Monday, June 19, 2017

Tevis Cup Magic: Top Book Award in Equine Media Awards at AHP Conference

June 19 2017

"It is not for the faint of heart: a hundred hard-won miles of rock, dust, elevation, uphill (19,000 cumulative feet of climbing), downhill, (22,000 cumulative feet of descending), imposing mountains, plunging canyons, wild rivers, wilderness, extreme heat, suffocating humidity, effort, and luck - good or bad, all in various doses, across the Sierra Nevada mountains, in the dark and the light and the dark, all done within a 24 hour time limit. Time magazine listed the Tevis Cup as one of the Top Ten Endurance Competitions in the world…"

Saturday evening in Scottsdale, Arizona, my e-book Tevis Cup Magic: Taking on the World's Toughest 100 Mile Endurance Ride was announced the winner of the 2017 Equine Media Awards non-fiction book category at the American Horse Publications Conference. "You had me hooked from the first paragraph," the judge stated. "You have a fabulous, engaging writing style that grabbed [m]y attention and kept me engaged throughout the book.."

I was surprised to make it to the finals, and beyond thrilled to win. I was in good company among my peers. Thank you, AHP!

Dedicated to excellence in equine media through education and communication, American Horse Publications promotes excellence in equine media.

Tevis Cup Magic is available as an e-book (no hard copies, sorry!) on Amazon here.

And now will somebody please pass me the eyedrops, I can still feel the dust from the trail!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Branding Day: Part 2

Thursday June 1 2017

Part 1 is here.

There was a little twist to this branding day. After lunch, a couple of cowboys mounted up and went in the Other Pen. Don's longhorns needed branding. Fortunately the longhorns are rather gentle compared to those mean ol' mama angus cows, and while it took some skill to stay out of their way in a smaller pen, and to rope those bigger horns while they were ducking one behind the other, it all went quite smoothly. Once a longhorn was roped, it just sort of gave up and didn't put up any fight.

Here are some photos:

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Watch Out Kitties

Monday May 15 2017

Mo, the big black cat, is always getting in fights with some gray tomcat who keeps trying to sneak in to get his cat food. There's always a horrible yowling caterwauling ruckus when they clash. I run out to try to yell them apart. Half the time Mo comes out on top, and half the time he gets the crap beat out of him, but he won't stop (Audrey the Wispy Terrorist just avoids conflict, though knowing her, the tomcat is terrified of her).

I heard some awful caterwauling the other morning and ran out to see if I could find the cats. As I stood by the crick trying to locate them, this great horned owl flushed from a tree above me.

He may have been drawn by the ruckus… either for a meal, or else he's wondering what the heck is going on and would they shut up already. 

He's beautiful and I love owls, but I hope he wasn't looking for a meal, and I sure hope he doesn't get Mo or Audrey!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Branding Day: Part I

Tuesday April 18 2017

It was branding day 5 weeks ago on local ranches. Friends and family gathered to help Don Barnhill brand his herd. Before lunch it was the new calves and a few new mean ol' mama angus cows that got branded and vaccinated.

Here are a few photos from the morning.

Friday, April 14, 2017

2017 Antelope Island Endurance Ride: Weather Wonderificous II

Friday April 14 2017

This post is to replace the previous one… which I meant to put on my endurance blog, Merri Travels. It is now up on there, for your read/re-reading and shivering pleasure about the most stimulating weather we had over the weekend!

And, my Smugmug photos are here.

Meanwhile here is a short pictographic essay from the weekend.

Endurance riders dwarfed by Frary Peak

Riding along the Great Salt Lake. Which, you can see, isn't very full.

Riding in the wind/rain storm.

Emerging into some sunshine between storms.

A few buffalo… a lot fewer on view than during the September AERC National Championship ride.

An out-and-back trail


Another storm coming!

The DOOZY thunder/lightning/wind/hail storm that hit.

Frary Peak, with a new coating of snow!

Christoph (en route to a win on Day 2) leading his interns beneath storm clouds and snowy peaks on a mountain range across the lake

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

2017 Antelope Island: Weather Wonderificous

April 11 2017
By Merri

Well, yes, there was a little of the Worst of Times too, though looking back, it's with a sense of humor and a laugh and rather a bit of giddiness at knowing you really were a Real endurance rider the weekend of the 34th Antelope Island endurance ride.

In keeping with Mother Nature's curveball of a very unusual, extreme winter for most of us (at least in most of the Western half of the country), she wasn't done yet the weekend of the Antelope ride. It had everything, in the extreme: sun, wind, rain, sleet, hail, snow (not quite in ridecamp, but just above), thunder, lightning.

But: NO BUGS! The endurance riders and horses handled the weather, but the No-see-um bugs were too wimpy. Ride management had bug hats ready to hand out to riders, but they were not needed. (The day the No-see-ums adapt to radical weather, the globe is in trouble.)

Regina (doing stats for the ride) and I (photographer) arrived after 10 PM Friday night. We congratulated ourselves having driven through some rainstorms north of the ride, and arriving in ridecamp with no rain. Surely the forecasters were wrong and it would be a fabulously dry and sunny weekend! And then sometime in the night, the rain started. Rain, hard rain, sleety-rain, wind, more rain, more sleet, more wind.

You start to think… boy, I'm glad I'm not riding. I'm glad I don't have to saddle up in the wind and rain. (Getting up and saddling up in crappy weather is the worst… if the bad weather starts when you're already riding, that's much easier.) 33 riders DID, however, buck up, get up, saddle up, mount up, and head out under dreary skies and a cold, wet, blustery wind on Day 1 (11 on the 50-miler, 22 on the 25-miler). The sun played hide and seek with storm clouds as the morning passed, and the Great Salt Lake was churned up all muddy brown and alarming gray and slime green and stormy blue, making for dramatic scenery on this mountain island State Park.

Keely Kuhl aboard EA Victory Ddannce was first and got Best Condition on the 25. The 2 engineer-cowboys (they are engineers, who dress up as cowboys, and come enjoy this one ride every year) Scott and Todd Austin finished second and third.

Bill Hobbs aboard LS Sir Gibbs finished first with Leah Cain and OT Dyamonte Santo (you'll remember this pair as winning the 100-mile AERC Championship last September, and Bill as one of their crew members), conveniently and considerately right as the Big Storm was rolling in across the lake. I'd been carefully watching and tracking the 2 thunderstorms that just skirted us, but I knew this next one was going to hit, and it was going to be a doozy.

It started raining as those two did their final vet check, then all hail broke loose. As I hunkered down in a truck, the hail started falling, then pelting, then hurling while the wind got its hurricane on. Bonnie Swiatek, who'd finished turtle on the 25, was hanging onto a blanket strap of her blanket that had blown over her panicked horse Baracha's head, effectively blinding him while he was being buckshot by wicked hail. Tonya Stroud, who was in the office trailer, bounded out to help her, slipped on the hail and landed on her butt. Several other people jumped in to help Bonnie catch and calm Baracha, and that and another horse, with a group of people huddled heads down tightly together in the lee of the office trailer during the fury of the storm.

Others caught out on trail simply had to stop as their horses did the same - turned butts to wind and hail, and head down, waiting it out. Kathy Backus was aboard Raji near a bathroom when it hit; she jumped off and ducked inside and held the reins of her horse out the door… while her horse probably wondered why she she couldn't squeeze inside also.

But the storm passed, the sun came out (with more cold wind), and everybody finished the ride in both distances, showing just how tough and durable (and, perhaps, crazy), US endurance horses and riders are.

Mara Schima, one of Christoph Schork's interns from Germany, won Best Condition aboard GE RW Carl on the 50.

The wind was such a howling annoyance that awards/ride meeting/dinner were brief, since the wind tended to blow the melted cheese out of the spoon, or the baked potato off your plate. Not much visiting went on with the weather, and the whole of ridecamp curled up and went to bed before dark.

Ride manager Jeff Stuart had a slight panic attack when, after he'd gotten undressed and crawled in his trailer bed, he saw a weather forecast that was even more horrid than what we'd already had. He got up, got dressed, and sought out his assistant Shirley, then Regina, saying "What am I going to do? Do I go to plan B? Plan C? It's supposed to be four degrees in the morning! Should we cancel the ride??" Consensus was, wait and see in the morning. He got back to his trailer, undressed, crawled in bed, still stunned that the temperature could possibly drop so low and bitter. Winter should be over, for heaven's sake!

Then he started playing around with his phone, and realized it had switched itself to centigrade from Fahrenheit. It was going to be 4 degrees F, not C, in the morning. So he got back up, got dressed, went back out, informed Shirley and Regina of the phone's mischief (they had a good giggle).

Meanwhile during the night, another drizzly/sleety howling windy rain fell, and again I started to think, oh, poor horses, standing out in that cold wet mess. But… if you think about it, what else is your horse going to do in a storm? If he's like our horses at home (we don't have stalls or barn), he's going to stand with his butt to the wind/rain/sleet/assault, head down, and wait it out (or eat while he's waiting it out). We so often project our feelings onto our horses (they look so cold! they look miserable!) that we think they must be miserable too. But they're just horses. Horses just wait out weather and go about being horses. The horses in Ridecamp were simply waiting out the next storm, butts to wind/rain, heads down, most of them eating.

Just the same…. I was glad I wasn't riding in the morning that dawned quite cold and windy… and sunny… and wintery. Snow had fallen everywhere but ridecamp. Every mountain range in view was whited out. All the local ski areas must have been thrilled. Frary Peak on the island was whited out. Made for stunning scenery. Riders would be riding up into the snow today.

And 20 hardy riders headed out onto the trails (8 on the 50-miler, 12 on the 25-miler) - and it turned out to be a great riding day: sunny, cold wind, and, again, NO BUGS! That was the most popular comment of all the riders all weekend. Not that the weather was insane, but that We Had No Bugs! All but one rider finished - Kathy Backus turned around and took a rider option when her mare was a bit off during the first loop.

Jeff Stuart and JV Remington won first place and Best Condition on the 25. Christoph Schork and Starlit Way won first and Best Condition on the 50. Several newcomers rode their first ride, and forever after, they will probably never experience such extreme weather.

The Antelope Island endurance ride is known for its beautiful scenery, varied trails, and its buffalo herd. Most of the buffalo seemed to be hiding out elsewhere on the island (the "reds" are being born, so maybe the mama buffs are separated and secluded), though a couple dozen bulls were on display around ridecamp and along a few of the trails.

What the Antelope Island endurance ride is not known for is the extreme weather we experienced, but the hardy endurance riders and horses who attended this year made it a great success.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

April Fools Ride

April 1 2917

Desert winter hurricane/typhoon on Thursday and Friday, the ground whited out, horses with butts to the wind and noses to the ground, shivering in the icy/sleety gales…

And perfect cool, sunny, breezeless weather Saturday for the Owyhee Tough Sucker April Fools ride. (And butt cold gales again on Sunday).

Junior Sarah couldn't make it, so her aunt Connie sponsored me on Sarah's horse Dezzie. We rode with Connie and Saruq, Steph and Smokey on the 50-mile ride. We took it easy, since we hadn't done that many training rides because of the long winter. The scenery was great as usual, and the horses had plenty of grass to eat along the trail.

It was a good start to the ride season!

Our Aussie friend Laura says Dezzie looks like a Breyer model

Inviting trail!

the lovely Owyhee desert (particularly when it's not HOT!)

horse refreshments!

The Raven of course rode along and had fun on Dezzie!

My sister Judy shot the ride, she took these of me and Dezzie:

the 6 of us

More stories and photos at:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Barn Pets

Tuesday March 14 2017

Uh… not!

These pestiferous little buggars are cute and cuddly, I'll grant you that. One website fondly describes pack rats as "sleek, soft-furred animals with big, bright, bulging black eyes." And in another place and time (like maybe a long time ago in another galaxy far, far away), one might think they'd make good pets. 

But in this place in time, in the southwest Idaho desert, they are magnificent pests. They multiply like, well, rats, move in everywhere you don't want them, and you just can't get rid of them. The packrat lives in your barns and cars, under your porches and your house, in your house if he can find a way in it. They steal things for their nests and they chew through wiring in your cars. They live in between hay bales and under shower stalls in barns; and wherever they decide to build their nests, they use them for toilets. If they were toilet trainable, they might be acceptable creatures, but they are not and they are not. They just stink.

Not to mention your things tend to disappear. Not for nothing are they called pack rats. A nest in the barn under the shower stalls has, at different times, contained (from what I can get a glimpse of through a crack in the wall) the yellow trail marking ribbons (not the red ones or blue ones, and not the skinny ones, but the double wide yellow ones), a shaving razor. Probably pieces of a broken coffee mug which I know one of them broke. I found a Halloween rubber bat, about 3 inches by 5 inches, on the way to the nest. This year on the way to the nest I found: pliers, a broken/cut electric 3 pronged plug, and a horse thermometer. (!!!!!)

A couple years ago, Connie lost her cell phone one day. I thought I heard it beeping around the silver bullet bus once. A few days later John later opened the battery drawer, found a packrat nest stuffed in there and reached in to clean it out - and scooped out Connie's cell phone. No word yet on any suspicious charges on her phone bill. 

One redeeming feature - if you can call it that - of the pack rat, is their "midden", a debris and waste pile. Pack rat urine is viscous, and once the sugars crystalize, the remaining fluid, known as amberat, eventually hardens and cements the material together. This can preserve the materials in the midden for tens of thousands of years. Scientists carbon date middens and analyze them to determine what vegetation was growing at the time they were created, and with this information, climate change over thousands of years can be determined (Take that, say the pack rats, you climate change deniers! We pack rats have known all along.) The unredeeming feature of the midden is it stinks and it's nasty and it can grow to be huge, either in canyon walls, in barns, under shower stalls, you name it. 

Other than that, and the bit of cuteness, when they're living under your roofs, they have no other redeeming qualities. 

The 2017 pack rat war has begun. Sorry, dear little pack rats, you have all (once again) been entered into the Packrat Forced Relocation Program (I just can't kill them - I relocate them). 

Some of you relocated pack rats are being spray painted neon colors as you leave, since I heard from someone they have been documented to travel as much as 5 miles back to where they came from!

All of you pack some of your things, and BUH-bye. 

(The score so far is, I caught and relocated 3, I caught 2 and they escaped the trap, Regina's dogs caught and killed one, cats caught and killed one. No spray-painted ones have been re-trapped.)

Monday, March 6, 2017

Dudley's Owyhee Treasures

Monday March 6 2017

(And some quartzite stones I find become Owyhee Designs jewelry.)

Dudley has his own ongoing collection.

This is some of what Dudley has found: 

Deer antlers (he even has a trail named after him - the Dudley Antler trail because he found an antler on this new trail he and I and August and Carol discovered); pretty rocks; owl and Raven and hawk feathers (which he likes wearing in his bridle); turkey feathers (he found 2 of those on the Bandit Springs ride and sported those in his bridle) and even a lotto scratch ticket! (I did the scratching, but he didn't win anything.)

Today we struck across-country to avoid some cows on the trail, and I said, "Maybe we'll find an antler today,"… and not a minute later, Dudley found a nice antler to go in his collection.

It just goes to show, not everybody is interested in diamond and silk… some of us treasure rocks and feathers and antlers and such things home-grown in Owyhee.