Welcome to WordPlay!

This is Doranna Durgin’s WordPlay Blog. Theoretically, it’s all about my books.  In practice, it’s more about life, dog training, horses, and reading.  On Fridays, The Write Horse usually stops by to offer a peek into the horse training life, written by Patty Wilber.  Welcome, and I hope you come back!

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The NMApHC Rope Clinic

By Patty Wilber

Last weekend (2-17-24) The NMApHC put on a clinic to help folks improve their rope-handling skills for ranch horse classes.

The rope magician clinicians were Ryan Erikson and Shawn Carrell. Kathryn Erikson ran the “How to Manage Your Space when Dragging a Log” station, and I was support crew for the younger crowd.

Ryan on a warmer day. Photo by Lauren Aston in case you miss the watermark.

Shawn on the right, the header. Also, a on much warmer day! Photo from Shawn’s FB page.

Ryan on clinic day. It was NOT warm.

The clinic was at the Stanley Cyclone indoor arena, and thank goodness because the day started out cold and foggy with a biting breeze, and did not improve much.  Being inside, we were out of the wind, but it was not warm.  My face turned kind of blue and I ate a midmorning snack of a breakfast burrito provided by the Bickfords, hoping, that like in horses, eating would increase my metabolism and warm me up!  I also ate it in the bathroom, which was heated. The burrito tasted good, at any rate.

But back to the ropes. The first session was ground work.  Participants first learned to coil their ropes, then build a loop, and finally how to twirl the loop.  I spent as much time participating as I did helping in this session.  I learned some new loop-building tricks and fixed a problem I was having with twirling (I was not rotating my hand properly).

The girls in my group all caught on quickly and were soon coiling, building, twirling and even catching each other.  Also, despite the cold, I did not hear any complaining.

Addison, Mikayla, and Hadleigh. Photo by Monica!

Mikayla. Photo by Monica!

Hadleigh. Photo by Monica.

Addison. Photo by Monica.

Monica, clinic participant, and grandma to the girls. Mikayla in the background.

The second session was divided into three stations: Rope handling and throwing at a dummy from horseback with Shawn.  Approaching and safely handling a rope for a drag with Ryan.  Dragging the the log without hitting obstacles in the arena, with Kathryn.  I hung with the girls and spent a fair amount of time helping Addison with her horse Eli, who was petrified of ropes.

In Shawn’s session, the riders learned how to hang the rope on the saddle with a rubber rope holder.  Hondo and tail down, loop to the outside.  They learned to approach the dummy in “lane 2” and they learned how close to get.  Then they built a loop while still holding the reins, twirled and tossed.  Hadleigh is just ten and not super tall, so she had to work to twirl high enough above her horse’s head.  He did get whacked once.  I was so fascinated watching and helping Addison with Eli and his fear of ropes that I forgot to take pictures.

Ryan helped them correctly approach a drag and pick up the rope.  He also helped them learn to allow the rope to run through their hand so that if their horse were to spook at the drag, they could let out slack without getting tangled.

How to allow the rope to feed out. Ryan and Mikayla demonstrating.

Hadleigh practicing picking up the rope from the standard.

In Kathryn’s session, the drag was a fairly long log which requires preplanning to get it to drag without hitting the standard or any obstacles one has to drag around. Mikayla’s horse did not want to steer and she really worked at it until she had her horse dragging to perfection. (And, again, no photos…)

Gino also came to the clinic.  I brought him inside to be tied since it was horrible outside and also so that he wouldn’t be out there all alone. He stood tied to the fence near some other horses like a champ without pawing or carrying on.

Gino! Calm and cool and darn cute.

Christy rode him in the sections with the other adults and had him trotting while dragging the log like an old pro.  No photos since I was with the girls, so that’s my excuse on that. I was pretty happy with what I saw, though!

It was a really good clinic!  Thank you Kathryn and Ryan for organizing! Thank you Shawn, Ryan, Kathryn, for running sessions! (And me for my ground crew duties and everyone for not freezing to death.)

Happy Friday!



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The Running Martingale

By Patty Wilber

Three weeks ago, I discussed the German martingale.  This week’s topic is the running martingale, which I actually wrote about once already, calling it a training fork, but that was in 2018…so I guess I can repeat a topic six years later.

A running martingale. The loop goes around the neck, the clip attached to the cinch and the reins go through the reins.

Penny photo bombing and Gette modelling. Gette is past the martingale phase in her training. I always use stoppers on my reins with a running martingale to keep the rings from getting right up on the clip that holds the reins to the bit and then getting stuck. It is not good to have your equipment contribute to creating a wreck, especially with a young horse.

When I first started training, I did not use a running martingale or any training tools on my colt starts, but as I got older (and wiser? or maybe more aware of my mortality?) I reached the point where I use a running martingale on 100% of my colt starts. It allows me some leverage if things go sideways but does not interfere with natural head carriage at all. It also allows me to feel more confident and that helps the youngster be more confident.

It is the case that I do not rush my colts and I rarely have blow-ups, but the last time I got dumped, I was on a young horse that was over for a lesson.  He had no running martingale and waxed reins. The horse lost it and started bucking.  I was in double trouble.  I could not control the horse’s head at all as I had no leverage, and the waxed reins just slipped through my gloves.  In retrospect, I might have been able to ride it out, but as we were heading out of my unfenced arena into an arroyo, I gave up and got dumped.

Waxed reins. Pretty, but not very grippy.

Well, the horse was scared and I wasn’t super thrilled. I mean who is when they hit the dirt?  Also, I had the chemo port in, which is inserted into a major vein (the subclavian which runs along the collarbone). Those ports are super stable, so once it was clear I wasn’t bleeding out or anything, of course I had to get back on that horse.  I didn’t want him to end his day scared.

On went a running martingale with leather reins I could grip, and we rode in the round pen.  The horse was not mean or bad, but he was frightened. He did lose it two more times, but with leverage from the martingale, reins I could hold on to, and a fence I could turn into, I could get him stopped, stay on top, and keep working, which we did until the tension left his body and he could walk along in a relaxed manner.

Usually, I don’t have to go there, but having that tool in place, just in case, is, in my book, a winner for colt starts.

(And speaking of winners, after review, Gette really did win open trail and WT ranch trail at the NMBHA show!)

Cancer update:  The aforementioned port got taken out in October, I have three or four (I forget) more immunotherapy shots to go, and in a few weeks I start on the estrogen-suppressing drugs and will be on those daily for five years.  I get a mammogram and an MRI in a few weeks just to make sure there are no signs of a recurrence and will get those every six months–or maybe just the mammo every six months. I forget that, too.  I have my energy back, which is really nice. My memory skills may be in question.

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New Mexico Buckskin Horse Association Training Show Part I

By Patty Wilber

Last year I made it through the first NMBHA training show, but I was exhausted and took two or three days to recover!  This year, though I am still getting immunotherapy shots every three weeks, I showed three horses in multiple classes, helped six riders in multiple classes and went home invigorated instead of on the verge of collapse!  I am so thankful to have my energy back!

Next, I want to thank Colleen Varan. How lucky are we that Team Wilber has our own photographer!?  She says she was sorry she didn’t get as many pics of everyone in the crew as she wanted in her 500 images.  I mean, she did have to show her own horse a little.

Luna. I showed Luna in ranch riding, and stock horse, to help her get over her fear of going into the big arena all by herself.  We had some challenges, but she is braver than last year! Colleen showed her in walk/trot trail and pulled a second place in a large class!

Colleen and Luna, finishing their trail pattern. Photo by Andrew Varan.

Me and Luna in the scary big arena!

Patty S. and Zima. We went to Arizona the other week with our ponies, and now we have sucked her into having a go in the show pen! It was Zima’s first show ever and she handled the commotion without a single problem! Patty learned a few new techniques for trail this week and was able to implement them really well! And she is coming back for the March show!

Patty and Zima! Photo by Colleen.

Monica and Chicadee Chex.  Monica showed in the ranch classes, then stuck it out to the bitter (sweet, she said) end to be in the  “regular” Western classes, too!  Way to go! I am excited for this show season with them!

Monica, #155; me on Gette, Gino standing next to Christy, Luna and Colleen.

Gino. Gino, Gette’s half-brother, is at my house for training.  He was a bit hard to get to focus when he first arrived and has not been a fan of standing still at the trailer, but he is really coming into himself and he is sooo attractive!  He handled the show beautifully and by the end was happily munching hay all by himself at the trailer.  Christy had two strong walk/trot trail patterns on him and placed, pending review.  He was brave in the arena by himself for ranch riding and the stock horse pattern for me, but he felt that perhaps he was overworked.  When I reversed for the last leg of stock horse, which took him away from the gate, he gave a whiney whinny and threw a teeny buck. “i’m sooo tired! i thought we were done!”

Me and Gino. Cool image by Colleen!

Christy and Deets. In addition to showing Gino in trail, Christy also showed Deets in all the ranch classes.  Colleen got this shot!

Gette. Gette had a bang-up day in trail, winning walk trot ranch and open trail, pending review.  In boxing, she stayed focused and quiet on her re-do cow, after nearly being bowled over by two cows boiling out of the gate to start with.  She did not do anything spectacular, but stayed pretty level, got a decent turn or two and didn’t lose her cow, earning her a 4th in a big class. She didn’t like the hay I brought her and dented my pretty hubcaps by pawing between classes at the trailer, and then in the stock horse class with the signs you follow, she did not think those signs belonged, AT ALL, so we had a little spooking going on.  In looking at some photos of her, I was super pleased at her length of stride a the trot, but a little more collection will improve her overall appearance.   A super day for her first show!

Faith and Heidi.

I just love this picture of Faith (near) and Heidi (far), with the two horses totally in step and the two girls talking to each other.

Faith had taken some time off, then came for a lesson on Saturday in the howling wind and ended up being a bit sore on Sunday.  That did not deter her!  She did an especially good job helping Romeo work the gate in trail even though he did not want to.  She was calm but persistent and eventually got that gate done.  She also showed some ranch classes then stayed for those western classes at the very end of the day!

Faith and Romeo working the L. Photo by Mandi.

Heidi brought both LT and Lucy. Lucy was so solid and showed in all the ranch classes. Her boxing run was a thing of beauty! LT only showed in boxing and reining.  She had a really tough cow, but came back to edge Lucy out in reining.  The two horses are practically opposite personalities, so it is fun to watch how well Heidi adapts to each.

LT in reining. Photo by Lauren Aston in case you miss the watermark!

Lucy in her boxing run. I just love her look of concentration, Heidi’s light hand, and how Heidi is right in the middle of the saddle. Photo by Colleen.

I am really enjoying the Buckskin shows.  The prices are great.  The atmosphere is very positive with tough horses performing well. The people are congenial, kind and helpful.

I was super proud of my crew! I am looking forward to the NMBHA Get Ready Get Set Training Series, Part II, Mar. 3, Bosque Farms Rodeo Arena.  The class list is the same as the Feb. show and is posted on the NMBHA Facebook page!

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A Trip to Rio Rancho Verde in Arizona

 By Patty Wilber

Last weekend we went to Rio Rancho Verde, a horse camp, in Scottsdale, Arizona with some friends. The facility was all it was cracked up to be, and unlike our trip to the Cold Bore Ranch, last year, the weather was goldilocks (just right).

We drove through snowy rain and thick fog on the way through Gallup, NM and Payson, AZ so were pretty happy to drop down into warmer and drier!

The facility is situated between the Tonto National Forest and the 30,000 acre McDowell Sonoran Desert Preserve. The Tonto is right out their back gate and the McDowell is just up the street, so there is more than enough riding to last someone weeks!

We set up camp with full hook-ups for the Shuert and Kingsbury living quarters trailers and just electricity (so we could plug in our little space heater) for our weekender.  The spots were easy to pull into and the whole place was beautifully maintained. The horse pens were fantastic with automatic waterers that our old guy, Cometa, LOVED.  I have never seen him drink so often!

The horse pens were wonderful. Penny and Cometa are in the middle of the photo.

The Shuert’s got a spot with a deck and a grill and that is where we hung out a lot. They also brought their propane fireplace which was fun to sit around!

After we got set up, we rode out into the Tonto for 3.7 miles.  We avoided the teddy bear cholla and caught a gorgeous sunset!

Patty S and Zima.

Me and Jim on Cometa and Penny. Picture by Patty S. or Amber.

Friday, four of us rode to the Rio Verde.  We got verbal directions from Joe, one of the owners, and Bill turned on his Onyx Hunt to help us verify. Joe told us it would be a five to six hour ride, and he was spot on.  We went out the back gate, down an arroyo to a really big arroyo and took that all the way to the river. The big arroyo is heavily used by off-road vehicles on the weekends.  We rode it on a Friday and it was still pretty busy.  Fortunately, they are really loud and it was a wide canyon in most places, so there was plenty of room for us to get out of the way. Also, the drivers were respectful of the horses and the horses were darn mellow most of the time!

Jim and Cometa in the big arroyo on the way to the river.

Me and Patty in a side pool on the Rio Verde. Picture by Jim.

We ate lunch at the Rio Verde and rode back on the uplands.  I found some pretty rose quartz up there! Bill’s Onyx Map program helped us pick the right Forest Service Roads to get back, but we also had a good landmark to ride towards in Granite Mountain.

We were getting pretty close to the end of the day when we spied other riders, and lo and behold!  It was the Kingsburys!  They had skipped the long ride to the river, so it was a treat to meet them for the last few miles.

You can see all the open land right next to Rio Rancho Verde! That is Tonto National Forest land. I did not turn my Equilab off right way when we got back so the time is slightly off.

On Saturday we decided to go into the Preserve.  The advantages of the Preserve included no motorized vehicles, a nice map, and really well marked trails. We were given some tips by Joe and using our map, navigated a nice loop with some interesting features.  This area had a fair number of cyclists and hikers.  All were respectful of the animals and more than one took our pictures.

The saguaros were fantastical.

Amber and Richard on the short ride to the Preserve. These two big saguaros were fun to ride and drive between!

Me and Jim by the crested saguaro! Photo by Patty S.

Another amazing saguaro. There were also big California barrel cactus and the soft and fuzzy-looking (it is all a ruse) teddy bear/jumping cholla that break off if touched and seem to jump onto one’s person. It takes pliers to get them off because if you try to pull them off one hand with your other hand, both hands get stuck together. We’d had experience with them years ago and steered clear. Richard accidentally stepped in a woodrat cache of them and spent a good amount of time pulling them off of his boots (with pliers).

Amber and Richard leading the way, heading toward Granite Mountain. It is indeed granite, whereas the ride to the river was through sedimentary rock.

Coyote Canyon Trail. Photo by Jim.

Coming around Granite Mountain. Photo by a random hiker!

Again you can see how Rio Rancho Verde is surrounded by riding galore! you can also see Granite (the larger) and Cholla (the smaller) Mountains that we rode around. It was a superb day!

The last day, the Shuerts and Wilbers tried to make a short loop in the Tonto but we misunderstood the directions and kept going up the canyons that ended in fences and had to backtrack a lot, so we did an out and back. It was nice to do a ride before we had to head to NM, so the last day felt like part of the adventure rather than just a long slog home.

We got to the house about 8 pm and this was the first year since we started our January Arizona weekends that we did not come home to snow.  In fact, the weather all week has been great!  The better to get Gino, Gette and Luna ready for the New Mexico Buckskin Horse Association all-breed training show on Sunday in Bosque Farms!

Our crew for the show will have six riders and seven equine, including Patty S. and Zima, who were on the Arizona jaunt.

Zima. Photo by Patty S.

Happy Friday!!

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The German Martingale

By Patty Wilber

The German Martingale is a training aid that can help “a high-headed or pushy horse get into a better frame by drawing the horse into a more favorable working position, with a flexed poll”, says Al Dunning, who uses them for horses of all ages and training levels.

Here is what a German martingale looks like.

This a German martingale for sale from Jeffers. I included the order part because you can save two bucks if put it on autoship, which I thought was kind of funny…as if one would need a new martingale every month!

Here is what it looks like on a horse–Gino.

Gino with a German martingale. The halter has nothing to do with anything.

I sort of made the German martingale shown in the picture. I say “sort of” because the reins with the rings were a gift from my friend Marcia when she was downsizing.  I had another pair of reins where I had put the rings on myself, but these are sturdier.  So, I just made the rope part.

The American Quarter Horse Association allows German martingales to be used in warm-up pens and they are also legal in barrel racing, pole bending, stake race, team penning, and ranch sorting classes/events.

I generally use the German martingale in young horses after they are riding confidently and we are ready to step up a little.  I like it because it helps me more easily show a horse where they can put their heads when flexing at the poll.  When they get there, the pressure releases. I have to be careful not to ask for too much and be sure to help the horse find the release, or else they can learn to lean on the snaffle bit. My horses are rarely heavy on any of the very standard shank bits I use (when they get there), but I do seem to end up with a bit more heaviness with snaffles.

As an aside, cow horses frequently stay in snaffles or bosals and are ridden two-handed through their five-year-old year where as reiners are in shank bits by three.  The advantage of being able to go two-handed on unpredictable cows may be the reason.

For my most recent group of colt starts, I used a German martingale on Teeter to help her be a little lower-headed and a little softer in the face.  I used one on Gino, and probably will some more, to help him flex at the poll. He can tend to be a little too low headed, so I have to watch that with the martingale.  The martingale helped Gette find a way to stay soft in her neck and poll, and gather herself to drive from behind to ease from a trot to a lope instead of raising her head to raise her shoulders to get to the lope from the trot.

I did not use this tool at all for Rip.  He did not need it, and for Daytona, who wanted to essentially fling herself into the lope, instead of using a martingale while riding, I used side reins and asked her to do a lot of trot-to-lope transitions in the round pen, without a rider.

Each horse is different and finding the right training path is part of the fun of riding young horses!

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By Patty Wilber

Tennessee was a good adventure!

We have been to Knoxville twice and based on this sample size of two, the weather is always bitter cold there.  Last year we went during the great Christmas Freeze when the highs were in the single digits and it snowed.  This year by the third day we were there, they got more snow than they’ve had in years, and the temperature fell to zero. The Knoxville airport shut down the when we were trying to leave, extending our stay from the 15th to the 17th.  It was so cold the morning we did leave, they couldn’t move the plane from the docking area to the runway because of the thick ice.  After an hour and a half, they finally used the de-icing fluid they normally use on the planes, to de-ice the asphalt!  We still made our connecting flight and got home!

For our stay in Tennessee, we rented a cabin–with horse stalls–within walking distance of hiking trails in the Big South Fork National River and Recreational area. We didn’t need the stalls as we flew and didn’t bring horses, but it turned out that all the places we liked had them because this 125,000 acre park has very good riding!

Erika and Juniper (even though you can’t see her) on the horse/hiking trail.

It was chilly hiking, but it was fun to see habitat so different from New Mexico!

Jim by a river with a lot more water than the Rio Grande at this time of year!

One would not, technically, have been able to ride all the way to the river because…

The trail to the river actually was horse-friendly beyond this sign, but on several other non-horse trails we took, there were stairs and other horse-averse features, so probably somewhere ahead, there was an insurmountable obstacle or two.

The next day we hiked to the Twin Arches, which are the largest arches in the Eastern United States and have their own park! Definitely not a horse trail because there were stairs, and stairs that were practically ladders. That was a short but really fun hike!

One of the twin arches and some of the not-steep stairs.

We also hiked to Needle Arch and Slave Falls.

We saw a tiny ice arch along the way!

The last night at the cabin, snow was predicted. Luckily, it was a lovely and cozy cabin!

Erika and Juniper, in the cabin.

It snowed, all right.

Getting ready to drive back to Knoxville. It snowed all day and the roads were snowpacked and icy. I rode with Erika, who grew up in Alaska.  She knows a thing or two about driving on snow. If I had been at the wheel we might still be on the road.

We had the best time hanging out with Juniper (and her parents!), but I am also happy to be home to warmer weather and the horses.

I got to work with these two almost twin half-arabs, as well as Gino and Gette.

Happy Friday!




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25F and Sunny…

By Patty Wilber

I don’t mind riding in the winter all that much, but my lower-end criteria tends to be 25F and sunny. Sunny makes a huge difference.

Last week it started snowing and blowing and being overcast and cold. I don’t like skipping days, but I don’t think there is much point in riding colts in that kind of weather.  So, Thursday was out, and Friday I had to work at the college.

I got my arena dragged Saturday, and it was in good shape on Sunday. So, after binge-watching Fool Me Once on Netflix while eating breakfast (um…until lunchtime) I braved 36F, (“braved” because it was windy, cloudy and it felt cold) and rode Gino.  The arena was good!  He was good! But, he was the only one I managed.  Wimp.

I disced and dragged! It really turned out well!

Gino! I am riding him in a German Martingale, and in a future post, I will talk about that tool. I ride with halters on a lot mainly because I am lazy but also because having a halter on when out on the trail is useful, so they might as well be used to that. I like all the colt starts to be trail-worthy as well as have arena skills.

Sunday night it snowed around 4 or 5 inches and the wind blew from the north.  My beautiful drag job was blanketed! When I fed in the morning, it was 21, and the snow was coming down horizontally. I finished feeding then went in and put more wood on the fire.

Gette (bay) and Gino (leopard) hanging out in the snow waiting for breakfast.

Usually, our storms come from the southwest and most of the shelters are set up with that in mind.  The wrong-direction-wind blew snow into the shelters.

“Breakfast with Snow”, I call this. It’s a new genre: “Farm Art”.

Fortunately, the horses all have winter coats.  Their coats are working.  We can tell because the snow on their backs is not melting, so heat is not escaping!  That is amazing to me, every time I see it. This is normal for for healthy horses, but I am still impressed.

I was coming down the steps to start feeding. Cometa’s pinned ears are not for me, but to warn Penny to move. He is no longer herd boss! At 27, maybe he has mellowed out. Luna has taken over! Cometa appears to be #2. Gino #3, Penny #4 and Gette is below Penny but can do whatever she wants around Gino, including bossing him some. It is not a linear hierarchy.

Well, no Monday morning riding for me, and I had to go to the college in the afternoon when the weather calmed down–a little.

On Tuesday it was 28 and sunny!  But the arena was still snow-covered and the horses do not have snow rims on their shoes, so if I try to ride in the snow, they get snow balls in their feet. I redragged and that broke up the snow enough to make it look good for getting a little riding in.  Then a friend dropped by and pulled into my innocent-looking driveway.  It has a slope that doesn’t seem steep until you try to get out in snow. Without 4WD or chains, it is a lost cause. She got stuck.

So, I tried pushing her out with the tractor. Nope. That succeeded in getting her more sideways and veering toward the fence and a drop-off.

I got out a tow strap, but we needed to hook to her truck frame and that set was had loops not hooks. I got another strap that was not really robust enough for towing, but hey it had the requisite hooks. We found a spot on her truck frame to hook to.  But would the tractor get her out?  Nope.  That kind of surprised me. But the tractor, even in 4WD was too light in front and couldn’t get enough grip.

One last try before we had to call for help.  I got my truck, put it in four low, first gear, and looped the tow strap, still hooked to her truck, of course, over the trailer hitch.  I stepped on the gas and started pulling. Not much happened, but then with a little more power, we started slewing forward! We got momentum!  We were within feet of the pavement! We were going to make it!

But no!  My not-a-tow-strap proved it was, indeed, not a tow strap, and the nylon snapped. (The hooks held up perfectly, though.)

But, (another but) ha! Mr. Not-a Tow-Strap! We showed it! We tied it back together with an overhand knot, and even though my friend was at the steepest part of the driveway, we were close enough that when I got back into position, my truck had two tires on the asphalt, providing grip.  We fired up and pulled right out! Whoop!

I have to say it was kind of fun to solve that problem in the driveway where the consequences of failing would just have meant waiting for alternate help to arrive.

There was plenty of light left for a short ride, but the sun was angling low over the mountains and the arena had re-frozen. I am glad the days are getting longer, but this snow thing has put a damper (pun intended) on my riding! I guess I am changing my riding criteria to sunny, 25, and unfrozen ground!

Wednesday was out because the arena was still ridged ice in the morning before I had to go teach biology, and we left for Tennessee Thursday. It was a balmy 56 when we arrived and may be a snowing 30F the day we leave.  So much for southern hospitality, Tennessee! (But seeing baby Juniper is totally worth it!)

Me and Juniper!

Me and Juniper!

This is going to be a rough month for moving forward in training, and our first training show for the newly 3-year-olds, Gette and Gino, is February 4th!! I am sure it will be a nice learning experience, at minimum!

Happy Friday!


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Riding in San Lorenzo Canyon, NM

By Patty Wilber

Jim and I decided to take Penny and Cometa to San Lorenzo Canyon on New Year’s Eve to do a little riding and rockhounding from horseback.  Penny had not been ridden since our hunt in October because she got bastard strangles.  This is when the causative agent, the bacterium Streptococcus equi, creates abscesses on internal organs instead of the more typical swollen lymph nodes and grossly snotty nose. She felt very poorly, and ran a fever from early October until almost Thanksgiving.  She was on antibiotics for well over a month.  Bastard strangles can be fatal, but with help from Dr. Dixon, Dr. Loya and Rachel Pozzi, she pulled through and is back to her old self.

San Lorenzo Canyon is near Socorro, about 5 miles off of I25.  I downloaded a trail map off the BLM website.

I had ridden in the canyon once before but we wanted to try the trails outside of the canyon itself. We started off at Little San Lorenzo Trail Head.  This trail follows a sandy arroyo and was marked for horses.  We soon came to a narrowing of the canyon and we led the horses through that spot in order to keep our legs on.  Then the trail came to a rocky step up that we did not feel all that great about attempting, so we turned around.  I turned on my Equilab at that point–or rather I decided to turn it on but realized I’d left my phone in the truck.  Luckily, we were headed back to the truck, so I got my phone and started the tracking program!

We rode on to the San Lorenzo Ridge Trail head. There were a bunch of horse tracks there, which we thought was a good sign.  Unfortunately, those tracks soon disappeared and we came to two boulders that the horses would have to go over or around. Jim decided to go around by stepping down a short steep drop and I decided to go over.  The footing was not slick, but I held my breath and was happy to be riding Penny and not a baby horse. Neither horse had any trouble, but it was visually daunting, which probably explains why there were no other horse tracks after that point!

After that, the trail on the canyon rim was easy and there were some gorgeous views.

Jim and Cometa enjoying the view of canyon. There was bright yellow lichen on the cliff edge in front of them, and of course, the photo does not capture the depth well.

As the trail dropped back to the canyon floor there was one of those hairpin cliff edge turns where it looks like your horse might just walk off the edge, but of course, they did not. Again glad I was not on a baby!

Down in the canyon, we stopped for lunch in a beautiful grove of cottonwoods.  It could be a nice dry camping spot! People clearly do camp there! And the nearby rock colors!

Near the cottonwoods.

Then we rode to the end where it cliffs out, and discovered a deep pool of water and some green rock veins in some gray rock. The rock-hounding guide said there were agates and geodes in the canyon but we didn’t find much which was ok because the macro landscape was pretty captivating.

Penny watching Jim and Cometa.

Jim and Cometa under that tower!

We rode up all the side canyons we found and then I got a wild hair to pretend I was in a western–one of the classic scenes where people gallop out of a slot canyon!  Jim filmed.  It only took two takes.  On the first take, Penny was pretty bunchy and really did not settle into any kind of decent lope.  The second take was better with only the tail swishy start and the little hump in the middle! If we were doing a virtual competition, we’d have gone a few more rounds, but for our Wild West film re-enactment, this was fine!

It was fun! The video is a grainy as Jim texted it to me and I uploaded it to YouTube.  Just pretend it’s a really old movie! I should make it black and white…Which I did on my phone and then upload that to YouTube.  I am sure everyone is so excited to see that version. It looks even grainier!

Here is a map of where we rode.  Just 5.6 miles. It was great weather and a lot of fun!

Happy first Friday in 2024!

Cancer Chronicles:  I am over halfway through the immunotherapy injections. Only estrogen suppressor pills to go, starting in March or April. My pants fit and my energy level is good!  There are a few residual things to deal with like minor neuropathy and some bladder issues, but overall I feel NORMAL (hehe-whatever that means).  I will be back to teaching two classes in person, two online, and am doing the AI project to replace two more.  Starts up again on Monday after doing 100% online this Fall.

Posted in The Write Horse | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

2023 in Review!

By Patty Wilber

I started a blog on my own in 2010, but was frustrated that I didn’t seem to be gaining many readers, and that is when Doranna offered me a spot on her site. She said I would need to commit and post regularly.  So I picked Fridays.  Seven hundred and six (706) posts later (well I guess this is 707), I barely missed a week! I have been on a break since the end of October 2023, as I ran out of mental energy and sort of out of ideas.

But I sure enjoyed reviewing this year’s posts!

Here it is! 2023 in review!

January 2023

Chemo let up, so I took horses in.
It was fine way for ’23 to begin.
I had Christie’s Deets, a horse I enjoy,
And got Rip, a cool three-year-old boy.

Rip, front, with Gette. “what? we’re not doing anything.”

I could ride but not hike so Penny hauled me
As high in the Chirucahuas as we could be.
Saw coati and Coos deer and hung with our friends,
And came home a day early cuz the rain would not end.

February 2023

I got a clear MRI which was a little misleading.
Surgery later revealed cancer not gone, just receding.
Rip went to a show and it was an experience.
Deets got a booboo, again; he’s notorious.
Lucy went to Heidi’s and performed airs above ground.
Faith showed Romeo and looked good all around.

March 2023

I kept wrapping Deets’ leg to help with the swelling.
Heidi and Faith, in the shows, were truly top-dwelling.
Rip won a trail class; a real accomplishment.
Went mud jeeping with Amber; so glad she is competent!
I had my lumpectomy which showed some live cells  :(,
but my lymph nodes were clear which made me feel swell.

And Luna moved in, which rhymes with nothing. 🙂

April 2023

I had a few weeks off following surgery,
Glad to ride again” was not any perjury!
Appys ran a ranch clinic and it was a delight! (2024: Feb 17, Mar 23!
Violet Mae was the month’s biggest highlight.

May 2023

Radiation started in May and I didn’t want to regress.
Special returned because she was tending to stress,
Five also came to learn to quiesce.
Rip beat some good horses as he showed some finesse.
We hauled water for trail workers up near South Peak,
And mud roads at Ball Ranch made me squeak “Eeek!”
Panchuela for Memorial Day is a fine BCH trip,
and Luna learned to be ponied (at home), and she wasn’t a dip!

June 2023

I finished up the radiation and started the last chemo.
So far so good, but this whole thing is extremo.
Beauty calmed down and won two classes while showing!
Five’s progress: slow and steady, but confidence: growing.
Rip started cow-work and took it in stride.
Colleen went to her first show; she and Luna survived!
Heidi and Lucy showed that under pressure they thrive
We rafted the Taos Box; fun, not scary; I was surprised!

July 2023

The Appaloosa Youth World Show was a treat!
Heidi and Lucy excelled in the Oklahoma heat!
My second chemo treatment was not fun,
My outer thighs went numb; to that drug I was done.
My sister, brother, dad and mom flew in for a week.
Dino tracks and rosebud agate we did seek.
Beauty, displaying what she had learned,
was sold and national Appy points were earned!
Some wires got crossed and I did not do a pack-in,
But Rip found a new owner; he was in like Flynn.

August 2023

Gino and Teeter got started, Faith got bold,
Daytona came, and strangles took hold.
Gette worked a cow, and then went out on the high trails
Penny celebrated 14 years in the hills and the dales.
Heidi took Lucy to the 4H County Fair,
She rode English and did showmanship and fared well there.


September 2023

Teeter finally returned after her bout of strangles,
Then Gino fell on me and put my leg in some tangles.
That slowed down the month from a training perspective.
I had to stop riding for two weeks to be self-protective!
I switched cancer drugs and now get injections.
And to that I have NO objections!
We did get to Sweden before all of that.
We were there and back in the flip of a hat.
We stayed in old Stockholm for two fabulous nights
Then spent three days with cousins and saw fabulous sights!
Back in NM, I learned how to jet ski! SO fun!
Colleen showed again and by golly she won!
Faith gave me goosebumps with a trail pattern so magical,
And Heidi showed skills with the LT, the “theatrical”.

October 2023

I posted only one blog and it was on my hunt.
The weather was great–there was no polar front!
Penny got internal strangles and felt kinda crappy.
I got my elk at last light, six twenty.

November/December 2023

There were no blogs but we had some cool news!
We had Thanksgiving in Calif with almost the whole crew.
Mark and Erika stayed home, turned out to be smart.
because Juniper Brynn, came early, the tart!

Happy New Year to all!



Posted in The Write Horse | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Taking a Blog Break

By Patty Wilber

I just ran out of gas this week, so there is no blog except these few lines.  I plan to take a short hiatus and will let you know when I am ready to be back at it!

Happy Friday!



Posted in Miscellaneous! | 2 Comments