Category Archives: Humor

My Band of Showhorses and Raggamuffins

I thought I’d introduce you to my herd.  They live together, sort-of.  All of them are here, but each circulate in their own semi-herd.  But, one of my favorite things to do is let them all out together (with supervision).  I would do this more often but some of them ruin it for the others, if you know what I mean…  First, there is a lot of jostling.  It never changes… the ponies try to fight with the biggest horse, Bodhi.  Figures.  Or, the ponies try to mate with the larger mares.  Totally pony.  The lead mare is always the lead mare. The bully mare is always the bully mare and the wild mare is always wild.  The TWHs run around the outside, trying to get the group to riot.  Norma, the donkey, just watches in disgust.   Meanwhile, the opportunistic Icy is getting into the barn and eating whatever she can find while everyone else is distracted — and the baby is wandering over to learn her bad habits.  Ahhh, so it goes.  I love watching them when they don’t know I’m looking…  So much fun to see how they really behave!

OK, here is my herd in no particular order:

TESS – Lead mare,  motto:  “Hey, do I have to come over there and… “

Registered name:  HVK Noble Heiress, Morgan mare, National Champion, 20 years old, 6 foals:  Tess is the grand dam.  She has been lead mare since she arrived at 2 years of age.  She was bred by the Kohlers (yes, the sink people) and is remarkably talented.  But, what I love most about Tess is that she is lead mare without ever hurting anyone.  I swear, she just lays back an ear and everyone scatters!  I still have her first foal, Gwendolyn, and the last, Wrigley.  I wrote about Tess in my Equine Canker Cured post.  She suffered from this but is now healthy and muddy, just the way she likes it.  (This pic is of Tess and Wrigley at breakfast this morning, nose to nose.)

GWEN: Bully mare, motto:  “Come over here and MAKE me?”

Registered name:  Flaire’s Gwendolyn, Morgan mare, 1st foal of Tess, 15 years old, gorgeous but knows it… Trouble is her middle name.  This mare is so sweet on the ground…  Famous last words, eh?  People think she is so pretty and sweet.  Well, she can be… but usually she isn’t.  Gwen is the most trained horse here because I had lots of time when she was young, and because she needed it.  I swear that this mare did not mature and become safe until she was 13.  Now, I am comfortable riding her, barely.  She can rear like Trigger and jump over anything.  Very athletic.  Too athletic.  I thought about breeding her because of her beauty but then decided she might kill and eat her young. (This picture is of us just before a trail ride.)

VIOLET BEAUREGARD:  Busy little thing, loves to go through any open door, motto:  “Hey, I could fit in there!”

Not registered yet, Icelandic mare, 6 years old, really small and terribly cute.  My husband calls her Alfalfa because her hair sticks straight up.  I rescued her Mommy from a poor gal who had lost her job.  The mare, Glefsa, was very well bred and registered.  Inside of her was VB.  I knew I was in for it the moment she was born.  VB came out screaming.  I swear she was wailing and flinging her legs as she was coming out.  She hasn’t changed a bit.  We named her Violet Beauregard (Willy Wonka reference) because this girl is ALWAYS busy.  Teaching her to ride is like trying to wrangle kittens.  The good and bad news is that she is smart as a whip.  I can teach her anything in one sitting  — as long as she wants to learn.  I thought this photo of her was perfect.  Here she sits in the arena with lots of toys and all she wants is OUT.  Bang, Bang, Bang.  If she was a boy, I would have named her Bam-Bam.

SLICK, DODGER AND NORMA JEAN: Motley crew of 2 Shetlands and a Donkey, motto: “I’m coming, tooooooo!”

None registered.  These three stick together like glue.  Slick, the pie-bald 17 year old Shetland,  came from a TB breeding farm when he was 3.  He was the teasing stud.  Poor guy couldn’t see out of his stall.  I heard the owners complaining that he constantly picked the locks and went marauding down the aisleways.  So, I bought him and gelded the little stinker.  He is still a little stinker but I love him.  Once I cut his forelock to look like Billy Idol.  Actually, that is a good reflection of this little guy.  Rock Star.  He snakes his neck, struts around and wrecks hotel rooms (well, he would if he could…).

Dodger dodged a bullet. I got him from a feedlot when he was just 5.  Now, he is 19.  Dodger has lousy conformation for a Shetland.  He was used on a pony-ring ride, the kind you see at County Fairs.  His saddle didn’t fit (by the looks of his huge scars on his shoulders).  And, I expect from his attitude, he didn’t make his proprietors happy.  So, he was at the auction.  I got him for $26.50, his meat price at the time.  Dodger is still very aloof.  He is a good boy and does whatever he is told, but he is reserved.  However, when he is loose with the big horses, he will try to beat up Bodhi and mount Gwen, his girlfriend.  I have to be careful with him, little bugger.

Norma Jean got her name because in the winter she has a very thick, curly coat.  But, in the summer, she sheds to be a beautiful donkey — just like Marilyn Monroe.  She is a very good girl and a wonderful watch donkey.  She will alert when anything is out of the ordinary.  I love that about her.  I got Norma from a donkey breeder who was about 200 years old and going out of business.  I think her name was Jenny Sue.  Anyway, I’m not sure that Norma really likes me.  She tolerates me and comes over to be groomed.  But, on the whole, I think she loves the Shetlands and any other male horse.  You should see her eat a grape.  Her lips are adeptly prehensile.

BODHI: The Biggest, motto: “Wasn’t me…”

Not registered.  Bodhi is my husband’s horse.  He is a 5 year old Percheron/Welsh Cobb cross.  Yup.  The Percheron jumped the fence.  Anyway, he is as sweet as can be but he is really big.  And, he likes to lean, chew, paw, smash or get into anything he wants.  His pasture used to have a three walled, beautiful shelter but Bodhi remodeled it.  Now just has the 4 posts and a roof.  And, he is terminally mouthy.  Fence boards, shelters, trees … are fine to nibble.  Believe me, he has all of his salts, vitamins, supplements, food, you name it. He just likes to use his mouth and to push on things.  I hope he will grow out of it.  But, even with all of that, we still love him.  He is a great match for my husband and a really solid, good guy.  He loves Remi and no one else.  Maybe Gwen, if he has to be stuck with someone other than Remi.

REMINGTON: Obi-Wan Mustang (wild caught), motto:  “Been there, done that but you can never be too sure…”

Remi has a brand from the BLM and is an 11 year old mustang mare.  I rescued her off of a feedlot.  She was skinny and her feet were very long.  I had really never gotten a mature horse without a history.  That was odd and scary for me.  But, she had a very sweet face and kind eye — besides, isn’t that what rescuing is all about?  You never know what you are getting.  What you are doing is saving a life.  I called the BLM and asked if they could read her brand. They did.  She was gathered at 2 years old from Oregon.  Her herd has Spanish Barb, TB and gaited horses in the wood pile.  Remi is the second largest horse here and she eats the most.  I find her very cool and aware.  She is a thinker.  And, she watches my every move.  I like her.  I won’t ride her (you’d feel the same way if you were on her back), but I will walk with her, practice all my equine body work on her (she loooooves that) and appreciate her for how far she’s come.  She is regal.

FINN AND BEAUTIFUL GIRL: Frick-n-Frack, motto: “Sure, I’m game… What do you want to do?”

I really shouldn’t group these two together because they are great individuals. They are full siblings.  I liked Finn so much, I went back to the breeder for another.  I bought his little sister sight unseen.  And, funny, they are not alike in ANY way.  Ha!  But, they are always together.  Always.

Finn, registered name is Bad News Generation,  is a 10 year old, easy going TWH gelding with not much gait but a lovely canter.  He isn’t built like a regular gaited horse (which is why he isn’t so great at gaiting) therefore many saddles fit him.  Finn likes to trail ride off trail.   He’s fine to walk along a distinguished route, but if you steer him off the path, he perks up and puts on his Daniel Boone cap!  Wahoo!  He loves blazing trails!  He wishes he lived in the Old West!

Beautiful Girl, registered name Bad News Little Bit, on the other hand, is not so easy going and very precise in her manner.  This 7 year old TWH mare listens very well and has incredible gaits but a rocky canter.  She is an awesome gaiting machine!  However, hardly any saddle will fit her shoulder.  In fact, the reason I demo’d so many saddles last year was to try to find a fit for her.  I’ve had to go treeless.  Beautiful Girl is a sweetheart and I think she and I will become much more bonded this summer.  She is such a polite and honest filly.  And, I love her blond mane.

WRIGLEY: The Baby, motto: “Oh yeah… well, um… MOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!”

Wrigley’s registered name is Wrigley.  He is the last foal of my lead mare, Tess.  Wrig is a long yearling and already taller than his mom.  Sigh.  I wanted an easy going, smallish trail horse and I got a HUGE show horse.  I’m not complaining but I wish he would have come out differently.  He is going to be too tall for me, with an even higher headset.  Sigh.  Still, I think he is a sweetie. However, I do notice that all the mares kick and bite him often so I think he is a bit irritating to them.  ;)  Wrigley tries to act tough but as soon as he is threatened, he goes running to his mother for protection.  And, of course, she gives it.  She loves being his Mom.  In the summer I will have to end their togetherness and banish him to another paddock.  I’ll probably put VB in there with him so they can irritate each other — or perhaps she will teach him all of her tricks.  Sigh.

SAMANTHA:  Wild Woman (she is wild), motto: “Get away from me!”

Registered?  Ha!  Now THAT is funny…  Sam is so beautiful you just want to go up to her and admire her.  But, you probably shouldn’t because she would just run away.  I wrote about her earlier as my rescue story.  I love watching her because she is so wild, but I also wish I could touch more than just her head and shoulder.  I used to really worry that I would never trim her feet or be able to care for her if she got sick… so I worked with her and even sent her to training.  We didn’t get very far.  She is a tough nut.  But, I can halter her and she will follow me.  So, in an emergency, I could lead her away.  Sam’s feet stay trimmed, somehow.  I think it is her rocky pasture.  I do have to say, in her defense, that the other horses seem to like her.  She was a great Mom (she came to me skinny and very heavy in foal) and Wrigley adores her.  I took these photos of Sam this morning.  I think they are perfect…  “What ARE you doing?”  “Stop with that thing in your hand, I think it will steal my soul.”  “What about NO don’t you understand??!”

So there you have it… 12 fuzzy buddies that live with me here in Northern California.  Raggamuffins mostly, but Showhorses some…

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What’s a Nice English Rider Like Me Doing at a Dude Ranch?! Yippee-Ki-Ay!

What’s a nice little trail rider like me doing on a Dude Ranch?  Well, it just happened.  I was minding my own business when an email came into my box from a friend who casually mentioned that she was getting her trailer ready for Cowboy Camp.  Like Scooby-Do, my head cocked alert and I replied, HUH??


Evidently, 20+ women from around my area had grouped together to make enough members to sponsor a weekend at V-6 RANCH in CA near the Paso Robles area.  (V-6 is family owned and operated with 20,000 acres of glorious ranch land.)  I hardly knew any of the women, and I am a creature of comfort so anything with “camp” attached to it was probably not for me — but for some reason, I was compelled to attach myself to this group.  I asked my most important question, “What are the bathrooms/showers like?” and upon hearing that no one had ever been there before… I stepped up anyway (I surprised myself, actually…).  Now that I had wriggled my way “in”, I had no idea that I was embarking upon an adventure that would live inside my heart for the rest of my life.

First of all, let me explain the variables.  You could bring your own horse (a 6 hour trailer ride for us) or you could rent a ranch horse.  You could stay in a hotel nearby, the “bunkhouse”, or your vehicle/trailer or tent in the campground.  And, you could decide how much riding you really wanted to do each day.  There would be organized rides everyday.  You could go all day, break off at lunch, or not go at all.  It all sounded fine and dandy but I wanted to know more.  So, I called Barb, the family member in charge of fielding such calls — poor girl.  Barb was lovely and explained it all in a very genteel way.  After she most graciously answered all my city slicker questions, I decided to bring my horse, stay in the bunkhouse, and determine how much riding I wanted once I had my first ride.  (I felt like I was playing CLUE … I’ll take Col. Mustard with the wrench in the Library…).

However, after I committed myself and a few weeks later, work got crazy busy for me and I called back trying to cancel.  This time I got Barb’s husband, John, who in his best Marlboro Man voice, talked me out of it.  He said, “use one of our horses and drive up when you can.  Just make it easy on yourself and we’ll take care of you.  If you need to use your computer, you can go to my house and use our Internet.  But, your Blackberry should work fine here.  Do you have Verizon?”  Wow.  This Marlboro Man was not spending all of his time on the range, I see…  The bathroom/shower situation was looking up!

OK, so I decide to go without hauling my horse so I beg out of the Macy’s Parade of horse trailers caravaning down all at once (safety in numbers but I’d hate to get caught behind them on I-5).   I left later hauling buns down the 101 to get to camp before dark.  The V-6 Ranch is somewhere between Paso Robles and Bakersfield in a town called Parkfield, the “Earthquake Capital of CA.”  The population is 18.  Yet, they have a restaurant, hotel and a schoolhouse.  Interesting.  I come to find out that basically, the Varians, who own V-6, pretty much built the town.  John Varian, the Marlboro Man, is a log home builder so he just builds whatever they need to accommodate visitors.  Cool!

So, I arrive late.  It’s dark.  I creep my truck into the black pathway towards the raging campfire that I see ahead.  Total merriment!  I feel like the person who arrives at the party after it is in full swing… which is exactly who I was.  I walk up to the campfire like the stranger from Mars and everyone stops and stares.  It was a bit unsettling.  But big Marlboro Man John gives me a warm smile and instructs me on how to get to the bunkhouse, “just drive right up there…”.  I say, “right up there?” and he says, “Sure!”  So I drive right up, literally right up,  to the entrance of the fabulous, built with love, bunkhouse.  “Pick any one with a key in the door!” OK.  I picked the first one on the right.  I opened the door and it was cute as could be!  Clean, tidy, two beds, a chair, a mirror, a waste basket and plenty of wall hooks.  Perfect!  I put my stuff down and went back towards the fire.  There I saw the enormous, three-sided dance hall type Western room filled with tables and happy people. On the right side of the vast expanse was a kitchen with lovely ladies washing dishes and putting dinner away.  When they saw me, the new stranger, they opened their arms and started serving up whatever I wanted.  Nice!  This is when I met Barb, John’s wife, face to face.  What a doll!

Of course, the biggest issue for me was yet to come.  What about the bathrooms? Well, I leaped over that hurdle like an Olympian.  No worries.  Another feature built by Marlboro Man John.  There were four really cute bathrooms and a quad shower.  I would survive. Phew.


THANK GOD I HAVE A RANCH HORSE. That was my mantra to myself all day.  Here we were, over 20 ladies (and a few gents) who mostly brought their show or trail mounts from home.  I must say, most of the horses are in great shape.  And, I would also have agreed that, not knowing what I found out on Day 1, most of these horses would be fine to trail ride all day.  Heh Heh.  THANK GOD I HAVE A RANCH HORSE… OMG!  Trail riding is one thing, cross country is another thing and endurance riding is yet another thing… but NOTHING is like riding the range.  OMG!  We had a pack of 20 some horses who were jigging and bucking and romping around like newbies at the Puppy Bowl.  None of these horses had ever done anything like this.  Uphills, steeps, loooooooong downhills, narrows, curves, up, up. up, cows, other loose running horses, wide open spaces, running deer… you get the picture.  Nonsensical, hysterical, fun and nostril flaring mayhem! .  Even my wonderful Fizz, the seasoned ranch horse, was a bit jiggy.  But for me, on not my horse, I was liberated from any guilt or pressure that one feels when their horse is acting up or too tired to take another step.  I just rode.  Fizz had the “been there, done that” attitude that kept me loving the ride and totally free to absorb my beautiful surroundings.

That night, all of us who survived — just kidding — had a lovely home cooked meal served by the Varian family, listened to John senior (Jack) tell his tales, sat by the fire, joked, recounted and licked our saddle wounds.  The more time we spent, the more stories were told and the closer we all became.  That night, we slept like babies — well most of us anyway — those folks in tents weren’t such happy campers.  I think late October is a bit too frosty for tents in Earthquake country.  Needless to say, the next night, no one was in a tent…


THANK GOD I HAVE A RANCH HORSE was again my mantra for the day.  We had the lovely opportunity to ride past one of the lakes and up to the top where there is a cabin to have lunch.  Seems innocuous enough, right?  I now know that nothing seems as steep when you are on the ground looking up.  Ha!  Again, we masterful riders felt like wussies.  But before I get into our spiderman ride up the side of the mountain, let me tell you that half of the riders peeled off and went back to camp after reaching the lake.  Their adventure would be as remarkable as ours due to the Varian’s 13 year old son who was leading them to camp while texting.  This I say with a smile because he was as cute as could be and totally adept in the saddle.  He was 13… and busy. ;) Truth to tell, it wasn’t his fault that this party got lost.  (And, you can’t really get lost, you just take a different and longer route than anticipated.)  The father, Marlboro Man John, kinda told the son to take the wrong turn by the tree near the fence with the hole near the bog  — you know what I mean (again feeling like I’m playing CLUE here).  Still this party had a great time, they just got to take the more scenic route.

Anyway, back to us.  Our small party, led by John, was going up and up and up and up.  (THANK GOD I HAVE A RANCH HORSE.)   I have to honestly say that all of us were scared at one time or another.  One gal, and I don’t blame her, got off her horse and took the lunch van back down… Another asked John quite seriously, “Has a horse ever died up here doing this?”  “Not yet…” he said with a smile.  It was really an adventure beyond adventures!  We were never in danger but it was so intense that there wasn’t a time that we weren’t all watching the ground, the horse, the land ahead and our pulses.  My horse gave me the impression that she had certainly done this before.  She knew when to rest, she knew how to navigate where we were going, and she knew how to take care of me.  I loved her. She was the first quarter horse I had ever ridden and I loved her.  Anyway, back to the ride… when we finally made it to the cabin, it was like we were thirsty travelers lost in the desert and emerging from anticipated death.  Once we knew we had finally arrived, we were exuberant!  It was totally awesome!  We did it!  It was like base jumping and surviving.  We turned around and looked at the incredible scenery from whence we’d come and we were so proud.  OMG.  I will never forget that ride.  And, I’ll always have respect for the range riders.  How do they do that every single day.  Hats off…

That night, the weary but satisfied riders had another wonderful meal provided by Barb and her mother, punctuated by a lovely wine tasting offered by Sculpterra Vineyards (Really good.  I purchased several bottles).  Wow!  I slept like a baby, again, that night.

As an aside, I did notice that I kept dragging in acorns from outside my room. I could not figure out why there were progressively more acorns on my bunk room floor every time I entered. More on that later.


Thank God I have a ranch horse (but it sure would be fun to have my own horse; I kinda miss not sharing this with him).  On the last day, we all took a shorter, equally as lovely route through the valley and stopped at the the family barn/arena to watch the Varians prep for a local rodeo.  Kids from 8 to 50 were roping and riding like Wild Bill!  I was totally impressed by one young girl who rocked out there!  We had another faboo lunch while we watched the festivities and gently rode back to camp, laughing and recounting the events of the last three days.

(This last photo is me atop my trusted mare, Fizz.)


As I was stripping my bed, a flurry of acorns flew out from the bed frame and scattered about the room.  Evidently, some clever woodland creature had also been rooming in my bunkhouse before I arrived.  He must have been very upset that I had ruined his winter storage area.  So much work, dashed by the huge, ignorant human!


This is the story of my Dude Ranch Experience at the V-6.  I will never forget the sweet hospitality of all the Varians and the incredible adventure that would never have happened anywhere else.

By the way, I found out, or at least urban legend says,  that “kai yea” is an Indian term for “move fast” and the cowboy made it into Ki-Ay while gathering cattle.  Yup.  Exactly.  For me, it was truly an event that moved in and out of my life far too fast.  Yippee kai yea!

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