Sep 26, 2012

Cowgirl Weekend 2012




Due to some last minute cancelations, there were only seventeen riders at this year’s Cowgirl Weekend.  It isn’t the number of riders that matter but the attitude of the group.  It was a really fun weekend and we got to enjoy some beautiful trails. 




The trails at Milford Lake were pretty benign compared to what we rode at Clinton Lake, but that’s okay.  We had some pretty long and difficult rides so we were looking forward to giving our horses a little break as well as ourselves.  Many of the mowed grass trails followed the lake offering some pretty views.  The sun was shining and the temperatures just right.




On Saturday, we rode the Riverwalk Trail into Ft. Riley.  It was a pretty ride, following the Republican River.   Shared by hikers, bikers and strollers, it reminded me a bit of our own Oak Creek Trail. 




Some areas were canopied in trees, while others were in the open through an ammunitions area where it warned riders to stay on the trail. 




We had an opportunity in one place to ride down to the river to water our horses and enjoyed a nice picnic at a shelter at the end of the trail.  All in all, we rode close to 18 miles that day, but it was an easy ride for the horses. 




The Eagle Ridge equestrian campground at Milford Lake is one of the nicest we have stayed.  It offers full hookups at every pad, covered and lighted corrals for the horses with water at every pod of corrals.  It is clean and comfortable and from what we heard, lacks horse people.  The ranger was so thrilled to have most of the space filled with horses that he came and took pictures of our group several times and said he would be using it for marketing materials. 




On Saturday evening, I uploaded my tracks to Garmin to get a read of where I was in the Distance Derby.  I was surprised to find I just lacked 6.42 miles of hitting 1,000 miles.  I wasn’t going to leave until I crossed that threshold.  After a morning ride and an extra loop, I entered what we fondly call the Millennium Club as we rode back into camp.  It was the best way to end a wonderful week of riding.  As I slipped the bridle off Windy and gave her a hug around the neck, I was surprised at how emotional it made me.  She didn’t sign up for this but gives me her all.  I am so blessed. 


The real world is haunting me this week.  I came home to a lost (and found) dog and it’s Wednesday and I’m still not through all the emails at work.  But it was worth every minute and more. 



Sep 22, 2012

The Last Few Days


When on a horse trip, I always have great intentions of trying to post every day.  After all, I have quiet time in my trailer before I go to bed or when I get up in the morning.  But writing on demand is not that easy and sometimes I am just too tired to think. 


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On Thursday morning, we did a quick two hour loop at Clinton Lake before loading up to drive the hundred or so miles to Milford Lake to meet the other girls for our annual Cowgirl Weekend.  We took some more pictures of that last ride as if seeing it again for the first time; what a beautiful place to ride and I can't wait to return.  With the help of Garmin and Siri, we left the Lawrence area, this time without incident and arrived at the new horse camp about midday.




If you are new to this website, Cowgirl Weekend is a yearly trip hosted by my friend, Kathy.  Fourteen years ago, she and the late Joyce Vossler thought it would be an opportunity for women to become more independent with their horses; traveling, driving the rigs and most importantly, just spending time with other like-minded women.  This is my tenth year of attending Cowgirl Weekend and although most riders who come are now fairly experienced, the camaraderie and friendships is as important as the learning opportunities.  This year, there are seventeen attending.




Compared to Clinton Lakes, these trails are easy.  Mostly flat, they offer pretty views of the lake as well as weaving through some wooded areas.  We didn't see the wildlife we saw at Clinton but I heard there was a snake on the trail and I thank those in front of me for scaring it off before I rode by.




At one point, a few of us broke off and did some loping down the wide open trails.  We found a path that lead to the lake.  The wind was blowing very hard and slapping the waves to the shore.  The spray on our backs felt a little like being at the ocean.  Windy did not want to go too close to the water.




As a mixer for the group, we played some mounted games yesterday afternoon.  Windy and I suck at games.  For one race, we took a flag from our partner and weaved through cones and planted it in the last one.  I cannot do anything with my left hand and had hoped I placed myself in a position to use the right hand.  Nope.  After much circling and changing hands, we finally got the flag planted.  The other game was the ribbon race where we had to weave the figure 8 holding a rope with another rider.  Windy took exception to the horse she was partnered with and wasn't too keen on riding next to it.  Her ears were permanently pinned during the entire race.  Our time wasn't too bad considering her attitude.  We take our team scores for each race and keep a running total.  We are seventh out of fourteen riders at this time.  There are two more games today.  I don't expect to stay in the top half.  As I said, we suck at games. 


Today is our last full day of riding.  We are riding on a shared trail toward Fort Riley today; perhaps a little longer than yesterday but still an easy ride, one both Windy and I will appreciate. 

Sep 20, 2012

Photo Shoot


Before we left, I asked Kathy if she could take some pictures of Windy and me while we were traveling.  Oh, I have so many pictures of the "most photographed horse" and my friends have shared some of their shots when I am riding:  helmet hair, no make-up and usually some old tee shirt.  I wanted to "professional" shots.  So Kathy brought her good camera.  By the time we got back to camp on Tuesday, we were pooped.  So yesterday was our only shot at the shoot.  Unfortunately, there was 25 mph winds with gusts, but we would lose the light if we waiting any longer.


The following are some of my favorite shots.  When Windy looked good, my hair was atrocious!  And when we found a spot where my bangs wouldn't blow to the back of my head, Windy wouldn't cooperate with her ears.  Yes, Sharron had every prop known to man shaking and rattle and flying around behind the camera and those ears just wouldn't come up.  But out of 1,487 pictures (okay, kidding, but there were a lot), there were a few I really liked.  These are straight out of the camera, uncropped or photoshopped.  May play with the coloring more when I get home. 


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This was my favorite.  She looks good, my hair isn't too wild.  She hadn't knocked me into the tree yet. 


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Sharron suggested this pose - it was one they used with her daughter and her horse for her senior pictures.  We sprinkled food on the ground to get Windy's attention. 


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This was one of the best ones we got that was close to a full body shot of Windy.  There were a lot of shadows but she still looks pretty good. 


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We were walking to another area and there was a sign by the gate blowing in the distance which caught her attention.  So we stopped and shot a few while her ears were up.  I like her tail blowing behind me.  


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Her ear is funny, my hair is a mess but I liked her angle in this picture.


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Too much light and too much forehead seemed to be the problem when we started out.  


So there you have them.  New profile pictures for Facebook, and probably a new picture for my desk at work.  Horse pictures always garner questions but it doesn't take long for the eyes of the audience to glaze over from boredom.  I can talk horse for hours!


After a short ride today, we are loading up and heading out.  Cowgirl Weekend bound!



Sep 19, 2012

Rockhaven Day 2


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After the rain, the temperatures dropped and the wind picked up considerably.  We made dinner on the grill but ate in Sharron's trailer.  Ear bands, gloves and a heavy coat for feeding and I slipped a waterproof blanket on Windy for the night.  I was glad to have power and turned on the heat strip in my trailer before going to bed.


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Come Tuesday morning, the sun was shining and it promised to be a "just right" day.  We rode out in sweatshirts but by midday, could easily tie them to the saddles.  We packed a lunch and headed out on the Rimrock Trail, a blue upper trail and headed toward the dam.  As the trail map said, there was more rock but not terribly bad.  The trail also went out of the woods into a meadow area where the grass was knee high and green - something our horses haven't seen for months and they were quite insistent upon getting a taste.  


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Depending on who's GPS we were looking at, it was around six to seven miles to the end of the blue trail.  We dropped down to the water just under the dam to let the horses drink and have our picnic lunch.  The shoreline was not soft at all and we could have probably rode it for miles. 


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Someone mentioned on Facebook that my Windy is the most photographed horse alive.  I smiled when I read that; probably so.  She doesn't mind and it combines two things I love to do; ride horses and take photos.  There were a lot of things on the water that were catching her attention that gave me a chance to take some pictures while she stood still looking off in the distance. 


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After a lunch break, we dropped back down to the orange Rockbottom Trails to make our way back to camp, stopping yet again to water the horses at a nice little cove that seemed pretty inviting. 


Kathy on Zuni



Sharron on Boomer


We meandered slowly back to camp, taking the time to shoot pictures when the opportunity presented itself.  Some didn't turn out as well due to the shadows through the trees while others were spot on. 


It was a much more pleasant evening.  I built a campfire and we enjoyed our dinner outside.  Today we are heading out in a different direction; will do a morning and an evening ride and will have some fun taking pictures this afternoon.  Stay tuned.... 



Rockhaven Equestrian Camp


It's Wednesday and Day 3 of Pre-Cowgirl Weekend, a new tradition started last year to expand our Cowgirl Weekend holiday.  Kathy, Sharron and I left early Monday morning for Clinton Lake near Lawrence, Kansas. 


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We were in the neighborhood of Clinton Lake on Pre-CGW last year and I'm not sure why I didn't include it in our "trail tasting" journey last year, but from the two day taste we have gotten so far, it is a fabulous place to ride.  We had a little difficulty finding it; the signage from the city stops at the state park proper and there is no signs to the horse camp until you make the last turn.  What's worse is the roads change names and you are not sure you are on the right one.  After the 3rd stop to consult the map, a call to the park office and asking Siri on my iPhone (which I should have started there!), we found the Rockhaven Equestrian camp.  It was well worth the four hour plus lost time drive.  We decided we haven't heard anything about the trails here because no one can find it!


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It was sunny and a little humid when we pulled into our camping spots.  The horse camp offers 18 electrical hookup spots for $12 per night and probably four times that many non-electrical spots.  There are approximately 12 corrals scattered throughout the campground and tying posts at every spot, too.  It is a very nice campground and limited to equestrians only.  It is not in the Kansas State Park system but managed by the Corp. of Engineers, so a Kansas park permit is not necessary.



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The trail system consists of about fifty miles of trail and are open to both hikers and bikers, although we have seen no other trail users.  They run east to west along the south shoreline of Clinton Lake and are nicely marked.  The trail map says the upper blue level is more rocky with steeper hills.  The middle yellow level have fewer rocks and the lower orange trail has the least amount of rocks and more level terrain. 


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We took a late afternoon ride on Monday following the orange trail to the east.  It is wooden but nicely groomed with great views of the lake.  We quickly decided that with the exception of Kanopolis - which is entirely different terrain - it is probably one of the nicest trail areas we have been in Kansas and pretty surprised I didn't see more about it on the Kansas trail riders Facebook page. 


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We made it about four miles out when we started to hear rumblings from the sky.  Surprised that none of us checked the weather before we left, I pulled out the iPhone and sure enough, there was a big bank of clouds building behind us.  Before we could make it back to camp, it started to rain.  There was only one slicker between the three of us and it wasn't mine.  I am not one of those romantics who like being caught in the rain.  Its cold and wet and miserable and I couldn't wait to get back. 



Sep 16, 2012

That First Overnighter


Recently I had a reader mention that they are getting ready for their first big trail ride which includes overnighting with their horse and she was looking for tips for a successful weekend. 


First, if anyone told me twenty years ago that I would enjoy camping, I would have doubted it.  Although as teenagers, we used to sleep in our cars or in someone’s boat at the lake, it was only because we didn’t want to drive home and go back the next day; camping for convenience.  But when we got our horses and then started really trail riding, camping just seemed to be the next step and there was no turning back.  I really love to camp – with my horses.




As a rule, I don’t usually go on the “big rides”.  My first attempt was pretty unsuccessful – not because of the ride but because neither our horses nor I was ready for it.  Hosting the Friday Before Mother’s Day Ride is about as big as I get anymore but I do love hearing about the other rides and they are quite popular among riders in this area. 


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At the big rides, most of the time meals are included.  So I won’t spend a lot of time talking about food except that you should try to have a snack in your saddle bag.  I’ve gotten low on blood sugar before when riding and a stale granola bar from my friend’s saddle bag held me over until we could get back to the trailer.  But otherwise, I hear the meals on these rides are wonderful. 




If it is the first time you are getting your horse out in a group, I would suggest you ride with a smaller group a time or two just so you know how your horse will behave (and even then, there are no guarantees.)  Some have no issues at all with group size, while others may go bonkers. If you know where your horse likes to be, try to jockey for that position.  You can’t pass the trail boss but if your horse likes to be up front, head in that direction.   John’s mare, Ginger, always wanted to be the lead horse and at times could be quite a handful if she found herself in the middle or the end.    In my opinion, riding with 200 other people is not a good environment for a training opportunity. 


Red ribbons on the trail of a horse tells you the horse is a known kicker.  Stay away from those horses.  A yellow ribbon will sometimes be worn by stallions.  I’ve ridden with stallions that behaved as well as a gelding but I’ve also heard horror stories of them mounting mares on the trail.  Just know what the ribbons mean and keep your distance. 


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The rides are generally not fast rides.  Many times there are wagons going with the groups and going through cow paths may slow them down.  Be prepared to wait.  When riding my first big ride, those wagons were my downfall.  The horse I was riding spooked terribly, reared up, fell over and left me on the ground while he high tailed it for safer ground.  Windy is a little high headed over wagons today and I always start her out behind them so she can watch.  It usually doesn’t take much for her to calm down and if one comes up behind us, I do pull her over and turn her around so she can see what is coming before it passes us. 


Most of the time it is frowned upon if people are running in the group.  Some rides may allow riders to leave the group to stretch their legs a bit, but changing your gait among a crowd of horses is usually a no-no. 


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It goes without saying to make sure your tack fits nicely on your horse.  There is nothing worse than finishing a ride and finding your horse has a girth rub or a sore back.  Place saddle bags firmly on the saddle so they aren’t banging around.  The picture above is probably a good example of what all I bring on a ride but not necessarily how I pack it.  Before taking off, I would roll up that denim coat a little more snuggly under the cantle of the saddle.  I will also tighten my rear cinch a bit more; they tend to loosen up as riding.  But I did want to illustrate the gear and this one shows it nicely. 




Sunscreen, comfortable jeans or riding pants and a rain slicker are all things you should carry on your saddle as well as plenty of hydration.  Water or tea is much more refreshing than soda or beer – at least until you dismount and find that camp chair.  Pack as much water as you can fit in your saddle bag.  There is nothing worse than running out.  I also like to carry a sweatshirt.  This time of year, the weather can change quickly and slipping a fleece jacket on when chilly can make a world of difference those last few miles of your ride.


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Figure out in advance how you plan to stable your horse.  Leaving it in the trailer overnight is usually not a good option.  You will want to tie to the trailer outside or set up fencing of some sort.  We most often use electric fencing set up close to our trailer.  Once again, you should try your set up at home before coming to a large ride to make sure your horse is comfortable.  Bring a good sized bucket for water and his own hay and grain.  In the fall, I usually will bring a waterproof stable blanket.  One, to take the chill off at night as the horse won’t be moving around in his makeshift corral like he usually will and secondly, if it does rain, I won’t have to saddle a wet horse come morning. 


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If you tie to the trailer, measure the rope so when tied, the hook is about 10” off the ground.  That will give him enough room to eat and drink and lay down, but most often, not enough rope “to hang himself”.   Tie a hay bag near the horse to he can easily reach it or place hay at his feet.  Also include a bucket of water and if possible, secure it where he is tied.  (My rope is a little long in the above picture but it does show placement of feed bags and water bucket.)


Before you leave, start a list of items you need for your horse, from hay to tack.  And then do the same for yourself.  Don’t worry about forgetting something; at rides like this, someone always has a spare something!  Just relax and have fun. 

Sep 13, 2012

Ponder This


"If you can quit, quit.

If you can't or simply won’t quit,

Stop complaining.  

This is what you chose.”




Sep 12, 2012

It’s Raining!


Tonight was the season finale ride for the Platte River Riders.  I had planned to go but then there was rain in the forecast.  Not just a slight a glimmer of hope but an 80% chance!  And with gas nearing $3.80 a gallon, I wasn’t too keen on trailering forty minutes and then getting rained out in ten minutes.  It was a good call because it has been raining off and on since I got home.  Even though I missed the ride (and according to Facebook, they got rained on, too), it’s raining here!  That is a good thing!


Yesterday it was 97 degrees and hot; right now it is 54 and raining.  The forecast only calls for rain tonight.  I hope it is a good one. 


Photo of Windy and me taken by Christine Shenefield


It’s also Cowgirl Weekend time!  You may recall each year at this time, I am invited to a weekend of riding with other like-minded women.  This is my 10th year.  That first year, there were just seven of us.  I think this year, there are around twenty invited guests.  My friend, Kathy, who hosts this event,  tries each year to make it special; more than just a trail ride – we can do that anytime – and includes other activities in camp throughout the weekend.  I am very grateful for the efforts she sets forth and for the invitation.  Many faces have changed through the years which changes the dynamics of the group, but her desire of riding together and the laughter and fellowship has not changed.  Something I certainly respect.  Trying to get twenty women to come together on anything can be quite a challenge in itself and I am glad Kathy continues to put out the effort.


Last year, we started a new tradition.  As long as we are going to be gone for 4 days, why not be gone for a week?  Then our husbands only have to complain to us once!  So a few of us have extended the holiday and will be leaving on Monday.  We’ll visit other areas before meeting up with the group at Cowgirl Weekend next Thursday.  I got Windy’s health papers re-upped yesterday and she’ll be reshod tomorrow.  The trailer is in the driveway slowly being packed and I’ll be ready to roll on Monday.  This week is dragging…..



Sep 10, 2012

Trail Challenge 2012


Since 2010, our Nebraska Horse Trails Committee has hosted a Trail Challenge and Scavenger Hunt to raise funds for horse trail improvements in our state.  We base it loosely on the trail challenges you see pop up nationally, but we didn’t see the need to involve any other organization.  Doing it ourselves, we could keep entry fees down and after expenses, all of the profits would go directly to our trail projects.  This is by far our most popular fund raiser and so easy to do because we get to host it where we love to be:  on the trails. 




As is tradition, we had a roughly six mile trail ride with six obstacles along the way.  Surveys from last year suggested we amp it up a bit and so we did.  The challenge in the picture above (taken by Christine Shenefield) was called “Saving the Cowboy from Quicksand”.  The rider was to take the rope and back his or her horse, raising the cowboy into the air via a pulley system.  And then, by continuing to move their horse, lower him to safety. 


We had 49 riders participate in this day-long event, followed by a dinner, a raffle and prizes.  It was hosted at Branched Oak’s new equestrian campground which coincidently was made possible by funds raised at activities such as this and donated as security for a matching grant.  It is that easy.


Thank you to all the riders and volunteers who came out to help us this past weekend.  Without your contributions, it couldn’t be done. 


Sep 1, 2012

Say Goodbye to the Summer


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Oh, summer isn’t officially over.  Season-wise, we have a few weeks to go.  And if we consider the hot temperatures we have had this week and my mini-heat stroke I had today at my son’s football game, I am thinking summer might be around for a little while longer.  Did you see the “blue moon” last night? 




Except for the daylight hours being less, fall has always been my favorite time to ride.  Sweatshirt weather, Cowgirl Weekend and the leaves crunching under the hooves along the trail.  Not so surprisingly, I also think about losing Ginger last September.  Its almost been a year and I still can’t believe she is gone.  Someday I am going to tell you all about Ginger; give her a proper goodbye.  But I can’t yet.  Even these few sentences were hard.  I miss her so much. 


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We’ve had Fancy for almost a year now.  I’m smiling again because she makes me.  I always thought of Windy as the baby of our herd, but Fancy is half Windy’s age.  I love watching her playfulness and youth and surprisingly her bravado among the herd.  She doesn’t know a pecking order exists; she just flits around wherever she choses.  And she is just as cute as a button.  The other morning I stopped the car by the pasture just to watch her play.  She was in her own little world, bucking and rearing. 


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Is she a match for John?  I don’t know.  When I come in from the barn and tell him Fancy stories, she makes him smile, too.  But not in the same way Ginger did.  Ginger made his heart race.  I am sure he appreciates Fancy’s lackadaisical attitude on the trail and being able to ride next to others; something that Ginger wasn’t too keen on.  But I also know he misses the fire.  Fancy would have been best suited for me and about a dozen of my women friends who just want a nice, quiet horse.  Perhaps when I picked her out for him I was looking too much for me.  But in the end, she’s a keeper and we are both very fond of her. 


On another note, there are still 47 of the original 74 riders actively participating in the Distance Derby as we head into fall.  I’ve already logged more hours and miles than I usually do in a year.  I hope by the end of September, I will have made it into the “Millennium Club”; 1,000 miles.    


This next weekend is our 3rd Annual Trail Challenge, hosted by the Nebraska Horse Trails Committee.  About 50 riders negotiating some fun and challenging trail obstacles; always a good time and a great fundraiser for horse trails in our state. 


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Then, its Cowgirl Weekend time!  It’s my 10th year of being invited to this fun weekend put on by my good friend, Kathy.  It morphed last year from a weekend to a week-long event for a few of us.  It is a time to relax with our horses and be a little silly with our friends.  It’s more than a camping trip; its an event.  I have always been impressed that a couple dozen women could get together without being catty bitches.  I guess horses makes us kinder and gentler or when it stops for some people, they move on.  For me, it’s a holiday.