A Handful of Dirt

Posted by Sharon Labels: , , , ,

The National Finals Rodeo is in full swing now and technology has made it possible for me to see the action even if I can’t make the trip to Las Vegas with up-to-date coverage on television. (If I miss that, there’s always the internet.) Barrel racing has a special attraction for me since I barrel raced for many years, steer wrestling because that’s my brother’s event and tie-down roping because that was Dad’s event, but I wouldn’t miss the bull riding or bronc riding either. Although I can’t imagine climbing on the back of a brahma, I do get bronc riding since I have not been able to avoid a few bronc rides myself… 

Growing up on a ranch, I heard plenty of bronc riding stories. Mom, especially, delighted in the telling and re-telling of numerous “cowboy vs bucking horse” encounters she had witnessed and heard about. As long as the victim suffered only bruised body and pride, each story was punctuated with laughter – after all, that was the reason for telling the story! I learned then that getting bucked off provided everyone else with a good belly laugh and respect because apparently you couldn’t be a cowboy if you didn’t get bucked off once in a while. In fact, I so internalized these stories and the respect they garnered for the cowboy that, when I was thrown the first time from my horse at the age of five, I was proud of that accomplishment. But that’s another story. What I learned when I was very young, and still know to be true is this: As long as the rider is not hurt, cowboys laugh when another one bites the dust. And no one laughed any harder than Grandpa.

Grandpa, wiry, tough and quick, was a rancher and cowboy but he was also a bronc rider. In his day, topping off broncs was everyday work and one he was exceptionally good at.
Grandpa "fanning" a bronc
I did not see this of course, but I heard the stories. Often as not, the cowboy's horse of the day would start the day off bucking, reason enough to become a bronc rider, and part of a day's work. They must have enjoyed it though because, just for fun, they all got together on Sundays more bronc riding. The photo below was taken in 1918 at The Diamond Dot Ranch, where I grew up. Note there is no arena, no fences. I dare say it was pretty western.

1918 rodeo at Diamond Dot Ranch
Grandpa may not have found it amusing if he got bucked off (rarely) but nothing made him laugh harder than seeing or hearing about a rider’s unplanned parting from his mount. One of his favourite sayings was,"That's grabbing for leather and getting a handful of dirt!"

It didn’t have to be a horse, either. I remember Grandpa, in his 70's at the time, sitting on the top rail of the corral at the Diamond Dot Ranch (my home) watching a few of us ride yearling heifers. I should say we tried to ride the heifers because one by one, we all got bucked off in short order. My cousin, Gloria, landed so hard she couldn’t get up (knocked the wind out of her). I was worried, standing over her asking her to say something but I looked up and Grandpa was still laughing – so hard the tears rolled down his cheeks. I wish I had a picture but I don’t need one – I will never forget it. What I do have is a photo taken that same weekend. Grandma and Grandpa lived in B.C. then, but had made the trip  back to the Diamond Dot to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, the ranch they once owned, owned by my parents at that time and now owned by my brother and his wife.

August 5, 1962 - Grandma and Grandpa (Les and Gertrude Giauque) on their 50th Anniversary
Grandpa passed away the following January. My last memories of him are with Grandma on their 50th anniversary and sitting on the top rail of the corral laughing at us kids getting thrown in the dirt by some rank yearling heifers.

And some things just do not change. Although more cheering than laughing could be heard when the bareback and saddle bronc competition was going on at NFR, the crowd laughed when one of the horses in the grand entry started pitching and bucked off his rider in the middle of the arena. Not sure if the man grabbed for leather but I do know he got a handful of dirt. 

Losing My Place

Posted by Sharon

You know how, if you lose the book marker in a book you’re reading, it’s sometimes difficult to find your place again (especially if you’ve put the book down for a while) - you're either re-reading what you've already read or have jumped forward missing some of the story. Well, that’s kind of what happened to me – in the book that is my life, I lost the marker and I’m trying to find where I was again.

A good book surprises the reader with twists and turns that challenge the main character and that character meets each challenge, resolves it and, we hope, finds what he/she is looking for by the last chapter. The book wouldn't be interesting if it was any other way! I like to think life wouldn’t be very interesting, either if there weren’t some bumps and detours in the road. I’ve certainly experienced those! So when and why did I lose my place? Did I just hit a bump and run off into the ditch?

I’ve always been the kind of person who has goals – lots of them. I’m also the kind of person who has a plan – always. Plans doesn't always work out the way I want of course, but that never deterred me much before. I changed course, altered the plan and kept going. Not so lately. I'm spinning my wheels trying to find that marker.

Losing my place means I am questioning what got me to this point in my life, where I have arrived and where my story is going from here. I’m floundering around in self-doubt and uncertainty and that’s an unfamiliar and scary feeling. For someone who always knows where she’s at in her “book”, with an unwavering eye on several goals, finding my place again is crucial to my story.

And so this post is about planting both feet in the present and marking the place. By starting to blog again, I hope ideas, plans, enough for several ‘chapters’ of my book will follow. Are my weanling fillies, Perfect and Cameo, that lost marker? Maybe. They are the future of several Wildwood mares no longer with me; maybe they are part of my continuing story too.

Not in a Rocking Chair

Posted by Sharon Labels: ,

Lately several people have been telling me its time to slow down. A series of incidents inspired those comments, the latest an injury to my leg when my horse hit it jumping a ditch in the bush behind me. Although I appreciate the concern of well-meaning friends and family, Joyce’s comment on Facebook when I posted a “Note to self” is the one that lifted me most.

“Wouldn’t have happened in your rocking chair!” Joyce said.

Indeed it would not have and aren’t I happy that isn’t all there is to my life! My leg will heal just fine and I don’t regret any of the decisions that led up to the injury. I enjoyed taking my little mare on a new experience that day. I loved teaching her new things and sharing my day with her!

It was Sapphire I saddled to check the fence at the river's edge last Friday, a beautiful, warm fall day. Since the ‘path’ directly to the corner along the fence was overgrown, I crossed the river channel downstream and rode on the river rocks along the river, then cut into the bush to get to the corner. The river had collapsed the fence there  in the spring and would need to be repaired.

I rode across this channel and around the trees to follow the river.
Sapphire quite willingly negotiated the underbrush to the corner, where I got off and checked out the fence while she quite patiently waited.

The view up river from the corner of the fence.
To exit, I decided to lead her along the fence through the bush back into the open instead of going back over the rocks and she seemed amenable to that. But, just before we stepped in to the open again, we must cross a small ditch. I could not get to the side but gave her lots of rein - not enough I guess because she jumped the ditch and hit the back of my calf with a foot.

It hurt, of course, but I didn’t think it would be more than a bruise. Not so. My jeans soaked with blood and the incident ended with a trip to the Red Cross outpost so the nurse there could suture it.

So, Joyce – you’re right! That would not have happened in a rocking chair. It would not have happened either if I had quit training horses or had been too chicken to give my young mare a new experience riding through thick brush! And I am so happy I can say that! The life style is worth the risks.

Joyce was probably referring to a line from my book, “A Life with Horses”, where I wrote, “When I am old and sitting in a rocking chair, I'll have memories.”

That would be “when I am old”! And, in a rocking chair or not, I’ll have a scar on the back of my leg to remind me of a ride along the Chilcotin River on one of my favourite mares...

She Breathes on my Heart

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"In the steady gaze of my horse shines a silent eloquence that speaks of love and loyalty, strength and courage. It is the window that reveals to me how willing her spirit, how generous her heart."

The above roughly-paraphrased quote from an unknown author embodies a sentiment I have always known to be true but of which I am reminded of from time to time. This past week was one of those times.

My connection to my horses and theirs to me has always been strong, so much so that I take little notice but sometimes what passes between us is more - telepathic, even spiritual. So palpable I can 'feel' it. I write about such a time in the blog posts, A Peace in their Presence, a morning when my mares bathed me in peace and softness, and A Filly Named Feather, how a special filly lifted me. Then, in A Life With Horses, about how four foals supported me in the only way they knew how at a particularly difficult time in my life:
Oddly, the four foals sensed my emotional dependency. They attached themselves to me in an almost protective way. They never failed to greet me when I walked into their field. They checked in to see how I was doing and then, satisfied I was all right, wandered back to their mothers. I thought they needed me (and of course they did), but they knew I needed them more. They gave me a safe place to fall. (From A Life With Horses)
August 2004: Wildwood Honor, Wildwood Splendor, Running With Wolves, Wildwood Courage

This past week my horses again offered a safe, soft place to fall.

Wildwood Sapphire

I arrived back home from an overnight in Emergency at Williams Lake hospital (See I Fought Them All and They All Won) last Sunday afternoon and immediately checked my horses. I could see the four mares that pastured together in the river field waiting at the fence to greet me and I walked there first. Something was different. Although they often come for a visit, today they were more attentive. Actually, where they before asked for attention, now they were giving attention. I first noticed the change in Sapphire, my four-year-old mare. She hung at the fence longer, lowered her head to be stroked, ran her nose up and down my arm and face. Breathed on me. Generally, she and her friend, Mistral, both came to me but that day, Sapphire was more interested in me than Mistral. She wanted to be at my side.

Wildwood Soul O Silk

Silk also, was unusually attentive. Her eyes never left me, her ears forward listening, her body relaxed and giving. Although she always looks at me like she really 'sees' me, now she looked at me with tenderness too. Was I imagining this? I don't think so because two days later, as I walked down the trail to the bottom, the mares met me. Silk looked at me again like that as if to say, " I am so glad to see you! I was just coming up to check..." 

I love this mare with a love that frightens me. Her soul and mine are enmeshed in a way I cannot explain. Although I have the support of friends and family, Silk is here for me every day in every way. I feel that although she does not speak. No. She does speak  . . . but in a different language . . . and I am so grateful. 

Of all the horses I have ever owned, Silk is perhaps the most intuitive. Highly intelligent with a raw energy that could scare some riders, she and I bonded the day she was born and we have not been apart for long ever since that time. She likes to know where I am and the feeling is mutual.

That these two mares of all my horses should be the ones who "gathered 'round" for the past several days should not have surprised me. Sapphire is Silk's daughter. She is also the daughter of Running With Wolves, one of the four foals in the photo above.

I didn't catch Sapphire last Sunday even though she wanted me to. On Monday, though, I relented. I turned her in the pen opposite the house, the one I can see from my window. We're both happy with that arrangement. On Tuesday I rode her to check fence/ gate in the river field. Although she is often high-spirited like her mother, looking for bears in the bush, she was not that day. She walked quietly, head down and relaxed as we circled the pasture, waded into the channel of the river and up the hill home again. Sapphire is continuing the legacy of her dam, Silk and maybe her grandmother, Tamarac, great-grandmother, Mahogany, and great-great grandmother, Duchess. All those fine mares "carried me" in good times and in challenging ones.

To some of my readers, this may seem like a lot of nonsense; others will understand perfectly. As I heal and adjust to a new reality, I value even more the company of my horses, who give back more than I can ever give to them. They breathe on my heart.   

I Fought Them All and They All Won

Posted by Sharon

Sometimes the best way to tell a not-so-funny story is to see the hunour in it. Reliving the past weekend is one of those times.

The days preceding the weekend were typical work days – feeding, caring for and riding my horses, house work, yard work, and garden - with one exception. Unrelenting sciatic pain made everything I did harder. As the week progressed, I decreased my work load, riding only two horses every day and those with vague symptoms of light-headedness that I attributed to lack of sleep as well as body pain. On Saturday morning I promised myself I would ride three horses. After  a short ride on Wolf (just getting in him in shape), I broke for lunch then, in he afternoon, I rode Mistral and Peace. When I came back in the house for a cold drink, however, I knew I must make a call to the nurse at Alexis Creek – there was stuff going on with me that needed to be checked out.

I called Heather, advised her of my symptoms and before I could say any more, she told me she was coming out to see me. This is where things started to get out of control.

Heather arrived with a bag and a machine that would soon be hooked up to my body. As I lay on my own couch with wires attached to me, she watched the results for a few minutes before telling me, in no uncertain terms, that I would have to go to Williams Lake – by ambulance!

“No,” I said. “I can’t!” The already-erratic lines on the paper spewing from Heather's machine squiggled even more wildly. (My heart was beating at up to 160 beats per minute.)

“I can’t leave.”

“You have to.”

I resorted to pleading.

“Not by ambulance, please. Too much drama. Someone will drive me.”

“No, Sharon. By ambulance. I’m going to phone.” (Lost this one…)

I let this sink in.

“Can I go out and get everything ready with the horses?”

“No. You can’t. We’ll look after everything.”

“Well, can I make some calls?” Heather took some of the paraphernalia off of me so I could call a friend to look after my horses and dogs. I did that and then I saw my opportunity.

“I’m going out now,” I announced as I headed for the steps downstairs.

“I’ll come too,” Heather said. (Won this one…)

Back inside, resigned to the inevitable, I packed a few things to take with me. When the ambulances (not one, but two – don’t ask!) arrived, I was ordered back on the couch (Lost this one – one nurse and three paramedics in the room…) where Heather started an IV, commenting that I was "tough everywhere" when she couldn't get the needle in.

“I wanted to get her on oxygen but she wouldn’t stay still long enough,” she told the paramedics. (A small victory… I just ran around the yard getting set up to leave – how could I need oxygen?)

Finally, everyone was happy that we were ready to go. A brief discussion with one of the paramedics determined that he would hold the bag attached to my IV as I made my way to the ambulance. I got up and started walking.

“Slow down!” (Apparently the man could not keep up with me…)

Then I saw the stretcher at the bottom of my steps.

“You want me on that?” I asked. “I don’t need to go on a stretcher! (Lost again...)

So they hoisted me up into the ambulance like I’ve seen a thousand times on television . . . and I immediately became claustrophobic!

“I can’t do this!” I said.

“Do you want to drive?” asked the driver.

“Yes.” (I lost this one too, of course - it was a rhetorical question.)

So for that outburst I got a shot of Atavan. (Fought that too and lost!)

It's a good thing I didn’t know until later that the RCMP had set up a road block at the end of my driveway, completely unrelated to my situation. I wish I had the picture my neighbour described to me: Road block with RCMP, two ambulances driving out of my driveway and my friend with truck and trailer stopped on the highway waiting to turn in to my driveway! (And I didn't want any drama!)

In emergency at Williams Lake hospital, I was transferred to a bed, hooked up to various wires and tubes (including oxygen - yes, they got their way in that one, too!). The doctor assessed my condition and advised me that I might need a pacemaker (situation going from bad to worse!) but, after all tests were complete, diagnosed my condition as atrial tachycardia and told me he would put me on beta blockers. I could go home in the morning if I was stable. Good news!

I cannot find anything humourous to write about my overnight in emergency on a Saturday night of a long weekend in the Chilcotin. The high point of the evening was when the nurse brought me a phone and I heard the voice of a friend on the other end of the line. I assured her ( and her me...), then kept the phone for a few more calls including one to the good friend feeding my horses and caring for my dog, Mischa.

The next morning, I was released and had to call for a ride home. As I said to the paramedics, "You mean you can take me against my will but you won't bring me home?"

As I waited for my ride, a chance conversation with a man waiting for treatment, yielded unexpected offers - he wanted to know if I wanted a room mate and then asked me out. "You seem to be a nice lady," he said. (Not that nice...)

So I am home now, very glad to be here and feeling a little more in control. But, for a few hours last weekend, I was not . . . and there seemed to be very little I could do about it!

I fought them all, they all won! Damn! Hate it when that happens...

PS Thanks to Heather (nurse at Alexis Creek), paramedics, doctor and nurses in Williams Lake, Crystal and Tim (who did chores and kept Mischa), my friends and family for support and Marion (who was prepared to   drive from Alberta  and stay at my place should my 'hospital holiday' be any longer!)

"It's a holiday if I'm not wearing spurs!"

Posted by Sharon Labels: , , ,

Last weekend (and extending into today) was a long weekend. As I read Facebook posts about camping, trail riding and water sports, and saw trucks pulling boats, campers and motor homes heading down highway 20, I admit I felt a twinge of envy, especially since the weather was perfect for those kind of holidays.  My holiday of choice would have been a trail ride but instead of that or water sports and evenings by the campfire, I spent the weekend by myself at home doing what I do almost every day - caring for and riding horses. 

I guess my "holiday" was the previous weekend, July 27-29, when Wildwood Reining Horses hosted a three-day Vern Sapergia horsemanship/reining clinic. My house and yard was filled with people and horses . . . and an old friend.

Vern demonstrating to Donna and I
Vern and I go back a long way - back to the hills of Saskatchewan, reining shows, working in Italy, clinics and many, many soul-searching heart-to-hearts. Although 'time for talking' was limited last weekend, we still managed to have a couple of in-depth discussions.  One topic was about time off - holidays - of which neither of us gets much. Vern told me he had plans to "holiday" a little after the clinic before he returns to Austria. His family, he said, told him he never took a real holiday. Vern disagreed.

"Don't you remember?" he said to his son-in-law. And he reminded him of a one-day outing they had once had. His son-in-law disagreed, saying it was nothing but a spur-of-the-moment little adventure.

"Yes, it was a holiday!" Vern said. "Any time I'm not wearing spurs it's a holiday!"

So that's the 'holiday' criteria for horse trainers... Although I somewhat agree, I can have a holiday even if I am wearing spurs, like last weekend.

Vern's clinic, as always, was fabulous - informative and fun! I know of no other clinician who could and would give more of themselves to each and every student. He loves to teach.

"I will never retire," said Vern, "As long as I have something to teach and someone wants to learn."

The clinic, however, was not for anyone who wanted to be stroked or coddled. Vern tells it like it is! He also pushes everyone to the limits of their capabilities. He has an innate sense of how far is too far, though, and riders come away from the clinic with the wonderful realization that they (and/or their horse) have accomplished  more than they thought possible!

Shannon getting spurs on - guess the holiday is over!
I think Vern might have to admit the trip to the Chilcotin was a little bit of a holiday even if he didn't take off his spurs. Evenings around the firepit, a visit with a long-lost cousin, lots of good food and laughter counts for something. Good horses doing good things does too. Sliding my stallion, Walking With Wolves, sure brought a smile to his face!

Vern and Walking With Wolves (Photo by Jordan Grier)

And when the clinic was over Sunday evening, Vern was the first to say, "Let's go!" when we were invited to Chilco Ranch for an impromptu team roping and didn't hesitate when Jordan offered him Maverick, a rope and a glove.
Vern on Maverick getting the job done. (Photo by Crystal Grier)
Check out that smile! (Photo by Crystal Grier)
He still had his spurs on so maybe even these moments didn't qualify as a holiday but I'm pretty sure he loved every minute of it.

So I am not going to cry any tears about not being able to take time off for the long weekend. I strapped on spurs just like I do almost every day and rode some fine horses.

Wildwood Mistral and I (Photo by Jordan Grier)

Hearts in the Sand

Posted by Sharon Labels: , , ,

The sun had already set as I slowly drove through the trees and down the sandy driveway to my yard. I had met my friend at the corner and we had driven to Williams Lake for shopping and dinner but now, possibly for the first time, I didn't want to come home.

Bypassing my house yard, I drove past the gate and parked close to the barn, turned the key off, got out and put one leaden foot in front of the other, glancing at the old round pen to my left but walking instead to the barn to feed my stallions, one in the barn and one in a pen behind. It was then I saw the first heart drawn in the sand at the door of my barn. 

I knew what the significance of the heart in the sand was... Thinking about that, I forked feed to Little Wolf and Wolf, then plodded by the old round pen again on a path across the arena to check and feed the broodmares. Usually my two pretty fillies, Perfect and Cameo, lifted my spirits but tonight I doubted they would. Feed them I must though so I shuffled along eyes to the ground . . . and stopped. There, in the harrow drag-track across the arena, was another heart, carefully scribed, carefully positioned so I would see it when I crossed the arena.

Hearts in the sand. I knew who drew them . . . and why. "I thought they might cheer you up," he said later. Well, no - the hearts in the sand didn't cheer me up but I so appreciated the effort because, you see, I had come home that evening to one less horse. Destiny was gone.

Wildwood Destiny entered my world on April 20, 1993 and immediately captured my heart. The first foal for my good mare, Wildwood Tamarac, I had great expectations for her. Her sire was an own son of Doc Bar and double bred King; her dam was sired by Solanos Peppy San. I was sure she would be a reining horse and had plans to train her and compete in the NRHA Futurity in Oklahoma City in 1996.

April 20, 1993 - Destiny born to Tamarac
But my talented little bay mare was "destined" to overcome adversity time and time again. Savaged by her mother when she was only a few hours old, lost in the mountains when she was two, sustaining a traumatic shoulder injury at three and surgery and three pins in her leg at four years old, we missed the futurity. I entered the reining pen only a few times before breeding her. Again, she faced pain, the pain of losing her three week old filly. 

Destiny and her first born, Lace.
Through it all she remained cheerful and tough - really tough. She learned to not only survive but thrive and went on to gift me with wonderful trail rides, beautiful foals and a charming stable presence. Last year she raised her last foal and I did not breed her again, believing she would be with me for several years of retirement. I was wrong. A sudden debilitating lameness left me only with a choice I did not want to make. For the past few months I spent time with her every day, moving her to grass, penning her alone at night so she would not be hurt running from the others. She was never far from me and she always greeted me with ears up and often whinnied, making a difficult decision even more difficult.

On July 12, a vet humanely euthanized Destiny at home. I lost a very special friend and the fourth of what I call "The Dynasty". 

The morning after I discovered the 'hearts in the sand', I walked to Destiny's grave by the fence east of the house. There I found another heart - this one outlined in river stone - and inside the heart, a "bouquet" of grass and alfalfa in flower. While my friend had kept me company her husband had tried his very best to ease the pain he knew I would feel when I came home to an empty pen. Thank you, my friends, for lifting my heart just a little...

And now life begins without Destiny, although I still imagine I see her face looking through the rails at me with her ears up and her nose stretched to my hand as it was when I said goodbye. I can still feel the softness of that nose although she has been gone for a week. 

Destiny (center with head up) with her family 1999
Duchess, Mahogany (at back)
Tamarac and Silk (mare and foal upper right)
Kokanee, Promise, Whisper and Harmony)
Duchess, Mahogany, Tamarac (Desiny's maternal ancestors) and her little filly, Lace, are buried on myold property in Armstrong and Destiny is here in the Chilcotin but I like to think they are together now as they were in the photo above. And the legacy of this fine maternal line still lives . . . in Legacy and Legacy's offspring. Last spring Destiny's daughter, Legacy, foaled out a beautiful bay filly that I named Wildwood Perfect Six because she is the first of the sixth generation of this line of Wildwood mares. Perfect, Legacy and Legacy's siblings - Whiskey, Sable, Honor, Magic and Breeze - carry the genes of this fine mare. She will never really be gone.

I took the photos below on July 12, 2012, the last day I spent with Destiny. The first is of Destiny with Legacy and Perfect - I thought she should meet her granddaughter. In the second photo, Destiny is looking off in the distance. What is she thinking here? That she would like to trot over the hills like she used to? I hope she's doing that now. 
Legacy, Perfect and Destiny

Those hearts in the sand have been erased by the footsteps of her stable mates (somehow fitting) but my memories of Destiny will live on. For nineteen years she was part of my world. Now a river rock 'heart' marks her final resting place. I go to see her there every day. Miss you, girl. Rest in peace.

Horse Camping at Beaverdam Lake

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     It’s been a while coming, but I finally managed a brief “holiday” – with horses, of course. On the weekend of June 1-3, I met with friends at Beaverdam Lake for a weekend of campfires, camaraderie, and trail riding. Some things don’t change, though – I co-ordinated the trip to include dropping off another horse after the camp-out and I brought the greenest horse I have on the property to ride (for the experience, of course because I would not want to miss a training opportunity…)

     Arriving at the campsite at around 5:00 PM on Friday, I talked briefly with my friends, Mandy and Shawn, about where and how to overnight my mares. Prima, an aged broodmare, had never been on a campout and Sapphire, a four-year-old mare, had never been hauled prior to the 250 km I had just hauled her. She was brand new to everything.

Beaver Dam Lake as seen from our camp site
     After weighing all options (including pens at a facility across the lake), I decided I would high-line both a short distance from my outfit. I’m happy to say they adapted to the high-line right away.

Sapphire and Prima high-lined. Mischa went too!
     The next day, we saddled for a ride. I started before the others so I could test the waters – how Sapphire would react to the new country and how Prima would cope with Sapphire leaving. Prima was not happy but I was occupied with Sapphire, who did not want to leave the camp site. A few well-placed smacks lined her out and we headed away from camp into a meadow at a ground-covering long trot broken by sudden halts when Sapphire tried to head back. How very much like her dam this mare is! I went back ten years to the first rides out I had on Silk . . . and I love them for their grit! When I returned to camp, Mandy, Shawn and Lacey were ready to ride. Prima, still not happy, would have the company of another horse and Mandy’s mom to monitor the situation.

Sapphire and I 
     After the somewhat reluctant start, Sapphire was good on the ride, in part because she had company. Mandy, Shawn and I all rode 2008 offspring of Running With Wolves. The three - Wildwood Sable, Wildwood Cactus and Wildwood Sapphire - are from his first foal crop and all out of daughters of Tamarac. How cool is that!

Me on Sapphire, Shawn on Cactus, Mandy and Sable

She's Perfect!

Posted by Sharon Labels: , ,

A week ago today I welcomed a new life into the world. My good bay mare, daughter of Destiny, granddaughter of Tamarac, great-granddaughter of Mahogany and great-great-granddaughter of my beloved Duchess, foaled out the first of a sixth generation of that ‘Dynasty’.

Since I live alone, I foal out my mares by myself and I can assure you that, in the middle of the night, at the moment of delivery, I always feel a bit of panic (My vet told me there would be something wrong if I didn’t!). At the moment ‘no turning back’ I say a little prayer that all will go well. As many of you know, last year did not … which has increased my anxiety level.

This time, though, I was not alone. By some twist of karma, a friend was passing through on a work assignment in the area and was visiting – not just any friend but a fellow with broodmares of his own and who, at one time, boarded them with me. Many is the time we foaled out a mare in the still of the night! As soon as Rod arrived last Sunday evening I told him Legacy would foal that night.

“Do you want me to call you only if I need you or do you want me to call you anyway?” I asked him. He quickly answered that he would like to share the experience with me as we had done so many times years before.

As I predicted, Legacy went into labour about 3:00 AM. I called Rod.

Legacy’s delivery was not easy. I needed help and, against all odds, I had help to deliver a beautiful bay foal at 3:50 AM. As Rod and I stepped back to allow mare/foal bonding, he commented that we had worked together with very few words and knowing just what the other one was doing and how to do it. I had not thought about it at the time but he was right. We had both dropped into the roles we needed to without even thinking about it. 

Every one of this foal’s matriarchal ancestor’s first foal was a filly. I was sure this one would be a colt. Not so. Following the pattern of her ancestors, Legacy’s first was a filly. And she was perfect.

Not so Legacy. She needed immediate veterinary attention so, after finding a driver (Rod had to go to work!), I rode in the trailer with both of them to the vet in Williams Lake where we spent the rest of the day, Legacy expertly attended to and the little filly playing and sleeping on the lawn.

I am happy to say, Legacy is on the mend. I would have probably lost my mare had I not made that trip.

Riding in the back of the trailer for 100 km, I had lots of time to think. I could not decide on a name for the newest edition and I mulled over the possibilities, never quite satisfied with anything I could come up with. It was only yesterday that the name became clear. She had really already named herself! Every time someone asked about the foaling, I prefaced the account of Legacy's problems with “The baby’s perfect but…” Finally it dawned on me. Her name is "Perfect" . . . and, since I wanted to use something to signify the 6th generation, her AQHA name will be "Wildwood Perfect Six".

Big handle for a little filly but she’s up for the challenge. After all, her daddy is Walking With Wolves and he’s always been up for any challenge.

And while I wait and worry about the next mare to foal, who is at day 366 gestation today, I am falling in love with this one-week-old, pretty bay filly. How dangerous is that? Or is that just perfect...

Wildwood Perfect Six at one week

The legacy continues...

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In the early hours of May 7th, my good mare, Legacy (Wildwood Legacy Lace) foaled out a beautiful bay filly. While every foal is a miracle and every foaling a landmark event, this one was more special and more noteworthy than most. This filly is the first of a sixth generation Wildwood mares. Here's how it goes: 

Duchess and I at CFR 1974

In 1968, I bought a two-year-old mare from Doug and Nancy Dear in Montana. Her name was Ma Dear but I immediately called her Duchess. Race bred (sired by Pasamonte Paul out of a Classy Bar mare), powerful and athletic, she was to be my next barrel racing mare. That she was – she took me to a CCA championship and the Canadian National Finals – but what I didn’t know is that she would found a dynasty of Wildwood horses. Duchess lived to be 36 and was with me for 34 years. She lived to see four descending generations.

Wildwood Mahogany
In 1979, I bred to Duchess to my stallion, Seco Top Moon (a black son of Top Moon) and she foaled out a bay filly, Wildwood Mahogany. I trained Mahogany and both my daughter and I
showed her in a wide variety of classes from halter to reining.


Wildwood Tamarac
Now hooked on reining, I bred Mahogany to Solanos Peppy San and, in 1987, she foaled out Wildwood Tamarac, a sorrel mare with undeniable talent, sweet personality and a fantastic disposition. I trained and showed Tamarac in reining competitions in Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC as well as many reining demonstrations. She was my first futurity reining horse! Tamarac is not only an important link in this dynasty; she is also a key element in the gene pool of many my Quarter Horses.

Wildwood Destiny

Since I wanted a foal from this good mare, I bred Tamarac and, in 1993 she gave me Wildwood Destiny, a bay filly sired by Podoco (grandson of Doc Bar with strong King breeding on the bottom). Like Destiny’s maternal ancestors, I trained and showed her. She was a dream to ride!

By now I knew I was building a dynasty! Tamarac produced six fillies in a row before producing a colt. At this point, my focus was the maternal line as I had access to sires with performance records so I was thrilled to have so many fillies from such a good mare.

Wildwood Legacy Lace packing

Not to be undone, Destiny foaled out five fillies in a row when she entered the broodmare band. The one I selected to keep was Wildwood Legacy Lace, a bay daughter of Listo Pollito Lena born in 2003. Like the rest, she went into training but, although she is a finished reining horse, I showed her only lightly, mostly because I moved and had to make a choice which horse to show. I did use Legacy trail riding, packing and as a wonderful quiet lesson horse.

Wildwood Legacy Lace and the new generation.
 Last year I bred Legacy to my stallion, Walking With Wolves and in the quiet hours of the morning of May 7th, Legacy presented me with the next generation of this Wildwood Dynasty – a beautiful, strong, healthy bay filly that taxed her mother’s strength (and mine!) to the maximum. She's perfect and she carries the genes of five great mares that I have raised, ridden, shown and bonded with. It seems like this new addition to the dynasty should have a name befitting the occasion but I have not settled on one yet. If I can’t find one that connects the dots, I will call her Shiraz. She’s bold, full-bodied and, like a fine wine, better with age.

It’s interesting that the first foal for all of the mares in this maternal line was a filly. Even Mahogany, who went on to produce several colts, had a filly first. Duchess, Mahogany, Tamarac, Destiny, Legacy and now little Shiraz. The legacy continues…

Showing Me What She Knows

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With warmer weather finally taking the ice and snow off of my outdoor arena this past week, I couldn’t wait to ride. Only a small circle was dry enough to ride on but I caught up my two young mares, Mistral and Sapphire. After a short lunge (I hate lunging!), I stepped up on first Mistral, then Sapphire, and suppled and circled for a few minutes. Both mares, although out of shape, immediately settled into the training program.

It’s always rewarding to pick up a horse after months layoff and find out she still remembers everything but I expect that. I’ve seen it too many times not to expect that. It never fails to amaze me, however, when a horse that has been off for years wants to work for me! That’s what happened next.

Prima (Peppy Del Cielo) is 13 years old. She is a well-trained but not finished, reiner. Due to a slight unsoundness in early training, I quit riding her and bred her in 2004. The last time she was ridden (except for hopping on and off bareback in 2007) was 2003. She is not in foal now so, after working Mistral and Sapphire, I caught Prima up for a ride.

I remembered Prima was always ‘cinchy’ so I didn’t saddle her. Instead, I lunged her for about five minutes, walked her over to an upside-down tub I could mount bareback from and slipped on her broad back. As my weight settled into her, she rocked forward and back, a bit uncomfortable but not unsettled at all. Then, in response to my soft leg bump, she walked forward. With only a halter and lead rope on the left side of her neck we walked out into the arena, stopped, walked, turned. I believe she actually loved showing me what she knows. Even at a walk I felt the smoothness of this mare, the ease with which she had performed complicated maneuvers, like spins. I’m sure she would have spun that day if I had asked her to.

That short ride on Prima made my day, made my week actually. Every day for the next few days, I did the same until yesterday, when we jogged several circles– still bareback with a halter. Prima actually initiated the jog and was happy to pack me around – and she is so smooth! And so broke...

I would like to ride her bareback for several more rides but I’m wondering if I, not Prima, can handle it. Once off of a walk, the leg muscles are telling me how out of shape I am. Maybe we can get in shape together…

Kind of makes me wonder, though why horses remember forever and I don’t. Last winter I took up crocheting after many years away from it and I couldn’t remember how - nothing,  not even a basic stitich! It’s not like it was a fleeting hobby – I crocheted, knitted and embroidered for years! I can hardly call a horse’s intelligence inferior to mine, can I? Of course I already knew it wasn't so.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat...

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Thus says the motto of the Pony Express riders!

The Chilcotin may be remote but not so isolated that mail is delivered by horse. For Big Creek folks, however, the motto holds true . . . with the exception of mode of transportation. Every Friday, for the past 50 years, 'snow, rain, heat or gloom of night', Brud Lee delivers mail to Big Creek.

Brud's wife, Anne, is the post mistress at Hanceville. She receives, sorts and mails out of a small room in the basement of her house. (When I first moved here five years ago, I thought it was pretty cool to drive the winding trail with cattle on each side to the "post office". I still do...) Mail is delivered to Anne three days a week; on Friday of each week, Brud delivers to Big Creek. He's been doing this for 50 years! And I don't believe he has missed one day. Once, since I was here, he could not make it up the icy hill after crossing the Chilcotin River. It bothered him so much thinking how much Big Creek people were counting on mail day that he tried again later in the day . . . and got there.

My great neighbours, Brud and Anne Lee (right) and Art and Dianne Joyce (left) on the occasion of Art's birthday.
Friday mail days in Big Creek are a big deal. Besides getting that long-awaited letter or parcel, there is plenty of visiting and catching up. Veera, the 90+ matriarch of Big Creek community, always bakes something fabulous and everyone gathers around for coffee talk in her charming little house at Fletcher Lake. I visited Veera once a few years ago with friends of mine and we each purchased a copy of her book, Chilcotin: Preserving Pioneer Memories.

Veera Bonner (center) chatting with my friend and I in her house at Fletcher Lake
 Brud's contribution to the community does not end with delivering mail. He has helped me out more times than I can count with everything from moving a piano to tractor repairs. Last Saturday, Canada Post and Big Creek recognized him for 50 years of service. I didn't hear anything about retiring...

Easy Day at 'Easy Go'

Posted by Sharon

In the spirit of the last post, I continue to live in the present and, since my present almost always includes horses, yesterday was no different in that respect. But yesterday was more than the usual feeding and caring for my horses. Yesterday I ventured out of the Chilcotin (but only as far as the Cariboo) to a gathering of horses and horse lovers in the indoor arena at Easy Go Ranch. I admit I needed a gentle push from a friend but I did go . . . Crystal and I arrived without horses and left itching to ride. Since neither of us has an indoor at home and our arenas look more like skating rinks, we had to be satisfied with soaking up the ambiance in that arena.

100 Mile Sliders Reining Club is an active group of riders interested in reining. To that end, they meet with their horses to exchange ideas but more importantly, to connect with others with a like interest. I had not met most of the riders and spectators at Easy Go Ranch but it didn't take long to see they were friendly and enthusiastic. I had brought may camera and, though the light is poor in an indoor, I managed to get some shots that conveyed what I perceived - a group of happy riders and horses.

Privileges of the Present

Posted by Sharon

After the last few posts, I felt a compelling need to jump back into the present. Memories are great but they’re just that – memories! To paraphrase Dr. Phil, “You can’t change the past – it’s over; you can’t change the future – it hasn’t happened; the only thing you can change is the present.” The present is today – March 8th, 2012.

Nothing is more about both past and present than birthdays. My computer reminds me of three on March 8th – an old boyfriend, an ex-husband and a friend, two born on March 8th of the same year! I phoned my friend. Ex boyfriend and husband belong in the past today. My friend and I discussed this at length on this day, her birthday (the 'present', not the old boyfriend and the ex-husband). Although vastly different in many ways, that’s one thing on which we agree. 

After I hung up, I continued to think about what living in the moment really meant and how I could make today, March 8, 2012, everything it could be. Easy – play with my dog, ride a horse, plan my garden (Okay – that’s the future but ordering seeds is now…)

I’m not going to tell anyone I’m waiting for spring anymore. Spring will happen when it happens. As my friend said this morning when I said some don’t want to celebrate birthdays: “A birthday is a privilege,” she said. Sure is… And so is every moment of every day. . . and night! Full moon tonight! I do love full moons.

And so I’ve wandered the trails backward quite enough for the time being. It’s all about the privilege of the present now.

Babies, Bath Water and Beef

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I chose the title of this blog  (Ridin’, Reinin’ and Writin’) because I thought it summed up the interests in my life at this time of my life. I’ve ridden horses all my life, reined for the last thirty plus years and recently pursued another passion – writing. As I look back on over 80 blog posts, I see that I have covered those topics (the ‘writing’ part is all topics in general and those that don’t have a horse in them in particular). As I’ve said a few times, I write here about whatever thought is uppermost in mind that week.

The last few posts were inspired by a trunk filled with memorabilia of my life. This one is connected in a way too, for in that trunk are my baby book and the ones I made for my three children as well as baby blankets and a crocheted baby sweater/ blanket set. As you can imagine, these treasures stirred up a lot of memories of those years. If the technology had been what it is today, my blog would have been quite different in the years I raised my family. The title might have been Babies, Bath Water and Beef because that’s what occupied my mind then.

Please Marry Me

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 A few pencil scribbles and three Christmas stamps didn't identify the contents of the ragged white envelope pasted to a page of the old scrapbook - my scrapbook. What importance did this envelope have to me that I had saved it? I lifted the flap. I pulled out a small, folded piece of paper. Now I knew. I remembered... This was my first marriage proposal . . . from our neighbour's son, all of 6 years old.

In the last post, I wrote of a trunk, a trunk with enough material for several future posts. That's where I found the scrapbook and, in that scrapbook, the endearing note from little Keith (with the help of his mother, no doubt). Of course that small square of paper was important enough to keep! After all, how many girls get their first proposal of marriage hand written?

Unlike autograph books (the subject of the last post), scrapbooks have remained in vogue, even became an obsession to some… and given a verb form – ‘scrapbooking’. The scrapbook I pulled out of my trunk doesn’t much resemble those works of art we see now. It never did but now it’s tattered, yellowed and falling apart. Some pages are incomplete. Some the items have become 'unstuck'. But it’s mine... And it's priceless.

The Autograph Book

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Does anyone remember when autograph books were the craze? Do school girls still have them? Do they even know what they are of have they been replaced by Facebook and smart phones?

I think my mom and dad gave me an autograph book the Christmas I was in grade six. The only reason I know this is that I found it in that trunk I mentioned in my last blog and many of the entries are dated. The first page is all about me - my signature (same name!), pasted-in photos - one on my horse, Rocky, and one carefully cut-out of another photograph.