Aug 26, 2012



turkey creek 3


I just came home from a lovely mid-week ride at Turkey Creek Ranch near Newcastle, Nebraska.  A couple hour drive north of me, Turkey Creek is nestled on the Nebraska side of the South Dakota/Nebraska border.  I've tried to visit at least once a season, never tiring of the outstanding views of the tri-state region and the mighty Missouri River.


turkey creek 4


I traveled up by myself and met my friends Kathy and Trudy, who had arrived a day earlier.  Dare I say how much easier it is traveling solo with just one horse?  I stopped at the HyVee deli before I left and picked up some healthy food choices for myself (Gasp!  Healthy food & camping?  Who’d of thunk?), grabbed a bale of hay for Windy (well, two bales -- just in case I convinced myself I needed another day at Turkey Creek),  a change of clothes, and my boots.  With Pandora on the iPhone (until I lost connection in the boondocks), it was an easy drive. 


turkey creek 2


I have been reading the book But It Wasn't The Horse's Fault written by famed endurance rider, Julie Suhr.  In the chapter, My Flighty Fanny, she talks of falling off horses from the time she started riding until it wasn't fun anymore.  She then mentioned making a conscious decision not to ride a horse beyond a trot; that her galloping days were over.  And she didn't.  That is until the right horse came along.  Which reminded me of myself while at Turkey Creek.


When I got Windy back in 2005, I made the decision that she was "the one".  We bred her mama, she was foaled on our place... besides having a brain fart and accidently selling her, it all ended well when she came back to me.  And as I mentioned in the post about My Dream Horse, I was going to do right by her by having her trained and really learning to ride.  She is the first horse that I have owned that I can ride off the property alone without fear or anxiety or trouble.  I can haul her anywhere and pretty much ride her anyplace.  Our only angst comes from wagons, buggies and mules.  And now pivot irrigation, it would seem.  But all manageable. 


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I have ridden Windy alone on a nearby trail but very seldom haul out to ride solo; usually I meet up with friends.  So when Trudy and Kathy planned to leave after our morning ride on Friday, I wasn't concerned about staying a little longer and having that last ride; just Windy and me, one hundred miles from home.   


As I saddled up after lunch, a group of women arrived from Minnesota with the owner of Turkey Creek, Brenda, following to check them in.  I've known Brenda for years and after she finished the paperwork for the new campers, I told her I planned to ride and asked if she wanted to join me. She said she would head back home to get her horse and would meet me in the woods.  That gave me a little time to head over to one of the trails behind camp, do a big loop and then ride over to meet Brenda. 


Turkey Creek 1


I put my helmet on and positioned Windy next to a small stump to mount.  With the camp now busy with other horses and women, I was so hoping Windy would stand quietly for mounting, walk out nicely and not make a fool out of me.  She was picture perfect as I swung a leg over, waiting for me to ask her to move toward the trail.  She glanced at the other horses briefly and headed where I pointed her.  I have to tell you, I felt pretty darn cool on my pretty mare.  I bet those girls were Impressed.  Even more so when I glanced down and noticed my reins were criss-crossed underneath her head.  I quickly leaned down and tried to make a quick fix without being noticed, only to criss-cross them another time. Oh for goodness sake!  One more try and thankfully I got them untangled without having to dismount.  What an amateur!


turkey creek 6


With our tack all sorted out, we continued to ride away from camp and cross the bridge.  I moved her into a nice trot and before long we were loping along the trails of Turkey Creek, just my mare and me.  Julie Suhr, in her book, said after galloping her horse Bravo for the first time, "I was Rocky at the top of the steps in Philadelphia.  I was Neil Armstrong landing on the moon taking that 'one giant step'."  And then, including a quote from Doreen Harlow, she wrote:  "My arms wrapped around Bravo's thin neck and I thanked him for making me 'bigger, stronger, prettier, faster, braver' ."   Yes, Julie.  I can so relate.  Bravo!


Aug 21, 2012

No Ride Is Ever The Last



(Photo by Karen Johnson)


This past weekend friends of Renee Flanagan met at Rock Creek Station and rode in her memory to support the scholarship founded in her name.  We lost Renee quite unexpectedly this past winter after a brief illness.  It was nice to come together with the friends who knew her and the family who loved her and ride for her. 




(Tammy M, me and Chase M preparing to hide scavenger items.)


As part of the ride, I volunteered to put together a Rock Creek Station Trivia & Scavenger Hunt for riders to find along the trail.  In addition, we placed golden horseshoes along the trail; each with one word.  Riders were to find all the horseshoes and unscramble the message which said simply, “No Ride Is Ever The Last”.  I thought it fitting.




(Distance Derby Riders Corie, me, Tammy M, Christine S)


There were about 28 riders, many of those in the Horsetales bunch as well as Distance Derby riders.  As Renee would have wanted, there was lots of laughter and fast horses. 




(Photo of John by Karen Johnson)


Many of these pictures were taken by Karen Johnson.  She does an awesome job not only setting up a picture but using Picasso for presentation.  She took several candid shots of John.  About the time we pulled into Rock Creek Station, it dawned on John that had forgotten his boots and only had what he was wearing in the truck; his canvas deck shoes. 




(Photo of John by Karen Johnson)


Karen was kind enough to Photoshop his feet in the above picture so his white shoes were not sticking out like a sore thumb (toe?)   Isn’t Fancy pretty?  She always sets herself up so nice and Karen captured it perfectly.




(Photo OF Karen Johnson)


The ride ended with a potluck dinner shared by the riders.  We all remembered Renee in our own way.  Hearts were heavy but smiles prevailed. 


Karen posted the following collage on Facebook with her thoughts.  I hope she doesn’t mind that I share it with all of you.  The “Someday” reference was the name of Renee’s farm. 



(Collage & following thoughts by Karen Johnson)

"...and SOMEDAY when the season changes, on summer ranges we'll ride again." ~ Lyrics from Michael Martin Murphy song "Summer Ranges"

“This collage has a very special meaning to me. The picture on the upper right was taken yesterday 08-20-12 in celebration of Renee's earthly birthday. The picture of the bottom right was taken on 12-10-11. A solemn silent moment that every rider knows, when time stops on a heartbeat like the earth itself is froze... Renee's heavenly birthday was absolutely breathtaking!!!” ~Karen


I’m going to miss you, my friend……



Aug 17, 2012

A Little Bit of This & That




After returning from vacation, we had another week of hot weather and now it finally has cooled off enough to tolerate.  No rain, though.  The drought continues.  The damage is done.  The farmers are starting to cut the corn hoping to be paid by insurance rather than yield.  Our pastures are brown and we are starting to feed our winter's supply of hay.  My hope of a fourth cutting of alfalfa is waning.  If we don't get rain in the next month, we will be desperately looking for hay before springtime.  It is scary. 




On the plus side, I have been riding most every evening.  I put both Fancy and Butter in the the rotation when I ride here at home.  Heck, I even got Blue out one evening.  Yes, the Distance Derby continues to motivate me but I am also back on a diet and trying not to eat after 7:00 PM.  If I am out riding, it takes away the temptation.  I've started going to Curves again regularly, too.  I know from past weigh loss that diet and exercise are both needed to be successful and I am committed to getting back to where I was a couple years ago.  I won't say its easy; its ranking right up there with when I quit smoking all those years ago but at least I have a reward at the end:  my wardrobe which no longer fits. 




Last night when I loaded Windy for the Platte River Ride, I noticed her eyes were gunky.  I used my finger to clean it out and put on her fly mask.  After work tonight, I checked it again and although not quite as thick, it was still messy.  Without moisture, everything is dusty and dirty.  I am sure that has contributed as well as the eye flies being more persistent.  I am feeding last year's grass hay in small bales and it might be a bit dusty.  Lots of things could be contributing to the irritation.  I know that eye issues shouldn't be ignored, but since it is in both eyes, I think it is environmental not an injury.  The Horsetales group gave me some ideas for treatment.  I'll pick up some ointment in the morning as a first step and if I don’t see results, I’ll take her over to the vet. 




Butter is a gnarly little mare toward Fancy.  She has not warmed to her although Fancy ignores her for the most part.  Tonight she went for Fancy's pile of hay and tried to bite her in the shoulder.  Fancy turned away from her and scraped her face on the panel fencing.  I was there when it happened and treated it right away.  The flies were relentless so I put a mask on her, too.  It’s always something, isn’t it?


Overnight it was down to 45 degrees.  Whoa!  That’s Wyoming temperatures and quite refreshing.  We'll have some hot days yet to come but it sure gives us a taste of fall.  Wouldn't it be great to have as long of an autumn as we did of spring? 


Aug 9, 2012

And Then She Bucked Me Off!

I used this title on the last two posts and then changed it before publishing because I never got to this story.  There was just so many other things I wanted to share.  Having an opportunity to go through my pictures and present them here has been like showing off vacation pictures to a captive audience.  But most of all, I enjoyed reliving them. 


On Friday morning, John fixed an early breakfast.  We still had so much food left over from the week and there is nothing like bacon when you are camping.  After breakfast we fetched the horses to head out for a morning ride.  When I saddled up Windy, I could tell she was still listening for the horses she knew were out there but couldn't see.


Since we inadvertently climbed the mountain the night before and would be leaving the next day for the long trip home, we decided to stay in the lowlands and give the horses a much needed break.  Perhaps we would go moose hunting in the aspens?  Do moose travel far?  As I lead out on Windy, she was pre-occupied.  She was sure we should go in the other direction to where she heard the other horses.  I told John she was quite pissy and “would probably throw my ass today.” 


I’ve been riding Windy for eight seasons now and really, I can only remember one time that I involuntarily came off her.  That time, some donkeys in a pasture next to the trail came up to the fence as we passed by.  No one thought there would be a problem until one brayed in the face of our horses.  I swear to God that Ginger sat down!  Windy took the lead from her mama and did a squat and spin and I found myself standing on the ground while she high tailed it down the trail.  I literally went off her backend.  When she realized she was flying solo, she stopped and looked back.  Seeing me standing there, she came trotting back as if to say, “let’s go, come on!”  I’ve done some stop and drops on her when I got unseated and knew I couldn’t right myself and slid down as a save.  But that is really the only time I recall that she “threw me.” 


So we work our way over to the trail that starts to go up a little hill.  She is a bit sticky footed so I thought perhaps if we loped up this hill, she would move out better.  I kissed her into the lope and she didn’t go.  If I gently pop her with the end of my reins and she will usually reward me with a slight crow-hop to tell me that she didn’t like that but then will lope out.  This time after the crow-hop, she didn’t level out.  Instead, she did it again.  And again.  John said we parted ways on the third buck.  He also said I didn’t try to save myself; I wasn’t even hanging on.  Well I wouldn’t be – she usually doesn’t go for two let alone three!  As predicted, I landed on my ass on the trail next to her.  She stopped and looked at me as if to say, “Wasn’t my fault! You should have hung on!”

WY 2012 333

We rode about ten miles that day but both of us could tell the horses were done.  They had been going for seven days straight and covered over 80 miles.  Although holding up well, they are flatlanders.  They were tired.  We put them up when we got back to camp and as we had lunch, decided we may as well break camp and put a few miles behind us so the horses didn’t have such a long day in the trailer on Saturday. 

WY 2012 339

We drove about 170 miles that afternoon to Julesburg, Colorado.  I had found they had a fairground and was very close to the interstate.  We visited with some volunteers about stabling for the night and put the mares in a nice big, fenced pasture while we pulled out our lawn chairs and watched them roll and run and watch whatever they saw in the distance. 

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Right before dusk, we saddled them up and rode around the fairgrounds.  They must do some sort of quarter horse racing there as we found the gate at the end of what looked like a track.  We rode by the pig barn and the arena as the sun set.  We put the mares up and went to bed.  The next day we loaded up early and hustled across the state.  The temperature in Nebraska was in the high nineties again and the sooner we could get the horses home and out of the trailer, the better.  We pulled into our yard a little after noon.


I mentioned here or to friends, don’t recall for sure, that the trip was wonderful, but bittersweet because our boys weren’t with us.  A sure sign that they are growing up and with other interests.  But on the flip side, it was good for John and I to do something together that we like to do without the stress of parenting all week.  It had been years since we could escape like this and we were due time.

It was also the first big trip we took since Ginger died.  I thought about her a lot and missed her more. 

In the end I realized that a vacation is not a “stay-cation” like we try to talk ourselves into ever so often.  A stay-cation is not a vacation.  Getting away from it all - literally - is what is good for the mind and soul.


Song of Wyoming

Well, I’m weary and tired, I’ve done my days ridin
Nighttime is rollin my way
The sky’s all on fire and the lights slowly fading
Peaceful and still ends the day

Out on the trail night birds are callin
Singin their wild melody
Down in the canyon cottonwood whispers
A Song of Wyoming for me

Well, I’ve wandered around the town and the city
Tried to figure the how and the why
Well, I’ve stopped all my schemin
I’m just driftin and dreamin
Watching the river roll by

Here comes that big ole prairie moon risin
Shinin down bright as can be
Up on the hill there’s a coyote singin
A Song of Wyoming for me

Now its whiskey and tobacco and bitter black coffee
A lonesome old dogie am I
But wakin up on the range
Lord I feel like an angel
Free like I almost could fly

Drift like a cloud out over the badlands
Sing like a bird in the tree
The wind in the sage sounds like heaven singin
A Song of Wyoming for me
A Song of Wyoming for me



Aug 8, 2012

Wyoming–The Time of My Life


Earlier in the week we made a side trip over to Centennial.  We were scouting out areas that we could perhaps ride in the Snowy Mountain Range.  We stopped at a mercantile for directions and another customer mentioned he saw three bull moose near the road up the way.  We headed up the mountain and were surprised to find them.  I don’t know how close you should or shouldn’t get to a moose; thankfully I had my good camera with me and could zoom in for a close-up shot. 


I heard they don’t see too well.  They didn’t pay us a lot of mind as we oohed and awed.  Aren’t they just majestic?  They are not native to Nebraska so this was quite a treat for us. 


When we returned to our campground late that afternoon, we saw this moose cow (Cow moose? Female moose?  Not sure of the correct term) along the way.  She was standing alone but we wondered if she didn’t have a calf nearby.

WY 2012 299

The road going into Medicine Bow (Blair-Wallis camp area) is horrendous.  It is nothing but a washboard that you neither want to drive braless or with a drink in your hand.  We had been up and down it several times in the last week and I wasn’t looking forward to one last time.  So rather than following it the three miles back into the forest where we were originally camped, we stopped at the first campsite right under the mountain.  It was just off the road and in the trees and looked like easy access to some trails we hadn’t tried yet.  And it was close to this mama-moose siting.  Perhaps we could flush her out again.  Windy could hear horses from the nearby camp in the distance.  I think she was sure our friend’s horses were out yonder somewhere.


John and I saddled up for a late afternoon/evening ride.  We followed the trail back to the north and before long, found ourselves winding very gradually up the mountain.  


Once again, I found myself yearning for a map.  The GPS showed we were climbing quite significantly – to almost 9,000 feet. 


Would there be a trail to take us down and would it bring us down on the right side of the mountain?


The trail kept winding along.  Putting on my trail advocate hat, I couldn’t help but notice that the rocks had been strategically placed to help prevent erosion. 

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I couldn’t stop snapping pictures.  I would put away my good camera and then pull out my iPhone because we rounded another corner with a view to die for. 


I could see the wind turbines on the highway west of Cheyenne from the top of this mountain. 

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John even managed to take a shot of Windy and me.  I believe that is the Twin Mountains behind me.  You might recall I mentioned them in an earlier post.

WY 2012 309 

As you can tell from this photo, the sun was starting to set.  Although we wanted so very badly to find out what was on the other side of the mountain, we didn’t want to be lost after dark.  So we followed the same path we went up for our descent.  I made note on my GPS tracks that this was my favorite trail of the trip and it was.  As I am typing this tonight, Case has music playing rather loudly.  The song that just played was “This is the Time of My Life”.  And it was.

(Hang with me… just one more post and I’ll be done.  I think.)


Aug 7, 2012

Wyoming–Reading Maps

WY 2012 273

After spending a good part of the day at Vedauwoo Park, we trailered over to Curt Gowdy State Park which was in the same general vicinity as where we had been riding.  Our friends were leaving in the morning and this would give us an opportunity to try a new trail and the equestrian campground with most amenities, including corrals, would give them a faster departure the following day.

WY 2012 281

Coming into a modern campground was a bit like coming out of the forest in the movie, The Village.  I wouldn’t say we were necessarily roughing it, but we were back in the woods a bit.  Seeing boats on the lake and registering to camp at a kiosk was a snap back into reality.  While I was feeding the horses, a ranger came to our campground and seeing that we were from out of state, asked if we had traveling papers on our horses.  John told him he was sure we did but he would have to wait until I came back down to camp since I took care of all that.  He told John he would stop back later.  I was so excited!  All my years of traveling across state lines with horses, I have never been asked to show my papers.  Please, someone ask to see them!  He never came back (shrug & rolling my eyes).  No one asked to see my recently certified hay either.  Figures….

Curt Gowdy Trail Map

After a brief light rain, we saddled up to go explore what we believed to be well marked and mapped trails.  Or so we thought.  Now let me explain.  In the years that we have been riding, I have been in the middle of the trail string or the end.  And I like it that way!  I have never been the guide or the leader or, for heaven sake, the map person.  That was John and Ginger’s job.  Although Fancy does pretty darn well on the trails, she just hasn’t stepped up to being the lead horse yet.  So for this trip, Windy and I lead out most of the time.  And we did alright in Medicine Bow and pretty good at Veduawoo.  How hard can this be here?  We have a map! 

WY 2012 260

Well, it seems I couldn’t even get us on the right trail out of camp.  It was pretty; but we would probably get spanked if we were caught riding here.  Admittedly, this was day six; I was getting tired of being Chief First-in-Line and apologize to my fellow braves for getting cranky as we retraced our trails from the Stone Temple Circuit Trail (I think) to the Lariat Trail. 

WY 2012 263

From that point on, the map continued to be passed around among us like a hot potato.  No one wanted to be the one to provide the wrong directions.  How hard can this be?   I will tell you that what we saw of the Curt Gowdy trails was pretty awesome and we may or may not have been on Lariat.  The jury is still out.


After our friends left the next morning, John and I went back out on the trails and made another loop.  Really, I am a good trail user.  I try to follow maps when they are provided.  I really don’t want to upset the bikers.  But seriously, those little horse shoes on the map above just weren’t lining up.  We never did find Mustang Trail and we looked!  We may have been closer to Lariat than the night before, or not.  The (worthless) trail map said the Lariat Trail was just shy of 3 miles.  My GPS sais we rode 7.8 miles.  Maybe we rode them twice around.  Or not.  We didn’t get arrested anyway. 

We quietly packed up and headed back to Medicine Bow. 

(I just couldn't get it finished.  A few more posts to come...)


Aug 3, 2012

More Wyoming




I don’t normally choose dark colors for the background of my blog because I don’t like reading “print” that is typed in white.  It always hurts my eyes.  But I do like to change up the look of my page occasionally and really liked this gray on gray.  I played around with the font to make it a little easier on the eyes; it is on mine so I hope it is on yours.  But I still didn’t like something about it and finally today it hit me.  Windy needed to be black and white, not color.  I think I like that better.  But I have to look at it a few more days to make sure.  Maybe I’ll just blow the whole gray on gray look and start over! 




Back to Wyoming.  Wow.  I’ve been home a week; I’ve worked a week!  But my mind is still in Wyoming.  Where did I leave off?




Rather than do day long rides, I prefer to ride out in the morning for a longer ride and then let the horses have down time in the afternoon and get a shorter ride in before sundown.  This seemed to be working.  One morning we left before breakfast and planned to be back from brunch, but it was long after lunch when we returned so the next morning we ate before we rode out.  A couple of evenings it rained, but we still got more than enough riding in. 


WY 2012 195


A dehydrated biker stopped at our camp one day to ask for some water.  He underestimated his ride and ran out of fluids.  As we filled his pack, we quizzed him on where to ride and he mentioned the Twin Mountains had nice trails.  He motioned in the general area and Jules and I saw what could be “twin” mountains so made that the next destination. 




The next morning, we followed some jeep trails up along the side of the mountain but they would eventually peter out.  We couldn’t find anything that looked like a bike or horse trail.  We’d go up and come back down.  Not that it wasn’t an interesting ride; any new ride is a nice ride, but we hoped to find a real trail.  We finally found it and had a nice ride around the base of what we think was the last twin.  It wasn’t as long as we hoped, but will remember it and try again another time. 




The next day, we trailered over to Vedauwoo Park.  We rode here on our last trip and it was worthy of a return.  This is when I really missed my traveling buddy, Kathy.  She does all the research to find where to go in, where to park and all that jazz and I just follow along.  So we were under my directions this time which pretty much had us on our own.  We did remember from last time that she said horses were NOT allowed in the public camp or parking areas.  We meandered down a dirt road until we found where we believed we parked the last time and saddled up and rode in.


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The trails looked the same and they looked different.  It’s hard to remember from two years ago but whether we were seeing them for the first time or a repeat visit, we were overcome with their awesomeness.  (Is that a word?)  How did the rock get like this?  When was the last time they moved?  If a rock moves in the forest does anyone hear it? 






It’s fascinating to watch the rock climbers at Vedauwoo.  Look closely in the pictures above to spot those adrenalin junkies.  Although John has been a steeplejack all his life and is quite used to tower climbing, he did admit it is getting harder and harder for him and a lot more scary.  (I don’t know if I wanted to hear that or not!)


WY 2012 245


We didn’t see their entire descent as we found ourselves in the area we weren’t suppose to be in …. again.  Luckily for us, two different rangers had spotted us so far and we weren’t thrown out or ticketed.  (Note to Vedauwoo:  Maps would be nice.  : )


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We did manage to get ourselves a little bit lost.  Lets just say I had a GPS error.  If we would have listened to our horses, the ride would have been a few miles shorter. 




Coming soon:  our last two days.  Are you bored yet?  Golly, I want to go back.