Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Alberta Trip - Part Two

Ever heard of a "wind funnel"? Yah, well me neither! Apparently, these wind funnels *she spits out with disdain* are quite common in the prairies. I challenge anyone to tell this born and raised mountain dweller what the hell the difference is between a freakin wind funnel and a tornado. Needless to say, I became the butt of many a jokes over the course of our trip.

After spending a day in Edmonton we headed out into the sticks to pay a visit to Ash's Auntie Bobby and Uncle Billy's (or was it Auntie Billy and Uncle Bobby) ranch in Vermilion, AB. We had been invited for a steak supper. "Yum!" Right? Wrong. I was a vegetarian. And Billy and Bobby? They raised beef for a living. I was terrified that that this big burly rancher and his sweet but tough little wife were going to throw me out the door when I told them that I didn't eat meat. And so the plan was to, as inconspicuously as possible, slip each bite of my steak onto Ash's plate. I had used every threat I could muster to ensure that Ash kept the tornado incident out of our dinner conversation.

In an attempt to stick to "safe" topics I told them of how I had gotten up early that morning to watch a beautiful Alberta sunrise and proceeded to joke, without thinking of who I was talking to, that I had been so excited to explore the town that I had drug Ash out of bed a little before noon, much to her dismay. Uncle Billy, a typical rancher, considered waking at any hour after 6am blasphemy and was horrified that any kin of his would be so lazy! He growled, "You got up at what time?" If looks could kill, Ash's glare would have had me dead on the spot. Her retaliation came quickly. "Well, she is a vegetarian!" Pointing at me with conviction. Billy and Bobby both turned their blazing eyes in my direction, staring at me like I was the Antichrist. Without saying a word, I picked up my fork, took a big bite of steak and let my hardy, "Mmmmm" fill the silence. I grinned at Ash. She looked back at me with intense dislike. I just about choked when I saw her eyes light and mouth curl into a twisted smile. Oh no! Her sweet voice, edged with vindication, carried across the table. "Hey, Chels', seen any wind funnels lately?" The story and subsequent laughter filled the room and successfully broke the tension. We ended up having a wonderful visit and left with a warm welcome to return, despite the fact that I had failed to digest their steak.

The next day we were scheduled to head out to a friend of the family's ranch to go for a trail ride. I was, of course, exhilarated at the prospect of "ridin' the range". We headed out of town and drove for a half an hour before turning onto a yellow dirt road that we spent another quarter hour on. I couldn't imagine living that far from nowhere. It was beautiful country, with wheat fields as far as the eye could see. As we neared the farm we passed what appeared to be a thousand acres of tiny sunshine yellow canola flowers.

A petite girl named Leslie, about the same age as ourselves, came out to greet us when we arrived. She was friendly and shy, wearing Wranglers and a baseball cap, with a big smile and an easy going manner. I felt comfortable with her at once. She introduced us to her horses. Ash had always been a better rider than I was, so she was quick to pick out the big black, high headed gelding that was Leslie's barrel horse. Leslie had a young little sorrel quarter horse filly in training that she was to ride, which left me with Domino, the Appy. As a rule, I don't get along with Appys. I have nothing against spotted horses (totally, not true but I am trying to be diplomatic here!) but for some reason every single Appy I have ever ridden has bucked me off or done something to make me look like a total ass. I had hoped Domino would prove to be the exception. He looked out at me through big brown eyes that at least seemed soft and sweet. His leopard spotted hide was stretch taunt over his 15.2 hand bulk and his lower lip hung flaccidly. I stood in front of him and rubbed his forehead for a moment, silently praying that I when I arrived back at this spot I would still be in firm possession of my self respect.

All went surprisingly well for the first half our or so. Domino seemed to be more plodder than plotter and followed along behind the black and red hinds of the other horses. We walked along a trail that bordered the hay fields and into the endless stretch of horizon before heading into a thicket of trees that grew along a slough's edge. The narrow path wound its way through uneven ground, cross hatched with heavy branches, stumps and fallen trees. Leslie called behind her to warn Ash and I that, in a particularly narrow and very steep part of the path a head, there was a large tree that we would have to jump. I felt my stomach sink as I looked down at my western saddle. A few months before I had nearly impaled myself on a saddle horn while jumping just such an obstacle. I watched as the other two horses loped up along the narrow path and nimbly jumped the log that rose at least two and half feet off the ground. I kicked Domino forward to a lumbering canter and set him at the log. I held my breath as he closed in and felt him tense beneath me as he eyed the impending obstacle. Suddenly and without warning, he stopped dead in his tracks. I looked up to see Ash and Leslie impatiently waiting for me on the other side. I turned my spotted nag around and headed back a ways before turning and kicking him hard, sending him off towards the log once again. This time he stopped about three feet away. I kicked. I poked. I over-undered. Domino didnt budge. On one hand I was doing everything in my power to send him forward but on the other, the energy of my body was sending him exactly the opposite message. I wanted nothing more to do with jumping that log than he did. I turned him away again and tried once, then twice more. The girls were shouting encouragement and advice but this served to do nothing more than further my embarrassment and wind me up even tighter yet. Nothing I did could get that bloody Appy over the log. Their encouragements turned to frustration and Leslie offered to get off and ride him over for me. I insisted that we could merely ride up the mountain, through the thick bramble and around the fallen tree. Before they could argue I kicked my mount up and into the the twisted jumble of brush. The branches ripped at my face and tore at my cloths but I pushed on. Frustration spurred me and humiliation overwhelmed to strengthen my resolve so that at last my directions went unquestioned. My temper was no match for any horse, even as stubborn and thick headed of one as Domino. We came down on to the path on the other side of the log a few minutes later. Leslie, kind but practical looked at me like, "what an idiot..." before turning the horses and leading us onward. I followed behind, tight lipped and grumpy, oblivious to their cheerful nattering.

We followed the path until it led downwards into the gully and next to the dark and stagnant waters below. There the path seemed to end at the slough's edge. Explaining how the trail had been flooded a few weeks ago, Lelsie pointed to where the path continued, on the far bank, some twenty feet away. We were to try to follow her as much as possible as she remembered where the high ground was but warned that it was narrow path that fell off steeply on either side. Her pony sank belly deep as she trudged through the muddy waters. Ash's mount was much taller so fared better than the smaller horse but still struggled to keep his footing. I took up the rear. At first Domino seemed to easily pick his way but as we walked further on the footing seemed to give more and more and we seemed to be falling deeper and deeper into the water. As we neared the half way point, Domino and I sank like a rock. The black water, topped with green algae rushed up and around my waist as Domino leaped up and down through the waters and on to the far bank. When we finally stood on dry ground I was so embarrassed that I couldn't bring myself to look up into the other girl's faces. When I heard them laughing, I took a breath, swallowed my pride and lifted my face. In my struggle, I hadn't noticed that Ash and Leslie had also both gone down as well. To my surprise (and secretly, elation) they stood, soaking wet, covered in slime and giggly hysterically. We laughed until the tears rolled down our grit smeared cheeks. By the time we rode down the drive to Leslie's home, our jeans had dried stiff with crust and our butts were glued to the saddle. Ash and I drove back into town, the sun setting in front of us in companionable silence, smelling of swamp, frog eggs and horses. I never saw Leslie again but will always remember her laugh and that stupid spotted horse.


  1. I'm sure they meant well with their advice, but I know the feeling. Sometimes Kimfer yells waaay too much "helpful advice" at barrel jackpots.
    I know she means well but sometimes its way to nagging and bossy rather than helpful. Those are the times that I just swallow what I REALLY want to say back. (something along the lines of 'give advice when YOUR damn horse can run clean' :x)

    I'm sure you could have gotten that Appy over the log if you hadn't been a bit tense/nervous as well (jumping in a Western saddle is not fun when you hit that horn! lol)

    oh, and from a prairie gal to a mountain gal... slew is slough :)

    Love this story, can't wait for more of it!!

    ps - how long have you been a vegetarian?

  2. Cnd- It is so hard to ride with your peers. I am also horrible at riding horses I dont know or other peoples horses (especially when they are there.)

    Sounds like you and Kimfer have a good friendship (the more you can nag at one and other the closer you are).

    Thanks for the correction on "slough" lol.

    As for my vegetarian days. They actually ended with that steak!!! LOL. It was not the steak that tempted me so much as this delicious Ukrainian sausage ( am 3/4 Scotts and 1/4 Ukraine so love my sausage) from some little community between Vermilion and Edmonton. Do you know where I am talking about? The place with the big egg?! I told myself that when I got back to BC I would stop eating meat but never did. I still cant stomach a lot of it (3oz max) and not every day.

    Glad you like the story. I am a Cancer so we always love to walk down memory lane:)

  3. AOHCM - I THINK the place you are referring to is Vegreville (home of the world's largest pysanka - or Ukranian easter egg)

    I'm the same way with riding other ppl's horses, even if its a 'test ride' to possibly buy one. Although they do say the more horses you ride the better a rider you become!

    I'm almost a Cancer, I was born on the cusp. I'm "officially" a Gemini (and it fits) but they say if you're born on the cusp you can have tendencies from both signs. Not really sure what traits go with Cancer, maybe I DO fit both!?

    ps - I almost didn't mention the slough thing, didn't want to come off as bitchy. Sooo glad you didn't take it that way :)

  4. Cnd- You are right about the town but that is not the right name for the sausage. Will have to figure it out now or it will keep bugging me.

    My friends say the same thing about riding as many horses as you can. I disagree. I know that riding horses is dangerous and select the ones that I will ride with care. I dont want to get busted up riding some of the horses that people (asshats) insist are "totally kid safe" (but "btw, he does buck if you touch his flank...or sneeze.") I HATE riding horses I dont know.

    I dont get people that get bitchy about stuff like that. I am really bad at editing my own work (my brain refuses to read the actual words on the page) so I only hope that my errors dont get in the way of the story. I must have been thinking of Seattle Slew when I wrote that:)

    I think that is true about being on the cusp. Cancers are all about "I feel" and Gemini's are about "I think".

    A link to that effect:


  5. Mundare Sausage!!!! (Keilbassa). I will be able to sleep tonight now.

  6. CDN & AOAHCM-
    You two have quite the conversation going on here!
    Great story...as usual :) Being a nosy Scorpio, I am going to butt right in...lol!!!

    I am right there with you on riding strange horses. Unless it is a horse that I know, I don't enjoy riding them, because it never fails that you get on it, and the owner suddenly remembers that the horse bucks, or rears, or bolts, or...you get the idea!

    I have had my fair share of crazy horses in my lifetime, and now I just want SAFE. They don't have to be quiet, just dependable. No buck and no rear.

    Funny that you have had bad experiences with Appy's. People always gloat about how wonderful and dead broke they are. Pony Girl, I am not talking about you!
    Can't wait for the rest of the story!

  7. I don't mean that you should just jump on any old horse. But riding a variety is good for you as a rider.
    I am very picky about what horse I get on but man oh man does it make you pay attention when you get on a different one.
    For example: I will occassionally ride Kimfer's gelding (Baron). Now he is definitely a horse I can handle but he's just a bit different enough that I can't sit on 'auto pilot'.
    Of course for Kimfer its the same, when she rides Applejack instead of Baron SHE can't go on 'auto pilot'.

    As for Appy's. I think they tend to have a bit of a stubborn streak. I also think they need to have some respect for you to want to work for you. At least that's been my experience.

  8. AOHCM: I checked out that link. OMG I fit sooo well for both Cancer and Gemini. I guess I was meant to be born on the cusp! lol

  9. CDN-
    I agree that riding different horses helps strenghthen your riding skills, and probably once I have ridden more again (just returning after a nine year hiatus), I will be a little braver :)

    Funny about Appy's having a stubborn streak. I have heard that before too. I like your new picture that goes along with your name! How is the horse hunting going? I asked about that gorgeous bay, but the owner just laughed at me. He was an awesome horse!

  10. Melanie- jump on in girly.

    Cnd and Melanie- I agree with Cnd that it does make you a better rider to get on different horses. It is so easy to get so used to one horse that you forget how to read and ride anything else. I hate trying out horses that are for sale because you always suspect that the owners are holding out on you and are not going to warn you about their bad habits (and are crossing their finger that the horses doesnt do its worst vice on your test ride.) I also hate riding other peoples horses when they are there because you know that they are just biting their lip the whole time trying not to tell you what to do and are frustrated that you are doing something wrong.

    As for Appys. I respect them but dont like them. They are tuff as s*#t and really great horses for jobs that require grit. IMHO they tend to be the best or worst horse you will ever own. As a rule they are really stubborn, thick headed and require a very strong leader. The exception, of course, proves the rule. I like horses that I can give confidence to in order to bring out their best, not a horse that I have to dominate. I have ridden 8 Appys over the years and was bucked off by 4 of them. Another deeked on me and left me in the air. The other two, like Domino, I ended up in a battle of wills with. While I like my horses light, there are times when a tough job is the best man for the job.

    Cnd- I also want to know how your horse search is going and love the new pic too. I love the old pinups.

    I never paid much attention to astrology before until one day I was in Chapters and had an hour to kill. I picked up a book and read a description of my sign that saved me thousands in counseling! LOL I figured out more about my deepest darkest self in that hour than I will in years to come.

  11. The horse hunting is so-so right now.
    The horse I had my eye on sold before Quinn did. bleh
    I've decided that for now I'll just casually see what's out there and if I don't find one over the winter I'll start actually searching in ernest in the spring.
    Besides, if I find one in winter I have to board it elsewhere. You just can NOT bring a new horse into the place I board in the winter. Ty will either chase it until they are both soaking wet and die of either exhaustion or freezing their wet butts off OR he will corner it and kick the sh%t out of it.

    ps - thanks for the pic comments. I love the vintage pinups and if I ever get to a place where I'm happy enough with my body I want to surprise Pie with some pics of myself a la vintage pinup!

  12. Sounds like a hilarious and memorable ride, the black goo would have freaked me out! We get "funnel clouds" around here, which aren't really tornados, but can do wind damage.
    I do think the foundation bred Appy's tend to have more of that "stubborn streak" or whatever you want to call it, but most of today's Appy's are really nothing more than spotted Quarter horses. It is interesting how horse breeds do tend to get "reputations", that is for sure (crazy Arab sound familiar?) There must be some truth to it! I have to say though, there is no breed of horse that I would say I dislike. I think there are probably individual horses that I don't get a long with or had bad experiences with, regardless of their breed. I hope you find one Appy you like someday! ;) Maybe it'd be my boy, LOL!

  13. Far be from me to walk out on the branch but its sounds like old Domino was a champ!

    Maybe he didn't jump because you were unsure or not securely balanced. He might have been being good that day.

    Or maybe he was a lazy stubborn ass - but it sounds like it could've been either way.

    Holy smokes - you were stacked, your arms were just sculpted! Your arms were more muscled than mine will ever be - were you weight lifting? Pulling green chain at the local sawmill? Don't tell me you're just naturally like that cause I am not - I am stick girl, have no muscles to speak of, and have chronic chicken legs too. It sucks when everyone else seem so well built naturally and I could build a muscle with bulk it my life depended on it...

  14. Love your adventure so far.

    As far as crazy horses, my trainer told me that he has the worst luck with colored horses. His girlfriend that is a show-monger and trainer says the same thing, it's all in the color. Of course my horse is a paint, lol. We had an appy that was buck crazy. He bucked me off 4 times before I finally gave up. We believe he was started way too young and that was the majority of the problem. He went to live with his mom who we found out later, was exactly like he was. Nice and calm riding one day and bucking mad the next. He was just too dangerous to me.

    I LOVE riding other people's horses. Of course, now that my own is ridable, I ride other people's less, but my favorite were always big ones, like thoroughbreds. One of the younger girls at the barn has a nice BIG one that used to be a police horse. He's a little older, but his lope is like a freight train. She was scared to lope him because he was so fast, but she had to slow him down for pleasure horse (ha!) classes, so she asked if I could ride him at the lope to see if I could slow him down. So I said SURE!!! Now, obviously if I know a horse is kind of crazy, I probably wouldn't, but I knew this guy was a good boy, so I had no problem. It's like Cathy says on her Very Large Colt training log (if you guys read that), sometimes if you don't know what wrong, you don't anticipate it and the horse is more calm that way and doesn't do anything idiotic.

    In any case, love your blog and continue to read, eager for the next installment :)

  15. Cnd- I have to ask. What is "bleh"? I like to buy horses just before or just after christmas. People tend to feel the pinch around that time and are more open to negotiation but you have to be more persistent about staying in touch and working around their schedule. The market is so bad around that time too.

    Pony Girl- You are totally right. I like to generalize. There is a reining trainer I know that is an "Appy" guy. He is known for blowing little QHs minds but tends to do really well witht he Appys because they have the grit to deal with his abuse. Sad eh? I always give every horse a chance at meeting, but wouldnt go out and look for an Appy. BUT My Boy is really stinkin cute!!! lol It is just like you said with other breeds, the Dumbbloods, insane TBs, crazy Arabs etc. Every horse should be judged as an individual. To bad more people wouldnt do the same with their fellow humans!

    Stephanie- Get off that branch, knowing us, you might fall! Domino was a cutie and you are bang on that he felt how much I didnt want to jump that log. At the time, I was pretty wrapped up in looking like an idiot and didnt give him much credit.

    Ezra- Thanx! Again, I guess it is just generalizations and having the good and the bad examples of the breed. I agree with you that calm horses can be the ones that you get really hurt on because we tend to get to comfortable and relaxed. I am a big time day dreamer and have trouble staying focused so I really need a horse that will keep me in the moment. That horse sounds neat.

  16. Cnd- btw, you should just DO IT!!!! (the pin up photos). Never wait. I am sure that Pie loves you just the way that you are. Get a really good photographer with some photo shop skills and tell him to take away the spots you dont want. LOL...

  17. Btw- Stephanie-

    Why is that woman with curly hair want straight hair and brunettes want to be blonde etc.

    It is also funny how hard we are on ourselves. Looking back at those pics I wish I could be that size again. At the time I thought I looked horribly fat. lol...

    I build big muscle really easily, which I used to hate because I always looked bulky. The boys used to call me "little pipes" because I had even stronger arms when I was swimming every day. Of course, I always wanted twiggy legs and arms. My calves are huge and hard as rock which I also used to hate. But I have learned the hard way to view my body as a friend not enemy and find the good in it.

  18. This is my first visit to your blog and I just wanted to say thank for the wonderful story and interesting writing.
    I couldn't stop reading! Trail riding is so much fun, and always full of lasting memories, isn't it?

    I've never been drawn to Appys, but I do ove Pony Girl's. He's such a cutie!

    I've always like buckskin and bays.
    So, I have no idea how my painted mare ended up here. haha!

    But I've had some people tell me they hate paints for whatever reasons. Some people hate them just because they are flashy and seem to get so much attention from backyard breeders...who breed for flash and not good conformation.

    Oh, well. I fell in love with my painted pony's good mind first. It's just a bonus that she's great to look at, too. :)

    Laughing Orca Ranch
    New Mexico