Friday, October 27, 2006

The Sand Hills

On September 25 I crossed the heart of Nebraska on State Route 2. This is a highway of full service gas stations and more cattle than people. Plowed fields gave way and I saw I was in a remarkable grassland. The mixed grass prairie of the Sand Hills cover a full quarter of the state. The dunes were formed around 10,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age when the loose sand blew off the newly exposed Rocky Mountains. The lonely green hills undulated on for mile after mile with only a rare ranch house huddled in a narrow basin along with a couple struggling cottonwood trees.

Running parallel to Route 2 for quite some time was a rail line. Long trains of dozens of coal cars from Wyoming passed by. Wyoming is the #1 coal producing state in America. And half the electricity in the US is generated by coal-fired power plants. I think I saw all the coal needed by a small city for a year in all the coal I saw rolling by, in just one afternoon on a sunny early autumn day.

And the treeless sand hills kept rolling by too. Once the home to bison, now producing beef for a hungry nation. Seemingly untouched. A bare land. But not barren.

Horse Philosopher

horse philosopher
Originally uploaded by edification.
How I feel today.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Equine Affairs

This morning I found one of the worst nightmares of any horseman. My sweet gelding "Jack" had a case of colic. This is a serious disorder in horses, not just a belly ache of inconsequence. It can be anything from a mild gas colic to sand impaction to a twisted gut. In 1989 I had my best buddy, a great strong buckskin Quarter Horse, die from colic. Jack has never had colic before. He is 20 years old, but this is not really old for an Arabian. It isn't his "time" yet. Right now he seems improved but I'll be watching him like a hawk for a couple days.

During the last days of my trip I stopped in Wyoming to visit a new friend who raises Arabians and Saddlebred horses. I thought I was interested in one of her grey Arabs. (Like Jack's color; I love greys!). Instead a big handsome palomino Saddlebred caught my eye. I've never ridden a Saddlebred before and know little about the breed. But I know a good horse when I see one. (At least that is my opinion.) And "Ed" is a good looker for sure. The only drawback is he is 1,111 miles north of me. Plus my husband would commit homicide if I didn't sell my Thoroughbred gelding before adding another mouth to feed to my herd. But that is an acceptable risk. I'm interested in bigger horses so I can find a saddle that fits both me and the horse. Right now I have a saddle that fits my small Arabian horses, but not me. And I have a big Australian Stock saddle that fits me, but not my small Arabians. Conundrum. Horses are great fun, but sometimes complicated.

During my trip I rode at Fort Robinson State Park in northwestern Nebraska, just south of the Black Hills of South Dakota. The countryside was open, with hills, scenic views, wildlife such as Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep, and tame critters like Longhorn Cattle. I rode a borrowed grey Arabian horse named "Buddy", on a borrowed saddle, with a borrowed bridle. Everything worked well on the horse, but do you think I could get the hang of putting on his bridle? It had more parts than my Toyota. I was all thumbs. Okay, I looked like an idiot putting on his bridle and finding the bit hanging under his chin. Oops, that was supposed to go into his mouth. Let's try again. Occassionally the horse's owner got impatient with me and bridled him herself. After another dozen tries I would have had it figured out. Yes, sometimes horses are complicated.

One of my grandchildren has become less enthused about our shared horse, the big Thoroughbred I mentioned above. He is tall. 16 hands. That is about 5 foot 4 inches high at the beginning of his back. She is 5 foot 3 inches tall. He doesn't pay attention to where he puts his feet. Her foot has been under his hoof a couple times. And it is a long, long trip down his side when dismounting him. I love his height, although he eats as much as two of my Arabs. But with everyone losing interest in him, I guess it is time he finds a new home. I've never sold a horse in my life. And it is complicated. There are 3 owners involved. I hate the "business end" of horse ownership. I just want horses to be happy, healthy friends for life. Unfortunately hay costs money and like most folks, money is finite. Selling a horse is upsetting, but at least it is not a nightmare.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Trip Distilled

From September 17, 2006 to October 15, 2006 I drove 3900 miles and rode along in a truck hauling two horses another 1800 miles. I do believe my need for feeling asphalt under my butt is satiated for some time.

Travelling is great fun. Something new is always around the bend or over the hill. I saw wild turkeys, pronghorn antelope, cattle, and deer in abundance. Corn and soybeans were being harvested. Hay was drying in the fields.

I spent 22 hours on horseback in 3 different states.

Friends became better friends. New friends were made.

I paid for gasoline and paid and paid and paid. (Biggest expense.)

I felt good. My digital camera shutter snapped 301 times, the last time for a rainbow over the Apache Indian land near me. It is good to be home too.