Wild horses along the wagon ruts of the old Santa Fe Trail.

Wild horses along the wagon ruts of the old Santa Fe Trail.
Wild horses graze along the old ruts of the Santa Fe Trail in north east New Mexico.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"My keenest regret was always that I was born too late."

I've just spent 10 fun days celebrating my birthday with visiting family. We filled the days with a variety of excursions including raspberry picking at La Cueva, near Mora and attending a wonderful Jesse Cook concert in Albuquerque. We drove the gorgeous mountain scenery around Rociada and sat listening to musicians on the plaza at Santa Fe on a beautiful fall day with golden trees shimmering around us.... we also enjoyed yummy hor d'oeuvres and cocktails with old friends at the Santacafe (which plays an important role in my book "Into the Shadowlands."). On another occasion we took a side trip to Trinidad, Colorado. Trinidad is also mentioned in my book  because it was a major stop along the Santa Fe Trail. One of Trinidad's famous citizens was an artist called Arthur Roy Mitchell who painted evocative scenes from the old West. Here is me standing in the A R Mitchell museum in Trinidad with just a few of his paintings and an Oxbow yoke used by freighters crossing the trail. Years ago I bought the book "Mitch" by Dean Krakel, a fascinating biography, filled with wonderful pictures (photos and paintings) about the artist. This quote of Mitch's words struck a very deep chord (those who know my books can guess why!):
"This region, this mountain, these pinon dotted hills, are the scene of my oldest memories. Sometimes I think they have come to mean even more to me as the years add up. Maybe what I feel now is nostalgia for these other days and ways in which many of these adventurous, characterful people came back to this spot to make their home, freighters, trappers, traders, men and women of colorful pasts. It was my good fortune, so I consider, to be born in this locality prior to 1890, and to have walked around among them when I was young and they were old. I was on good terms with many of them. They were the people I most admired. The men I liked to listen to were these people of the horseback or buckskin tradition. My keenest regret was always that I was born too late. It was my own good fortune to have moved among them in other ways, often my own leg over a horse, beside them, never dreaming at that time of the day when such a privilege would be gone forever."

If you are ever in Trinidad I highly recommend you visit the A R Mitchell Museum!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"Announcing your plans...."

(Al Swearengen, photo from the TV show "Deadwood.")

Well I should have heeded Al Swearengen's (a character from the TV show "Deadwood,") words of wisdom. "Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh." Just as I was making plans and telling all who would listen that I was going to do a wagon ride/horse ride along the Santa Fe Trail this fall, a non-event riding accident has made me a bit of a cripple for the last 10 days. Needless to say, training is on hold... yet again!

I was riding Pistol out in the fields by where I live and a couple gleeful bucks (with a twist) plopped me on the ground with a very hard thump. I landed on my lower back/pelvis and I have to say I was shocked at just how hard it impacted my 50-year-old body! When I could finally breathe (it knocked the wind out of me,) I found I couldn't get up. My legs worked but I had no faith in my mid-section to support me, let alone walk back across overgrown fields holding onto a horse. Pistol didn't run off, he just stood nearby grazing. 
Thankfully, a lot of yelling got the attention of Joe and his wife Patti... the folks who own the farm where I live... and they rushed over in their truck to get me. Patti led Pistol back to his corral and Joe and their son Clay, dropped me back at my trailer.

I will not give a long winded account of injuries. Mercifully no broken bones (I don't think) but a very bruised back and pelvis and ribs on one side. A recurring hip problem I have dealt with from time to time, went into overdrive and I couldn't walk on that hip for several days, getting around slowly with a crutch. My ribs are still sore and my pelvis feels tender and 'rattly,' no other word for it. I do feel like my 'cage was rattled,' and all is undermined! I can't lift anything heavy or pull too hard (This is 10 days on from the accident.) But, each day there is some improvement although it feels so slow. I am not used to not being robust and active!

So, plans are up in the air but I still want to do a wagon ride... or several... over the next few months. Maybe a series of day rides. I will heed Al Swearengen though.... I will not announce anything from now on.... until the ride/rides are done!

Look out world, I'm in the driver's seat!

Me in the driver's seat!

I love, love, love this. What a way to see the world, clopping along the lanes, behind a sweet little horse like Sissy. Jerome has been accompanying me though as I am still not confident behind the wheel. But, I hope to soon be doing this on a regular basis, without a chaperone,  and both Sissy, Holly and I can see a lot of the Santa Fe Trail (and its landmarks) as a team from my wagon!

Sissy in training.

In mid-August I was lucky enough to have the help of Jerome (the guy who trims my horses' hooves and does fence work for me) and his family to connect Sissy to the training cart for the first time. Like I have said before, Sissy has done all this before, but I haven't. I wanted it all to be safe though and so I asked Jerome etc to act as back-up for me. Jerome and his uncle Tranquelino (Tranque) have a lot of experience driving horses and have there own team of draft horses. It all went well. A great day.... and many thanks to Jerome for bringing in the big guns (aka his family) to help! And, Sissy was a trooper. Tranque said she is a great little horse and he was very impressed.. 

Jerome and friends helping to get Sissy connected to the cart for the first time.

Tranque (driving) and Jerome with Sissy. Both of them have experience with draft horses, which I don't.

Sissy did great. Jerome's son rides out in front just incase Sissy bolts or needs the security of another horse.

Centennial Cowboy Parade.

The horse parade riding up Bridge Street in Las Vegas, New Mexico. August 1st, 2015.

Well, I didn't make it into the parade with Quick Draw and Poco.  About a week or so before the parade, my little dog Holly got trampled by two horses who were fighting in the paddock. The horses were galloping, full speed, along a fence line, one horse biting chunks out of the other as he pressured him into the fence. In the middle of that terrifying scene, I heard my dog scream, although I couldn't see her. The aggressor horse (Pistol) ran the other one, (Quick Draw,) right into the barbed wire fence at the end of the paddock. Mercifully QD mostly jumped it, although he snagged a foot on the way over and fell. He was uninjured though and got up and understandably ran off! I was so intent on catching QD and restoring safety and order to the farm herd of horses that I didn't think of Holly... at first. After I easily caught QD,  I walked him back to the paddock (I removed Pistol and put him in jail for a while!) and that is when I found my wee pup lying motionless in the grass.
      To cut a long story short, she was awake but couldn't move. I thought she had been crushed or had a broken back. I was distraught, she is my best pal and right-hand pup. When I rushed her to the vet he diagnoses a concussion and gave her meds.  She was able to walk again but was slow, quiet and subdued. After several days though, she began to return to her old tireless, effusive self. Phew!

Needless to say, training to be in the Cowboy Reunion, One-Hundreth Anniversary Parade was no longer a priority. I went to watch it though instead. It was great. About 150 horses riding through the old streets of Las Vegas!

My pup Holly, helping me with chores in the rain, much improved from her near death experience.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Cowboy Reunion Parade, Las Vegas, NM!

Quick Draw and his lady love Poco.

Since I made the disappointing decision that Quick Draw (the big 16-hand mustang) may be too lame to join our Santa Fe Trail ride in the fall, I will try to give him his chance to shine in the upcoming Centennial Cowboy Reunion parade in Las Vegas, NM instead! I will also try to bring his girlfriend Poco too, (pictured here with him... they are inseparable!) Both of their stories are featured in my book "Brand Name."....

Quick Draw was originally rounded up in Nevada but Poco's origins are unknown... (I've yet to shave her neck and send a photo of her brand to the BLM so they can give me her details.) Quick Draw was used as a trail horse and for rounding up cattle before I bought him and Poco was an award winning child's barrel racer and trail riding contest winner. She was going to be put up as an item in a yard sale before I bought her in 2012. Both have lameness issues. Quick Draw has ringbone and Poco has arthritis in one knee. The parade is only 2 miles long though, on a good street, and so I think they should both be OK for one day. So, although they will neither participate in the Santa Fe Trail ride, they will have their day in the spotlight! (Fingers crossed.) Check out this wonderful event scheduled for August 2015!:

Meanwhile, I am working with Sissy to get her ready to pull the wagon (or maybe I should, get myself ready) and I am also plugging away at a first draft of the sequel to my book "Into the Shadowlands." The new book will be called "Whispers across the Plane." It will pick up where we left off with Tate and Abby, Julia and Lisa and introduce a few new characters, including Richard Szabo/Book McCready. There is also going to be a wild horse element in the new book, both past and present.  "Into the Shadowlands."

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sissy, Suerte and snake bites.

Sissy, pondering her new home.

I had hoped to train my 16-hand mustang, Quick Draw to be our wagon horse for the ride. He is already a riding horse and I think he would make an excellent and very handsome driving horse but he has an old injury that may prove troublesome. When I got him in 2012, (his story is featured in my book "Brand Name,") I soon discovered he was suffering from ringbone in one hind leg. When the vet X-rayed him, he determined that the ringbone was quite advanced and had been there a long time. Since Quick Draw was only 8-years-old at the time, it meant that he could well have received some kind of injury as a baby which had led to the development of the ringbone. I surmised that perhaps he had been injured during the roundup that had first captured him. Quick Draw was captured by the BLM as a yearling in Nevada, and since they use helicopters for their gathers, chasing horses over miles of rough country, an injury wasn't such a far-fetched idea.
    Quick Draw has a mild limp but he can still manage a trail ride if it isn't in rough country and perhaps if he has a dose of butte to dull any discomfort. Although I had thought that he could pull the wagon along gentle roads, I have since decided that to ask him to be a part of a ride that could take 10 days or even 2 weeks might be asking too much. I would hate to get him all trained up and then find he was too lame to participate. The training alone could put too much usage on that leg. It is sad and disappointing. Quick Draw is a beautiful, big and powerful horse but he is happy with his harem of female admirers (horses and humans!) and lives with plenty of freedom in the fields at the farm.
    Once I made the decision not to train Quick Draw for the wagon, I pondered who else might work. On a whim I looked online for wagon horses for sale. Of course a mustang was my first choice but to find one nearby would be a remote possibility. I really didn't want to drive across 2 states again to pick up a horse I didn't know anything about, (except if it was to adopt a mustang out of a pen.) I wanted a horse that was fully trained and bomb proof and although there were many advertised as such, none were close by. It was just a whim though. I had 37 horses, I needed another one like I needed a hole in my head!
       There was one mare advertised in Edgewood, NM. Not too far from me and the same town where I had picked up my wee mustang Poco 3 years before.  Poco had been for sale online and was just about to be put up as an item in her owner's yard sale if I hadn't bought her first. (Her story is also told in my book "Brand Name.")  This new horse, "Sis" was described as a Haflinger who had some driving experience, pulling carts and sleds and hauling firewood out of the forest at her original home in Wyoming. She had gone through 2 owners since and the newest owner had bought her for her daughter as recently as February of this year.  But Sis was proving unsuitable. She was a bit spooky and unpredictable and not the best choice for an 11-year-old just learning to ride. I made an enquiry but soon was sidetracked when one of my mustangs, Suerte, got bitten by a rattlesnake.
      I dropped any idea of taking on a new horse while Suerte struggled with his snake bite. He is an extremely spooky mustang and goes nuts when cornered and so I couldn't help him because I didn't want to stress him out when he could barely breathe (he had a severely swollen face.) I had almost lost him in a chute when I first adopted him from the BLM (that whole story is also told in "Brand Name,") and so I had a real fear of putting him in a chute again. So followed several days of monitoring him and helplessly watching him cope with not being able to eat or drink. Mercifully he recovered without intervention, (it took about 2-3 days,) but it was touch and go. I swore then to buy and master a dart gun so that I could administer drugs to horses that could not be safely cornered and doctored.... (the dart gun arrived last week!)
     As Suerte improved I told myself never to tempt fate again. I would not be looking for any new horses, I would focus on the ones I already had. Just then though the lady who owned Sis, (her name is Jane,) contacted me and asked me if she could just 'donate' Sis to me. She was overwhelmed with developments in her own life and wanted Sis to have a good home. Selling her was not a priority. How could I say no? It felt meant-to-be. 
    Without making a story endless, Sis came to live with me a week later. Jane even delivered her to my door although I went down to Edgewood to help her load. Sis (I now call her Sissy) is 9-years-old. She is a pretty little mare but definitely not a beginner horse. So much for bomb proof! She does jump and spook easily but that seems to settle with training and interaction. She was hard to catch when she first came but now stands and waits for the halter. All this in just 2 weeks. (She came here 2 weeks ago today.) I have no experience with driving wagons but she does, although I am sure it has been a while. I am starting from scratch, if not for her benefit but for mine. It also gives us both a chance to learn about each other. I do feel Sissy is a 'one-person-horse' and you have to earn her trust.
      There was something sad about Sissy. She had gone through 2 owners in less than a year and she seemed dejected. She does have a clubbed foot in one of her hind legs and there is a whispery whistle in her breathing when she breathes hard. That breathing thing may not be a good sign but if she doesn't have to run or work at full throttle, I think she is OK. Jane had basically been ripped off when she bought Sissy. Not only is she not a child's beginner horse (as she had been advertised) she also has the above mentioned medical issues. Jane wanted to be rid of Sissy so badly (and the board she was paying at a fancy barn) that she had even offered her to other horse rescues. It made me sad to think of Sissy being in such a situation and so it felt good to take her in even though she isn't a mustang. I truly feel that  I came along at just the right time. I hope we will both be a good fit for one another. 
      (Knock wood,) Suerte has made a full recovery too. I hope all of my horses will avoid any more rattlesnakes but if it happens again, to a horse that goes ballistic when cornered, I will learn to be proficient enough with my new dart gun to intervene safely!

Suerte grazing among the wildflowers after his ordeal
with the rattlesnake bite.