Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fall has Fell

Laps in the pasture, what better way to blow off some steam on a cool fall morning. The summer heat has stepped aside. This is the beginning of cooler days. I'm pretty sure a warm day will now be the exception. Even old Zap joined in for a short time.

Zap thought most of it was silly, afterall he is 27 this year. He preferred to keep eating that lush grass while Thunder & Blue ran circles around him.

Scarlet sneaking up on the inside of her mother, Hollie, trying to steal the lead. And she did. She might be little but she is quick!

Brother and sister having some fun. I think it's interesting how these two have joined up again after years of being apart.

Another lap around the field with Hollie out in front. She cheated and cut the corner, enjoying the run!

Lap after lap they ran, then they started to slow down. Trot around. Snort and blow. With all the frivolities over, it was simply time to graze.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

More Canyonlands

I stir in my sleeping bag as I hear a soft nicker. Followed by a louder nicker. I hear a hoof pawing. Stomp! Stomp! A bucket makes a clang against the corral panels. Stomp! Stomp! Another whinny calls out. There is no doubt in my mind. It is Thunder, calling for room service! "Hey Lady! Breakfast time!"

"Ok Ok" I call to him. "I'm up!" As I step outside the moonlight is casting shadows everywhere. I don't need the flashlight as I give the boys their hay. Thunder continues to paw until I give him his soggy beet pulp with a bit of grain. Then all I can hear is "Slurp! Slosh! Slurp!" Oh yes and the thumping of Molly's wagging tail as she gets her dog food!

At a multi-day ride a routine quickly develops. Feed the horses and the dog. Breakfast. Walk the horses and the dog. Saddle up, pack the water bottles. Get the dog settled for the day. Bridle and interference boots. Ditch the jacket. Strap on the helmet. Mount up and get outta Dodge!

Each day at the Owyhee Canyonlands is a brand new adventure. Promises of old cabins, remnants of wagons, gorgeous vistas and a whole lot of trail! The Castle Creek ride on Day 2 offers some gorgeous views of several canyons where the rock walls harbor caves belonging to some citter. The first part of this ride is pretty hilly and rocky. We took our time, rode easy and got to the halfway vet check in 4 hours. After an hour of letting Thunder suck up all his food and my peanuts, we were ready to circle around back to camp.

It's hard to pick a favorite day because each one is beautiful in it's own way. But I do think my personal favorites were the 3rd and 4th days, Oregon Trail and Sinker Creek loops.

Merri Melde rode Blue on Day 3 and she took this shot of Thunder and I. T
The Oregon Trail 50, goes NW to the beautiful Rio Del Sierra Ranch. The owners amazingly welcome us each year and allow us to invade their pasture for our vet check. And it was our vet check not just once but twice as we had a circle of trail from the ranch that took us over the Oregon Trail. This section was quite rocky and went up a narrow ravine that makes one wonder how they ever got wagons through there. Up on top are some stretches of wagon ruts cut into the rock slabs. We traveled on out to a canyon lip that overlooked the glsitening Snake River far below. It was definitely a WOW moment! The route took us back to the Oregon Trail and the ranch for that second vet check mentioned earlier. Afterwhich we traveled across the varied terrain to Oreana and the Teeter's Ranch once again.

Day 4 is Sinker Creek, where we ride west of camp, with some good trotting ground before dropping elevation and passing through the rocky gates as the canyon walls come together. We crossed the creek about 30 times as we just kept looking up into the gorgeous rock formations and cathedral spires of the canyon walls. Later climbing and climbing back out and topping out on a plateau with yet another amazing view! One vet check on this day and then back around through Pickett Creek drainage and up onto the Hart Creek Rim trail. Thunder was so full of it along the rim that I was tired of him pulling on me. He knew where he was and wanted to go. So I led him for awhile until he settled down. Four days and still frolicking!

Day 5 used 2 loops out of camp so no vet crew bag to pack since we would return to camp halfway through the day. The loop went out across the highway through The Birds of Prey lands near Rye Patch and returned to camp for the first 25 miles. This was easier for crews and vets but a bit hard for the horses because so far each day, once in camp they were finished. But not this day. After their hour hold in the vet check they had to go back to another loop. I didn't want Thunder to think he was done for the day so I left him saddled. The plan seemed to work as we left camp and went out to Hart Creek. The trail took us through an old homestead and a neat dugout! Then farther up we interrupted a napping rattler who was pretty cranky after he almost got stomped on.

Thunder was really strong the last few miles in. I was with another 5-day rider, Drin Becker, and we were both certain our horses could have done another day if it was there. Thunder was just full of it! I think he was doing his "happy dance"!

Multi-day rides are so incredibly wonderful. You begin the week camping with a few friends, and before you know it everyone is your friend. It's hard to see the week end. You know that some of your new friends you won't see for a long time, or maybe not at all.

But the magic has to come to an end. And the sun sets on another adventure that goes into my treasure chest of fun and savage amusement!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Owyhee Adventure part 1

Blue: Hey Thunder, whadda ya suppose is down this road?

Thunder: I've been here before. A lot of horses go down this road to a big hill. The humans try to relive the Old West by riding us from here to the Snake River and the Oregon Trail.

Blue: I got to go on the East loop last year but not out to the Oregon Trail. Wow!

Thunder: You'll get to see it this year. You have a rider for Day 1. Follow me kid!

The Owyhee Mountain Range of SW Idaho is flanked by Hwy 78. To some it is a vast brown barren wasteland. To others, the high desert holds a rich history and a hidden beauty that at first you may have to look for. But then as the peace and serenity settles into your bones, you truly begin to appreciate the land. As you watch the sun come up over the horizons and the gold and pink hues in the landscape you begin to see it take on a life of it's very own. Little has changed in the Owyhees in the last 200 years. A few roads have been added but other than that, it is still the Old West where time has stood still. In the silence as you ride, you can hear the footfall of your horse, his every breath, the squeak of leather and if you are lucky, the call of a hawk.

As the sun rises on Sept 28, 2010; 68 riders saddle up and leave Oreana, Idaho. Their destination? Wild Horse Butte, the lands of Birds of Prey and the Snake River. It is more than a new dawn it is the beginning of a 5 day adventure through the Owyhees.

The trail left the Teeter's Ranch and climbed through washes to the open flats, heading east across Hwy 78. The footing was pretty sandy with rolling hills, cow trails and two-track roads out to the Snake River for a welcome chance to cool off and relax in the water. Leonard Liesens took the photo of everyone at the river as he was riding Z Blue Lightening, Thunder's cousin.

The route ambled along the Snake River for awhile then it was a climb up out of the lowlands and soon we were on the Oregon Trail. One can't help but wonder what the pioneers thought as they left that beautiful river behind and headed out into the dust. Perhaps there was more grassland then and less sagebrush but it was still pretty dry. I am thankful for a good horse that can go 50 miles day and not 3 miles a day like those wagons did! UGH!

After the vet check we had 16 miles of trails and two truck with more gulleys, arroyos, hills and sand. Some places were a bit tricky and Thunder felt good and threw in a couple bucks. Once as we were trotting along he leaped straight in the air! I think I heard a rattler but I was pretty busy trying to stay right side up!

I was pleased Blue could give his rider, Leonard Liesens of Belgium, his first look at the Oregon Trail! Leo thought that was pretty cool! There were a few pulls the first day but nothing serious and we were all happy to see camp! The horses vetted through without any trouble and we had a completion for day 1 before 2 PM!

Once finished though the work begins for the next day. Take care of the ponies so they can go again the next day. Go get your vet crewbag and repack it, load it in the rig going to the vet check so you will have all your stuff. Wash out your equipment so it is clean and ready. Feed the horse some more and pay attention to every little nick and bump so he can keep going. Go shower. Walk the ponies and play with Molly Dog. Dinner for me then more dinner for the horses. It never ends but I love it!! Even though I will get up in the middle of the night just to check and be sure the horses are fine. Toss them more hay and tell them good night once more.