Jan 152021

By Patty Wilber

Well, seeing family for Christmas was not an option, so I decided to book a little social distanced camping trip to Ride Out Ranch in Florence AZ, where it was warmer than the East Mountains! We talked our friends the Shuerts into coming with!

It was over 400 miles away, so a bit of a drive, and I did take us down the Salt River Canyon on Hwy 60, which is rather steep and winding and you can only go about 30 mph, but hey we made it without burning our brakes. (We came back via Payson which did have its six and seven percent grade spots and runaway truck lanes, but the road was not nearly as serpentine and was 55 mph plus, so an easier trip!)

Jim and Cometa. View from our camping area!

We chose the primitive camp area at Ride Out because they said we would be the only ones camping there. It was a very good choice! There was lots of space and fantastic views. The only amenities were horse stalls and water.  I had expected a porta-potty, too, but nope.  Good thing we brought our own! 

Our hosts double checked our time of arrival with us while we were on the road and met us at the gate to help get us settled.  They sent us some GPS trail tracks and gave us some advice about where to ride.  They had one impromptu organized ride that we did not attend, but we were invited.  Other than that, we were pretty much on our own, which is what we had wanted!  

The pens were sturdy and had a shade cover! And we had them all to ourselves! The ranch did provide the wheelbarrow and rake.

The first afternoon we rode down into the Box O Wash (corrected from Donnelly Wash–blaming Maps.me’s names) which was just below our camp area.  We were a bit goggle-eyed over the huge saguaros!  Saguaros can grow to 40-60 feet and some are thought to be 200 years old.  They do not get their first arms until they are 50-100!  (It depends on rainfall.) You can see the ones behind Jim in the picture above have arms! OLD!

We rode about four miles and we took the dogs, who had a bit of a learning curve…there are a LOT of spiny plants in this part of Arizona and they stick to dogs. 

The saguaros…just wow.

I finally tried out my Equilab App on my phone that my friend Patty recommended.  She ran hers and I ran mine. Our paths recorded LOOKED very similar, but her mileage was 3.9 miles and mine was 0.3.  Clearly I screwed up somewhere!

The next day we rode across Cochrane (a good gravel road) Drive toward the rocks called The Boulders.  There are no marked trails but there are some two tracks and some cattle trails.  I forgot to activate the Equilab, but Patty did and Bill had his GPS.  We made a nice loop of about eight miles.  There were more fantastic saguaros and some fun rock formations.

This area has a fair number of off road vehicles (often driven by retirees, we were told) but we only saw four and only two saw us. They really were piloted slowly and by people that looked even older than us. (It was a Friday.) The dogs stayed in camp.

Patty and Bill S., and Jim near some interesting rocks. Lots of (very cool no matter how many I saw) saguaros.

This was one of our favorite saguaros!

That evening we hung out around a propane campfire (wood is allowed only in fire pits) and watched an amazing sunset!

I messed with Equilab (and everyone made fun of me for my incompetence, just saying) and also my Maps.me (another phone app mapping program).  The Maps.me indicated that we could ride down Donnelly Wash (which was really Box O Wash….again, clearly Maps.me is at fault for this name error…probably…pretty sure…) all the way to the Gila River, and it would be about eight miles one way.  So, on Saturday, that is what we did!

There were a few javelina hunters, and a few vehicles, so we were not in the wilderness, but it is a very big wash and we had no problems staying out of each other’s ways.

Me and Penny heading down the wash. On the way back I let Penny run– and then asked her to go faster than she actually wanted to. That was a lot of fun!

Me, Patty S. and Bill at the Gila River! The horses were happy to get a drink! Later we were joined by a white cow.

My Equilab recorded 14 miles but Patty’s recorded 16 as did Bill’s GPS.  Equilab was not happy that I put my phone on airplane mode and it estimated (by drawing a straight line) some of our route, thereby underestimating.  But I did canter for two minutes and trotted for seven on the day!  Whew.  So fast.  LOL.

On Sunday, we went back into the wash but we went up instead of down.  We were planning on a shorter ride so we took the dogs.  Lani and Coulson thought they were going to have fun chasing after a jackrabbit but Lani plowed into some cholla while her brain was occupied with RABBIT RABBIT RABBIT.   It was not a pretty sight.  Good thing she had Jim and my leatherman to save her.  Coulson might be smarter or at least less single-minded. Fortunately, Lani was able to continue the ride, and paid a lot more attention to where she was going.

We climbed out of the wash onto the flatland to the west, and we wanted to make a loop.  We got fairly far, but we were not finding a route down.  Jim wanted to plunge down the steep sides.  That did not look good to me.  I figured that if the cows hadn’t gone that way, we should not either.  Eventually we did find a good cow trail down and we made a nice loop of about four miles.  I did not put my phone on airplane mode and Patty’s EquiLab mileage and mine MATCHED!!

Then we finished packing up and headed home, back to winter.  It had snowed a few inches while were gone. 

But, of course, we do need the moisture!


Jan 062021

By Patty Wilber

This will be an early post because we are heading south for a few days of trailer camping and trail riding in the Arizona desert where the temperatures are expected to be in the high 60’s and low 70’s. That will be nice!

Last year, I started off with a bunch of colt starts.  This January, I am stacked with four year old geldings.

Sombra, owned by Mary Ann.

You already know him. 14.1 gray mustang.  What you might not have known is that he has a Napoleon Complex and envisions himself as the herd boss.  Sorry, dude, 24-year-old Cometa still has that rank.  Granted, Cometa did obtain that rank at three when he was running 8,000 acres with a gelding band, and he kept it when he came here 21 years ago…He charged the older gelding we had, with teeth bared.  The older gelding hid behind the pony mare he was allegedly defending and stayed back there pretty much ever after.  

But back to Sombra.  Every time I get a new gelding, Sombra tries to dominate, over the gates   We have double latches and hinge fail-safes (baling twine) so that if a gate lifts off the hinges, the gate does not fall.

Sombra does not seem to have completely cowed the mares, except, oddly, Penny.  Penny talks a big game with the other girls and has totally bamboozled them, but if anyone actually tried standing up to her a few times in a row, she would back down.  Sombra is nothing if not persistent, so I guess he wore her down! They generally like each other, though.

One other thing about Sombra, besides his small-gelding-complex, is his Fabio hair.  He has enough mane for four horses (or 12 Appaloosas). When I was a kid (before I had horses) I thought this split down the middle, full mane on both sides, was normal! NOT!

Sombra has the hair!

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Jan 012021

By Patty Wilber



I was deep into colt starts with Birdie and Coco,
I ordered the trailer for trips to a go, go,
Breeze came to live here, with her scoliosis.
We are quite glad she does not have psychosis.


We had some nice weather, and we had some snow.
Clay worked with H, and dragged calves like a pro.
Coco and Birdie kept making progress.
COVID was just starting to pull toward the abyss.



March was a wild one; my courses went online.
I shut down my horse lessons, and tried not to whine.
We were “normal” on Thursday, and by Monday were not.
I have not since been to campus nor parked in the lot!
But I got to keep riding, which helped me stay sane,
And I got, Fancy, a new youngster to get on and to train!

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Dec 172020

By Patty Wilber

This week has been a bit wintery pre-winter (since winter officially begins 12/21).  It has been cold (for us). Some days were not above freezing, others were barely above.

There have been a few days without much riding, but mainly, it has been ok, so long as I was wearing the right number of layers– which means four or five, being the cold averse sort that I am!

Here is a little run through of some of the fun we had!

Cold ride in the canyon next door with Jordyn on LT and Maddie on Leo! Jordyn was a popsicle.  She says she is taking a vacation until it gets a little warmer! Not enough layers, obviously! LOL!

Kate on Amigo. Kate just moved to NM from S. Dakota, so, cold shmold for her!  Kate’s hands were even a little too warm! I rode Jack, who belongs to Sheryl L. My feet were a little chilled, but other than that, I was ok.  Facemasks actually felt nice–my nose did not get cold!

L to R: Breeze, Lucy, Sombra. Just a moment earlier LT (buckskin) and Cometa (light bay) were over there, too, and that was a lovely look, but as I came in to take the picture, those two got up and came over “whatcha doing?”. “Trying to take a picture of you all!”

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Dec 042020

By Patty Wilber

Christy Miller Harding’s Virtual Competitive Trail (VCT) Fall series just concluded! The competitions have been engaging, not stressful, and have generated an interactive and positive Facebook community of nearly 500 people!

NOTE: There is a December mini ride (I will be judging) and a Winter Buckle Series (Jan., Feb., Mar.) coming up. (More information at the end.)

The first VCT ride started in the summer and I entered LT.  We were camping with good friends in the Cruces Basin Wilderness Area in June and it seemed like the perfect place to film!

This was not our highest scoring video, but I felt a great sense of joy riding this one!

LT and I ended up second in this competition in the Open category.  Our videos showed LT being a rather solid trail citizen, which was fun, because as you many of you know, she is my spazziest horse.  But, while we did some pretty things, I decided that we probably did not have a high enough degree of difficulty.

Christy then decided to institute a buckle series, but LT was headed to college with my summer intern, Jordyn, to do ranch horse stuff at Colorado State University, and I could not use her in the subsequent events.  I decided to forego trying to compete for the buckle, and enter a different horse every month, instead.  Truthfully, this also allowed me to focus on having fun and avoid getting too wound around the competitive axle.

For September, I entered Sombra, the three year old Placitas Mustang, owned by Mary Ann Shinnick.  He had just four months under saddle, so we entered the Green division. But, I still tried to do some things that would earn us bonus points for difficulty.

We ended up squeaking out an overall win, only outscoring Rainy and her horse Jack, because of the three point helmet bonus I got! 

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Nov 132020

By Patty Wilber

Judith and I decided to send H up to Cody Crow No Where But Up Performance Horses in August because H, Mr. Cowy Son of Gun, needed more access to cows.

H started living in the barn, which he likes because he gets to talk to everyone that walks by.   But, he has a high play drive and a lot of energy (Labrador puppy on crack, I am told), so he also spends a lot of time outside, trying to mess with his neighbors.

Here, he was always out with bossy herd leaders and I think it kept his personality under wraps a bit!

Training went well, and Cody gave the thumbs up to taking H to Ft. Worth to the Appaloosa World in jr. working cow horse.  And what the heck, while we are there, ranch riding, ranch rail, ranch trail, too. We did not put him in reining or ranch reining, but he will be good at those in the future!

Cody and H had a really nice ride in the cow horse! H’s spins and stops have really come on under Cody’s tutelage, and down the fence H was never out of position.  It was very exciting!

Cody and H looking just great in the cow horse class. Picture by Appaloosa News

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Oct 302020

By Patty Wilber

Mary Ann E., with unerring insight, wanted, before it got too late, to gallop around Hamilton Mesa in the Pecos Wilderness (like we did last year).

We went last Friday, and not a moment too soon, because the temperatures crashed and we got a lot of snow early this week!

The wild rose bushes were shutting down (the leaves are red, indicating degradation of the normal photosynthetic pigments), but I don’t think they were quite prepared!

LT loves to gallop, but she is busy freezing her heinie off in CO, so I took Lucy. Lucy was maybe not as keen on full out galloping and maybe really not as keen on leading while galloping, but I will give her B+/ A- for the day! 

We left from Walmart around 7am.  I left my truck trailer there and loaded Lucy in with Rosebud. My rig did not go unnoticed–two friends texted me pics when they went to Walmart!! Don’t mess with my stuff–I got people!

It was a lovely clear morning until we neared the town of Pecos where it looked like this! 

Fortunately, it was just some odd ball fog and we drove on up, up and out of it!

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Oct 162020

By Patty Wilber

It wouldn’t be fall without Elk Season in the Cruces Basin with the ever amazing Kingsbury hospitality.

This year, they hosted 11 humans and 13 equines at the unparalleled Hotel Kingsbury.

The site!

The hotel!

Amber and two mules, and me on Penny, Lucy packing. We are doing our share of moving material to and from camp!

Last year, Jim had a late season rifle tag and it was just Jim, Richard and me.  It was so cold while hunting that my water froze in my camel back hose!  This time, the weather was outstanding on every day but  Windy Sunday! And even Windy Sunday was not very cold. I mean, I was never tempted to put on my heavy gloves!

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Oct 072020

By Patty Wilber

The sun was just suffusing the sky with light when two cow elk stepped out of the golden-leaved aspen grove into the meadow above the East Tank.  They were 300 yards away and didn’t hear us.  The little herd of cattle did.  They skittered and plowed across the landscape with no grace and lots of noise.  For some reason the elk glanced up and then ignored the cows.

Those two elk moseyed across the meadow: graze, pause, look, walk, out of our range.

As we watched, two more appeared from the forest, but instead of heading across, they stopped to snack.  We crept one step at time, from tree to tree, until Richard, who had the only cow elk tag, moved ahead. Jim and I breathed slowly and held still.  The aspens we were in were sparse enough that we still had a good view.

The first two elk melted away into the trees on the far side of the meadow and the newest two, wary now, heads up and looking away from our position, circled in a high trot.  We thought they were going to leave, but they settled and went back to breakfast.  Richard sighted in.

Only one elk disappeared into the trees.

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