Monday, August 20, 2018

Today's West: Forest Fires, Destruction, Hazardous Air, and the Lost Month of August

Every year
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
 -Mary Oliver, "In Blackwater Woods" 

I'm getting better at letting things go.  Love hard while they're alive, because regret is the thing that makes letting go so much more difficult.

Yesterday, I put on my headphones and listened to Rainer Maria Rilke's letters about grief and loss, read by Roseanne Cash, The Dark Interval, as I worked around the barn---through smoke.

Smoke is like fog (except worse) in the way it blurs the edges of what we can see with what is in the far distance--so that whatever barriers exists between them, seem merged.  And, that is what I took from Rilke's letters.  Life and death are one, and we need to fully claim both or, at least, be cognizant that we inhabit both.

We have to be the masters of our lives--and our deaths--almost like the martyrs were theirs.  We should delve into our grief and see what it has to teach us about living.  Living fully. Remembering fully. Embracing it all.

Which leads me to Beautiful Girl.  I'm not done with her yet, for a couple reasons.  One, she loves Liberty work, and charges toward me in pasture every day to do some.  She gets it.  She gets the  hand gestures, the treat position, all of it.  And she loves it.  Two, I've found a woman who trains horses in a very gentle way, and she's right next door.  I've been conversing with  her and told her everything about BG, and she is going to come over to meet her.  I'm taking it one day at a time, but there is hope.  I'm also going to have her teeth floated.  I'm wondering if there wasn't something wrong in her mouth that day she bucked me off.  I've often floated teeth when things aren't going well and, as of yet, it has never helped.  But yesterday, I saw a string of drool from Bee's mouth, which made me highly suspect something going on in there.  We shall see.

I couldn't fall asleep the other night, so I laid in bed and looked at Instagram.  There were all these pictures of really beautiful pieces of people's lives.  It was inspiring. Yesterday, we had all this smoke, which we still have today, and I remembered those pictures.  So, I started snapping shots--trying to capture something beautiful out of something so tragic.

Yes, the fires we are experiencing are tragic. Yes.  Yes.  Yes.

I grew up in the Northwest, during the era when this area was built on lumber and logging.  And, we didn't have fires like this. We always had hot, dry Augusts with no rain, and we always had fires here and there--but not like this.

In our area, in particular, the logging industry suffered when the Spotted Owl was moving toward extinction.  Once the logging industry was all but killed, the Spotted Owl numbers continued a precipitous decline because, it turned out, of the Barred Owl.  Here's an article from the Smithsonian you can read, if you're interested.

This is all to say, it's time to find a happy medium between the clear-cutting of old, and the wise and judicious forest husbandry needed today.

We have overcrowded and diseased trees in our forests, and it's time to manage them better.  In my local park, we have the same problem, but no money to do the work ourselves.  I'm curious why we just don't mark the trees that need removal, then let the city's residents have a day or two to come into the park and cut down the trees--no charge--for firewood.  Instead, we leave them alone, and it's a tinder box.  We've had fire after fire in that little park.  What good does it do anyone when whole stands of trees are wiped out?

This is definitely a western problem.  The smoke you see in this picture is coming from the many fires in Washington state, California, and Canada.  We'll never be able to stop all the fires, but we can stop some faster, with better management.

Today's air quality index is 399--HAZARDOUS.  It's not good for horse OR human.  Think of all the carbon dioxide in this smokey smog.  It's worse than a city full of gas-guzzling cars and trucks, with no emissions systems.  And it's not going away anytime soon.

It breaks my heart.

In the West of today, we can all just put a big, fat X through August and invest in gas masks.  The outside animals, however, have to suffer.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Riding Horses On the Road

Have you ever gotten lost on a trail ride?  Well, we did.  I was riding with a group of seven friends, trying out a new section of our massive 14,000 acre park, and we ended up going way out of the park and into a housing area far, far away.

When we finally realized we were, indeed, lost, we were left with two possibilities--1/ Backtracking 2.5 hours, or 2/ Riding the paved roads for an hour.

Dilemma: Would our horses, who had never been on roads with cars, trucks, motorcycles, and such--do well?

Or, would we die?

The red and blue lines on the map are the route we took.  The blue line is the paved road toward the end of the trip.  All told, we were out for 4 1/2  hours.  See where the white line is that heads straight up to the trail head?  That is where we should have gone.

Anyway, the horses did AWESOME!!  I was riding Leah.  She didn't spook at one car or truck or truck pulling trailers.  There were also dogs, horses, people, and bikes.

Being on the road reminded me of my teenage years, when I didn't have my own truck and trailer, and the only way to get to my friend's homes to ride with them was to take the busy roads.  I was so desperate to ride with someone, I didn't mind.  On our day of getting lost, I was so desperate to get back to the trailhead, I didn't mind then either. Hey, horses are, indeed, transportation--and they have every right to be on the road--just like motorized vehicles.

One thing I can say about the trip--it was an adventure!  And, it really deepened my trust in Leah.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Two Blogs Intersect With a Tumbleweed

Tumbleweed & Me & Rosalee.

"Cowgirls need a little love sometime."
Tumbleweed, won't  you hurry please
And bring your love on home."

I've followed Shirley's horses for years over at her blog Ride a Good Horse.  There was one baby, Rio, that I just fell in love with, but I wasn't looking for a horse at that time.  Then, things changed.  Cowboy is 23 and his days as a trail horse are numbered.  It was time to think about the future.

I decided to breed Cowgirl, which would put me at about a four year countdown--which would make Cowboy 27 and Leah at about 17.  That would be a good time to introduce what may be my final horse into the lineup.  But then, I chickened out of breeding Cowgirl.  I didn't feel up to the task.

It was time to meet Tumbleweed.

I had been really busy riding horses and away from my blog for two weeks, so Shirley stopped by to ask if I was okay.  Instantly I was like--OH MY GOSH, I wonder if Rosalee's baby was born?!?  I ran to her blog, and VOILA--there was little Tumbleweed, only three days old.  He was so cute, I figured she must be keeping him or he was already sold, but no--as luck would have it--he was available.

And the rest was fate.  Turns out, Shirley and I live pretty dang close to one another--separated only by the border of the USA and Canada. It was time for a ROAD TRIP to meet her--and Beamer (Shirley's heart horse, so I knew he was golden)--and Rosalee (who I had been admiring since Shirley first thought of getting her!)--and Tumbleweed (the cutest baby ever).

I'll tell the rest of the story through photos--some mine, some Shirley's.

I didn't want to scare him or be disrespectful to his mama, Rosalee, who I knew would be wanting to protect the baby she worked so hard to bring into the world.  So, I tried to be as gentle as I could with him.

An ear on me, and an ear on mama.

But Rosalee warmed right up and decided we were okay.

So, we soon progressed to some serious butt scratching.

To tell you the truth, my decision had mostly been made before I ever went up there.  I knew all I needed to know about Beamer and Rosalee--and that Shirley was a good honest person and excellent horsewoman.  I'd watched her with horses and I'd seen how her other babies excelled in their new homes.  Meeting Tumbleweed only confirmed in my heart what I already knew. 

I see a few more trips to Canada in my future!  Shirley has invited me to come up whenever I can and work with Tumbleweed on some basic training.  I will certainly take her up on that.

It was surreal in a way to meet Shirley, after all this time on the internet together.  But what you see on her blog is what she really is.  Her horses are just how she describes them, too.  For me, it was seamless.

Now, I have a little work to do to prepare to get our baby from Canada to the USA!  And Shirley has a little work to do to keep our baby safe from himself.  I certainly have the easier job!  But I think Tumbleweed is smart enough to do pretty well.  He learns fast!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Trail Rides, And What I've Learned

There comes a time, you have to put your preparation to work for you, and that time has come for Leah and me.  I haven't been writing much because we've been on the trail a lot.  Instead of practice bridges, we have real bridges.  Instead of practice polls, we have real logs to cross.  Instead of puddles, we have rivers, creeks, and lakes.

We've been exposed to new horses, new trails, and new challenges. Each ride has been a learning experience.  On this one, we practiced bridges, and things that go over bridges--like runners, walkers, and fast bikes.

The river is high, so we practiced wading out into it.  With caution!  A couple weeks after this picture was taken I had a friend who got a horse stuck in the same area.  She said it was like quick sand.

I inspected it pretty well as we waded into it, and I didn't expect her to stand in it because I could see her feet sinking when we stood still too long.

We were in and out.

The balsamroot was abundant on that trip.  Now, there are even more wildflowers, so I will start packing a plant and flower guide in my saddle bags.  The one I use is, "Plants of the Southern Interior British Columbia and the Inland Northwest" by Parish, Couple, Lloyd.

Mother's Day brought a mother/daughter/son-in-law/husband ride.  Be still my heart!!  

On this ride I learned to take my time and help everyone get their fresh horses thinking before we took off.  I planned for a long, long ride because two of the horses hadn't been on the trail yet this year.  We started at the round pen and progressed from there.  It made for a wonderful ride!

I also learned that my daughter makes the best trail partner and the best friend.

And my husband isn't shabby either!!!  I love this man.

The cowboy boot was the theme of my Mother's Day.  This one was from my daughter.

And this one, for the outside, was from my husband.  They didn't coordinate.

Lots of rides with friends.  We're just taking it easy and getting our horses in shape.  Different day, same trail, but this particular route is a really good one for exposing horses to many kinds of stimulus-dogs, people, bikes, water, trees, cliffs, logs, etc.

It's always nice to practice tying to the tree afterward while the girls have lunch.

This was the most recent ride from Wednesday.  It was wet and buggy.  What I learned is that I need to pack a lightweight, trail fly mask, fly spray, OFF (for me), and a roll-on fly spray for my horse's face.  My trail partner had taken a roll-on deodorant bottle and filled it with fly spray.  

Here is what I pack in my saddle bags:

phone (often on my hip)
flower/plant book
fly spray
fly mask
lightweight gloves

We had a tough creek crossing on this ride, but I learned it's okay to jump off and get your boots wet!  I'm trying to avoid a fight on the trail.  And by that, I mean I'm trying to get better at figuring out when Leah's no means NO.  I don't want her to feel like she has to notch it up a peg to get her point across.  She looked as if she was going to flip around and run, so I dismounted and played with her in the creek for a while. She has no problem doing anything if she sees me doing it first.  Silly girl.

It has been raining a lot, but this is my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

No pictures, but I have been taking lessons with Bee.  One was at the park--worked her, then rode  her in the roundpen, then drove her over the trail obstacle course.  The second was here at home, where we did pretty much the same.

Also, I've decided NOT to breed Cowgirl.  I just don't feel like taking the risk with her, and I don't feel qualified.  The next horse I get is going to be, most likely, my last, and I prefer to meet it on the ground, rather than taking a chance and rolling the dice.

I hate leaving Cowboy behind, but his head shaking is at its worst in spring, so I've been letting him rest a bit.  I do hope to ride him more as spring progresses and he gets better.  That's looking to be real soon.

Oh, and at DAY 93, I had reached my half way point to my goal.  That is good news for me because we aren't half way through the year yet!  We have a month and almost a half left--which means I should be ahead of schedule.  Woot!  Woot!

I hope you're all doing well and getting in lots of time with your herd!  Congratulations to Shirley on her new little Tumbleweed!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Leah Crosses a Deep Creek

Well, Leah continues to be a rock star trail horse, making me further scratch my head and ask, wha-wha-why did we have that setback?!?  Last Thursday we explored a new trail with some friends.

This is the creek she had to cross both coming and going.  No problem!

The only issue I can really say we have right now are occasional refusals when she sees a scary path, to somewhere she’d rather not go, and going down hills slower. Right now she just barrels down hills, and I don’t feel comfortable with that. Something to work on.

Here are some more photos of the horses from today.

Beautiful looking all mustangy.

The horses are back on pasture for part of the day.

Little Joe is back with the girls.