The Stars Are Aligned

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There can be only one possible subject for my post this week after the phone call I received Friday - my good mare, Peppy Del Cielo, is confirmed in foal to Wimpys Little Step! Although this is hardly the last hurdle to jump before I have a foal, it is a major step (pardon the pun...).

It all started last fall. My friend, Jill, and I had planned to attend the NRHA Futurity in Oklahoma City since spring. As the date of departure neared, I checked the draws for the Futurity, which led to checking out stallions for my Gallo Del Cielo mare, Peppy Del Cielo aka "Prima". Prima is the dam of both my stallions - Running With Wolves and Walking With Wolves. She is also the dam of a Wildwood Liberty that is no longer owned by me but who competed successfully in futurities in 2009. I had not bred Prima in 2009 so that I could afford a breeding in 2010 (I will only breed her to proven stallions).

I kept going back to Wimpys Little Step, NRHA's youngest Two Million Dollar sire, but the breeding fee was high. I emailed his owner to begin communication but I did not get an answer before Jill and I left for the Futurity. When I got there, I found out Wimpys Little Step was one of three stallions being honoured at the Futurity. He was not only featured on the big screen in the middle of the arena, but also in the flesh. Shawn Flarida rode the gorgeous palomino stallion into the pen for the award presentation.

Following the Non Pro finals, Jill and I made our way back to the barn and there, in front of Green Valley Ranch aisle, was a celebration cake for Wimpys Little Step. As I ate a piece of the cake I talked to the breeding manager about shipping semen to Canada (not easy now!) and was satisfied that they could get it done. I still did not commit.
After I got home and for a couple of months I weighed the pros and cons. This was a big step, a huge financial commitment! In the end, after multiple emails, I booked Prima to Wimpy. In April, I hauled her to Deep Creek Veterinary Services in Salmon Arm. She had been bred there several times. The vets knew the mare and Prima knew the facility. I was going to have the best chance to get this done. She cycled (as she was supposed to) and checked back in foal 16 days later (as she was supposed to!). Jill was with me when I got the call. She said, "I think we should drive to Alexis Creek for a lottery ticket and you're buying!" I'm generally not a lucky person, but I'm feeling very blessed right now.
Could it get any better? Maybe. Here is how 2011 is stacking up - Prima's three stallions are all eligible for Derbies. Running With Wolves, Wildwood Liberty and Walking With Wolves - four, five and six year olds out of the same mare - will compete against each other in reining derbies - the same year that their dam, Prima, drops a Wimpys Little Step! If that isn't enough, Prima's first grand babies will enter the pen! The stars are aligned for 2011. Let's hope I can keep them that way!

Surviving Cardston South Country Derby 2002!

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Show season is upon me, but I have yet to compete this year. As May draws to a close, I think of the Cardston South Country Derby, which will happen next weekend. In the past (before there were several reining shows in BC) I competed there almost every year. One particular trip stands out in my memory - the 2002 edition of the Derby.
I was living in Armstrong then and had entered Wildwood Whisperin, my 5 year old mare in the show. My husband was not travelling with me and, so that I would have lots of time for the long drive, I rose at 4:00 AM to get on the road. In the truck with me was my Samoyed dog, Kirby.
As I approached Revelstoke, I saw trucks lined up along the highway and I knew immediately that Roger's Pass must be closed.
"Need to get breakfast anyway," I thought and pulled into an A & W. As I picked the order up, I saw trucks moving.
"Great," I said to myself, and slid behind the wheel to continue my drive . . . for about an hour. Then I was stopped again - for an avalanche - for three hours! My early start now eaten up by highway delays, I could only be thankful that I had started so early!
In Banff I ran into a little snow on the road, but nothing to worry about. Whisper, a seasoned traveller, rode like the pro she was and Kirby slept on the floor of the truck, only popping up if I stopped. I would be in Cardston before midnight.
At Claresholme, I stopped for gas. Daylight was fading and there was still some snow on the road, but I was anxious to pull into the grounds at Cardston, settle Whisper for the night and get some sleep myself.
"I hear the roads are not good south," the station attendent said.
That would be an understatement! A few kilometers from Claresholme, I knew what he meant. Two driving lanes had been reduced to an icy track on the extreme left shoulder and so rough, the truck and trailer shook and rattled. I reduced speed to a crawl. There was almost no traffic except for a semi in front of me. Every once in a while, I saw a vehicle stuck in the snow on the road or in the ditch.
"I'll be okay if I just go slow," I thought and that's what I did, so slow I could video as I drove. This is the video I took on May 22-23 from Claresholme to Cardston Alberta:
That's right - I didn't make it to Cardston that night. I spent the night along the highway in Fort MacLeod! The next day I followed the snowplow down the highway. It seemed more like January than May! When I got to the grounds, I unloaded Whisper on the road since no one could drive in. Snowdrifts covered some parts of the barn and horse trailers that had been parked when the storm hit. There was a certain amount of chaos with competitors digging themselves and their horses out and management trying to find plows to move the snow.
The show did go on. It will be remembered forever, especially by the show secretary! I, too will remember especially the haul to get there. I don't remember much about my runs, except we had 7 minutes before each class to warm up in the pen! The horses may all have been thankful for the blizzard that hit Cardston Derby 2002 - they were not ridden as much as usual!

Honoring the Mothers

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Yesterday was Mother's Day. Mom has been gone for many years now and my children are far away, so I spent the day as any other - with my animals. I have only one new foal this year, but in my yard are many "mothers", mares who have had foals in other years. There is no miracle any better than the miracle of birth... unless it is the miracle of the instant bonding of mother and child. Without books or counciling or advice from their moms, the mares by instinct alone mother their babes. Here are some of my favourite photo moments in years past:

Wildwood Tamarac and her foal, Wildwood Destiny (1993)

Wildwood Destiny and her foal, Wildwood Magic Miss (2002)

Peppy Del Cielo and her foal, Running With Wolves (2005)

Peppy Del Cielo and her foal, Walking With Wolves (2007)

Wildwood Harmony and her foal, Wildwood Cactus

Isn't motherhood wonderful?

Women and Horses

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What is it about women and their horses? I just spent a wonderful weekend in Armstrong visiting with girlfriends. What did we talk about most of the time? Horses, of course.

I had hauled my broodmare to the vet clinic for breeding. In a once-in-a-lifetime decision, I booked her to Wimpys Little Step, the #1 NRHA reining stallion in 2009. Prima, a daughter of Gallo Del Cielo (another leading sire of reining horses), is the dam of my two stallions, Running With Wolves and Walking With Wolves. She is also the dam of Wildwood Liberty, successfully shown last year as a three year old. The prospective offspring of this mating was a hot topic of conversation over coffee, in the barns and during a night out in a local restaurant. What else did we talk about? We talked about horses we owned, horses we had once owned, horse accidents we had, training methods, clinics we had attended and, most importantly, the connection we felt to our horses.

I hauled my 3 year old stallion and a yearling colt with me to Armstrong. The colt (sired by Running With Wolves) was hitching a ride to the coast to the barn of a Working Cowhorse trainer. When I dropped him off for the next leg of his journey, the young mother and I talked at length about breeding, cowhorses, barrel racing for at least an hour. She is a barrel racer - or so I thought - that is now riding Working Cowhorse. I asked her if she has given up barrel racing.

"Not really," she said, "because my kids are going to barrel race. We are going all directions now." Her husband ropes...

I drove back to my friend's place to unhitch the trailer and check on my young stallion in a stall in her barn. He had already buddied a little with the senior Arabian mare of my friend's, a mare she had raised and of course felt a deep affection for.

"She still misses PJ," Mae said (She lost PJ last winter.) Mae  misses PJ too...

"I'll be back to ride Little Wolf before we go out to dinner," I told Mae, and I was. After a whirlwind tour of a garden center, a fabric center (for show shirt material!), and two western stores, more "horse talk" with a sales girl who reins and a quick ride on Little Wolf, four of us met for dinner. What a great evening spent with women who love their horses!

The next day I drove to Mandy's farm to teach a lesson and see the Running With Wolves two year olds she had bought as weanlings. How wonderful to have sold to such a loving home! (Sable is pictured with Mandy at the beginning of this blog.) Mandy was preparing for a clinic at her place and was unbelievably busy - but not too busy to talk horses! We definitely understand each other's affection for these four legged animals!

At 2:00 PM I met Rick and Cindy from the south Okanagan, who had driven up to visit with me ... and watch me ride Little Wolf. After the ride Mae called us in for coffee. For the next two hours, we chatted about our horses, past horse experiences and plans for a "horsey" future.

"I thought I could live without horses," Rick said, "but I was wrong." A serious heart attack and a change of lifestyle had not deterred him. He was back riding and he asked me to send him photos of a yearling.

The last evening in Armstrong I spent with Mae and Leslie (who is recovering from a horse wreck - a broken collar bone and four ribs!) We watched two DVDs I had brought - Wildwood promotional tape and a joyful short film of new foals I had made from footage I had gathered over the years.

The next morning, I picked up a mare to take back with me for breeding and started the long drive home. I had lots to think about - all those conversations with people with like interests.

"I have a lot of really good friends who love their horses, " I thought. "That's the way it should be."