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!!