotted" miles to come. 

Molly and I will go play in the snow later.

A day to plan and day dream of adventures that lay ahead. I have few things planned but my big adventure is the Chief Joe with my Rio. I'm really looking forward to fulfilling the dream that has been on my list for many years. And maybe, just maybe, I might even make it to the beach this summer. Really hoping for that one too. 

Sprinkled in with all of that will be endurance and trail rides and playing with horses. Happy New Year!! C'mon spring!! 

Friday, December 9, 2016

A riding I will go.........

Summer came and went. I rode here and there and every where. I neglected my blog as I played with horses all through the fall and into the snowy weather. So now, since it's 26 degrees and dropping frozen rain drops on top of yesterday's snow, perhaps I'll get a bit creative.

Somewhere during summer my AERC patch for riding 26,000 miles on rides arrived in the mail. That doesn't include fun rides, trail rides, conditioning or goofing off rides. Just sanctioned AERC endurance rides. 

I started this crazy activity in 1977 on my pony horse from the track, Sunny Spots R. At our first ride a vteran rider told me that Sunny would never make it because he was too big. Yes he was 16.2 and weighed 1250 pounds and I retired him from endurance years after that with 4,410 AERC miles and many awards. This photo was taken by Gene Peterson at the very first Sun River 100 where we placed 4th on our first 100 and rode with Nancy Cox on Rakar. And yes that is a bit of snow on the ground. 

Endurance riding has led me to many places and taken me on some fantastic adventures. In 1979 Lew Hollander hosted a 150 mile ride, and several of us said "Why not?" Took us around 27 hours and as we were heading for camp the horses trotted faster and faster. Someone hit a canter, then someone had a gallop and before we knew it the race was on! People couldn't believe we'd race in after 150 continuous miles but there we were, and the fever was contagious as we ran for home. The winner, Hanne Hollander, and 2nd place, Dodie Eason, were already finished so we placed third, Gene Carpenter was 4th and Arlene Morris took 5th. One more rider, Arthel Westlake, behind us crossed the line about 20 minutes later. We made history on the first ever 150 mile ride in AERC! 

And then, just in case doing a first continuous 150 mile ride wasn't enough, I turned around and did it again a few years later. This time on "Speedy" aka Moka's Pat-A-Dott. And we did it in just under 24 hours. :) He was also the horse I finished Race of Champions with after two failed attempts with Sunny. Speedy was an incredible mount, with unbelievable stamina and epitomized the word tough with 23 one-day 100 mile completions and his 150 miler for a total of 5515 AERC miles. 

A couple years later "multi-day" rides were introduced. This is from the Lost Wagon Train Ride, Vale to GI Ranch and on into Alfalfa, 6 days and 310 miles. Now that was an adventure through rocks, ruts, past pioneer graves, across rivers and over mountains! Absolutely amazing! A total of 13 horse/rider teams did the whole thing! 

I was looking for a picture of old Tonka and he is here in the group shot, second from left. Yes he was 14.2 standing next to 16.2! But he was one tough guy and had also been my track pony horse. He is a story all on his own but he had 1895 AERC miles and was sound till the day he died at 37. Sunny on the left with 4410, Speedy on the right with 5515, and Chollima, Al's Arab, had 3105 AERC miles. That's a lot of miles in one photo as these 4 horses represent 14, 925 miles. Doesn't count Tonka or Chollima's Ride & Tie miles either - that again is another story. 

The good Lord blessed me with more great horses than I have good sense. Here is Zapped+/ on his 100th completion in 2003, 6,480 AERC miles, 19 one-day 100's and two complete multi-days. An awesome horse that was a bucker, Al got him going and I stole him. We became one of AERC's first Decade Teams! He was tough to ride but I was younger then so it was OK. 

Cold Springs XP, another multi day adventure in 2004 with Rushcreek Faroan, a granddaughter of Rushcreek Mark. An amazing mare that I hated to sell but life predicted I must. She completed 1,085 miles and on our second XP she was the 5 day winner and BC horse! 

And then this red beast has become my signature horse in these later years. Z Summer Thunder, from my Rushcreek Hollie. He dang near killed me once and my friends searched for him for six days in the Owyhees. Regina Rose found him and brought him home and a few months later I was riding the bonehead again. We've completed over 100 rides and 5,680 AERC miles. We haven't competed on the 100 milers so much (hey I'm not as young as I once was) but we have done a lot of multi-day rides. Plus he is my second Decade Horse and we've won so much stuff it's mind boggling. 

This is my favorite picture of Z Blue Lightening. He looks so much like Zap it's uncanny, even has that little twist to his nose, ♥. I bred and raised Blue from Rushcreek Carrye, and he has always been shoved to the back by his demanding relative, Thunder. It seemed like every time I'd plan to take Blue to a ride Thunder had scuffed him up, kicked him, bit him or something, and then Thunder would get to go to the ride. Many of my friends have ridden Blue on rides, he's my "dude" horse. Lazy as can be on a training ride but full of himself at an endurance ride, a little schizo. Even at that he has managed to travel 1,830 AERC miles. Maybe in 3 years he'll be a Decade Horse too! 

Some other fine horses have been sprinkled throughout my riding escapades. I even rode Les Carr's famous Tulip on a ride! Endurance has allowed me to ride in so many places I wouldn't have other wise, it has given me sensational adventures, and has also introduced me to many friends. AERC says I've ridden 338 sanctioned rides since 1985, that doesn't include all my pre-1985 rides as I already had 6,190 miles when AERC began to track with computer data. With the last few years the spotted horses have returned to my life and with them came some new goals, like the Chief Joseph ride. 

Ariding I have gone - and ariding I will continue to go! See you some where on the trail! 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Bear Paw Battlefield Part 3 of the Chief Joseph Ride

The final portion of the 1,300+ mile journey would end at the Bear Paw Battlefield, 40 miles from freedom and the Canadian border. Volumes have been written regarding the Nez Perce, the battle and I won't attempt that here. Just google it and be amazed at all the people endured prior to Joseph's immortal words -
"Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before I have in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Tu-hul-hul-sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led the young men [Ollokot] is dead. It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are – perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever."

As riders neared camp on the last day of the ride this year, they entered the Bear Paw Battlefield area and circled the flag and the monument. It was a time of sorrow. A time of reverence for all who had suffered and died in this very spot. 
April Herrin captured the moment here in this beautiful photo of Kristen Reiter riding past the flag at half mast in respect for the dead. 

I walked around the Battlefield and looked at the markers and read the signs. This marked where Chief Ollikot was killed. 

A ceremony like none other then took place at the Bear Paw Battlefield. The Nez Perce of all ages rode out in their finest regalia. Three Nez Perce men beat on the drum and sang traditional song. 

The Empty Saddle presentation was made by the youth of the Nez Perce.

Otis Halfmoon and Emmit Taylor Jr, of The Nez Perce tribe, told us much of the Nez Perce and Bear Paw Battlefield history and that through forgiveness comes healing.

They say a picture says a 1,000 words.

Nez Perce, young and old, participated in the Healing Ceremony.

It was a very moving tribute to not only the Nez Perce but also to our veterans. After the ceremony and after dinner, Seymour Young Dog, gave the closing speech and prayer to this years Chief Joseph Trail Ride. 

The ride resets and starts back at the beginning next year, Joseph, OR.. It will be another 13 years before the ride returns to the Battlefield. Come join us for a unique experience. More information can be found on the ApHC website.