Saturday, May 31, 2014

Stuff Your Face

Saturday May 31 2014

It's SO hard being on a diet. The Dude, who has, shall we say, a little trouble with the flab, is on a restricted diet. He's got a fatty neck crest (which does make for great hugs), plenty of padding on his sides, and fatty dimples around his tail dock. Steph said it looks like her salad bowl. Dudley has no complex about his plus size, but he must lose more weight.

He gets restricted hay soaked in water to remove the sugars (he's insulin resistant), and he doesn't get to eat grass, much to his chagrin.

He works out almost every day - and slowly he's losing the pounds and getting fitter. My goal is to have him not-fat and sound and fit enough to do a 50-mile ride by the end of the season (and if it's sooner - great!).

His reward for working out hard on the trail is stopping for a few bites of grass on the way home. We stop, because he can't eat and chew at the same time - he about falls over.

He knows how to stuff his face.

Gotta love The Dude!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

In The Bubble

Sunday May 25 2014
Up top, Steve Bradley photo!

I was keeping a sharp eye on my competition on Day 1 of the Owyhee Fandango endurance ride. Far ahead was Christoph, but I wasn't out to catch him. But a mile ahead of me, I was tracking a trio of Steph on Jose, Carol on August, and Wayne on his horse. About the same distance behind me, I kept crosshairs on PJ and Lynne.

I wasn't doing it to garner any particular placing. I wanted to be In The Bubble: a nice cushion of space between the riders ahead of us and the riders behind us. Sunny does better for me in an endurance ride when she's not directly leading or following other horses. She relaxes more, keeps her head down and travels smoothly and steadily, and keeps her cool when she's by herself.

We were In The Bubble, a magnificent glorious Bubble, for 1 hr 45 minutes of trail after the start of our ride.

Then the bubble rather quickly shrank, and popped. We caught up with the trio ahead of us while the following riders caught up with us.

The second half of the first loop was um… challenging. The adventure started down in Sinker Canyon, which Sunny isn't particularly comfortable in anyway with the towering red rock walls and the overgrown brush and trees. That was where she startled from horses behind her through the bushes. She bolted, then wheeled, taking some vines draping around my leg and hers and she does not like anything wrapping around her legs! From then on, she figured a cougar was sure to get her, and the only gait I could get out of her was a high-headed pogo-sticking jigging foxtrot.

The last picture in Sinker before all heck broke loose and I had to put the camera away!

It got worse when we suddenly came upon a line of people along the narrow trail - stopped by a rattlesnake blocking the route. We had to wait there a while, until one rider dismounted and shooed the snake out of sight, and until the line of excited horses got going again.

The rattlesnake traffic jam!

I did manage to not fall off Sunny on the looooooooong 4 jiggy miles of Sinker Canyon; and once we left the canyon to climb up the hills to the vet check, Sunny settled down.

back to normal calm at the vet check.

After the vet check, for the entire 25 miles of loop 2, we had another Glorious Ride In The Bubble - a mile or more behind the horses in front of us, and miles ahead of the others.

Sunny above Sinker Canyon

Just me and Sunny, cruising through the Owyhee desert. It averaged out to one of the best rides I've ever had on Sunny - love me some Bubble!

In The Bubble at Sinker Reservoir

Thursday, May 22, 2014

She LIKES It When She's Good

Thursday May 22 2014

I've been the conditioning jockey for J.T.'s beloved mare Sunny, while he's away being a Presidential Innovation Fellow in Washington D.C.

We all call Sunny "Special" - for various reasons. One is that she can get a little wound up during rides - training rides and endurance rides. She's a Shagya, but I call her a 'gaited horse' - as in she can cantalope, trotalope, trollop, jig, be-bop, jigalot, jigalope, and pogo stick her way down the trails, which can, at times, be most uncomfortable for the rider. (See Three Dinks to get what I mean.)

Today I had the best training ride on her, ever. I even looked down a few times to make sure it was actually Sunny that I was riding. She was relaxed, comfortable, only cantering and trotting and walking - not jigging - actually sauntering down the trail. Wow - just - wow. I am sure she likes it so much better when she's good.

Tomorrow I'm riding her on Day 1 of the Owyhee Fandango. If she keeps up this astonishing calm and smooth way of going, I may not let J.T. have her back when he gets home!

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Saturday May 17 2014

If you've read Chapter 23 of Soul Deep in Horses, you might have gotten the impression that my horse Stormy, The Most Beautiful Horse On The Planet, is a bit lazy (in an ever so charming kind of way), and you'll understand his reasoning behind it.

And so it was that he was absolutely appalled when I used him to help mark trail for the Owyhee Trail Challenges with the other Old Man, Krusty. From Stormy's point of view, you see, I took him out of retirement once again.

Look at his face!

Besides the indignation he feels at being un-retired, Stormy has always hated being cinched up, no matter how gently or slowly I do it. He pins his ears and will try to bite, if I'm not careful. I can only think it brings back memories of being a racehorse, and having that stretchy cinch cranked as tight as it will go, to hold that postage-stamp-of-a-racing-saddle on his back.

Pinned ears! Mad face!

I couldn't help myself; I took a video as I saddled Stormy up. You can see by the expression on his face how appalled he is that he's being saddled; and when I cinch him up, you'll see him pin his ears at me - even though it's not tight.

He wears his rather offended face until I mount up, but once we got going and out on the trail, he forgot that life was so bad - particularly when he found excellent grass to munch on along the trail.

The Two Old Men spent a couple of days marking trail up the canyon, and Stormy decided that it wasn't such a bad unretirement job, after all.

The video:

(or link)

You can get Soul Deep in horses here!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

Sunday May 11 2014

"Now," I don't believe in gambling," my mom said, "but here's $5. Go bet on Chalk Box to win."

Chalk Box, multiple stakes winner at Longacres racetrack, was up for her biggest race yet, the Washington Oaks. Year-end championship honors hung on this stakes race. It was Mom's first visit to Longacres racetrack where I worked as a groom, her first time to meet Chalk Box, her first time to watch one of my horses race. She picked a big one to attend.

After I led Chalk out of the paddock and turned her over to the pony on the track, Mom handed me the 5 dollar bill.

I was in a quandary - I wasn't suspicious, but I could not bet on my own horses! I ran in a partial panic through the crowd to the windows, not knowing what to do. I was about to pocket the $5, and just pay mom the money if Chalk won (and I felt she would)… when I saw a friend standing in line to bet.

"Ten Eyck!" I grabbed him. "Here, can you bet $5 on Chalk Box to win? She's my horse but I can't bet on her but I'm supposed to place this bet for my mom…" I babbled frantically.

He placed the bet for me, handed me the ticket, and I ran back outside to watch my lovely filly warming up on the track.

Chalk Box won (and ultimately was named Washington Champion 3-Year-Old Filly of 1989). Mom got to stand in the Winner's Circle. She got her $20. She never gambled again.

She never could quite understand my horse addiction I'd been born with… but I think she got it that day.

Miss you Mom!

Thursday, May 8, 2014


Thursday May 8 2014

He's very important, and consequently, he's got a HUGE ego. He has opinions on everything (2 years ago, I dubbed him The Opinionator), and he always thinks he's in charge. He doesn't like to be told what to do, because he already knows everything. He always has to be in front (even on a cattle drive), or else he throws a tantrum. He knows he's the Grandson of the Black Stallion (since Connie remembers to tell everybody that about her horse), and if you bust his bubble, he's capable of great embarrassment.

Take today, for instance. I'd saddled up Finneas, Grandson of the Black Stallion, and led him though the gate into the paddock where the other horses were gathered around, since we were headed out in that direction. Krusty walked up, not that close, but Finneas thought he was too close, so Finneas pinned his ears at Krusty. I told him "No!" (as in, 'pay attention to ME, you're working now!'), and proceeded to gather up the reins to climb aboard him. At that moment, Jose walked up, not that close, but Finneas thought he was too close, so he pinned his ears and charged at Jose, with me standing right there almost underfoot.

Finneas may be the herd boss, but *I'm* the boss of Finneas, and sometimes he forgets that. *I* am not going to be run over by a thousand pound horse (it hurts to be run over!) just so he can fluff up his ego, so I smacked him and told him "NO!" and backed him up, and continued on with the business of climbing aboard him.

Finneas was mortified. Not just because he got in trouble because he was naughty, but that everybody saw him get in trouble because he was naughty.

I made him stand still there beneath me for a moment - while Krusty and Jose and the rest of the herd stared at Finneas (and… I'm not sure… possibly they said something to him under their breath, or stuck their tongues out at him). When I said "OK," Finneas bolted for the exit, took off at a fast trot away from the staring eyes. He literally cantered across the arena, across the creek and across the pasture to the far gate until he was out of sight. He was trying to save a little face by charging very purposefully out on his job.

Away from the "Neener neener!" stares of his herdmates, Finneas slowed down and his ego righted; I didn't mention any more about his behavior or humiliation, and we went on to have an excellent ride.

A re-acquaintance recently said to me, "I didn't know horses had such personalities!"

He hasn't met Finneas yet.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

My First Endurance Ride

Tuesday May 6 2014

Mel from Boots and Saddles, Aarene from Haiku Farm, and Connie from Hoge Homestead blogged about their first endurance rides.

My first endurance ride was a momentous occasion: I won my first endurance ride.

This is how it started:

Our alarms went off early enough, but somehow, time slipped away and we were late saddling our horses for the 7:00 a.m. start; and we found ourselves scrambling, trying to get to the starting line on time. Something so simple for Shelley, who’d been endurance riding long enough for the whole process to be as automatic as brushing her teeth, but I was more than a little flustered. Wait! Where were my gloves? Where was my fanny pack? I forgot to fill my water bottles! Where were Rocky’s brushing boots?

Time mercilessly ticked away, indifferent to a newbie endurance rider who would have preferred a leisurely, calm start. “We have to go!” the veteran Shelley called. We tightened our saddle cinches one last time. My nerves fluttered and my heart felt like popcorn kernels banging around a hot popper—it was my first endurance ride!

The horses were amped up and ready to go. Both of them, owned by some Arab sheikh and trained by Shelley, were competitive and used to finishing in the Top Ten, and they often won their rides. They knew they should have already been at the starting line warming up and swirling around with the other horses. I was worried that I might have a handful of horse at the starting line, and I wasn’t that great or confident a rider. Shelley jumped on a bouncy Pharrah, and I gathered Rocky’s reins and clambered on his dancing back with two minutes to start time.

As I settled in the saddle, I instantly discovered something awry: my stirrups were too long! “Wait!” I yelled to Shelley. I jumped back off Rocky to raise the stirrup leathers as he twirled around me, while Pharrah crow-hopped impatiently around us. But now things were worse than amiss: my stirrups did not shorten! This was disastrous!

One important endurance proverb I hadn’t learned yet was to never, never try a new piece of equipment or clothing the day of an endurance ride. I had ridden Rocky before, but I had never ridden in Rocky’s special saddle before. Shelley had long, long legs. I did not.
“Shelley, wait!” I screeched. “My stirrups—!”

“They’re about to start! Let’s go!” yelled Shelley, and she was off to the starting line!

Rocky jigged anxiously around me, urging me to get on with it one way or the other, and since I didn’t know what else to do, I jumped back on him and chased after Shelley and Pharrah. We arrived at the starting line just in time to hear, “Trail’s open!” and take off down the trail in a clustered herd of excited horses and riders, and I couldn’t reach my stirrups! “Help meeeeeee!” I yowled in harmony with the “Yeehaws!” and “Whoas!” and horse snorts and hoof beats.

You can read the rest of this story in "Chapter 8: Rocky Start" in my book Soul Deep in Horses: Memoir of an Equestrian Vagabond.

The short of it is, it was loop 2 before I could change saddles to one where I could reach the stirrups; it was loop 2 before I discovered we were following ribbons that marked the trail (since I'd had no idea how Shelley knew where we were going!); it was loop 2 when I started to discover this wonderful new world of endurance riding; it was loop 2 when I started getting addicted. Winning the ride (I tied with Shelley for first place) really made no difference to me. (The next day I rode another horse and tied with another gal for last place.) The ride itself made all the difference.

Fifteen years later, I am still addicted to this enthralling discipline of endurance riding, which takes me far out into country I'd never see, on the back of a horse that (usually :) enjoys sharing the ride with me.

Friday, May 2, 2014

My Rocket Ship: She Got It Right!

Friday May 2 2014

So says one of the 5-star Amazon reviews for my book, Soul Deep in Horses: Memoir of an Equestrian Vagabond. "She Got It Right!" This review just happens to come from Paul Thoresen in Egypt, whose 2 fabulous horses, Borcan and Raad, are featured in two of the chapters in my book.

I recently posted a snippet of My King: Borcan. (Paul says Borcan "is now the old man of the club, trying to show a little more dignity in public.")

Here is a snippet from My Rocketship - starring Paul's other stallion, Raad (who, Paul reports, is producing offspring just like him!):

Paul turned Raad loose and let him run through the Egyptian desert, heading toward the distant speck. I let Prince do as he wished, which was a hand gallop. He was no longer interested in trying to catch that gray lightning bolt, probably because it was a lost cause. Prince was quick on his feet, but he wasn’t that fast. Where once I’d been afraid to gallop, I felt quite safe on Prince. What Prince was doing with me seemed so . . . tame compared to Raad. Watching Raad shoot away put a whole new perspective on galloping a horse.
Eventually Prince and I caught up with Jeannie and Katir, who had slowed to a walk, and together we watched Raad and Paul continue running, bearing off to the right, still at a dead run, making a huge arc out in the wide open desert, eventually coming back around full circle to join up with us again.
Raad slowed down as he approached us. I thought Paul’s trajectory had been for fun, but in fact, he hadn’t been arcing on a whim.
“This! (pant!) . . .” “Horse! (pant!) . . .” “Is! (pant!) . . .” “SO STRONG!” Paul gasped. “I couldn’t steer him!”
I thought he was kidding. Paul was a good rider, and he rode his horses on a light rein, whomever he was riding or however fast he was going. He’d given me some pointers on how to ride “light” - but it usually didn’t work for me. I still had a lot to learn about riding, although I was delighting in the fact that, finally, I loved, loved to gallop out here in the Egyptian desert because I wasn’t afraid to do it anymore.
Paul shook his head in utter bliss, his eyes gleaming. “That’s the Akhal-teke in him. They are so strong - and strong minded - they don’t bloody listen!” he said with unmistakable pride in his voice. But then, Paul so loved all his horses, anything they did just tickled him.
I was glad I wasn’t riding Raad; if Paul couldn’t control him, I’d have had no chance in holding him back.
Paul turned to me. “You want to try him?”
My eyes widened. Too strong for Paul? Can’t steer him? Can’t pull him up?
We hopped off our horses, adjusted the stirrups, and I climbed on the big gray powerful tank of horseflesh.
We gathered our reins, Paul said, “Hah, Prince!” and Prince leaped to a canter. And I was—
GONE. . .

"My Rocketship" is a wild ride in my book Soul Deep in Horses. I'll be featuring tidbits from my book on this blog from time to time. You can get the book as soft cover or ebook on here, or autographed copies are available on my website: