Sep 29, 2010

Scratch the Itch

I'm about 100 ride hours behind where I was this time last year. But after riding over 35 miles this past weekend, I found my mare is still in excellent condition. I had a lot of horse to hold back as we walked through miles of pastures at what seemed at times to be just a steady crawl. I was itching to pick up the pace a bit; ride the horse under me. I had a lot of horse left at the end of each day. And my own body ached from inactivity.

Tick tock. The hours pass and the days on the calendar are flying by. Winter is coming. I want more ride time and a faster pace. I'm considering doing a competitive trail ride again. I went out tonight to do my eight mile loop. Now that I have a plan, I'm sensitive to Windy's every move. Did she take a wrong step? Is she off? Does she feel different because I am so out of ride shape that I can't even post the trot or stay in a two-point position?

She may be ready. More importantly, am I?


Sep 26, 2010

The Rest of the Weekend

On Saturday, we did a four hour ride along and above the Niobrara River. The river was up so there was no going into it, but the views were incredible. Saw some mule deer and a jackrabbit, something you don't see often (or at all) on our end of the state. Losing Thursday to bad weather sure made Cowgirl Weekend seem short this year. I can't believe we will be leaving tomorrow already. We'll have a morning ride, then brunch and I guess everyone is loading up and going home. Each Cowgirl Weekend, we see some new and different landscape by traveling to other areas of the state, but we sure lose a lot of time to travel, when I'd rather be riding. I'm hoping next year's is closer to home so we can spend more time in the saddle and less and the road.

After our ride on Saturday, we all loaded in Joni's trailer and went to the White Horse Ranch museum in Naper. When a Caleb Thompson married Ruth Hackenburg in 1936, they established the White Horse Ranch just outside of Naper and worked to develop the breed they named the American Albino. They eventually established a herd of around 150 white horses which they formed into a riding troupe. At that time, the couple operated a riding school at the ranch for youngsters who needed a helping hand. From that school, the White Horse Troupe was born. This troupe performed all around the country, eventually growing to include such events as high jumping, broad jumping, dressage, bareback riding, and team hurdle jumping. The white horses were known for their gentleness and brilliant color as well as their spectacular tricks. The museum wasn't much to write home about, but I am glad they are preserving that part of Nebraska history. I wish we could have toured the ranch itself, although I am told there is not much left to see.

On Sunday morning, we had a sunrise ride and came back to a warm brunch of pancakes and ham. It was then time to pack up and begin the long drive home. Overall, this Cowgirl Weekend was by far the most uneventful. Although I had a great time with this bunch of women, I didn't feel our skills were challenged. I prefer to up the ante a little. In the past, we have done games of skill and even horse polo. Those settings put the group together and could really bring on the laughter. The Hank Williams Jr. song "All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down" went through my head as we meandered slowly along the hillsides. Granted, I don't want a Turkey Creek Extreme Ride every time I leave home, but would have liked to up the pace a little more. Other than that, it was great to spend time with my friends and my horse. And I'll be looking forward to it again next year.

As we were sitting around the campfire, Joni and I were observing our group and started counting those we thought were over 60 years old. Turns out, there were more in the 60's decade than any other group. There were seven women between the ages of 60 and 69 (one not pictured), five women in their fifties, five in my decade, the 40's and only two in their 30's. I hope to still be doing Cowgirl Weekend over the next three decades.

Sep 24, 2010

The Next Day

I slept like a baby. The mattress in my new trailer is kick-ass. Or maybe it is being hundreds of miles from home in the middle of nowhere with around 20 of my good friends and my good horse right outside my trailer door. Whatever the reason, I slept later than I normally do, fed Windy while my coffee brewed and enjoyed a cup in my home away from home while reading the newest issues of American Quarter Horse. See, I can get by without being online. Kind of.

The cooks were preparing breakfast for 8:30. I meandered to the common area a little before, still in my pajamas. The sun was shining brightly and the skies were clear. We had Dutch oven egg casserole, way more than I usually would eat for breakfast. We were saddled and ready to ride a little after 10:00 AM.

Windy was ready to roll and quickly making her way to the front of the pack. At the first water crossing, she did some crow-hopping coming up the hill. Bucking is usually not her MO, so wondered if perhaps my tack wasn't uncomfortable. When we stopped later, I readjusted and that seemed to take care of that problem. She was still a bit high and rushing hills. I really needed the break we took at lunch.

We had a bit of excitement a couple of hours into the ride. At what looked like a benign creek crossing, one of the cowgirl's horse lost his traction going up the bank. He struggled for what seemed like minutes, but was probably a lot short time and then fell back into the water with his rider. She was momentarily caught under the saddle, but managed to pull herself out. The horse floundered and with the help of the trail boss, they pulled the saddle and got him up.

This afternoon was more of the same, but this time the horse under me was the one I know and love. She settled nicely albeit the ride was getting a bit monotonous. I like to find areas to run but there were holes and occasionally some stray barbed wire in these pastures. When we did get out on an open road, Tanya and I loped off, finally letting my mare stretch her legs… and mine, too. We rode 18 miles today and that quarter mile sprint was one of the highlights! My body needed to stretch!

We got back to camp around 6:00 maybe? I didn't look at the time, but did note that we rode almost 18.5 miles. The cooks had our supper cooking and after filing our bellies, we had more campfire stories about the day.

Good times.

Sep 23, 2010

Cowgirl Weekend 2010

When I turned on my laptop a couple minutes ago, I looked hopefully at the icon which tells me there may be a wireless signal available. Nope. It may as well be saying, "You are in the sticks. Wireless hasn't even been invented out here!"

The first day of Cowgirl Weekend is travel day; getting to where we are going. In this case, about 215 miles from home in north central Nebraska – just a stone's throw from the South Dakota border. The storm expected to go through last night didn't come around until shortly after I had Windy loaded this morning and most of the drive was in the rain. The wind wasn't too bad, so it wasn't a difficult drive except meeting semis on the two lane highways. Sometimes the windshield wipers have a hard time keeping up.

Sharron and I met near Morse Bluff and convoyed, even though I lost her when the railroad crossing guards went down behind me. We communicated via cell phone; she wasn't far behind and she caught up to me when we stopped for diesel shortly before we would be turning off Highway 20. After another 15 miles on a narrow blacktop road, we turned off onto gravel which would take us to the ranch where we would be staying. The roads were soggy and I put Hi-Ho in 4 wheel drive. When I got to the steep dive and climb over the river, I was glad I did.

There were several other rigs in our makeshift campsite when we arrived. Sharron and I found a spot at the bottom of the hill. We unloaded our horses and started to set up camp. It wasn't long until more cowgirls arrived. The wind was still brutal and temperatures still down in the 50's. I was surprised when Kathy started to saddle up for a 4:30 ride.

Now you all know me; I ride. Especially when I came to ride. But the bitter wind was reminiscent of the Friday Before Mother's Day Ride and I didn't want to do THAT again. There were a handful of us that declined to go & those riding out said they would be back in two hours. Hmmm. The first 2 made it 15 minutes. The next couple riders were back in 25 minutes. And the last "die hards" stayed out a whopping 45 minutes. We all agreed tomorrow will be a better riding day. Let's eat.

Following a wonderful potluck dinner, we sat around the campfire and caught up on the last 12 months. I realized some time ago that many of these woman I only see once a year; at this ride. So as a way to reintroduce ourselves, we went around the circle and told everyone what we did at our jobs – not out title, but what we got paid to do and also one little known fact about ourselves.

I think many were surprised that Sam is a microbiologist. And that Trudy has been singing with an orchestra for over 20 years. Or that Tanya modeled in Australia right after she graduated from high school and Anita returned from a Safari this past summer. On a more serious note, one of the cowgirls lost a child to cancer while another was widowed when she was pregnant with her 4th child. Three of us are from the same hometown and it wasn't that which brought us together later in our lives, but we became reacquainted through horse activity.

I put a blanket on Windy tonight. If a horse could roll her eyes at me, she would. But she is in a small camping corral with not a lot of room to move; I want her warm. Plus, it's fun to play dress-up with my horse; something the men in my family does not appreciate, but these cowgirls do!

Rather than invited anyone to travel and camp with me, I chose to go to Cowgirl Weekend alone this year. My first solo trip in my new trailer, the bed to myself – the entire space to myself – something I don't get often enough. Right now, my trailer is warm having turned on the propane heater while we sat around the campfire. I won't run it overnight but will fire it up again in the morning as I make coffee. Windy is right outside my window. I hear her chewing on her hay.

I am breathing deep and taking this all in. This weekend is what gets me though another year.

Sep 22, 2010

Cowgirl Weekend or Bust!

At this time tomorrow, I'll be in northern Nebraska setting up camp with about 20 other women for our annual Cowgirl Weekend. Once a year, we ditch the men and kids in our life, load up our favorite horse and head to the sticks. My friend, Kathy, founded Cowgirl Weekend about a dozen years ago. She knew too many women who reliedon their husbands to transport them and their horse to trails and camping and to do the work. She felt women should become more independent with regards to their horse and this hobby. Among other things, at a minimum, we should be able to drive our own rigs farther than the end of our driveway.

(Ask Kathy how that trailer backing thing is working for her...)

Cowgirl Weekend has evolved through the years. Not only are we are now those independent women that Kathy hoped we would be, but a circle of friends who get together collectively once a year and do what we love to do: ride horses.

I'm told we MIGHT be able to get cell phone service if we ride up to the tallest hill around camp. I won't miss it. But I will miss being online. I probably won't lug my laptop to the top of the hill hoping to get a signal, thus I'll be offline for most of those 4 days. I am going through withdrawals already! I'll miss reading my favorite blogs.

Until then....

We are east bound & down..... loaded up and truckin'.

Really, west bound, but that isn't how the song goes, is it?

(Burt Reynolds was on Biography last night & got me yearning for a black Trans Am. )

I'll catch you on the flip-flop. ;)

Sep 21, 2010

Turkey Creek – Day 2

Our second day at Turkey Creek held none of the excitement as the previous evening. Although it misted overnight, the wind had picked up and dried most of the trails. We rode back to the "scene of the crime" for further reflection on the ride of terror. I am NOT going to show you the picture of how that trail from hell looked in the daylight considering I convinced all of you we were unmercifully sliding into the abyss. And that is all I am going to say about that!

We kept to the lower ground trails in the morning, amazed at how the landscape is already changing colors. It was still chilly and we kept our jackets on until noon. We returned to the campground for a quick lunch and went back out on the trails for a short ride in the afternoon, taking in what we call the "enchanted forest", one of my favorite trails at Turkey Creek. By the time we were loaded to go home, the sun was shining once again.

Turkey Creek Ranch is just 2 hours north of me near Newcastle, Nebraska. Being horse folk themselves, owners John & Brenda Wortman truly cater to riders. I was excited that Brenda took the day off to ride with us as she knows all the good trails and the best views. I could not imagine having all this in your own back yard.


Sep 19, 2010

Turkey Creek – The Extreme

Although not officially autumn yet, this time of year doesn't need a title; it is my favorite time to ride. I love everything about September; the warm days, sweatshirt weather in the evening and the red sumac. I love that the horses' coats are changing again and the winter growth makes their colors so vibrant again and so soft. And in case you are wondering why I love fall so much when I know what follows… well, I'm in complete denial about that: Live for the day.

This time of year is why I save my vacation days. When my boss got my "out of office" notice when he sent me an email, he replied, "Everything okay?" I reminded him it's time to ride and he authorized it. And while I was at it, I reminded him that this coming week is the beginning of Cowgirl Weekend and I'll be gone again!

Kathy and I made plans last month already to go to the Platte River Riders North's final ride at Turkey Creek near Newcastle this past Wednesday, contingent upon my trailer being fixed. It was, so we were going. We watched the weather on Tuesday and it didn't look promising, but come Wednesday morning, there was just a 40% chance of afternoon showers and clear that evening. That wasn't enough to worry us and we started out later that afternoon for the 2 hour drive north. And par for the course, about 3 miles from Turkey Creek, a black cloud from hell fell over us with such heavy rains and hail, it forced us to pull over. It didn't last long, but the roads were saturated.

As we reached the turn-off for Turkey Creek Ranch, I was a bit apprehensive as the 4WD has been out on the truck since the Wyoming debacle and I knew it would be hairy getting in there without it. I apologized in advance for the ride I was going to give the horses going in and then I gunned it. We went down a short hill, took a sharp turn left and then another sharp turn right and up a steeper hill. With the petal to the metal, we made it!

Turkey Creek Ranch is nestled in the bluffs on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River. The trails weave through the trees offering some climbs to the top for awesome views of the river and into the neighboring states of South Dakota and Iowa. The rain didn't dampen our spirits and it had been dry enough that the group thought that although the surface of the trails may be wet, the base should be good. Okay, that is what we told ourselves. We tend to lie to ourselves when we want to ride. The proprietor, Brenda Wortman, did not choose to ride with us. Something we all took note of later over the campfire.

Tammy "Sam" Alexander & Apache

We started down a muddy trail weaving through the trees with a mild ascent up the nearest bluff. I was maybe 3 or 4 horses back and could see horses in front of me struggle with their footing, so I would move Windy to the grassy part of the trail. She was more interested in the long grass than where she was walking and once at the top, the views, as always, are to die for.

Windy & I

After taking some pictures, we moved on along the ridge of the bluff. Every once in a while, I would glance behind me and see the other eighteen or so other riders following the trail. No one seemed to have any issues with the footing.

Doats & Eric

It was along this time that we evidently missed the turn we were to take and started to go down a hill. It was a little steep and a little slicker, but we got our footing again at the switchback. When the group got to the bottom, there was only two ways out and both of them took us back up to the trail we were just on. I rode ahead with two other people to check out the second trail to save us going back the same way. It looked good and before long, we all made it to the top again.

Off to the right was another mowed trail. We assumed this was the one Brenda had told us to take originally and we had missed. It was grassy with a slight decline; it didn't look at all as ominous as we would later reflect upon. Doats and Eric started to lead, Sam was behind them and I followed Sam. Kathy was right behind me.

I'm told that when Doats has a concern, we should listen because as a seasoned rider, she rarely complains. We heard her say "Oh, hell" and she slipped out of view about the time I saw Sam's horse, Apache, begin to slide. I thought he was going to fall to his hip. Windy went off to the right of Apache and when we were at their side; she hit the same greasy spot as he did and started to slide. I grabbed Sam's arm momentarily as if she would save me from where I was going. In a movie, we would have grasped hands until we could no longer hang on. But on the side of this bluff, I grabbed my reins again as I slid past her. I hear Kathy yelling at the others behind us, "Go back, Go back". I'm not sure if she really said "Save yourself!" or if that was embellished at the campfire, but we were all thinking that.

Windy got really big. In my mind, I envisioned her sitting on her butt with her hind legs sliding under her and her front legs between her hind legs trying to keep us from losing control and falling backwards. I remember looking up at her long neck and it seemed too close to me; almost parallel to my body. I think my feet were close to touching the ground, maybe even dragging, but I didn't look. My camera was around my neck. I wish I had the mind to hit "record", but at this point, I was "saving myself." We were going down (the hill that is) and it would be up to Windy to get me there safely. I had no control anymore.

I don't know how far we slid like that; maybe 20 feet? And it wasn't straight down, but there was no place for the horses to get traction so we kept on sliding. The horses just dropped to their hindquarters and let their engines take over. As we reached the bottom and solid footing, I hugged Windy around the neck and then turned to see Sam reach the bottom safely, too. Kathy was still chattering and sounded a bit panicked. She wasn't sure if her horse, Zuni, was falling or had it under control, so Sam and I assured her that Zuni was doing fine and she should let him finish the descent. A rider behind Kathy dismounted as his horse was about to slide into Zuni and that felt like the thing he should do to get control of his horse.

After the six of us were safely down, did we all start talking at once? The adrenalin was flowing, I know that! We weren't sure whether to high-five or drop to our knees and pray! I think we did a little of both. It seemed so dark down here in the trees. Like we lost what little sunlight we had going down the trail of hell. We all agreed to stay below and we started to work our way through the trees and back toward the trail head.

The riders who "saved themselves" had their own stories to tell which included a loose horse and more slipping and sliding. Around the campfire later that night, we all exchanged our "where were you" stories and the tales grew taller, no doubt. But let me tell you this, I never loved my little mare more. My heart was in my throat as I surrendered control to her. And she never let me down – literally or figuratively.

Ride Story Coming Up!

This past week, I snuck away for an overnight ride...

Well, we didn't ride overnight - just stayed overnight where we rode.

Finally, I have something to report.

Pictures and everything.

And just haven't had the time to sit down

and type up the story to do it justice.

But its coming.

After I work at the church dinner today.

After I finish packing for Cowgirl Weekend.

After I finish laundry....

Sep 14, 2010

So Unpredictable

Tomorrow night is the season finale ride for the North Chapter of the Platte River Riders at Turkey Creek near Newcastle. Making up for lost time due to heat and trailer repairs, Kathy & I planned to join this ride, camp over and ride again on Thursday. Turkey Creek is one of my favorite places and the weather has been just perfect. Well, up until tomorrow that is. The last glance at promises an 80% chance of rain in Newcastle tomorrow. I just can't catch a break.

But looking at the bright side, if we don't go tomorrow, my trailer is cleaned and ready to go for Cowgirl Weekend the following week. And I don't care what the stinkin' weather is doing then. It's Cowgirl Weekend or bust. If there is rain where we are going, I will Google radar maps all around the Midwest until I find a dry place to ride and I don't care if that is all the way to Oklahoma! I am not giving up my Cowgirl Weekend. So there.

John's cow, Agnes, had her calf last weekend. It was two months overdue. Well, technically not, but it was almost 2 months later than we thought it should be. Her cow-friend, Coco, had hers while we were in Wyoming in July, so we figured Ag would be having hers shortly thereafter. When almost 1 ½ months went by, we wondered if perhaps she had it and it was lost when the creek flooded. Or coyotes dragged it off. Agnes hasn't had a good track record with calves. Being a bottle calf herself, we think her maternal instincts might be a bit out of whack. Last year, she dropped her calf in the pond and if it weren't for Case being in the right place at the right time, it would probably have drowned. And she'd liked to have killed her firstborn. If you've been following, you might remember this story. If not, it is new to you:

05/08/07 Beef, It's What's for Dinner

Who remembers camping with us at Rock Creek three years ago? Okay, probably not. But do you remember camping with a family who brought along a bottle calf? Ah, that you remember. Okay, well, that was us. (You must be a redneck if you go camping with your bottle calf!) Fast-forward to this spring and said bottle calf is now a heifer expecting her first calf. Oh, and we have two heifers because John didn't think we should have just one. (Never mind that I think we should have none!)

Well, cows aren't the smartest animal in the feedlot. The fact that they are in the feedlot proves that, doesn't it? Coco's calf was born last week during the April cold spell. And both cows kind of claimed the calf. So when the second calf, Agnes', was born yesterday, neither of the cows knew what to do with it, so they did nothing! I discovered it shortly before the kids had to go to school. John is out of town... Yep, it's a dirty job and I have to do it. It's up to me to bond this calf with its mom.

Okay, easier said than done. Especially when one of the cows turns into a Mad Cow. I was horrified as I watched the mama cow head-butt the calf.

I realize this is now a rescue.

It's time to get the calf out of the pen.

Too heavy to lift.

Tried loading it in wheelbarrow & that didn't work either.

So I finally push it out of the pen by its tail.

I called John, but a bad cell phone connection leads me to believe I was on my own on this one.

No doubt I'll be late for work. Just one time I think my boss would like to get a normal phone call from me stating I have a headache or the flu. But every time I have to call in to work, it is never a simple excuse. Once the horses were on the highway; another time I broke my ankle while we were riding the day before. And now I couldn't come in because of an orphan calf!?

After consulting with my good friend and animal science major, Sam, I headed to town to get milk supplement, colostrums supplement and a bottle. Seventy three dollars and 42 cents later (which would of gone a long way at a tack store or bought me a half a tank of diesel fuel), I am back home trying to feed this thing.

Now had this been a foal, I would have been sitting in the manure laden barn with its head on my lap with a team of vets on standby! But this animal is a different story. I have its head pinned between my knees forcing the little beast's mouth open; but it would not take the bottle. (Did you know calves have teeth?)

About 2 hours into the process, John came home. Hallelujah! His cow, his calf. I'm off duty now. I showered for the second time that day and went to work. Twenty-four hours later, the cow is starting to take the calf, provided her head is tied to the post in the barn. Like I said, not the smartest animal on the ark.

This April there is no resemblance of spring. My lilac buds are frozen; the small green leaves starting to appear on our trees are now brown again. The horses haven't shed and are quite unhappy they have to stand in the rain while the calves get their stalls. There is not a foal in sight.

"Beef, it's what's for dinner."

Sep 12, 2010

Stories from the Trail-, Day 2- Part 3

Stories from the Trail, Day 2- Part 3 by guest blogger, Sheila Christiansen

OK, so after we filtered through the scavenger bags we had to get going on the scorecards. Very time-consuming chore is that. Again, thanks to Shari, we managed our way through it, though it took longer than expected. TV kept the crowd at bay by doing drawings for prizes while we worked on numbers.

Almost everybody stayed for the dinner and the awards. The food was great; KFC chicken with three kinds of salad, beans, and some homemade cakes volunteers had brought for dessert. Nobody left hungry, that's for sure! Some of our Horsetalers placed in the obstacles competition!

Each judge got to give a Judge's Choice Award to whoever they chose. I chose Christine Shenefield and her mule. Honestly, they were faultless on their sidepassing, both directions. Great horsemanship (mulemanship?), great execution.

When it was all said and done and the last trailer pulled out we sat around a campfire and rehashed the day. Fun, fun, fun!

If you want to have a great horsey time I would suggest you get involved in volunteering for one of these trails events. The more involved you are the more fun you'll have. It's true! Better yet, dream up an event yourself and call for volunteers to help you!

It was so nice to spend time with friends, working to put on a "party" for the rest of our friends, plus do something good for Nebraska trails. If you haven't ridden at Branched Oak trail, I highly recommend it-- those are some NICE trails. Soon there will be pens built in their horse campgrounds, and I think water and a bathroom, too (right?).... almost all the comforts of home!

I was too tired to get loaded up and drive home an hour in the dark. Tammy offered her nice trailer again, so I took her up on it. It was wonderful to get a good night's sleep and then pack up and head for home this morning!

It was a wonderful weekend!

Thank you, Sheila, for sharing your story with us. It truly was a great horse weekend! ~tv

Stories from the Trail - Day 2 , Part 2: Counting Junk

Stories from the Trail - Day 2 , Part 2: Counting Junk by guest blogger, Sheila Christiansen

The camp had been nearly deserted, except for Rich Newberg and volunteer, Troy Shenefield. We met Rich on the road, he was headed out to get the food from KFC in Lincoln....he reported to us that riders were already arriving and wanting to hand in their scavenger bags and he wasn't too sure what to do with those. I understand his concern after getting a look at them.

When we made up the scavenger list, it looked pretty cute. Little bits of nature gathered from the side of the trail, a snip here, a sample there. In reality it looked like some crazy person was planning a witches' brew. A pinch of milkweed, mixed with a dead insect, some sumac seeds, and three white berries-- that sort of thing. Oh, and apples?? We asked for an " apple of any kind". You know how many ROAD APPLES we had in Ziplocs? OMG.

So somebody's job was to match the things checked off the rider's list with what was actually present in their Ziploc bag. Heck, when we put it on there we didn't even know if some of that stuff EXISTED on the trail. I was amazed what all was found. And part of the scavenger hunt was "I Spy" style... such as "The rider number of a palomino", or "The license plate number of a pickup with a gray shoofly on the mirror." And there was that Bison Brand trailer question.....turns out it was a red herring, as the people we KNEW would be bringing a Bison trailer brought a different trailer, so everyone searched in vain. Ah well. Kept em occupied. LOL (We didn't do it on purpose, folks, honest.)

The scavenger hunt was a great activity for the hours before the ride actually started. Several people took this VERY seriously-- we saw whole families scouring the edges of the campground, riders accosting strangers to demand to know their ride number, people taking names and license plate numbers. Great way to meet new people! Some didn't even know they were part of the game, .... like Jan Cz. "Rider number of someone wearing a red, white, and blue helmet." Turns out there was only one. :)

Some answers were quite creative. Others were obviously taking a guess! (Lime green horseshoe!! C'mon-- it was pink!) LOL We got a good laugh out of the bag-lady duty. A couple of the kids came and wanted to know where some of the things were, like the "Spy the bird that "doesn't belong" along the trail. What was it?" (the plastic pink flamingo). One said brown thrush. I mean,... far be it for me to argue that, he may be right, but we aren't intelligent enough to actually have that as an answer on our list. Ours were a little more simple-minded!

And people were hallucinating. They were seeing giant mice on all kinds of things besides the FLAG that Mickey Mouse was on! So, we ended up with a 5-way tie of the scavenger over-achievers who had EVERYTHING (except the license plate of that Bison Trailer)... so it ended up in a tie-breaker, guessing the number of corn kernels in the jar----which Troy and John Vasa had to shuck and count into a jar. Those poor guys really got a work-out that day, I'll tell ya! Bless their little corn-shuckin' hearts.

Next year we need a longer list--- and a larger Ziploc.

Gosh, I've spent so much time on the Scavenger Hunt, I'm going to have to do a Part 3to finish out the day!

(To Be Continued)

Stories from the Trail - Day 2 ( Part 1)

Stories of the Trail - Day 2 (Part 1) By Guest Blogger, Sheila Christiansen

I woke up at 0500 --- before the crack of dawn (potty break)--- and marveled at the beautiful sky that had appeared sometime during the night. When I went to bed it was foggy and overcast and I couldn't see much of anything! Tammy was gracious to share her beautiful new LQ space with me.

Have I mentioned that that trailer could have been MINE? I had talked to the seller prior, when I was still considering upgrading to a gooseneck. Kicking self--- ow, ow, ow!!

So as I was saying, I woke up early. Tammy and Shari had plans to ride out again at 0730 to add more directional signs and take some more stuff out. I had plans to sleep in. But my plans didn't work out. I was just---awake! After they left the camp was coming alive, so I hauled more water to the camel and gave him his breakfast. I swear he never drinks this much unless someone is hauling it to him by hand. There was a big water tank for us with a hose to fill buckets, and a port-a-potty, which was a great convenience. I had brought some water for Cooper with me, but he went through that in a hurry.

I digress.

I was anxious to get that bridge delivered to its spot. It's a heavy sonofagun and I wasn't sure how much difficulty it would be to get it out of the truck and to its place on the trail. Turns out, with a 4-wheeler and a couple men it wasn't too hard at all! All ya have to do is stand there and direct! Lol. I felt much better once it was there.

People started pulling in around 9:00 or 9:30, I'd say. We started the signing in process at 10:00; Kathy came up with this great little welcome speech, explaining what was in their packet, instructing them to go ahead and put their numbers on and begin on the scavenger hunt right away, since some of the stuff was in camp, etc. She said she got some 'big eyes' from people when she was giving the spiel--- must have sounded like more than they thought they had signed up for!

EVERY one we were expecting came. I was amazed, I thought for sure we would have two or three no-shows, but we didn't have any. We got word that one rider canceled that morning, but an extra kid showed up, so she took his place. Amazing. Exactly 50 riders.

We had volunteers all over, everyone was so willing to help, I think the sign-in went very well. Some people were saddled up and warming up and it was only 10:00!! I asked Kathy if they realized that ride-out didn't happen until 1:00? Guess they did. Most just rode around camp, or north toward the lake. I'd given the okay that if anybody cheated and sneaked onto the trail they could be shot in the back (I meant a camera shot, of course, so we could see their number). LOL

At 10:30 we had the judges' meeting, handed out their packets and scorecards, etc, talked about the rules, caught Joel up, since he'd been ignoring his emails. There's always one ....

12:30- Ride meeting, explaining the game, the map, answered a few questions. Everybody was ready.

1:00 Mike Reis took Corie and me and all our stuff and all Mary's stuff out to our obstacles. It took us a little longer than anticipated to do all of that, so right after Corie and I had gotten our chairs in place and our drinks out and I was thinking about having my sandwich, Jess and Laurie Werner showed up! It was about 1:20 or so, guess we didn't realize 1) that it was so late, and 2)that it only took 15-20 minutes to get from camp to Obstacle 1! From that moment on we had a bottleneck.

At each obstacle each rider was asked a knowledge question. Mine was: "Name one conformational defect that has another animal's name in it." I bet not more than 1/3 of the riders could think of one! (Can you??) That is a hippology question that the 4-H kids are sometimes asked, according to Shari.

We gave them 10-15 seconds to answer the question, then I read the obstacle instructions to them, then they had 60 seconds to complete it. So each contestant required approximately 2 minutes at an obstacle. Groups of 2-6 people would arrive at a time and wait around for each other, so we gathered quite a few people around our area! I read as fast as I could, but just couldn't make it go any faster! My one regret as a judge is that I couldn't really take my time to write comments (you know how much I like to comment..).

We were busy for about an hour and forty-five minutes..then we were done. Boom. Suddenly everyone was through and Jen and Tanya were there (they followed the last riders). So we packed up, called a cab (Mike R. on his 4-wheeler) and headed back to camp. And by the time we got THERE, the first riders were arriving!

(To Be Continued)

Stories from the Trail - Day 1

For the most up-to-date and entertaining report of our Trail Challenge & Scavenger Hunt, I am turning the blog over to one of the co-chairs of the event, my friend Sheila Christiansen.

Sheila & Cooper

Stories of the Trail - Day 1 by Sheila Christiansen

OK, so Tammy gave you the proper, media-safe rundown on the event. Now let's get down to the REST of the story.

Day 1, Friday, Tammy, Shari, and I made plans to meet at the Branched Oak horse campground early in the afternoon to mark trails. Mary, Kathy and Rich Newberg, Sandy and Mike, Mike Anderson, Tanya, and some other volunteers -- sorry if I am failing to mention you, the days are running together in my memory, --- were also there. Plus several participants had come that day to camp over prior to the event the next day. We told them it was all a big secret so they couldn't ride the trails in advance, which added to the intrigue I'm sure. Ha.

So, we didn't get started onto the trail until 4:00; Shari and Wiley, Tammy and Windy, Kathy and Moon, Rich and Sonny, me and Cooper. And Mary and Sunny also joined up with us a little farther on. Oh, and let's not forget Chainsaw Mike on his ATV, following us and stopping to saw down branches and trees as needed.

I don't believe Coop and I have ever had an ATV following us before, or a chainsaw periodically starting up and limbs dropping out of trees. He acted like it was no big deal, so it wasn't. He did great! The only spook we had was when Windy farted. :/

Kathy seemed to be having a great time back there putting ribbons on trees. She said she'd never done that before (nor have I)! Shari and Tammy were directing, as to what color ribbon goes where. Geez, I don't know what we would have done without Shari's CTR experience in doing this trail marking business--- it's a big, confusing job!! I was lost 90% of the time, pretty sure I could have never followed that trail, even WITH the map, so I was sort of glad I didn't have to. Ha. But most people did great with it, from what I'm hearing. I'm trail-map challenged.

At one point Shari was carrying the gorilla in front of her on the saddle; Tammy was carrying a Christmas tin which she would periodically fling around and bang Windy on the butt with; and Kathy was carrying a Christmas tree. I think Shari also had pillowcases with pink flamingos on her saddle. We were laughing about what a hiker would think if they saw us coming..... hmmmmm.........

We were out on the trail 3.5 hours that night, marking stuff. (Trail Time hours! woohoo!) I had brought Shari's trail bridge from her house in the back of my pickup, plus two big black trash bags filled with hay and wood, two big white seed bags (drag bags) filled with birdseed and aluminum cans, also in the back of my pickup. Plus the rest of the stuff I would need, like a cooler, my electric fence stuff, ropes, cones, and so on. I think the neighbors were really glad when I drove off. I could almost hear them: "Esther, the neighborhood is going to the dogs..."

I still feel like a total amateur when I am around people who have horse camped and done all these horse events; they are all so prepared! Tables, awnings, ways and means to cook 'real' food-- something more than peanut butter crackers and energy bars. So, after the trail marking ride we organized who had brought what, finished making up the participants' handout bags, planned out times and who would do what, etc. I didn't hear of too much we had totally spaced off, so that was a miracle.

We had a late supper and a campfire, anticipated a fun day. Some of the other campers joined us and everyone sat around and told funny stories, we all got our daily requirement of belly-laughs, much of which came from the x-rated descriptions of the map that Tammy kept coming up with. Geez, I don't know where that girl's mind is! It's bad when your obstacle is described as 'partway up the shaft'.... and that wasn't the worst of it....

It was misty and foggy on Friday, but when I woke up before dawn the next morning the sky was so clear you could see a zillion stars and it promised to be a day to remember!....

(To be continued)

We Pulled It Off

A few years ago, in preparation for an upcoming Competitive Trail Ride, I attended a "mock" CTR put on by NECTRA, the local distance riding club. To give us a good flavor of the sport, they set it up as if we were really attending a Competitive Trail Ride. From having our trailers set up for camping to the vet checks. Then we were provided with a map and we saddled our horses and started the ride. Along the way, they set up obstacles that we might see on a CTR. Those few hours were to give us a taste for the sport. And it did.

Following that ride, I couldn't help but think that this one day, shortened version might appeal to a group of riders who aren't interested in distance riding or speed or camping or the long miles. A shortened version like this mock CTR might be just enough for a certain demographic of riders. Those who just want to spend an afternoon trail riding with their horse, but perhaps up the ante a little bit.

Last year, a fairly new organization came along and started sanctioning a similar type ride. Follow a trail, attempt obstacles along the way and call it a day at the end of the ride. The one scheduled nearest to me did not come to fruition. Cost? Although the entry fees weren't terribly bad, the additional required membership fee made it more spendy than I wanted to pay for a day ride. Then to further dampen my enthusiasm, their affiliation with what I believe to be a "faux" rescue group left a sour taste in my mouth. I'm from farm country. Beef, chicken, pork and the grain that feeds it is our livelihood. I won't support an organization that threatens our way of life.

Meanwhile, each year The Nebraska Horse Trails Committee hosts a game day to raise funds for our organization. Although always successful, wouldn't a "trail challenge" be more geared toward trail riders? And there is no law that says it has to be sanctioned by any organization. I know how to stinkin' trail ride! I got together with my friend Shari Parys, who organized the mock CTRs and Sheila Christiansen, who had as much fun at the mock CTR as I did and we started brainstorming about putting on a ride such as this…. A trail ride. Obstacles. How about a Scavenger Hunt and I Spy? It could all be done in an afternoon. Could we get 25 or maybe 30 riders? All we had to lose was our time. And we went for it!

If you build it they will come. Yesterday, fifty riders entered our 1st Annual NHTC Trail Challenge & Scavenger Hunt and it was 100% successful! Wow! How often does that happen on the first try? Oh, sure. I won't get so cocky as to say there weren't hiccups along the way, but the success of this ride was measured by smiles. watching the horses entered in the competition, you would think none of them ever had a bad day. And judging from the grins on the rider's faces and the laughter on the trails, I believe they felt it was worth their time and donation.

Sheila Christiansen has a beautiful way of telling the story. The next few posts to this blog highlighting the event, will be hers.

Sep 9, 2010

Under Saddle

The good thing about having a well-conditioned horse is she is ready for about anything. If I wanted to enter a CTR on the spur of the moment, I know I would have enough horse under me. First the hot weather and then the swollen knee, Windy's rides have been limited this last month. But at Camp Moses this past weekend and then again on last night's Platte River Ride, she was 110%. It was hard not opening her up on the loping trails. She felt so good!

The trails at Camp Moses were as overgrown as I have ever seen them. Too wet this spring and then too hot this summer; I'm sure they haven't had as much horse activity as they usually do. Butter hasn't been ridden since we were in Wyoming and (and not a heck of a lot before then) and it showed. She was huffing and puffing on the hills. Case invited a friend to ride with us on Monday. It was his first time on a horse and Blue took good care of him and seemed in better shape than Butter. I think Windy could have sprinted around all those trails and still had energy to burn.

There were close to thirty riders at the last regular season Platte River Ride last night. We couldn't have asked for a nicer evening, although it is always sad to see the season end, especially knowing winter is right around the corner. But let's not think about that right now.

Ready or not, this weekend is our Trail Challenge and Scavenger Hunt. We filled all 50 rider spots a few weeks ago; now to make it happen.

I love this time of year.

Sep 5, 2010

I’m Ready To Go

All my tack is packed; I'm ready to go….

Yesterday, I spent most of the afternoon going through the garage, the shed and the tack room of the barn looking for where I dumped the tack and camping supplies from my big trailer when I abruptly sold it. Some of the tack I never used for years, I was fortunate enough to sell at the horse auction last month, but there are still those things I like to have with me. Most of my personal riding gear is in my little trailer.

I cleaned out the aluminum toolbox that we sometimes put on the truck and was thrilled that I could get all the grills, fencing equipment, camp chairs and other miscellaneous equipment stored there and still have room to spare. I have learned that half of what I had stored in my big trailer, I didn't need. So that has been kind of a cleansing to not have all this "stuff" to try to find a place for.

I put the saddles on regular saddle racks in the storage area in front of each horse stall. The horse's feed bags will hang over the saddles. In time, I want to have an aluminum tray to fold down over the saddles to keep them separated, but for this short trip, it will work okay. I won't need to feed the horses in the trailer and they are not ones to fuss with stuff. But just in case, I didn't put my good leather saddle there; I left it in the small trailer. I hung up a saddle rack on one of the tack room doors and John screwed on a Rumber brush tray I had bought online.

For now, John nailed together some slats and we inserted under the breast bars. This will keep the tack separate from the horse stalls. It slid in nicely under the stall divider, so it is firmly in place and can't fall. I'm lukewarm about it. I know we need a divider, but this one is not easy to move around; I'll have to lift the stall divider to remove it. Not heavy, but awkward if I am by myself. But again, to get us there and back this first trip out, it will work fine. I'm surprised at how much room I really do have once it is all put together. In a way, I am glad I had that time waiting for repairs to put it all together in my head without just cramming stuff in there last minute.

Since Case and a friend are going with us today, we will take both rigs. We are only going 20 miles, so no big deal. Yesterday, the farrier noticed Blue has a cut on the bulb of his back foot. He'll make the trip, but not sure how much riding he'll actually do. He's not lame on it and if I can slip a boot on it, it should help protect it.

Speaking of lame, yesterday - for no apparent reason - I fell down the basement stairs. One second I am walking and the next, I am airborne. I saved myself after about 4 or 5 steps and luckily the stairs are carpeted and I didn't hit my tailbone that just healed this past spring after a year of pain! But today my ankle is tender and I can only guess as a result of this klutzy move. It's hell to get old.

Sep 1, 2010

Tempting Fate

How many times have you heard someone say, "I hate to say anything for fear of jinxing it?" I have to admit that thought crossed my mind. How easy it is to complain to the world when things are not going very well, but yet, we find ourselves reluctant to do the happy dance when things are going right? So, I am going to thank the good Lord for these gifts today and share it with you! I tell you, it doesn't take much around here to make me happy!

  • When I got on the scale this morning, it was the lowest weight I have been in weeks! Watching what I eat and exercising really does work! Who'd of thunk?
  • As I was heehawing about what to wear to work this morning, I remembered it is a "special" denim day. I am always happier when I can tromp in wearing jeans and my favorite Expo t-shirt.
  • The hot & humid temps from yesterday are gone. It is 68 degrees right now! I didn't even have to run the air in the Durango!
  • I had an email from a programmer who found out the code she was going to have to write for my new project is already done! Someone had the foresight do it with a sister project! How often does that happen?
  • The cooks in the cafeteria told me the blueberry muffin I wanted so badly, but was going to pass on, was made with yogurt, not sugar! Rock on!
  • My trailer mechanic called and my long awaited trailer part is here! He can have my trailer fixed by the weekend! I can go camping!
  • The swelling in Windy's knee is completely gone & she has stayed 100% sound through the ordeal. She is Cowgirl Weekend bound. (Blue says it's his lucky day, too!)

I'm off to buy a lottery ticket!