Made It Home in 1 Piece. Almost.

First, please let me  start by saying – April 20, 2010 was probably one of the most hellish days I have ever had, traveling with horses. Okay, now that I’ve got that off my chest, I’ll give you a hint as to why it was so brutal…

Does this picture trigger a little déjà vu...?

Clay and I, along with our 8 horses in tow, really racked up the miles since Sunday, April 18. In only a few days, we had traveled from Katy, TX, to Cave Creek, AZ, and by the wee hours of Tuesday morning (April 20), we had made it as far north as Kayenta, AZ. An interesting point to note about Kayenta is, while the state of Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time, this place apparently does.

Clay had driven for so long but fatigue started to overtake him around 4 am, April 20, so it was time to pull over. We steered the rig into a lighted parking lot and my husband promptly got some shut eye in the living quarters of the trailer. I on the other hand, didn’t sleep a wink – due to some sketchy activity in the parking lot. Some guy even took a picture of our rig… Perhaps he was working on a blog of his own, but it made me kinda nervous.

Then after only a few hours of sleep, Clay woke abruptly to the shrill whinny of stud chatter. One of the Misters in the trailer got a little excited about a mare peeing…

So we decided to get up and feed the horses their breakfast. And in the 15 minutes it took us to do that, we were approached by a peddler who wanted to sell us a digital watch. “No THANK-YOU!!” was my over-tired response.

He backed away quickly.

<Yeah! Hear me roar! I am tired. And grouchy. And I haven’t been able to brush my teeth…>

Just outside of Kayenta, AZ.

We hit the road again at 7:15 am. And the countryside here was absolutely stunning!! It was a beautiful morning driving through the redlands.

The landscapes are absolutely phenomenal here.

But what wasn’t so cool were the 8-10 percent grades we had to take the 8-horse, fully-loaded rig down… My finger nails were etched into the dashboard.

I used to think 6-8% grades were bad...

After that, we entered into Utah and hit the I70. We decided against going through the 4 corners (a region of the United States where the boundaries of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah meet at one point), so there would be no way we could even get close to New Mexico – considering the restrictions Canada has imposed on horses moving from there, due to piroplasmosis.

By the time we reached the Port of Entry for Colorado, we realized our back axle was leaking grease. So, at Grand Junction, CO, we had to drive around to see if someone could help us replace the hubcap and repack the axle with grease. With 8 horses in tow, we tried to find a shop. Eventually we found 2 – but both absolutely refused to help us. One place wouldn’t even give us a phone number to someone they recommended – even though they saw we had 8 horses on board!

Desperate, Clay and I called into our account with Equi-Pass and the kind lady on the other end named Barbara directed us to Pine Country Trailer Sales in Grand Junction, CO.

This shop is full of kind people and they offer amazing service!

Grant Knowles and his great people there allowed Clay to pull our rig inside – still loaded with horses! Since we had no place to offload 6 mares and 2 stallions safely, the mechanics carefully put our rig up on jacks and took a look. The axle was repacked and the hub replaced. And the good people from Pine Country even helped us water and feed our ponies!

We left a bit of a mess in their shop, but they sent us off with smiles. Thanks Grant – you have an excellent business! And you know your stuff.

Thank goodness, Grant insisted on fixing our axle and hubcap properly. He had told us the next leg of our had a few more steep grades as well. We just didn’t realize how steep, until we got there.

Here is a typical sign along that route towards Denver…

And just when you think things are gonna smooth out…

And the kicker…

By the time we hit Denver, I was ready for a glass of wine. But of course, there was no time for that. Our schedule had been put so far behind because of the axle repairs. We hit High Line Stable in Nunn, Co, unloaded and bedded everyone down. And that’s when Clay realized my mare, Selena, had something in her eye. As he tried to get it out, she swung her head rapidly and bopped him in the face.

Clay’s nose was broken.

I suppose it was a fitting conclusion to a day riddled with bad luck. But on the other hand, Clay was pretty proud of his “hockey player” appearance. At least he had a good story to tell.

Jousting in Germany

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Germany included an unexpected side trip to a medieval jousting festival. We discovered this event as it happened to be just a few kilometers from our hotel. It was a beautiful afternoon and we had a few hours free, so we decided to walk down to the festival. Coming up over the hill upon it, I was awed by the setting, as the medieval tent village was nestled in a small valley with a backdrop of a castle or “burg” dating from the Middle Ages.

Inside the village were throngs of people – from all classes . . . and centuries.

Photo by Daniel Dunbar

Even the kids got into the act.

In addition to the main event of jousting, the festival featured a Mittelaltermarket with many stands selling medieval fashion, food and trinkets.

At 99 euros, this dress would have been a great buy. After the festival, you can wear it to your year-end awards banquet.

Anyone thinking freestyle reining?

A falconery booth.

Candles for your next dinner party. Or, witching.

Speaking of dinner parties. . .

Actually, the food was amazing, albeit a little out of the ordinary. Caramels made the old-fashioned way, dried fruits and vegetables, spices, herbs, a fish market, fresh baked bread, complimented with mead (a wine made with honey dating back to the middle ages), and of course, the German standard, beer gardens.

Yes, it translates to flea market . . .

My daughter and her cousin carefully consider the jewelry stand, featuring many medieval pieces.

Of course, the main event was the jousting, and while the afternoon schedule featured more of a set of games on horseback, as opposed to riders jousting against each other A Knight’s Tale style, we still found it thrilling to watch.

In these games, individual jousters compete against each other at high speeds whilst performing skills such as knocking helmets off poles, piercing rings set in a row and slicing an apple on the throughway. I gathered these afternoon games were fashioned for amateur and novice riders and their horses. Similar to our horse sports they serve as an entry point whereby to hone skills, technique and gain experience in the arena, with the final destination the more ardent man to man (or, woman to woman!) jousting, which is typically scheduled as the showcase evening event.

Remarkably similar to modern day horse events, the deciding factor of success or failure often lies in the horse’s desire to perform at particularly crucial moments. Such as when one is scheduled to be galloping in full armor and glory down the arena.

It’s the crowd, it’s the noise, it’s that barbecued, yeewwh, pig at the other end of the arena . . . I’m just not going there.

Fine, I will do it, however, in protest, I’m keeping my eyes closed.

Just a personal observation, but on this day it appeared the frauleins held the upper hand.

Like any other horse show, we headed down to the “barns” to get our fix of barn smells and petting horses. Look, a medieval fly mask.

Eventually, we had to head back across the moat and return to our hotel, but we really loved our afternoon at the jousting, and securing our horse-fix so far from home. I didn’t realize what a vibrant sub-culture exists surrounding the Middle Ages and the sport of jousting.

Here’s a short video of the Kaltenberg, Germany jousting event which gives a huge insight into the intensity of the sport.

Jousting Tournament in Kaltenberg, Germany

Texas & Piroplasmosis: Know Before You Go

We said goodbye to the Lone Star State.

Sunday, April 18 – I woke up in Katy, Tx. Early in the morning (6 am Arizona time), Clay, our friend Tricia Hamilton and I pulled on our traveling clothes, packed up our horses and hit the highway as the National Reining Breeders Classic show was now over. Since we knew we would be hitting the Canadian border soon, we had to arrange for our NRBC show horse to receive a specific test that would verify his negativity for equine piroplasmosis. Clay and I also had to apply for a permit to bring him into Canada – mandatory for all horses that have been in Texas or New Mexico – and cross the border within 15 days of the test results, with the original permit in hand.

Equine piroplasmosis is an infectious disease caused by either of two protozoal parasites that attack the red blood cells. Affected animals can exhibit fever, anemia, weight loss, jaundice, and, in some cases, clinical signs lead to death. It’s no wonder Canada doesn’t want it within our borders. But take it from me, if you are planning on traveling with horses to Texas or New Mexico, ensure you get your paperwork in order! Otherwise, re-entry into Canada could be very difficult at the moment.

Tricia and I: not in comfy traveling clothes.

So back to the trip from TX to AZ. We tootled along, stopping pretty much only for pit stops and to feed + water horses. The goal was to get back to Arizona asap, as we also planned to head north for Canada soon. But going from Katy, TX, back to Arizona was an interesting trip, I have to say… While there was some good “people watching” along the way, Tricia and I were a little unnerved to discover we were in turn, being “watched” as well.

At a roadside McDonalds in west Texas, Tricia and I caught a man watching us with binoculars through the front window of his semi.

We got back on the road – and fast.

Here’s a shot I caught on the fly at Fort Stockton…

Fort Stockton, TX, boasts the world's largest roadrunner. This is not a picture of it...

The next stop was another border inspection, on the west side of El Paso.

At 10:47 pm we made it to Tucson, AZ, where we picked up our new cow horse stallion, Meradas Blu Starlite from Bandalero Ranch.  Then back it was back to Cave Creek for 3 am – Clay and I slept ’til noon that day (Monday).

Originally, our plan was to leave for Canada the following morning (Tuesday). However following a little route research, Clay discovered that we could hit some bad weather on the route he was looking at taking. Since piroplasmosis has also been discovered in New Mexico, it was important for us to completely avoid that state on the way home.

So all of sudden, Clay decided we couldn’t wait to leave the next morning. We were leaving tonight instead…

Packing up a trailer in the dark isn't much fun.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s adventure – our first leg of the trip towards Canada. Let’s just say this: 10% grades and an 8-horse rig don’t mix.

2010 Cactus Classic

So I know it’s over and done with, but I thought you might like to see some of the sights caught at this year’s Cactus Classic Open Derby. Micheal Berg and Outta Dough marked a 227 to win the Open & Int. Open Derby divisions at the Cactus Classic, held March 6 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

At the 2010 rendition of the show held this past March 3-7 at Westworld Park, over $100,000 was awarded to reining competitors.

Outta Dough owned by Dorothy Queen of Whitesboro, Texas and rode by Michael Berg marked a smoking 227 to win the coveted Open and Int. Open Derbies. The bay horse is sired by Gallo Del Cielo and out of Dough Olena (by Doc O’Lena). Altogether they took home a cheque worth $15,669.

Canada had some excellent representation. Christa Turel of Olds, Alberta, and her red dun mount, BMD Smart Whiz scored a respectable 218.5 in the Ltd. and Int. Open Derbies. Samantha Griffin of De Winton, Alberta, rode Dun Playin Tag (Whiz N Tag Chex x Brennas Dunit Fancy x Hollywood Dun It) and marked a 221 to earn the reserve championship in the Non-Pro division. Together they earned $3,780.

Shawna Sapergia of Calgary, Alberta, showed Its Wimpys Turn and Sammie Little Step, both owned by Outrider Ranch. Outfitted in the most detailed and color-coordinated show outfits, she was beautiful as always.

The Cactus Reining Classic is a NRHA “A” rated event.

And participants from all over the United States and Canada attend each year. Some amazing runs are put together in the show’s five-day span: it makes for some good watching!

My friend Marcy Ver Meer and the stallion, Gunners Special Nite put together a fantastic 225.5 in the derby.

And trends for the year are often showcased at this event. Here, Andrea Fappani showed off his gorgeous mounts and their equally as stunning locks. Banded manes are something I’ve never seen in reining competition before.

If you’re in Scottsdale next March, be sure to check this show out! Hosted in the valley of the sun, the 2010 Cactus Classic is a reining feast for the eyes.

2010 Scottsdale Arabian Show

Did you know that according to Archbishop James Ussher, prelate of Ireland, the world was created on Saturday, October 9, 4004 B.C.E?

Neither did I.

Did you also know that the Arabian horse is the world’s oldest purebred animal?

I didn’t know that one either.

But I learned them both after attending the 2010 Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show.

Held this past February 11-21, the show celebrated its 55th Anniversary this year. Granted there were several wet days – it was a rainy February for the Scottsdale, AZ, but host facility, Westworld Park is equipped to handle all kinds of weather. And there was no denying, Arabian horses attending this event were turned out in high glam fashion. So I thought I would share a few pictures that I snapped at the event.

Once again, the show featured an Arabian and Half-Arabian Reining Futurity Classic and a Platinum Performance Liberty Class.

And the Scottsdale Arabian Show brings in excess of $33 Million to the local economy during its ten-day stint.

Statistically, the Arabian horse public outspends other area visitors two to one, during the show.

And total prize money awarded to competitors, who come from every state and more than a dozen countries around the world, is over $1 Million.

And if that doesn’t impress you, the Arabian stall decorations should…

From yearlings in halter, to costume classes, to sidesaddle to reining events, this show has it all.

And it’s definitely a place to go if you want to see beautiful and talented horses.

Our Day With A Cow Horse Legend

Today we got to hang out with cow horse icon, Kevin Stallings. In addition to providing us with training information, he also showed us around his home and training facility in Tuscon, Arizona.

Have you ever wondered what the inside of a living legend’s house looks like? Keep in mind, this is only one set of buckles to be found here...

Kevin has a medley of credentials too numerous to list. But to summarize, let’s just say that he is an NRCHA Open Hackamore National Champion, NRCHA Open Bridle World Champion, and NSHA Open Bridle Champion.

Kevin, as he is about to climb into his 2009 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Bridle Championship saddle. He trains colts from start to finish and work with riders in several areas; cow horse, roping, cutting and reining.

I love the way the Stallings’ decorated their mantle!!

In 2004, Kevin earned 3rd place in the Worlds Greatest Horseman Competition aboard his great stallion, NMSU Truckin Chex (also known as “Elvis”).

The Runaway Creek Outstanding Bridle Mare Award. An exquisite trophy Kevin won for riding the high scoring mare of the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity’s Open Bridle Class.

He is additionally an NRCHA-carded judge and garnered his background with the help of Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance.

Kevin’s wife, Karen is equally as accomplished. Karen was the 2008 AQHA World Show Amateur Champion, the 2008 NSHA Non-Pro Bridle Extravaganza Champion and the 2007 NRCHA Non-Pro Bridle World Champion. Stallings Cow Horses operate out of Banderlero Ranch, just minutes outside of Tuscon. The facility is a fantastic wonderland of horse activity and was partially designed by Kevin.

Aboard a stunning liver chestnut stallion, Kevin showed us just how it easy it is (for him<smile>) to properly work a cow and maintain a position of working advantage. “I always want my horse to turn first, then go towards the cow. I absolutely need him to turn, before I will kick him forward towards a cow.”

In that respect, Kevin’s goal is always to stop the cow and then turn with the cow.

“I always say to people, try driving the cow as opposed to ‘rating’ it. Once you change your mindset about how you are working a cow – from rating to driving – you will have much more success for boxing and going down the fence,” Kevin says.

“You can really school your cow during boxing with this mindset. You’re teaching your cow that when you step up to certain point, you want that cow to move forward. And you train him for going down then fence. You’re schooling the cow and getting your horse hooked up for going down the fence.”

The world calibre trainer continues, “Then if you continue to think about ‘driving’ a cow down the fence, you can almost turn it from behind. You can see when the cow is about to make a decision about changing direction, because it is raising its neck. That’s when you should quit riding and get your horse on its hocks – or land on his butt.” (Landing on the horse’s butt is a good thing – what Kevin is referring to is simply the act of the horse slamming on the brakes.)

“Drive, drive, drive and when you see that cow toss its head, land on your horse’s rear end.

“Drive him and stop. Once you can do that, you’re ready to go down the fence.”

For more information about Kevin Stallings, check out

And next week, I’ll take you for a tour of Bandalero Ranch!

Canada Bound

Horses, Dogs & People... all glad to arrive back home in Canada safely

Final leg of our trip home from ‘Little Canada’ (Maricopa, Arizona)…

We were up at 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning (second day of our trip home) to do a little computer catch-up before driving out to the Kanab Rodeo grounds to load up. The horses were excited to see the trailer pull in; I’m not sure if this was because they thought we were bringing some new equine friends to visit or because they knew we were setting out on the next leg of our homeward journey. We generally feed extra every evening so we can just load up and head out in the morning. The horses had drank well overnight (other than my three year old filly who drank only one small bucket). If we have horses that don’t drink at all (or not much), we generally give paste electrolytes.

A long-standing business in Salina, Burns Saddlery

We grabbed a coffee and were back on the road in reasonable time heading down Secondary Highway 89. The road was winding but clear and took us through scenic mountains and foothills which gave way to wide valleys with grass just greening up, cottonwoods budding out and herds of cattle. We passed through several small communities including Orderville, Utah (which my husband says reminds him of our marriage), Circleville (the home of infamous outlaw, Butch Cassidy), and Salina (where Mom’s Café is a popular spot… and a locale where the waitresses still wear traditional 50’s style uniforms). Though this route is a little slower than taking an Interstate highway, it’s both more interesting and more scenic. Watch for the local Sheriffs in almost every town… they are diligent in making sure people observe the speed limit… which ranges from 40 mph in town and 55-65 mph on the highway.

A Utah Tradition - Mom's Cafe in Salina

We rejoined the Interstate NW of Salina about half an hour. Traffic through Salt Lake City was decent – for Salt Lake City… maybe due to the fact it was Sunday. You can count on construction and significant traffic volumn everytime you go through this city!! Worse during rush hour. When we arrived in Blackfoot, Idaho (just before dark), we decided to check out the Blackfoot Fairgrounds (east side of town) on the off chance they were open. A neighbour from home had recommended this venue as a good place to stay. After driving around most of the perimeter of the grounds, we found one open passage gate (intended for people, not trucks/trailers). We led the horses though and put them up in covered stalls. No water available… but we had water with us, so other than having to pack it into the stall area, we were able to get the horses put away for the night. We felt a little uncomfortable using a facility that rather ‘inaccessible’ but could find no signs saying we weren’t welcome. We cleaned our stalls early the next morning – hitting the road by 7 a.m.

Time to stretch our legs

The decision to stop early Sunday night (our original intention had been to drive to Dillon or Whitehall, Montana) made for a long day on Monday… but driving conditions were awesome! Sunny all the way home. We crossed the border about 5:15 pm (we generally cross at Del Bonita north of Cutbank as it’s quicker than Sweetgrass/Coutts due to lower traffic volumn). The border staff were great… we were fortunate to be through in about 15 minutes. We arrived home (17 miles west of Claresholm) before dark. I honestly don’t know who was happier to be home… the dogs, the horses or Dave and I!! All in all… a pretty good trip.

Sunshine and Rest

Leaving The Desert Behind

We just pulled into Kanab, Utah - great overnight stopping place when you're hauling horses.

It was 86 degrees F when we headed out of Maricopa, Arizona this morning on the first day of our trek home to Canada… by the time we reached Flagstaff a little over two hours north, we were viewing pines rather than cactus and the temperature had dropped about fifteen degrees… still, it was a sunny warm day with great travel conditions. We usually enjoy the trip home… well, let me revise that. We enjoy it once the stress of packing up, loading horses and getting on the road is complete. It seems as though it takes forever to actually leave the yard!

Enjoyed a quick shopping break at the ever-popular Cameron Trading Post

It takes about 24-30 hours of driving (less fuel, food and people/animal breaks) to get from Maricopa (about 25 minutes south of Phoenix) to the U.S./Alberta border. We try to take three days each way though we’ve done the trip in two… we’ve even done it straight through – once or twice.

The horses enjoyed a quick roll before supper in the Kanab Rodeo Grounds Arena

Weather permitting we enjoy the route north through Flagstaff and Paige, AZ then on through Kanab, Panguitch and Selina, Utah before rejoining the Interstate south of Salt Lake City. And, along with many rodeo folks, we’ve found some favorite overnight spots for both our horses and ourselves. Our first stop this time around was at Kanab, Utah – a small, clean community in Red Rock desert country not far from the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Set in stunning semi-desert with red sand and rock formations all around, Kanab boasts a small, out of the way rodeo grounds a few miles south of town. If the weather is reasonable, it’s an excellent place to put your horses up overnight. The grounds features several spacious paneled pens, two large outdoor arenas and water that’s always been turned on when we’ve stopped in. We generally put our horses away and grab a hotel room in Kanab. Rooms are plentiful, and reasonable in price in a town with friendly people and some good restaurants. The Kanab area has been a popular choice since the 1920’s for film making – particularly westerns… The Lone Ranger, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Maverick and Gunsmoke to name a few. Kanab also boasts a legendary Mexican restaurant – Nedras Too – which we try to visit for dinner when we can.

Anyway, we’re hanging out at The Red Rock Country Inn (not fancy but clean, dog-friendly and wireless), trying to get caught up on our sleep before hitting the road again tomorrow…

Will catch up again further down the road.

Shootin’ Stars at NRBC

Yesterday, April 12, things started heating up in Katy, TX. And I’m not just talking about Houston humidity. In the Non-Pro preliminaries, Kim Dooley of Scottsdale, AZ, turned up the heat and scored a 220 to take the lead.

With another section and a finals round left to go, the champion of the Non-Pro division remains to be seen. But in the meantime, I thought I would post behind-the-scenes shots I’ve been collecting a little differently.

If a picture’s worth a 1,000 words, this video should total at least 39,800…

Enjoy. And as always, let me know what you think!