Tuesday 29 March 2016

Dear Diary: Let it be Spring. March 28

This weekend was the 'world's richest horse race' - the Dubai World Cup (or Meydan Cup, named sponsor). I usually don't follow thoroughbred racing very closely, but this year the race was won by California Chrome, the 2014 Kentucky Derby winner (whose sire was raised and trained in Idaho) so he was sort of a 'home town' favorite. And the photo of him crossing the wire is an 'OMG' photo! it appears that just a few more strides and his saddle would have slipped all the way back to his haunches.

It also got me reminiscing... in 2001 the Dubai World Cup also included an Endurance race. UAE (United Arab Emirates) was just building endurance into a National sport, the rulers were promoting the sport, and also competing, so it was a big deal, and this was a showcase event. I was invited to attend with Nature's Kruschev (Krusty) as we had finished well at the World Championship in France the summer before. So we loaded onto a Cargo plane out of Los Angeles and flew to Dubai for another great adventure. John and Destry (youngest son, 15 yrs at the time) came along as my crew. We went early to acclimate and recover from the trip so had several days to play tourist and experience the country. Dubai wasn't built up much yet - still a lot of open space and residential areas, and one day Destry decided to skateboard from one end of the city to the other. We had some fun parties too - all the riders and crews (from the other countries) were caravanned across the desert for a night celebration. Tents and carpets and bonfire and dinner - chefs grilling over open flames, an array of salads and deserts and a few special arabian treats. Sheikh Mohamed (bin Rashid Al Maktoum - ruler of Dubai) was also there joining in the festivities, meeting the riders, dancing with us around the bonfire. He had taken up the sport himself, so was fully devoted to it. It was an amazing experience, treated as guests in a bedouin culture - in a country on the brink of becoming a world force.

I've had some amazing experiences thanks to this sport - and this was one of them. Here's my write-up of race day:

March, 2001
Well - it was an amazing ride -

Results - the UAE website hasn't posted the results yet, and I don't have anything official with me right now, but from what I remember: UAE riders placed 1,2,3 - Terry Wood from Australia placed 4th. Best Condition was a rider from Spain on a leased horse (Sheik Mohammed's stable). Sheik Mohammed finished 7th - and he rode a very impressive ride - 60th into the first vet gate, and just kept moving up steadily all day. A smart ride and a good example of pacing and careful riding. US riders - Jennifer Nice placed 18th on her horse Al Baraq (now owned by UAE), Karen DiCamillo and SR Sharee placed 24th, Jan Worthington placed 30th on a UAE horse. 33 finishers total, 86 started. Valerie Kanavy and Bear Cat were eliminated at 73 miles (7 miles left to go), Rita Swift got very sick from heat stroke and had to quit at 60 miles, Darolyn Butler's horse, Chaser found some buried rebar and injured his pastern during the first loop, eliminated at the first vet gate. I pulled Khruschev at 40 miles. He stumbled and came out of it lame - he had a crack in his heel where a sole abcess had worked up through the foot and he probably banged it when he stumbled. Beecher's thermal-radiographic unit detected heat (inflammation) in his heel after the ride. Disappointing to not finish (only his second pull in almost 3000 miles) but we had a blast while we were out there!!

Steph & Kruschev before the start

It was a VERY energetic start - the horses were all incredibly eager. Even Khruschev was doing some serious bucking for the first few miles. A couple horses went on for a while without their riders ..... We settled into a mid-pack pace for most of the first loop. It's so flat there that we could see the front runners moving out on the horizon - dust from the horses and the zillions of 4WD rigs driving along beside them. It was incredible - at least one rig for each rider, driving ahead, hopping out and offering bullets of cold bottled water for the rider to pour over the horse. Every 3 kilometers or so the drivers would have water for the horses and riders. I rode with Jennifer Nice for the first loop - our horses went well together, kept up an 18 km/hr pace (about 10-11 mph) for the first 22 mile loop. Jennifer is now working in UAE and riding for one of the stables, so she had the stable drive and crew for her and generously shared their services with me. (John and Destry stayed in at the camp instead of driving out with me). The crew guys were great - water and electrolytes, and hollering out speed and distance at intervals. Most of the trail was pretty flat, easy going, but there was a lot of deep sand as well. The crew rigs were supposed to stay off of the horse trail, so they paralleled the riders - usually off in the deeper sand. I stopped counting the number of 4WD rigs stuck in the sand after the first 10 miles. Very entertaining - and I think the drivers were as interested in racing each other as they were in crewing for their riders!

We pulsed down pretty quickly after the first loop - and even at a 10mph pace we were already 25 minutes behind the front runners! Incredible speed on these fast/flat desert courses. It is certainly different from the sport that most of us do in the USA. This is a race... not a ride.

We spent some extra time at the vet check letting Khruschev eat more - his gut sounds were diminished - and doing some emergency shoe fixes (Jaye Perry was there for the Kanavy crew, but helped everybody out as well). Khruschev was really cranked for this ride, as were all of the horses. He was in pretty good form, though a little chubby for a fast,hot ride. He vetted in with a 28 pulse! and never even went over a 110 pulse during the entire time we were on the trail - but ... it's pretty tough to take a horse that trains in the mountains and ask them to maintain a constant, fast, pace in relatively flat terrain. Muscle and limb fatigue is a problem. Plus the horses from the northern hemisphere had at most 3 weeks to acclimate to the heat. This is probably a bigger issue than the terrain for most of the horses.

We went back out on the second loop in good shape - his gut sounds were strong, and he was feeling great. We rode alone for the first couple miles and then caught up with a UAE rider - one of the Dubai Police riders. Had a nice time riding with him, and he shared his crew with me - water, electrolytes, etc - whatever we needed. Great fun - I've invited him to come ride in Idaho - but I think he was a little taken aback with the idea of mountains and minimal crewing! About 3 miles from the vetgate, Khruschev stumbled and came up lame - we were at a crew point so I was able to ask to have a horse 'ambulence' come and get us and drive us back to the village. We went directly into the treatment tent - very very nice facility - state of the art - competent veterinarians, friendly, helpful. The vet gave Khruschev a thorough examination, couldn't find any soreness in his limb, thought it might be the foot - released us and I took K back to the barn. Very efficient, professional care.

John, Destry and I spent the rest of the day helping crew for the others. Valerie and Karen were doing well, horses looking good. Rita was pretty sick, but determined to stick it out if she could. Jennifer and Jan were both riding as US riders, but they were in the UAE section for crew, so we didn't see them except on the trail. There horses were kept in separate areas because of quarantine requirements.

It was quite a day - Karen and Sharee did a great job, Sharee is an amazing little mare (850 lbs max) - their ride time was 7:33 (I think). The winning time was 6:11 - on an 78 mile course. Fast.... The completion rate was a little over 40%. It got very hot - 35 degrees centigrade - and the sun was pretty fierce. The UAE horses - that live and train here - were impressive.

That's about it for now - I leave in 15 minutes - back out to the stable, load the horses in the van, ship them to Abu Dhabi (2 hr drive) - then we'll load them on the plane and depart at 7am. 6-10 hour layover in Luxembourg, then off to LA. About 20 hours flying time.... long day/night head of us.

More later -

Steph Teeter

Thursday 24 March 2016

Dear Diary: Let it be Spring. March 24

I’ve been juggling horses around between paddocks and turnout since returning from Arizona - and thinking about the relationships the horses have with each other, and the relationships we have with each of them. I bought a beautiful chestnut arabian last spring - well trained and the perfect phenotype for endurance - hoping he would be a horse for me to spend the next decade or so with.

Since I lost my magnificent Jaziret two years ago I’ve been at a loss. He was strong, tough, brave, we did thousands of miles of endurance together. He was my partner on the trail for 15 years. So it’s a hard act to follow.

The big red horse is a fine athlete but his ‘formative’ years were in a show barn where he led a sheltered life - stalls, arenas, and very little social interaction with other horses. He never quite learned that horses in herds fit into a hierarchy - there are leaders and there are boundaries that if crossed can lead to problems. He will challenge horses that shouldn’t be challenged, and he loves the mares and they love him (I named him Casanova) but sometimes they just have to tell him ‘enough is enough’ and this isn’t always gentle. This makes it hard for me to turn all the horses out on the range together - mares and geldings together - because there’s always the chance of a fight, which means there’s always a greater chance of injury to one of them. So I need to sell him to somebody who has a more controlled stable situation. He’s an absolute gentleman with people, but he’s a liability for me because of my free range situation here.

Since I’ve decided to sell him I’ve been keeping him (and the others) out of trouble by keeping the horses separated into little groups. Things are peaceful right now. Every day they get moved into the arena, or out on the range to graze, or into one of the paddocks. Handling each one every day has been fun - they’re all so different, make me think of the many horses have given me so much over the years. Life measured in horses - one day I’ll try to chronicle that.

The little herds of today:

Sunny - the Shagya/Arabian cross - she is John’s horse - she’s very special, very sensitive, requires a lot of patience (because she’s so ‘special’) but John gets along with her quite well - he even calls her Sweety sometimes
Phinnaeas - Connie’s horse - black, bold, tough - grandson of the Black Stallion
Dudley - the last of my Russian Orlov Trotters (my Orlov/Arabian mare and a Belesemo Arabians stallion) - one of the smartest,handsomest horses I’ve raised - but his bouts with laminitis and tendency toward metabolic disorder (which also leads to laminitis) resulted in a stalled career as an endurance horse. He’s making a come back though, years of attention to his feet, weight control measures and regular exercise with Merri have brought him around.

Stormy - Merri’s elderly ex-racehorse Thoroughbred.
Casanova - he’s quite content to have Stormy as his mascot.

Jose Viola - one of the more special horses I’ve had - he’s just plain fun to ride. He injured his back when he was 10, and now he’s quite sway-backed, but still happily goes down the trail. He’s sponsored many juniors and everybody that rides him comes back grinning.
Smokey - she’ll be seven this year, we seem to be understanding each other well these days, and she’s worming her way into my heart. For all of her quirkiness, she is one of the best rides. Still many years to build on this human-horse relationship.

These two aren’t home yet, but will be soon -
Derby - another horse I raised - out of a Shagya Arabian mare that I bred to a Thoroughbred (son of a Kentucky Derby winner so they say). She’s currently in training at Ted’s, I’m looking forward to getting her back next month. She’s a big bay beauty, born on a Super Moon.
Willie - the Standardbred off-the-track rescue - he’s a tall gawky thing, and I don’t know what sort of horse he will be yet. I’ll get him back from Ted’s next month too - his son Terrence is training him to be a saddle horse (rather than a sulky racer) for me.

and we can’t forget these two - they’re currently with a friend in Boise-
Krushchev - the Orlov Trotter wonder horse - the most amazing horse ever. He’ll be 26 this year - I’ve had him since he was four. Thousands of miles of fantastic rides and races - including the 2000 World Championship in France, and the 2001 Dubai Cup in United Arab Emirates. This horse opened up the world to me. He’s still amazing at 26, still bringing smiles to kids and adults both.
Batman - the big beautiful black horse that was to be my next career horse, to replace Jaziret. Persistent subtle hind-end lameness finally led me to find a home for him as a trail horse last year. That was sad, he was a fun bold horse to ride - he had moments of being a super-hero, but that’s kinda fun too.

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Tuesday 22 March 2016

Dear Diary: Let it be Spring. March 22

Since the weather has been challenging these past few weeks, I've been spending a fair amount of time indoors. Lately we've been having problems with our internet connection. (perhaps the weather gods and the internet gods are colluding to force me to clean house). It does remind me though how dependent we've become on the Net for just about everything.

How living in a remote place such as Oreana, while still staying connected and running a business, is possible. And of course living with a tech wizard makes it all so easy too. We installed a solar powered radio tower on a ridge above our ranch, which relays signals from a tower in the Owyhee Mountains (War Eagle), which relays a signal from the network company in Boise. So simple. As long as we keep the backup batteries on our tower charged during the dark foggy winter days, and as long as John and the company in Boise keep things running.

This week John is in Washington DC. He spent a year there recently, as a 'Presidential Innovation Fellow' - a stint as a private industry expert invited to work with the Government to modernize and advance technologies. He's back now with some proposals and ideas to carry forward some of the work he did there. Exciting stuff.

So that leaves me with a temperamental internet (John thinks we may need a new router) and no wizard to soothe it's dark moods. And I think I've reached my limit when it comes to cleaning house. Another cool windy day... I'll have to dig deeper for projects to keep me busy.

This image of the continental United States at night is a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite in April and October 2012. The image was made possible by the satellite's "day-night band" of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe dim signals such as city lights, gas flares, auroras, wildfires and reflected moonlight.
Credit: NASA Earth Observatory/NOAA NGDC

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Monday 21 March 2016

Dear Diary: Let it be Spring. March 20

I planted a few of the bedding plants last week, the rest are still in their greenhouse containers. We’ve had two weeks of very frustrating weather, lots and lots of wind and wind. I planted the strawberry plants in their hydroponic outfits, the next night we had a hard freeze (which was not predicted). Hopefully they’ll survive and I won’t have to replant. It’s now officially springtime (half way between the evil dark side and the glorious light side as noted by weather obsessed individuals like myself).

But, life with horses goes on - I’ve been riding (even in the wind, which merits a badge of fortitude), and I took the grandkids to their first ‘horsey’ lesson with Beth - a talented and ambitious young woman - her big new project, raising Welsh ponies - read Beth's story here ).

They seemed to enjoy their lesson - Beth is a very kind and patient soul, and they were attentive students. Her first lesson day ended with a lay down (soft and gentle) of her Welsh pony Ardreth, and the kids caressing him as he lay there.

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Tuesday 15 March 2016

Dear Diary: Let it be Spring. March 15

It's been really nasty out this week - windy, cold, showers - even a few snow flakes. So I've been indoors, working some, reading some, checking out what's happening in the rest of the world.

There has been a FB thread recently, on the page of a group calling themselves ‘endurance green beans’ - those who are new to the sport, just learning how to do it, giving each other support and encouragement and education.

Somehow the topic became a discussion of the challenges of what to do when ‘nature calls’ out on the trail. Most rides provide portable services in camp, but the nature of our sport is such that much of our time is spent out on the trail, and when ya gotta go, ya gotta go. We learn to scan the horizon for likely areas of relative privacy - trees, gullies, large bushes … often options are limited.

Many years ago when I first started hosting rides here in Oreana (population 8, maybe 9) over the expansive rangelands of Owyhee County, the local ranchers were curious "you ride that many miles for fun?”, and somewhat concerned "if your riders leave a gate open the cows will scatter, that would be really bad”, and at times amused.

At one of the annual Oreana Christmas parties, I was talking with a rancher about how crazy endurance riders were and he started laughing - “I was driving back from town, saw a water trough off to the side of the road, saw some horses there drinking, saw some riders off their horses … and holy cow I couldn’t believe it!” I explained that it was a real problem during the rides, that we couldn’t provide facilities everywhere, it was hard to stop when other horses and riders were going by…you know, we try not to be seen…

He kept laughing and suggested that we use the ‘Oreana Porta Potty’. Buckets work too.

Monday 14 March 2016

Dear Diary: Let it be Spring. March 13

We have a wonderful community of riders here on The Crick. The friends, the horses, the adventures and the camaraderie have been a huge part of the life that I have here. So many rides together, so many shared joys and sorrows. Getting new horses, raising colts and fillies, losing older horses, mentoring juniors, sharing horses and adventures with friends from all over the world. We've all been through a lot together.

We're an awesome team for putting on rides, sharing the work load and pitching in with whatever is needed - from putting out ribbons to pulling them after the ride to organizing and re-organizing bags full of various color ribbons on clothespins. We rake rocks, set out water tanks, keep the people and horses fed, make awards, find new trails, and do the yucky paperwork. It's work, but it's much more fun when it's done together.

We also have various skills and talents and ambitions when it comes to horses and riding. This weekend our friends from the mountains came down to ride, as their trails are still too snowy and muddy. They brought a beautifully bred gelding that hadn't worked out for a previous buyer, apparently it had learned to buck. So... Connie to the rescue. Connie lives a little ways up the creek, splitting her time between Seattle and Oreana. She galloped thoroughbred horses at the race track for 15 years and learned to quickly read a horse (young, strong, fit thoroughbred colts) and determine how to ride it, and how to stay on and in control while galloping around the track. She is also generous with her time and has helped many of us over the years.

(photo by Steve Bradley - Connie and Phinnaes)

Our friend wanted Connie to get a read on the horse and figure out what he needed in terms of training to make him a good citizen again. Connie had put the first rides on him several years ago, so she knew him. It was a windy stormy day, but I don't think that matters to Connie. She started in the round pen and then took him to the arena (wind kicking up dust, trees blowing, things flapping). Circles and circles and circles, he had some buck in him. "I just let him buck, he got tired of it eventually". She wanted to ride him again the next day, and it was even crazier windy and gusty. Not a second of hesitation. "He was much better, I knew he would be. There's nothing wrong with this horse, he just needs a strong leader."

Connie is a good friend, and a lot of fun, and I hope she knows how much we all appreciate her!

Sunday 13 March 2016

Dear Diary: Let it be Spring. March 12

I had the perfect ride on Smokey today. I did a little round-pen work with her first, she was willing and respectful, and then rode out with Merri and Dudley to check out the Hart Creek trail. It's one of my favorite trails - about 13 miles, first traversing some nice hills and washes out of the ranch, then onto a lovely sandy single track trail ('Merri's Trail') which takes us down to Hart Creek - which was running nicely, plenty of snow melt this year. The trail follows the fence line above an old ranch, parallel to the creek, and then drops down to the water. Sometimes we ride through the creek for a half mile or so but today we took a sandy trail through the sagebrush and down to 'Oreana Savanah' - a cool cave that hides back in the cliffs surrounded by brush and willows.

The trail then heads up into some badland formations - white and yellow cliffs with red rock caps and rings, very prehistoric looking. We follow a wash back towards Hart Creek, ride a narrow trail above it, and then ride through another old homestead with rusty farm equipment, a ghostly old cottonwood tree, and an old stone house built into a hillside. There were quite a few mama cows and brand new babies. And a scruffy old bull.

We climb up a rocky hillside and drop down to the mouth of Hart Creek Canyon, a spectacular rhyolite cliff gouged out over a million years ago as Lake Idaho drained into the Snake River. We ride past the canyon, the mouth is dense with brush and the trails into the canyon are only suitable for wildlife and adventurous humans. There are Indian artifacts up this canyon, I imagine it was magical for the earlier humans as well as we late comers.

We ride up out of the canyon mouth along sagebrush trails and washes and then quickly climb up a narrow ridge and back up onto the bench - where one can see in every direction. The Owyhee Mountains to the west, the Boise mountains to the north, the Sawtooth mountains far to the east. Then cross country up the hills and down into the washes and up the hills again. We met up with John and his beautiful mare Sunny as we dropped down into Pickett Creek and our land. He had been riding the southern fenceline checking for sections that might need shoring up. Our neighbor's cows have been wandering into our little valley to have their spring babies. This year we'll try to keep them out. Finishing a nice trail along Pickett Creek and then home.

We were lucky enough to see two different herds of mule deer, and large herd of antelope, and a coyote that we followed for a while as he skirted us, perhaps on the scent of the mule deer.

Wednesday 9 March 2016

Dear Diary: Let it be Spring. March 8

Since I decided that the first day of Spring was March 6, the weather gods have been testing me.

I pruned the grape vines and the choke cherry and honey locust trees. I cleaned out the gardens to give the emerging lilies and gladiolas some fresh air and light. I ordered strawberry plants for our hydroponic strawberry growing thing, raked out the old strawberry beds in the vegetable garden. Ready!

After dropping John off at the airport yesterday I stopped by D&B - my favorite garden/feed/hardware store - and low and behold their greenhouse was set up and they had a huge selection of garden and landscape plants ready for purchase. They must know it is Spring too.

Of course I had to take advantage of 'senior Tuesday' and stock up on plants and seeds. "Plant in spring as soon as soil can be worked".

Yet, there is fresh snow on the greening foothills, several days of rain and wind here in the valley, and the sky is rather threatening this morning. A bit nippy too. The horses look so happy just munching hay, why bother them? I wonder if I should wait to plant...

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Sunday 6 March 2016

Dear Diary: Let it be Spring. March 6

Since my definition of winter was somewhat arbitrary, having nothing whatsoever to do with the earth's rotation cycles, I'll define the first day of Spring as the day after my last day of Winter. That would be March 6.

After a morning on the computer, I went for a 'tone it down' ride on my mare Smokey. Owyhee Smoke Signal is my homebred mutt - saddlebred, quarterhorse and arabian bloodlines. When I decided her dam (saddlebred/arabian cross) was too much of a princess and too hot to be an endurance horse I did what any responsible horse owner would do: breed her to the neighbor's stallion. And as it turned out, Carol's Quarab (Quarterhorse/Arabian cross) stallion was a good choice, in addition to being convenient. He added substance and brain to the mix.

But Smokey is a challenge. Had she been a human she probably would have spent hours on the psychiatrist couch. Or more likely, her friends would have insisted that she spend hours on the psychiatrist couch. She is subordinate to the other horses, but seems to want to compensate by constantly challenging humans. It is her right to call the shots when it comes to food and comfort. Every day I get the 'feed me or die' look. Every day I explain to her, 'that's not the way it works'.

She spent some invaluable time with my favorite trainer friend Ted, who taught her that respecting humans was not an option, it was a requirement. He also taught her to relax and think through scary stuff rather than over-react, and to respond well to rider cues. She's a great horse to ride, very responsive, and once I learned the same things that she learned (from the other perspective) I began really enjoying riding her.

Riding her is a balancing act though - she can be quite hot and forward, she can also pin her ears and do the 'you can't make me' routine. Or she can be a quiet trail horse... I just have to see what I've got each time I ride her.

The winter of travel seemed to gradually wind her up. Plus I didn't always take the time to adjust her sensitize/desensitize meter - easier to just go ride. Plus the harder she works, the more food and supplement she needs to stay healthy, and the fitter she gets, and ...

So, this was a 'tone it down ride'. A long walk (Merri/Dudley and Carol/Jose too) with lots of circles and riding through brush and downfall and forward and back and 'get over it' and use your brain stuff. Good for both of us, and it still surprises me how quickly she'll come around when I just take the time to Ride her instead of just being a passenger. Maybe someday she'll be one of those horses you can just get on and go, the same horse every day... but for now every ride begins with the first encounter, the first eye contact, and my first response to who she is on that day. Spring Diary

Diary of a Winter Wimp. March 5. It's over.

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