Monday, December 03, 2012

That time again for the Christmas letter 2012

Well it's that time again. Mernie says to keep it short as nobody really wants to know the ins and outs of someone else's life; even if it's just a year in their life. Now I think that's the difference between men and women. So here I go, and yes I will try to keep it short;sort of.
It's been a pretty good year for us all in all. We still have the ranch in Laramie and it's become a thriving business with around 70 equines including a Shetland pony and a mini donkey. We still love the work, the people and the critters but need to hit the trail into a retirement of sorts real soon
      In April I said Goodbye to my thyroid. It had two ugly lumps on it. (I didn't see them but i just know they were ugly!) One was the size of a walnut; the other a golf ball. Good riddens to them!
     Cole and Clayton, our best friends Rod and Beth's little boys turn 4 and 2 this year.They are evolving into the most charming little men you could imagine and are such a delight to be around. We can say the same for our own Grand children Finley and Zoe who turned 5 and 3. Hopefully next year we will be living in a state much closer to them. Grandma too, who is going strong in her late eighties.
     In April we managed to get away to the 'Dome on the Range'; our place in Nevada. We took the horses so I could ride while the Mern worked with our friend and super handy man, Jim. I made sure the workers were fed of course before I took off into 'them thar hills'. 
     In May I rode 250 miles in Mt Carmel Utah with Kerry Greear on her big Pinto 'Little Joe Too!' It wasn't as hard as I thought it might be. That which does not kill me........LOL!" Kerry sure knows how to get though multi-day rides and I just hung there in her shadow.
     It was a good ride season, even though I blew the Big Horn 100 ......again. Rider error of course! There's always next year. Third time lucky! Anyway, I still completed 710 endurance miles and 85 limited distance miles. I think Kip is holding 5th in the region.
     Mernie brought me a tiny little Arabian mare for my birthday in October and she promptly sent me to the Emergency Room with 3-4 cracked ribs. 'SHE' needs work with her legs! 'I' need to be more careful around green horses! 
     In October I managed to fall in the horse trough, broken ribs and all... (see entry October 17th for that) and in November I completed 130miles on Kip (aka Silver Bullet) at Moab using my dear friend Gary Brown as a mounting block and stapping up my ribs in a safety vest!  
     On November 18th we remembered our good friend Steve Cormey who died on this day last year. He is very much missed!
     Now it's December and my goals for next year are to move on physically and professionally. Physically to Nevada, and professionally revisiting kiddy Lit with more involvement in the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators! 
     As for Mernie, he is fit and healthy at 66 and embraces each day with zest and good humor. He possesses an outlook on life we should all aspire to. 
Merry Christmas, and Happy, Happy Everything for the New Year and always. 
Oh, and thankyou LADIES for reading this.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Little Max

Little Max and (getting not so little) Madora Daley. Chris C took over the little guy when the owner became unable to care for him and his larger stable mate, Sassy. Happily, the larger stable mate has landed on her 'hooves' also. Miracles happen at OAS. Max here has come from a wild little guy noone could even catch to a future candidate for mini buggy rides. Like with people there is a big waiting room for opportunity. Some stay there and some move on. And with that, i just realized i have lost my copy of The Places You Go by Dr Suess. Again! Someone's got it. Oh well, I'll just have to go buy another. One should not be with out the manual for life!

Friday, November 02, 2012

Moab Canyons ER 2012 end of season

Fantastic time had by all. Went with Dorothy Sue and Bonnie in DS' big rig to share costs. Met there by Yvette, Joe, Gary, Mary, Sue B, Jas, Jack, Lydia and even Tracey from Nevada with her mule Lupine.Even one finished. Us three girls and Gary all three days! Kipling put 130 more miles under his girth and was well and truly 'fit to continue'! Thank you Sherry for once again putting on a smashin' ride!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

early morning swim at 33 F

Click image to enlarge.

I can't believe it folks! This morning I fell in the big water trough! Having recently 'acquired' some injured ribs, I couldn't pull myself out. And it was bloody cold. About 34 degrees F to be precise. So I screamed for Mernie who was taking out the big horse Nate. Nate's paddock is about as far away as you could be on our 10 acre plot! However,Bill lives in the mobile home right there near the trough and  it must have got his attention (and shattered the serenity of his early morning rituals) as he came running out to the rescue bare- foot in his bath robe! Mernie could see what was going on from the other side of the ranch and yelled "throw her back in. I'll get the camera."
 Bad luck. No photos. This is the best I could do.
Thanks Bill!
Ok how doesn't one manage to fall into a 'huge' water tough that, as Mernie reminded me, wasn't just put there last night. Well, it was easy actually! For a start i had lots of clothes on including trussed up ribs which made it easy to go 'off balance'. (Sort of like the Michelin Man). So........ I was turning a horse out, and with my newly acquired vigilance concerning the back of horses and their tendency to go gleefully into a brisk and breezy morning, kicking their heels into the air, i smartly took a couple of 'good steps' backward just to make sure i was right out of her way. As 'she' uneventfully strolled off  'I' ......fell backwards into....... the water trough. See ....easy!

Monday, October 01, 2012

Kicked by my birthday present

Yes she does look a little evil in this picture! LOL Subha

Today it's my birthday da da da dada! And a quiet one it will be. 56 born in 1956. 'Ow about that! It will be a quiet one as I am, once again laid up with an injury! My Mum use to say "with kids there's never a dull moment"! Well same goes for equines. 
On Friday evening after a ten mile ride on 'my birthday present' she kicked me in the chest. I was washing down her legs which was way too steep a gradient for a horse I'm still learning about and one that has had very little handling to my knowledge. Yes, i got kicked by my birthday present and am spending my birthday plus 4 -6 weeks with 3-4 cracked ribs! See next post! I don't think i have much of a chance of selling her however. As you can see I am way too honest and let's face it, with my over complacency around horses this is probably the safest one i have right now!!!! LOL

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Beautiful little Arabian mare for sale

For Sale, beautifully put together bay Arabian mare. She is a petite 14 and a bit HH. Subha is just coming back into work after a long spell and is surprisingly good under saddle. Shows a clear desire to want to WORK!Great endurance project but i could see her in the show ring also. Previous owner got her as a child's horse but that she is not. She needs work on her ground manners and handling her legs.$1,500 obo.
Call Ronnie, 307 399 9435
( We are searching for papers)

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Elk Creek 2012

Elk Creek in Basin Wyoming, another Tolman ride starting form the Basin fair grounds an winding around through the badlands and back to camp. Kipling completed 155 mile is 90 + degrees and with  Duna Gary Brown's mare complete all three days. you can tell!

Happy Jack 2012

Happy Jack 2012 was, of course Fab-u-lous! Great job Yvette her family and helpers! Great weather too except for the last part of Sunday. Kip got a very mysterious hitch in his little ole giddy up after the first loop and spent the rest of the time spinning on his high tie. Within an hour there was no hitch but plenty of giddy up! KIP! Mern had a great ride on Ice and i rode her on Sunday. Such a fun horse!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Three good horses


Here are the horses i mentioned in the OAS newsletter looking for new homes. I'm only looking to sell them to anyone serious about giving them lots of love, care and PURPOSE. We will include a buy back clause to ensure they wont end up unwanted and neglected.
 Lucky Girl, 1988 Registered Quarter Horse mare.approx 14.2 hh She is sound and still has a lot of go. Very healthy in good condition and has never been sick.Fantastic trail horse, doesn't spook, nice fast, smooth trot, loads, good for the farrier,sure-footed, rock hard feet that don't need shoes,has  never been shod.  Current with all shots, easy keeper, could work cows be a  4H project, has been used for the UW Equestrian Team. Goes English or Western.Would work for a child providing they know what they are doing as she is sensitive and forward moving.Very eager to please and get the job done. We are willing to give her away to the right home where she will be cared for well.
 Flamboyant Beau (Flambeau) 15 hh flea bitten grey Quarterhorse/Arabian (papered). I'm only interested in selling this one to someone i will be able to keep in touch with and who will give him lots of purpose. He is a fantastic all round horse. Has done over 1000 endurance/LD miles and now needs to be looking for something new and down tempo while he is still strong and sound. He tends to 'overdo it' when wound up in racing mode. Without his adrenaline up he is a very well trained and responsive mount. He collects, moves off your leg well, backs up well , jumps nicely, side passes, opens gates, drags objects and is learning new moves all the time. I would love to see him do competitive trail, herd cattle or do Western or English events. He is flashy, has been ridden in all kinds of situations including high traffic, close to trains, through tunnels under highways, under I- 25 in Denver, goes through water, swims, crosses tarps (not his favorite) dogs no problem, ponies other horses (even the obnoxious ones) without fuss. He is affectionate, smart, strong and playful in the pasture.Fifteen Hundred Dollars not negotiable.
 I love him and actually if he doesn't sell that's OK with me. I will find a way to work him into my schedule.
Angel's Grace, 10-12 years, Bashkir Curly, 14.1 hands, Pinto mare. Presently being leased but we need to sell her to cut back on our herd. (Darn!) Great, tough little mare who could do just about anything giving the chance. She is very quiet but does likes to go, has rock crushing hooves that don't need to be shod, loves the trail, is about as spook proof as they come, very affectionate, an easy keeper, healthy, vaccinations kept up date. Was used and loved by the UW equestrian team. Talented jumper, eats up the trail, no problem with dogs and traffic. Great kids horse providing they can ride well as she will try you out! Has dread lock mane and tail and very cool curly ringlets around her fetlocks. A head turner for sure. We have offered her to the people leasing her but if they turn her down she's yours for fifteen hundred. She is a cribber but fine in a collar or if kept working and has a consistent job. I'm sure she could do endurance or competitive trail if conditioned correctly too!
Too late......SOLD to Ky Ritchie! 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Know You Rider, Mountain View, Wyoming July 2012

  Thanks to Beth and John Buzis, Vets ( Tom Courier and Irena Weiss) and Volunteers, this was yet again a wonderful,  fun- filled event. The ride takes its name from the popular Grateful Dead song 'I Know You Rider'. John is of course,a 'dead'icated fan!
 The Ty-dye theme, which included the hidden bears out on the trail, takes you right back to the psychedelic 60's. The food was delicious and there was music again from the local band Wyoming Wind making the whole atmosphere relaxed and enjoyable. Kipling and I helped set trail (30 miles) on Friday and then did 50 miles (slow) both days. He was tired but bounced back really quickly. And me, well I don't seem to get tired riding this horse. It's like sitting on a hydrofoil.
 Sunrise over base camp.
 There was a 'Photo Ham' on the trail. See here the beautiful Michelle Smith of Trailwise Tack on her handsome Jet!.
 The Trail up the underground pipeline. Up Up Up through towering aspens
 Kip's lovin' this. His ears were like this the whole way.
 ....and this, the five mile jeep trail.
 Loved the jeep trail through the  forest.
 The Ham again!
 ...and again!
 ....and again
 Click to enlarge and you might be able to see the hiding deer!
Sun Set again. Justice not done by the photo.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Big Horn 100 2012 75 mile completion

Had my second crack at the Big Horn 100 this week-end and once again ran into a glitch which prevented me from riding the 100 mile loop gallantly into base camp in the wee hours of the morning. Instead, due to circumstance and kind managerial decision, i was awarded a completion for 75 miles of some of the toughest endurance trail in the country. Yours truly and five other riders got off trail between Antelope Butte and Battle creek doing 31 instead of 16 miles. We missed a ribbon and follow the ribbons for the LD's 15 mile loop. By the time we got to the Battle Creek Vet Check, it was sort of late, our horses were tired and we were cautioned to go no further. It wasn't that the trail was badly marked: it was actually very well marked thanks to Tim French and all the other trail marker extraordinaires. Thanks Lyle, Kathy, Cindy, Tom and anyone else who worked hard at this. What a task!
Kipling rocked! His pulse wouldn't come down for a while at Battle Creek, but he was eating like a madman and drinking like a fish. It came down in about 40 minutes. Management put criteria at one hour although Irene Weiss (Vet) and i thought it was 30 minutes so we both assumed i was pulled. You can imagine my surprise when i was awarded a 75 mile completion at the breakfast presentation the next morning. All's well that ends well.
It doesn't seemed to matter what happens on this ride, good or bad, the friendliness, warmth and helpfulness of everyone makes up for all those trials and frustrations. This is an extremely difficult ride to put on and the Tolman's ,Van Gelders  Vets and volunteers bend over backwards to help you get through it AND manage to stay cheerful in the process! I guess that's why I'll can't wait to give it a go again next year! Third time's a charm so they say! R
Photo by Ross Tolman. Click on image to enlarge

Shamrock 2012 20th Anniversary

Photo by Karl Creations
Another fantastic time had by all at Shamrock now  twenty years into the making. Susie Schomberg and her superb team of volunteers and Vets sure know how to put on a good do!Here I am on Flamboyant Beau looking good but not good enough as he was pulled at the first check for a minor lameness which, in true form was gone the next day. I am looking for a new career for him now. Something that doesn't get him so revved up.This was Friday. Saturday I rode John Buzis's horse Too Far on the 30 and had a blast riding with his wife Beth on her Lacey and on Sunday I rode Cynthia Peticola's Rambling Red the Super Mule. Love mules and this one's a beauty! Again had a blast riding with Cynthia and Mary Ruebush. The weather was nice and thus the road into base camp didn't prove as 'enduring' as usual! There were lots of riders all three days and much catching up was done. Shamrock is one of those 'not to be missed' rides!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Glues ons rock at Mountain Mettle 2012

Been blogging the second book of the Brothers Foot and the Rabbit Proof Fence, so this blog has been put on hold for a while. Scroll down and click on the silly bunnies to check out all the illustrations. Just waiting on a little funding to launch it into the published world. Stay tuned!

Kipling aka The Silver Bullet and I completed a very difficult 50 mile ride in Colorado on Friday in 102 degree heat. It was the Mountain Mettle ride Managed by Sue Horne, Linda  Browneller and a terrific, friendly bunch of volunteers and Vets. Mammoth task! Great job!  Although an avid barefoot person, I was contemplating shoes and pads for this tough ride. However, the Easycare company still continues to assist me so diligently that I went for the glue-ons. Kevin Meyers sent me some boots and John Haeberle here in Laramie helped me apply them. Well actually, he did the work while Yvette Haeberle and I assisted. Hey this is important! It really makes it easier having extra hands. John really has it down and has taught me all the tricks so i will be able to do it next time. I will also enlist a few helping hands.
See here Kip's booted hooves after the grueling 50. He is wearing 1.5's on the front and 1's on the rear. They didn't budge and oh how nice was that! I finished the ride with only 20 minutes to spare even though I kept a pretty good clip the whole way. This was a really hard ride, so the last thing I wanted to worry about was his hoof ware! Several horses were pulled or over time. Kip made it and looked like he could go on. Perfectly sound! I'm thinking they will be ok for Shamrock and then we will reapply for the Big Horn 100.
Here are some of the things i have learned about the glue ons.
:Size the boots first on the hooves
:Have everything ready and someone to hand you things... like surgery John!
 :Have something clean and dry to stand the horse on, and make sure he doesn't mind it!
:Clean dry hooves and boots to start with
:Scruff up the hoof wall really well with good serrations.
:Lots of goober on the bottom and don't worry about what oozes out.
:Vettec Adhere on the inside walls of the boot.
:Sort of twist the boot a few times to spread the Vettec some. Do this quickly, as it dries fast!
:Have something close by to put trash into eg used tips
:Hold up an opposing leg for a good 30 secs to set the freshly applied boot.A helper can do this.
:When finished, tie up the horse with some goodies to keep him happy and still for 40 mins-hour to ensue a good set.
These are things off the top of my head that I will no doubt add to.
Thanks Kevin, Garrett and John for your dedication and assistance.
Thank you Kipling for being a good boy for us and knowing we are doing the best thing for your hooves!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mt Carmel XP 250mile 5 day endurance ride 2012

 The transmission in our truck died on the way back from Nevada so i couldn't transport Kipling to this ride. It just so happened, my good friend and super endurance gal, Kerry Greear was taking a spare horse in the hope she my get someone to ride him at least a couple of days. Perfect. A couple of days ended up being five thanks to our diligent adherence to the careful plan  devised by Kerry. We took the first 3 days very slow and careful and started to move them up on day four leading to a regular 50 mile endurance ride pace on day five. We top tenned the last day but the real win was having two very healthy looking horses at the end of 250 mile. Kerry really knows how to make a plan and stick to it. Thanks Kerry, I enjoyed it immensely and owe it all to you and Little Joe Too.

Oh and we rode the whole five days in Easyboot glue-ons. We each lost a front right on day four but Dave Rabe came to the rescue and fixed that for us.(Dave is always helping people at rides and we al love him!) Apparently a little dirt got in during application so we carried some spare easy boot glove in case the same thing had happened to the others. We didn't need them however as all boots 'stuck like glue' for the rest of the ride.

Nevada trip in April

Nevada trip to our property in Smith Valley April 2012.Three week working vacation.
Pic 1 Ricky Canyon only about 4-5 miles from our place. We also have Red and  Burbank Canyons right out the back of the house. I rode Kipling about 200 miles in the three weeks we were in Smith Valley. It was wonderful..of course!
Pic 2 Our property is right at the end of this road. Great cosy spot nestled at the base of the Pinenut Ranges. Our back yard is hundreds of miles of BLM!
Pic 3 This is Cathy one of  my new riding buddies on her lovely Arabian Yankee. We had a great ride in yet another terrific riding area close to our place.
Pic 4 Kip on fence patrol. He ran constantly for the first couple of days. He settled down only to start again when I took Mernie's mare out for a ride. He's ready for a 100 miler now!
Pic 5 Another new riding buddy and closest neighbor Tracey Wolfe on her Super mule Lupine.
Pic 6 Jim the dry wall king. He did a great job of finishing the 'cubby house' apartment above the garage. Mernie and Jim worked while i shirked!
Pic 7 The cubby house almost finished. See air conditioner for cooling and heating. It's gong to be our little home while we contemplate what to do with 'The Dome'!!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Affinity Saddle Liner from Trailwise Tack

 Above, the bars of my Euro dressage saddle. Below.... the bars lined with pure wool saddle liner from Trail wise tack....after two hundred miles.
The lovely Michelle Smith of Trailwise Tack gave me this lovely product to try out on my Arabian Endurance horse Kipling a.k.a The Silver Bullet. I took it to Nevada where I rode hard for approximately 200 miles for  three weeks in the high desert around Reno. Lots of mountains and sandy plains. Kip's back didn't sore at all and what I like most about this pad is it STAYED in place! It has velcro in the center so you can adjust it to the gap and some on the other side to stick to the bars of the saddle.Plus a tie ring at the front. It also has pockets in three strategic locations and comes with some 'soft fluffy stuff' to put into them where your horse's back tends to hollow. I added some up front and will probably add some more as it flattens down.
The whole pad has actually snugged into the saddle and I just leave it there. I should probably take it off and flufff it up a bit here soon but so far I haven't really had to touch it. Nice! I put a light cotton dressage blanket underneath just to cover the side flaps but other than that, it's all I have needed. I use a woolen under blanket sometimes and that works but I think the cotton one is plenty. The cotton one gets dirty but is very easy to wash. Two cotton ones would be good to have so you can change them out when one gets dirty. They are not expensive.
The only problem I have seen so far is that the black dye does stain the cotton blanket when wet. I'm sure they come in white also. I will post more about this product as i ride through out the endurance season so stay tuned. So far, I am very impressed!Thanks Michelle!
 To purchase or find out more find out more....

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Delivered unidentical twins via neck C section

On Thursday of last week i had my nasty, enlarged thyroid removed. Good rid ens i say! With it were multiple lumps and bumps. The largest being the size of a golf ball and the second in command being something like a walnut.Benign mind you. Hey are they still considered benign when they are getting closer and closer each day to strangling you?) Anyway, no more Thyroid so i am now at the mercy of modern science in the form of one little daily pill. I can do that.
Now I'm just resting up and pottering around the place. Not a bad deal really. I'm actually clean and so is the house and the the cracks in my hands are fading. There is no horse poo under my finger nails, up my nose or in my ears. This is all quite novel. Mernie is out there doing my work as well as his.Poor Bugger! We do have a few good workers helping when they can. Thank goodness! Soon i will put myself back on light duties just to make sure all the horses are getting their extras and see how that goes. Right now, I'm not game to go out as i know i will overdo it!
Thanks to everyone for their wishes and prayers, flowers and pokes of fun. Love you all. And a big thanks to Dr Ullrich and the hospital staff at Ivinson Memorial. How lucky i was to discover such a great surgeon right here under my nose!
May take some time to get up and at it again but  "my pluck is still undaunted and my courage fiery hot!"

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Another Mule article from Amy Nagler

Amy has her two mules here at OAS. She's been here for years and we love her. Ronnie

Happiness is Mind-numbing Routine
My daily riding routine is streamlined, every motion repeated exactly as the day before. I already know which saddle I will use, which pad, girth, and bridle—down to the exact hole that every buckle prong belongs in.
My biggest decision is mule selection and in my way to the tack room I’m thinking it over: one mule or two? Which to ride and which to pony?
After I’ve made my choice I head to the corral with a halter and lead. I yell “MULE!” and as I reach the gate usually I am rewarded by a double-barrel bray. The hardest part inside of the gate is fighting off the errant mule who doesn’t get to go.

As I emphasize each time I introduce a new recruit to the back of a mule, equine safety is built around detailed habits and routines. All of these rules and procedures seem inane to the uninitiated. There is a “near side” and an “off side,” I proclaim, and we mount and dismount from the near side. Yes, it matters that the girth is attached before the breast collar. No, you should never tie a mule by the reins. And so on.
My saddling routine, which only takes two or three minutes if I’m motivated to maximize my riding time, goes as follows:
I run a brush quickly over where the saddle and girth will go. Next I peek at each hoof, clean out stones if I see any, and run my hand down each leg to check for any bump or hot spot hidden under the thick coat of hair. If all is well I can do this from the near side, saving an extra trip around the mule. Next I set a thick felt pad on the chosen mule’s withers. I set my saddle on the pad then slide them both back with my left hand until I can feel my right hand fit between the mule’s shoulder bump and the front line of the saddle. Then buckle the girth and move back to the crupper. It is polite to take time and generously scratch a mule’s tail base before slapping a cold crupper under it. It is also polite to carefully guide the bit around his teeth and gently tuck his ears between the crown and the browband, giving them each a scratch as well.
Once my mule is tacked up I tack myself up—a helmet and chaps, a reflective vest if I think I’ll be heading back to the barn on the road after dark. In the summer I put a water bottle in my saddlebag and in the fall I don a tasteful amount of blaze orange. During our glorious nine-month winter I add an ear band, balaclava, thin and thick gloves, a silk neck scarf, and, if it is exceptionally wild out, ski goggles. This is Wyoming, after all. We have the lowest population density in the lower forty-eight for a reason.
On my way out of the barn I pocket some mule treats, an emergency cell phone, and a collar-controller for my enthusiastic canine companion. Before I hop on I loop the lead line twice around my mule’s neck, tie the end off, and snug up the girth. I hold a dressage whip in my right hand if I’m riding solo or a cotton lead attached to mule #2 if I’m taking a buddy along.
I can get from the driver’s seat of my truck to the driver’s seat of my mule in less than 10 minutes. This is no haphazard procedure, however. Each element has been carefully chosen, modified, and maintained. I have made the mistake of leaving off the crupper on flat rides, for example, only to find that working mule tails, like hard working hands, need to callus up. After a precipitous ride last spring in the Nebraska sand hills my poor mule, Max, had a nasty raw spot under his tail for a week. Now I buckle on the cupper for every ride. The girth I use has a similar chronicle—it was preceded by a series of girths, not all necessarily inexpensive, that rubbed, pinched, and prematurely wore out. The girth I use now is field-tested to the max. It may not be the girth for everyone but it is the girth for me.

Our kitchen is commonly strewn with an accretion of mule attire and an arsenal of hot water, murphy’s oil soap, sponges, rags, and saddle butter. There is nothing so comforting to me as the smell of freshly oiled leather and nothing more pleasing to my eye as a clean, shiny bridle. But more importantly, all of this fussing and polishing is another essential part of my equine routine.
After high school I worked a few seasons grooming race horses. As a groom at the horse track I was the fall guy for every dirty, repetitive chore imaginable. The one thing I was never asked to do, however, was to clean riding tack. Saddles, girths, bits, and bridles are the sole responsibility of those who depend on them. At the racetrack jockeys and exercise riders, who would never deign to touch a halter, are nonetheless seen after their morning rides oiling up a row of bridles. This is the equine equivalent of “always pack your own parachute.”
Cleaning tack serves the same purpose as running a hand down every mule leg before every ride. It not only makes your expensive treasure trove of tack last longer and look better, it makes you slow down and inspect every little strap. Chances are that little loose screw that attaches your cheekpiece to the bit is going to pop apart when you are most counting on it being there.

Good daily habits; clean, serviceable tack: these are necessary but not sufficient. Between your mule’s ears is the most important item you will need to maintain in order to ride safely and have fun. Training and maintaining mule brains, especially for those of us who are not natural-born mule whisperers, can be a tedious process. Progress comes in tiny increments. It is easy to get fired up sitting on the couch watching do-it-yourself training videos. I visualize myself—the next Buck Brannaman or Brad Cameron—subtlety indicating which way my studious mule should turn with a shift in my position, reacting perfectly to every glint in his attentive eye. Out in the round pen, though, I am very glad that no one is watching me as I fumble around trying to get my act together. I whisper mostly under my breath and often measure my progress in not losing ground.
Eventually, though, matched with the right mule, and not too proud to acquire some professional help from time to time, I have made progress. My mules and I have agreed on some ground rules—no pushing or shoving, move nicely away from pressure, stand still as I mount. We practice our one-rein stop until it is second nature. Nothing too highflalutin here, just polite hard-won good habits.

A few years ago watched a fellow boarder jump bareback onto his prancing horse and ride off across the sunlit prairie, blithely holding just the end of a lead rope. Such a lovely sight, I thought; horse and rider, casual, unencumbered, and free. I envied him as I tacked up and headed to the arena to work my mule through a lesson. The same repetitive, seemingly-simple lesson we had been working on for what felt like a very long, boring time. How unsexy, I thought.
As I was walking back to the corral a riderless horse flashed by, leadline flying as he careened around the corner of the barn. I drove my old Toyota Camry out onto the prairie and eventually found our Xenophon lying among the sage. I scraped his unencumbered butt off the ground and drove him to the E.R. Like me, he probably watched too many Pat Parelli videos on Youtube—he just missed the golden rule of “proper prior preparation.”
Good riders make cantering off into the sunset look effortless. But behind every happy, fun, safe ride is an accumulation of mind-numbing routine.
Amy Nagler