May 30, 2009

Dang Cows

I felt my cell phone vibrate over the hum of the ATV as I was driving between the windrows of a recently mowed alfalfa field.

“I found poop,” said my oldest son. He told me where he was as I headed out of the field. I found him further down the road, the Honda Civic lights shining on what was obviously a fresh pile of manure.

“Go get Dad and Case,” I told him. He flipped a u-turn in the gravel road as I veered the ATV on down the road, scanning into the darkness. It wasn’t long before I spotted them.

Earlier that evening, we were at Case’s ball game. McCain called and said the cows got out into the yard. He said he had closed the gate to the front yard, so they would be fine until we got home. When I made my way to the dugout a little later, John wondered if the electric fence he had slid down to mow had been lifted. He didn’t seem overly concerned, so neither was I.

Several years ago, John and the boys went to a livestock sale. Their plan was to buy a pig to fatten and slaughter. They came home with a bottle calf. And she had a name: Agnes. It was spring, the beginning of ride season. So not only did we have a loud, hungry mouth to feed, we had to take the calf camping, too! It wasn’t long before the boys decided she needed a friend and came home with another calf, Cocoa. I was not amused but how could I complain about his two calves when I had a half a dozen or so horses? I’m sure we entertained the farmers nearby with our half hearted attempt at cattle ranching. The first time the cows got out, the kids coaxed a then full-grown Agnes home with her baby bottle as I pushed her along with the car.

When Agnes and Cocoa were old enough, we had them bred for spring calves. Cocoa calved first and Agnes was quite intrigued with the little heifer and very protective of it. So much so that when she finally had her own calf, I was shocked to find she abandoned it! John was out of town, I was ready to leave for work when I saw the little calf lying next to the fence. I put on some coveralls and tried to take him to his mother. I was shocked when she head butted it violently out of her way. This was NOT going to be a quick fix. After calling my boss and telling him of yet another farm emergency (there have been many!) And calling a friend who could tell me what to do next, I went to town to get colostrum supplement and other supplies and started the process of bottle feeding. I finally reached John and he was on his way home. It was another summer of calf challenges!

Fast forward a few years. We now have three bred cows, Agnes, Cocoa and Hershey, and a rented bull. And upon returning from the ballgame, we found they were no longer in the yard. They were gone. I truly wasn’t worried; figured they were somewhere in our yard. So I went to bed. About five minutes later, Case, still in his ball uniform came up the stairs.

“Why aren’t you helping, Mom?” he asked. I told him I figured they had it under control.

“No, Mom. We can’t find them anywhere. They are gone.”

So I got dressed and headed outside thinking about how I’ve tolerated these cows because they were John’s hobby (see previous comment about my horses). I took them camping, I made a spectacle of myself herding them with the car, I nursed one of their babies (not literally, mind you!) and shared my horses’ hay. And now all I could think of was, $5,000 worth of beef just disappeared into the night. John had just driven back into the driveway after a quick check of the ditches. We’d need to get into the fields. I called the horses up from pasture.

We saddled in the dark and rode out to the nearest alfalfa field. Using the flashlight intermittently, we scanned the field but couldn’t see down to the bottom. So we rode to the fence line around the perimeter of the field. No luck. Pitch dark looking for black cows. Yep, like finding a needle in the haystack. This would take all night. We needed a better plan.

We decided to split up. John and Case, with our white shepherd, Ritz, would continue on horseback down the roads and fields to the east. I would take the ATV and run the fields to the west and McCain would take the car and head west looking for tracks. It didn’t take long for the poop discovery.

I wish I had my camera with me as I think back to my teenage son along the roadside at night, squatting on one knee between a pile of poop and the car, tracking the direction of hoof prints. My youngest son on his horse, looking far from cowboy in his baseball uniform (with cleats) while wearing his riding helmet with a camping headlamp strapped to the top. John with his coach’s uniform on his wild red horse that looked like she would rather race the cows than push them home. And the four damn bovine, standing in the lights of the ATV, grazing in someone else’s yard, looking at us and wondering what all the fuss was about. Ritz finally had an opportunity to herd them home.

Dang cows.

May 25, 2009

The Weekend Interrupted

Coincidentally, this photo meets the Sunday Stills challenge: Power Lines

My husband and youngest son had big plans for the weekend. They were joining some friends for their own distance ride: a sixty mile, 3 day journey from Dodge County to Big Elk Park near Macy where they would meet up with me on Monday afternoon. We spent most of the day before packing their gear and trying the rigging on their horses. We had waited patiently for a chip in Butter’s hoof to grow out and luckily it did and the farrier got her shoed the day before their trip.

On the day of the ride, we unloaded in Ames, Nebraska and carefully saddled both horses who would be carrying much more than the rider’s weight to get everyone through the next three days. A train roared through Ames behind our trailer. I was pretty sure Ginger thought the devil had her tail. She was sweating before they even got started. At 10 minutes from departure, their friends called and said they would not be going after all. Shocked and disappointed, if they were to do this, they were on their own.

Although John and Case had packed their amenities, their friends had mapped the route. We didn’t even have a map in the truck. John knew where they planned to stop the first night, but after that, plans were vague. But they were bound and determined to carry on. I reluctantly let them go. About a mile out of town, the mother in me kicked in. How can they go without a map? Case will start whining, John will get impatient. Without their friends to break the monotony, riding 60 miles will grow old. I drove to the local Wal-Mart – the least I could do was get them a map. And headed back to where they started and followed their tracks 5 miles down the road.

I pulled over to the side of the road and watered the horses as John adjusted his gear. We sat down on the running board of the trailer to consult the topography map I had picked up. I no longer wanted to go to Macy. I wanted to be with my guys. We talked about where I could meet them, the logistics of this new ride and what I would do while I waited. Then I reminded them we had friends staying at Turkey Creek Ranch near Newcastle this weekend. Perhaps we should just go there and if John and Case still wanted to, they could pack in on their property. It didn’t take much arm twisting. We unsaddled their horses, loaded them back up with Windy and off to northern Nebraska we went!

Turkey Creek Ranch near Newcastle is a little taste of paradise in northeastern Nebraska. Tucked high above the Missouri River, this pristine camp offers hundreds of acres with forest riding and scenic views. I first visited here in 2007. I can’t believe I waited this long to return! Brenda and John Wortman of Turkey Creek certainly know horses and their horse camp is awesome! Truly one of the best in our state.

We pulled in next to our friends, Rich and Kathy Newberg, and set up camp. Although they had rain, the trails were in pretty decent shape as we headed out later that afternoon! It was even more beautiful than I remembered! We climbed the hill to the cabin which overlooks the Missouri River. Then began our descent into what I call the “enchanted forest”. The recent rains left everything fresh and green.

At one point during the ride, it began to rain. I hadn’t brought my raincoat so pulled out my disposable poncho from my pommel bag & started to open it. I think at first Windy thought it was licorice & kept looking back at me – as I usually treat her to a piece, too. But the bigger the poncho got, the more disturbed Windy was. It then dawned on me that although I take coats on and off while riding her all the time, perhaps I have never used the plastic bag thingy before.....

Kathy & Zuni

Meanwhile, Zuni - Kathy's horse - was disturbed as well, as she was putting on her rain coat. It didn't take us long to figure out he wasn't disturbed at her, but at me and my plastic bag. Although Windy was agitated, she wasn't out of control & I started moving her away from Zuni. She then started to quickly sidepass away from the sound in my hand. My instinct said to just get rid of the dang bag. My brain did not think about where I was dropping it. So what did I do? Dropped "the bomb" right behind Zuni!! Does anyone wonder how I keep my friends? Okay, so Kathy now has the eatin' dirt award thanks to me! I'll never live that one down as long as I live.

The rest of the ride was gorgeous! The rain stopped, the forest was fresh and although slick in spots, considering what we rode in last weekend, this was a walk in the park! Yesterday & today, Brenda Wortman came out and rode with us, both times on different horses, both beautiful. It is fun to ride with the owner exploring the new trails her husband is just cutting! Have I mentioned that I had forgotten how beautiful Turkey Creek is?

John & Case never did pack out. I think even though their plans changed, they were very happy with the outcome. The skies stayed overcast throughout yesterday, but no rain! Today the sun came out and the landscape again was a new picture in our eyes. We rode about 24 miles over the course of the last few days. Although not the weekend we envisioned, it turned out better than we planned.

PS: This was our first camping trip without our oldest son, McCain. He’s 15 years old now and has a part time job. Although we had a very good time, I missed him terribly!

May 20, 2009

CTR - Chapter 4 Finale

Me, Annette, Jess, Robyn

After the muddy hill from hell, I waited for Jessica to ascend from the same fate. Her eyes were big. She looked at me and as serious as a heart attack said “Tammy, I wanted to cry!” Jessica is younger than me (quite a BIT younger, I learned) and I look at her as one brave cowgirl. I figured if Jess was scared, it must have been really bad and we lived through it! As twisted as it seems, this brought about some newfound confidence for me and off we went.

The rest of the day was a blur. Fast riding, adventure, one wrong turn, and did I mention the mud? We splattered ourselves, we splattered each other and the points on the prettiest bay horse turned gray. But we didn't stop. We crossed creeks, fields and weaved our way through the muddy trails. And when we went through our first P & R check (pulse & respiration), our horses amazed us with their quick recoveries. After completing some 22 miles that first day (per the GPS), we were all smiles as we crossed the finish line.

Sandy, Annette, Jess

We stripped the tack from our horses and started the long task of mud removal so we could again present our horses to the judge. I was pleased to find that Windy’s P & Rs were great. She had no sign of soreness nor edema and was sound. And her legs didn’t move as the vet placed the stethoscope in the area that was so worrisome the night before. All of us newbies were given the green light to compete the following day.

Sandy, our mentor, didn’t fair so well. Her horse, Whiskey, was sore. The vet would recheck him in the morning, but Sandy knew in her heart she wouldn’t put him back on the trail. We would be flying solo on Sunday.


The CTR people are a helpful bunch. Hearing of our dilemma, Shari Parys, offered to mentor us through the next day. Although we wanted so bad to take her up on her offer, we didn’t want the stress of mentoring us to take away from her competition. We thanked her and reluctantly declined. The four of us were on our own and come hill or high water, we were going to complete this journey!

We divvied up duties and with Annette and Bella in the lead, we were off! Our plan worked for the most part and we varied the tasks as needed. We all got an opportunity to lead. It was such fun to lead the group at a fast trot through the forest. Sometimes I was in the middle and even brought up the rear. The horses weren’t as high as the previous day, but were consistent throughout the ride. We attempted the obstacles albeit not necessarily pretty. Our P & Rs were as good as the day before. According to our GPS, over 2 days, we rode almost 40 miles in around 12 hours. We crossed the finish line a few minutes past optima time, well within the time limit. High fives all around! Sandy greeted us with hugs.

Windy after final vet check

After presenting our horse to the judge for the last time, we packed up our trailers to prepare for the trip home as the judges tallied the score cards. We joined the veteran riders - the best of the best - for the awards ceremony. We were most anxious to see our scorecards. It was a long two days and we longed for feedback. But nothing written on those cards would change the way we felt about each other and our camaraderie, our horses and their spirit or ourselves. The scorecard could not begin to capture what an incredible two days we had just experienced!

I’ve probably mentioned on this blog before that I am not real competitive. I’ve never been into sports and didn’t really care if I was the last chosen for dodge ball. I’ve felt the same with horse things. Although I’ll enter speed events and challenges at game days, it’s for my own personal accomplishment, not the win. Completion is where I get my satisfaction. Windy, the prettiest bay horse, my dream horse, gave me the ride of my life this past weekend in more ways than one! I couldn’t have loved her more. Imagine my surprise when her name was announced as the 6th place winner in our class of fifteen! You could have knocked me over with a stick.

Windy & I with her "award certificate"

I was not alone in bringing home the glory. Annette’s Bella Paint was the 5th place winner in our class and Robyn took 5th in horsemanship! A slight change in strategy and Jess or Cutter may have been in the placing, too. Jess was truly our rock from the get go! Not bad for a bunch of beginners! A special thanks and congratulations to our mentors and friends, Shari, Robin, Dave and Brenda, who were also in the ribbons! And for Sandy for showing us the way that first muddy morning!

May 19, 2009

CTR - Chapter 3

Chapter 1
Chapter 2

When competing in a Competitive Trail Ride, both my horse and I start with 100 points. The goal is to keep as many points as possible. I was judged on my horsemanship, which includes grooming and in-hand presentation, trail equitation and trail safety and courtesy. A horsemanship judge will observe the riders throughout the event. From check-in to on the trail to my campsite through checkout. I'll be under their watchful eye, grasping on to my allotted points!

On the other hand, a vet will judge my horse on her trail ability, manners, soundness and overall condition. Don’t be checking in any dirty horse! In my case, I figured a clean horse was all I had going for me, but the dang mud made even that job a challenge! Since winter, I have over 80 hours on Windy, close to a 100 miles and arena time prior to the ride. In addition, she spent 30 days at Brenda’s for a spring tune-up. I knew she was in good shape, but still, this was a long ride with pretty poor trail conditions. She would need to work.

At the ride meeting, we were told it rained 5 inches in a little over 2 hours. The ride would be delayed in the morning until ride management could get out to see if any of the trails needed diverted due to flooding. We saddled early and were soon informed there were no changes and we would ride out at 0800!

Sandy Ries, a friend and veteran CTRer, was our mentor and we followed her out somewhere in the middle of the CP/Novice riders. Windy was fresh, a little heady and light in the front when I tried to hold her back. I gave her her head and off we went. Just when I thought I might be able to breath, we encountered a volunteer on the trail. She told each rider in front of me to wait 10 seconds while the rider in front of them went into the trees, following a muddy trail. Soon it was Annette’s turn and she rode out of my sight.

“Wait for me, Annette,” I hollered in vain. The volunteer told me she wasn’t allowed to. The rider in front must continue on. She then told me to proceed into the forest of hell.

In real life, I have this little thing… if I get scared or feel my horse is out of my control, I get off. Pretty simple, really. Work through it on the ground or walk with my horse. But this was obviously not an option. I could turn around and go back. Take the walk of shame to the trailer, but I’d come this far. Not an option either. Or, I could move my mare on down the trail like the riders in front of me did. I didn’t hear any screams. Surely they survived.

As I approached the muddy downhill trail, my heart was in my throat. I wanted to close my eyes. In my mind, I pictured Windy on her hind legs, rearing as she approached the trail. But common sense would tell me she is going to be into self-preservation mode as much as I am and will hopefully agree that the descent will require use of all four of her legs. It’s not my first rodeo, for Pete’s sake. Buck up! I am pretty sure my eyes were open as we slid down the hill because when we reached the bottom, I looked up and saw several people standing on the hill above us. The conversation in my head now went something like this:

“Oh [crap], I’m being judged.”
“Don’t let her run them over.”
“Keep her straight.”
“I should grab the mane but can’t let go of the reins.”
"Pleeeeasssse don’t run over the judge.”
“Bet she remembers she about kicked!"
"Don't fall off now."
“Where’s Annette?”

My scorecard reads:
“Needs to be lighter in the saddle. Put weigh in heels and bring shoulders up.”

Shoulders up? Hell, I don’t know where my shoulders were. Driving the reins, I guess. Trying to keep my mare from taking out the secretary! Survival was worth the loss of one point.

(To Be Continued)

Chapter 4 - The Finale

CTR - Chapter 2

CTR - Chapter 1

The worst of the storm hit between Rock Port and St. Joseph. By the time we fueled up and got back on the road, the rain had stopped. The sky still looked pretty ominous as we pulled into Smithville Lake.

The campground was beautiful. There are ninety sites for horse camping. No power, but water hydrants were plentiful. I felt guilty unloading Windy on such nice grass, knowing after stabling her on it for a few days, it would not be so pristine. The plan was to set up camp and then check in. But once again, the skies opened up. When I heard hail starting to hit the trailer, I put Windy back in the trailer and took refuge in the living quarters. The other girls stopped over and we had some snacks and drinks as we waited out the storm. We waited and waited and waited.

Once we got a break in the weather, we finally checked in. When it was our turn, Windy and I approached the vet judge. I was careful to have my rope held as Shari showed me, not looped, but folded nicely in my hand and stayed on the same side as the vet. “I wish all the horses stood this nice,” said the vet as she went through the check starting with Windy’s mouth. Of course, she spoke to soon. As she placed her stethoscope on Windy's stomach near her flank, her rear leg went up. Not a kick exactly, but more like a reaction to being “goosed”. I heard collective gasps from the secretary’s table and those standing around us. The Prettiest Bay Horse just lost her first point. (To Be Continued...)

Chapter 3

Chapter 4 - The Finale

May 18, 2009

CTR - Chapter 1

I pulled into our driveway about 9:30 last night. I was weary from driving. My body felt tired; but it was a "good" tired. I unloaded "the prettiest bay horse in the world" and lead her into the corral. Ginger approached her first and as they often do after Windy has been away, they put their faces together for a few moments. I closed the gate and made my way back to the house still thinking about the weekend. How often do you get to spend three days with your friends and your horse at a beautiful park and do just what you love to do? Ride. And ride we did.

I did my first (and last) Competitive Trail Ride at Indian Cave in 2004 on Windy's dam, Ginger. She was pinch hitting for my gelding who came back from vacation that year with a sore back. My experience with Ginger up to this point wasn't good. She was John's horse, not mine. A bit like a little red sports car. Fast and quick. Not easy to "drive" and not real forgiving if you push the wrong buttons. And truth be known, she scared the beejeezus out of me! But she was also the only one in our herd who I knew could do the distance easily and I wanted to do it bad enough. Many times over the years, I have thought about throwing out those first scorecards. Egad! It was very humbling. My only consolation was that Ginger did worse than me! She wouldn't stand for the vet, she wouldn't let the vet touch her mouth. And obviously I didn't know how to press her "reverse" button because even the simplest obstacle, like backing through some ribbons, she refused. After that ride, I said "never again."

What changed my mind? Windy. She has been my partner for going on five years. I've learned a lot from this mare -- most notably that mediocre is not good enough. That I must become a better leader or she will jockey for that position every time. And while we continue to grow as a team, we both have tons to learn. This competition would be a good way to identify some of the things we need to specifically work on. In the last year, we logged 300 hours of trail time, probably riding over 1,000 miles. She is in great shape and well conditioned. And Ginger set the bar pretty low!

When I first saw the James Gang Rideout on the CTR calendar, I looked at a map. Smithville, Missouri is relatively close. An easy drive. A nice time of year. But this time I didn't want to do it alone. I needed a little help from my friends. Not just moral support, but their butts in the saddle next to me! And almost from the moment I suggested the ride, Annette, Jess and Robyn were on board! And with a great support group of veteran CTR friends, we had as much fun planning and prepping as we did riding. Well, almost as much fun....

It was cloudy when we left Nebraska driving into darker skies to the south. No sooner did we hit I-29, then the thunderstorm came rolling in. The Big Fat Lying Weatherman is never wrong when predicting the bad stuff.... (to be continued....)

Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4 - The Finale

May 14, 2009

CTR Weekend

It seemed like a good idea at the time… You know… when you are sitting around in late winter/early spring – horse deprived – just looking for opportunities to get out and ride. When I saw there was a Competitive Trail Ride relatively close (within 3 hours of here) in early spring, I was mildly interested. Then thought about Windy being at the trainer's in March and early April and knew she would be legged up… As I said – it sounded like a good idea at the time.

I didn’t factor in that busy weekend before – the annual Friday Before Mother’s Day Ride. And following that, the trail challenge clinic I'd signed up for (another good idea at the time). Followed by the real Mother’s Day, my boys’ year end school activities and then there is that pesky job… Did I really think I had time to not only continue to condition my horse, but to actually get away for a weekend? Well, the weekend is almost here and with a little help from my friends, it’s all a go! I am meeting Robyn and Annette at Jess’s house at o’dark hundred tomorrow morning and we will convoy to our ride at Smithville, MO.

TL: Annette, BL: Me, Middle: Robyn, Right: Jess

We are all CTR newbies. I rode in a competition once a few years ago on Windy’s dam, Ginger. Still a memory I am trying to forget… I guess I’m a glutton for punishment to want to do it again. But this is Windy and my 5th year on the trail and this is just another item to cross off the “bucket list” of our journey together. And despite my joking, she is in great shape right now and I think can handle the distance with ease. It's me I wonder about!

Today is the easy part: loading the truck and trailer. Not unlike any of our normal horse camping weekends. Tomorrow, we will pull into the ride camp at about noon. And the real fun begins! Stay tuned!

May 10, 2009

Horse Weekend - Part 2

The Trail Challenge Clinic

Part 2 of my All Horse Weekend was the Trail Rider Challenge Clinic hosted by Kelli Paulson of Authentic Horsemanship. I had heard of Kelli’s Trail Rider Challenges and her obstacle course, but was never quite ready to “take the challenge.” The clinic provided a venue for experiencing the event in a clinic like setting rather than a competition. This is much more in my comfort zone. And I was thrilled that many of my friends had also signed up. I knew we would be tired just coming off of the Friday Before Mother’s Day Ride, but heck, why not make it a riding weekend!

Saturday morning, I took the ATV to the pasture to fetch Windy. I could almost hear her saying “not again!” as she turned away from me as I started to approach her. But she’s a good partner. She stopped and put her head down as I haltered her and trotted back up to the house next to the ATV.

Sheila & Cooper

There were 29 riders at the clinic. Many of whom I recognized as being the FBMDR the day before and other Horsetalers. We all had to introduce ourselves at the start & say a little about ourselves or our horse. Of course I introduced Windy as the "prettiest bay horse here", so Polly had to introduce Eve as the "second prettiest bay horse here". The 3rd & 4th prettiest bays came in shortly after and had they introduced themselves first, I am sure I would have had to give up my #1 pretty horse spot to theirs!

Kathy & Zuni

We worked on the ground some. Windy understood the disengage stuff from the ground albeit she was a bit tired and seemed bored with the whole exercise. When Kelli brought out pool noodles and hoola hoops, among other things, that brought her back to life!

Once saddled, half the group went one direction and the other half the other direction as our horses weaved in and out each other. I truly think it was more of a challenge for the rider to figure out which way they were suppose to go (right or left) than a challenge for the horses! It was a fun exercise.

Sandy & Whiskey

We went over to the obstacle course. What a great playground! A huge rubber tarp, different planks, bridges, platforms, and teeter totters were the first thing we encountered. There was also a large gate and big tree trunks for jumping. A canopy made of pool noodles. There was a natural water crossing and a bridge over the water. She also had torn tarps hanging from the trees and more timber to cross in a small pasture and a natural hill to slide down or climb. I am pretty sure we tried everything. Didn't succeed on it all, but didn't expect to. Windy didn't refuse any of the natural obstacles -- the creek crossing, the steep embankment or the real bridge. We had more challenges with the contrived obstacles.

The most challenging for me as a rider was a big hill with two large steps made of rail road ties going up and down both sides. Going up was easy, but when I got to the edge to step down, my knees turned to jelly and my heart started pounding. I couldn’t get myself to ask her to go down. My friend, Sandy, came to the rescue and took Windy over it a couple times. After I could see she could do it without killing Sandy, I attempted and succeeded at it. It was really no steeper than the solid rock we had to drop down at Harney Peak. I guess I have a little fear of contrived obstacles, too!

Windy & I on the scary steps!

As I watched the other riders, I saw all different skill levels. I was so impressed with those who handled the course effortlessly. And even some of those who I know are novice riders, showed grace when manuevering the obstacles. I compare my riding skills to Elaine on Seinfeld's dancing skills! And I’m sure it showed yesterday! But I had the best time and literally laughed out loud, as it was such fun! One big weekend down and I’m looking forward to next week's Competitive Trail Ride adventure on the prettiest bay horse around!

Sam & Apache

Horse Weekend - Part 1

The Friday Before Mother's Day Ride

It’s been an all horse weekend! Actually, the weekend started on Thursday night when some of my horse friends pulled in to our yard on the eve of the Friday Before Mother’s Day Ride for our own “trailergate” party! These being the same friends whom I am traveling to a competitive trail ride with next weekend, it gave us an opportunity to chat about the CTR and finalize our travel plans. Our driveway turned into a makeshift camp ground/slumber party; our corrals into a temporary stable! A new tradition was started, no doubt.

We were up bright and early to fold up camp and get to the trail head in Valparaiso and it wasn’t long before the trailers started rolling into town. I recognized many riders whom I only see during this ride, lots of my regular riding buddies, the safety riders and my Horsetales friends -- two of which, Marie and Pam, had three generations of women from their families riding this year’s ride! How special is that! The sun was shining and there was a nice breeze. The weather gods were with us!

This year I was joined by fellow blogger, Valerie of Fantastyk Voyager and her daughter, Sheila! They traveled with their mother/grandmother from New Mexico to join us on the ride and I was truly thrilled they made the trip. I set them up on Ginger and Blue hoping my steady eddies would come through for me. They were a little fresh and forward, but I was glad to see that both Valerie and Sheila were good hands and were able to handle what these “spring horses” had to give. I enjoyed riding and visiting with them and hope they enjoyed the ride as much as I did having them here.

DJ, my safety rider, texted me shortly after the ride started. He counted 123 riders across the first bridge. There were at least 3 late comers plus my husband and his friend, who started at the other end of the trail, so all said, we had 128 riders. A new record! We also set a new record as far as pace – averaging around 4 mph the entire ride. What is usually a 5+ hour round trip was completed in a little over 4 hours.

Special thanks to my husband, John, the safety riders, my friends, Kathy, who rides lead each year, Sam, who organizes the caterer, Loretta for taking pictures and the Horsetales bunch for kicking in gifts for the golden horseshoe game and to everyone for enjoying this ride with me and my good mare. Next year is the 10th year ride. I can’t wait!

Loretta Asche of Asche Photography was along the trail and in Loma snapping some pictures. To view proofs and to order, visit Asche Photography . Enter site & click on Proofing at bottom middle of the page. Type in the Password - horse . And you will see the ride photos. Prices: 5x7 are 5.00. 8x10 are 8.00. 8 wallets are 10.00. If you have any problems or questions , you may contact Loretta Asche via email at .

May 5, 2009

DSLR - Shall I Do It?

As I mentioned in my last post, my wonderful, trusty Canon finally fired its last shot shortly before my son’s 6th grade musical performance, giving me permission to camera shop since I am most sure it is not repairable (that's my story & I'm stickin' to it!) In record time, I ordered it’s replacement – the same model only better. The Canon Powershot SX10 IS: 10 mega pixel, 20x zoom. All the bells and whistles that my 2004 model never had. And then (shock!), it was backordered! And then the order canceled! I was surprised to find it is not readily available on many of my favorite internet stores and quite pricey by comparison where it is “in stock”.

Since I needed a camera NOW, I bought a less expensive Canon to get me by. While at Sam’s Club looking at the point & shoots, I was drawn to what to me is the king of the road: The Canon Rebel. I’ve longed for a DSLR. I picked it up and powered it on. Although the display that appeared on the LCD was foreign to me, I looked through the viewfinder and zoomed in on a banner in the store. I didn’t know how to focus this type of camera, but instinct took over. It was all so clear. I clicked the picture. And my mind drifts to my tack room. What can I sell on Craig's List or eBay to justify the cost above and beyond what I was planning to spend on a new camera? I've got to have this bad boy!

I love to take pictures. I have a good eye for what I want to capture though my skills have a bit to be desired. But I take enough pictures that sometimes I get lucky. The Pioneer Woman has hooked me on Photo Shop. I think this Canon Rebel will help me stack the deck.

I don’t mind big and bulky. Actually, I have a harder time holding the smaller cameras. My old Canon was not quite as big as a DSLR, but not compact by any means. With a DSLR, I only worry that I will always have to “fiddle” with the camera and can’t take quick shots? Is there an “automatic” button to just click & shoot if needed?

My subjects are pretty vanilla. My kids at their school functions & sporting events. My horses & trail riding. My dogs. The sky. Scenery and sunset. It'll spend a lot of time in my saddle bag, nicely padded, of course.

So help me out! Have you crossed into the DSLR world? What are the pros & cons? What do I have to buy besides the camera? Is it a big learning curve? I'm pretty loyal to the Canon brand -- is there one Rebel that stands out among the other (I see a few models online). What are your recommendations? If you aren't a Canon person, what do you use?


May 3, 2009

No Camera

My camera is broken. I never realized how much I used it until I have nothing but a cell phone for snapping pictures. How does anyone use that? The screen is too little for me to see without my new cool new glasses with progressive lenses which gives me a headache if I wear -- but that’s another story! And to top it all off, I went a whole week without riding. Up until this weekend, the days passed in a blur. Some of my down time was due to company, some days weather related and other evenings I had school events to attend.

My sister Ann (right) and me (left, with cool glasses that don't work!)

Oh, life goes on. My sister and brother were here and we attended a family wedding. One niece got confirmed and the other is preparing to go to Iraq. My youngest son had his last elementary school music concert (the event which crashed my camera) and I cried as they sang their traditional “graduation” song, “Friends Forever” (a rap song, not the country one). And my older son had his concert. Both of these events were captured via Motorola. (If I could see the pictures, I would share them.) But since this blog is horse related, without time on my horse or at least pictures of the herd, I’ve got nothing to blog about. Nothing!

Back to the camera. I love (loved) my camera! It is a Canon Powershot S1IS. Older model, only 3 megapixels. But it has been perfect for me. So even though I was upset that it has failed me, secretly, I’m thinking “hot damn, I can go camera shopping!” I have wanted a DSLR for a long time, but know so little about it that I can’t have that for an only camera and I need a camera NOW! So I upgraded to the 10 megapixel model of the same camera I love so much. Waiting, waiting, waiting for the tracking number. Then BANG! Backordered!

From the archives, Ritz & Bodett guarding the house

So tomorrow, between work, a baseball game and yet another end of year school event, I’ll try to find time to make the obligatory trip to WalMart to buy yet a cheaper digital camera to get me by for the upcoming events. And there are a lot of them planned!

We did have a gorgeous weekend. Yesterday morning we moved the dumb cows down to the lower pasture. (The only thing good about having cows is when we get to herd them!) Dinked in the yard most of the day and rode again late in the afternoon – some arena riding and then out to the field. Today, we headed over to Oak Creek Trail to check the trail for next week’s Friday Before Mother’s Day Ride.

I'm excited that a fellow blogger from out of state -- who I have met only through blogging -- is coming to Nebraska for the ride! How cool is that?