Friday, February 28, 2014


I rode in the Wintec for the second time tonight and two things really struck me . . .

One, he is moving out so much freer under this saddle than he was in the Trekker. My laddie is just not a narrow horse any more. I think his back may still be a bit tender so I sprayed him with Sore No More, and used the BOT AP saddle pad. After our ride I covered him with the BOT long blanket under his fleece cooler and let him stand in it for fifteen minutes while I pulled my saddle out and reorganized my stuff.

Two, I am no longer struggling to ride the canter. Somewhere in riding bareback I think I found my inner 12 year old and am finally riding and not worrying.

Finally, in addition to W/T/C, we worked on sidepassing over a pole. We did it twice and Ashke figured out what I wanted. I praised him a lot. Then every time we stepped over the pole, Ashke immediately and without hesitation sidepassed to the left off the bar. Without waiting for a cue. Would not even consider moving to the right. So, as long as the event allows us to sidepass to the left, we will be okay. I finally, after some fighting and misunderstanding, got him to take two steps to the right, so I left it there.

More riding tomorrow.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

TTTT: J's Favorite Story

The summer of 1996, I was in a relationship with a woman we will call T. This might or might not have happened one day in early June, before our world crashed around us.

It started with a road trip to Idaho and then Montana. We got up early and loaded the truck then spent the next nine hours driving from one Best Buy to another trying to find a CD player we could run through our radio or cassette deck on the truck. What this meant was that I had to stop and call my mom from a payphone (didn't have MP3 players yet or cell phones) and tell her we hadn't left Colorado about the time she was expecting us to walk in her door 600 miles away. This kind of distraction was pretty typical for T and I, though, and we planned on driving through the night. We ended up crashing in the truck on a turn out for the railroad about an hour from my mom's house for three hours or so when I was so drunk with tiredness that I couldn't drive any further. Finally, about 8 am, we pulled into my mom's place, showered, changed clothes and headed for Montana.

Montana is one of those places that absolutely shreds my heart. Their mountains are massive, the valleys are deep and green, and the camping is phenominal. We stayed at a campground close to the Big Hole Valley also known as the Land of 10,000 Haystacks, which was pretty cool, for those of us who like horses. The valley was wide and deep and really good at growing grass hay. The hay would grow to knee deep porportions and then cut. Once it was dry, all of these fourteen year old boys would get on their ATVs and tear around the fields with rakes on the front of the ATV. They would scoop up a pile of grass hay, then transport it to the haystacks. There were thousands of haystacks.

The mountains were very cool and the camp ground was pretty awesome. It was set on a small lake, so there was some fishing to be had, plus my parents had a canoe we could take out onto the lake. We gathered wood and played with spinner fishing for the first time. I managed to clock myself right between the eyes with a piece of wood while trying to chop trees up to burn in the fire. We were close to timber line and having  a wood fire was important to our comfort. We were tent camping and although my parents had cots to sleep on, we were making due with sleeping on the ground. The morning of the fourth day we woke up to snow, six or eight inches of it. It was time to go. My parents were on board with that (they didn't want to camp in the snow either) so we headed out.

We said good bye to my parents and headed for Colorado. But, as has been the case so often in my life, I can't just drive from point A to point B and be happy. When we reached Flaming Gorge Bridge, I suggested we take a detour and try to find our way home another way. T was game and so we began our meander around Flaming Gorge. About half way around, I noticed there was a side road that led off from the main road and headed for Craig Colorado. It looked like fun. We headed for that small road.

The small road was a rutted track through the high plains desert. It really wasn't even a road. It was bad enough that it took us almost two hours to drive the fifteen or so miles to a real dirt road. At one point we contemplated turning around and going back, but where is the fun in that. Instead we pressed on and were finally rewarded with a road that had asphalt and lines. It was just getting dark when we pulled into Craig. Food was found and then our course plotted. It was then that T suggested we go to a place she had been to once by State Bridge and spend the next couple of days fishing. We had the time and both of us wanted to fish, so I was game.

We headed out on some darn small roads into the lowering dusk. Just east of Steamboat springs the road split and we took the route less traveled, heading in as direct a path as we could to State Bridge. It was getting late and T was driving when we turned onto a two lane road headed due south, knowing we were about an hour away from State Bridge. We were punchy and had been laughing hysterically at something, trying anything to stay alert and focused on the road. We were in a Dodge Dakota, with the tent and cooler in the bed of the truck, just the two of us in the front. Just about the time we turned south T asked me to tell her a story. I don't even remember which story I told her, just that we were well into it when we flashed past a cattle guard and a sign that said Open Range.

I knew what that sign meant. It should have registered, but it was late and I was in the middle of the story and it just lodged there like a rock deep in my mind. We were doing close to sixty on this little back road in the middle of nowhere, the only things we can see were the trees flashing by in the edges of the headlights and the smooth blacktop pavement stretched out in front of us. You become hypnotized by the white lines flashing under your tires.

We came screaming around a blind curve at close to sixty-five mph to find a herd of Angus cattle bedded down in the middle of the road, soaking up the heat from the asphalt.

The meaning of the Open Range sign suddenly manifested itself in my mind, about five minutes too late.

I'm pretty sure we were all equally surprised.

T locked the brakes up, which thankfully the truck had ABS, as I braced myself against the front dash with both arms locked rigidly. Everything went into what felt like super slow motion.

The cows, startled from chewing cud and enjoying the last warmth of the day, scrambled to get off the road and away from the truck barreling down on them. They moved pretty quick for animals that had been peacefully sleeping just moments before.

I could see the smoke billowing up from the tires burning on the asphalt road, in big columns of grey rubber on both sides of the truck out of the corners of my eyes, but my attention was focused on the big black animals trying to get out of the way. One of the cows, jumping for cover, slipped on the road and her haunches went down in an ungainly sprawl in front of us.

She scrambled up, trying harder now, her hind legs coming up in front of her ears, trying to find purchase, trying to survive. Moving more like a jack rabbit than a cow.

I held my breath, willing her to move faster, the voice in my head screaming, "Run cow, run!" as the truck slid slowly toward her.

She got her hooves underneath her, digging for traction on the slick road surface, as the truck got closer and closer. The cow's body was shorter than the hood of the truck, black and swallowed up in the dark night, and as we slid closer, her body disappeared and all I could see was her back end.

My entire universe narrowed to the white truck hood and the black cow ass.

I was entirely focused on the rigid tail and flexing butt hole of that black cow. That was all I could see. One butthole, literally, and the rigid, black tail sticking straight up from the front of the truck. The voice in my head was screaming "Go, go, go, go!!! Run little cow! Run!"

I braced for the impact, praying she would move fast enough to stay ahead of us.

And then we were stopped and that cow with the upright tail spun at the edge of the road and snorted at us with a massive WTF sort of snort.

We lost it. I laughed so hard I almost peed myself, sitting there in the middle of a blind curve, with a stalled truck, at almost midnight, being snorted at by a bunch of cows. All we would have needed to make our night was another vehicle coming around that corner at speed to find us sitting in the middle of the road.

To be continued . . . .


Public service announcement: Browband give away here. Last day to enter is tomorrow.

In the new Wintec. It's a different ride than the Trekker. Ashke was very free in the shoulder and very forward. I had a hard time getting him to slow down. He was even walking on a loose rein with his head down. He seemed much more willing to work with his back and even gave me a couple of good canters.

I think the Wintec will work until the Alta Escuela gets here. I may just keep it for showing. It's not a bad saddle for $400. After our ride, Ashke was a little sore, but not any more than he was when  I put the saddle on him. I need to start using the sore no more products to help him get right.

He did use his back a lot during our ride and he's basically had three weeks off with limited to no work, so over all I was very proud of him. She was able to get him to do shoulder in and a half pass correctly (I'm still learning) and he was very relaxed at the canter.

So, now to the good stuff:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

I spent my younger horse riding life riding mostly bareback or with a bareback pad. I didn't think anything of it, since we had no saddle and bareback worked for me. I finally got a western saddle at about 15 and rode in it for several years until it was stolen from the barn I was boarding at. Then I went back to riding bareback. Then I stopped riding for a while.

When I came back to riding I traded a month worth of work in a barn for an Aussie saddle. By then I was in love with the Man From Snowy River and lusted after all things Aussie. That saddle worked for Keili and I for the brief time we were together. Then there was a thing. The tree on the saddle was broken, and I got rid of it. And the horse. And didn't ride again for almost 20 years.

Then I was given Ashke.

The weekend after we drove to Texas to see him, I went to Down Under Saddlery here in Aurora. I was hoping for a Snowy River saddle, but after talking to the woman in the shop, I tried a Master Campdraft. Campdrafting is the Aussie term for working cattle. The saddle was comfortable and she swore it would fit Ashke. I showed her the pics we had of him and mentioned that I was worried that as he developed muscle and fat and all of the stuff he was missing, that the saddle wouldn't fit any more. She swore that the skeletal structure doesn't change and those things don't really matter. The saddle would fit.

Then came months of struggling with saddle fitment issues. I paid almost $300 for an equipad made of memory foam to help. Nothing seemed to make it better. We tried two different saddles. They didn't work. Finally, in frustration, I returned the saddles (for a full refund, thankfully) and turned to Bev for help. She came out, mapped Ashke's back and sold me the Trekkerland.

I was in love and thought we would be together forever. Treacherous bastard betrayed me and Ashke, throwing us back under the "searching for the perfect saddle fit" bus once again.

I emailed Bev. Thirteen times. I've been very frustrated with the response from her. Or lack of response. I am at my wits end and ready to make a different choice. She is not reacting with the urgency that I am feeling. I am tired of waiting, so I mapped Ashke's back myself and set off to fix this problem before spring arrives and I am stuck in the outdoor arena bareback.

See, I can't ride if I don't have a saddle. At my age and with my injuries, I want a saddle. I need a saddle. Ashke is more confident in a saddle.

I have tried several saddles now. I tried the saddle that Cassandra rides in, and the Adam Ellis that N owns. I have now sat in four different Wintec dressage saddles and all I can say is that I can not ride in a dressage saddle. The angle of the leg position puts too much pressure on my left hip and lower back, resulting in numbness, pain and massive discomfort. I have no interest in riding in a H/J saddle. That leaves an AP English saddle or western. Western saddles cause pain in my hip and knees.

There is one more saddle, though, that I have wanted since I saw it on Wait for the Jump's blog. It is a Spanish riding saddle. I joked months ago about getting one, but I really wasn't serious, until the Trekker failed me. I have looked at the pictures of Saiph riding in it and compared them to the Trekkerland. The body positions and seats are similar. Check. It is a deep saddle, so feels secure like my Trekkerland. Check. Saiph says it's very comfortable to ride in for long periods of time. Check. It is designed for a Spanish or Iberian horse, who are very similarly built to my Ashke. Check. I decided to reach out and see about ordering one of these saddles.

There is one place that sells these saddles and I got ahold of the woman who manages the business.

Lisa was wonderful. She reviewed my back map and all the accompanying measurements. She perused pictures of Ashke and his back shape. She looked at pics of my current saddle. She recommended a saddle and gave me a time frame to get it out. She sent me pictures of the other horses that do well under this saddle. She also guarentees the saddle fit and I can return it if it doesn't work. She answered all of my questions within a hour of my sending the email. She worked with me to make sure it was what I really needed for Ashke. I was sold. I am ordering a Ludomar Alta Escuela Flex tree Wide with a standard seat in black leather or suede with short billets. It should be here in a month or so. I opted out of any customization because I wouldn't be able to return it should it not fit and because I didn't want to wait for the saddle to be made. This particular saddle with be the quickest option.

Then I drove to Dover and purchased an inexpensive Wintec AP saddle to use in the meantime. I checked the wires I used for back mapping against the Wintec and it seems to fit pretty well. I will see tonight.

Now we wait. If this doesn't work, I will have to go back to Bev and look at the AP saddles she offers. Or go through the Arabian Saddle Company to find a saddle designed for my round belly boy. I hate this process.

Oh, and I have a great condition Trekkerland for sale. Standard tree. Standard seat. $1100 or obo, plus shipping. Email me at if you are interested.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sadness and Relief

Or maybe this should be titled relief and sadness.

It started with Cali getting sick. She was running a fever, had some swollen glands and green snot running from her nose. We discovered her illness during a lesson with Cassandra. N got her on antibiotics and she got about three weeks off, all told.

Cassini was next. Fever of over 105. No other symptoms and you couldn't tell he was sick. He had it for over a week. Off his food a bit, but not horrible.

Then Pico and Ashke. Ashke was in the upper 102's, but never really went off his feed or acted sickly. Two days and the fever was gone. Pico lasted a couple of days longer, and then nothing. The four horses who had gotten sick either stalled next to each other or were in turn-out together. Not a surprise it went through the group, but no other horses showed any symptoms

Dr Long told us it was a mild touch of Rhinovirus, at the tail end of our vaccine cycle, probably brought on by the psychotic weather. It seemed like only those four horses were going to get sick.

Then last Saturday, Jasmine got sick. Jasmine was an almost 24 year old QH mare, who had been the center of Julie's world for 22 years. Dr Long was called and an antibiotic prescribed. Saturday afternoon Sherl asked N to go talk to Julie, because she was really worried about her mare. Where N goes, I go. Jasmine was on the same side of the barn as Ashke, all the way at the end.

When we got there, Jasmine was down and groaning a little. She didn't look like she was in pain, but she sounded confused and distressed a little bit. We talked to Julie about the virus we had experienced and tried to give support. It's so hard when our animals get sick, because you just never know. Dr Long finally got there and with some effort he got Jasmine to her feet. They striped the blanket she had on off of her, finding her sweating lightly underneath. He gave her a couple of shots and drew some blood, then told Julie to take her out and walk her a bit. The mare was staggering and unable to really control her hind legs when they came out of the stall.

It was terrifying to watch. I knew it wasn't good, but had no idea what it could be. The look in Julie's eyes was heart-breaking.

Dr Long realized Jasmine was a lot sicker than he had thought. They got her turned around and back in to the stall. As she went in through the door she hit her hip on the jamb and it threw her completely off balance. She just never regained her balance, even after spinning in a circle for several moments. She went back down. She was down on the straw without hurting herself, but she made no attempt to stand again. Dr Long said that sometimes the Rhinovirus has a neurological effect.

I went home and did some research. Was reassured by Cassandra that because of the fever, if the neurological form of EHV-1 was going through the barn that Ashke was one of the safest horses. I called and asked on Monday morning if Jasmine was still alive. She was but the prognosis wasn't good.

I saw Julie on Monday night. She was exhausted and devastated. Jasmine was worse and we still didn't know what the issue was. There was lysol and hand sanitizer all over the barn, so owners could disinfect after handling their horses, to try and minimize the spread of whatever it might be. There was a twinge of fear and anxiety over every thing. I fed the horses I was responsible for, then went to give what comfort I could.

I spent about an hour with Julie and Jasmine. Julie was considering putting Jasmine down, but she seemed comfortable to me and warm, plus she was still eating and drinking. She was also talking to Julie and seemed much more comfortable with Julie in the stall with her. Jasmine asked for a drink. Sherl and I managed to raise her head high enough off the ground that Julie was able to put the bucket under her nose and let her have a good drink. Julie asked what I would do and I asked her what Dr Long recommended. Dr Long had said to wait until the morning. I figured that meant he was waiting on the blood work before proceeding. I told Julie that if it was me, as long as Jasmine was eating and drinking I would wait until Dr Long made the call. She seemed more at peace with her decision.

The blood work came back negative. There was no virus or disease. The best guess Dr Long has is that she had an aneurysm in her brain or spine that left her paralyzed. Julie was with her when they let her go.

Relief there was no serious virus going through the barn. Relief that it was just old age and the inevitable turning of the wheel. So very sad that Julie lost her companion of twenty two years. Some comfort in knowing there was nothing that could be or could have been done. Glad I was able to help her get a final drink, since she was so thirsty. Wish I could have had more words of comfort for Julie.

I know how hard that decision is. I made it when I thought Ashke was dying of colic. I've made it three times with my dogs in the past couple of years. Will have to make it again some with one very old dog and two old cats. It sucks. Every time it sucks.

Very thankful I didn't have to make it with Ashke this week.

So relieved.

But very sad.

Monday, February 24, 2014


With the saddle discussion . . .

I rode yesterday in N's Adam Ellis 17" dressage saddle. It was painful. The seat is too small for me and there was a lot of pressure holding my knees back. My lower back hurt. N kept telling me to relax and to give it a chance. I felt very secure in the seat because there was no room to move.

Did I mention it was painful?

However, Ashke moved out very nicely. It was obvious that the saddle wasn't affecting his shoulders or his back. He felt light and responsive. In retrospect, he's probably been sore for a while. We rode for twenty minutes or so tonight and it just was uncomfortable. I'm not sure I like dressage saddles.

So. My dilemma is this. Do I try out and spend a couple of thousand dollars on a dressage or AP English saddle OR do I spend a couple of hundred on a Wintec and then a couple of thousand on a custom made Alta Escuela. Without ever having tried it on my horse.

I did suggest to J that I book a flight to Washington DC to try out the saddle, but I was shot down. I thought it would be a good compromise. I would at least know if I liked it. Alas, even after shouting and tears and begging, the answer was no. Damnit. I was told to be practical.

Cassandra said dressage saddles are not designed to be comfortable for long periods of time. They are designed to hold the rider in a proper position for proper riding (sure a lot of proper) and not designed to be comfortable on the trail. That is a con in my book.

I could do Working Eq in full Spanish vaquero garb if I had an Alta Escuela. That's actually in the pro column.

The Alta Escuela is designed for a Spanish horse with a short croup and a wide, flat back. I am waiting to see what the bottom of the saddle looks like and what the tree looks like. I also don't know if the saddle tree can be adjusted later on. If it can't be adjusted, that is a con.

What to do? I am still waiting on an appointment with Bev.

It's too far to drive to the saddle place and try them there.

What would you do?

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Don't forget the browband give-away found here give-away. Just leave a comment to be entered for a hand-made, custom designed browband for your favorite equine.

The news today was not good. I decided to try and map Ashke's back on my own. I bought heavy gauge wire, armed myself with a marker, wire cutters, paper and tape measure. First, I molded the wire to his back, then I transferred it to the paper.

This is what the mapping looks like:


A year ago

The top line is his top line and the tracings below that are the wither and back tracings. I know the left wither is under developed, still. Each tracing is four inches apart. I don't know if my tracing gave Bev any knowledge other than she needs to come out and check his saddle.

The website I found that showed how to do the fitting, (Back mapping) recommended taking the wire once it has been molded to your horse's back and testing the saddle directly. You flip the saddle onto it's back and lay the topline molding along the tree. This is supposed to show you if the saddle is rounded too much for the horse's back. In my case, the only part of the tree (between the panels) that touched the mold was dead center. The tree is very rounded. Ashke's back is very flat.

Once you have the topline wire on the tree in the correct position, you put the wire molds into the saddle at the same point along the topline wire that you originally mapped his back. If the wire doesn't really touch or falls into the center of the saddle, then the saddle is too wide. If the wire does sit down where it should because the sides of the wire are too wide, then the saddle is too narrow. With the Trekkerland, the panels flex outward and are designed to spread the weight along the sides and back of the horse. When I flexed the panels enough that the wire molds of Ashke's back fit between the panels, the top of the panels flexed inward and down. This means that every time I tighten the cinch, there is a bar of about four inches wide and the length of the saddle, that pinches up against his spine and protrudes into the muscle of his back. All of the weight in the saddle is going to be along that four inch wide strip. And it explains why the saddle is bridging. There is no flexibility in the lateral movement of the saddle.

Ashke's not over weight. He does have a rounded belly and well-sprung ribs, but that is expected with an Arabian. N and Cassandra have checked him and I can feel his ribs. He is gaining a lot of muscle and his topline looks so much better. I just think he has outgrown this particular saddle. We tried N's Adam Ellis dressage saddle on him because it is a wide gullet and it fit pretty well. We might need to shim the left wither, but other than that, it fit very well. I'm not sure I want a dressage saddle and am not sure I can ride in one, since it forces the thigh downward, which puts a great deal of strain on my back. I am in the process of looking into a custom built one, but am worried that he will have outgrown that one in a year as well.

I'm beginning to think I should just stop doing dressage. Making my horse all strong and muscley. That's enough of that.

Anyone want a Trekkerland, in great shape, with stirrup irons and leathers? Let me know if you do. . . .

I still don't know yet if it can be adjusted. I sent Bev an email detailing all of the above and asking her if the panels can be adjusted. Hopefully, I will hear from her soon.

In the meantime, I tried a saddle of Michelle's today, which was way too tight in the withers. Ashke let me know he was not excited about it being on his back. AT ALL. I ended up riding in it for maybe five minutes than stopped and pulled the saddle. Then I climbed on bareback. Ashke did pretty good although he gets a little touchy about my grabbing on with my knees. We did walking and trotting. At one point one of the other rider's was like, "you don't need a saddle. Look at you go." I tried to tell N we could do a trail ride with me bareback, but she wasn't having it.

When I went to get off I have to use the mounting block. I rode Ashke up to it and he stood waiting. I asked him verbally to move his hip over so I could step off and he did. Then he stood without moving while I got off without hurting my back. For some reason leaning forward and swinging my right leg behind me hurts so bad I cry. I know this because it happened last weekend. Today he stood completely still and let me slide sideways off his bare back and then swing my leg over. Such a good boy. N said you could tell he was concentrating on not moving because he didn't want me to be hurt. Walking back he kept bumping my shoulder with his nose.

He's such an incredible horse. Now, if I could just find a saddle that fit. Tomorrow I am going to try him with N's saddle and see how we both like it. I'll let you know.

Friday, February 21, 2014


. . . . Never kiss your horse on the nose right after putting Carmex on your lips. Also, don't shave your horse, or curry your horse right after putting Carmex on your lips.

. . . . whoever said you have nothing to fear but fear itself has never been on a horse on the trail in gale force winds.

. . . .  everything is new and scary when you change direction in the arena.

. . . . never tell your spouse you have all the equipment you need, because that is just a challenge to the Universe to prove you wrong.

. . . .  don't brag to everyone about how wonderful your saddle is, because then it won't fit your horse any more.

. . . . nothing is so bad that a flapping tarp can't make worse.

 . . . . horses are the only creature on the planet that can actually go in five directions at once.

. . . . horses can sniff out treats at 500 feet.

. . . . an abrupt stop is not a dressage move

. . . . neither is a vertical spook.

. . . . horses know instinctively how to play the "you can't catch me" game.

. . . . gravity works, can be incredibly painful, sometimes hilarious and always a risk

. . . . humans are not squeeky toys and should not be treated as such.

. . . . horse hair has amazing qualities and can remain in unspeakable areas even after a hot shower.

. . . . garbage cans are not predators

Browband Give-away

As you all might know, I have been dabbling in the art of creating beaded browbands for bridles. You might have seen a few of them:

Multiple Greens, Yellow, Silver, Black and White

Dark Amethyst, Light Amethyst, Black and Silver
Bright Blue, Topaz, Black and Orange
Multiple Blues, Silver and multiple greys
So here's the deal. I am giving away one hand-beaded, custom designed, sized to fit your horse, browband. You will have input as to color choices and design, and then I will create it specifically for you. Artistic expression is entirely at my discretion, based on the beads and the loom and the design.
To enter, leave a comment on this post telling me something I don't know about you. (I figured it would be a fun way to discover something new about the people who read my blog.) I will include a second entry for anyone who wishes to mention the give away on their blog with a link to this post. I will give another entry to anyone who shares this on Facebook. (Yes, if you follow my blog and are linked to me on FB, then you could have 3 entries in the drawing.)
 The give away will be by random drawing.
The contest will close on 2/28/14 and a winner will be drawn and announced on March 1st, which may be pretty close to my 500th blog post. Good luck.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Ashke was running a fever of 102.4 yesterday, and 102.8 today. He was treated with a dose of Banamine. We also changed his base feed from wet timothy hay pellets (which he has never really liked) to bran as a base for mixing in his Equipride, smart pak and a little salt. He spreads his jaws wide and bites deep into the mash. He's always enjoyed them, but I stopped while he was still on alfalfa. Now that he's off, the amount we are feeding shouldn't bother him. One of the nice things is that we can make it really sloppy and he'll still eat it.

You'd think a horse that had once almost been starved to death wouldn't be so darn picky. But he is.

I'm going out tomorrow to check on him, maybe hand walk him a bit, and love on him alot.

The vet says it's Rhinovirus. Ashke is the fourth in the barn to show symptoms. It started with Cali, who was running temps in the 105 range, then Cassini got it. Cassini is in the stall right next to Ashke. Then Pico, who is on the other side of Cassini came down with it. Now Ashke. Who knows who else might be showing symptoms by tomorrow.

They were all vaccinated in the fall round of vaccines. Sometimes it just doesn't take, I guess.

Duration seems to be four to five days, although Cali has been off a week and still kind of huffy. She had a sinus infection, though.

Maybe I can ride on Sunday.

TTTT: Life Lesson

Or: How I came to Marry a Nazi . . . 

Before I met J, I was in my first serious relationship with a woman I really thought I would spend the rest of my life with. I was in my late 20's when we met and although I knew she was younger than me, I thought our connection was strong enough to survive. When she turned 21, however, all bets were off. I was in my early 30's at that point and thinking about having a baby, settling down, house ownership, etc. I had given up my horses when we started our relationship (she was not a horse person) and was settled in my career, so it seemed like a natural progression of events. She wanted body shots, late nights of drinking, picking up strangers and all of those other early twenty activities that become wearisome and exhausting by the time you are thirty. We went our separate ways and I moved into a small one-bedroom apartment by myself.

I decided to forego relationships and have a baby by myself, since I had always wanted a child. I figured it would be hard, but we would have love and I would do whatever it took to give my son a great home and a bright future.

Then this happened:

I was almost asleep on the couch (my regular sleeping place since the break up - sleeping alone in bed was too difficult) when the phone rang. I answered it to find that a friend of mine was calling to see if she and her girlfriend (my bestie Jay) could borrow my water jugs to go camping. I replied that I was almost asleep and if she was coming over she was running the risk of me answering the door in my underwear. (This was nothing new, since I find moments for public nudity wherever I can, usually while camping. Well, I did. Not so much any more. You are all safe.) Shelly, Jay's girlfriend, laughed and said she dared me to.

About forty minutes later someone knocked on the door. I knew it was Shelly and Jay and for a moment was very tempted to answer the door in the buff, just to prove a point, but then I remembered that for the first time ever, three strangers had knocked on the door this evening looking for someone else and I couldn't risk it. I pulled on a t-shirt (I sleep mostly unclothed.) and shorts and went to answer the door. It was a stranger. Shelly, believing me when I said I would be naked, had hidden to the side of the door and had J knock. She didn't tell J what she was doing and had hoped that I would do what I had threatened, thus embarrassing us both. I spoiled her plot by actually having clothes on and invited them inside.

J, back then, had long, curly red hair almost to her waist, which she wore in a braid down the center of her back most of the time. She had a baseball cap on, tshirt and shorts. Brilliant blue eyes. The four of us settled ourselves in the living room and proceeded to talk for several hours, until I finally kicked them out of the apartment so I could get three hours of sleep before needing to go to work. During that conversation, which spanned a myriad of topics, I discovered that J was 1) raised fundamental Christian, 2) spent a lot of her youth in the south, 3) went to Wheaton College, which is the college Billy Graham was from, and 4) was kind of militant in her attitude about God, Jesus, church and religion. (I, for the record, am the exact opposite on all of those topics.) Still, she was easy to talk to and made me laugh. She didn't know anyone in the Denver area just having relocated from Chicago, and so I gave her my number and told her to call me if she ever wanted to hang out. They all left and I figured I wouldn't ever hear from her again. (A couple of our conversations had gotten a little snarky in the liberal vs religious department and I love playing devil's advocate to anyone's blind belief.)

Imagine my surprise when she called two days later. She had forced herself to wait because she didn't want me to think she was too interested. We chatted on the phone and made plans to go out. I was not very good at dating. It's not really something lesbians are good at, maybe because we are women and figuring out the dating thing was something taught to men, or maybe it's just that the step between dating and bedding is so short and small, it was easy to take. This time, however, I was committed to dating. To courting. To figuring out whether we were compatible before falling into bed and renting the Uhaul (now, I think this step between dating and bedding can be short for a lot of couples, straight or gay, when you meet as strangers and adults. At least it seems that way to me after sharing stories and experiences with my friends.) We decided to go to dinner in Boulder and then walk on the creek.

Dinner was wonderful and wandering along Boulder Creek is one of my most favorite things to do ever. I was feeling comfortable, stimulated and intrigued. We seemed to be enjoying each other's company and at one point, J took her hat off, undid her hair and finger combed it out, then put it back under her hat. I was entranced. I wanted to run my fingers through her hair. At that moment I wondered. I wondered if she was the one I would spend my life with. Was this door opening again if I was willing to take the risk? I felt hope for the future for the first time in several months. I wanted this to continue (she really did have magnificent hair when we first met.)

Flustered, I glanced down and realized J was wearing black polished combat boots. I grinned and said, "Nice boots."

J looked down and said, "Yeah, I like them. They were a gift from a Nazi friend I knew in college. She gave them to me for doing her a favor."

I froze. Nazi? friend? I was intrigued and terrified and confused. How could you have a Nazi friend in college? What kind of favor? Was J a Nazi? Here I was, intrigued and delighted by this woman, who was wearing boots given to her by a Nazi. But how in the hell does one ask one's date "Are you a Nazi?" What if she said yes?

We finished the evening in a haze and I managed to hide my turmoil from her. I was dealing with attraction and revulsion, feeling at ease and in danger at the same time. I have always been the type of woman that if you told me I couldn't do something, I would figure out a way to prove you wrong. The worse kind of oppositional defiance. This situation poked at me the same way. I wanted to see her again, to see if she really was a Nazi, or if she just knew Nazis. Her adamant fundamental Christianity seemed like the sort of thing a Nazi would believe. How could she be a Nazi and a lesbian? I should just walk away. But then, the image of her taking down her hair, the vulnerability it revealed, would draw me back in. I walked around arguing with myself in my head about what the hell I was doing. It was all very dramatic and felt dangerous. I didn't know what I wanted to do.

We kept dating. A week or so later, we went to the Taste of Colorado. It's a food event with live music during Labor Day weekend and is a fun way to sample all the different gourmet foods offered by different restaurants in Denver. We had plates of food and were sitting on the grass with Shelly and Jay when an absolutely, drop dead gorgeous black man walked by.

J said, "Wow, he's beautiful."

Definitely former Nazi, if Nazi at all. I couldn't imagine a Nazi admiring the physical beauty of a black man at all. I felt a little bit better after that revelation, but still, did I really want to be with someone who had been a Nazi in the past? And what kind of favors did she do the Nazi she knew in college? The mind boggled. I was still stretched between fight and flight. Should I stay or should I go?

We planned a camping trip with Shelly and Jay. To Vedauwoo. My heart place. The place where I take all of my prospective dalliances. The first evening we were up there we walked to the meadow, and were walking and talking and enjoying the company. Inside, I was still torn.

I looked down and realized she was wearing the Nazi boots.

I said, "nice boots" not sure I meant it this time.

J said, "Aren't they awesome? I got them for doing my roommate a favor."

I was done. I had to know. I couldn't take it any longer, because I absolutely couldn't fall in love with a Nazi, no matter how titillating it might be. I didn't want that to happen. It went against everything I believed, everything I was. I said, "Sit down here. I have a question for you."

We sat facing each other on a fallen cedar tree. J looked worried. I took a deep breath and mustered my courage.

"When were you a Nazi?"

J's mouth dropped open. I don't know what she thought I was going to say, but it wasn't that. "What the hell are you talking about? I'm not a Nazi? Why would you think that?"

Confused, I replied, "Well, when I first commented on your boots you said they were a gift from a Nazi friend. For doing favors."

J said very clearly with great enunciation, "Rotzy, Karen. Not Nazi. R.O.T.C."


There was a long pause.

Then she added as if I were feeble, "My roommate in college was in ROTC. I polished her boots for her for her dress uniform, since I was really good at it. At graduation, she gave me a pair in thanks. I never said I was a Nazi." She was very offended.

All I could do was laugh.

In my defense, I had never heard anyone refer to ROTC as Rotzy.

It made a great story to tell at our wedding.

Last thoughts: when I told this story at our wedding, most of the people there said they would never have gone on a second date, if they had thought the person they were interested in was a Nazi. I think about that and how, if I had reacted that way, instead of trying to figure her out, we wouldn't be here today. With our son. Or my horse. Or our life. With her. It would have ended before it ever got a chance to start: not because she was a Nazi, but because of my preconceived notions of who she might be. My misunderstanding her comment. And then not questioning.

There has to be a life lesson in there somewhere.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Amethyst Browband

17" Amethyst Browband
Dark Amethyst, Light Amethyst, Silver and Black

Plaid pattern
Denise and Wrangler


For those of you who know her, Saiph at just posted a bunch of mostly pencil or pen and ink drawings she's done over the years on her blog. She is immensely talented. One of them, the picture of the white and black unicorns standing at the edge of the sea, reminded me of a poem I wrote years and years ago. This is that poem.


Somewhere in the distant past
Far beyond this present day
When Knights and Princes ruled the earth
And Dragons dared to slay. 

It was then that I first met you
Where the mountains touched the sky
In a grassy meadow green and new
There you were and so was I

Yours was a form of riven white
Dressed with eyes of sunlit blue
Sparks flew up from your gilded hooves
As you danced among the dew

A shimmering fall of dazzling light
Slid along your arching form
And all the colors of the rainbow's flight
Followed in the weave of your glistening horn

I hovered there above your head
Scorched to my very soul
As power touched my wings with fright
I knew that I should go

You called to me with your alluring stance
A challenge there to stay
But we were not at all alike
As different as night and day

You were a child of the Earth
With a form of shimmering white
I was destined to roam the sky
As black as the deepest night

My flanks were streaked with midnight blue
My eyes a brilliant green
My hooves were etched a silvered hue
My legs were lithe and lean

My nostrils gleamed a blood-red haze
Bright against the endless black
Above my back my wings did stretch
Surely, I did lack

With mourning eyes I turned away
To fly the skies once more
To leave you behind for all of time
Aching; alone I would soar

With a final glance at your beautiful form
And a tear in my sorrow filled eyes
I watched the weave of your glistening horn
And whispered a heartfelt goodbye

Then sunlit blue met forest green
Your soul called out to mine
To stay that day and ever more
A challenge to my mind

To stay with you and never leave
Was what you offered me
Our forms were different it was true
But our love could ever be

For you were the last of a dying breed
As alone in the world as I
I could feel your heart deep pain
It was echoed in my cry

And then I felt my soul unwind
From the frightened place it slept
Until it stretched into the sky
And I knew what must be meant

One form of white, unearthly sight
One form of midnight hue
Together would dance on the mountaintops
Among the shimmering dew

So there in that hallowed meadow
Among the grass so green
We lived out the span of our mingled lives
Caught up in our woven dream

Then the magic left the earth
Driven out by the hand of man
All of the beauty chased away
Destroyed throughout the land

Except for that tiny meadow
At the top of the highest hill
Where a pair of shadowy figures
Dance together still

One is a shimmering rainbow
The other a patch of night
One has found earthbound play
The other has found flight.

                                  --- Karen Burch
                                       Copyright 1992

Monday, February 17, 2014


All I have to say is that I am not 15 any more.

And I got on bareback. On my Arabian. Without a saddle. Go me.

Tried a new saddle today. Worked good on Ashke, but it forced my knees back and arched my lower back, which produced a lot of pain. And tingly numbness down my right leg. Two times around the arena and I was in so much pain that I couldn't ride any more.

My take away, the saddle is causing difficulty for my horse to move properly. Still waiting on an appointment with Bev.

Sun Day

Yesterday was fun.

Sarcasm does not translate to the blog world very well. That sentence should be dripping with sarcasm.

Started with a fight with T about leaving the house at 11:30 instead of 2, so we could save gas on our trip to the barn. We had been invited to dinner with N and R, so planned on going out and staying. T was upset we were leaving so early and it devolved into a fight about spending time with the horse vs spending time on xbox. So not fun.

When I got to the barn, N was ready and waiting (we were late). We decided to work in the outdoor arena, so I groomed Ashke and got the surcingle on him. N tested his back first and sure enough, the boy is sore. I grabbed the lunge line and the side reins, but failed to grab the carriage whip. I released Ashke from the grooming stall and walked to the tack room to grab the whip. Ashke walked to the opening of the tack room and stopped. I extended the reins and tried for the whip. I was about four inches short. I turned back with the intention of using the lunge line to extend my reach and lifted it up in front of me to hook onto Ashke's bridle. He must have thought he was about to be eaten or beaten or some other horrible thing was going to happen to him and he pulled back.

I had his reins in my left hand. When he pulled back it jerked me over the tack truck I was standing behind, knocking me horizontal and then I flew into the stack of bins that was on top of the refrigerator next to the door. Me, the bins, soy bran and beet pulp exploded out of the tack room at my already freaked horse, who continued to try his hardest to head for distant pastures. I crashed down on the bins, cut and bleeding, and finally let go of the reins.

Why is it we absolutely refuse to release the reins, even after we've been injured? What subconscious devil inside us refuses to let go?

I could hear Ashke bolting down the aisle and couldn't find the breath to yell "loose horse". Thankfully, N had just unhooked Cali and they intercepted him. She said his name and he came to a screeching halt. By the time I had untangled my pathetic self (did you catch that I was bleeding? Nice gash on my forearm and gouges on the back of my left hand) Ashke was standing and snorting by the grooming stalls, reins dangling in front of him. I staggered toward him and he snorted one of his "OMG! What is that thing?" snorts and moved like he was going to bolt again. I dropped everything in my hands onto the floor of the barn and said his name.

He was like, "Oh, it's YOU." and let me walk right up to him.

He went back in the grooming stall while N and I cleaned up the mess.

This incident did not help my emotional state. At all. There were tears.

Then we went to the arena and N rode while I tortured Ashke on the lunge line with side reins. I figured out I can't do the side reins too tight at the canter or he cross canters. He also moved without any lameness or hesitancy and was tracking up on both hind feet. He was warm but not hot by the time we were done, so I grabbed my metaphysical balls in both hands and climbed on him bareback.

Well almost. I had the BOT saddle blanket and the surcingle on him, but it was as close to being bareback as I want to get at this point. We walked a lot and even trotted a few steps. I will post video tonight.

After our ride, we changed out waters, fed and went to N's for the afternoon and stayed through dinner. It was very tasty. Blue Bell Banana Split ice cream is very yummy.

It was almost ten by the time we made it home. That was too long of a time. The puppies had accidents (both types) in the living room by the time we got home. I felt bad for them and for the old dog who must have peed for five minutes straight. (She pees if she's left alone for five minutes, but can hold her bladder for ten hours without an accident if she is home with the puppies. Total swiss cheese for brains at this point, but too sweet to let her go until she tells us it's time.)

Hopefully, I will hear from Bev by tomorrow. She has limited hours at her shop.

Look for amazing videos soon!

Saturday, February 15, 2014


This is what met me at the barn

I would say he enjoyed getting out this week and being able to roll in the mud. Thank goodness we are impersonating a Roman cavalry horse, or I would have had to cut mud out of his mane. The roach clip is now standing straight up about four inches. He looks so good.

We got groomed and booted. I still hate the boots. They don't fit his back feet at all. although the front do okay. I put on the shoulder pack with two bottles of water. I hate how that fits on this saddle too. However, nothing was going to deter me from riding out today with J. (T was skiing.) When we walked out of the barn, Ashke saw J waiting with her bike by the truck and his head came up, his ears pricked and he knew we were headed out on the trail.

Walking through the neighborhood was an adventure, even with J with us. There were tipped over garbage cans that swear-to-all-the-gods were going to eat him. There was also a mobile speed limit sign sitting on the street that was very scary. There were a lot of startles and jumps, but no real shying.

It was so good for both of us to get out. We did a lot of trotting and four canters. We also spooked at a long, thin, wavey white gossimer thing stuck on a fence post and undulating in the wind. That particular thing caused him to back up rapidly and spin. He's never done that before. I ignored it and we continued on.

J underestimated how cold 45 degrees with a slight wind and no real sunshine can be. She was chilled. I fixed it though by making her bike uphill very fast.

Ashke felt a little bit off. Not lame. Just not correct. He was willing to move at whatever gait I requested, but still felt a little off. I asked J if his boots looked right and she said the backs looked funny (they really are too big) so I pulled them.

He still felt off, so about half way around the loop, I pulled off the fronts. We had a couple of really nice canters and although the first time he grabbed at the bit and tried to take off, all I had to do was say easy and he came right back to me.

About a mile from the barn I finally pulled off the front saddle bags. He felt much better after that. I think the water bottles I had were bonking his shoulders and he didn't like it. You do know he is a Diva, right? Talk about Princess and the Pea. Still, there was something wrong and I hadn't completely identified it yet.

We took three breaks of five minutes or so to pull shoes and to allow J to catch her breath. This was the fastest we've ever made this ride and averaged 4 mph. (I know, it's not that great, but considering he hasn't been on trail since the first week in November, I can't complain.) It was a great ride, although I did notice some stuff that had pretty much gone away: his right hind felt a little weaker, he was trying to pop-up into the canter instead of maintaining the trot, and he felt off.

When we got back to the barn I finally figured out why.

All I could do is cuss.

My saddle. The saddle we both love. NO LONGER FITS!!!!!!!!!!!! It's pinching him over the small of his back, right above the loins. It was very, very obvious when I pulled the saddle. The small grey spot I noticed after our last ride on Wednesday, was the size of Alaska at the end of our ride today.

I've already emailed the saddle fitter. No ride for me tomorrow. I will work the boy in side reins and a surcingle, working on trot-canter transitions for the next week until Bev can get out.

I want to beat my head on the table.

My only consolation right now is that I believe the Prestige Trekkerland is completely adjustable and I really hope Bev can fix it.

This is what dressage training can do to your horse. Grow muscles in his back so that your damn saddle doesn't fit. I told Cassandra I wasn't doing any more of that shit!

Of course, I was kidding. But still.

It's just money, right?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

TTTT: Snow

I live in the west. When I was young, we didn't have the plethora of information that flows at our fingertips at a moments notice. Growing up in southeastern Idaho, we had two television channels: NBC and CBS. I think I was in my early teens before we started getting ABC. We watched football during the football season on Sundays and Monday nights. We watched Wonderful World of Disney on Friday nights. And we watched Masterpiece Theater when my parents were gone (scare the crap out of you nights.) I also, during my tweens, watched The Lone Ranger with fanatical focus in the morning waiting for the bus, after my parents had left for the day. The television was never a huge thing in our house.

My point?

We didn't have the weather channel. Most nights, we didn't watch the news. Sometimes, we would listen to the radio, but for the most part, we spent our days with a weather rock. When it was white, it was snowing . . . . you know the drill. That meant, that as kids we had to become pretty adept at reading the weather. I can still tell when it is going to snow by the smell of the wind. I could tell when it was going to cloud up later in the day by the way the sky looked. All of that was important, because I grew up with the stories about the great plains blizzards that used to blow up out of nowhere without warning and kill anyone caught without shelter. (Yes, I know that we didn't really live on the Great Plains, but I have always been caught between this life and my last one, which was spent on the plains, so bear with me.) Did you know that the only animal that can survive a Great Plains blizzard is the American Bison, also known as Tatanka? Anyway, there are stories told in the west about settlers and Indians caught out when the storms come down from the Northeast and you can get 40" of snow in 12 hours (been there, seen it). Drift fence was constructed by the early white settlers so the storm wouldn't drive the cattle for 1000 miles in front of it. Buffalo just hunker down and don't really care. Cattle and horses mostly die.

So, for maybe the first fifteen years of my relationship with J, every time we get a big snow I break out the anecdote about Great Plains blizzards and perishing in the snow. And then this happened . . .

J and I have always loved to camp. It was the very first activity we did together when we started dating and we try to get out camping at least once a summer, if not more. T got the bug early and has loved to camp with us, although the very first time we took him out he came down Hand, Foot and Mouth disease, which made a 3:30 am run from our camp ground to the emergency room 30 miles away a necessity. Still, he has always been a camper, loving the night sky, rock climbing, hiking and throwing sticks. (Give him a stick and a rock and the boy is happy.) Usually by the end of May we are so stir crazy from the weather (our snowiest months are March and April, a fact that doesn't excite me at all this year) and ready to be out under the stars. Our favorite place to camp is a spot off of I-80, between Cheyenne and Laramie, called Vedauwoo. I have been camping there for thirty years and my mom camped there for years prior to that. It's where I want my ashes scattered when I am dead.

My heart place.

One day I will camp and have Ashke up here. My heart will explode with happiness. And this year I plan on doing the 25 mile LD they run called Happy Jack Endurance Race.

It was 2004. T was 4 years old and we were going nuts wanting to go camping. Friday was June 9th and we checked the weather channel for the extended forecast before deciding to head up. Although it was supposed to be rainy on Friday night, it was supposed to stop raining at about dusk, and the rest of the weekend would have scattered showers with a high of 70. I, in my infinite wisdom (or maybe it was just the small quiet voice in the back of my head) made sandwiches in advance (I worked at Quizno's at the time) for lunch on Saturday, which we packed in the cooler. We packed one pair of long pants and a couple of pairs of shorts, plus sweatshirts and a rain coat. We packed a lot more than that for the boy, because being small and having the energy level of a small nuclear device, he always needed more clothes. We loaded the tent, our coolers, the clothes, our camp stove and four dogs into the 4Runner and headed north.

When we got to Vedauwoo, we bypassed the State Park there and headed into Medicine Bow National forest (I will always camp in the middle of nowhere, if I have the chance.) We drove past our normal campsite, where I have been camping for thirty years, because the last time we were there we were interrupted bright and early in the morning by a full-scale grid search for human remains (someone had found a human skull next to the highway) and nothing will taint a campsite like police people looking for human remains. We continued down the road, through a wash over where the creek ran over the road, then through the forest looking. We found a cut off to the left where the horse hitching post is and started following the road that led back between the hills. The road was washboard and pretty primative, curving and bending around, until we came to another creek crossing. The crossing was about 15 feet wide and about six inches deep, but the bottom was rocky and the 4Runner crossed without issue. We continued up the road, climbing in elevation, to a place where the road curved to the right around a huge freaking boulder. The road angled, tippy the truck at a crazy angle toward the rock, but we eased by without scraping anything or tipping over (always my fear). Past the rock, the road leveled out quite a bit and we found ourselves in a long, flat meadow.

About half way down the meadow, there was a track that ran off to the left toward a big pile of rocks. We turned off there, wanting to camp in the lee of the rocks, if possible. The track climbed up for about an eighth of a mile, and then dropped down into a small bowl. We were down out of the wind, there was rock on three sides of us, and there was a small slope of trees for our hammocks between the campsite and the rock. It looked perfect. There was a flat area for the tent and plenty of wood close by for a fire. We got the dogs and the boy out of the truck and set to work.

It was getting colder as we went, so J worked on getting a fire started, and when the rain started coming down (not a surprise, we were expecting it) she left off trying to get the fire ready and brewed us some hot chocolate. By that time, I had the tent up and the air mattresses filled inside, covered with our sleeping bags and pillows (the mattresses were wall to wall, thank goodness). We got the boy set up with his DVD player, pulled the sandwiches and sodas out of the cooler for dinner and crawled into the tent. J took about an hour after she ate to dig a trench around the tent to keep the water flowing past, because the rain was really coming down. Finally, she crawled into the tent, changed out of her drenched clothes, including her rain jacket, crawled into warm clothes and into her sleeping bag. We played with the boy, made jokes, told stories, sang some songs and finally fell asleep just about dark. The rain stopped at about the same time, so we felt pretty confident we would wake the next morning to a world of sunshine and no rain. The last thing I thought when we went to sleep was how happy I was we were sleeping on air mattresses, because there was two inches of rain in the bottom of the tent. We had let the dogs out when we first got to the campsite and they were soaked and cold. We tossed them in the back of the 4Runner for the night, with their blankets and the back window cracked.

At some point in the night, I pulled T out of his sleeping bag and into my double bag with me, curling his small body against my chest and tucking his sock-covered feet between my thighs. I wrapped the extra blankets and sleeping bags over us and snuggled my sweet son while listening to the pine cones falling from the trees. It still sounded windy, but it wasn't raining any more. It was, however, pretty darn cold.

At about 5, the sound of something falling woke me up. It always sounds like footfalls to my subconscious and I come wide awake. I lay in the tent and listened, but the dogs weren't barking, so I didn't think it was a stranger. Then I realized that the breath coming out of my mouth was white. I decided I needed to look out and see what in the hell was going on. I got T wrapped up and warm in the sleeping bag, then rolled over and opened the tent window a crack.

The snow was going past the tent sideways. There was about 7" on the ground already. I couldn't see to the edge of the clearing we were in. Total white out conditions.

I closed the tent and rolled over. I said, "J, it's snowing. There is about 7" on the ground and it's going past us sideways. What do you want to do?"

J: "What time is it?"

Me: "About five or so."

J: "Sleep til seven."

I made it another half hour or so, and then I got up, put on my wet clothes and went outside to assess. I let the dogs out to potty and then they came shivering up to me and asked to get back into the truck. They were boxers and had no fur to speak of. I locked them back in the truck, got any dry clothes we had and trekked back to the tent.

I had a pair of dry pants, but my shoes were tennis shoes and soaked. J had waterproofed shoes, but only shorts and a tee shirt, plus the sweatshirt she had worn to bed. Her coat was soaked. We dressed T in as many layers as we could, then ran him to the truck and set him up with his movie, while we broke camp. By this time there was ten inches of snow on the ground and more coming down every minute. I had parked the truck at the top of the hill, facing outward, or we might never have left that campsite, since the drive up the hill was over slick rock.

The dogs were the losers on this packing trip. They ended up sharing the back of the 4Runner with the cooler, the stove and jammed in stuff. I didn't try to fold or pack anything. I just made a pile and jammed it in the truck. Even the tent ended up a big wet, snowy wad. We packed everything we could find, but we knew we were leaving things under the snow. Neither or us was willing to search any longer, being cold and wet and worried about finding our way out.

Finally, with everything packed, I started the 4Runner and put it in 4WD low. I tried to back up the truck in order to get back on the track we had followed up. The truck slid sideways toward the trees to my left. We stopped. I told J we had to go forward, even though we had no idea what was in front of us. J hopped out of the truck and in shorts and a wet coat, walked the track in front of the truck, with me following her slowly. Our biggest issue was that we had no idea how to get out, since we had only been there once and all of our landmarks were gone in a veil of white. When we got to the meadow, J got back in and I walked the edges, trying to figure out where we were. We finally figured out that we had crossed the road we had taken in and needed to back track. Once again, J got out and led the way.

When we got to the boulder, the road to the left of the boulder was filled with water. I knew it had to be six or eight feet deep and there was no way to drive past. There seemed to be a path through the trees, but my memory told me there had to be huge boulders in the ground that could rip the guts out of the truck if we weren't careful. J walked the pathway and I followed in her footsteps as we wove through the trees and rocks back to the road. We made it. We went back later and I have no idea how we managed it, though, since the path we think we drove was littered with huge boulders.

When we got to the creek we had crossed going in, it was twenty feet across and about two feet deep. J was going to try and find a path upstream, but I knew that wasn't going to work. I had noticed on the drive in that there was marshland and bog there, with deep rutting where dumbasses had mudded in their jeeps. That thick bog was buried under water, but it was still there and I knew if I tried to go that way we would be stuck. I waved J out of the way, took a deep breath and gunned the truck. We made it through without getting stuck, although J wasn't happy with my preemptory decision. With that obstacle cleared, she was able to get back in the truck.

There were no tracks. We continued through Vedauwoo toward Happy Jack road (good decision because the highway was closed and if we had gone the other way, we would have had to turn around and go back). Once we hit Happy Jack we turned toward Cheyenne, pushing snow with our bumper and following the mile marker signs at the edge of the road. About three miles out of Cheyenne there was a line of demarcation, where the snow turned to ice in the space of a foot. It was raining in Cheyenne and dry and 75 by the time we hit Denver.

So, we got to experience a High Plains blizzard. It was luck and determination and not a little bit of luck that got us out and safe. Our only other option was to stay put, in the truck, until the snow stopped and the water lowered. We had no cell coverage. We had limited food. And we had wet clothes. If we had been in the pop-up, we probably would have stayed put, since the pop-up has heat and the ability to cook and we could have dried out our clothes. Our bedding would have been dry. The dogs would have been inside and safe and dry. Things would have been different.

We were very lucky that day.