Jun 28, 2009

Sunday Stills

Sunday Stills is a place to hone your photography skills. Each week Ed issues a new “Challenge” that gives us the opportunity to pick up what ever kind of camera we own and try to meet the challenge. This week's challenge was "things with wings".

Hmmm. Other than capturing my friends riding horses or my son's sporting events, I'm not very good at getting shots of things moving. And since this blog is horse related, I try to fit the challenge in with that theme. But I couldn't get the pretty birds or butterflies to pose next to the horses and my son's chickens kind of creep me out, so the best I could do was shoot the pesky flies! I haven't mastered close-up shots yet, so I was "very" challenged!

One morning when the fog rolled in, I was taking pictures of the horses in the mist when the barn swallows started scolding me. Then it became my goal to try to snap the picture at just the right time to get them in flight. I managed to get one shot with two of the birds. In hindsight, I should have switched to continuous shooting -- but I'm only brilliant when the chance has passed.

While riding yesterday, I saw some beautiful red winged blackbirds. But trying to take pictures from the saddle without disturbing the bird turned out to be quite a challenge. Later, Julie and I were loping across one field with no hands -- we truly felt like we were flying -- our arms were the wings. I captured this shot of Vic "flying" ahead of me.

Jun 26, 2009

Back Among the Living

Any girl who grew up in the 70’s wanted to be Farrah. Oh, a few of you may have rather been Kate or Jaclyn, but it was Farrah that captivated men and women alike. I remember putting Mom’s curlers in my wet hair and waiting all day for my hair to dry. And when I looked in the mirror, I was so disappointed to find I couldn't emulate Farrah by hair alone. Not even close! And I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only girl who was entranced by the poster. I mourned Farrah’s passing as I would a distant friend; someone who is not in my life but by remembering the impression she made upon it. A glimmer of my youth now gone.

When I left work yesterday, I was shocked to hear of the death of yet another celebrity of my time, Michael Jackson. Although I can’t say he left any mark on my life, I remember the first time I heard the song “Ben” and quickly memorized the words. As the day wore on, the radio showcased his career. I heard other songs I had forgotten about like, “She’s Out of My Life” and “I’ll Be There.” More memories of my another time. By the “Thriller” era, I’d already left home and as Michael’s music changed, I did, too. I’d be hard pressed to name any of his later songs. Despite the wackiness his life took on and the rather dark person he became, his music was a part of my generation and it is a bit surreal to lose two such icons in the same day.

Meanwhile, back on the farm today, Agnes was showing some noticeable signs of calving. Always the bridesmaid to the finer cow, Cocoa, it would be the first time that Agnes would calf first. For those who have been following this blog via Stable Talk you may recall Agnes’ first delivery in 2007 and her subsequent rejection of the calf. John was out of town and I had quite a time with her, especially being that I am NOT a cow person. But the next year, she graciously accepted her baby. So we were expecting a pretty uneventful birth this time.

Case told me earlier he thought Agnes' water broke and later, he and I looked up signs of calving on the Internet. He was convinced that Agnes showed all of those symptoms. I didn’t even realize he headed out the door until a few minutes later, I heard him screaming for us. “Come QUICK!” he yelled with pure panic in his voice. He was down in the pasture by the pond. I saw John coming down the ladder from the barn and McCain and I jumped in the truck and drove down to where Case was.

I found Case knee deep in the water holding the calf so he wouldn’t drown. Evidently Agnes had given birth on the slight incline by the pond and he had gently slid in. John carefully pulled the calf back into the grass and Agnes started licking him. Thank goodness she took him – I was having visions of Calf 2007 and didn’t want to go through that again! No doubt Case saved the little critter’s life. He named it Water Boy. I thought “Billy Jean” would have been more appropriate.

I have not been on a horse at all since I got back from Big Canyon. The heat and humidity have been very intense this week – the hottest of the season so far. I have plans tomorrow to meet some friends for an early morning ride before the heat of the day engulfs us once again.

Jun 21, 2009

Big Canyon Weekend

This past weekend was our 5th Annual Horsetales trail ride and the group headed to Big Canyon Inn. Located on Hwy 7 between Bassett and Springview, Nebraska - just north of the Niobrara River - Big Canyon is one of the deepest in Nebraska and filled with much western folklore, including stories of horse thievin', Doc Middleton. Fellow Cowgirl Weekender, Jo Schaaf of Atkinson, was our trail host, guiding us on the best trails and providing us with the history of the land.

The trails at Big Canyon are beautiful. You can follow the cow trails to the logging roads which take you deep into the canyon along a shallow clear creek and then climb to the top where there once was a family run ski operation. Everything was green and fresh smelling and if you listened closely, you could hear the sounds of the water coming down the canyon into the creek.

Some of the group arrived on Wednesday, but a majority of us traveled Thursday. There were over 30 riders throughout the weekend. I logged over 13 hours in the saddle, covering nearly 35 miles.

One of the highlights of the ride was watching a friend begin climbing a steep hill way above the rest of us. I watched in awe as his young arabian went higher and higher, picking herself along a trailless path. Soon a second horse joined the climb. I didn't think too much about whether we would get there or not, but gave Windy some leg to get her opinion on the climb and off we went. I grabbed her mane as she galloped and lunged up the side of the hill, picking her path as carefully as those above her. And before I knew it, we were there on top of the world! What a rush!

The boys had their own rush when they decided to race on the soft sand road leading back to the ranch. McCain was on Ginger, Case on Butter and John was riding Blue. Blue didn't stand a chance against these mares! Case come in second to the McCain & Ginger team. His GPS said their top speed was 40 mph! I tried to capture the race, but you quickly lose sight of them.

The sky really was as blue as in these pictures. I didn't carry my good camera with me, but kept my small Canon handy in my saddle bag and was glad I could capture it on at least a few of the shots.

I have to share a short story from the trail. Our trail host, Jo, did not arrive until Friday. John and I have been to Big Canyon before, so thought Thursday evening, we could take the group on a short ride. Surely we could remember some of the trails from our previous visit. We'd save the good stuff for when Jo arrived.

We entered the pasture and followed the cow trail into the trees and started to descend into the canyon. It had rained the night before and the very steep trail turned greasey and then boggy. Our fresh horses -- all twenty some of them -- were rushing the trails to the bottom. We all made it down safely. But from there, we weren't sure where to go. There was another trail that took us up. And it went up and up and up. It was the old ski slope! We reached the top finally! But then found there was no way out except back the way we came in. After much folly, we ended up opening a gate and riding back to the ranch down the side of the highway. Not the ride we all envisioned! My friends "gifted" me with the following poem:

"Flatlanders Lament"
by Deb, Sheila, Jan, Kristie & other cohorts!

At Big Canyon this we found
We do not like steep ups & downs
We do not like them here nor there
We do not like them anywhere
Tammy said "Sure, it's flat"
But now we know it sure ain't that!

We do not like slick mud of brown
We do not like those sucking sounds.
The horses huffed, the horses puffed.
And then we said "We've had enough!"

At last the red gate did appear
We said "Anythings better than here!"
Highway riding can be fun
When you know you're almost done.

Big Canyon is an awesome place
And yet we leave
With a smile on our face!

There are stories of the trail shared among the riders. Laughter and smiles and some "oh &#!^" moments were relived around the campfire. A few days of bonding between casual friends who got to know each other a little better. Now with common memories. And once again, our horses took us places we could never go. They never let us down.

Big Canyon Inn is owned by Edith & Roger Wentworth. They were gracious, horse friendly hosts. For information about camping and trail riding at Big Canyon, please contact them at:

Big Canyon Inn
HC 82 Box 107
Springview, Nebraska 68778
United States
402-497-3170 or 800-437-6023

Jo Schaaf is also available to provide tours to your group. You can email me for her information.


Sunday Stills Challenge

This week's challenge was "tri-color". The explanation was "simply the more colors in the shot the better. It would be pretty simple to shoot a landscape and have a bunch of different colors, but look beyond the ordinary, use some composition and creativity and get some unusual colors. Take a moment and set up the shot, use knick knacks, muliple types of flowers, just about anything your imagination can come up with. Just remember the more colors the better."

I took the picture of the wind sock with the challenge in mind but was worried it was too "landscapey". While on the trail at Big Canyon, I saw a lot of wild flowers that could fit the criteria, but when riding with 30-some people, its hard to get everyone to "hold their horses" for my photo op!

As I glanced through other challengers beautiful work, I decided not to hold back. I'll use the wind sock & the picture of one of my riding friends from this past weekend - unposed - just captured in the right light and a foal with it's dam -- the gorgeous blue sky above.

Jun 14, 2009

Horsetales - 2005

(Horsetales - The Beginning)

In August of 2004, we had 101 posts on Horsetales. A new record. I’m not sure how many members we had at that time, but looking back, some of the names are familiar today: Joni, Carol, Julie B, Jan Cz, Jamie, Sandy, Tami O, Robyn, Sam, Sherry and Shelly, to name a few. Other names I remember but they no longer post. I often wonder if they still “lurk”, got out of horses or lost interest in the day to day of Horsetales. No drama is guaranteed on our group – and it can become quite mundane at times.

On New Year’s Eve 2004, my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer. Anyone who has dealt with “The Big C” knows that either of those alone aren’t good and together, the condition is grave. We knew there wasn’t much time and it was important that we spend as much of it as we could together. So each weekend one of my sons and I would drive the 150 miles to her home. We would talk, reminisce, she'd play games with her grandsons. We'd take care of estate business and then go for long car rides – just be together while we could. And when she would sleep, I would dial in to Horsetales. "Talk" of horses and spring plans kept me sane during an insane time in my life. By February, there were over 1,300 posts to Horsetales. And it was Horse Expo time.

Expo 2005 was special. It was the first time many of us met face to face. Sandy hosted a small party and we were all relived to find out none of our new "invisible friends" were ax murderers, but very much like their online persona. And all horse crazy (Who has the picture from the party? I couldn’t find it?) It gave me a much needed hiatus from cancer. We buried mom later that month. And for those of you who remember, my surprise filly, GinnyBelle, was born shortly after.

After the Expo ice breaker, we started posting over 1,500 messages per month. Many of us met in early May for the annual Friday Before Mother’s Day Ride. And as the weather turned nice and plans were made for the 1st Annual Horsetales Trail Ride. We decided to go to Calamus Ranch near Burwell.

They say bad things come in threes. While on a day ride with some of the group in mid-May of that year, my horse spooked at the trailer pushing me against John's mare.  She hit the end of her rope and came back down landing on my ankle.  It was broken.  The ankle already had plates and screws from an accident a few years prior and I feared another surgery. Luckily, the hardware held but I was ‘grounded’ for another 6 weeks. Right up to the Calamus trip. And if that wasn't enough, my heart was broken a couple days later when I lost my young gelding in a pasture accident. Once again, the Horsetales group was there for me.

Buffalo burgers and spandex were the theme for the Calamus Ranch ride. It was the first horse camping trip for many. Lots of talk leading up to it fending off anxieties. I had the doctor recast my foot in one that would fit into a stirrup. We were good to go and it all worked out in the end with over 25 riders partaking in the adventure. Following that ride, posts to Horsetales increased to over 2,000 per month. It brought us all closer as friends. Our circle was widening, it was also tightening.

Spandex, Black Balls & Riding with a Cast

Sunday Stills

Sunday Stills is a place to hone your photography skills. Each week Ed issues a new “Challenge” that gives us the opportunity to pick up what ever kind of camera we own and try to meet the challenge.

I thought this would be an easy one. Water towers. I can see our local water tower from the upstairs of our house on a clear day. But we've had no clear days lately.

Yesterday, we had a social outing about 2 hours from home. The town that it was in has no water tower. Who'd of thunk? I thought all towns had water towers! On the way home, we had about 30 minutes of daylight & managed to get pictures in three different towns. I was disappointed because many of the angles I wanted were cluttered with power lines. But did manage to get a few shots worthy of this challenge.

This one even has a horse in it! It was quite interested in what I was doing initially, but then relaxed and continued to eat.

Jun 13, 2009

Laughter in the Rain

Julie B and I went riding yesterday.
We were off work
The temperature was decent

Never mind the pesky weather!
Rain, rain go away

We were pretty sure we wouldn’t melt
But I think Blue was saying “What the heck?”
When I started to saddle him

We followed the trails
the ATVs have packed down

More splashin' than mudding


Laughter in the rain

Jun 11, 2009

Horsetales - The Beginning

I’ve mentioned Horsetales many times on this blog. In case you missed it, by simply definition,

“Horsetales is an online group of 240 regional horse enthusiasts who communicate daily via the internet.”

Some of our spouses call Horsetales “our invisible friends.” While many of us have met in person and have become “real” friends, others remain behind their keyboard exchanging horse related chatter or simply just reading the posts. I started this blog several times – really just to tell you about the Horsetales upcoming horse camping trip -- but it always seems to be more about Horsetales than where we are planning to ride. So to get the real flavor of our group, you have to know who we are and how we got here. It all started with Horsetrailriders.com.

I first started trail riding about ten years ago and there was no one source for trail riding information in our state. Correction. There was NO source. People who had been riding for years knew what parks allowed horses on their trails and which ones didn’t. I would hear about organized rides after they were over. Someone needed to put the information out there so people like me who were new to horse trail riding could find out about these rides and trails. That someone ended up being me.

I knew nothing (and still know just a tad more than nothing) about web design but did enjoy dabbling on the computer. I figured Microsoft had something that could help me. So I bought some software and in 2003, I registered the name Horsetrailriders.com. Perhaps “if I build it, they will come.” Or not. It didn’t matter. It was a good winter project and at least I’d have something to show for the hours I would be spending in front of the computer. And it would take time…. I started to slowly put it together.

In 2004, shortly after the first of the year, my sons were playing in the hayloft on a cold, snowy day. Case came running into the house screaming, “McCain broke his leg!” Knowing the boys can be quite theatrical when it comes to injuries, I translated this as “McCain skinned his knee”. Then I caught sight of John carrying McCain toward the house. This was bad. Really bad. 911-worthy bad.

The ambulance whisked McCain away to the nearest local hospital then transferred him to the city for surgery. Broken femur. The thigh bone. The big one. Surgery. Then traction. Just like when a cartoon character breaks his leg. Only this was real life. If someone told me that for the next 24 days my son would be hospitalized, I would have told him we didn’t have time for that. He had school, we had jobs. But all that had to wait. And he needed us 24/7. I moved into his hospital room and slept in the bed next to his. Showered in his room and got to work whenever I could – usually whenever John or one of our moms could relieve me. After work I would return to his room. And when it all got quiet, I would pull out my laptop and plug it into the phone line. Horsetrailriders.com started to expand – to really come to life via a dial-up connection -- those long nights at the hospital.

I had a feature on the home page of Horsetrailriders.com called Stable Talk. I didn’t realize at the time that it was considered a blog – I didn’t even know what a blog was back then (I was blogging before blogging was cool.) Stable Talk was just a way for me to share information about rides or trail concerns or just talk about my horses and family. Once riders stumbled across my website, I started getting emails from other riders. Some with ride information to share but most of the time, the emails were from other riders who read Stable Talk and could relate to my stories and just wanted to “talk horse.” I had already started a Horsetales Yahoo Group as a way of staying in touch with some of my riding friends from Cowgirl Weekend, so I used that forum as a way to get riders to start talking to each other. I never realized then how much Horsetales would become a part of my horse life.

More to come...

Jun 8, 2009

Rock Creek Station

Early in the riding season, I penciled in weekend plans – whether it be day rides, camping trips or those deemed “vacation worthy”. The kid’s summer activities then start to roll in and take precedence over any riding plans, but usually it all works out one way or another. It’s been several years since we visited Rock Creek during their annual celebration. Always a favorite with the boys, it seemed to work well into our busy summer schedule.

Rock Creek Station was established in 1857 along the Oregon Trail; a resting spot for weary travelers and later a stage and pony express station. Rich in western history, most notably a gunfight between the local bully David McCanles and Wild Bill Hickok, Rock Creek Station’s reconstructed ranch comes to life during Rock Creek Days. Re-enactments, period costumes and merchants come to town for the small celebration of history.

As with every weekend trip, I begin getting things together early in the week; from shopping for groceries to packing up the trailer. Everything needed for horse and rider. The day of the trip, I hook up the trailer and move it into the driveway and begin to do an inventory of camping supplies and horse tack. I pre-cook what I can and take the food to the trailer when it is ready. I loaded the hay and water and truly thought we would be ready to go when John pulled in. Well, the demons decided to play havoc with our plans. In the last few hours before departure, the following happened:

• Refrigerator in living quarters of the trailer refused to light, thus more ice and coolers needed.
• McCain went to get ice & the hose broke in his car on the way home
• Bad cell reception where he broke down & I had trouble finding him
• John’s truck vapor locked coming home & he literally coasted into the driveway
• While quickly baling the last of the hay, the hitch broke on baler
• Stray kid at our house couldn’t find anyone to come get him
• Once departed, we had a blowout on the trailer tire 10 miles from home

But later while sitting in camp – after overcoming all of these obstacles – the sky fell from John’s world when he found out I forgot to pack the ketchup! I had obviously failed as a wife and mother.

John, Case & McCain

Despite the Heinz emergency, I was still able to feed my family and we hit the trails with full stomachs the following morning. It was good to have both our boys with us as well as our friends, Julie and Steve and Julie B. We meandered in and out of the trails of Rock Creek, every watchful of Julie B. on her young BIG horse, AJ. Although he had a few cute “colt moments”, he had his big boy boxers in place and maneuvered the trails well. Julie B, on the other hand, may want to invest in a face cage for her helmet. The 16+hh gelding affords her little room to duck under branches and certainly those of us on our 15hh horses aren’t clearing the spider webs for her!

Julie B on AJ

We rode through the “ranch” as the re-enactments were taking place. There was a stagecoach with a team of mules that caught Windy’s attention and not in a good way. We worked on “moving closer, staying longer” – but quit that exercise once I knew gunshots would be going off from the “shoot-out”. But to hell with the gunshots – Windy was sure the mules were on her tail! Sorry, but I had no free hands for pictures.

Kathy and Rich joined us in the afternoon. We slid down some very slick trails – their fox trotters “dropping to their haunches” as well as any good quarter horse. We found the canyon wall creek and stirred up a very small fawn along the trail. We did some bushwhacking on what appeared to be a new trail! That Kathy sure can lead us on some wild goose chases! And there is no hill she won’t climb! (Running & ducking…)

After a ketchup-less supper, we headed out for a sunset ride as the full moon was rising over Rock Glen Wildlife Management Area. We went to the top of the hill and took a long look at the area around us before heading back. It was dark when we entered the trails in the trees that took us back to camp. Lightning was visible in the west and we could hear the faint sound of thunder. We packed up camp and in a matter of moments, the rain and hail drummed against our trailer roof and no doubt muddying up already slick trails. We headed home early Sunday morning without having the opportunity to really explore nearby Rock Glen wildlife area on this trip.

Windy, Butter, Blue & Ginger: The morning after the storm

For those of you visiting south central Nebraska, Rock Creek Station near Fairbury is a very horse friendly park with miles of trail and history galore! I hope to make it back there before the end of the season.

Sunday Stills

Sunday Stills is a place to hone your photography skills. Each week Ed issues a new “Challenge” that gives us the opportunity to pick up what ever kind of camera we own and try to meet the challenge. I just got a new camera and hadn't an opportunity to master this past week's challenge - Silhouettes - so pulled one of my favorites that I took a few years ago.

This picture is of John riding Blue at Branched Oak Lake near Raymond, Nebraska. Blue has always been our water horse - he will go out deep and swim if you ask! Look carefully, is Blue's nose pointed toward the camera or away from it?


Jun 5, 2009

Putting Up Hay

John wants to be a farmer when he grows up. There is nothing he likes more than puttering around on his tractor and working the land. All 24.75 acres of it. Not enough to make it a full time job. But a couple times a year, he gets to do the real thing. It’s haying season!

We have some of our pasture and some of his mom’s that we mow for hay every year. It’s actually one of the most stressful times on the farm for me because if we don’t catch it at just the right time with the weather in perfect condition, I’ll be buying hay for the winter. That happened last year. So we have to watch the weather and hope for a few days of perfect, sunny conditions to get it down, dried and baled. John does all the cutting and windrowing. He bales what we put in small bales and our neighbor rolls up the big bales for us. We usually don’t do it all at one time as we don’t want to risk it all should the weather turn on us in the middle of hay harvest. This year we also planted alfalfa. It’s not ready yet, but it should help our winter inventory.

Once the hay is cut, it is a family affair to get it out of the field. I always warn John that I can't help if he makes the bales heavier than 50 pounds. He forgot and these babies were probably close to 65 to 70 pounds. So guess what? I couldn't help. So I took pictures.

Case has a few years before he can handle the 65 pound bales, too, so he gets the easy job. He thought it was pretty funny if we were all standing on the rack and he hit the brakes. We threatened him with 65 pound bales and he straightened right up!

John has no problem with the big bales but I did see sweat on his brow.

McCain conditions at the high school three times a week. He can no longer protest the weight of the bales. But he is sure not to overdo it either. Do you think he knows I'm taking his picture?

Check out the clouds in the background. The evening sky was awesome! There was some lightning and thunder in the distance.

That one doesn't look too big. I think he thought I should have been able to load that one!

Job well done! Ritz thinks he contributed -- he didn't.

We dodged the weather bullet this time but still have the big field to go in the next few weeks.