Monday 28 June 2010

Eagle Extreme - A wonderful 2-Day ride!

As we drove into basecamp Friday afternoon John commented that this was the third time we'd made this same 2 hour drive in the past couple weeks. Indeed - two weeks ago we came to the trail head a mile from camp for Don Perry's "Celebration of Life" memorial. A few days earlier we had gone to an outdoor reggae concert a few miles from camp... and this time we were here to stay for the weekend. Four horses to ride, 100 miles each if everything went well.

I've always like this ride - open rolling grasslands. It's been managed by several people over the years. I drove down for it from northern Idaho when it was the R&R, in 1992 - one of my very first rides on my very first crazy Arabian, Tiaro. Fast and fun as I recall! Pam Haynes managed it for years as the Purple Passion. Now Carrie Johnson and Trish Frahm have taken it over, and this year they decided to move it into June and hold a 2-Day ride. It was an Extremely well managed ride - so many thoughtful details went into every aspect of it - the maps, trail, water, awards - a lot of time and energy and work went into the ride.

John came down with some sort of malady on Friday and wasn't feeling well - but managed to ride both days. He pretty much went to bed as soon as we got the trailer parked... and we weren't sure he was going to ride, but he toughed it out. We had four good rides over the weekend on four good horses.

On the first day I rode my new black beast Ravenwood's Dark Desire aka Batman, John rode our Shagya mare Amara's Sonata aka Sunny, aka Robin when she goes out with Batman. Both were full of energy all day - and feeding off each other for a fast first loop. We slowed down during the day though as the hills got steeper and the sun got hotter. We still managed to top-ten which was a big surprise - but there were a few pulls and a couple off-trail, and it just worked out that way! Both horses did great. Dick Root and Jane Cunningham tied for first place, followed by Naomi Preston (who got BC on her mare Karlady) and Lee Pearce. 19 starters, 14 finishers.

Day 2 (another 6AM start!!) John rode Rushcreek Mac and I rode Jaziret. Carol Brand rode with us all day on her (too cute) little mare Sooz. We had a great day! The horses got along well, were strong and happy, and we traded off leading and following. Jaziret has always been a good, brave lead horse. But after he discovered that those big holes out on there actually harbored vicious predating creatures he had a change of heart for a while. (I tried to get a close up photo along a grassy single track trail - of a badger who kept peeking out of his hole for a look at us - and once Jaziret discovered that all those big holes in the ground weren't empty he never looked at one the same again...) Sooz led for a while giving him a chance to regain his composure. Even Mac found some bravery on the trail and led for quite a while, always flicking an ear back to make sure it was really ok, but forging ahead quite willingly. It must have reminded him of the Nebraska grasslands back home.

This was a gorgeous trail - we went through Eagle Canyon - it was too dark (too early!!) for my photos to come out, but it was pretty single track trail along the creek for several miles. It is full summer here now - thick green grass, wildflowers, locust trees in bloom, syringa, wild rose, cottonwoods - really beautiful. It was hot on both days, but on both days we had nice breezes to keep it comfortable. It was hot in camp, but perfect on the trails. And the trails were lovely.

We top-tenned on the second day too! but... sadly this was because there were only nine starters on the 50. The LD was small too on the second day. Really a shame, its so much work to put on these rides, and you just never know how many riders you'll get, and if you get enough riders to pay for the vets, and the fees, and the awards, and the food... and all that stuff. I would do this 2-day ride again in a heartbeat, I really enjoyed it - but I'm not sure Trish and Carrie want to chance a financial loss again!

Another successful boot day for our horses - we rode each horse 50 miles in Gloves (Easycare) and had only one problem (I lost a boot in a bog - but I had opted not to wrap that foot in tape before putting the boot on - just because I was feeling lazy). The tape makes all the difference in keeping the boots on. I was thinking during the ride that this would be a good trail for actually doing a loop or two barefoot instead of booted. Perfect footing for the most part. The horse's feet are getting tougher and more 'mustangy' in shape but they still have a way to go. I think once the new hoof grows out (the hoof growth since I pulled shoes and started trimming) the walls will be stronger, and I'm seeing an improvement in the hooves' concavity as well. Still learning... but also still committed to the barefoot journey. It is fascinating watching the feet change, and I'm loving the learning process. There are still a few frustrations with the boots, but each generation of boot design seems gets better - so I have faith~

('real' photos by Steve Bradley!)


Thursday 24 June 2010

Eagle Extreme - Reggae warmup

Yesterday evening John and I found ourselves in Eagle, Idaho - about 10 crow-flying miles from the Eagle Extreme ridecamp. No horses, though there were a few chemical port-potties which made it feel a little like an Endurance ride. It was definitely an Eagle Extreme event though!

Many years ago John and I and a few friends had a little string band - Irish, folk, bluegrass - fiddle, guitar, hammered dulcimer, banjo, mandolin, penny whistle... you name it we played it! The main fiddle player was Mark Johnson. Last year we got a call, and a visit, from Mark's younger brother Andy (also a fiddle player). Andy is married to Pati - a Brazilian who among other amazing things used to be a Reggae band promoter (she worked with Bob Marley's band for years). Andy and Pati have been on an extended road trip, touring the country, staying with friends, picking up work when they can (Andy is a skilled tree worker). One of Pati's very close reggae musician friends, Amlak (British) plays with the band 'Steel Pulse' - a grammy award winning band which started in the late 70's - and is still playing. They are currently on tour with a 'fusion reggae' band out of California - Slightly Stoopid. So - the incredible chance circumstances of Andy and Pati's road tour putting them in Oreana at this point in time - and - it just so happened that Slightly Stoopid and Steel Pulse would be here - in Idaho! playing at the outdoor pavilion in Eagle. Too good to be true, and Pati arranged to meet Amlak there and got the four of us free passes.

The only other reggae concert I have been to was ages ago in Boston, and it was fantastic. This one was too! Both bands were amazing, the audience and fans were totally enthusiastic - it was a blast! Steel Pulse played first, and after they finished we all went to hang out behind the stage and meet band members and watch the production workers, technicians, groupies, all that stuff! Such a different world - very cool people.

And we watched the sun go down as the band wrapped up it's show - with the Eagle Foothills in the background, where we could almost see Eagle Extreme basecamp, just a few 'as the crow flies' miles from the reggae rockin' band and the smoke hazed gyrating group of dancers! extreme-

I just gave two of the horses we're taking this weekend a haircut - maybe I'll roll the other two's manes into dreadlocks :)


Sunday 20 June 2010

Sixteen Boots

We took some friends out for a ride yesterday - the first ride for both of them. We put them on our quiet horses - Pati rode Khruschev (20 yr old Orlov Trotter - aka Trusty Krusty), Andy rode Dudley (8 yr old nephew of Krusty). John rode Sunny, I was on Jaziret (aka Rhett) and Merri (taking the photo) was riding Jose bareback. A nice little stroll up to the canyon and back on a lovely almost-summer evening.

All of the horses are going without steel shoes now. (except Jose and he went without a saddle, so that counts for something! I'm going to pull his shoes this fall and transition him over the winter). I've been on the 'barefoot' learning curve 5 months now - since January when I pulled shoes on Rhett and Sunny in Arizona - with Kevin and Rusty to help me with the transition process. And at this point I really can't imagine ever putting steel back on any of these horses. I'm trimming the horses' feet myself (going through a learning curve on that too) and really enjoying it. It's definitely work, but not too bad if I keep at it and do a little bit on a frequent basis. Their feet are getting really hard now - there's no problem with rasping the walls, but I bought a Dremel tool so I can grind down the bars. The horses don't seem to mind the power tools amazingly enough.

At this point the Gloves (Easycare) are my favorite hoof protection. I've done several rides with glue on boots - and it's nice to have the peace of mind of a secure booted ride, but I honestly would prefer to avoid the gluing-on and taking-off process. I'm to the point now with the Gloves that I think I can get through most any ride with them. We don't have any rubbing issues from the gators, I've figured out that I simply need to wrap a few of the horse's feet with tape under the boots to keep them on snugly. Keeping hind boots on through creek crossings and rough uphill climbs has been the biggest challenge - but the tape makes a huge difference.

We have a local 2 day ride coming up next weekend - John and I will ride each day on a different horse - 4 booted horses. I'm looking forward to it!


Monday 7 June 2010

Owyhee Fandango - Riding Drag

Fandango website -

Saturday was a blur. The trail was two big loops for the 50's and two smaller loops for the LD's, with all the holds in camp. Much easier, and there was plenty of help (thanks!!!) so I spent the morning getting the results and registrations in order, and then drove out to check the new location of our farthest vet check on the 100 and 80 mile trail.

Rick and Carol (Lost Juniper Ranch) had already been to the Sierra del Rio Ranch vetcheck dropping off the portapotty (thanks!) as they made their rounds setting out and filling up water tanks. They do all of the water sets for the Owyhee rides now, its an incredible help, and relief to know that it will be done to perfection. The ranch vetcheck was ready to go. Those guys are amazing - they've been letting us invade this amazing historic ranch since the 2004 Abu Dhabi Arabian Nights - always welcome, fun, friendly - they set out tanks for us, open a huge pasture so horses can graze during their hold. Very special.

So I drove out to Celebration Park - perched along the Snake River at the north end of Guffy Bridge, this is Idaho's first Archeological Park. Many amenities and improvements - boat launch to the river, restrooms, water hydrants, picnic tables, well maintained trails down to some ancient boulders with petroglyph carvings. I drove up and walked around and found one of the park guys - explained what we were up to - and he said 'sure, no problem'. wow! we could set up water, horses, etc wherever we wanted. the only condition was to clean up the poop. Great news - I was prepared to set up at the end of the access road to stay out of the way of the park, but they actually welcomed us - people and horses alike. woohoo! So I marked all the turns on the way back to basecamp - checked the mileages - and we were set.

Back at camp, things were winding down. I was able to put the results together, do some new registrations till Bev got back from riding and taking care of her horse to help me out. Make up maps for Sunday, get awards together, have dinner, riding meeting, set up all the vetcheck volunteers, gear, etc to take out for the next day. John was back from his California trip, and Regina would be able to help during the ride - so things were looking good for help. And so many people and rigs and stuff to organize. do the start list for the next day and in bed by midnight!

I was pretty buzzed and awake though, millions of ride manager thoughts rattling around in my head. I planned to ride drag on the 80 and stay behind everybody until they made it back to camp - to keep an eye on horses and riders and be there if there were any problems with the trail - especially the technical section with boulders and tight trail before getting to the bridge crossing. I finally fell asleep around 1am, alarm set for 4:30, up an at 'em.

Lots of early activity - riders and horses warming up, loading gear into the vetcheck rigs, rider gear, tables, chairs, timing stuff, lunches, bug spray, etc etc. Thing were looking good. John set off on the quad to pre-ride the trail in front of the riders, the 80's and 100's started, the rigs were loaded and ready to go, and it was time to start rounding up my horse and stuff for the day and vet card... uh oh! In the craziness of the previous day and night I totally forgot to vet my horse in :) Fortunately Robert hadn't left for the ranch yet and I gave myself a card and number and got him vetted in - just in time!

I finally set off after everybody had departed for the ranch vetcheck and before the 60 milers were scheduled to start. Just me and Jaziret on the trail, a perfect morning - sunny and fresh and really beautiful. Just as I was headed down the road Merri came driving behind me - Naomi's horse had tied up and she was out at the highway crossing needing a ride back to camp. So we dispatched Rick and Carol with the pokemon trailer to go get her. She was still waiting at the highway crossing radio checkpoint - disappointed but cheerful. bummer.

I arrived at the ranch about 10 minutes after the last arrivals - Trish and Carrie - both doing the first 80 mile distance for both them and their horses. They were taking it easy! Everything was running smoothly at the ranch, no pulls. I set off shortly after Trish and Carrie and tried to stay behind them, tho my horse thought it was a dumb idea. I finally caught up with them as we dropped down to the river, and we just rode together from then on - Jaziret is a great lead horse and he helped set a nice steady pace. It was actually a lot of fun riding with them - the horses did very well together and we enjoyed the magnificent scenery along the river.

The russian olive and black locust trees were blooming - the air was sweet with their scent. Tons of grass, wildflowers, the river was a bright blue - sunshine, warm but not hot. just perfect! Until we got to the boulders :)

I've ridden lots of terrain like this before, it's no big deal to me - but Carrie and Trish were not thrilled. We got through it - lots of 'I'm not happy about this' commentary, but they did fine. Just plugged their horses right behind Jaziret and followed his lead. The trick to this kind of technical trail is to trust the horse to find the best way - they have four good legs and generally know how to use them better than we do. If the horse isn't rushing and the rider isn't confusing it with too many instructions, then it's no big deal. One thing about Trish and Carrie - they always keep a good sense of humor and sporting spirit. They were VERY glad to have a guide though!

It was absolutely spectacular along this stretch of trail - green and lush, the river was sparkling blue, sections of rapids, dozens of white pelicans perched on rocks, skimming the surface. Geese, ducks, and quite a few weekend campers too! We would our way out of the technical trail and dropped down to the water set where another group of ham radio folks were set up. They had installed an extra tower so they could communicate with the radios over at Celebration park - I wanted to make sure that if there were any problems getting through the boulders we could get a quick solution. They greeted us with water bottles, and a smile and a 'boy, there were some unhappy riders about those boulders' .. that was my first uh-oh sinking feeling. 'yes, one of the horses fell, some riders said it was fine, some said it was dangerous' ... uh-oh.

We had another 3 or 4 miles to the vetcheck, I wasn't looking forward to it as much as before. We crossed the bridge (I love this bridge) and walked over to the park. Warm, sunny, busy, well-run, nice set-up, lots of people showed up to help - it was really nice there...but there were three pulls for lameness! oh crap. And while I was there during the one hour hold there was yet another pull. A few of them were very minor, but the riders decided at the suggestion of vet Michael Peterson, to go ahead and withdraw rather than ride back across the boulders, 25 miles to the ranch vetcheck, and too risky if there was a problem that might be aggravated by more work and miles. There were five lameness pulls out of the 24 riders that made it to the park. Four in the 100, and one in the 80. And that was pretty much it for the day - one more 100 mile pull back at the ranch. It was not a horrendous completion rate for a 100 mile ride - 16 starters, 10 finishers. 7 out of 8 finishers in the 80. But it sure was horrible at that vetcheck.

We finished our hold and set back out for the boulders. This time it was no big deal for anybody, even Trish and Carrie said it wasn't that bad. It was still pretty riding back up the river, but I was not in such a euphoric mood! We made pretty slow progress back to the ranch, letting the horses graze along the trail quite a bit. Alternating walking and trotting. It was still nice riding with Trish and Carrie - the horses were doing well - good spirits, still moving nicely.

Back to the ranch, a nice long hold, pasture to graze the horses on. Everything was getting packed up there, ready to be gone as soon as we were. The horses were feeling the heat, but still looking good. 15 miles back to camp. what time is it? will we finish before dark?? No problem - it cooled down quite a bit as the evening approached. The horses came in looking fine - a bit hot and tired, but easy completions.

The last of the 100 milers were out on the trail, some had finished, no more pulls! Pretty mellow in camp, dinner going out back, volunteers running the show, the vets were getting pretty tired but hanging in there. John was heading out to put glowsticks on the trail for the night riders. These 100's are a lot of work!! And I was totally whooped. Exhausted mentally and physically. We didn't get the awards done that night, many riders picked up their stuff and went home and everybody else was too busy or gone. I totally crashed around 11pm. Tried to stay up for the 100's but simply couldn't keep my eyes open or my brain awake. I fell asleep with my clothes on and that was that. THANK THE GODS FOR THE VOLUNTEERS who stayed up to the end. And Robert Washington who stayed up to vet the last riders. (and played guitar around the campfire with our fiddle playing friend Andy from New Hampshire). And thanks to the radio guys who compiled the results all day and keep communications open. They are all worth their weight in gold!

I had set my alarm for 6am (knowing I'd never wake up without it) so I could put the results together and get organized for awards. We had a nice buffet breakfast and awards in the morning - quite a few stayed around. It was all a bit of a blur for me, but we got it done! I really really enjoyed the ride this year. First time in a long time that it wasn't FEI (which I will never do again) - and it was so much more relaxed and enjoyable. I was able to do better trails (less fret about fast courses and technical stuff and officials and all that stuff) and the riders were just a wonderful group! It was tons of work, but all work I enjoy.

Today (or maybe tomorrow) I'll go back to the river and pull ribbons. Most of the trail is already cleared - Tom cleared the Whiskey Traverse, Andy and Pati have been exploring the Owyhee country on the quad and pulling ribbons, Merri and Karen and Connie have been pulling ribbons from the cross country trail. I did all south trails yesterday. Result are done, some awards left to mail, some cleanup left to do... and then. aaahhh... summer.


Gallery of photos from the ride -

Thursday 3 June 2010

Another Owyhee Ride - Part 1

Fandango website-

I really really like putting on these rides. I'm voraciously driven by the trails. I love a good party - which I try to make these events feel like. I like the people that come to ride, the volunteers, the vets. I like designing logos and coming up with awards and fun stuff. I like putting together the maps, and spending time pouring over Google Earth images. I'm less wild about doing registration and results, but have learned some time saving techniques - being a ride manager is just a grand way for me to throw my energy into things that I love doing.

This year we had day after day of crappy weather leading up to the ride so I was able to have a lot of things well organized and 'ready to go' before the event started. I'm really glad I did because I was very short handed and pretty much spent dawn to dusk running the ride as it was.

I spent a lot of extra time on the trail this year - finding some new sections, testing and then flagging some fun trails that weren't accessible except by hoof or foot. Merri helped a lot with this (and John too when he could) and it was nice to have company on the explorations. And there are always some special moments and scenes when out marking trail - I took a few extra photos of some of the wagon wheel rutted Oregon Trail sections and of the petroglyph boulders along the Snake River and the two feral horses that we see above browns creek every once in a while (small gallery here -

I was glued to the weather forecast pages during the week leading up to the ride. It was pretty grim, but I discovered quite a difference in forecast depeding on which website I went to. the NOAA ( site was totally depressing, they use the most discouraging icons for their daily forecasts. was much happier, with more little sunshine icons, so I generally went there to check. (might as well avoid discouragement when possible :)

We had scheduled a Hoof Clinic for Thusday afternoon - and luckily the clouds cleared and the weather was perfect for the clinic. Christoph Schork (Global Endurance Training Center) did a fantastic job. Three hours including discussion of 'barefoot' principles and techniques, hoof protection products on the market, and a fantastic demo. He used my horse Jaziret to demonstrate trimming techniques and tools to to use.. and how to use them. How to fit and put on Eascare Gloves, and how to glue boots on. It was an excellent clinic - I only had time for the demo, but learned a lot there. Christoph is a very good teach and clinician. There was too much for me to write about, but here are some photos

Camp did NOT fill up by Thursday evening (the ride started Friday morning) and I was feeling pretty glum about that - and the drizzle that greeted the riders on Friday morning enticed several that had come to ride, to stay in camp for the day instead! But, as it turned out the drizzle stopped just as the riders left camp and didn't return until Monday morning after the ride was over. we got lucky! Friday was actually a perfect riding day - cool but not cold, cloudy (yuck) but perfect for the horses and fast riding times.

I didn't have Regina or John to help me but did manage to round up enough folks to work the vet check out at Browns Creek and help with finishes in camp. (THANK THE GODS FOR THE FOLKS THAT HELP AT THESE RIDES!! we couldn't do it without them). For me it was a day of pre-riding trail on the ATV to set up 'helper strings' on all of the many gates the riders had to open/close, searching for separated horses and riders (everything turned out ok), and then riding the trails again after all the riders had passed through to make sure the gates were shut. I estimated that I opened and closed 34 gates that day and put close to 100 miles on the ATV. Big gates, little gates, double gates, loose, tight, falling apart... man there were a lot of gates. And since I had used a lot of single track trail that I couldn't take the ATV on, I had to do at least 10-20 extra miles each way (with extra gates) on the ATV just to circle around from trail-start, to trail-end.

But the riders loved the trail - it went through some beautiful remote areas, into a section with huge rock outcrops, and the wildflowers were incredible. Thigh high lupines ranging from cream to blue to purple to lavendar to pink - and smelling so good! And the bitterbrush with it's sweet smelling yellow blossom. Indian paintbrush, flox, camus, larkspur, biscuitroot, evening primrose, bitterroot, buckwheat, asters, daisies... an amazing display.

I arrived back at camp after everybody had finished, in time to compile the results and put together the awards. Then maps and info for the next day's ride, and then into the late night hours putting together starting list and logistic plans for the next day. One down!

more to come,