Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Darling Calls Dibs...AGAIN!


On Saturday morning, bright and early, we met our friends Maggie & Farrel for a quick continental breakfast in the lobby of the Silver Spur. Maggs & I wanted to head out and get an early start up to the mountain, so by 7 am we were in our vehicles and heading towards the South Steens.

This was City Boy's first trip to the mountains, and he wasn't sure what to expect. 70 miles outside of town, we turned off the paved road and headed up a well maintained gravel road. We'd not gone far before we spotted what we were after...a set of ears poked over the top of a ridge, so off to the side we pulled and we began our trek on foot across the lava rocks in search of wild mustangs.


A bachelor band of five greeted us, and imagine Darling's delight when she found her old pal, Dibs, up on the hill among them!


Darling began her slow approach to the young stallion. We had originally thought that Dibs and his buddy were roughly 1-2 years old when we first spotted them a couple of years ago, but Dibs' friend had been aged by the BLM as a 5 year old this year, and we expect that Dibs is the same age.


Two years ago, Dibs barely gave Darling a second glance. This time? He watched intently and with great curiosity as she quietly and confidently circled toward him.


I'm not sure what City Boy was thinking as his daughter approached the stallion. I know that Maggie was standing next to me absolutely trembling. Emotions were running rampant inside of her as she whispered, "This is so cool! But my grandma genes are screaming to be careful! But it's just so cool!!!"

Then Dibs did something that had me catch my breath. He turned and faced up to Darling. I swear, had she reached out her hand he'd have reached forward to sniff.


Rather than take the chance of him retreating first, Darling quietly stepped back from her friend. Who would have guessed that she'd have had that wild horse moment of a lifetime, twice in a lifetime?

Thursday, August 26, 2010


It was December of 2008 when I first visited the South Steens and had my first real taste of wild horses. Not that I've not tasted wild horse here, what with the dirt and loose hair flying, but truly wild? What an experience!

This is where I first met Honor, the beautiful dark dun stallion. I have no clue why I named him that, but when I shared his photo and his name, it stuck. Photographers I've never met share images of him, and they, too, call him Honor.


Wandering about, drifting in and out among the horses, was a young colt with a big blaze and four white stockings. Very sociable, not caring who's mares or offspring he buddied up with, it was difficult at first to determine who's 'child' he was. But as the others began to scatter, the colt stuck around with a bay mare and it became apparent he was one of Honor's band. Feeling somewhat romantic, I dubbed him Honor's Legacy.


Of course, I knew then that the gather was just a year away, and that little Legs may never become a herd stallion like his father.

It was February of this year before I saw 'my boy' again. Debbie and I were down at Color Fest, and one evening we drove up to the Steens with friend Lea and her daughter Nikki. All I saw was a butt...his back was to us and it was such a distance, but I knew it was him. The moment he realized there were people on the opposite side of the valley he began walking and stalking, attempting to determine if we were friend or foe.


At this point, little Legacy would have been 2 years old, but he was no longer out on the mountainside with his father. The previous day Debbie & I had been able to snag a ride on the morning hay wagon as it made it's rounds at feeding time, and when the blazed face appeared in the group of recently gathered geldings I knew instantly who it was.


For awhile I tried to find Legs an adopter, but no one showed interest, and after a few weeks I concluded that I'd likely never know where the colt would end up. Sad, as someone would end up adopting the son of a stallion who was now becoming somewhat famous, and they'd never know it.

A couple months went by, and one day while on Facebook I spotted a photo posted by a friend of mine, talking about Gunner, the colt they'd recently adopted.


There he was, staring into the camera with is big brown eyes...Honor's Legacy! I immediately contacted Maggie to tell her the news. She was shocked, and then thrilled. So thrilled, that she became obsessed with all photos of the little guy, which as it turned out, there were plenty of. Several different photographers began offering up images of Honor and his band, showing Legs (now Gunner) as a weanling and yearling. One even had stories of how he'd approached her daughter up on the mountain during one visit.


Showing up in a handful of photos was a bay mare, Gunner's mother. Maggie was now on a mission to find out if that mare had been gathered. She sent photos of her in to the BLM corrals in Oregon, and amazingly one day got an email to say that the mare had been found.

Do I really need to tell you what happens next? This weekend we'll be joining Maggs and her husband in Harney County where we'll first venture up onto the mountain to visit wild horses, and on Monday morning when the corrals open up? We'll be on hand to photograph Gunner's mother as she's loaded up and heads 'home' to be with her son.

And so it is, my friends, that I am headed south...home...out on another adventure with the wild horses this weekend. I can just barely wait until morning...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Can You Please Tell Me...

...just how I'm supposed to limit my week at the fair to just one post on my blog? Can't be done, I'm pretty sure.


Duns was spectacular, though he didn't find an adopter. Nothing fazed this boy, nothing at all. Flags snapping and flapping in the wind, draft horses coming and going, even a 4-H parade led by a handful of little drummer boys with their boom-boom-boom couldn't get snort out of him. He simply spent the week lounging contentedly in his paddock, and when it came time to saddle up for the first time? Piece of cake. By his third day he was standing ground tied while I flung the saddle up onto his back and tightened it up.

While I worked with Duns, Darling got busy with La Primera, a two year old pinto from the Paisley Desert who'd been adopted by our friend Debbie.


To start, she used the long rope with the 2" 0 ring, running the end of the rope through the ring and fashioning what looks like a very long training collar around the filly's belly. She pulled it tight and had her move so that she could get used to the feel of something pulling there before the saddle went on.

The rope went smoothly, so the old saddle came out and went on. All I can say is, it's a good thing mom was close by and not standing with a camera, because the cinch had an entirely different reaction! Up into the air she went, first with a big rear, then a couple of bucks before being pulled around. After that? Nothing.


Darling was itching all week to climb on board, but being the mean mommy I am, I ordered her feet to stay on the ground. Can't say that I blame her, as I had the same feeling about Duns. But who needs an ambulance ride out of the fair grounds? Neither of us, I can assure you!

I've barely tapped into the slew of photographs from the fair, but did want to share these two with you of the most adorable little 4 year old who was driving in the youth cart class. She was such a feather weight, the horse didn't even know she was there; his trot was one of great determination once in the arena, and Daddy had to help out just a wee little bit. But what an experience for the little sprite!



Sunday, August 15, 2010

Loading Up...Heading Out

Today we load up and head to the fair for a week. Not sure I'll be seeing much of you between now and then...sort of depends on if I can find some sort of internet service while we're away.

Away is camping in my folks' motorhome up at the fairgrounds. Ahhhh....what would I do without my parents' love of traveling? Darling and I will stay up there all week, have our own private shower and bathroom, and not have to battle the crowds, or make the 40 minute (one way) drive home each night.


Yesterday Darling and I took a break from fairs and drove south to Yelm where we watched the Cuttin Loose Club's cutting event. Snapped a few (okay, over 1300!) photos. Heck, there are so many I haven't even looked at them all yet, and my camera battery died while trying to upload them. I know...crazy!


Naturally, anything with Curt has to make the blog! Loved how this one looks, don't you?


This guy always had a most pleasant look on his face while he road. I've got one where he's got a big ol' grin going, too!


Okay, I don't know who this cowgirl was? But I LOVE her boots! I mean, love, love, love them! I think I need a pair. I know I just got some boots earlier this year, but I'm certain I need red ones. Absolutely. I suspect one can't cut without red boots. I'm pretty sure it's a rule. City Boy??

That's all for now, peeps. Gotta get things done and get gone!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fair Time!

Wow...not only have I been swamped trying to get the Cascade Horse Fair up and running, but now I'm looking at the calendar and seeing that I need to haul horses up to the Northwest WA Fair in just a couple more days! Darling and I went up yesterday to set up panels and found we were in a slightly new location than the past two years. A better location, with greater visibility! But it's a funny shape, and I don't know how I'm going to get 4 pens together for the horses. Guess we'd better figure that out, eh?


Duns, of course, will be there to meet and greet the public. He's a bit ticklish under his belly, which will make life interesting when trying to saddle him up, but that's the goal for this next week; get the boy saddled so that he can be started sooner, rather than later. He's also struggling with picking up feet, so that's another issue I'll be tackling with him while there.


Darling will have Beamer on hand, of course, trying to catch the eye of some potential adopters. I hauled the kiddo and her pony out back to snap some photos the other day. In a dress, of course!


Working on the vintage look and feel. Darling was not feeling like posing. Here is her vintage backside.


I dunno...what do you think?


I'm pretty sure I know what Darling is beginning to think!

For those of you who live in the northwest and would like to come hang out at the fair with me, I've got tickets! Only catch is you need to schmooze with the public and talk mustang with strangers. And, of course, tolerate me. Come on...you can do it!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Ya just gotta play!





Me? Well, obviously, I've been playing in Photoshop!

I've also been playing up at the riding club. Better check out Duns in his new video! This was Sunday...his second trip down into the arena and working in the round pen. You like? Come adopt! He'll be at the Northwest WA Fair with me beginning Aug 16!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Trail Rides and Dun Horses

Nothing to do with one another...just the subject of this particular day's musings.

Yesterday we saddled up and met some friends on the Heady Road. The weather, until today, has been spectacular around these parts, if not downright hot at times. But no matter the heat, a ride on Heady is beautiful no matter what. And besides...the trees are so deep and dense that you don't worry about heat or flies while on your ride.


Once off the logging road, Darling and her long legged Steve Holt! stepped out into the lead as Sandy & I brought up the tail of our little group. I must admit it put a smile on my face, seeing Steve Holt! confident enough to leave his buddy and step out in a brisk walk. Darling kept a conversation up with Phil as we worked our way through the trees.

After a couple of hours we found ourselves back at the horse trailers, complaining about knees and back and butts that were slightly out of condition. Well...everyone but Darling, who simply shrugged and said we were old.


Earlier in the day I'd made a trip south to pick up a horse...none other than Duns N Roses. Duns, if you recall, had been with me 2 years ago, adopted, given up, fattened up, and now has come full circle. With a little extra weight, he's decided he doesn't quite trust the human race after all, and his foster mom was having some issues with getting a halter on. No threat of being caught, and all was fine. But as soon as a rope or halter was part of the deal, he'd snap back to the golden rule of wild horses; flight or fight. Far too often he chose fight, and Deb found herself faced with hind feet flying up at her.

Duns N Roses, January 2010

Like most horses, when a stranger approaches, Duns didn't offer quite the same scenario. No, I didn't just walk straight up and halter him, but it was done in less than five minutes and without a single threatening move on his part. I pushed him around his pen a few times, and when he realized I was the one driving our relationship, he stopped. At first he didn't want to touch my hand with his red nose, but after a few more circles he decided it was okay if I touched him.

Once my hands were on him, his mind shifted a bit. I got my lunge whip out so that I could run it down his neck and over his withers, which he wouldn't allow me to touch with my hand. When he stood still for that, I pulled out the long rope and tossed it over his back. With that, he was back to trotting circles, but only a couple. I picked up the end that was dragging on the other side of him, slipped it up towards his throatlatch, and led him over to the gate where his halter waited. And that was that.

Duns has been caught in a bit of a time warp. I picked him up just 4 months after acquiring Sandy in 2008. Yet unlike Sandy, he hasn't had the benefit of training, aside from brief handling while being fed, in the past two years. Mentally, he's not sure if he's a wild horse, or one who should behave like a domesticated version. He wants to believe the best of people, but with little interaction, he has reservations.


When I visited him in April at his foster mom's, I got into the pen with him and encouraged him to lunge a bit. He was unsure, but eventually figured out that I wanted forward motion. So when I first asked that of him yesterday, I was blown away by how he moved right out, circling left, then right, and moving easily enough off my body language to make a person believe he'd been doing this all his domestic life. I got brave and led him from the barn (he's at the riding club) down to the arena and was fully prepared to have him bolt out of my hands when I tried lunging him down in the larger space. But unlike each and every other horse, he didn't do that. Rather than panic over not having a rail to support him on the outside, he simply stepped out and trotted big, bold circles around me.

Unable to leave him with just one workout, when I hauled Sandy up this afternoon, I turned Duns out into the round pen to watch while I rode. He was in a state of shock and panic. He's not seen a rider on a horse's back since leaving the corrals, and it was plain that he was uncomfortable with it. For 20 minutes he rushed, stopped, flared his nostrils, then raced again around the pen. I'd stop now and again alongside the rail, but he kept his distance, always head high and on alert. When he finally got brave enough to walk up and reach for my fingertips, I decided Sandy and I could go in.

The moment the gate swung open and Sandy stepped inside the round pen, Duns retreated to the back rail. I rode Sandy in a circle as Duns blew warnings through his nostrils, keeping as much space between us as possible. As we circled, Duns relaxed, and rather than puffing and keeping his distance, he became curious and started to close the gap. I turned Sandy across the little pen and reversed, and Duns followed along, getting closer and closer, building confidence, until finally he was within reach. I held out my hand over Sandy's hip, and Duns reached out to touch me. He let me rub his forehead and took a treat.

It was a big day for the dun horse. Maybe tomorrow I'll pony him in the arena, and perhaps later in the week I can take him out on the trail. I think I've found myself a nice little project...unless someone wants to come along and adopt him?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Um...Where's the Brand?

Several months back...like, maybe in February when Dwe went to Burns for Color Fest...my friend Debbie told me about a yearling colt she had that she wanted to get rid of. "Take him, he's yours!"

Debbie raises foundation quarter horses, and some very well bred ones I must admit. But this colt and she did not get along. He was jumpy and fidgety and a buckskin. And to hear Debbie tell it, there's never been a buckskin she can get along with. Put a stripe down it's back and call it a dun? Yes, she'll say, he can stay. No stripe and it's B'Bye.


I, naturally, resisted. Where was the brand? What fun could I have with a little domestic? Where was the challenge in that?

Of course, there was the small fact that he'd reared and struck out at her in his stall one day, clipping her hand and causing a great deal of bruising and swelling...which was followed by an immediate swing around and kicking out at her. That was kind of wild. And the fact that he didn't want to be caught when he was out in the round pen. That, too, seemed somewhat familiar to me.

And his breeding? Well, for those of you into this sort of thing...how about a grandson of Buckaroo Bueno Chex on the bottom and Beuno Starlight by Grays Starlight on top? Yup, I'd say he's pretty well bred. I sent a copy of his pedigree down to Curt, who immediately (and so predictably) told me this was one well bred little cow horse, and if I could I should take a chance on him.


But...what about the brand? I swore I'd never own anything but mustangs again...why would I take on such a cute little rascal as this? I'd need to get some fabric paint and paint something on the side of his neck.

Funny thing is, I was leading him along one day when someone looked at him and made a snide little 'mule' remark. I had to chuckle. She thought he was a mustang, and felt compelled to throw a little dig in without even taking a closer look. Or perhaps I should take it as a compliment, that she couldn't tell the difference? My mustangs obviously look like well bred quarter horses!


Well, despite his inferiority and lack of brand, City Boy thought he was kind of cute and gave his approval. Nic is my token quarter horse. He's turned into an absolute pussy cat, though, so I may have to sell him before long and find myself something with a little more spunk!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's Complicated...

"You're a great warhorse, Sandy...believe in yourself!"

Had you asked me last week, after my trail ride with the Girls, or the lesson down at Curt's, that this week I'd have sold Sandy, I'd have laughed at you. Truly. Laughed. Out. Loud.

I don't know what made me post to my facebook profile: "Considering selling my boy" that evening. No clue. Just did it, with a heavy, downtrodden heart. A lack of space to do what I want...what I need...to do. My goal all along has been to transform hearts, not only of mustangs, but of the people who see them as worthless. Be honest with me. How many of you would have ever considered a mustang as a horse of value until you met Sandy and the others here?

Sky Bar's Chance, the pretty pinto

Last year, Val and her husband Dave stopped by to look at Sky Bar, the pinto gelding that I'd recently brought home from the corrals. Nice...but not what they needed. Dave was looking for a nice, mellow gelding to ride, and of course Sky Bar had yet to be started under saddle. Val's parting words had been, "If you ever decide to sell Sandy..." I think I laughed.

The moment I posted, the inquiries began. Selling Sandy? Really? Tell us more! Such an eruption of emails and messages...I'd never expected it. Sure, he's a great horse. A terrific horse! But I really hadn't anticipated such a quick response. I'd thought I'd have a few days to think it out...prepare myself...change my mind...
Darling and Sandy looking out over Lake Whatcom

After all, Sandy had been here through thick and thin. He'd gotten me over fears I didn't know I had. He taught Darling to ride. And transformed hearts...not just of those who'd thought mustangs couldn't accomplish what he had, but hearts of my young autistic friend, John, who over came his fears and reached out and touched Sandy when he met us out on the trail.

What the he!! had I been thinking?

It was 5:00...Val and Dave were due, but not here. Changed their minds! Yes? No. Just five minutes late. They were all smiles when they arrived. Val had seen my post on facebook, and I seriously don't think it had taken more than two minutes before she was writing to me. Anyone else? I'd have put off. But here was Val, telling me Dave was still, a full year later, looking for that perfect gelding.
We walked out into the pasture together. Sandy looked at us out of the corner of his eye. He'd just returned from over 2 hours of dragging that yellow colt around the trails, yet aside from that sideways look, he didn't give any indication of not being willing to go back to work.

The view from between brown ears; Sandy's first ride up above the valley.

I saddled my boy up as we chatted about his strengths and weaknesses. Dave is a farrier...a good hand on the ground, and a great admirer of Sandy's feet. I climbed on, rode a couple of small circles in the driveway, then offered to let Dave climb on board. His hands were soft and light, Sandy's nose was tucked into a horizontal position, and they walked and jogged back and forth. "He's so responsive," Dave said with admiration. Yes...yes, he is.
My mind had been racing since setting up this appointment. I had a cutting clinic coming up in September...followed by our first competition. It's what I'd been working toward, showing the cutting horse people that my little mustang could hold his own. But if he was sold? I pushed the thought from my head. If I was ever going to sell Sandy, this was the couple I wanted to have him. Hands down. They're thoughtful, understanding, and appreciative of the work I have into my boy.
So many people backed down the moment I told them the price I'd set. "I'm not asking a poor economy, half broke grade horse price," I told a couple of them. "You may be looking for a trail horse, but Sandy has training beyond that. Don't let his lack of pedigree fool you." That changed a lot of minds. There were honestly only two people I'd have considered letting Sandy go with...Val & Dave, or Canadian Cowgirl (yes, she did contact me!)

Sandy balking as Jay attempted to lead him into Curt's round pen in 2008.

Still...I found I was asking myself, "Did I really accomplish what I needed to with Sandy? He could go further...if I wanted to."

"We never really would have considered a mustang if we hadn't seen you with Sandy," Val was saying. Well...that answers that question then, doesn't it? Mission accomplished. Perhaps not my personal goals for glory in the cutting arena, but certainly Sandy had changed minds across the globe, as well as here close to home.

"We'd love to leave him with you until the clinic in September...if you wanted us to."


There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance...

There is a purpose to everything in God's world...and a season. As difficult as it is for me to say goodbye, I believe my season with Sandy has come to an end, and I can't think of a better family to send him to...where he can be loved and appreciated just as much as he is here. It doesn't matter to Sandy if he's cutting cows, though Dave said it may be fun to learn how to do some sorting or team penning, and Sandy would certainly be good at it. Most important to both Sandy & I is that he's cared for and loved, which he will be with Val & Dave. Plus...they're close, and I can see him when I need a fix. And they're leaving him with me for the summer...I'll have a few more weeks to love on my boy and prepare my heart to say goodbye.

And maybe? Maybe kick some quarter horse butt at the cutting in September!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Brown Ear Tips


Maybe they wouldn't want him. Maybe...maybe they'd decide they couldn't afford another mouth to feed, or that he wasn't a good match.


I wasn't paying much attention to the trail. My body was twisted around, reins dropped over the saddle horn, camera in one hand and long rope in the other as I tried to get photos of little Nic, the QH colt that was obediently following behind Sandy.


Oh...who was I kidding? Who on earth wouldn't want him? He's beautiful... handsome... rugged... athletic... Not to mention cute. A cuddle bug when you needed a hug. But manly enough to win over City Boy.


Little Nic's rope tugged in my hand. It'd gone slack up the last hill and now he'd stepped over the top of it. I stopped Sandy and swung the rope a bit; the colt moved his feet and the rope was free and off we went again, down the trail.


I looked down at my reins. Maybe they wouldn't want him... I knew that wasn't a possibility. They were coming by that evening for a visit. And a ride. They wanted to know what it would look like, viewing the world through those brown ear tips...