24. March 2015 · Comments Off on SBBCHI Succor Creek Annual Fun Ride and Public Outreach · Categories: Around The Campfire, Fun Rides · Tags: , , , ,

Get Your Backside in the Saddle

The Outfitter

The Outfitter

If this keeps up we might need a bigger parking area. New faces, including the two legged and four legged kind, participated in the SBBCHI annual Succor Creek fun ride. In an attempt to stimulate interest in new membership, the fun ride has been opened up to the public. Over 20 riders managed to get their butts in the saddle on an early Sunday morning for a stunning ride through the Owyhee desert.

Amongst the riders were a few members who had recently undergone joint surgery of one kind or another; myself included. I’d had a total knee replacement, Bill Conger had a double total knee replacement and Phil was recovering from shoulder surgery. I figured between the three of us, we had enough artificial parts to build one outstanding bionic Squaw Butte member!

RearViewWe split the large group into several smaller groups. Smaller groups are often more manageable with less impact on the terrain. The natural varied paces of the horses usually determine the groups traveling dynamic; the Passo’s, Walkers and Rob’s mustang taking the lead. My horse will walk at whatever pace I ask him too and that is normally in the back of the herd. I can better keep an eye on everyone (not that anyone needs keeping an eye on – but it makes me feel better) and snap pictures without interrupting the flow.

We left the trailers at approximately 10:30 AM. Light jackets against the morning spring breeze were sufficient for comfort.  Several of the members were well on their way as I waited for the last foot to stick a stirrup. I resisted the urge to call out: “Move ‘em up….head ‘em out!”

If it weren’t for Lou Ann – I’d be the most directionally challenged of the bunch. Lou makes me look like an orienteering master! Less than a mile up the road we met Lou Ann coming in from the wrong direction. Well…it wasn’t wrong, exactly, even if it was not the ideal way to enter Succor Creek from Meridian. The important thing was she got there, not how she got there.

A young cowboy, a guest of a member, bailed off his horse, slid into Lou’s driver’s seat and backed her rig off the road. He jumped out, dashed to the back of the trailer, unloaded Lou’s gelding and saddled him before the rest of us could say “Bob’s your uncle.” Turns out 25 year-old Warren works for a Montana outfitter. He all but threw Lou into the saddle and we were off once again. Sort of like an equine pit-stop.

The Chick's

The Chick’s

My small group caught up with the Chicks at the gate leading to what I call the “On Top:” an ATV road running north and south above the campground and below the old Indian Cave.  Chick and Lorraine lost Sammy, Chick’s beautiful Arabian grey of natural causes earlier in the month. Lorraine was riding an up and coming bay Arab/Quarter cross, Casanova. This was Casanova’s first ride outside the training arena. Casanova was a bit nervous. Not uncommon for a young horse amongst a large group of riders. Chick and Lorraine would switch saddles and do a little Pirelli while the rest of us went on. It is against my nature to leave a member behind, but Chick felt Casanova needed some alone time to get beyond the skittishness magnified by the group.

Dripping sweat and labored lungs brought us to the apex of the first of several steep climbs encountered on the ride. I barely got out the words, “Everyone check your cinches,” when I caught sight of Warren methodically going from rider to rider checking cinches and tightening as needed. This must be what it’s like in the days of Lord’s and Ladies of the manner. “Oh, George…I wish to ride today. Prepare the Black for western discipline.” A meticulously groomed and gleaming black stallion magically appears in the outer courtyard awaiting your riding pleasure. Upon returning home, you toss the reins to the always dutiful George and your horse is miraculously returned to his paddock, freeing you to enjoy mint julips on the terrace with Captain Butler and….

I glanced back often hoping to catch sight of the Chick’s. I reached a vantage point that allowed a glimpse of two tiny riders in the bottom of the canyon. Both riders aboard and clipping along at a good pace. No need to fret any longer.

A string of bandits

We followed the trail across the On Top to a gate leading down to the “Hole in the Wall.” Roger dismounts to open the gate. All riders get through ahead of a barrage of ATV’s; one after another filtered through the gate – 14 in all. I thought this might be where we’d lose our young Cowboy. A curvy girl peering from behind goggles did a double take from the back passenger seat of a Yamaha four wheeler. Warren damn near lost his seat as he pushed the front of his felt hat off his forehead. “Well hello! Looks to me like that little gal ‘d be a site happier on the back of this horse than the back o’ that four whiller!”  From the sheer velocity of her head whipping around and lingering glance, I believe he might be right. The boy was not lacking in confidence.

We met the larger group on their way back to camp. Janine and Lou Ann turned back with the others. I wanted to show Marina, Rogers’s granddaughter, the Hole in the Wall. Linda, Devon, Mildred, Roger, Marina and Warren and I continued to the Hole in the Wall. In a normal water year, a waterfall pours over the top of the rim rock pooling in the center of the crescent shaped rock formation. It was not a normal water year. The Hole in the Wall was bone dry; as dry as I’d ever seen it.



We rested the horses, snapped a few pictures and mounted for the ride back to camp. I marveled as Mildred popped into the saddle. I remarked to Warren, “I sure hope at 80 some years old I can still get my butt into the saddle like that.” While secretly thinking: Who am I kidding – I wish I could get my butt into the saddle like that today! Mildred is my idol and inspiration. I handed her a can of Beanee Weenee’s.  She scrunched up her nose. “You expect me to eat these nasty things?” No Mildred, I’m pretty sure those things would kill you – that can is at least 15 years old. We’ll be lucky if it doesn’t explode before I snap a picture.

Marina put her horse’s feet to work as he danced and fought the bit. This was one 10 year old who wasn’t letting her horse get away with bad habits. The horse jigged to be up with his buddy, Rogers big bay gelding. I stopped asking Marina if she was doing ok when I watched her collect the horse and make him do everything but what he wanted until he stopped misbehaving. Well done, Marina.

We arrived back at camp just as Rob took the last of the burgers and hotdogs off the grill. Some might call it late – I call it perfect timing. As always, the spread of food was impressive.Potluck

I passed Bill coming back from watering his horse. The conversation went something like this:

Bill: Does your knee pop when you ride?

Me: Not when I ride – but when I walk sometimes. It doesn’t hurt, just feels weird.

Bill: Mine feel like they are loose and shifting around, especially when I’m on the tractor.

Me: Come to think of it, mine do that when I’m on the tractor too. And it did start to do it about the last ½ mile of our ride today.

Bill: I don’t like it. It bugs me.

Me: Do you think it’s normal? *Please tell me you think it’s         normal.*

Bill: God, I hope so.


The haul back home over one of the roughest, tire popping, gravel roads in Oregon affords ample time to contemplate on the success of another Backcountry Horseman outing. We met some wonderful prospective new members we hope to see more of in the future. We reflect on the sadness of our four legged partners we have lost and look forward with hope in the new mounts that will fill the empty hoof prints they left behind. We glean inspiration from Mildred’s agile horsemanship.  Determination from the likes of Phil and Bill’s tenacity; Hope in the future from Marina’s youth.

No matter the age of the rider or the number of plastic parts they might boast, you just can’t keep a good Backcountry Horseman’s butt out of the saddle.

BootsClick for full set of Pictures on Picasa


Celebration Park

A new stop on the way to the Triple Crown?


February marks the beginning of trail riding season for many of us in the Squaw Butte Chapter. We are fortunate to live in a part of the country where diverse terrain and climate allow for adequate riding weather year round.  Deep snow and cold may linger in mountains surrounding arid high deserts of sand and sage suitable for horse and rider.

Celebration Park was again the chosen site for this year’s first of the season fun ride. It is easy to understand why ancient civilizations made this area their home for thousands of years. A natural fortress of rock cliffs borders an edge of the Park with the Snake River flowing with life through the center, spanned by the Guffey railroad bridge, built in 1897, marking one of few Snake River crossings.

Six SBBCHI members saddled ready to ride by 11:00AM on a beautiful February morning – beautiful despite being a Monday! The ride was originally planned for the previous Saturday but Mother Nature had plans of her own – plans of driving wind and rain not conducive to trail riding.

Our group meandered through the desert floor littered with large boulders adorned with petroglyphs dating back thousands of years. We skirted Halverson Lake, crossed a marsh fed by a small spring and tethered to the remains of an old corral for lunch.


The dilapidated corral is in dire need of repair. Loose barbed wire, rotted rails and a few sound posts are all that remain. We talked about fixing the corral up last year. Unfortunately, the corrals are not part of the park. They are owned by a California rancher and nobody seems to know how to get hold of him. It is not easy for a group of folks who seem to have the “fix it” gene imbedded in their DNA to see such a thing go unattended. I would not be surprised to find the corral in better repair come next year’s fun ride.

We looped around back toward the trailers along a trail hugging the Snake River. Janine and little Hilary had left before lunch so Janine could return in time for work. Rob and Teri rode on ahead while Bill and I took up the rear, chatting  about the best way to cook rattle snake and rock chuck. Bill rode Billy Bob, a large, loveable mule whose personality is reminiscent of Eeyore. I asked Bill if he thought Billy Bob could run. Bill replied he thought so. He has seen Billy Bob run in the pasture and he sure looked pretty. I don’t think my mule, Annie, can run very fast, I commented. She runs real stiff legged. Ruth, the mule Festus rode in Gunsmoke – was the only mule I’d seen that could outrun a horse. An observation that was about to change.Web_Bill_DSCN3034

I had been turned around in my saddle most of the way back talking Bill’s ear off and taking pictures. Thank goodness I’d put my camera away and was facing forward when somebody opened the starting gates. One second I’m strolling along on my mustang, König, the next – I’m pulling with all my might trying to initiate a one rein stop on a runaway mustang. Billy Bob shoots past me at  exactly the speed of 1,126 ft/s. How do I know this? I heard it. 1,126 ft/s is the speed required to break the sound barrier and that is exactly what Billy Bob sounded like as he thundered past me…then past Teri and finally Rob with König and I at a close second. König is not a saddle horse. He has been a pack horse his entire life. I was riding him today only because my horse, Jack, has a respiratory infection. Had I cranked on Jack’s head as hard as I cranked on that mustangs I’d have pulled him over! I finally get König to stop about the same time Bill hit the dirt. I think Billy Bob scared himself. He ran wild-eyed back to me and König with his very best, “WTH?” mule expression. Eeyore my ASS! (pun intended.)

Thankfully, Bill was not seriously hurt although I imagine the next couple of days would find Bill discovering soreness in places he didn’t know he had.

I pulled away from Celebration Park with a conviction of working on König’s brakes in the days to come and one more reason for the heartfelt prayers that Jack would heal quickly.

Back home I came across a documentary on the great Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. Slew was purchased for the unbelievably low price of $16,000.00. It was said by some that he was not a pretty horse in the sense of what a race horse was supposed to look like. Some said he looked more like a mule than a horse. I pulled up a picture of Seattle Slew and placed it alongside one of Billy Bob….damn if there wasn’t an uncanny resemblance.  I know where I’d place my $2.00 bet.