Rock My World: Owyhee Canyonlands 2011, Day 2
Okay, I’m a couple weeks late getting this story up, but bear with me — there’s a surprise at the end.
Day 2 was a Wednesday. It dawned warm enough that light, long sleeves plus a fleece vest were plenty. I saddled Consolation for her first ride of the week, while Karen prepared Thunder for his second. We started behind the herd as usual, and at first it seemed we’d have a smooth beginning. BUT…
We were barely out of sight of camp when Consolation began acting strangely. She refused to trot. Lashed her tail. Tossed her head repeatedly and violently to the right, nearly hitting my knee. Threatened to buck.
Was she tying up? Was her tack pinching? Was she colicky? Crampy? Just plain bitchy?
I dismounted twice, uncinching, checking boots, and re-adjusting her saddle pad. I tested her hindquarters for cramps, observed her expression and flank for signs of distress. Nothing. Karen couldn’t see anything either. Nothing but odd behavior with no apparent cause. Walking seemed okay, but trotting aggrivated her — any trotting, but particularly downhill. We tried sending Thunder ahead as motivation. Nothing doing.
So, we walked on for a mile or so, hoping that whatever the problem was would work itself out. When we came to the first uphill, I asked for a trot again, and Consolation agreed to move out. She still felt a bit sticky, but the head tossing and tail-lashing had abated. Her respiration and gait seemed quite normal. We carried on.
Over the first five miles or so, Consolation gradually relaxed. The strange behavior resurfaced a few times, but grew milder and then disappeared. All we could figure was that she had a few hairs sideways and decided to be marish about it. Perhaps all she needed was a bit of sweat under her saddle.
The trail led across the desert, dropping into a small canyon whose terrain slowed us for the last mile into the first vet check. Though we’d only gone about 12 miles, Consolation was very interested in grabbing weeds to munch as we picked our way along. She isn’t normally that hungry so early in a ride. I speculated that the last night’s windstorm has interrupted her eating, maybe even made her a touch belly-achy from stress. In any case, she seemed fine — just hungry.
Ironman met us at the hold, where Consolation received an unusual B on gut sounds but proceeded to eat and drink well. Half an hour later, he waved as both horses trotted briskly out of the check, headed for a 25-mile loop known for very rocky footing and a horny jackass.
(Yes, I did say a horny jackass. We’ll get to that.)
The reports of rocks were not exaggerated. Karen and I took the loop slowly, not willing to risk our horses’ soundness on the rough footing. Those 25 miles took nearly 4 hours, but they were scenic, the weather pleasant, and the conversation engaging. We climbed into sage and juniper country (which made me sneeze), dropped down to Crazy Woman mine, and passed an amazing stone corral.
Somewhere down there, a gigantic, horned owl flew up and Consolation spooked so hard she jumped right out of a hind boot. I barely talked her out of a buck-and-bolt as the boot flapped by its gaiter, but managed to dismount safely and re-install it…just in time to climb the hill to our next adventure: The Horny Jackass.
He’s a legend. Everyone at the Owyhee rides knows about him. He runs with a pair of wild bachelors, and earned his name for his aggressivly amorous behavior toward passing horses. Horses under saddle. Horses on endurance rides.
We hoped not to see him (despite wanting a look at his wild herdmates), but you know what’s coming… We followed the ribbons toward a fenceline above the stone corral, glad to be trotting again after all those rocks, and then we spotted them — the two horses and the Horny Jackass — right smack in the trail ahead!
Karen opened the gate through the fence while I gathered a handful of rocks in case we needed to defend our horses’ honor. (Do I look like I need a Barb mule??) We debated whether leading or riding would be better, and opted for leading. We scooted away from the trail, giving the Horny Jackass a wide birth. He followed us with eyes and ears, but kept his hooves planted. Whew!
On we went, and on, and on…
Back at the vet check, Ironman told us that the frontrunner’s gelding had had a rather personal encounter with the Horny Jackass. Fortunately, no one was hurt (except, perhaps, the Jackass’ ego).
Consolation’s gut sounds were back to an A, her behavior was completely normal, and all was well as we set out for our final 12 miles back to camp, where we finished in the back third of the pack, which was just fine with us, especially since Karen had her sights on riding Thunder all 5 days.
We vetted through in fine form, and then began the preparation for the following day. No rest for the wicked! Administer electrolytes, untack, clean boots, hose down, soak beet pulp, restock saddle bags… Finally, Ironman grabbed a couple beers and we led Consolation over to the grass to graze while watching the last riders come in.
Half an hour later, I suggested we take Consolation back to the trailer so I could put clay on her legs and shower before dinner. Ironman agreed, but said we should take the long way back, around the upper drive instead of through camp.
But why? The other way is shorter!
Oh, c’mon. It’s a nicer walk.
So we went the long way. But Consolation was hungry, eager to get back to her hay. Halfway around the drive, I turned her for a shortcut to the trailer. Behind me, Ironman said, “Wait.”
I pivoted. And he was kneeling on the gravel. With a ring.
The details are my secret. Suffice it to say that as I walked back to the trailer under a warm, evening sun, I had a good man in one hand and a good horse in the other. That seemed just about right to me.