Monday, October 27, 2014

The Haunting

As fall settles in so does crazy weather! When my bestest buddy, Colleen Martin, and I cooked up the idea of her meeting Beth Nicholes and I at Fort Rock for an endurance ride, the weather was gorgeous! A week ago it was still tank top weather. Rain settled in a few days before the ride and the weather report was a dismal 90% chance of rain on Friday, and 70% for the weekend. But we are endurance riders, and our young cohort, Beth, said, "I'm not afraid of rain!" So us two old ladies couldn't wimp out on the kid.

Besides I have known Tribby's for nearly half my life, and their place is gorgeous! It had been two years too long since I had ridden over here. This site, known as the historic Gebhard Well, was also a vet check at one of the old endurance rides put on by George Behee in the 80's. I have many great memories from rides, horses and people in this area in the old days. Shoot, Andi did her first endurance ride out here, in utero, I was 7 months pregnant when I rode the old Cabin Lake 60 on Tonka in 1982! 

We arrived Friday to sunshine! Colleen drove 440+ miles to meet us there to ride. The Tribby's had provided a round pen for the ponies and we were able to plug the trailer into electricity! We were living in style! The sunrise Saturday morning as we were saddling up was outrageous. But you know what they say about sunrises! The wind was already blowing but we were thinking positive on the weather! 

Beth rode The Big Brass, Colleen had Z Blue Lightening and I had my red beast, Z Summer Thunder. The footing was soft and easy except for lava outcroppings near the top of every rise. But even then if you rode it right, it was barefoot friendly. All three horses were outfitted in their Easyboot Gloves which all stayed on perfectly all day. The route took us by the amazing Hole In the Ground, seen in the background of the pic. Hole In the Ground is what the experts call a maar, an explosion crater, a mile in diameter. At one of the old '80's rides we actually got to take the trail down into and across the crater. There are a lot of geological wonders in this Fort Rock area. 

Fort Rock lies out in an ancient lake bed. The land is full of small hills and swales and is quite deceptive. 

Remains of an old log building from the homesteader days. There are many old town sites throughout this High Desert area. There are some great books on the area if you want to learn about where you rode. One is Reub Long's The Oregon Desert. And another is Pioneer Homesteaders of the Fort Rock Valley by Ray Hatton. We saw other remains of structures here and there that had been flattened by the areas winds over the years. 

I have to do a bit of bragging here. But my friends did an absolutely amazing job of not getting blown out of the saddle by the winds after the vet check! I was really hanging on and after one big gust Colleen yelled back at Beth, "Are you still there?" The horses kept going without fail, bucking that strong wind which makes every mile feel like two or three. And when the Jekyll and Hyde weather really hit we all just kept going! We rode the 55 miles in approx 7 1/2 hrs. Endomondo said our top speed in the last half of the ride was 12+ mph and our average was 6.7 mph. 

A burnt juniper sticking up out of the lava.

A colorful rainbow! We saw several of these in between blowing sleet and sun. This was a few miles before the torrential down pour hit us. At that point we still had a few miles left and we got thoroughly soaked and chilled to the bone. Water was running down the trail and we saw several deer on the run looking for shelter. But true to endurance, we got the horses taken care of and vetted in before we went in to change and warm up, taking turns in front of the electric heater trying to remove the chill! But even then, we weren't miserable or complaining. We were so happy to be finished, completed and have 3 sound healthy horses that were happily blanketed and eating their dinner! And only then could we get to our dinner of homemade crab and corn chowder. And I ate more than my share.  But when Colleen said "What you don't eat will give to the dog.", I replied "No way! Sorry Molly."

A close up of Fort Rock

On the way home we had to stop in old Fort Rock and the Homestead Village where they have been restoring old buildings.

I am hopeful that Tribby's will receive more cooperation from the ranchers, BLM and USFS and be able to put on more rides here. Sadly some areas had been vandalized and Tribby's worked so hard on this ride, I don't know why people have to do that. But even that can't keep me away from coming back to ride here again! It truly is a beautiful area. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Old Time Ride and Reunion at Oregon 100

The Oregon 100 was first held at Brothers, OR in 1974 and it was put on by the Hollander family and managed by Mel Opbroek. It skipped a year or two and has had many ride managers over the years, (we did that too),  but it still goes on. Oregon 100 was the beginning of "stop & go" vet checks and also the very first ever continuous 150 mile ride! (Yeah I did that too).

Jo Calver O'Brien had the idea of an Old Timers Reunion and she gathered up a lot of riders from "back in the day" to show up at Oregon 100 for a great get-together. What a blast it was to see so many people that I've missed. Of course we missed many of our friends that couldn't make it but it was wonderful to visit with those who were there. Some of us rode, and Lois Fox was still riding when Jo gathered everyone for a photo. And we didn't get everybody for one reason or another. But in the picture in to top row is Joyce Brown, Carol Gilbert, Su and Joe Griffin, Gene Carpenter, Larry and Anne Eades, Nancy Cox, Cindy Schweiger, Terry Doyle, DeWayne Brown and Karen Olson. Bottom row is Shannon Priem, Karen Bumgarner, Marie Frankenburger Yoesel, Donna Carpenter, Glen Cox, Ted Brown, Pam ? Jo O'Brien.
Sunset at Brothers, OR with the Cascades in view

 Two riders, Jeff Loe and a friend, passing through the sea of sagebrush!

Lois Fox won the 100 and Tani Bates won the 50, showing the old time riders can still ride!!Thunder and I took 9th on the 50 and had a great time. I hope we have a reunion every year!! Thanks Jo for putting it together!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

AERC's Newest 4000 mile Horse!

Thunder is living proof that some crooked legged colts can be more than pasture ornaments! He finished up the first day of the Old Selam 50 with a lifetime total of 4035 AERC miles!! 

Thunder chowing down at the 25 mile point!

When Thunder was just a few months old he underwent surgery on his left front leg as it was so terribly crooked. He was born straight but by the time he was 6 weeks old the leg pointed west while he faced north. The veterinarians at Vale Vet Clinic calculated the angles and scraped the periosteum to straighten his leg, the same surgery used on the Kentucky Derby winner, Real Quiet. He was also given a large dose of selenium, copper and zinc as he was deficient and that is the main reason the leg went crooked. He then required special and frequent trimming, which I did. Every two weeks I'd go out and whittle on his front hooves to maintain the trim.

Thunder still chowing down but with his half brother Miles High, owned and ridden by Max Merlich

He still turns out but if trimmed properly it's only a little. But he does swing the hoof inward as he moves so it's a constant battle and maintenance issue. Yet here he is today as an honored 4000 mile horse in the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC). And did we stop there? No way, he went out the second day and got another 50 miles in style as he placed third! If I'm lucky - maybe we'll rack up another 1000! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Balancing Brass

Two instances of mysterious lameness that vanishes within 24 hours on a horse is not a miracle. In other words, lameness doesn't just magically go away. So lets look at these for a minute.

1) The first lameness was at the finish of an LD. The horse had taken a bad step at about mile 23 and nearly fallen, but didn't and continued only to be lame at the finish. I massaged the horse a few hours later but admittedly the horse didn't "show" me what I had hoped to see although he was no longer lame the next day.

2) The second incident appeared a month later. The horse had not been lame once in between the two incidents despite riding in all types of terrain. However at 42 miles - he was obviously lame, same leg, left hind. Again I massaged, again found some inconclusive tightness around the hamstrings, and yet again, the horse was sound the next day. The ride vets looked at him with dismay and said "Why didn't he look like that yesterday!" or "Dang he looks like a million bucks right now!"

My gut told me the horse is NOT okay. He might look great but I was convinced that there was a deeper problem and I couldn't find it. Which is particularly frustrating for me as I seem to find problems in many horses and can rub or stretch them away. But not in my own horse. I had released the muscle and fascia tension, I had relieved any knots and balanced the energy along the bladder meridian, yet I knew there was still a sticky spot somewhere on my horse, and that if I continued to ride him that he'd go lame again.

Horses often suffer quietly, they give us their all and many times we fail to listen. I was listening but just not quite getting the answer. I can often pick up the horse's tension in my hands, detect heat or discomfort, and rub it away, but I didn't feel that I had totally accomplished this with Brass. Horses show a release in different ways, it may be a slight nod, it may be a yawn, rolling the eye, shaking the head, etc. and he hadn't satisfactorily showed me a good solid release.

Over the years I have learnt that good chiropractic and physical therapy can make a world of difference in myself. Chiropractic releases tension and nerve interference and allows for a greater pain-free range of motion. So I called in who I believe to be very good at this, David Hayes DVM. in Meridian, ID.

Once Dr. Hayes arrived we discussed the history of the intermittent lameness. Brass had been in a pretty heavy training program prior to the Almosta Silver City ride as he was being prepped for an advanced horsemanship clinic. His workload included a lot of exercises and movements such as roll backs and elevating the front end to really work off the hind quarters etc. While Brass' conformation is basically correct, he is a long bodied tall horse and these movements are harder for him than a short coupled nimble horse. Brass is more suited for forward motion and even jumping. Since he's mine he's stuck doing endurance and trail. Anyway, in my mind, there had to be a problem around the sacro/pelvis area. Nothing ever showed in the lower leg or hoof so it had to be high. I remember Kerry Ridgway DVM telling me 30 years ago that most lameness in horses begins high along the spinal area.

Dr. Hayes had me walk Brass away and back towards him, then told me he saw a shortness in the hind and a slight unevenness of the hips. It didn't take Dr. Hayes long to find the source of some trouble in the sacral areas and he worked around the horse's pelvis. In so doing he also did a lot of deep muscle work because the bones can only do what the muscles allow them to do. With that, I took Brass for another walk to allow it all to move the tension out and settle. The stride appeared more relaxed and free. He then worked on Brass' lower back and withers.

Then I pointed out the out-of-place wisps of mane. Long ago I was told that a divided mane was indicative of divided energy in the neck. Think of it as a great deal of tension if you will. My own hair, over my personal neck problems, gets an odd curl to it for example. Dr. Hayes remembered me talking about that last year when he worked on my colt. As he worked on Brass' neck you could see he was enjoying most of it and relaxing. When he released the tension in the neck Brass' nose began to run a stream. Trust me, it had been just a dry nose and now it was dripping! An amazing release! Then when I walked him, at first he was shaking his head in a good way, as if to say "Wow that feels so much better! I can do this now. " Now when Brass walked he had that great swinging neck motion a lot of horses have in their walk. The tension and bracing was gone.

So in a few days I can go back to riding The Big Brass. My plan is to just do trail work and play around, nothing serious for at least a month to allow the body time to restore health and balance. Now my question to my readers is, have you been listening to your horse? I believe their are many ways we can restore soundness to our horses. And one tool is not always the answer. It's great to have an arsenal of tools and methods to allow our horses to tell us where they hurt and then know how to fix it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

City of Electrifying Rocks

The lightening was flashing all around us as we zig zagged our horses through the trees and brush. The horses were tense and the air filled with electricity. As the trail wound around we'd see the bright flash and hear the crack of the thunder directly above us. With one deafening crack of thunder I was accused of screaming like a girl! It was just a small scream but the danger was real as we scurried down the mountain side as fast as we dared.

This was true endurance at the City of Rocks Pioneer ride, August 9. Day 3 had begun as a gorgeous morning and turned to thunder and lightening. Most stories start at the beginning, this one starts backwards, near the end.

The four of us; Suzie Hayes, Tamara Baysinger, Jodie Lucas and myself were doing our best to dodge the storm that had formed around the mountain tops that afternoon. The trail had climbed and taken us to Indian Grove at 7600+ elevation, then the trail went down switchbacks and through the trees, rocks and water bars with some rather tricky footing.

In between lightening bolts the comments made were:
"Tell my husband I love him!"
"Hey did you realize your horse is the only one here with steel shoes and the rest of the horses are booted?"
"I'm not having fun anymore!"
"Head for the cave."

On down the switchbacks we continued, knowing that we were going to run out of cover once off the mountain, and then we'd be in the open sagebrush. Once we made it to the cave we'd have refuge from the lightening. It was beginning to rain as we came to the big rock overhang in the pines. We all bailed off our horses and Suzie says, "This will be great until the flash flood starts." We all laughed and joked and made more smart remarks while the lightening flashed and thunder pounded the skies. I untied my long sleeve shirt, thankful I had kept it just in case of bad weather. Not that it was going to keep me dry but it'd be better than nothing. Tamara took pictures of us smiling and laughing on the outside, but cringing on the inside.

Then it got quiet, no thunder booms, and we decided we could get back on and venture out. That decision was a bit premature as we only went about half a mile when we had another jolt and thunder clap. Suzie was in the lead and yelled "If anyone has a better idea let me know!" We were still trotting, trying to keep the horses in control on the narrow windy trail. Somehow I had ended up in the lead and Thunder was doing great, zigging and zagging along when a lightening bolt flashed down right before us! Thunder dived off the trail with me clinging to his side with every fiber in my body. It was trick riding time and somehow I pulled myself back upright and we trotted on.

We passed the Beef Jello Banana trail and I shouted back "Hey Beef Jello Banana. That must have been what the last guy was eating when he was struck by lightening!"
"Oh shut up!"

I could see the wall of rain approaching from our right as it passed over the valley floor. We were going to get soaked!  But I was sure as the deluge would reach us, the thunder and lightening would move on. At Circle Overlook we hesitated briefly to let the horses drink. I'm thinking hanging out by water tanks in a storm is not a smart move. We trotted on, with another 1.4 miles to the road crossing and the equestrian trail as the heavens opened and the torrents of rain fell. Here was Suzie's flash flood on the way. At the equestrian trail with another 1.4 miles to the trail head, water was beginning to pool and the ground was getting slick under our horse's easyboots.

We trotted behind Suzie, she said, "Hey when we get to the finish let's have a four way tie! "Works for me" I said, I was just thanking Jesus to still be alive! We trotted on. The thunder and lightening was thankfully behind us, and by the time we reached the trail head the rain was reduced to a sprinkle. We stopped at the water tanks to see if the horses wanted a drink. We are all dripping wet and Tamara says, "Jammer says he's had enough water, thanks!"

Now it was only about a mile to camp, the sun cast a light shadow as the storm moved on, and we wondered how the riders behind us would fare in the storm. It would be about 2 and half hours before any of the others became visible to those watching in camp. And in our urgency to get out off the mountain and out of the storm, we had nearly caught the second and third place riders!

That was day 3, and it made the first two days seem rather peaceful, easy and uneventful. It definitely put everything into perspective. We had faced a terrifying danger. Any one of us, including riders/horses ahead or behind us, could have been crispy crittered in a split second. But we all persevered and endured. And that's what endurance riding is and why we don't have crowds of people out there trying the sport. We were in a very remote area and our choices were few. I guess we could have stayed in the cave a bit longer but just getting to camp was our real goal.

Beth and Brass on day 1 - City of Rocks

The City of Rocks ride held in the City of Rocks National Reserve is one of the most beautiful places I have been lucky enough to ride in. It's located near the small town of Almo, ID. not far from the Utah border. The rock formations throughout the area are amazing and attract many rock climbers. This land saw over 250,000 emigrants pass through on the California Trail in the 1840's and 1850's, all hoping to get in on their share of the Gold Rush. I was told later that night by a local fellow that he had been in that country moving a herd one day when a lightening bolt came down right between him and his buddy who was riding a little ways behind him. "For a moment" he said, "we both thought we'd died. But luckily neither one us were hit."

Day 1 trail up - day 3 trail down

The ride had begun on August 7, and the first day we had ridden up the switchbacks to Indian Grove and across to the rock formations known as Bread Loaves. On day 3 we did it in reverse, riding down the technical mountain trail. It seemed a lot tougher going down and I know I've ridden down that trail before but never that fast!!

A Steve Bradley shot of Beth and I on day 1 City of Rocks

On day 1 I had been aboard Thunder and was sponsoring my friend, Beth Nicholes, on The Big Brass. We were having a good ride and Brass was doing well even though he had no mountain trail experience over such rugged and tight footing. But Brass went lame at 42 miles, left hind. We walked in and had some riders catch up to us that had gotten lost earlier. We kept walking and hoping Brass would be better at the finish, he was sound at the walk but gimpy at the trot. Sadly Beth and Brass did not complete. Brass appears to be fine again though, we took good care so as not to worsen whatever his injury was. I have a feeling his muscles just got very fatigued even though he did a 50 in June, it was more than what he was ready for.

On day 2 we went up into the Castle Rocks State Park. More great trails and beautiful rock formations. I rode with Tamara Baysinger and Jodie Lucas. I led us all astray and took a wrong turn, following green ribbon but not the green and orange. ACK! Despite the delay Thunder and I finished 6th and now had completed two out of the three days. And since the story began backwards - you already know about the last day!

Despite the nasty storm Thunder and I had a phenomenal three days with the fastest time for 3 day horse/rider teams! Thunder finished with all A's on his vet card and looked great. All he wanted to do was eat!  Steph Teeter and her wonderful crew of helpers did a superb job of marking trail and hauling the water! There were water tanks every where! The vets did a wonderful job of taking care of horses. This is truly a gorgeous area for a ride! We really had quite an adventure, just one I hope we don't have to repeat for awhile. Dodging lightening bolts is really not my idea of a good time!

Another Steve Bradley photo of Thunder and I on day 2

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Saga of The Big Brass - One Year

Hard to believe that it has been a year since the big Appaloosa gelding that could not be caught came to me. For more of the story check here.

That year has been filled with ups and downs and tiny pieces of success, all of which have been building blocks to the training given The Big Brass. I had hoped to get him on several rides this year, and had this stupid idea that "maybe just maybe" I could get him to the Appaloosa National Championship Endurance Ride. But that was not to be thanks to hoof issues, boots not fitting and weak hoof wall that wouldn't hold a shoe. However that hair-brained idea blossomed into our recent stupendous adventure of traveling across Oregon to the coast trip, so it wasn't all bad. 

One big success was at Owyhee Chills in November of 2013, Beth Nicholes rode Brass on his first AERC 50 mile ride, which was also Beth's first endurance ride! They did just fine although we did have a couple "incidents" but it all worked out. In endurance riding it always works out if you stick with it, that's where the true endurance kicks in. It was fun to watch Beth and Brass enjoying the trail!

Since then Brass' rocky record of success has continued. Some days you're the bug- some days you're the windshield. There were some rough spots Brass and I had to overcome with trust and leadership problems. Plus we kept trouble shooting hooves and abscesses thanks to their previous neglect. After another big success of completing the Eagle Extreme 50 in June with Ted Nicholes, the plan was to take him to Jackson Hole, WY for an Advanced Horsemanship clinic that Ted wanted to attend. But the day before they were going to leave, Brass had a muscle cramp at the Almosta Silver City Ride, and that plan was abandoned. Brass looked sound again the next day but Ted didn't want to risk it. He called ahead to the hosts of the clinic and they loaned him a horse for the week. So once again, plans and goals for Brass had changed. 

The good news is that Brass is still sound and trotting happily down the trail a year after his arrival.  The Big Brass has come a long way from being roped to be caught, and now comes when you call him. The big guy has learned to love attention from people. Despite crummy hooves that are slowly improving, he has developed into a pretty nice trail and endurance horse. An idea that a couple people said I was crazy to even think about! He is proof that every horse can be trained if you find the right person to continue building the horse up. I couldn't have trained Brass on my own, and I have to thank the Nicholes family for all their hard work with The Big Brass. Here is to another year Mr Brass - long may you trot! 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Conclusion of the Three Grannies Great Adventure

 I was really getting into this vagabond lifestyle of driving to a new camp site, riding new country and then traveling on to another. What a treat this whole trip had been!! And we were getting this packing thing down to an art! But as some idiot once said, all good things must come to an end. So Friday morning, July 18, OTRA bright and early heading home from Graham Corral.The air had a lot more smoke and there were several fire crews at the Sisters gas station being dispatched to the fire scene. The fire 26 miles North of Sisters was getting pretty big, guess it was a good thing that we were getting out of dodge and heading back to Idaho, which also had a few fires. But during this entire trip the timing had been fortuitous and we had always been ahead of any trouble. The good Lord was taking great care of us on our journey.

As we passed through the Burns area visibility was down to maybe a mile thanks to heavy smoke from surrounding areas. By the time we got to Vale it was actually improved and really wasn't that awful by comparison when we got home. Colleen was wanting to do another endurance ride so the plan was to unload some stuff at home, switch horses and head to Oreana for the Almosta Silver City Ride July 19. Linda's husband came and picker her and her mare up, we went over to Nicholes' and loaded Brass because they were taking 4 horses to the ride, and off we went to Oreana! By the time we vetted etc I was putting easyboots on horses at 11 PM.

I was grateful the ride started early as it was hot already. The rising sun was a deep scarlet. Thunder was trotting along and it was the beginning of a great day. Despite hauling around the country for ten days Thunder and I completed in 5th place on the 50 without incident, but some of my friends weren't so lucky on the LD. Rushcreek Hollie tore a boot up so Colleen walked back to camp and pulled. And The Big Brass had a muscle cramp at the finish and Ted didn't get completion. Bummer!! The rest of the Nicholes family completed with their horses though!!

By the time dinner and awards rolled around most of the folks had gone home. We had a great dinner with those who remained and good conversation before heading home to stay. For the first time in ten days the vagabonds had landed. The great adventure had sadly come to an end. The horses were happy to be back home and Molly trotted off with the neighbors dog to go swim in the ditch. It had been an amazing ten days. A trip that I couldn't have done without my friends nor would I have wanted to have done it without them. It was truly a great time and now we have to figure out what to do next year!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Three Grannies Great Adventure Part 5

After two luxurious rides and tours of the beach and Bandon sights, sadly it was time to load up and begin the trek back home. The plan was to ride and camp at near Sisters, OR., at Graham Corral on Thursday. I don't think I'd ridden there for 20 years and they have added some small corrals in individual campsites, all surrounded by huge Ponderosa Pines. It's a great spot!

From Graham Corral you can pick up the Metolius Windigo Trail and ride purt near anywhere you want!

We chose to head to Fourmile Butte.

Fourmile Butte is a 4,052 foot tall cinder cone, and from the top the panoramic view of the Cascades and valley below was magnificent! Here is Mt Washington

Three Finger Jack

Middle Sister and North Sister

Mt Jefferson

We spotted some deer and one was a buck in velvet!

The Three Grannies Great adventure Part 4

We left the windy foggy beach of Wild Mare behind and was OTRA to Bullard Beach at Bandon. We had a really nice camp site and got the "kids" all situated in their new digs. Oregon sure has nice horse camps - wish Idaho had some nicer ones. After we all had a bite of supper the three of us took Molly for a beach walk. We headed out the horse trail, over the dune and down to the shore. Carol was right, the weather here was nicer, a bit warmer and less wind and fog.

Since it was getting a bit late and we had the entire beach to ourselves, Molly had fun running around as we explored. When we returned to camp it was dusk and I could see the form of some smallish animal leaving our camp area. Hmmmmm. Turned out to be a raccoon enjoying the grain Linda had set out to soak while we walked. Oh, wait a minute, I see two raccoons! So we had to be sure to set all our stuff up after that and not leave Molly unattended. 

The next morning we saddled up to ride the trails and the beach. The beach trail out of BB Horse Camp is awesomely marked unlike Wild Mare. 

We took the Cut Creek Trail through the dunes for several miles before coming back to the beach trail. We spotted a deer and a porcupine and had to wait for Mr Porky to get off the trail so we could keep going. :)

And I was really enjoying the canopied trails and interesting fir trees. 

The Coquille Light House at Bullard Beach is awesome place to visit even on a horse. :)

The Lighthouse Trail led us back to camp where we relaxed briefly before heading out for a Lighthouse tour, a walk along the jetty then into old town Bandon/ 

These guys were catching lots of Red Snapper

The board walk in Bandon was surrounded by some amazing horse paintings since it was Year of The Horse. And the evening was topped off by another walk on the beach. We were all wishing for one more day at Bandon. So much to do and see and we ran out of time.