Thursday, June 28, 2012

 Journey to Black Mountain

John had to make a trip to Boise to pick up his company car, and I got to thinking.  I could go along and realize my dream of seeing where my Bella and Scout came from.  Her herd management area is Black Mountain, which is just an hour from the hotel we'd be staying in.

It only took me a few minutes to pack, I was so excited!  We drove down on Tuesday.  It was afternoon by the time we got there and Katia wanted to check out the downtown area (she really wants to be a city girl) so we did that.  Downtown Boise is kinda cool.  I had more fun than I thought I would. 

I almost forgot the best part of that little side trip!  I looked up saddle shops in the area and stopped by Flynn's Saddle Shop and boy was it worth the stop.  If' I'd had any money to spend, it would have been gone right there.  They had McCall saddles, lots of custom saddles, Crates saddles, and even a JJ Maxwell saddle.  I was really glad to get a chance to sit in that one, because it's one of the ones I've thought I'd like over the years, and it is not comfortable.  I looked on their site and I can't find this particular saddle, maybe they don't make them anymore.  Hopefully they have a different shape of seat now too.  Anyway, I got to see a 5 Star pad in person, and lots of other high-quality name brand gear that nobody carries locally.  They had lots of English stuff too, but I didn't look at it.

We had dinner at the Texas Steakhouse and it was amazing.  I ate too much.  Then we went swimming.  I know they say you're not supposed to do that but I lived through it just fine.  :)

The next morning we got up super early and headed out to Murphy, Idaho.  There was a cute little Owyhee county history museum there but it wasn't open yet.  (Did you know Owyhee is derived from Hawai'i?  The area is named after a some Hawaiians that helped explore the area 'way back when.)

 We drove into the BLM land, scanning the area with great determination.  Well, at least I was greatly determined.  I think Katia was less than impressed.  We saw some jackrabbits right off the bat.  And we saw...  POOP!  Horse poop!  But no sign of horses.  Well, one sign about horses:

I think this next photo may be Black Mountain itself, but I don't really know.  It's farther away than it looks.  I hate the way photos sometimes have no depth.

We saw lots of neat rocks.  Some of the rocks I thought might be horses, but upon closer inspection, they were rocks.

I thought this corral area with its picturesque background was pretty neat.  But still no horses to be seen.

And lest you think the whole area had neat rocks to look at, this is really what it looked like.  I just took more pictures of rocks than I did of the barren hillsides.

Oooh!  Excitement!  A sign!  About wild horses!  Where my wild horse came from!  But still no wild horses.  Sigh.

We drove a long time down a road to Black Mountain, which was intended for 4x4 vehicles, which was why we drove for a long time, even though we only went about three miles.  I decided to turn back when the road got too scary.  Didn't want to tear out the underneath of the car when it was just us two girls out there.

This picture below is an illustration of why Bella and Scout are so fat.  This is what they were genetically intended to eat.  There was nothing else out there.  A few trees here and there in the gullies, but not one bit of long, lush, green grass.

On our way back to the area where we saw poop, I saw what I thought was new poop.  Got out to check, and sure enough it was still damp.

 After I got my camera I realized there ought to be hoof prints if there was poop.  I love hoof prints of healthy hooves, and these would be my first real wild horse hoof prints.  So exciting!

 Sure enough:

 I saw another, some hundred feet away, and slowly it dawned on me that they were facing in the same direction. 

 "Looks like they were headed-"

And I looked up, and there they were, spread out right in front of me like a miracle.

The surprise of it, seeing them there behind where we'd been looking, made the moment so much more potent.

I wish I had a better camera with a big zoom lens, but I don't.

If you look real closely you can see a baby nursing though:

 I saw two babies in this group of 25 or so horses.  The mares who were over 2 years old were given PZP contraception in 2010.  I wonder if it's still effective now?  Of course there could easily have been babies hiding in the brush, but I like to think the PZP is doing its job.

Seeing these horses so peacefully living in obviously close family groups, in an area that I think is absolutely ideal for horses, really made me wish Bella could still be out there.  She'd be perfect there.  It would be right. Her mothering, watchful, quiet self was made for that life.

Too soon it was over.  There was no trail or road that would give us any better view, and I wasn't about to go through the brush in rattlesnake country.  Besides, it would have been selfish to try to get closer and possibly disturb them.  They weren't very bothered by us because they see plenty of people, but a few of them did watch us closely. 

From Murphy we headed straight home.  A long drive, but a beautiful one.

Here's what the BLM has to say about the wild horses of Owyhee county, Idaho:

"The Black Mountain Herd Management Area (HMA) comprises 50,611 acres, and the Hardtrigger HMA includes 66,063 total acres of public and other land. The HMAs are adjacent to each other in Owyhee County, south of the Snake River between Murphy and US Highway 95 to the west.  Both HMAs are located within rolling hills and sagebrush steppe. The horses share the HMA with other wildlife, including deer, antelope and upland game birds.  
Of all the HMAs the BLM adminsters, those in the Owyhee Field Office produce some of the finest wild horses. They are known to be of excellent size with good conformation and color.  This is the result of the influence of released Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse studs to the herds periodically up to 1978.  It is also suspected that horses bred for Cavalry Re-Mounts may have also influenced these herds.  In addition to the typical colors of bay, brown, and black, the wild horses include many chestnuts, pintos, paints, roans, grays, duns, grullos, and a few Appaloosas."

Monday, June 25, 2012

 The above picture was taken by my sister on our ride last week.  
Love that view.  Love that horse.  :)

Yesterday I got Scout out in the morning and we did some riding.  His trot is so terrible.  I think because he's all tense and inexperienced and is more sticky than goey.  He wore me out.   Then I made a phone call while I sat on his back and he just stood there like a gentleman for the longest time.  No pawing or wiggling. 

So I got this idea that John and I ought to go on a trail ride.  It was great!   Scout did wonderfully, but Tonka was totally weird.  I haven't ridden that spooky horse in a long time.  At one point I felt like I was riding a powder keg and he might blow apart in all directions at any moment.  He was terrified that something was going to come out of the bushes and eat him.  All I had to do was stop and let him eat grass for a few minutes and decompress.  Then we continued on but luckily were almost out of that area so his fear didn't build up as bad again.

See, here he's still looking for boogeymen. 
He only actually spooked once though.  Don't even know what it was that set him off.  Might have been a culvert.  I guess he prefers the security of a bigger group of horses, and maybe he's not wanting to be the lead horse.  He relaxed a lot when Scout took the lead.

Anyway, back to how well Scout did.  He was nervous at first but never spooky.  He looked at a burnt log funny once.  Other than that he was very responsive to cues and just plugged right along.  He led for a while, with no fear or worry.  What a good boy.  I wish we had opportunities to do this more often.  Then I'd still get to ride my horse and Scout would get to go out too.  And of course I like spending time with my husband.  :)

This morning I think I'll ride Bella.  She's been such a snob lately.  So disdainful.  Anything that isn't grazing is so beneath her.  She's still a good girl but she makes her opinions known in little ways.  I'm positive she won't be excited about riding, but she's got to do it anyway.  Maybe I'll take her some carrots to make the experience a little sweeter.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

 Tonka and I went on another great trail ride yesterday.  We got there before everyone else and got tired of waiting so we went up the trail a little ways all by ourselves.  He wasn't as confident as he is in a group but he did pretty well.  I stopped and took a picture of the flower above so I could identify it later.  I thought it looked like honeysuckle and it turns out that it is honeysuckle.

When we heard the rest of the gang pull up we went back and joined the group.  We did a lot of riding on tiny game trails, which was fun.  We found this elk wallow along the way.
 While one of the riders adjusted her stirrups we stood and waited and Tonka started eating the dirt.  He did this again later in an area that was heavily used by wildlife.  I'm thinking these spots must have natural mineral deposits.  I'd kind of like to try to find it again and see if he eats the dirt again, maybe bring some home.

I like this picture of Amy and Moose going to see if there's a trail over yonder.

 What a view!

We stopped at two watering holes along the way and both times one of the horses blissfully rolled in the water.  He was so funny!  Look how he's up to his eyeballs getting a drink:

My sister was dying laughing.  Well, we were all laughing, but Amy just about wet herself.  Tonka didn't know what to think.  I didn't let him lay down in there.  He thought about it though.  To be honest I'm surprised he wanted to get in.  The mud at the edge was just the kind he doesn't like but he cheerfully plowed right in. I guess he really needed to cool off.

That's my good boy.

I can't wait to go again.  I'd like to get John to go with me and we could take the two green horses out there.  Not both at the same time of course.  This area is full of super easy trails and Bella will love the watering holes.  I think Scout will too, but he's kind of on and off when it comes to water.  It's also really close to my friend's house, so I bet I can talk her into going with me too.  Here's the map of our ride.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I've been having fun catching the horses 4 times a day, to take them to and from pasture.  At first Bella was playing hard to get, but we've worked it out.  Last night Tonka also decided he didn't want to be taken off the nice lush grass, and the two of them ran around a lot.  Surprisingly, it was Bella who decided to stop and be caught first.  Probably from all the work we've been doing lately.  Tonka was easy after the other two had been moved, because he wanted to be with his buddies.  I can't blame them for not wanting to come in since I'm taking them from a lovely green pasture to a small, dusty dry lot.
Tuesday night we went on a nice trail ride.  I took Tonka.  I really love that horse.  The ride was pretty easy and he'd been hiking all weekend, so I didn't worry too much about over-stressing his muscles.  He did fine!
When we were done I didn't like the way the saddle had dug in behind his shoulders, so yesterday I tried my favorite saddle on him, with the Ricotti pad to take up any extra width he didn't need, and it went well.  He didn't take off bucking, so I guess that's good.  :)  I only rode him for a few minutes because I was hoping for another evening trail ride, but that didn't happen.  It's supposed to be super hot today so I'm going to go out pretty soon and ride him in that saddle again.  I'll be tickled if he likes it.  I love that saddle.  I've removed the rear cinch on both saddles, and that seems to have helped with his panicked bucking.  The rear cinch tends to be a problem with EPSM horses.  A lot like a "cold backed" horse (which is also a sign of EPSM) they just can't tolerate that feeling when first saddled up.  

I better get my butt in gear if I'm going to ride.  I want to keep his riding up so we can go on a longer ride this weekend.  We'll see how that goes. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

 I've been looking forward to going to Horse Camp for weeks, and finally the weather cooperated.

Now that we're down to three horses, I can take the whole household with me in one trip.  Here are my three redheads settling in.

That evening we took the horses for a hike, then the next day we did it again, but saddled them in case we wanted to ride.

I look behind me:

I look ahead of me:

My good horse gave each of the kids a ride when they got footsore.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well he did with Katia.  They were a good team.

 I rode all three horses at different times.  John forgot his riding boots and didn't want to risk riding in tennis shoes on a green colt.  While I was riding Scout lost his cool and got all squiggly and nervous when he saw numerous puddles in one spot.  But other than that he was a good boy.  Bella did GREAT and I think she's ready for a real ride, one that's not mostly a hike.  She still has a long ways to go but I was pleasantly surprised by how relaxed she was.

They slept tied up for two nights, and they stood tied a lot during the day too.  It was a difficult learning experience for Scout.  He actually managed to walk under the rail at one point, which I didn't think that was possible.  He danced and fidgeted a lot, but by the end of the trip he was standing like an old bored pro.  I was a little worried about Bella because she can't lock her knees to sleep standing up, but she didn't try to lay down as far as I could tell, and she didn't seem overly tired. 

You should have seen them when we left this morning.  They all loaded right up, eager to be getting out of there.  When we got home they had a good roll and then ran and snorted and shook off all the stress of the camping trip.  Now they're all laying in the pasture having a nice nap.

We saw two elk with a baby, a tiny baby bunny right at our feet, a gigantor caterpillar, a silly grouse, and lots of butterflies.  The horses don't like butterflies, but the butterflies like them.

Tonka's little friend:
 Now I'm exhausted.  Didn't sleep well last night in the rain.  And I just don't know if horse camping with the whole family is really a good idea.  It probably didn't help that the horses weren't very settled (I think they needed much longer rides to wear them out for all the standing around).   And we had too many riders and not enough grooms, if you know what I mean.  It wore me out more than it was really worth, and I think the kids would enjoy a less horse-centric camping trip.  So I probably won't be doing this again any time soon.  But it was good training for the green horses!  Lots of firsts for both of them.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

 More hiking with beautiful Bella.  She thinks the whole thing pretty much stinks.  But she did really enjoy hanging out in the creek.  She loves water, especially if there's grass in it.
 I decided she was so happy here that I could mount up and cross the creek.  There's Katia back at the other side. 
 Then I got down and Bella had a nice meal while Liam played in the water. 
On the way back I got on and rode a few times.  The kids didn't have good trail horse etiquette.  One left me totally behind and the other kept stopping right in front of me.  Then he ran off.  So we were all alone and she didn't like that a lot.  She didn't do anything dumb, she just hurried to catch up, and I was wanting her to slow down going down hill.  Rather than argue about it I just walked the rest of the way.  I'd say it was a pretty darn good trail ride even though there wasn't a lot of riding.  She wasn't as relaxed today, but we were in a place where she's been pretty tense before so I wasn't surprised.  Tonka doesn't like it much either.  I think it must smell more wild down there by the water or something.  And there are always crows cawing. 

I better quit playing and get some work done.  I think we might be able to do some fun stuff this weekend but I want to get the house in order first, in hopes that someone will come look at it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Suddenly I have too much to talk about and too many pictures.  Which isn't really something to complain about, right?  It's nice to have some good stuff to talk about.

 I'll start with today.  The kids and I went with Bella out to an easy trailhead in the mountains not far from here.  We ran into a traffic jam on the way there:

When we got there Bella was a little concerned about the wild children running around by the creek:

 And she kept a close eye on the crazy dogs too:

Trying to set up for a family portrait:

Look! Even Bella is smiling!

I love her eye in this picture.  She looks like some otherworld creature.

She did so very well with our hike that when we got back to the trailhead I saddled up and we rode.  A teeny-tiny bit anyway.

Isn't she just beautiful?

Little bit of ground work.  She wasn't really with me mentally, which is why we didn't ride much.

Baby Blue, who isn't such a baby anymore, but he sure looks funny here!

Another very short ride at the trailhead.  I wasn't wearing riding boots, I know.  I hadn't thought it would go well enough to ride. 

Yesterday Scout's big trail ride at Gold Hill went really well.  We had some issues with fear of puddles but he got better as we went along.  I was proud of him for being so steady.  He only spooked once, and it was slight.  Dang log snuck up on him out of nowhere.  Don't know why that log was any different from the hundreds of other logs we saw.

Big fat fella makes my big saddle look small:

Going places:

Beautiful places:

Getting some love:

Old log cabin from the gold rush days:

Love it when the sun shines down on my horse's ears:

Tired guy:

Lakhota taking a break:

Walking back on the road:

We had to cut our ride short and take the logging road back rather than finish the loop on the trail as planned.  It was just taking too long and we had kids to get back to.  Maybe I'll get to do the whole loop one of these days.  As it was we did 8.2 miles in about 4 hours (I walked about half that to spare Scout's fat baby self and his tender feet on the gravel road).

Here's the Everytrail map of our trip.  This started out as Palouse Trail System # 763 and turned left at Palouse Trail # 215.  The Forest Service trail number was 3289. If you want to do a lot of riding in this area I highly recommend buying the Forest Service map.  This trail was very well maintained with just some areas where the branches are in your face, but it was quite slick and somewhat steep, with a few places where the trail is on an edge that drops off.  There are puddles (terrifying puddles - ask Scout) and two water crossings.  Not a terrible trail at all but a little bit challenging.  I wouldn't want to do it on a horse that wasn't sure-footed or didn't listen well, and I wouldn't take someone on it if they didn't really enjoy trail riding.  If we had gone back down on the slick trail rather than the road I think it would have been pretty challenging and possibly dangerous on a tired colt.  I might wait for a dry spell to go back and try the whole loop.