Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ride of the Week: Trail Trial

This week's ROTW is brought to you by Funder.

Funder blogs her strange but true horse adventures at It seemed like a good idea at the time. She is a well-educated redneck from Mississippi, who somehow ended up in the mountains of Nevada with a J.D., a big beautiful Tennessee Walker, and a tough little yellow Lab. She has a husband who doesn't need to be associated with the ridiculous horse predicaments she gets into, so she doesn’t blog about him.

Funder and her horse are currently doing limited distance endurance rides and planning on moving up to 50s soon. West region riders will know her by her mismatched gear, stunningly beautiful paint horse, and banana-yellow 31 year old trailer.

Trail Trial

So my brave Tennessee Walking Horse Dixie and I managed to trailer to our very first event in our OWN horse trailer. We were late, and she couldn't figure out how to back off the trailer, so we were even later getting started - but it was hard to get upset on such a beautiful day!

View this large size!

The event was an ATTA trail trial, put on by my local gaited horse club. It was a huge success with over 60 riders entering!

I got us registered as schooling participants, which meant we wouldn't be scored on any of the obstacles. I just wanted to have fun without worrying about how poorly I was scoring! We would've scored very poorly, too. Just knowing that we weren't being judged made the whole thing fun for me, instead of frustrating.

There were ten terrifying obstacles spread out over miles of sandy trail. I only did nine - the map provided was like a minimalist impression of the area, and by the time I realized I'd only done nine, I was back at camp and hungry. There was no particular order to complete the trials in - we were constantly passing horses, meeting horses coming from other directions, and seeing horses headed off on their own paths. Dixie was totally laid back about the other horses.

The obstacles were very hard for us! Dixie's pretty spooky at the best of times, and we don't have the most dignified and complex communication system. I often end up yelling "Quit acting like a retard and walk over there!" while kicking her in the ribs, or jumping off and leading her throughs something. But she is brave about scary trail monsters, so she tried hard for me and I was very happy with her.

Each of the obstacles had a judge in a chair, a flapping American flag, and the actual obstacle. The flags were pretty scary at first, and the judges always startled her when they stood up. Most of the judges and all of the messengers were from the First Nevada Cavalry, so Dixie got to see some awesome costumes. One older fellow with the biggest handlebar moustaches I've ever seen had an ostrich feather the size of his head stuck in his hat. I immediately decided I must find an ostrich feather (preferably dyed some neon color) to attach to my helmet.

I rode several miles with two of the messengers. They were riding a circuit, picking up results from the judges and heading back in to camp, so the people in camp could get a head start on tallying the scores. I thought that we would've made a hell of a picture - a man and a boy in full Civil War period outfits, riding with a completely mismatched endurance rider on a loud paint.

So, the obstacles. Dixie let me take a bright red rain slicker from a judge, but I didn't dare put it on - she jumped every time it touched her neck. We got our feet wet in the lake, went slowly down a sand dune, and stepped over some really delicate cross-rails. She came completely unglued about a drink cooler with a squeaky lid! And walking up to a mailbox was no problem, but opening it was just too much.

I was very proud of her for how well she handled the cavalry obstacle. The judge handed me a wooden sword and I was supposed to ride past three obstacles and touch each one - one sandbag on a pole on the right, a stick dangling overhead on the left, and another sandbag on the right. We touched both sandbags, but Dixie really didn't like it when the sword crossed over her back and I chickened out about touching the overhanging stick. She was extremely headshy when I bought her, so she was trusting me an awful lot to wave a big stick around on her back!

The last obstacle was fun, too. I had to ride up near a large boulder, step off onto the boulder, fly spray my horse, check the girth, and remount from the boulder. Fortunately, the "fly spray" was just a bottle of water. Dixie sometimes comes unglued about the smell of fly spray, and she already hates the squeak noise of the bottle and the feel of the water. I thought I could handle spraying her with water, but I knew we'd fail at actual fly spray. She shivered while I sprayed her, but stood stoically for me to check the girth and step back on. YAY!

The squeaky drink cooler was the only obstacle I really had to dismount for. She scuttled backwards and sideways about 20 feet when that cooler lid made a noise, and I ended up dismounting and coaxing her up to the cooler. I opened it and she shook but didn't run, and I took out a water bottle and let her smell it. After that, she was very wary but not terrified of the cooler.

After the ride, she ate a little more hay and fell asleep in the sun.

Sleepy Dixie

Such a good pony!

Laura Crum would call a horse that could do that trail trial a broke horse. My horse will probably never be broke, but damn it, she's mine and she suits me. She trusts me and she faces her fears pretty well, so I'll keep her. Just make sure you keep your squeaky drink cooler far away from us, please!

So trail trials, although almost impossible to type (you try it!), are a fun horse event. None of the obstacles were dangerous or particularly unrealistic - no walking through pool noodles or over tarps. Just the kind of things you'd want a well-trained trail horse to calmly accept.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Book cover courtesy

On April 9th, I posted about being asked to write a review for a new book, LOSING CHARLOTTE, by Heather Clay.

I was really excited to get this book and couldn't wait until I had time to sit down and read it.

Sadly, this is not the book for me.  I broke my 50 page rule for this book and I can't finish it.  What is the 50 page rule?  I used to suffer through books, finishing them just because I started them.  It got so that reading some books became a chore, so I invented my own 50 page rule.  If a book doesn't have me completely hooked in 50 pages, I put it down and put it out of my mind.  I figure that as fast as I read, I've not lost much time out of my life if I give a book 50 pages to draw me in.

I've been reading this book for well over two weeks now and am only on page 156.  I can't do it any more.  I'm not a professional reviewer; this is not my job, so I shouldn't feel compelled to force myself to read a book that is completely forgettable.

Now, remember that this is just my opinion.  Someone may pick this book up and love it; I did not.  Technically, the book is very well written, I just find that the characters are, for lack of a better word, icky.  I think that they've got some serious personality disorders and could benefit from some time with a shrink.

There are close to one hundred pages of backstory before the author ever gets to the "real" story.  I know that backstory is important, but if an author feels that they need so many pages of it, maybe they need to rethink their approach.  The book is supposed to be about how Charlotte's sister and widower come together to raise the twins she left behind when she died shortly after childbirth.  Over halfway through the book and we're finally getting to the point where Charlotte's sister is flying out to help with the twins.  I'm not sure how the author is going to explore the relationships that are touted on the book cover with less than half the book remaining.

One other thing...I was asked to review a horse book.  Horses mentioned in a book do not make it a "horse book".  So far, the horses have had nothing to do with the characters (except for the stallion that bit a groom's finger off - more backstory), nor with how the family heals following the death of the favored daughter, Charlotte.

I'm sorry, I just cannot recommend this book to any of my friends, but feel free to pick it up and give it a try yourselves.  You may like it - it just doesn't work for me.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Delivery Day

My parents and I send our horses to winter pasture from mid-November until mid-April or early May. My step-dad’s horse, Ranger, is an adopted BLM mustang, that was wild for the first nine years of his life, and my mom’s horses, Jesse and Washoe, are mustang mixes. My horse, Estes, is a quarter horse/morgan mix, but was raised on a mountain ranch and is used to having the winter “off” to be a horse. We’ve found that the few months that they are turned out on hundreds of acres to roam in the foothills are essential to their mental health. As much as we miss them, they are much healthier all the way around if they get their “horse” time.

The livery horses work hard, six- to ten-hour days, six days a week from May until mid-September and then the majority of them are also turned out to winter pasture on the plains. The seven months that the livery horses are turned out are also essential to their general health. They’ve got time to heal up, socialize, and foal. Each spring round-up finds multiple foals sired the previous winter by one of the free-roaming mustangs. In the past these foals were immediately written off as worthless, but in the last few years the mustang mix has gained more respect as a hardy mountain trail horse.

One of the best parts of each season is the beginning. The anticipation, the itch, for the season to start begins in March for me. As there are more and more sunny days and the snow begins to melt, the horse fever begins.

By April, I’m like a horse-crazy teenage girl. I need the season to start. I need to be on horseback in my favorite place in the world; the mountains I grew up in. I start pulling out all of my gear and getting it ready. My saddle gets cleaned and oiled, the head gear un-packed, worn equipment mended or replaced.

Mid-April finds me counting down the days until the horses are delivered. I start moving my cold-weather gear back up the mountain, water-proof my boots and treat my oilskin duster. And I count down the days…

Delivery day, for me, is one of the most exciting days of the year. Opening the back of the trailer and unloading the first load of horses is like opening a long-anticipated Christmas present. You know what you put on your Christmas list and now you get to see if your wish came true. One of the liveries I’ve worked for bills itself as being the oldest continuously run livery in the area. As such, the Barn Boss gets to request certain horses at the close of the previous season – it is like writing out a Christmas wish list, but we never know exactly which horses we’re going to get until they are delivered. Delivery day is a day of renewing old friendships with the horses and getting them settled in. It’s usually a pretty laid-back day; nothing is a chore, not even feeding.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

High Country Rendezvous and Ride of the Week

RockCrawlinChef made us a beautiful button for the High Country Rendezvous.  I love how he can just whip stuff like this out and have it be perfect.

Be sure to check out the information page (just click on the button in the sidebar or on the tab at the top of the page) and make your reservations soon.  It's only $5.00 to reserve your room at Allenspark Lodge, so call Juanita and Bill soon before we fill up, 303-747-2552.


I'm looking for more guest bloggers for Ride of the Week for May and June.  It doesn't matter if you've guested with me before, you're welcome to guest again or recruit one of your horsey friends to blog instead.  I'm having a great time reading everyone's stories, and judging from the number of hits I get on Wednesdays, a lot of other people are as well.  If you (or one of your friends) are (is) interested in guesting, please shoot me an email at

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ride of the Week: Romeo

 Please welcome Jennifer from How did this happen?  (Hunter in Training).  Not only does she have some great posts, but she's future TV star.  She and her horse are scheduled to appear on Horse Master with Julie Goodnight in May.

I’m Jennifer! I have had enough “train wreck rides” to know what riding-scared is. I have been riding for about 7 or 8 years now, and I’ve gained a lot of courage in the last year and a half. This is a story from last year, with my trail pony Romeo, a 14YO AQHA gelding.


With things finally dried out enough to get to the trailer door, I grabbed a brush, and Romeo's french link bit, and walked to the pasture.

I brushed off the dirt, well, where my bottom would go. Took off his cribbing collar, put the bit on, and hopped on with great apologies. See, I'd had a stressful day at work, and I felt kinda bad even asking him to do anything. The day was bad enough that I worked late, got home about a half hour before dark began. That left no time for a saddle, and no time for a proper grooming. I just needed my hiney-time.

We walked around the house just a minute or three to see what kind of goober mood he'd be in. Acting like he'd been doing this for years without a day off, Romeo rumbled straight down the road, head down, ears alert in every which direction. He went up the trail on the sharp corner of the road, the one where I always worry we'll run into a deer, dog, or 4-wheeler. When we got to the straightaway again, I leaned, squeezed, and prayed.

We trotted for a little bit, along the side of the road, until a neighbor's car approached. They slowed to a crawl, so I did them the courtesy of coming to walk. Walked past them then quickly picked up trot again. When I ran out of "side of the road" to be on, and the gravelly dirt road was our only choice, we went back to walk as we approached the mailbox.

Suddenly, something got Romeo's attention. What's that! Oh My Goodness! It's a big purple & blue MONSTER! A horse-eating monster! No silly man! It's just the neighbor lady exercise walking down the road! She's headed this way, so you better get used to it.

I got us to the mailbox, and she passed us. She said to me, "Well, that sure looks like a fun relaxing way to go get the mail! You're getting fresh air, too! What a good idea!" And, it hit me...

I was on my horse


In barely enough bit to stop him if I'd needed to

On the road

Away from home

Side passing to the mailbox to grab the mail & stuff it in my coat pocket

And I was enjoying myself.

What a far cry from my previously terrified rides, where it was all I could do to walk in a western saddle with a death grip on the horn, praying nothing bad would happen & send my butt catapulting to the gravel road.
Romeo and I alternated walk & trot the whole way back home. He was relaxed, and I let him go all the way to the buckle, trotting along in the dusk. It was approaching dark(er) when we got home. And I didn't care. I've accomplished another goal - walk, trot, bareback, away from home. We're well on our way, now...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Estes' Grandbabies

C'mon two-legged, let's go play!
Please?  Let's play.
We'll even ask really nice.
Wait!  Don't turn away, come play.
See? It's fun to run.  Come play!
Fine.  I'll just amuse myself with the bucket.
Oh!  Are these treats in the bucket?
Hey!  You, two-legged!  Where you goin' with the treat bucket?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Surprise Visit

I spent last night at the lodge and on the way home, saw Mom and Bill's herd down by the river.  I couldn't believe my eyes!  They were just a few feet off the highway by the St. Vrain river.  All I could think of was, "Mom's not going to believe this!"

Mom's always bragging on her blog that all they have to do is call the horses and they come a'runnin'.  Yeah, right.  Time to put that to the test.

I parked the car, picked my way through the fence and gave a holler, "Jesse!  Washoe!  Ranger!"  Ranger's head popped up and he beat feet over to where I was standing, thinking that I had treats.
 Once he realized that I didn't have any treats, he kind of snuffled at me and went back to grazing.

Jesse and Washoe were up on the ridge overlooking the river, but Mom was right, they come when called.  Washoe bolted down the hill, headed right at me.  Though he's a bit lean after the winter, it's still disconcerting to see a full grown horse running straight at you.  I stood my ground and at the last minute shoved his head and neck away just as he was going to knock me over.  He's still kind of gangly and doesn't always have full control of his limbs.

I got him moved away from me and turned back just in time to see Jesse sliding to a stop in front of me, "hey, whatcha doin'?"

Once Mom and Bill's horses were done greeting me, Peanut took over.  He decided that I was his human and started grooming my ponytail.  He briefly allowed Doc to say hi before he flicked an ear and banished him.

Now if I could just get Estes to come a'runnin' when I call.  Guess we'll have to work on that tomorrow.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


When we went out to visit Estes on Monday, we ran into a mystical critter - an honest-to-god Unicorn!
This little guy (the neighbor's horse) had a heck of a run-in with some cockleburrs and got hisself a horn!
And here I thought all Unicorns were white.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Losing Charlotte

Last week I got an email from Bridget Fitzgerald from Knopf Publicity about reviewing a book here on TALES.  Mrs Mom from Oh HorseFeathers! referred her to me (thanks MM).  The book she wants me to review is called LOSING CHARLOTTE, by Heather Clay.

Once I agreed to do the review, she mailed the book out.  It arrived on Tuesday, but because of my crazy work schedule it sat in its package until Thursday morning.  I have to tell you, I'm impressed right off the bat because Bridget sent me a hard copy, which I love.

Unfortunately, I won't have time to sit and read this until this weekend, so look for the review at the beginning of next week.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ride of the Week: The Ones That Make You Earn It

Linda: mom, wife, horse-slave. I have seven horses that keep me busy learning, growing and having great adventures. If I'm going to die, which I imagine I will someday, I prefer it be on horseback, but not until I'm old(er). I write mostly about my journey with Mustang adoption on my blog, Beautiful Mustang, but also the horse-life in general. I spend a lot of time every day contemplating deep truths about the world as I shovel wheel-barrow after wheel-barrow full of manure out of the many stalls they inhabit. I've learned a lot about myself in these quiet moments, and I've developed a strong back and weak nose.

The Ones That Make You Earn It

There are so many different kinds of horses: The Been-There-Done-That, Too-Young-to-Know-Better, Ready-and-Rearing-to-Go, Scared-to-Death, or their opposite, Broke-to-Death, Poorly-Trained, and the type I have and love, The Make-You-Earn-It.

The Make-You-Earn-It type (MYEI) may have had the best and most training possible, but when it comes to you, the new owner, they act like they don’t even know how to take a bridle and bit. They raise their head, long neck stretched about 20 feet, while you struggle on tippy-toes to get a hand on the bridge of their nose. After a great deal of sweating and swearing, you manage to get a side over one ear, but they find a way out—knocking you and the bridle you walked in with on your ****. The problem here is, with MYEIs it’s not about you training them; it’s about them training YOU!

Before you got one, you were overly confident, raised and weaned on the Been-There-Done-Thats, and the Broke-to-Deaths, but come to find out, you didn’t learn squat. You were just playing at “horse” before your MYEI came to town.

At this point in my story, substitute “you” for “me”, and you have a biography of early life with my horse, Cowboy; the horse that went through five owners in eight years, but is now on his last; the horse that lost his mama at one month and had to be bottle-fed by humans who spoiled him. Yes, Cowboy, the horse who taught me how dumb I was.

Have no doubt: I’ve loved every minute of it.

Still, to be honest, there were times I questioned my wisdom in getting an MYEI—like when I was ponying his two-year-old nephew-twin across a stream and the nephew, skidding to a stop with wobbling knees, jumped rather than walked across. Cowboy went ape-wild and twisted me around in knots, tried to bolt up the rocky ravine, making me forget, in all the confusion, I COULD let go of the colt. There I was trying to get his head around and, SNAP, the left rein broke off. (Lesson: check your gear!).

Or, the time we waded through the Snake River in spring, what must have been the thousandth time, the water was pretty high and some covered-up bush tickled him just right under his belly--he scooted out of there and started doing his best to buck me off in the shallow water. (Lesson: it’s the second buck that gets you out of the seat.)

And then all the other things: trying to pass other, slow, horses on narrow, steep trails, the early temper-tantrums when I learned, sometimes all you have available is the toe of your boot, the jumping, rather than walking across of logs and creeks. (Lesson: Sit right in your saddle and be ready for the jump).

Sometimes I envied my friends and wished I had a BTDT type.

But come to find out, I kind of like him. He keeps me on my toes trying to stay one step ahead of him, and through the years and all of our adventures and misadventures, we’ve come to know and trust each other. It’s like marriage: you might have your problems, but you wouldn’t want to trade yours for someone else’s. It’s like well-worn gloves: we fit.

I almost lost Cowboy to a misdiagnosed P3 fracture a few years ago. The day he was scheduled to be put down my husband and I let him go for one last 3 ½ legged run. That horse ran fourteen rocky acres with stops and spins and pirouettes—we were amazed—and scared silly he’d die right then and there.

After we got him caught, and haltered, and safely back to the 12x12 he’d inhabit for the next six months, we canceled his appointment with death—it wasn’t Cowboy’s and my time to be broke up. He proved he had the will to beat the odds, and I was there for him every day of his confinement to keep his head together while his coffin bone healed.

I wouldn’t have asked for one. I certainly wouldn’t have gone looking for one. I wouldn’t recommend one to anyone out horse shopping, but despite all that, I love my MYEI, and wouldn’t trade him for the world.

Linda has a beautiful post at her own blog today.  Jump on over there and take a gander, it's in celebration of Cowboy's life.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Calling All Equi-bloggers!

Meeting all of you through your blogs and comments back and forth has been a blast!  How 'bout meeting in real life?

Thanks to Rachel at Once Upon a Miracle, who helped plant the seed.  Bill and Juanita took the emails about meeting to heart and have organized an equi-blogger weekend at their B&B.  I'm so excited about this I can't hardly stand it.

What we've got organized now:
  • Dates:  August 20 - 22 (3 days, 2 nights)
  • A place to stay:  Allenspark Lodge B&B
  • Ride:  We've mapped out an amazing ride for Saturday (approximately six hours, so get those riding tushies in shape).
Other important stuff:
  • We can't accomodate personal horses, so if you plan on riding you'll have to ride one we arrange for
  • Kids are welcome for this weekend
  • Meals are included in the price, though the horses are not
What we need:
  • People to join us for our little weekend of fun
Click on the HCR tab at the top of the page for more information.