We are a couple of gals who have decided to embark on a journey together of preparing for a 30 mile Limited Distance ride. The Pink Flamingo ride takes place on August 7 and 8th 2010... maybe this is the start of something new for us both!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Owyhee Cheap Thrills No Frills


I rode the Owyhee Cheap Thrills No Frills endurance ride last month and I thought I would share a few pictures. It was the first ride of the year for me. I rode Delight 25 miles each day. Sandra was with me riding her trusty steed Tia. On the second day we were joined by Katrina riding Lyn's horse Sam on her first ever endurance ride.


Chase climbed a nearby mountain to take a great picture of Ridecamp. Or, maybe he was trying to get cell phone reception in order to check his Facebook page? We were some of the first to arrive, so there aren't many rigs in this picture. Lyn's truck and trailer are at the top right hand side. 

A Canyon
  Sandra and Tia hightailing it up a hill

spite of being out in the middle of the high desert there were interesting things to see and stunning vistas to explore. On the second day we went straight up and down a mountain gaining about 1000 feet. We walked our horses both ways. Going down was a LOT easier. Climbing back up, Katrina easily rode Sam to the top. Sandra and I wanted to give our horses a break so we chose to hike up. We were gasping for air. We very quickly taught our horses to "tail". We unsnapped one side of our reins and then followed our horses up, holding tightly to their tails. The horses pulled us up the mountain by their tails!

An old dugout

This was where the trail went along the spine of a mountain. It was very rocky. This pic doesn't really show how high or steep it was. We rode all the way to the top in the distance and then down the other side. This part was thrilling to ride!
Katrina and Sam. All smiles.
 Sandra and Tia. All smiles.
 I don't have any pictures of myself from this ride... or any of our wonderful crew Lyn and Chase. They were once again the best crew ever. We had the best support team of all of the riders there!

My view through Delight's eyes. 

It was a wonderful couple of days. The weather was beautiful, the horses healthy and the company the best.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Oreana Where?

The Owyhee Canyonlands 5-day ride is ongoing even as I write. Started Tuesday the 28th and ends Saturday night. Char and I had tentatively planned to go, riding our mares one or two days and Lyn's two on another. Life sometimes gets in the way of plans, however, and neither of us made it. I've had saddle fit problems since the Pink Flamingo, trailer safety issues, got two guys off to college, been out of town several times, and what else is there? These rides get spendy too: $85.00 per day is pretty steep for someone only working ten hours a week. I think Char agrees with me.

My priority right now is finding a saddle that fits my horse (and me). I've tried two or three already, with no luck and, frankly, am not feeling particularly enthusiastic about the prospect. There aren't too many used endurance or dressage saddles locally on Craig's List at the moment. Maybe I'll just get a bareback pad for the time being.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday at the Pink Flamingo

We were much more organized on Sunday morning. I was truly impressed with Lyn when I rolled out of the tent trailer at some unGodly hour in the AM and saw that she already had boiling water ready for our hot chocolate. We should have given her an award for that feat alone! The horses already had their breakfast, so all that was left for me and Char to do was dress ourselves, eat, tack up the horses, and head to the start area.

Our plan again was to let all the eager beavers hit the trail before us, so as to avoid the commotion and jam ups. However, just as we started our walk past the vet check a couple of riders came up behind us and that was all Tia needed to send her into a major right-brained outburst. For a minute I thought I was toast, as she jumped, reared, hopped, twirled, and generally put on a show for the vets and everyone else in the vicinity. She did a leaping side-pass into the deep grass next to the road and we nearly parted company....Char and I waved the other riders on past us, waited a moment or two, then resumed our trot-out for Robert Washington. Ti was pretty much doing her own not-so-private little song and dance, but Dr. Washington didn't seem to be concerned with us. He must have decided that if Ti had that much energy she was probably good to go. So go we did.

Char and I had already decided to step up our pace a notch or two on this loop. Bouyed by our success the day before, including our horses' great vet scores, we felt pretty comfortable asking more of ourselves and our faithful steeds. So we picked up a brisk trot and hit the trail. Aside from Ti's performance at the start, both horses were calmer and easier to pace than they'd been 24 hours earlier. They must have done a lot of lip licking overnight, metaphorically digesting their collective experience on the trail. I was relieved to see that Tia managed the technicalities of overtaking, being overtaken, passing, and being passed by other horse/rider teams with considerable more left-brain reason that the day before. Whew!...that much less stress for me to deal with! Ti and Delight were equally comfortable leading and following each other too. Another plus. We moved along at a pretty good clip.

Katya, Anya, and mom Katrin from B.C. played hopscotch with us along the trail, and the five of us had a grand old time. Sunday's terrain was much more up and down than Saturday's and after discussing the relative merits of one gait vs. another up the hills, Char and I finally just asked Katrin. She clearly seemed to know what she was doing, and confirmed that faster was easier on the horse than slower when it comes to hill climbing. A horse can power itself up with it's hind end with less effort than pulling itself up at the walk. Makes sense. So we let the girls have their heads as we followed the undulating ridgeline of East Mountain.

There was a spot (or a moment) along the way where I suddenly felt like we were almost there--meaning approaching the final mile or two. I have a really good navigational sense, and turned out to be pretty close to the mark. Then we caught a glimpse of ride camp down below and off to our left. And that was all the invitation we needed for one last push to the finish. We passed David and Max waiting to greet us on the road just after coming out of the woods, gave them a wave and blasted past. Ben was still sleeping in Tilly, but I was happy to see my two other favorite guys out to cheer me on.

Lyn met us at the finish to help pull tack, we went through vet check with no problems again, and headed back to our camp for lunch of tomato sandwiches, beet pulp, and hay, depending on preference! Poor horses...Char and I snagged the sandwiches and left the mash and hay for them. Oh I just love mayonaise and tomato sandwiches! Yummy!! And before we knew it we were heading through ride camp for one last ten mile loop--the same one we'd done yesterday afternoon.

There's something to be said for familiarity, and for experience. We knew this trail and put the girls in high gear the minute we turned off the gravel road up into the meadow. My gosh we had fun. The clock ticked on but my buddy Char and I had no doubt we could finish this off in less time than the day before, and finish we did. With minutes to spare! And with horses with energy to spare! Char was giddy with elation, joy, satisfaction, and maybe a touch of relief too. I was thrilled too, and must have had a goofy grin on my face as we threw tack off and went through our final vet check.

We did it! Our first official distance ride, completed! With sound, happy horses! And for our hard work and success we each came home with a lovely new blanket for our horses...with the Pink Flamingo logo!

The rest of the afternoon was spent resting and packing up our campsite. David, Ben and Max had kindly taken Tilly the Tent Trailer down and packed her all away, but not without their own share of complications and probably a swear word thrown in here and there for good measure. They then hit the road by mid-afternoon. Lyn, Char, and I stayed behind to attend the final awards ceremony etc., and it must have been after 7:00 PM when we finally loaded Delight and Tia into the trailer, swished our way back across the Corral Creek ford, dumped our trash, and headed west toward Highway 55 and home.

What an adventure. A highlight of my summer. And time to start thinking about the 5-day, 260 mile Owyhee Canyonlands Pioneer ride at the end of September.

Happy Trails...........

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Riders Prayer

  Dearest Creator in Heaven,
Give me strength to guide my horse.
Make my hands soft and my head clear.
Let my horse understand me and I him.

My heart you have blessed with a special love of these animals.
Let me never lose sight of it.
My soul you have gifted with a deep need for them.
Let that need never lessen.

Always let my breath catch as the sun gleams on an elegant head.
Always may my throat tighten at the sound of a gentle nicker.
Let the scent of fresh hay and a new bag of grain be sweet to me.
Let the touch of a warm nose on my hand always bring a smile.

I adore the joy of a warm day on the farm.
The grace and splendor of a running horse,
The thunder of its hooves makes my eyes burn and my heart soar.
Let it always be so.

Dearest Creator grant me patience,
For horses are harnessed wind, and wind can be flighty.
Let me not frighten or harm them.
Instead show me ways to understand them.

Above all, dear Creator, fill my life with them.
When I pass from this world,
Send my soul to no heaven without them.
For this love you have given me graces my existence
And I shall cherish it and praise You for it for all time.

Author Unknown 


Friday, August 27, 2010

Getting Back to the PF...

Our Saturday afternoon ride was so nice. The girls (all four of us!) had had some lunch and a short rest, and were ready to go. I was particularly eager to get to this loop, as it promised some of the open meadow terrain that one sees between Highway 55 and East Mountain while driving along 55, and for years I've thought it would be pretty swell to ride over there. Back out toward Corral Creek Road, then turned north up a draw through the middle of the field.

We'd paced our morning loop very conservatively, took our time, and worked hard to prevent our ponies from wearing out. Not knowing how long or steep any section of the two small mountains were, and being newbies, we were very very careful. But we learned a lot by watching how some of the more seasoned competitors managed their respective rides. So, we not-so-newbies picked up a steady trot and moved right along.

This trail was cake by comparison to the AM--level two-track sections, meandering paths through open woodlands, and the piece de resistance...?...a very good portion on trails blazed smack dab through deep grassy meadows. It was heavenly, except for the fact that my hind end was getting sore and by then my poor legs were screaming in pain from all the posting and standing in stirrups. Never knew my thighs could hurt so much!! But quitting out there really wasn't an option, since the alternative would have been to get off and walk. NOT. We were encouraged on by the skinny we'd heard at lunch, that the loop was only 8 miles, not the designated 10. That might have been hearsay, but we had it on good authority (I'm not naming names!) and chose to believe it. A sweet psychological ploy, whether or not it was true.

I remember keeping close tabs on the time, since we had a deadline to meet. But this meant maintaining our speedier pace for relatively long distances, and I think it was this afternoon loop where I began standing up alot in my stirrups. At the time it felt like much less work than posting. I had no idea what price I would later pay for my strategy...didn't really think about that.

There may have been only one water stop along this loop. I only remember the one in the river. Ti and Delight marched right in and Ti sucked down cool fresh water. Char was a little frustrated that Delight wasn't drinking, but you know what they say: "You can lead a horse to water.......". Delight was happy to stand there and paw at the water, helping Char cool her off. We both used Char's nifty sponge on a string to cool the girls off. Drop the sponge down into the water, pull it up with the long string, and squeeze the water out on the horse. Wring out the sponge, tie it back up to the saddle, and ta da! We didn't linger, as there was only room for three or four horses in the water at a time and other riders arrived shortly after us.

Toward the end of the loop we were back in the trees, and suddenly there was the little paper plate on a stick pointing us to the road and finish line. We hit the road with only minutes to spare, and trotted the girls down the last quarter mile of road. This may have been the point where we grabbed each other's hands and raised them high over our heads for our victorious, glorious finish.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Saturday to Remember

It's hard to feel enthusiastic about much when you're sleep deprived, and before I even climbed out of my too cold sleeping bag at 5:30 AM I was dragging. No time for slackers, however, since we were scheduled to take off on our horses at 7:30 AM. I wondered how the 50-milers managed, with a 6:30 AM start time....I was stiff and sore, and wasn't even on my steed! Uh oh, gonna be a long day. Our trusty crew, Lyn, already had water boiling for warm beverages, and Char and I each chugged down a poor-man's mocha: hot water, instant Folgers, and some instant powdered hot chocolate. The liliputian marshmallows melted before I got cup to mouth.

Seemed like there was so much to do: feed and tack up horses, fill our own tummys, get dressed, pack fanny packs and saddle bags with every accoutrement we might possibly need, collect necessary paperwork, and be at the starting post on time. We had intended to go for a leisurely ride Friday afternoon, but that didn't happen and suddenly we found ourselves with not even a spare minute or two to warm up the horses before the ride. I wondered how some folks managed to be up and on their horses so early....did they sleep on them? Leave 'em tacked up all night? Skip breakfast? Oh well, as I like to say, "it is what it is."

I was pleased that the temperature was cool in the AM and I hoped we could conserve our horses'energy throughout the morning. The weather forcast suggested a high in the mid-eighties. Anyway, Lyn and Katy helped us aboard and accompanied us to the start where we checked in, and before we knew it we were off! Oh my gosh, the culmination of all our weeks, and hours, and miles of training! I can't speak for Char, but my stomach was in knots with anticipation. It was quite pretty along the way. Nice forest service road, two-track, soft, and no rocks. The evergreen woods alongside the road smelled fresh and sweet. Wildflowers were abundant, even in August! Must be due to the cool, moist early summer we've had in Idaho this year. Lupine, larkspur, wild geraniums, indian paintbrush.

As the elevation slowly increased I remembered hearing someone say, just the afternoon before, how technical and difficult this ride was. I kept that to myself, hoping to spare Char unnecessary worry. Besides, I wasn't eager to relinquish our plan to ride our own ride, and I figured we'd discover for ourselves what the trail had to offer us and our mares. Furthermore, I had great faith in our two horses. Any horse person is familiar with the historic story of Justin Morgan and his legendary horse. Char's 17 year old mare Delight is a Morgan who had already demonstrated her fortitude during our training rides. My Arabian mare Tia traces every line in her pedigree straight back to the middle eastern desert and her bedouin-bred ancesters. The bedouins prized their mares above all else, for it was these devoted creatures who carried them into battle and determined the success or failure of such ventures. The war mares, as they are sometimes called, were known for their ability to run for untold miles and days across the desert, without hesitation, and without food or water, at the bidding of their masters. I was confident that my mare had what it takes and would make me proud.

Our trouble began early on, as we began to realize that we weren't, in fact, last out of the chute. For the first hour or so horses and riders appeared out of nowhere on our heels, upsetting Ti no end. Prance, toss, whirl, twirl...her panties were in a bunch from the getgo. When we, in turn, approached someone from the rear Ti was hell-bent on passing. She's always been this way. I had my hands full managing my Arabian steed and wondered if our very first competitive ride would end with a horse who exhausted herself from nervous energy before we really got started. I was enormously thankful to have Char and Delight close at hand. Char was her usual self: grounded, practical, prepared, and always managing to calm and reassure me at the exact right moment. Her praise and encouragement do wonders for my courage. It's affirming to hear someone praise my horsemanship skill at the precise moment I'm up there thinking "oh gee, hope I don't fall off now...". Delight and Tia are both quite alpha dominant in their respective herds, and neither has a particularly good track record of befriending other equines, so Char and I were surprised when they seemed to hit it off from the getgo. Throughout our weeks of training and conditioning together this unlikely twosome bonded in unexpected ways. They shared food, water, trailer rides, close quarters, high lines, etc. Tia has a very large personal "bubble" and has NEVER allowed another horse within ten feet of her during meal time, yet she allowed Delight to munch from her haybag and to eat out of her grain bucket with nary a swish of the tail! Wonder of wonders! I noted that, throughout the entire weekend, Delight's presence had a very calming influence on Tia whether in camp, on the trail, or going through a vet check. I don't know what I'll do when or if I should find myself going it alone.

We climbed up an over one ridge, crossed a brook, and climbed a second higher ridge. It seemed to go up forever. Our horses enjoyed the occasional water stops and chance to rest a bit. Char and I enjoyed the opportunity to slip out of the saddle and stand on our feet. And we hydrated ourselves from our own water and gatorade bottles. Delicious!!! We encountered no large wildlife, but chipmonks and squirrels were abundant, scurrying here and there across trails and among trees. Bird were ever-present as well, though it was difficult to identify them. The sky was a beautiful blue with very few scattered clouds, and a lovely morning mist rose from the surface of a mountain lake we happened upon. Ha, I thought Tia was going to take me for a swim in the lake. Thinking the girls might be thirsty, we stopped to let them drink. Tia just plowed right on in, only to discover that the bottom dropped away pretty quick! Whoops! Char and Delight thought that was pretty funny.

We met some neat folks along the trail. I'll remember Heather from Oregon, who's path we crossed several times during our first morning loop. She was out there by herself on her gelding, riding her own ride, not in a hurry, but relaxed and enjoying the journey. She was clearly more intent on being the best steward she could be of her horse's well-being than on winning some prize. And her lovely horse appeared as relaxed as she. I admired Heather's quiet confidence and so filed those impressions into a secure spot in my memory. We bumped into each other several more times during the weekend. Another memorable encounter was with Anya, Katya, and Katrin, from British Columbia, Canada. I was touched by the fact that they were all in this together, and that the two little ones seemed to be enjoying themselves so much. Char and I met them at a mid-point water stop in the morning, and didn't see them again until the evening ride meeting where, to our complete surprise, we learned that they had somehow overtaken us along the way that afternoon and completed the day's ride sooner than we did! Admittedly, we questioned how it was possible, and toyed with asking Sally Tarbet to explain. Sunday morning we learned that things aren't always as they seem. This trio was a seasoned bunch and knew what they were doing. We had the privilege of riding with them a good part of the way, and Katrin was generous and kind enough to answer as many newbie questions as we could think to ask. Anya and Katya were quick to laugh and smile, but they also paid close attention to their mom's instructions. Definitely future Tevis contenders, those little girls! Char and I enjoyed riding with them on Sunday, and I wouldn't hesitate to do so again. Not all of our competitors had such a balanced approach to the ride. We played leap-frog all day Sunday with a trio of women who seemed to want to run along the trail. The two younger ladies didn't seem very comfortable on their horses in the first place, and none of the three appeared to have any notion of pacing and rating their steeds. We felt bad for those equines, who had to canter, stop, trot, canter, stop, canter, stop, and so on all day. I wouldn't treat my horse that way. The long and short of it is that I clearly prefer the company of other riders with similar priorities: start with a healthy well-conditioned horse, and partner with it for a successful endeavor. I measure success by the mental and physical well-being of my horse and our ability as a team to put forth our best effort.

Riding back into camp was exciting! My guys hadn't arrived yet, a disappointment to me, but Lyn was there, as was Char's family. We felt like celebrities, even as we dumped tack, hosed off the girls, and made our way through vet checks. Both mares scored well on all measures and we got a thumbs up to continue in the afternoon. Lunch was quick, the horses had a snack, my family arrived, Char and I tacked up, and off we went again! Our afternoon ride was splendid, and I'll say more about that soon.

My Friday Report

It's Friday, a week to the day after Char, Lyn, and I loaded Tia and Delight into Lyn's trailer and headed out for Cascade. Actually, by this time last week we were already setting up camp in a beautiful green meadow surrounded by the evergreen trees of East Mountain, adjacent to a sweet little brook! The week since has flown by.

Ride camp was already buzzing with energy upon our arrival, and we were happy to add our enthusiasm to the event. We'd heard from one of the organizers that out-of-towners would doubtless arrive by mid-week but the three of us were surprised at just how many campers, horse trailers, portable corrals, horses, and people we passed as we kept a lookout for a good spot for ourselves. Tom Noll had suggested we camp as far away from the in/out area and vet checks as possible, to protect our horses from the hubbub. More importantly, we needed one good tree from which to attach our highline. We found the requisite tree, sufficiently off the beaten track, and wasted no time figuring out where to position trailer, trucks, tents, etc. for the best effect. Char has already posted some pics of our camp...it turned out pretty well, considering this was our first adventure camping with horses. Tia and Delight settled right in to their weekend abode, enjoying the knee deep grass in which we'd parked them. (There was none left by the time we left on Sunday evening!) We hauled a large water tub over and parked it squarely between them. Hay bags went up on the line, and the girls were set.

Setting up our own camp gear took longer. In fact, everything else throughout the day seemed to take forever! We got a shade shelter up behind the trailer and pulled out some camp chairs. Nice! Tilly the Tent Trailer wasn't as cooperative. I had carefully written out setup instructions which turned out not to be as careful as I'd imagined, and I struggled off and on for quite some time to get the darned thing open and up. My first casualty was a nasty little open blood blister on one finger. It bled like a stuck pig for afew minutes. Next came a serious knock on the head from one of the tent supports that unkindly and unexpectedly bounced back at me. It hurt so bad I had to just stop and put my head down for afew minutes. The ensuing headache lasted through the weekend and I still have a tender spot on my right temple. Seems like there was something else, but I can't remember what. Must have lost a few neurons and short term memory in my collision! Lyn and Char helped a bit by holding some of the supports up while I wrangled with the tent itself. No wonder we gave Tilly away! What a monster! I hope David and the boys appreciate my labor on their behalf....

Char and Lyn eventually drove into Cascade to meet Katy and I stayed put to mind camp and the horses. Did some more organizing and eventually took the girls for a walk...they needed to move and I wanted to see the rest of camp. Turns out there were several pods of campers spread out through the valley, mostly to the east of a brook that had to be forded. Camp headquarters, vetting areas, start/finish, some retailers, and a pod of campers occupied the west side.

It was late afternoon when my comrades returned, sans Katy, at which time Char and I walked our horses over for check-in and pre-ride vet checks. Tia and Delight both passed with flying colors--A's on all measures! Not a bad way to start the weekend! The Friday night dinner was catered by Qdoba and was yummy. Ride meeting was informative and we got our morning instructions. It seems that bed time came too late, as we tried to get our gear ready for an early Saturday morning wake-up call. Meanwhile, Katy arrived from Stanley.

Char and Katy had no sooner hit the sack in their large tent and Lyn and I bunked down in Tilly when the wind picked up and a few threatening clouds began rumbling at us. At the first sound of raindrops tapping on Tilly, I jumped out of my sleeping bag, out of Tilly, and began throwing some of my morning gear into the back of the open horse trailer. In the process, in the dark, I missed my step up into the trailer and succeeded instead to smash a toe into the back of the trailer. Oh yeah, that was the third thing! Another moment to drop everything, put my head down, curse under my breath, and try not to make too much noise groaning from the pain. Back to bed in time for the wind to start in on Char's tent. The long and short of that was Lyn ending up in the back of her pickup truck, Char and Katy in Tilly with me, and Char's tent balled up and thrown into the back of the trailer. We were all definitely exhausted by then. By 5:30 Lyn was out heating water for coffee! Short, eventful night. I just hoped our Saturday morning ride would go smoothly!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Second Big Day 8.08.10 Part 1

Ride camp

Day two dawned bright and early. I wasn't nearly as tired and sore as I thought I would be and I was hoping that Delight was feeling the same way. Lyn reported that Delight had laying down in the night - a good sign that she was able to relax.

Now that we were "experienced" endurance riders Sandra and I had some better ideas of how to ride this day. It seemed like everything from saddling up to knowing what to do during the vet hold, to planning how to pace the race seemed to go more smoothly.

 Bright eyes

Delight was ready to go! She was bright and full of energy - above is a picture of Lyn trying to get her to stand still.

Indeed, I really believe that I have found something that my horse truly loves. On this second ride Sandra and I decided to let our horses "out" a little more. Most of the time we rode at a long trot and a loose rein. Delight just put her head down and trotted right out without much encouragement at all. I really came to admire my horse's endurance, strength and courage.

The trails once again were full of indescribable beauty. It was a shame sometimes that we had to travel so quickly through sights that are meant to be savored! At each resting stop and water hole we gulped the Beauty in great drafts and were refreshed for our journey...

Tap tap tap. Sandra... time for stories! I know you have some!


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Char, I'm laughing. It's 9:46 AM on Wednesday and I'm still feeling the exhaustive effects of our weekend! More sleep to catch up on than I could ever have imagined. I've got to get dressed and off to work here shortly, and promised my dog a long romp at the Nampa dog park today. Also have to get Tilly back to Connie. I promise to add some stories soon!!! Promise!!!!