Dec 31, 2014

Hold your horses!  Registration for riding events will be posted soon!  I Promise!

Bringing riders together for spring horse event!

Hold your horses!  Registration for riding events will be posted soon!  I Promise!

Bringing riders together for spring horse event!

Nov 16, 2014

First Snow

I looked back on last year's blog to see if I posted when we had our first snow and I didn't.  I do know at this time last year, we were trailer shopping.  We just returned from Oklahoma City and took possession of our new to us trailer and the pictures I posted then showed sunny weather without any evidence of the white stuff.  Not true today.  Although the picture above is from my archives, it looks very much like this right now.  What makes it worse is the temperature is a brisk 7 degrees; up from 5 degrees when I woke up today.  It is blamed on some polar vortex due to a hurricane in some far away land.  I just know its darn cold.

What's missing today from the picture above is our Baby.

This picture was taken in 2004.  That is Case (who is now a Senior) standing on the skid.
Baby was 4 years old in this picture.  

After fourteen years, Baby Dutch went to school. Years ago, John built Baby a skid to pull and she did.  Then he built her a wagon to pull.  But he never could get the courage to hook her up to it.  So he sent her to a professional.  Today's report says she is now pulling a four wheel wagon down the highway.

I took some video a couple weeks ago when we went to visit her, but I think I will wait until after she completes her schooling to post them here.  The picture above was taken that day with her trainer, Dave Arrington.

If you are wondering, the answer is No.  I have no interest in driving although it might be a quick way to get some Derby miles on a cold winter day.  This is John's hobby.  That, along with his new-to-him Harley, he has sitting in the basement, will hopefully satisfy his middle age craziness as much as horses has done for me.  I prefer my butt in a saddle.  The horse type, not the Harley.

Oct 26, 2014

The Best Fall Riding

Mary Hanson

This is my third year competing in the Distance Derby, an online riding competition for mileage.  The first year, I pushed pretty hard - riding all the way to the end of December - to hit just over 1,200 miles and placing in the top ten.  Last year I was tired.  I logged just under 700 miles and finished 25th out of 81 riders.  For those who think they ride a thousand miles every year, start GPSing your miles.  You will be surprised how much time it really takes in the saddle to reach 1,000 hours, especially when you work full time!

This year I have managed to pass what I rode last year.  October has been so nice that it is hard not to be in the saddle.  I can see 1,000 miles in site, but it will take quite an effort to reach it by the end of the  year.  But I'm going to give it my best shot.  There are more riders this year, so I hope to still finish in the top 25.

Tanya Lynch

Last weekend I did a quick 15 miles on Friday on Windy with Juanita, another Derby rider.  Then on Saturday, I took Fancy out to Pawnee Lake, northwest of Lincoln, and rode with Derby riders Mary and Diane.

I'm riding Fancy

Pawnee has never been my favorite ride and it has nothing to do with the trails but more to do with having bad rides on fussy horses.  But I have to say, this past year I have grown to enjoy it.  Not a lot of trails - about 8 miles around the lake is all, it is perfect for a quick ride or longer if you go around twice!

Mary coming thru the trees.  Yes, there is a person and horse in there!

What surprised me last week was the color at Pawnee!  While there are some wooded areas through the wildlife area, I never thought I would see such brilliant colors!  What a treat.

The campground at Pawnee

I told John when I bought this trailer and the new truck, it wasn't going to sit at home; I planned to use it.  He had things he wanted to do that didn't include riding so I spent the night at Pawnee.  Just Fancy, Nahla (my son's dog) and me.  It was a lovely evening temperature wise, but without having a heavy frost yet (for which I am grateful), the mosquitos drove me into the trailer earlier than I would have liked.

Nahla was like a dog with ADD.  She loved being out!

The next morning, Fancy, Nahla and I did a quick ride just after the sun came up and then I loaded up and headed over to Branched Oak to ride with the NECTRA group before their scheduled meeting.

Me on Zuni with Tanya

After reporting to my friends how pretty Pawnee Lake was, Kathy and Tanya met me out there Monday after work.  Time prevented me from hauling my own horses so Kathy brought me her fox trotter, Zuni, to ride for the evening.  Spots and gaited!  Something you don't see me on too often!

Kathy on Bugs

These pictures were all taken at Pawnee Lake over the course of three days and in no particular order.  I just wanted to show you the beauty that my eyes saw but believe me, it was hard to capture in the pictures.  I hope you are having a happy fall!


Oct 13, 2014

Rock Creek Station Revisited

When we first started trail riding, one of our first camping trips was to Rock Creek Station in Jefferson County near Fairbury.  We pulled in with our stock trailer, tack room filled to the hilt with what I thought we would need for camping, including a tent.  

I'd like to say that those were the good ol' days, but there was nothing good about it.  Case fell in the fire, burned his hands, then burned them again on a lightbulb in the truck trying to see the burn, then every time he would fall asleep, the ice bag would fall off his hands and he would start to cry.  Then the ice melted, the sleeping bags got wet...  well, you get the idea.  Frankly, I am surprised I ever wanted to camp again after that first weekend, but it was all about the horses.  The riding.  The scenery.

Rock Creek Station was a stagecoach and pony express station in the mid 1800's.  It was also the scene of where Wild Bill Hickok killed a man.  The locals reenact that at Rock Creek Days each year.    From the horse camp, the trails take you to Rock Creek Station and from their you can see the ruts of the Oregon Trail.   To the south of Rock Creek Station is Rock Glen Wildlife Management Area.  Riding is also allowed on that land from May to October.  Riders are not allowed in the Wildlife area during major hunting seasons.  Rock Creek Station proper is open year around.

John begged off from going, claiming he had too much work to do, so Pip, Windy and I headed down there early Saturday morning to meet up with my riding buddies.  We were saddled and riding by noon.  Although some of the area is wooded, a lot is prairie.  The fall colors were captivating.  I enjoyed taking pictures as much as I did riding.

It was fun to reminisce about riding here when the boys were younger.  The big burr oak tree that they would look for to find the gate back to the park.  The red rock canyon, the rail road canyon and hedge apples lining the trails.  So many memories.

Years ago, they held competitive trail rides at Rock Creek.  I have been interested in resurrecting the event and after spending the weekend there, I am even more excited.

It appeals to those who enjoy a piece of history and like the ruggedness of the plaines.  It won't be without work to get the miles, but I think it could be done.

I snapped close to four hundred pictures while riding those two days.  There is not enough room on this post to show you all of the beauty.

And there was a little goofiness, too.

Oct 10, 2014

Wyoming in July - In Conclusion

The horse camp was empty when we pulled in on Wednesday.  We picked the best spot and the best corrals and enjoyed the peace and quiet and having the place all to ourselves.  A little later in the day, we heard the familiar hum of a diesel engine coming up the hill; before long, we had neighbors.

We've camped enough to know that sometimes you luck out and have great camping neighbors and sometimes it is miserable.  We had enjoyed keeping our dogs of the leash and now with neighbors, it might not be possible.  The piece and quiet has been awesome and perhaps these new folks like to party all night.  You just never know.  

We watched as they unloaded three horses and started to set up camp.  They found a spot a good distance from us and when our dogs met; they weren't concerned, nor were we.  We started with casual conversation, learning their names were Kay and Duane, and got some tips on where to ride.  As far as camping neighbors were concerned, it looked like these folks might just be okay.  

Duane's son and grandchildren arrived next and Kay's husband would arrive later.  Watching Duane's granddaughters with the horses, I mentioned to Kay that my boys could ride, but it wasn't there passion and she agreed you have to let the kids find their thing in life.  She went on to tell me that her son was a pilot in the Army and was killed in Afghanistan this past January.  Immediately my heart ached for her.  As a mother, it is unimaginable and as a mother of a serviceman, it is our worst fear.  We spoke later on and agreed to exchange contact information and ride together if we are in the area again.

Duane is not only a horseman but elk hunts in this area.  He gave us some great information on the trails and was spot on with his direction.  Hans Creek, the Enchanted Forested, the swimming hole to name a few.  I meant to ask him if those were his names for the areas of the real names.  

The trails have been real diverse as his names imply.  Not only in landscape and terrain, but in level of difficulty.  There were some places that tested my fear of heights.  I found taking pictures helped my anxiety but then I would think WTH am I doing?  All my moving around with pictures is probably not helping Windy.  But she was a rock star for the most part.  I wouldn't have trusted any other horse like I trusted her this week.

Tonight we took a shorter loop that Duane had mentioned and like his previous directions, he was spot on.  We would "cross a creek when the trail ended and hit a cow path and follow it until we cross again and loop back through the trees".  Then we got to one place on the trails that stopped me in our tracks.  Windy and I were leading and the cow path disappeared into a lot of rock and shale with no real path. It was a severe downhill grade.  As I looked at it and consulted with Jules, who was behind me, Windy was most anxious to keep moving.  God, love her for her courage, but I was lacking it at this moment. There was a trail down but it was almost straight down and I didn't see anything we could connect with once we got there and wasn't sure how easy it was to get back up.  

John and Steve were behind Jules and could see my concern.  They asked if we could go up and that was not a possibility.  Windy grew more agitated and about the time I said "let's turn around", Windy had already done so.  It looks so benign in this picture but like John said - even if the first horse could make it, who knows what  could give way for the next horse.  We didn't have a chance to talk to Duane tonight but want to ask him "how the heck?" tomorrow morning.

It's been a great trip for John and me with great friends, old and  new.  Since we had a little problem finding the camp to begin with, we left a little gift behind for the next riders looking for the campground.  

I have to say we were embarrassed when we saw there really was a sign.  And to think we were looking for an RV?  

So long, Wyoming, until next year.  

Oct 8, 2014

Wyoming in July - Day 4

I have to tell you that poodles make the best trail dogs!  Two years ago, if someone would have told me I would have a poodle, I would have thought they were nuts.  I have had springers, shepherds, saints and an variety of mutts.  Really, I love all dogs but a poodle?  Really?

Pip, who you may also hear me call "Sis" or "Sissy",  is a Standard Poodle.  Although she isn't huge - probably around 40 pounds - she has long legs and a lean body and has endurance like no dog before her.  Although I don't ride as many road miles as I did when Ritz was still alive, the times she has went with me have been fun.  If dogs are allowed on the trail, I usually take her along.  

This week, I GPS'd a little over 40 miles and she was with us every step of the way. For every mile we rode, I am sure she went 1.5.  She chased deer and ground squirrels and played in the water. 

Not only did she go on every ride with us, she also played with every dog in camp.  She was quite smitten with another Standard Poodle - Coda - who came a courting.  They played really hard the first night and I caught her sneaking over to his camp a little later in the evening.  It was so stinkin' cute. 

Although female canines are typically smaller than the male of the same breed, I think Pip is small.  She does, however, have incredibly long legs.  She weighs around 50 some pounds.  

Comparatively, her new friend, Coda, is big by Standard Poodle standards.  They said the breeder they got him from breeds specifically for a bigger boned, larger poodle.  I'm not sure if he could have kept up with her on the trails.  

Tonight, after our last ride, she did something she has never done before:  she went to the door of the trailer and asked to be let in.  The rest of us were sitting outside having drinks and she went in and went to bed.  Bless her heart, I think we finally wore out the poodle.  

I have to tell you that I have grown very fond of Case's dog, Nahla, and love her like my own.  But we have taken both Nahla and PIp camping together and they are a handful.  And Nahla would have tried to do these miles, but is just not built to handle them.  I'll have to give her some special time when we get home.  

As I am looking through photos to insert in this post, I realize that Pip is always on the go.  It is hard to capture her doing nothing; she never sits still.   But on the truck ride home, I don't think she raised her head At. All.  She was one tired pup.   

Oct 6, 2014

Wyoming in July - Day 3

When I tool the below picture, it reminded me so much of another picture I took.  The one you see above in the header.  The one above is Ginger, taken in South Dakota in 2008.  The one below is Fancy.  If I could see them side by side, I would see that there is no resemblance.  But on film (or digital or whatever it is now) and sometimes just glancing out in the pasture, I occasionally have to do a double take thinking I am seeing Ginger.

Have I mentioned how cool it is to have a furnace in the horse trailer?  I don't know how I have gotten by without one for so long?  It was warmer yesterday than previous days so I set the thermostat for 65.  It turned on sometime in the night and was toasty warm when we got up.  Interestingly enough, the hoses to the horse water were frozen.  I am glad we blanketed the horses.  Such a drastic change in temperature from the hot and humid weather we have had at home.  

Today we packed our lunches and set off down the same trail as yesterday but planned to ride it to the end, have lunch and a nice break and then come back.  It worked out mostly as planned.  We never got lost but did backtrack once because we weren't real sure of the outcome.  Better safe than sorry.

It was a little warmer today but still lovely, lovely weather.  Windy has been leading and started off at a good clip. We would rotate her out and put one of the others in front to slow the ride down a bit to accommodate Trey, who is an incredible 23-year-old quarter horse.  You wouldn't know it to look at him.  We had a lot of hills to climb and we wanted him to enjoy it, too.

The views were incredible and I have to say that I think this has been some of the prettiest trail I have ever ridden.  It is incredibly diverse.  You meander down tree lined wide trails, cross creeks, cross rivers, go through pines, meadows, sage brush, switchbacks... you name it.  

It also offers its fair share of challenges. There are some big climbs and some steep drop offs.  I was following Jules on Zeta and saw Zeta place her hoof on a rock that gave out and went tumbling down below.  Zeta of course caught herself and Jules was probably not aware of it and I didn't tell her.  Some of the trails were very technical and if I stopped to think about it too much, it would be a bit scary.

There was one trail that was a hairpin turn and then pretty much straight down.  Windy was the last horse at this particular moment and she started to rush a bit more than I wanted and was not at a safe distance behind Zeta.  I tried to pull her back and she did one of her bit grabbing head shakes.  Whew!  It may or may not have been the incident in the video above, but you get the idea.  

I thought a lot about my friend, Kathy, who I understood rode this trail before and was very scared.  I also thought of Robyn who has been on every Wyoming trip with us and whose horse came up lame before the trip.  Next time I am going to insist she take Butter!

We are sharing the camp with some locals who have told us about the trails.  They have given us some ideas of where to ride tomorrow, our last day, and I'm looking forward to it. 

As a side note, Pip has gone on every ride with us since we have been here.  She is the best trail dog - never staying far, always coming when called and checking back with us when she goes too far ahead.  We did almost 17 miles today.  I wonder how many she did?  She is laying next to me right now - snoring.  I can't say I blame her.  Sleep tight, little Sister.  

Oct 5, 2014

Indian Cave CTR

I interrupt my story of Wyoming - what the heck, it is two months late anyway - to bring you my ride story and pictures from last weekend's CTR (gasp, just a week old!)  at Indian Cave.  As I was putting this together, I was taking in the scenery and couldn't help but wonder how it looks this weekend - just a week later - as the fall colors are really coming through.  I have a few more posts scheduled to go about Wyoming but I thought if I held this off another week, you might have a hankering to go to Indian Cave State Park and in a few more weeks, you might miss these awesome colors of autumn.  So hurry - get down there and ride!  You won't be disappointed!

My goal this year was to ride as many Competitive Trail Rides (CTR) as I could knowing that I would be limited in the rides this fall once football season started.  It is Case's senior year so we are down to the last nine games of his high school career.

For the past forty years, this ride has been held in early October.  I think this is my fifth year participating in the Indian Cave ride.  I have ridden it when it was beautiful, crisp fall weather.  I have ridden it when it was an Indian summer weekend and I have ridden it when it was raining and the trails turned into ski slopes.  The latter is not recommended.  Management had an opportunity to move the date up to September in hopes of catching a better weather pattern for this time of year.

Normally, we arrive to ride early on Friday to set up camp and settle in before checking in with the judges.  However, we had a football game on Friday night.  It was also homecoming and Case was a homecoming candidate.  Coronation would follow the game.  Our friends, Mary and Dwight, had taken our rig and horses down earlier that day and Sharron cared for the horses that evening.  John and I arrived about 1:00 AM, got a few hours of sleep and checked in with the judges at 6:45 AM and were on the trails before 8:00.

Windy checked in well with the judge; good behavior and none of the running over me or bystanders like she did in Missouri.  While recently I was sitting at #1 in horsemanship in the region, I dropped to #2 after the Brushy Creek ride which I couldn't attend.  Windy was at #2 going into this ride.  My friend, Shari, reminded me not to think about points but to just have a good ride.

We rode out that morning and the trails were pretty dry.  The day was clear and beautiful.  The highs were expected to be in the low 80's, which is pretty warm for September in Nebraska, but as the day progressed, it got a lot warmer.  And humid.  Not terribly uncomfortable for the riders but was harder on the horses since many are already sporting their winter coats.

While we had friends at this ride, John and I rode out by ourselves that Saturday morning.  Except for a little bucking episode when Windy got stung by a horsefly, she felt good under me.  We had a little "spousal" conversation when I wasn't sure if we were on the right trail (evidently I am in charge of both the map and the timing), but we got it figured out and never lost any time.

Our first obstacle was less than a mile out of camp.  We were to stop at the top of the hill and settle our horse and then continue down.  I rode by the judge before they told me to stop and I brought Windy back up the hill to try again.  She was a little unsettled but for Windy standards, she did well.  And for once I got a "good" for my butt in the saddle going down the hill!

Except at P and Rs, John and I never hooked up with any other riders.  It was nice to take it at our own pace.  We timed our ride perfectly at mid-time.  The next day, John and I rode with my friend, Helen, a second time competitor.  She was riding a thoroughbred-x and our horses were well paced for each other.  The miles went by fast.

Throughout the weekend, we did "okay" with most of the obstacles.  Not perfect but considering where we were a year ago at Turkey Creek CTR, I was very happy with the improvements we have made this past year.

Stopping for pulse and respiration check
Unfortunately, Windy came up short in the metabolics this time around.   While she usually has a clean score card in "condition", she lost points on capillary refill and hydration.  I contribute this to a few things - the temperature and humidity mainly.  It was in the high 80's and humid.  Her winter coat has already started to come in and with all the hills, this is a tough ride.  There is not water on the trail and we had a long haul between the first water stop and second on the first day.  Also, we had just been on the road the prior week, logging close to 85 miles.  A little more down time before competition would have probably helped.  She came in sound and with a clean back.  This was the first competition in my "new to me" Circle Y saddle and I was happy to find the fit was good.  Many horses were having a hard time with sore backs in these extreme hills.  I was very satisfied with my ride and Windy.

We started with seven riders in our class.  I finished 3rd in horsemanship and Windy finished 4th in horse.    John and Fancy got 5 and 5.  Fancy was off again on her front left.  I checked the past score cards and two other times she was off in that same foot.  Always grade 1.  It might be something we want to have checked out on her before future rides.

This was the last ride of the season that I can attend.  As of right now, I have maintained my standings in points but there are two more rides that I can't attend so that could change things by end of season.  I am very happy with our rides this year and look forward to doing it all over again next year.

For those of you who do not compete, I hope you will visit Indian Cave State Park in southeastern Nebraska.  As you can see from these photos, it is truly a beautiful place to ride.