Saturday, August 17, 2013

Around the Town

Darling had to run into town to get a photo of herself holding a....well, I can't say until after the scavenger hunt.  While we were there I snapped a few photos of our town.

City of Subdued Excitement

The old Burlington Northern terminal, no longer in use

This chain was an anchor of sorts, wrapped around a log and tumbling into the lake.

Fire Escape leading out of the old Parberry Building

The original City Hall, now housing the Whatcom Museum of History and Art

Darling strolling down the waterfront.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

She's got LEGS....

Today's word prompt on the photo challenge was Feet & Legs.

I started out thinking I'd do something fun with Joe's legs.  He's always wanting to play out in the pasture.  Tonight, however, he just trotted right back to the round pen.  And did he even cooperate there?  Nope, not really.  Just stuck his nose in my lens.

Well, really, how original are horse legs, anyway?  Over half the photographers there spend their time with horses, so maybe I needed to go a different direction.  

Which direction?  Miss Henny's direction!

Miss Henny was not entirely sure why I was messing with her.  What was the attraction with her legs, anyway?  Was she pigeon toed?  Had she been walking like a duck?  

Miss Henny climbed down to take a closer look at my chicken legs.  She pointed out that I was obviously deformed.  I only had one toe!

She marched back and forth across my legs.  Where were my feathers?  Why was I taking her picture,when obviously I was the odd duck, here?  Featherless and one toed.

She pointed out (rather rudely, I might add) that my thighs were rather plump and maybe she needed to call the Colonel.  

Unimpressed with me, Miss Henny fluttered back up to what she has claimed as her perch...the barbecue.

So I used this for my photo of Feet and Legs.  It didn't stick it's nose in my camera lens or mock my chicken legs (or lack of feathered physique!)  Rather, it posed patiently and let me photograph it to my heart's content!

PS...if anyone knows who may have sculpted this?  It is called ' The Mustang', and signed B Kay.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Three E's

The daily photo challenge is certainly a challenge...partly because we seem to be busy around here.  But I'm forcing myself to take those shots whenever it's possible.  Today's prompt was Eyes.

Now, when I think of lovely eyes, I think of Tika.  She's got the MOST beautiful eyes.  But as I wandered about early this morning, snapping this and that, I spotted all my chicks lined up in a row on a little log.

I got down low and snapped and clicked and then got up and walked away to visit the horses.

The horses were having one of the 'pretty pony eye shots', however.  Instead, they were racing about like a couple of wild horses.  Which, of course, is what they are.  Or were.  Snap, snap, snap.

By the end of the afternoon it didn't seem like I'd gotten much, but I sat down to the computer and uploaded my day's work.  One photo of the chicks was pretty cute, but this assignment was Eyes.  Blowing it up, I closed in on my two almost looks like a blurry, double exposure!  I don't know why, but I like it.

Yesterday we shot for Expression...and I couldn't resist this young barn swallow.  The day before he was tucked safely behind the wall of his muddy nest, but not on this morning!  By now I'm certain he's flown out on his own.

Also a good candidate for expression yesterday was Tika!  But then, when doesn't the Diva express herself?

The day before we lost our Rocket, we learned that the Cowboy was sending three horses to Wyoming to Ken McNabb.  Ken will use them on the ranch, then put them in his sale this summer.  Darling took this particularly hard, as the gelding she's been riding this past year was among those slated to go.  She'd thought, hoped, dreamed that he'd never least not until she was in a position to buy him for herself.

Darling and River, or River Monster as she called him, were quite a team.  He wasn't a horse to trust just anyone, but he trusted her, and she loved him.  Saturday was her last day with him, and it was wrought with emotion.  Saying goodbye, two days in a row...not an easy thing to do.  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Difficult Weekend

It's not unusual for Rocket and Rufus, our two mighty warriors, to run out into the night, through the trees, in search of coyotes or raccoons or whatever else they perceive as a threat to their domain.  Over the years, they've killed plenty of vermin, and it wasn't until 2 months ago that either of them came back injured.  Rufus managed to tangle with a coyote and had a puncture to his groin.  Once he was stitched up and healed, he was back in business.

The other evening, just past dusk, the boys sounded the alarm and off they ran back towards the creek.  I have learned over the years that when they decide there's danger, calling them back is simply impossible, and this night was no different.  An hour or so later they came running back into the yard, panting and smiling at a job well done.

I had the door to the rec room open and Rufus bounded up the stairs happily.  Rocket, however, looked at me sheepishly and slipped beneath the steps where he laid down.  This wasn't always unusual...he spent a lot of time beneath the stairs, so I didn't give it any thought at all, and closed the door with Rufus inside.  Rufus, after all, was the trouble maker of the two, so locking him indoors would mean the neighborhood would sleep in peace, rather than listen to my boys as they chased four legged criminals through the trees all night.

Come morning, it was obvious that Rocket was in pain.  I needed to go to the farmer's market that day, so we gave him a little asprin, thinking and hoping that would help with the pain that he was obviously feeling.  He didn't want to use his hind end much at all, putting his weight mainly on his front end.  Asprin should help with possible inflammation, too, and I was hopeful that he'd be a little better when I returned that evening.

No such luck.  Rocket was still tender and not wanting to use his back legs.  He was, however, very happy and smiling as usual, and running our hands along his body was showing nothing out of the ordinary.  And when food was carried out?  He managed to  hustle just a little more in order to get to it.  His appetite wasn't lacking...a good sign, right?  Two more asprin...and a hope and a prayer for a better Rocket come morning.

But he wasn't better.

I called the vet, and City Boy carried him to my truck.  He laid on the floor at Darling's feet as we made the 30 minute drive.  When we arrived, they got us into a room and went to find a vet.  Any vet...they were booked full, but had squeezed us in hoping that someone would have a few minutes to have a look.  A young woman came in and took Rocket to the back where she took X-rays.  She came back to tell us that there was good and bad news.  Good news?  No broken bones.  There was arthritis in his back, but it was something he'd been dealing with for years.  Bad news?  He had no feeling in his tail, and while the area of his anus had feeling, he had no muscle control.

Rocket's bladder was full, and from the Xrays she could see that he'd not defecated in awhile, either.  She could, if we wanted, give him a catheter and either keep him there overnight (recommended) or send him home.  He'd need to be carried in and out, as walking was obviously out of the question.  We should keep him in a bathroom, preferably, for easy clean up.  

Ultimately, though was the fact that Rocket had nerve damage, and there was no way to know if he'd ever recover.  

Darling and I took a few minutes alone, and came to the difficult decision that Rocket, at age 12, certainly did not deserve to suffer.

And so it was that we arrived with our loyal Rocket, and left with only our memories of that little red dog with the heart of a warrior.  He will be greatly missed.  Rest in Peace, dear, sweet Rocket, until we meet again.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

So, Joe, Whaddya Know?

 Back in 2008, when I was fresh out of the first makeover with Sandy, Darling and I made a trip to Molalla Oregon where I picked up three geldings for TIP (trainer incentive program.)  One of those was a gelding that became known as Joe.

Joe was a pretty little bay with a sweet disposition.  He was easily gentled and enjoyed attention.

For some odd reason, Joe was the last of the three geldings to find a home, despite being the one we felt was going to make the easiest transition.  You can just never tell about people and what they want to adopt.  Joe was here for three months before a woman came along who fell in love and wanted him.

Joe was sent to a trainer and started under saddle.  His adopter loved him, but there was a little accident that set them back a few months.  Joe went to another trainer and again did well, and the adopter still loved him and rode a little in her yard and round pen at home.

Then the adopter had an accident, and Joe has been sitting for the past ten months.  She'd really like to get him out on the trails, like she's done with her halflinger, but she's not sure Joe has the confidence out there just yet.  So Joe is here with Darling and I, and we'll be getting him going so his adopter can enjoy him even more.

Isn't Joe a pretty boy?  We sure think so!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Lights! Camera! Action!

Doxee's first shoes

I've been taking part, halfheartedly, in a Facebook group called Daily Horse Shots for the past couple of years.  Mostly, I look at other people's images, feeling like I'm way out of my league most days.  When the admin of the group announced she was planning an August Challenge, I wished longingly for the confidence to participate.  Sure, it was meant to be a learning experience for all skill levels, but still...I just didn't think I had it in me.  

When the deadline came I didn't give it another thought.  Went about my day, puttering around the house, a trip to the Cowboy's place, and the general daily drivel.  I checked into Facebook halfway through the afternoon and was somewhat surprised to see I was getting notifications from the private August Challenge group.  What?  How'd that happen?

I continued to read the rest of the notifications and found the one where a friend had added me to the list of participants.  

Well...why not?  If I was stumped for a photo, I could skip a day, right?  But the object of course was to I may as well play along.

Each day there is a new word that we are to shoot for.  It need not be horse related, but of course many of us are around horses day in and day out, so that is the main focus for many.


The first day the word was Abstract.  I'm not real comfortable with abstract.  I was afraid I'd get it wrong.  Darling assured me that it's art, and there is no wrong art.  Darling is wrong.  But I shot abstract anyway.  Or what I hoped was something similar.

Second day? Action!  I much prefer action.  I went out into the pasture and requested the help of two of my friends, Tika and Chase.  The results?  Much more fun than abstract!

Tika in action!

Of course, we all know that Tika is incredibly photogenic.  They simply don't come any prettier.  I thought I'd work a bit on cropping skills with my entry for the action challenge, showing a bit of flying mane and of course her lovely eye and smooth muscle.

The photos of Chase were less than appealing, however.  He simply is not an attractive horse to photograph.  He has got one amazing feature, however.

His mane.

It's thick and curly, with red at the base and blond highlights at the bottom.  I began messing around a bit with one of the photos, and suddenly found myself with what I thought was a rather attractive image.  Just enough of a hint of his face, some muscling on his shoulder, and that glorious mane.  Yes, I liked it.

Because I'd cropped it down, I wondered just how big it would print and still look good, so I went to the company where I order my canvas prints and uploaded Chase's photo.  I changed canvas sizes a couple of times, then on a whim, I switched it from landscape (which is above), to portrait.

Oh, my...the only thing that was in the canvas was Chase's mane.  Look at it!  So bright and splendid and artsy and...ABSTRACT!  Really?  Look, I'm an abstract photographer!

I was having so much fun with this new style that I did Tika as well.  I'm not quite as happy with how she turned out as Chase.  Isn't it funny that she is so remarkable to look at as well as photograph, and yet this particular style really suits the rather homely Chase much better?  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

What Would it Hurt To Look?

It's been 3 months now since the fall.  I've hit the trail a few times, carried carefully by the wonderful Sandy.  Up and down hills, through rivers and over bridges.  It was wonderful therapy for both my body and my mind.  

In late June, Darling and I made a trip to Oregon to look at horses.  This time, however, they weren't mustangs.  Instead, we stopped at a couple of farms to look at cutting/reining prospects.  The first place we stopped was Airlie Farm in Monmouth, a little southwest of Salem.  There was a lovey bed and breakfast run by the farm owner, Nancy Petterson.  She had three 2 year olds saddled and ready for me to ride when we got there.  All three were nice, but there just wasn't that special something that makes my heart race.

There was a young gal named Dani who worked there.  While Nancy was busy tending things in the house, Dani showed me not only the 2 year olds in the arena, but offered to show me around the farm.  There'd been a lovely buckskin filly I'd seen online that I'd wanted to see.  Dani warned me she only had 10 or so rides on her.  Darling was fussing, making sure I understood that this was a mission to find a horse that was already going well enough for me not to go getting myself hurt again.  Sure, sure...but what would it hurt to look?

The filly was cute, to be sure, but I was heeding Darling's strong warning.  

Dani continued out back with us, showing us the broodmares and a few other horses.  Up at the end there was a large paddock with a couple of horses, a red yearling colt and a bay 2 year old gelding.  Dani explained that this 2 year old was really catty at the end of a lunge line, but he was also a somewhat hard to catch boy.  Of course, just then the two of them came running right up to the fence to see us.   So much for hard to catch.  The bay began sniffing my face and blowing in my ear.  I began to melt.

Can we see him on the lunge line?, I asked.  Darling began to steam next to me.  Dani smiled and said he really hadn't been ridden more than a handful of times.   That was okay, I said...let's just see him move.

Darling went to the car, angry with me.  This, she repeatedly whispered in a hot tempered sort of way, was not why we were here.  But what could it hurt just to look, I asked?

Sure enough, the bay tried pretty hard to scratch his belly when stopping and turning at the end of that lunge line, and I was smitten.

CD's High Five, aka Fiver, is the sire of the youngsters at Airlie Farm

We still had another farm to visit, this one a few hours south in Roseburg.  We drove down and met up with our friend (and fellow wild horse photographer) John Wheland for dinner.  Early the next morning we headed to another farm where I tried out a couple of three year olds.  The filly worked really well for me, enough so that I could drop my hand while working the flag.  She was nice...really nice.  No sparks, but hey, she was nice.  Plus, she was strong enough under saddle that I wouldn't need to worry about getting myself hurt.

What to do?

I knew the family would want me on a well grounded horse, so I made an offer with the trainer on the filly.  Instantly, I regretted it.  What if the owner accepted?  I went to bed completely stressed, finally putting it in God's hands.  Who would know better what would work for me?  So God...if they take the offer, then the filly it is.  But if I'm meant to get the gelding, the one who blew in my ear?  Then the offer will be turned down.

The next morning I got my answer.

Meet Toby, also known as One Tuff CD

Nancy gave me a great deal on this young gelding, enough so I could hire a trainer to get him started.  She'd asked me who I rode with, and when I told her the Cowboy, she smiled and said she knew him.  She felt confident that Toby would be going to a good home who would promote him, and that surely is what I'm going to try to do.  Right now he's with Roger Saur for a couple of months so that he'll have a solid foundation by the time he comes home to me.

Five rides!

The past few months I've taken myself almost completely out of the mustang circle, but now that some time has gone by, I find myself still feeling the tug.  Tika, of course, is still here, as is Chase.  

While I wait for Toby to come home, I'm going to work on my photography skills.  This blog will likely be taken over by photos for awhile.  I hope you don't mind.  This one is Chase (in broad daylight, I might add.)

Where am I heading?  I'm not entirely sure.  But hopefully we'll have fun getting there!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Rose to the Rescue

Rose is my therapeutic pony.  Not my horse, but the Doc's good old tried and true cutting horse.  That said, I use her like she's mine whenever I'm feeling blue.  Doc has let me show her in the 'Never Won a Buckle' class at the a couple cuttings last year (I've still not won a buckle, I always come in second!), and she's my 'go to' pony when my body is hurting.

A few weeks into moping about having nothing to ride, I decided to sneak into the Cowboy's barn while he was busy elsewhere and throw the saddle on Rose.  He caught me, but didn't stop me.  Just said, "Shoulder's probably not sound enough to work the bull, you think?"  He wanted me to say it was.  I wasn't going to let him down!

He went slow, giving me lots of time to sit in the middle, but I was tense and didn't ride my best.  The following day I didn't work the bull, just rode in a few circles in the arena.  It felt good to be in the saddle.

Yesterday my friend stopped in, pulling her horse trailer, telling us she'd just dropped her mare off at the vet. We knew what that meant....she had Wobblers, something there is no recovering from.  I held her in my arms and she cried, but then we went into the barn and she pulled Kitty out of her stall.  She's been riding Kitty in lessons since finding out her mare was no longer safe.  I pulled out Rose, and we rode together, each of us downing our own sorrows while sitting astride.

The Cowboy fired up the bull and we each worked a little bit.  He suggested I switch hands, because I wasn't able to push on the horn with my right hand while stopping...not enough strength.  So I put the reins in my right hand and held the horn with my left, and Rosie worked like the pro she was, and I managed to sit relaxed enough for an enjoyable ride.  I love that Rosie horse.

My good friend Valarie just let me know she's hauling a couple horses to the arena.  One of them is Sandy...all tacked up and ready to transport me in a few more circles.  My body may not be fully healed, but my mind is getting better with the help of some old friends!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Sensational Changes

A lovely couple stopped by today to visit with Flirt.  I must admit that when I first placed an ad for her, that I bawled when the first person called.  A second email came in hot on the heels of that call...and I pulled the ad down.  

Truth be told, Flirt is getting too tall for a cutting horse.  Beautiful, fluid mover.  But she's not got the hard stop and rocking over the hock action I've got in Tika.  And did I mention tall?  She'll end up 15.2 to 16 hands without a doubt.  So I knew I'd sell her come next spring, but I'd thought I'd at least have some time with her under saddle.  That's half the fun of it, right?  Unwrapping the package to find out exactly what your mustang will do, then finding the home that matches?

So the ad came down and I pondered my dilemma.  I couldn't justify keeping her if I was only going to sell her anyway, but emotionally I was struggling.  She had to have the perfect home.   

Then a friend posted something on facebook.  She'd begun to once again look at the BLM photos, and her significant other was calling her an addict.  But she knew she needed a good, solid horse for him, and hey, who can blame her for becoming a mustang addict?  Plus, her man's horse had been struggling for some time with coffin bone issues, and they'd just found out she'd never be sound.  He'd need a nice, tall horse for trail riding.

Now, to me it seemed a no brainer.  Hello?  I've got one here!  She's gentled, she's tall, and I always knew she'd make a better husband horse than Oz.  So I just happened to mention it, out loud, on facebook, yesterday.  And today they came, they saw, and they messaged me this afternoon to say YES!!!

And so my Sensational Flirt is going south a bit to live with a mustang named Chance, and another mustang named Rio, and a certain blogger we all know and love name Paint Girl.  And I couldn't be happier.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cough. Cough. Sniffle. Sneeze.

Tika isn't happy about Fly Season

I got a cold.  It's no fun.  I've been worried about pneumonia, because they told me if I start coughing with a broken rib, that I'd likely not be able to expel the unwanted mucus out and it may settle in my lungs.  That, I can say, would not be fun.

I woke up coughing in the wee hours on Monday morning.  Deep, wet, heavy coughs.  I grabbed a pillow and held it against my right side, but it didn't really help much.  As the morning wore on, and then the day, my throat became all torn up.  

On Tuesday the coughing continued, but now there was a little, shall we say, drizzle?  My nose was beginning to run just a bit.  My son said I needed Mucinex to help thin the mucus, thereby making it easier for me to cough it up or sneeze it out.  Okay, sure, whatever you say.  Just get me something.

Wednesday, and my nose was 90% stuffed.  I was breathing through my mouth.  Colds never stick with me more than a couple of days, and while this was only the third, it seemed like an eternity to me.  I was getting beyond cranky with my family and finally drove myself to town in an effort to find something that would help. I'm sure they were happy to see me go.

By Thursday morning my mood was better, and my nose was functioning at least a little better than it had been the past couple of days.  I had an appointment for an ultrasound to see if there was any damage to the rotator cuff.  Mobility in my arm has been increasing due in part, I'm sure, to the fact that I'm using a horse and a curry comb as part of my personal therapy program.  It hurt like the dickens the first time I reached across in front of my body, holding that curry comb and then dragging it back along the horse's side.  Wow...who knew?  But after a few strokes, my body loosened up a little.  Each movement started stiff, but ended feeling a little better.  I've been doing that every day, haltering, grooming, leading...anything small that doesn't involve weight, but keeps my shoulder moving.  So as it stood, when I went into the tiny room and was handed a robe, I was capable of tying the strings behind me, much to the surprise of the young woman who'd been waiting outside the door to help me.

Later in the afternoon I was to see my regular doctor regarding my cold.  Really, it was likely nothing more, but better safe than sorry, right?  The pharmacist I'd just spoken to had said there were bacterial things floating around right now, and I really didn't want to be fighting off infection on top of everything else.  I was the last appoint of the day, and though the ultrasound folks said it would be 24-48 hours before the results made it to the doc, I opted to ask just the same.

The nurse pulled up the information and told me that it had been referred to the orthopedic surgeon that I'd been referred to.  However, she still had a copy of it which she happily printed up for me.  Of course I don't read medical speak, but I was totally able to make out what it said at the bottom.  I'm unremarkable.  Or at least, my shoulder is.  Hooray!  Not that being unremarkable has always been my goal, but today it quite suited me.  No rotator cuff damage.

Additional news was that there was no additional moisture content settling into my lungs, so the heavy coughing must have done the trick, despite having a broken rib.  Quite good news!

I'm anxious to climb back on a horse.   To once again start Chasing Dreams...

Saturday, May 11, 2013


My muscles were tight, and I was pretty sure they were simply trying to prevent my movement so that I didn't injure whatever was hurt.  That's what the body does...protects itself like that.  After being transported from bed to bed to bed, visiting the MRI and CT Scanner, the ER Doc finally arrived with the news.

"No head injuries.  Shoulder is a 2nd degree separation.  Need to see an orthopedic specialist...or your about four days.  In the meantime, here's a sling for your arm to help support the shoulder."

I played the fall over and over in my head.  Darling had said it looked like he'd jumped over top of me.  That may explain the big bruise on my shin...perhaps his hoof clipped it?  There's a scrape under my chin...stirrup?  Speculation....thoughts you think when you're unable to move and get on with your life.  

The faces of my children had unnerved me.  To see me laying there in a heap, unable to get up...can't be good.  Before the medics even arrived I promised City Boy, no more colt starting.  I'd never not been able to stand up before.  Even when I broke 4 ribs a couple years ago.  Yeah, it hurt like nobodies business, but I got up.  This time, there was no moving on my own due to the muscles that locked up.

On Thursday I trotted off to the doctor, driven by Darling, who asked if this is what it was like for me before she got her license?  Yes, Darling...quite!  Verdict on this morning was that I'd also broken a rib (I kinda wondered) and the separation was more likely a 3 than 2.  Oh...maybe some rotator cuff damage?  Jolly.

So more appointments.  I set one up for an ultrasound next week.  Waiting to hear back from the orthopedic specialist.  And physical therapy...she wants me to do it and I know I'll say no thank you.  Just tell me how much I can lift for now, and if there's a direction not to move my shoulder.  I'm pretty good at getting myself moving through the pain on my own without those terrorists of therapy, thank you!

I'd hoped to get some interest in Oz during next weekend's trail challenge.  Created a flyer and priced him reasonably, but not giveaway.  I'm now grounded...can't ride.  And how does one sell a horse who just threw them?  I dropped the price significantly, put up a couple ads online and had him sold in 24 hours.  I greeted them with my sling, told them what happened.  Told them he was young and did a young horse thing.  They weren't as experienced as I'd hoped, but they brought along the barn owner, an eventer, who told them she'd have preferred to see them with something a bit more solid in training, but she was really impressed with this horse.  She told them to expect to need some help from a professional trainer.  I may have turned them down if they'd not brought her along, but felt good in knowing I'd done my best to inform them fully of what had happened, and knew the barn owner would help guide them.

Leslie had commented that she'd not noticed me in a helmet in any of my photos.  And I will admit I've become lax abut it!  But yes, there was a time when I always did.  Probably should get back to it.  And yes.  I know.  I'm damned lucky to be alive.

Friday, May 10, 2013


It's funny, is it not, how life can change in the blink of an eye?  One minute you're riding along, happy and carefree, and the next you're slammed into the ground, wondering just what the damage is and if you'll be able to move without the aid of others.

Let me just say, right now, that yes, I visited club dirt, and yes, I'm able to move.  But for awhile there, I wasn't so sure.

Darling had been at a reining show over the weekend.  Saturday's show was full of low scores, and while Darling was disappointed, as the day wore on and more people had similar scores to hers, she began to feel a bit better about her first time out.  On Sunday, her ride was wonderful, with Doxee making her simple changes and not breaking gait, giving Darling a score of 68.5, enough to secure a tie for third place.  

A happy Darling and a goofy Doxee

The sun was shining and it was such a warm, beautiful afternoon, that rather than haul Doxee home to the Cowboy's, we decided to haul her to our home instead.  Darling thought it would be nice to take a couple days off from the arena and just hang out with her horse.  We decided that once it got cooler, maybe we'd take the two of horses out for a short ride together.

It was early enough in the day that I decided to saddle up Oz for a couple of relaxing loops around the path behind the house.  He was so good the other day, and I wanted to know if he would be again.  He was.  Just drop the reins and go.  I was loving that he took care of where his feet were placed, not rushing, just methodically taking his time.  I made two loops and then spotted Darling watching us.  "Want to ride him?" I asked her.  Yes, of course she did!  So she, too, took the big red gelding for a little spin.

When she climbed off, her comment was, "He's going to be a nice horse, Mom."  Neither Darling or I are in love with Oz.  He's been so tight and tense that we've not felt comfortable.  But this is the new side of him, and it's been nice to see.

After dinner, Darling and I went out and saddled up both Oz and Doxee.  I was on first and spent the extra few minutes walking around the driveway.  When Darling was ready, we walked down the trail that went past the creek, then turned toward the path behind the house.

Doxee was jittery.  Darling was laughing.  I was recommending she not get too close to the business end of Oz, because he wasn't happy about what was going on back there and we already knew he would kick if he felt anxious.  Darling asked to go around us, so I had Oz sidestep out of the way and they went on around.

I could feel the change in Oz.  Not a big change, but enough.  He didn't like the excitement.  He was used to traveling with steadfast Sandy, not this jittery little mare.  I asked him to move on down the fenceline, past Doxee and Darling (as they were working out their differences about stepping over a log) and towards the side of the house.

The old dog kennel sits up there, full of straw because our son had used it for raising turkeys last year.  Oz's step changed.  There was a stiffness to it.  Trees were now between us and Doxee, so he couldn't see her, but he knew she was there.  My mind took into account the change in pace, but I wanted him to stay relaxed and not give him a reason to think he needed to be worried.  I stayed loose, lowered my hand and asked him to continue as we'd been.

And then there was that half step, and the holding of the breath.  And it was all over.  The explosion that I'd been waiting for in the round pen and arena finally came out there under the canopy of trees.  Big monster bucks and lurches across the ground.  I felt myself being thrown up and down, told myself to grab hold of his head, thought I'd done it at one point, but then down it went again.  Keep your spurs out of his sides, I told myself.  I could see my feet...nowhere near his sides.  Then I saw his feet as went falling toward the ground, and I remember thinking that he was going to step on me.  But he didn't.

He was gone then.  Pain was searing through my right side, the shoulder especially.  I called to Darling to get help.  I tried to push myself upright, but didn't get too far.  I wiggled fingers.  I looked at my boot and wiggled toes that were down inside the leather.  A sigh of relief.  But the right side hurt, and there was something wrong with the shoulder.  City Boy was there, kneeling down.  My head was resting on his leg.  I couldn't rise up any further.  Something told me my muscles in the back were protecting an injury, not allowing me to move from the semi upright fetal position.  All I could think was what if I'd had some trauma to my head?  

I couldn't get up, so an ambulance was called.  In truth, I was afraid to get up just as much as I was unable.  I wanted professionals on hand.  They checked my vitals and asked all the questions that they ask, and it was determined I was not in shock.  I was placed on the gurney and off I went, sirens and lights and all.  City Boy followed.

Oz and I on the trail, a couple days earlier

To be continued...

Monday, April 29, 2013

It Didn't Stop There!

Sandy with Allison Trimble, and myself on Oz.
Photo Courtesy Valarie Richey 

"Hey, wanna ride?"

"Uh, yeah!  But Darling won't be here and I'd like to make sure we've got someone to ride Sandy so Oz can follow."

"No problem, I'll find someone!"

Before long, Valarie, Allison and myself were heading up to the trail head.  I had my big cowgirl panties on and was planning on riding Oz on his first official ride.  Weeee!!!!!!!!!

Sandy had ponied Oz on this trail two weeks ago today.  Oz tried his best to walk as close as he could to Sandy, nearly pushing us off the trail a couple of times.  He was nervous and it came out in typical youngster fashion as he nibbled on Sandy's saddle blanket, nipped his shoulder, and when he had the chance, grabbing at the reins and trying to lead us off.

Being steady as Sandy is, I was comfortable riding Oz just so long as that steadfast bay was right in front of us.  And things went pretty well.  Yes, Oz was fidgety.  He was tense.  He tried trotting when we first started, but was easily pulled back.  He managed to negotiate the downhills relatively well, though his head was always tucked and low.  

After the first couple of hills, Oz settled into a nice walk, and even managed to pick his way carefully over a steep hill that had an exposed rock face at the top.  We made it down a muddy hill and across a wooden bridge.  Once out of the woods and into the clearing, he walked up alongside Sandy, but didn't try to pick his own way, rather just walked alongside, borrowing confidence from the older mustang.

And while his attitude was positive, there was still that underlying feeling that he was holding his least halfway.  Always tense and waiting for the unexpected.  

Oz makes his way gingerly into the water, fearful of being swept downstream.
Photo courtesy Valarie Richey

When we got to the creek, he was totally unsure that it was in his best interest to cross.  Sandy went first.  Two weeks ago, Oz jumped it while being ponied.  I half expected him to try it again, but instead he simply refused, backing away, doing tiny half hearted rears, turning and trying anything he could to avoid getting his pretty white toes wet.  It took a few minutes, but when Sandy walked back into the water, Oz finally decided he'd give it a try.  Amazingly enough, the water didn't sweep him downstream, and we managed to make it back to the trailer in one piece. 

We came home and Oz went out into a grassy paddock.  I came inside and was happy to see that my riding buddies already had photos up on facebook.  While I used to pack my camera on all my trail rides, I felt it was a bit big and cumbersome when riding such a greenie as Oz, and I've not got one of those new fangled 'smart' phones.  I felt pretty good about our ride, but now I was itching for more.  I couldn't stand it, I had to go back outside and saddle him up again!

Oz is always nervous out behind the house.  Darling's former jump course has been transformed into a trail course, but Oz struggles to get beyond the step down log.  He's very insecure, and wants his herd, so a small loop around the trees and back up to the barn is about all we manage to get done (mostly because there's never anyone around to realize I'm down in the dirt should he happen to uncork!)  

Today was no exception.  Though the earlier ride may have burned off a little bit of his apprehensiveness, he was still on edge.  I rode a couple circles up near the barn, then headed out behind the house.  I didn't even recognize that he had a 'do not cross this line' spot picked out in his mind.  Just stepped right on past it!  He wasn't sure what to do.  I rode an extra five feet and then turned back to safety.  He breathed a sigh of relief and carried me up over the log and back to the barn.

Now, Oz was quite content with leaving, but the fact of the matter is, it was my choice, and we'd gone past the point where he was comfortable before turning back.  So another circle up near the barn, and back down the path we went.  This time, we went a little further.  Oz had a panic attack.  He tried to stop.  He rocked back over his hocks just a bit.  But I urged him to take a few extra steps, and then we again turned and went back to where he was comfortable.

We did this two or three times, taking in an extra ten feet on each trip, or turning a different direction, or crossing a log rather than stepping around it.  Oz began to focus on where we were walking, knowing that he'd head back to the barn.

And then it happened.  Rather than turning from the barn back down the same trail, I headed straight back to the creek.  Oz put up his ears.  He was curious, and didn't hesitate to head down the new path.  His step was relaxed and light.  We turned a corner and walked back onto the trail that went behind the house.  No hesitation.  No tense body.  Ears up, easy steps.  We stepped down over the log, crossed a couple more, walked over the bridge that's sitting out among the trees.  I tried to get him to cross some mud, but he sank a few inches, so we backed up and turned around and went somewhere else.

Oz didn't bat an eye.  We walked past the old dog kennel where the ducks and turkeys had lived the past couple of years.  Robins were flitting in and out, and he did a double take, but continued on.  He began searching out pathways to explore in his big backyard.  I was wishing the backyard were bigger!  Finally, Oz wasn't worried about trying to protect himself, and allowing me to simply drop the reins and trust that I wasn't going to send him into some place scary where he'd need to use his fight or flight instincts.

It was, in a word, glorious.  A huge weight slid from both of our shoulders this afternoon, and we're both a little more prepared to conquer the world!

Never Forgotten

 The year was 2008.  It was December, and we were in Oregon to pick up my new mustang for the upcoming Extreme Mustang Makeover.  My friend Andi drove us up the mountain in search of wild horses.  It was the first time I came fact to face with these lovely creatures, and I stood in amazement as they mingled around us, cautious, but not afraid enough to leave.  It's when Darling met Dibs.  It's when I named Honor.  And it's when we first met this incredible stallion who became known as Golden Boy.

Golden Boy kept to himself.  Many other band stallions had a second in command, but not GB.  No, he'd selected some of the finest mares on the mountain and he wasn't about to allow anyone else into his inner circle.  Now and again, as on the first day we saw him, he could be found with the Hollywood Herd, where several bands mingled together, but more often he was on the outskirts, not too far away, but never so close as to encourage another stallion to think he could get away with breeding or stealing one of his mares.

Clover, the buckskin, and Kamali, the pinto, were among the mares with Golden Boy in 2011.

Golden Boy and the always lovely Delight, February 2011.

When we got word last year that Golden Boy was injured, and that he was under attack by other stallions, it was devastating.  Backed up against the rimrock, Golden Boy and his mares fought hard when bachelor stallions came in hopes of picking off mares for themselves.  One photographer was present at the scene.  Golden Boy's injury was such that he had no hopes of living through the onslaught.  She contacted the BLM office, and Golden Boy was immediately put down so as not to suffer any longer.  The mares were then fought over by the remaining stallions.

After a great amount of scuffling, chasing, and stealing, things finally began to settle down on the South Steens.  Delight, her yearling filly (Whisper), and Cotton ended up with Cortez, the feisty little pinto who'd lived as a bachelor the past couple of years.  He'd also picked up Holly and her dam, Noelle, earlier in the year, so he was now quite happy to have four mares and their offspring.  Life was looking good again on the mountain.

The South Steens is loved by photographers as the 'Hollywood' horses, as they are known, tend to stick around near the roads and they don't panic when they see people walking in to get a few pictures.  Of course, a soft approach is needed to get up close and personal with them, but it could be done, and never did we leave disappointed.

Up close and personal with Delight.

With the band broken and mares scattered, photographers began documenting where they'd gone and which stallions had which mares.  New foals were expected to start arriving in February, and everyone was interested to know if Golden Boy's mares had been bred by him, or their new stallions.  Of course, we knew there was no real way to identify sires short of DNA, but odds are always good with GB's girls, that they are carrying his colts.

A visit around the first of the year by my friend Carolyn saw everyone content.  In February, two mares were missing from Cortez's band...Delight and Clover.  But their foals from the previous year were both still with him.  This is odd.  Two mares leaving in the same time frame, but colts not going along?  It just didn't add up.

Zephry, a beautiful colt with one blue eye

Meanwhile, in Cascade and Sox's band, the yearling colt, Zephyr, appeared to be missing.  A colt missing isn't such a surprise...anything could happen to a baby.  But the mares?  They were older, wiser, larger. A big cat can pick off a colt, but rarely an adult unless it's ill or injured.  The mares had been healthy.  And they were both missing.  A predator would not take down two.

Then there was another report.  The remains of a horse and three dead antelope, all in close proximity to one another, had been found.  There was enough hair remaining on the horse to identify  him.  It was Little Brother.  Carolyn had seen him in February, so he'd died after the mares had disappeared.  But the fact that his remains were so close to the antelope, and it appeared that they'd died in the same time frame, that things are looking a little suspicious on the South Steens.

 Little Brother, as he was in June 2012

Another photographer reported back in early April.  He'd made a trip to the mountain and found two skeletons with just enough hair for him to assume that it was Delight and Clover.  They were near a water hole, not far from each other.

While there is no proof of how our horses are dying, there is enough speculation.  And with that speculation, a deluge of people keeping watch over our beloved wild horses on the Steens.  If someone has been up shooting, we know they've been there at least on two occasions.  Please pray that they are never successful again.