Jul 30, 2012

Traveling with Horses 2


Traveling with Horses (Part 1)

Then there is the boring stuff.  Really, getting the horses ready for a trip is much more exciting than getting ourselves ready.  Packing clothes for temperatures ranging from 45 – 85 degrees, packing food for two people but in true camp fashion, sharing with our friends and we always pack too much.  Making sure we have enough propane, paper plates, trash bags and all that jazz.  Really, I try to get the trailer ready at the beginning of the season when I am still excited about getting the trailer ready.  Then when I have to pack for a trip like this, it is only filling in what I am missing.  




Addressing Mindy’s concern (in the comments on the prior Traveling with Horses post), a daily shower would be nice.  Our old trailer had a shower and a water heater.  And I hate to admit this, but it didn’t get used that much.  I just take on a cowboy state-of-mind when hanging out in the wilderness.  I do have a sink with running water in my trailer for washing up and would do the morning sponge bath and head wash just to revive myself.  And if the sun was shining, our solar bag would warm up nicely and we could have a “real” shower under the tree.  Swimsuits optional.




Our trailer does not have a bathroom but I have a Luggable Loo.  It comes with liners and I use shavings in it that I use in the trailer for the horses.  I keep it in the back part of the trailer where the horses travel, after cleaning it out of course.  I put down rugs and have a little night light.  No, not the Ritz but better than the woods.   


Planning food for a week can be a challenge but since the kids no longer camp with us, I have to say, it is a lot easier.  I am not a big snacker so I just plan meals.  John can bring his own junk food. 


Photo Jul 30, 8 39 25 PM (HDR)


I do have a refrigerator in my trailer which runs on propane but it is not big enough to hold a week’s worth of food.  I buy salads at the deli to store in here as well as butter, mayo, etc.  I also try to save room for dinner leftovers because that is a lot of times lunch the next day. 


I freeze as much of the meat as I can before we leave and do not pack it until the morning we depart.  My meat cooler is my “do not open” cooler.  I do not put pop or anything else in it so that it is only opened once or twice a day when a meal is being prepared.  I have a coffee can that I filled with water and froze and it goes in the cooler that way with the lid on.  That way I don’t have water in the cooler.  I also freeze water bottles and put them in this cooler as well as artificial ice.  By week’s end, some of the water bottles still showed some evidence of ice.  You wouldn’t be able to go much longer than a week this way.


We keep drinks in ice coolers and yes, do make ice runs if we are close enough to town to do so.  John said someone should start a business of driving through campgrounds with an ice truck every day. 




There were no open fires or charcoal grills allowed at Medicine Bow due to the drought.  You were only allowed to use gas grills, stoves or burners.  We took our propane grill and our butane burner.  This little burner is great for fixing coffee in the morning or warming up a side dish.  I found they don’t carry butane in the obvious places like Walmart but you can order it through Cabelas.  We have a similar burner which uses propane, but this one is very handy.    


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In our trailer, we keep our lawn chairs and tables.  We brought along saddle stands since our tack room was full of hay.  With the trailer packed and hooked to the truck, we fueled up the night before and then drove over the scale at the local elevator to get our weight.  After numerous breakdowns over the years, even having to ride Windy home twice last year, I finally bought a new truck this past winter and this was the first time we were really fully loaded for a long trip.  The empty weight of the truck and trailer with no tack, hay or horses is 12,700 lbs. (trailer only 4,300 lbs).   With everything packed except the coolers and horses, the entire rig weighed 14,520 lbs.  Loading horses, we would weigh in around 16,500 lbs. 


The GCWR for my Ram 2500 Heavy Duty truck is 18,500 lbs., so I had about a  ton to spare.  It is important to know what the GCWR is for your truck.  That is the total weight of your truck and your trailer.  I think we pushed it over the limit too much with our last truck and trailer which probably contributed to my prior truck problems.   When I was truck shopping this time, I thought maybe I could get by with a 1/2 ton but doing my homework and considering the kind of travel we do, it would not have been an option.  Study the GCWR very carefully when making a purchase – don’t just listen to a salesman, they like to sell those 1/2 tons - and know what your total rig weighs when fully loaded.


I didn’t go with a diesel engine this time because a majority of my driving is on flatlands and torque is not as important.  The price for a diesel engine and associated service and the cost per gallon of diesel fuel compared to gas steered me toward the hemi.  I know I would get better mileage with the diesel and it would probably outlast this truck, but all things considered, including what I wanted to spend and how long I typically keep a vehicle, I am satisfied with my purchase.  


Even having a new truck, it is important to belong to a motor club such as US Rider or at the very least, carry along a jumper cable.  You never know when something might suck down your battery or what other problems you could have when towing. 


So that’s it.  That’s how we roll.  Others may do it different and have even better tips to share. 


Have horses?  Travel!  What a way to see the country.






Jul 29, 2012

Oh! Wyoming (cont’d)


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If you have been following the Horsetrailriders.com Facebook page, you have seen some of the pictures I have posted from our recent riding trip to Wyoming.  And I am sure I mentioned that it was an incredible trip.  Not only leaving the triple digit temperatures and enjoying the mild (no humidity) temps of Wyoming, but finally feeling like we could grasp the vastness of the area and not just wonder around aimlessly, but get in some good rides.  Oh, that’s not to say we didn’t get lost.  But that’s all part of the trail riding adventure.




We left early last Saturday morning and met our friends, Jules and Steve, along the interstate.  Temps were once again to be triple digits and we wanted to get that put behind us as quickly as possible for the horses’ sake.  As we hit the Sidney, Nebraska area, the truck showed 101 degrees outside.  But each time we stopped for fuel, we found the horses to appear comfortable and neither were sweating at all.  The lack of humidity really makes a difference in how they travel.


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We arrived at Medicine Bow – Routt National Forests at a little after 3:00 mountain time.  We planned to camp in the Blair – Wallis area.  We remembered there being horse corrals and conveniently a creek nearby but also knew the chances of that area not being taken were slim to none.  We were not surprised to see the area taken, but were delighted to see a friend from the Omaha area.  We would not have minded camping with Dennis, but the group of children nearby wasn’t appealing (I am on vacation, you know).  After visiting with him shortly, we headed farther south (?) to a perfect spot right under a pretty mountain.  At this time, our horses had been on the trailer for almost 11 hours.  It was time to unload. 




We watered the horses and provided hay bags while we set up the fencing for their pens.  The ground was so dry that Steve and John were having difficulty getting a charge into the fences.  They figured out a way to make it work that still has Jules and I a little baffled but not enough to care.  Beyond setting up the fence and plugging it in, the rest is beyond me. 


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The next morning, we rode out to the base of the mountain below our camp.  We found some trails heading up and followed them as best we could.  The beetle bug damage has caused some trees to come down so some trails were not passable.  We made it as high as we could, shot some pictures and then worked our way back down.




We then followed a jeep road along the base of the mountain, dropping down into the aspens in what was probably a boggy area earlier this spring but had since dried up.  We looked for moose but saw none.  They were grazing cows in the park so would occasionally come across a herd.  Its amazing they survive on such little vegetation but I guess its what they are used to. 


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Our friend, Robyn, pulled in later on Sunday and that evening, we went for a short ride down the road from our camp.  The rock formations along this trail were incredible.  You can’t help but wonder how they came to be.  The Ice Age?  A large earth quake? 




The next morning, we headed to the Pole Mountain trails.  Note to self:  get map PRIOR to going to Pole Mountain next time.  Oh, we did okay but ended up going about 5 miles more than we planned and popping out in an area that we didn’t expect.  But the views from the summit were worth the extra miles. 


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Picture time!  And Facebook worthy!  I couldn’t help but think that it was Monday morning and there were people at work while I was doing this!    What a life!


More later….



Jul 28, 2012

Traveling with Horses


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We just got home from a trip to Wyoming with our horses.  From a non-horse person’s perspective, living in the forest for a week without electricity or running water and hauling hay, water, fencing and two horses, not to mention cleaning up after said 1,000 pound animals may not sound like a vacation.  But to me, it was just what I needed. 


I had hoped to have some internet service to chronicle the trip, but it was patchy at best.  From certain spots, I was able to post pictures on the Horsetrailriders.com Facebook page, but the one-liners to go with the picture just does not tell the whole story.  So over the next few days, I’ll share the trip with you here. 


As I shared pictures on Facebook, I was asked what I do to get ready for a trip like this.  That is a great question.  While I upload pictures from various devices to share with you about the trip, today I will mention how I prepared for this trip.  I’m not sure I can cover it in one post, but here is a start.


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First, if traveling out of state to a terrain/area unfamiliar to you, I would start with finding a facility that caters to horse people, complete with maps and good directions OR travel with friends who have been to this particular area before.  The only reason I mention this is because getting ready to travel with horses is stressful enough.  Not knowing what you are getting into once you are there will only complicate matters.  Start small and work your way up to a trip such as we just took.  It will help you get better prepared. 


A few years ago, we went to Medicine Bow – Routt National Forests near Laramie.  As I mentioned in the prior post, it wasn’t a spectacular trip for a lot of reasons, many unrelated to the location at all.  But our friends, Jules and Steve, really wanted to ride Wyoming and having it whet my appetite in 2010, I was ready to go back.  Having been there before, we knew more about the area which helped set us up for success. 


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One of our problems during our prior trip was truck related.  Our truck at the time was getting up there in miles and hauling a big four-horse steel trailer fully loaded with horses, hay and amenities just continued to take its toll.  I swore I would not go back to the mountains until we replaced our truck.  We are now driving a 2011 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty and pulling a 2-horse aluminum trailer.  We have more than enough truck for the job.  I would also not go where we went without 4 wheel drive or a jumper cable, for that matter.  And it goes without saying that you should have your truck and trailer serviced prior to the trip.


To get the horses ready for out of state travel, you must have your vet draw blood for a Coggin’s test to determine that your horse is negative for Equine Infectious Anemia.  In most of Nebraska’s neighboring states, that test is valid for one year, although you should check with the state you are traveling to just to make sure.  After the results of the Coggin’s test (allow 3 to 10 days) is provided to your veterinarian, he or she must examine the horse within 15-30 days of travel (again depending on state requirements) to deem it healthy.  This is called a Health Certificate.  Your vet will need to know where you are traveling to and why.  Be sure and have addresses handy for his paperwork.  (See resource for horse transportation requirements.)  The negative Coggins report and Health Certificate will need to travel with you.  Keep it safe. 


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I would not go to the mountains without shoeing our horses.  I decided to try a new shoe that I thought might make traction a little better in the mountains.  I ordered them online and my farrier was a good enough sport to put them on Windy.  Fancy was shod in traditional metal shoes, only because I didn’t get the right size of plastic shoe for her.  Both horses got along just fine with their shoes.  If you are anti-shoe, I would suggest you fit your horse with a good pair of hoof boots.  Even if you practice “barefoot trimming”, I would not attempt mountain riding without hoof protection.  A lame horse would ruin a good trip. 


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More importantly, do NOT pull your unconditioned horse out of the pasture and take it to the mountains.  That is like pulling a couch potato from the recliner and asking them to run 10k.  That is just not fair to the horse.  A friend who does Competitive Trail Rides had said she didn’t like to do her first competition until she had at least 100 miles on her horse for the season.  That is probably a good rule of thumb.  Thanks to the Distance Derby, I have over 500 miles on Windy this year and over 100 miles on Fancy plus what John has put on her.  We rode six days in Wyoming and logged over 80 miles.  I felt our horses were in good shape but by the last day, I could feel their attitude changing.  They had enough.  If you don’t have time to condition, know their limitations and do not push them. 


certified weed free hay


Next, you will need to find out if special hay requirements are needed at your destination.  All national parks and forest service areas, as well as some state parks and private facilities, require certified weed free hay.  It’s not easy to find so don’t go thinking you don’t have to plan for this; you will.  And expect to pay more than you would normally pay for a bale of hay.  I know of certified hay going for $7 – $10 a bale right now in Nebraska.  If you grow your own hay, contact your county to see what it would take to have your own hay certified weed free.  We did and I was surprised at how easy it was to have done – but, our field was free of weeds.  (Google weed free forage requirements in the state you are traveling for more information and no, I have none for sale. Smile  )


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How do you plan to stable your horses at the destination?  Most areas with corrals are first come first served and don’t plan on being the first one there.  We carry portable electric fencing.  Not the kind you buy in the tack magazines; we put it together using supplies from an actual farm store.  Make sure your horses are familiar with electric fencing before heading out your driveway.  And remember, don’t think only about keeping your horses in but also about keeping other animals out of the pen.  Where we camped in Wyoming, there were free ranging cattle.  I am sure any of those heifers would have liked to munch on my horses’ fresh bale of (weed free) alfalfa.  If there was any on the ground before riding out, we would turn on the fencer so that no cattle could get in to our pens. 


Many of us who have done Competitive Trail Riding are used to tying our horses to the trailer overnight or for several nights.  Although a nice option for a long weekend, I would not recommend it for a trip like this.  The horses are already outside their environment.  In this case, temps were almost forty degrees cooler every night.  They were working hard, pulling steep trails in higher altitudes than they are used to.  Having a large pen for stabling allowed them to move at will and roll as needed.  And it keeps them fenced in from the outside unknowns.  I know in South Dakota, buffalo can be a threat to tied horses; especially if there is hay present.  Others may disagree, but I’m just sharing my preference and what has worked best for us and those with whom we most often travel.    


Temperatures can vary depending on where you are coming from and where you are going.  You might want to consider taking a waterproof stable blanket along for your horse.  I didn’t this time and wished I would have.  Also a salt block for your horses pens to help keep them hydrated.


Depending on your destination, keep in mind a water source for your horses.  Where we just traveled, there was no water.  We carried our 55 gallon container and was able to fill up every few days at a nearby location, but we did need to drive for it.  You will also need to make sure your horses will drink water from a source other than your own. 




I started packing about a week before we were leaving.  We have a two horse gooseneck trailer with a weekender package.  I needed to find room for eight bales of hay, tack, fencing and all of our people supplies.  I put our saddles in the back seat of the truck, I put hay in contractor bags and stored in the tack compartment of the trailer and the back of the truck.  I put our lawn chairs on the bed in the gooseneck.  You get the picture.  You have to get real creative when packing; its like putting together a very delicate puzzle.  And other than not having the horse blankets with me – which wasn’t on my list – I was gone for a week and never did without. 


There is more to come.  But this should give you something to think about as a starting point for getting the horse ready.  If you have any questions, post them in comments and I can include my thoughts in future installments. 



Jul 26, 2012

Oh! Wyoming

We left Nebraska while it was burning up - both literally and figuratively.  The temps were soaring in the triple digits and the northwestern part of our state is on fire.  The drought is taking it's toll on our state.

Did anyone ever record a song about Wyoming?  I'll have to Google and find out.  I think I love Wyoming like John Denver loved Colorado.  The mild temperatures (and did I mention no humidity).  The mountain ranges.  It raw beauty.  It's our second trip to Wyoming with the horses and by far the best.  The first one had nothing to do with the state itself but perhaps our state of mind at the time.  This one has more than made up for it.

I barely have enough Mifi signal to pull up this page.  I can't share Wyoming with you without accompanying pictures.  And there are lots of pictures on my camera, my iPhone and in my mind.  And I can't wait to upload them.  But for now, just a sneak peek.

When I grow up, I am moving to Wyoming.  At least from Father's Day until Labor Day.

Oh! Wyoming!




Jul 19, 2012

The Drought




I promised myself that I will not blog about the weather.


I WILL not blog about the weather.


I will NOT blog about the weather.


I will not BLOG about the weather.


I will not blog about the WEATHER!


But I will say this. 


I HATE extremes. 


Extreme Cold.


Extreme Hot.


And it ain’t frickin’ January.



(My son, Case, took the above picture of our place.  I like that he loves the sunsets as much as I do.  He’s getting quite an eye for it.)



Jul 15, 2012

Power Poles & Horse Shoes




Madeline, my senior spring spaniel, woke me this morning around the time I normally get up.  She didn’t want to sleep in; it was time.  I only cussed her momentarily because when I swung out of bed I caught a glimpse of the sunrise that I would have missed had nature not been calling for Maddie.  I took a few shots with my iPhone Instagram app and although all the photos captured the magnificent colors, I liked everything about this particular picture above:  the notch in the top right hand corner is the porch roof, the “fort” pasture with fencing made of cedar tree trunks just under the power poles.   I caught a glimpse of the cottonwood tree to the left and the gravel road going down the hill kind of lights up.  I probably won’t go out and have this picture blown up and framed, but definitely Facebook-worthy.


My Facebook friends are so kind.  There were a lot of “likes” and many positive comments.  One person mentioned if I removed the power poles from the picture, it would “be a classic.”  I didn’t take that as a backhanded compliment because I agree, that in many cases, power poles can “pollute” a picture.    Believe me, there are times I am taking pictures that I am trying to avoid them or dumpsters or my big pet peeve, a picture taken with people around the table with half-eaten food and empty bottles.  (Shudders!)  But in this picture, the power poles didn’t bother me.  It captured what is the rural morning from my front porch. 




I looked back at those pictures for one taken this morning that did NOT include the power lines and it is shown above.  I didn’t notice until now that I caught the waning crescent moon at the top of the picture off to the right.  The sky is also brilliant; perhaps captured even more in this shot than the other.  And the highway lights up down yonder.  It’s a nice picture, too.  But I still like the first one better. 




This weekend, I had the horses shod for our upcoming trip.  I measured and ordered the Plastic Horseshoes (www.plastichorseshoes.com).  They are made of polyurethane and there is some flex to them.  I have been wanting to try them and granted, it may not have been the wisest choice to try something new right before vacation but sometimes I don’t think before I do. 




I had measured both Windy and Fancy’s feet as per the instructions.  But I really think it is hard to get a good size.  Dan, my farrier, chose the larger of the set for Windy but still had to cut a lot off.  It took him probably 3 times longer to put on than it would a traditional shoe – mainly just trying to get a good fit. 




I like that there is some give to them.  I like that they might provide a little more traction than metal shoes.  I like that they cover most of the sole of the foot but I do worry about dirt and mud packing up under it.  I also worry about her overreaching – there is nothing to prevent if from pulling other than the give to the plastic.  The nails seem a long way away from the back of the foot.   I really, really want to like these shoes.  I’ll let you know in a month if my worries were warranted.  (Note:  Windy does not have sufficient hoofwall to successfully wear shoes on the back.  I have her feet trimmed so that Easy Boot Gloves will fit her hind feet should I get in areas that I think she needs hoof protection.)




I forgot to take a picture of the bottom of the shoe until she had been back home in the corral for awhile.  But this gives you a pretty good idea.  We’ll see how it goes.




The plastic shoes I ordered for Fancy would not work.  She has a smaller hoof than Windy and although I ordered a size down, it was still not small enough.  So we just went with traditional shoeing for her.


Photo Jul 15, 9 11 50 AM


Spent today cleaning tack.  I love how it looks, feels and smells after a little (a lot) of elbow grease. 


No riding this weekend.  The heat wave returnth… 



Jul 12, 2012

Ride For Renee


Renee Flanagan passed away suddenly at the age of 48. Renee was a woman of compassion, a rare soul filled with love, always showing God’s love to others. She had two passions in her life; children and horses. She touched the hearts of many through her time as a childcare provider and a Head Start teacher in Weeping Water, Nebraska. 

She developed an affinity for horses at an early age and carried it with her throughout her life. She was an incredible horsewoman, who acquired many life-long friends on the trails. Her devotion to her family, friends, children, animals, and God was astounding. If you were fortunate to have Renee touch your life, than you understand what a tragic loss we have endured. She is gone from us physically, but we keep her memory eternal by riding with her in our hearts forever.  


Jul 8, 2012

With Honor: Part 2


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With Honor:  Part 1


In the morning, I went and fetched Windy from the pasture.  It was already starting to get uncomfortably hot and I wanted to get her groomed and dried.  I lightly shampooed her coat; disappointed that her rich color is starting to fade.  That happens mid-summer and I won’t see it return until her winter coat starts to thicken up.  After conditioning her mane and tail, I combed them out; they dried in the hot wind almost immediately.  I put her in the round pen, which is grass, as I knew she would roll.  She did.  Then combed her mane again and put it in a long braid.  She was ready.  My friend, Mike, picked us up a little after 1 and we drove to York for the funeral procession of Lance Corporal Hunter Hogan. 




There ended up being about thirty riders, give or take.  Not as many as they hoped, but with temperatures nearing 100, I was not surprised.  After a brief meeting about the expectations, we rode over to the church where the service was still taking place.  The Riderless Horse carried the rodeo gear of Lance Cpl. Hogan. 




The Patriot Guard were already there; we waited in the shade along the road.  These men and women, many of them veterans themselves, continue to carry on this tradition.  Please link over to their webpage and read their mission statement.  I was privileged to be among them. 




The news crews from several television stations and newspapers were there, too.




The Patriot Guard soon fired up their engines and the 200 bikes made their way out to the cemetery; they would be waiting there to begin the graveside services.  I thought about dismounting when I heard the first Harley, but Windy didn’t seem to notice, so I didn’t.  The bikes moved away from us and the horses didn’t pay any mind. 


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The caisson driven by a team of Clydesdales picked up the casket carried by the Marines.  From what I could see, one Marine accompanied the fallen and the others loaded up in SUVs and drove to the cemetery.  Those of us riding horses were the escorts and we followed a police cruiser down the city streets and out into the rural area where he would be laid to rest. 


From Funeral NP


I am inserting pictures in this post so you can see what I saw along the way.  Its hard to find the words to express how I felt.  Honored, proud, sad…  lots of emotions.  People along the way would mouth “thank you” as we rode by.  I’d smile and tell them “thank you”, too, as they were paying tribute, too, standing on the roadside honoring this young man they, too, didn’t know. 


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Do the young men in the picture above not take your breath away?  They are wise beyond their years.  


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I can’t tell you how many flags I saw this day; more than I’ve seen in my life. I can’t explain how they made me feel.  Once again, honored, proud, sad?  All of the above.  Perhaps because of what they represented on this day. 


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As we got closer to the cemetery, we could see the bikes of the Patriot Guard, all the riders standing near, holding American flags.  Did I mention there were so many flags. 



This video was taken by Hannah Birt and posted on Facebook.  It was a little shaky as she steadied her camera but does level out.  I am following the buckskin horse with the flag, wearing a white sleeveless blouse and yes, wearing my helmet. 


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The riders circled the burial site and then stopped to watch as the caisson and the riderless horse were escorted to where the family waits.  I was told that when the call for riders was broadcast locally, this driver team came forward and asked if they could carry the soldier to his resting place.


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The Riderless Horse was lead by the best friend of the deceased, his chaps laid across the saddle, his boots in the stirrups.  I was initially told the horse did not belong to Lance Cpl. Hogan, but someone else believed it was his horse.  Either way, it was a touching tribute.     




As we entered the cemetery, it was very quiet except for one bell that would toll.  The core group of riders were asked to ride to the other side of the Patriot Guard; a nice place in the shade. 


From FuneralNP2


The gentleman on the white horse is Taylor Rudd from Lubbock, Texas.  He is retired and volunteers his time to honor fallen serviceman.  He and his horse, named appropriately The White Horse honor the dead by laying down at the burial.  We couldn’t hear the words and I couldn’t get a good picture, but the one above was taken by an area newspaper. 


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There was a 21-gun salute and a plane flew over.  The service ended shortly afterwards. 




We watered the horses from one of the many water tanks left in the cemetery for our purpose.  The water was cold and fresh and welcome.  I scanned the crowds leaving; many of the bikers starting their engines and drove away while others shook the hands of our Marines who were proudly represented this day.  Thanking them is not enough.


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Thanking the Patriot Guard for their contribution to these soldiers and their family is not enough.  Thanking rodeo contractor,  KC Ehrhardt, for asking riders to serve as escorts is not enough.  Thanking the riders who came out on this hot day to honor this soldier is not enough.  It’s not enough to thank those who showed support by lining the streets with their hands over their hearts.  But it was all anyone could offer each other.  A thank you.




It was our way of saying thank you to one person, Lance Corporal Hunter Hogan, who most of us had never heard of one week ago today.  It was our thank you to him for dying for our country.