Ain't nuthin like ridin' a fine horse in a new country - Augustus McCrae – Lonesome Dove

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sunshine Day!

Road to the Farm
Friday the sun appeared!  Since Farah is spending a few days on Dean's farm, I decided to ride Khari down to visit her.  Khari was happy to be going & doing - set her usual unmotivated walk pace of about 3.5 mph.  Our route isn't the safest.  It's a narrow rode with several blind curves & no shoulder in many places - guard rail too.  Butch insists that I wear a bright green safety vest - so most cars that come by slow down.

Once on the farm, we have all the space in the world to ride!  Polito saddled Farah & for the first time I had both mares under saddle together!  What fun to see Farah with a rider & riding Khari along side :-)  When we arrived at the small pasture on the hill, it was dry enough for Polito to show me what he'd been working on with Farah.  Mexican's ride differently- they like the horses head up!  Oh No!  Farah - did her best - as usual to accommodate those raised reins & higher hands.  
Farah & Polito
She did some beautiful side-passing, Polito has also taught her to slide up to heavy rod-iron farm gate, so that he can open & close it from the saddle!  The scratches on her high hind sock were still not under control, so she's staying stalled & getting ridden a couple times a day until Dean has her at 100%.  His stalls are so much bigger than ours, she's certainly more comfortable & her leg can stay dry long enough to heal.  (Farah had her vaccinations over a week ago, Khari now has hers.)

Both mares seemed to enjoy the ride, Khari didn't mind a bit when we left Farah & headed home.  Since Farah has been gone - Khari is as sweet as can be!  Go figure!  First she HAD to have company, we brought Farah home - Khari was thrilled - for about two-weeks.  Then she decided to pull the "boss-mare" thing & has tried to make Farah miserable.  Farah really doesn't care much for Khari now either - after all who wants a "witch with a B" for a friend? 

I'm trying to assess just what my future horse plans might be.  I really would like to do trail classes with Farah.  Having a trainer like Mark Bolender in our state makes it tempting, too bad he's so far away...  Don't know how much more endurance I really want to do...  Starting to get that "been there, done that" feel when I think of continuing with the sport.  Have Home On the Range on my radar again - then will see how I feel.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Saddle History~

Saddles...  That somewhat critical link between the horse & the rider.  When I bought my first horse since childhood in 91;  I brought home the saddle that had belonged to my Grandfather.  It was the one hanging over the stall wall when I found the horse - in a double box stall, in the barn.  Actually, I heard her - before I found her!  Grandpa told me that when I could get the saddle down from the 5 ft. high wall & on the mare, I could ride!   It took me days just to get her calm enough to go into the stall.  But...  I had nothing but time!  Since the saddle was at least 50 lbs.  I decided to just ride bareback!  Worked!  
Connie on Topsy, Iowa 1964
Alexi with Grandpa's saddle~ 2/91
The last visit I had with Grandpa before he passed - he sent the saddle home to WA with me in the back of my bright orange Mustang!  I had the saddle completely reconditioned, new sheepskin etc. by Mike Wick, of Issaquah, WA.  Mike's shop is long gone, but he was kind enough to help me sell the saddle to a cowboy from Ellensburg, WA who planned to put it back to work~
Jentry showing Alexi with my new Bighorn Saddle June 91
This was the saddle that I started using for Competitive Trail in 91. Butch was riding too & bought a second one. They worked pretty well, until the distance & speed started going up. We started having issues, the fenders "sanded" the hair off the horses sides, so we had them lined with leather.  Girth galls, loin rubs, wither soreness.  Once we started riding Endurance in 95, it was interesting to see what other riders were using & we decided to try Marciante saddles.   
Glenda with my Marciante Saddle - July 2001
As you can tell from the above photo, by the time Glenda came along in 2000 - the saddle had years of riding - I loved it, but it was too wide for Glenda's high withers.  More shopping...
Ortho-Flex Cutback - August 2002
After admiring the looks of these saddles & riding in one, I was sold.  I think it was one of the prettiest I've owned.  The issues were numerous.  It was a "System II", that was supposed to correct the problems with the originals.  The saddle had pressure points & didn't seem to sit square.  I had computerized thermal imaging done - that showed uneven pressure.  I had the panel attachments completely re-set, but it still didn't seem right for Jas.  I sold this saddle to a gaited horse owner on the east coast, who was thrilled with it.
Specialized International after one 50-mile ride. October, 2002
By now, Specialized Saddles were becoming popular.  I ordered the "International".  It arrived just as we were leaving for Alpine!  At the end of that miserable 50-miles, miserable in that I could NOT keep my legs under me, they were behind me which makes it difficult on a mountain ride.  It seemed to work for Jas, but I didn't like the quality of the leather, or the craftsmanship.   Dave Kaden agreed to let me return the saddle & exchange it for a "Trailmaster".
Specialized Trailmaster Spring, 2003
This saddle worked, I added bucking rolls & had shorter fenders made.  I rode it many miles - it was a comfortable "no issue" saddle.  It sold to a rider in TX - for exactly what I'd paid.   Glenda was sold to Tiffany, I'd had my accident on Bo & she was gone.  Jas was retiring & Khari had arrived.  Dean began helping me with my mental recovery - while at the same time teaching me something about saddle ride-ability.  His saddles were the first I'd even ridden in that made it easy to ride!  My riding began to improve as did my confidence.  I was sold on the concept of staying topside on a horse.  If that required a western style saddle with a secure seat, so be it.
Meridian Saddle #101
I ordered the Meridian saddle pictured above based off the pattern of the one I'd been using while taking my lessons on Dean's farm.  They are great working saddles & fit most horses.  I rode it through the Bryce XP in 2007.   I was having problems though - the balance of the saddle somehow wasn't right for me.  I couldn't gallop!  My legs just couldn't get into the right position & I was so uncomfortable.  When taller riders tried it - they didn't have the issues.  Gary Mittliner the saddler who'd made most of Dean's saddles had retired.  Mike Bernhard worked with me to figure out what changes needed to happen & I ordered a second saddle.  (#101 sold & shipped to Mexico.) 
M. Bernhard Saddle #120
Above is the saddle on Khari the day we brought it home in 2008~  Modeled on the Wade design, no horn, slimmer pommel, shorter fenders & less weight.  It fit Khari perfectly the first couple years, while she was a fat rather than fit mare :-)  But... once she had slimmed down -  it was too wide through the shoulders, dropped in front & started to shimmy over the loin.  Months of trying shims etc., just couldn't fix the fit.   Finally - I contacted the saddle maker - who didn't want to tackle a fix & suggested I sell it if it wasn't working for me.  I had it shipped to Horsesaddleshop.com.
Meridian Saddle #120
It was there over a year & didn't sell, (small seat & no horn) so when Farah arrived in 2011- I had it shipped back home.  Again - it seemed to work fine at first, Post~ before Farah was fit.  But especially after our 2013 season & all the miles we put on riding in the Distance Derby - the issues became too numerous to ignore.  On a visit to Pilchuck Vet, I had Jim Bryant DVM check out the saddle fit.  The only issue he saw - was that it was sitting low in front & he felt that Farah's conformation might be part of the problem.  Post~

 We found a saddle maker in Ellensburg, Post~ who was willing to tear down, what looked to be a beautiful saddle...  Post~  Everett fit Farah Post~ for a new tree & we ordered it from Timberline Saddle Tree Co.   It took months to get back & in the meantime, Everett had contacted Mike at Meridian Saddle - who - after hearing about the poor quality of the tree we'd found inside - offered to put the saddle back together.  His leather work is quality - so we sent the saddle to him.  

When it came back, I was charged a fortune for things like new saddle strings etc. but it looked wonderful.  Sadly, it didn't have the wither clearance that I'd thought would be there?   Everett mistakenly thought that we were going to re-use the leather on the pommel.  The pommel was shaped to that & too low.  Not enough wither clearance for Farah's withers...  That, combined with the weight, 30lbs. when I was now getting used to the ease of just a 16lb. saddle - started me start thinking that the best thing was to try & sell it yet again...
McClintock, International Saddle
 March 13th of 2014, my friend Linda pulled this saddle out for me to borrow.  I was amazed at how little there was to it!  The Calvary style was simple, beautiful & functional.  It's light weight, at 16lbs. was so easy to lift up onto Farah's back.  The sheepskin on the bottom of the bars was completely worn away, what padding the seat once had - was also gone.  Linda's husband had bought it for her years ago - used, we think it's probably 30-40 years old.
Front of the saddle with bucking rolls~
  I put it on Farah & it seemed to fit!  I sat in it & it seemed to fit!  I loved the deep seat!  It became my saddle - with a good saddle pad under it & kept me top-side for over a year.  We were sitting out admiring it one evening in early May of 14, when Butch said;  "Why don't you try to find the saddle maker & order one just like it?"  I searched the internet, found the saddle-maker & placed the order.  (I also ordered bucking rolls, a huge improvement on steep downhills.)  (This was the saddle I used for Mt. Adams - the last two years.)

After almost a year of waiting, the new saddle that arrived was  far cry from the one above.  Post~  Wrong tree, poor craftsmanship etc.  Thanks to my credit card company, all but my deposit was recovered.  A very disappointing downturn.

November 30, 2015 - New Saddle!

Monday, January 23, 2012

To Ring a Bell!

Over the weekend, we did visit the PNER convention in Portland - we took a look through the trade show & said "Hi" to friends!   Brian found me sitting on a saddle!  I got a big hug!  So very happy to see him looking so "sound"!  :-)  Also took a good look at the saddle that will probably be my next purchase, more on that later.  
The Church Spire
We met up with our VBF Bruce, to take a tour of the amazing church where he is responsible for facility maintenance.  Over our years together - (Bruce has known Butch & I longer than we've been married :-) one or the other of us three have been involved in some incredible projects.  We've taken each other on "tours" that others would pay money to see.  This time though - it was a trip back in time.
Butch & Bruce admire the view from the roof~
This particular church is the oldest in Portland, built in the early 1800's.  The "Spire" or Bell Tower is part of a building who's architecture has withstood the test of time.  To maintain this facility takes dedication & research. 
The Spire against a blue sky~
The Spire dominated the skyline.  Housed within is a Bell, molded from a Civil War cannon.  Of course...  wanted a picture of it!  Bruce just smiled - I know that smile - it means I'm "in for it"!
The drop down ladder~

 The drop down steel ladder was only the first of a series of obstacles that were enough to make some faint of heart - but I'd asked for it!   Next, was a spiral rod-iron staircase - that went up, up, up...
Amazing craftsmanship on a staircase few ever see~
Once at the top - we arrived in the room below~
Rope for the bell hanging down behind Butch & Bruce
This looked like a room from a medieval novel!  Since the old wood stairs are the the next phase of the climb - it was one person at a time!
Going Up!
We arrive at the first platform...  Next...  ladders...  did I mention that I don't like ladders?
Another platform & another ladder, more going up & up...
First view of the Bell
So...  I hear my husband say...  "I thought you wanted a picture of the patent date?"  Well...  yes I did...  but I'm NOT going to climb up there to get it!  Guess who does?
It's an old Bell!

Butch on the ladder
"OK" I say... now get the heck DOWN from there!"  (He's wearing cowboy boots!
"Oh no" he says - we need a photo of you!
Honestly?  Do I look even 1/2 way as scared as I was?  Bruce was below to catch me if a fell :-)
Bruce waits to guide me back through the hatch~
The thing I've never liked about climbing up, is going back down!  In the room below the bell - was the rope that can be used to manually ring the bell.  Bruce asked if I'd like to ring it?  OH!  YES!  So - I carefully pulled on the rope - the clapper struck the Bell - & it RANG!  What an amazing sound!  I'm sure people in downtown Portland wondered at the Bell ringing - not on it's usual schedule?  :-)  What an honor! 
History of the Bell
 A day I will never forget!  Thank you Bruce~!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Road Trip~

Tree's down north on Burn Rd.
After I mentioned we'd managed to keep our power, at 11 a.m. this morning - it was out!  We decided to take the Bronco & head up to Arlington.  We made it about 3 mi. north on Burn Rd., when we came up on flashing red lights.  A tree limb had brought down a power line & the road was closed until the power company could arrive.  We turned around, headed south to Getchell Road & on out to Hwy 9.
Snowplow - where's the driver?
Once moving north on Hwy 9, we found the first snowplow we'd seen, partially blocking the southbound lane, no driver in sight.  The highway wasn't too bad, with a lot of fresh snow over the ice & compacted snow.  Sheryl was in her shop & ready to cut my hair!  What a girl!  Steve & Butch talked, while Sheryl worked on me - then Butch & I went on to have lunch.  Arlington Hardware is one of those "mandatory" stops when we're in town.  Now they've opened the upstairs for clothing & some tack - it's fun to see what they have in.  
Farah in her new halter!
 Guess what I found? :-)  A really pretty new halter for Farah!  I'd been looking for a while, just hadn't seen anything I thought would be right for her - until now.   New "Graphite" color hardware.   It fit perfectly & she seem very pleased.
We decided to try Burn Rd. for the drive homeThe snow our direction is much heavier than what we saw in town.  Our road hasn't seen a plow & with no shoulder & deep ditches, we took it easy.
Heading Home~
 The lights were back on!  Yippee - power had been out for three hours.  More shoveling, chores & back inside to get WARM!
We're looking forward to the trip to Portland tomorrow.  A stop at the Pacific Northwest Endurance Riders convention - mostly to visit the trade show & check out saddles, then an overdue visit with our good friends the Campbell family!  Maybe a game of "Stones" thrown in with a few good beers!  Beer is always better with friends!  :-)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Late Afternoon Clearing~

Butch with his shovel~
Butch had been shoveling most of the day, I went out later in the afternoon when it stopped falling from the sky!  He shoveled path's to the dog kennel, Cottage etc.  While we were working away - the clouds parted & a gold orb appeared to the Southwest! 
Snow on Deer Mountain
The Sun, the Sun, the Sun!  In a matter of seconds, the light transformed a gray snowy day into a picture postcard of amazing light on snow covered trees!  A hawk sailed by overhead - probably hoping we'd scare up his dinner!

Yes! We have SNOW!

The Cottage
The Weatherman has been saying the four letter "snow" word for a few days now - but today he was serious!  Tonight the "big" storm is supposed to move in with wind & even more snow!  Butch tuned up the generator, so it's ready if we need it.  Shoveling is under way - since our driveway is a long one!  
I made a batch of Ginger Snap cookies yesterday; they went great with our latte's this morning!
Barn under a blanket of snow~
 It's like living in a picture postcard!  I'm thinking hot buttered rum tonight! 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Visit to Duvall~

The Grange Cafe, Duvall
When we woke up to a white world of snow, it looked like a good day to take a trip south & visit the Peters family.  The roads were worse than we expected, but only in some places.  After seeing several cars in the ditch & two overturned on Hwy 2 - by the time we were a few miles out of Monroe, the road was only wet.  Once in Duvall - it was snowing - beautiful, but still wet until we climbed up the hill to the kids house.
Hogwarts Castle!
The grand-kids had worked to put their castle together & it's really something!  Every little detail that you can imagine!  Cassidy had fun showing me all the "secret" hiding places & Mason was busy cutting out pictures of the characters from a sticker book.  We watched a slide-show of the recent trip to Disneyland for New Years!  Even with heavy fog, the fireworks were pretty amazing.

We left at 5:30 p.m. arriving home by 7 - most of the way in 4-wheel drive.  Fun!  Snowing more today & more on the way!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Back between a set of gray ears :-)

Between Khari's ears~
Last season for whatever reason, I was pushing hard in the winter - conditioning.  Then - after Khari threw me, my transmission slipped into low.  I hadn't had a saddle on Khari since the 25th of October.  But, today - with the sunshine, "our" trails were calling my name.  I decided to just "go easy".  Make an attempt to re-bond with my mare & start with a fresh slate. 

So... I let her do what she wanted.  Her walk, which can be fast, but is most often slow - still was.  She lifted into a nice trot all on her own & it was NICE!  She asked to canter & we did that & it was FUN!  Once out on the power lines, out of the cold shade of the forest & into the warm sun, I let her graze & took in the rays.  The trip back was great too!  Another set of trot & canter.  She started snorting & looking when we were coming up the trail with the ecology blocks.  I took Dean's advice & just let her stop, look & snort.  Once that was over with - I gave her a pat & we moved on.  All very low key.  On the way back I stopped to cut down a lot of small Alders, that by Summer would have completely blocked our trail.  I cut - then went on to attack the blackberry.  Khari helped & at one point - she almost had me lassoed with a long piece she was determined to eat!
View of Mt. Pilchuck on our way home~
It's hard to believe that Khari has been with us for seven years now.  I really enjoyed the way this mare will go through, or take on any obstacle. (Something that I'm working on with Farah.)  My plan is to learn from my experience last year - no need to push - just take my time, follow the trail & enjoy the ride!

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Whitehorse through the clouds~
We drove up for Ben's 12th birthday party & actually caught a view of the mountain on the way by!  Fresh snow on all the mountains, but not low enough to make it to town.  It was cold, we thought for sure we'd be driving home in snow, but it began warming up late in the day, turned wet, then by evening the sky was clearing off.

I should be out riding today, but now am coming down with Skyla's cold.  Have two scheduled rides for the upcoming week though - so time to scrape the mud off the gray mare & get in gear for another ride season!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

January Sunrise~

Sunrise over the Cascades
It was calm, quiet...  a red glow appeared to the east.  I took the camera out & started clicking the shutter~  It was a magnificent show to witness!  Within minutes, rain drops started falling, the wind picked up & sky is now leaden gray!  Incredible!

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Yellow Twig Dogwood
What a gorgeous start to the New Year!  Morning sunshine, moderate temperatures, fresh air!  The Cascades are blanketed by a new layer of white snow from Friday night's storm.  "Traditionally" we usually take the dogs & head over to the beach on Whidbey Is.  But - last year we were helping friends put a roof on their barn!  Today - we've invited to Bellevue for our friends laid-back gathering with plenty of food to munch on!  Will take the "back-roads" home - since the "kids" are gone to Disneyland - can't stop by there!  

Courtney has been sending photos from her phone of Mason & Cassidy with incredible smiles enjoying Disneyland!  They had dinner overlooking the castle!  Would like to be there to enjoy seeing the kids enjoying the park, but know realistically that the crowds would not be my cup of tea!  

Here's wishing everyone in "blogland" an incredible New Year!  Full of opportunities, fun times, health & joy!