I’m writing this in response to an article that keeps arriving in my inbox or on my Facebook feed lately.  I think I even ticked a few people off when I responded on Facebook. The think is, I don’t care if you want to take all sorts of bogus crap that the natural news advocates are selling on their pages, but when you start feeding that stuff to your horses, I feel like I have to say something about using common sense.

The article is a blog post written by Joe Camp about using Diatomaceous Earth as “natural” worm control.  Now I have nothing against Joe Camp, in fact, I enjoy reading most of what he has written.  It’s just that there are some logical fallacies in this article that sent up some red flags in my mind.  There’s definitely more to write about than I can do justice to in a couple of Facebook comments.

Flag #1:  The appeal to nature fallacy.  This one goes something like this: If something is natural, it must be good for you.  Well, cyanide and arsenic are both natural compounds, but I wouldn’t argue that they are good for you.  Poisonous mushrooms and rattlesnakes are also natural.  Anything that claims to be good simply because it is natural is suspect here.  You have to have a better reason than “it’s natural.”

Flag #2: The flipside of the appeal to nature fallacy is the all chemicals are bad fallacy.  This one gets almost laughable as you see internet memes where some pundit explains how all chemicals are bad and you should never have any of them in your diet.  Umm… isn’t everything made of chemicals?  Yeah, you’d starve.  You have to remember that it is the dose that makes the poison.  Where I live, the water in the valley is radioactive.  People got a bit freaked out about that a few years back, but you have to realize that we are talking ppb–that’s parts per billion!  Nobody glows when you turn off the lights. Again, if you make a claim that something is bad because “chemicals,” you are going to have to do better.

Bottom line here:  Not all natural substances are good for you.  Not all chemicals are bad.

Flag #3: The Miracle Cure for Everything fallacy.  After telling us about how Diatomaceous Earth kills worms, Camp goes on to quote an article telling us about all of the positive health benefits of DE in humans.  I counted no less than 17 conditions that DE will alleviate or cure!  Sounds too good to be true! Oh…wait…

Flag #4: The anecdote fallacy. It works for me, therefore you should do it. To be fair, this isn’t Camp’s fallacy, it is the fallacy of everyone reading his blog that says “Camp says it works for him, so I’ll go ahead and do it.”

And if all your friends were jumping off of cliffs? Oh wait… I hang around teenagers too much!

Irony #1: Camp’s introductory paragraph states that people were telling him to worm up to once every 6 weeks.  I don’t know if he asked a vet or looked up worming schedules on the AAEP website, but a cursory search of latest worming practices on Google shows that this is false.  The latest wisdom is that we should conduct fecal egg counts and only worm when absolutely necessary–the same exact practice Camp has adopted only minus the use of DE. This is probably the real reason that his horses are doing so well.  In some countries in Europe, you can’t even purchase wormer for your horse until you can show a fecal count over a certain limit.  This is to help reduce resistance to the worming compounds.

Irony #2: Have you ever read the story about how Ivermectin was developed?  It seems that a researchers were looking into “folk” cures to see if there might be merit in any of them.  Of course, most folk cures worked because the patient was either going to die or get better anyway.  If the patient got better, they kept using the cure whether or not it was really doing any good.  Some of those old cures really did have merit, though, and researchers often find new treatments by combing through old ideas to see what might work. Anyway, the researchers found a macrocyclic lactone that is produced naturally in soil by Streptomyces Avromitilis.  They named it avermectin.  Wait just a cotton pickin’ minute!  A chemikillz that’s natural?? The world may implode!

But what about DE? Food grade DE is generally recognized as safe.  It is used as a filtering compound for many different foods.  I have read several articles about it and talked to some vets about it and decided that it wasn’t for me.  I have included a link to an article in Equus magazine where a vet states that no studies have actually shown DE to be effective against worms.  Another article that I read said that it was probably not effective as a feed through control against fly eggs in the manure but I can’t find that article to use as a reference.  It is supposed to be more effective sprinkled on manure piles, but I couldn’t find any reliable references to support this either.

Actually, the fact that there is a dearth of scientific references supporting the use of DE in pretty much any context is another red flag for me. I actually did a google search on “DE will kill you,” just to see what would pop up and I still got mostly natural websites espousing the benefits of DE.  Why don’t I buy it?  Because they are all saying, “it does this. It does that.” But nobody is providing any evidence or even explanations for how what they are claiming could be true.  “It’s abrasive,” seems to be the party line.  Um… yeah… so is sand paper, but I’m not eating that or feeding it to my horses either.

In fact, other than a few references to “blood in stool,” on a few message boards, (These were quickly written off as not possibly coming from eating an abrasive substance, so most likely hemeroids–don’t bother visiting a doctor for that silliness), the only danger I could find is that you certainly don’t want to accidentally inhale it.  It’ll really mess up your lungs (but not your digestive system!).  I spend a lot of time thinking about feed management to prevent sand colic.  The last thing I’m planning to do is feed my horses (or myself) what amounts to finely ground sand!

My personal takeaway is this: I’ve been doing the exact same program as Camp except without the DE for years and it is working for me (except I have the vet do the FECs for me).  Nobody seems to be conducting or publishing actual, well designed studies on the effects of DE on worm or fly control.  Everybody just uses it because everybody else says it works. The vets I have talked to don’t have a very high opinion of it. I choose to trust veterinarians. They went to school for a long time. They know a lot more than I do. Most of them keep up with new methods and research. I’m going to let common sense rule on this one.



It was perfect!

I just finished up the perfect liberty session with Max.  Perfect?  You say… really?

Okay, it was pretty short—only about 15 minutes.  And it wasn’t very fancy either—in fact, it was kind of ugly.  We’re not exactly ready for Cavalia.  So how could I even consider calling it perfect?  What does it take for me to qualify a liberty session as perfect anyway?

Simple really… a decision.

You see, our liberty has never really been all that good.  Somewhere along the line, somebody told Max that his ancestors were wild.  Combine that with his innately pushy nature and he got to thinking:

“I don’t want to do this!  Wait! I can just run away and be free!”

Oh, he would stick to me just fine and even do some nice liberty moves if I had him in a round pen.  That would be a solid round pen.  My round pen isn’t very solid.  Yep, he figured out he could just run through the cheap tape if he wanted to.

It started out innocently enough.  One day as I had him trotting around me in a circle.  I asked him to come in and he didn’t.  Instead, he sped up to a canter and just kept going.  All my feeble attempts to put pressure on his hindquarters just caused him to speed up more, so I thought, “fine, speed up, go faster,” and drove him on until he wanted to slow down.  He eventually slowed down, but he didn’t come in.  He had made a decision to not be with me and he wasn’t planning to change his mind anytime soon.

So how do you go about changing a horse’s mind?  Yeah, yeah, yeah… make the wrong thing hard, blah, blah, blah,… got it.  But liberty is different.  At liberty, the horse always has the option of saying no and enforcing that by leaving.  And horses aren’t dumb.  If they can figure out the difference between a solid fence and cheap tape, they can certainly figure out that leaving town is a viable option.  They might even decide it’s  a fun hobby!  There is no way to make a horse want to be with you.  You need to change his mind.  You need to help him decide that he actually does want to be with you.

This is one of the things I love about liberty.  It isn’t just about giving cue A and getting action B from the horse.  Liberty is about trust and obedience and respect and the quality of your relationship with the horse, and the hard, honest-to-god, maybe-you-don’t-want-to-know-it truth about the quality of your relationship with the horse.  When your horse makes the decision to get out of town, the relationship is broken.

It’s been a long slow process, but the breaking out of the round pen has turned out to be the best thing that could happen to us. It’s easy to fool yourself that you are “doing liberty” when you have a horse circling you in the round pen, but the truth is that you’re not.  You are using the fence as a crutch to maintain the circle—the horse isn’t doing it on his own.  In essence, you are sending the horse out on the circle where he has the choice of staying hooked on or basically ignoring you, staring out the window like a kid in algebra class.  If you’re lucky, when you ask him back in, he will hook back on and come in to you.

So I had the choice of building a solid round pen and never leaving it or figuring out how to fix things.  When Max had his epiphany and realized that he could run through the tape that defines my round pen, it made me back up and really think about all of the various pieces we needed to work on to fix things.  There were the obvious fixes I needed to work on, such as obedience, and the nebulous relationshipy factors, such as actuallly wanting to spend time with a human instead of other horses.

We’ve been working on our liberty for awhile and slowly but surely, I’m seeing progress.  It has gotten to where I can do liberty with him in the “pasture.” That’s the 10 acre area I use as a turn out.  I’ve gotten him to circle me at the walk and the trot and while our circles are more amorphous blobish than circlish, he does them and doesn’t leave everytime like he used to, and I’m not relying on a fence.

Which leads us to this particular liberty session.  I didn’t have much time before dark, so I stuffed my pockets with treats and thought we’ll just go for a liberty walk outside all of the fences, and stuff him with treats for about 15 minutes.  It started well.  We did some squeeze against the fence and some yielding of hindquarters and forequarters.  Then we walked over to my balance beam and I asked him to put a hoof up on it.  Which he sort of did.  And then it occurred to him… “I could leave.”

So off he dashed.

His MO on these occasions is to run flat out up the hill around the outside of the turnout fence up to the ridge where he can be as close to the girls as possible and, not coincidentally, as far from me.  Only he didn’t this time.  Maybe it was just too much work to run up that stinking hill or maybe it occurred to him that he just wasn’t feeling the get-out-of-town thing like he used to.  He stopped at the corner of the fence and stood thinking about heading up the hill, but undecided.

I had followed, but now it became a strange sort of dance between us—part catching game, part courtship.  I’d call to him “Come on Max!” then wait.  Then a leeetle bit of pressure—not enough to send him off, just enough to make him keep thinking about me.  Then I’d walk away and wait again.  He could face me, but he couldn’t take a step towards me.  A couple of times, he walked off in some other direction, and I just tried to maintain my presence without putting too much pressure on him.  He wasn’t coming to me, but he wasn’t heading up the hill either!

And then he headed towards me!  As soon as he did, I turned and walked away.  At which point he stopped again.  We repeated this process several times.  He would take two steps, then stop as soon as I turned away and took the pressure off.  He was mentally stuck.  He was trying to make up his mind, but it was hard.   Everything he stood for when he met me, every fiber of his being was about escaping pressure, being in charge, running away.  Finally, he succeeded.  He made the decision to head in with me and keep his legs moving.

And that is why I call it the perfect liberty session.  He finally made a decision to be with me.  Oh, I’m not fooling myself into thinking that he will be perfect from now on, but we passed through some sort of door during that session and now we both know what is possible.


TBT–the saga continues…

Here is part two of the lightning story:  October 4, 2011 at 4:26pm

There just doesn’t seem to be an end to this story!  At least not yet.

You might recall that I left the house with all breakers off and headed to Reno to the Tara and Trevor clinic.  (A few people have asked for my notes on this which I will post if I ever write them.  I have begun to fill out an outline with what I can remember, but if I don’t get to it, pretty soon I’m going to be thinking “now what did I do last weekend?”)  As for the power, I was naively assuming at this point that I had “fixed” the problem by ordering new circuit boards for the inverter and that all would be well once they were installed.

Anyway, poor David returned from his camping trip on Sunday and when he got into cell phone range, he receive about 6 messages from me about what had happened.  He called me and we came up with a plan.  I was going to stop by his parents on the way home and pick the Honda generator up from him, then go home and he would walk me through switching the big back-up generator over to power the house without involving the inverter over the phone (he stayed in town that night).  If that didn’t work, we would use the Honda generator to run the fridge.  It was a good plan.  We just didn’t count on Murphy.

All went according to plan in that I picked up the generator and drove home.  After that?  Not so good.  Of course, the first priority was to put the horse away and give her about 50 cookies for being so good.  Then I unhitched the trailer and drove up to the house and called David to get the show on the road.  Once he explained where the generator bypass was, it was so obvious to me that I couldn’t believe I missed it in the first place.  So now…  how to start the generator?  Normally, you would tell the “mate” to start it, but that requires a working inverter.  So I try the manual switch and… nothing—dead.

And you have to understand that all this is happening to the tune of a running conversation with David on the cell phone:

“Nothing happened.”


“Are you sure you didn’t disconnect the switch when you hooked up the mate?”

“I don’t think so…  I don’t remember!  Ugh!  Now what?  Okay, take the side panel off the generator and try the red switch.”

“Where’s the side panel?  Oh, now I see it.  Okay, I see the switch.”

“You switch it to manual start.”

“I did that, nothing happened.”


“Nothing happened.”

“Why didn’t anything happen?”

“Why are you asking me?”

“There should be red lights.”

“There are no red lights.”

“There are no red lights?”

“There are no red lights.”

“Why aren’t there any red lights?”

“Why are you asking me?”

It went on like this—ad nauseum.  We finally decided the generator battery was dead and to use the Honda generator to charge up the battery on the Kohler generator.  This was about the point where I lost it.  I remember yelling something to the effect that I could have stopped at David’s parents house and take a real shower, but noooooo…, I drove home assuming that we would have some kind of power and now I was going to have to take a shower out of a jug of water, again!

And David said “What are you talking about?  Is the water pump broken?”  To which I snarkily replied that the water pump requires power and we don’t have power and some other choice statements, I’m sure.  To which he replied (and I can’t believe he wasn’t yelling back at this point, but I’m sure he was just savoring the moment) “It’s a DC pump.  It goes straight to the battery.”  He’s a genius really.

So I would hook up the Honda and go take a shower, then deal with dinner.   (And it’s like 9 o’clock at this point).   So I went to get the Honda out of the back of the truck.  And it was gone…

The thing is, that I worry about somebody stealing the Honda out of the back of the truck.  On a trip, we lock it in—we’re that paranoid.  I had stopped at Raley’s on the way home, but I checked to see that it hadn’t been stolen, I guess on the theory that I would be able to spot the thief and chase them down in the parking lot?  Anyway, it was in there, sitting up against the cab at that point.  So it fell out.  But when?  And where?

I said “Holy (bad word)!  It’s gone!”  To David.  This was followed up by some very bad words (well, mostly one very bad word repeated a lot,) as I looked around with my flashlight, hoping (I guess) that some evil pixies had stolen it out of the back of the truck and placed it just out of sight in the dark.  Then I leaped in the truck, hung up on David and drove off like a maniac with my brights blazing looking for it.  What is the shortest amount of time known to man?  The time between when your Honda generator falls out of your truck and someone else comes along and says “Oh, look!  A Honda generator!” and takes off with it.  This was what was running through my mind as I careened down the dirt road.

I was also thinking about how–if it had fallen out–I would have run over it with the horse trailer and the windows were down and you think I would have heard it but maybe it fell out and rolled down the hill and OMG what if it fell out when I made the turn off the highway, there is no way it will still be there by now.  But no, about three quarters of a mile down the drive—there it was—just sitting there, upright even, like a lost child at the mall waiting for its mommy to show up.  Silly generator!  I was so relieved, I just tossed it in the bed and drove back up to the house with it before even assessing the damage.  As I drove back, I remembered hearing a strange crunching sound on the way up the driveway and looking back wondering what it was.  Oh, that’s what it sounds like when you run over a generator—who knew?

Although I couldn’t have driven right over the top of it because the horse trailer would have made a huge whump (and I’m pretty sure I would have noticed that!), it does have some pretty good tire marks on it.  The exhaust housing was crunched so I took it off and the side panel is a little bit skewed now.  But, what the heck!  It started on the second pull!  I must write Honda a letter.  So… plugged in the Kohler, searched three outbuildings with my teeny flashlight to find the really long extension cord.  Ran that through the kitchen window.  Pulled out the fridge and plugged that in.

Then I took a deep breath, braced myself and… opened the freezer.  And everything was still frozen!  There was a bag of peas in the door that felt a little soft, but I was amazed that all of the meat—even the ice cubes in the tray—was (were) still frozen.  It had been over 48 hours!  So I’ve written off most of the fridge stuff, but at least we didn’t lose anything in the freezer.   At this point, I noticed that the light in the fridge came on.  Well of course, it is hooked up to the generator.  And the cogs in my mind sloooowly began to turn.   And fiiiiinally it occurred to me.  If I put the fridge on a power strip, I can also plug in an electric light!  I felt very civilized as I ate my dinner by the light of a desk lamp at 10 pm after my shower (such a genius, that man.)

I ran the generator most of the night, and after feeding in the morning, went to start the big generator.  And it was dead…  The cogs turned a little faster this time.  Well, duh!  The Kohler is located about 15 linear feet from where the lightening hit the garage roof—it’s probably fried also.  Note to self—next time locate your back-up power farther away from your main source of power.   This time, there were red lights.  Later I e-mailed the error code to David.  He translated—control board is fried!

Did I mention you can see the spot on the garage roof where the lightening hit?  It looks like someone got up there with a pick and took one good swing at the roof.  You would think there would be a smoking hole, but there is just one tiny arc mark on the head of an exposed roofing nail and a bunch of rumpled shingles to mark where this huge, terrifying looking bolt of lightening struck it.  Odd…

So we are living on power from a Honda generator (that was run over by a horse trailer) and an extension cord with a plug strip running through the kitchen window right now.  David plans to try to wire the Honda into the main breaker panel for the house tonight.  That way, we may even be able to do laundry and I can curl my hair in the bathroom instead of in the kitchen standing next to the fridge.  The new boards for the Inverter should arrive tomorrow.  The jury is still out on the control board for the Kohler.  And it occurs to us that we may only have just begun to assess the damage.  We won’t know what else is fried until we get the inverter back up, but David commented that one of the charge controllers seems to have “gone a bit wonky.”  I really MUST remember to write a letter to Honda after this is over…


TBT–What killed the solar power?

Some of you might remember this.  It happened October, 1st 2010.  I’ll post the rest of the story next Thursday.  The tense may seem goofy because I was writing it that night but I’m not going to bother fixing it up.

There a lot of things that can mess around with a solar power system.  The obvious ones are things like cloudy days and snow and such.  And then your batteries can go bad.  That happened to us last year, but we never actually lost all power.  Batteries take time to die—you have time to replace them.  (They are insanely expensive to replace, but that’s another story.)  But the question is:  what can absolutely kill your solar power system?  And when I say kill, I mean dead…instantly…maybe permanently…

Friday at the end of the school day, we looked to the south to see a large dark thunder cell pounding the Walker River Canyon.  Karen said “Will it come up from the south and hit your house?”

And I said “They usually come in from the west.”  I know, I know—famous last words!

I raced home because I knew there was a window open on the truck I had left at home.  As I drove, I could see that I was racing the cell.  It was moving north and I could see the rain falling out of it.  I could also see I was going to lose the race.

About 2 miles from the house, a huge bolt of lightening struck about half a mile from where I was driving.   After that, there was some amazing sheet lightening that shot across the sky and struck in about three places at the same time.  It was raining by this time, but not heavily yet and I was worrying about fires open truck windows and trying to look for smoke.  Finally there was one last big bolt.  I wasn’t looking right at our house when it hit, so I wasn’t sure, but I remember thinking “holy cow—I think that just hit our house!”

Well, it didn’t hit the house as it turned out—it hit the garage… where the solar system is.  I worried all the way up the driveway that it might have hit the panels, but thank God it didn’t.I walked into the house to find…surprise!…no power.  David, naturally, was off camping and out of cell phone range until Sunday.  I tried the standard sort of turning off the breakers, then turning them back on, but no magic fix there.  So I called neighbor Bob down the hill to ask if he knew what to do after a lightening strike, but he had no idea.  He told me to call another neighbor, Murl, who had been hit by lightening and has the same power system we do.   So I called Murl, but he said he was hit by lightening before he put in his power system.

However, Murl did suggest I call Outback who is the maker of our power system. They are on the west coast and should still be open.  I waited on hold for about 10 minutes, but finally a nice lady came on.   She walked me through using a meter to test the voltage, telling her what red lights were flashing where and plugging and unplugging things.  The verdict is that the solar panels are still supplying power to the batteries, but the inverter isn’t sending it to the house.  So I gave the nice lady my credit card number and she will ship new circuit boards for the inverter first thing Monday morning.

In the meantime, we have no power.  We can no longer brag about not having power outages.  The gloat gods must have gotten us there.  We’ll probably lose all of the food in the fridge since David took off with the one generator I could use to run it.  I’m hoping the stuff in the freezer will make it a couple of days.

About 20 minutes after the cell left us, it started a fire in Smith Valley that is still burning as I write this.


I just got back from the Buck Brannaman four day workout. Trust me, if you do this workout, your legs will never be the same. I’m certain MY legs may never be the same! But seriously–if you want to see dramatic results in only four days, you should be excited to hear about this program!

Buck has a diabolical piece of exercise equipment called a horse and an even more diabolical exercise called the short serpentine, plus a host of other supporting exercises that will pump you up, break you down and have you swimsuit ready–in JUST FOUR DAYS!  I know I’M ready for a week at the beach with some sort of umbrella adorned rum drink anyway!

Note: You must plan ahead for this workout as you must bring your equipment with you. You may obtain your exercise equipment at any nearby stable or anywhere else horses are sold. Horses can be very expensive to purchase, but these would be gym quality horses. Here’s the best part! You don’t need expensive gym quality equipment to participate in the Buck Brannaman four day exercise challenge! Any old horse will do! You can often purchase one off of Craig’s List or out of the local paper very cheaply. You may even be able to get one for free if you ask around. If you aren’t certain what type of horse to purchase, get one that says “experienced rider only” as these horses will ensure a much more thorough workout experience.

You will also need to bring a bridle with a snaffle bit as this will add an arm component to give you that total body workout you’re looking for.  A saddle is a helpful piece of equipment but not entirely necessary. However a saddle can help ensure proper body placement during all workout exercises.  All exercises MUST be performed while sitting on top of the horse’s back. If you doubt your ability to maintain proper position throughout the workout, be sure to purchase a saddle with a “horn.”  This feature will aid you in maintaining the most beneficial position for these exercises and as an added bonus can also be used to create a little extra upper body burn, especially in those flabby arm muscles you are always trying to tone!  You might also raise your heartrate!

If you’ve never tried the Buck Brannaman workout, you might try to acquire a more “forward” horse.  This will make it easier to concentrate on learning the correct movements in each exercise without overly tiring out your legs.  I would suggest an off the track thoroughbred or perhaps an endurance arabian.  If you’d really like to maximize your workout, however, you should find a horse that is “not too forward” or even “dull.”  A nice Appaloosa or Draft horse should work well here.  You can also create your own “dull” horse if you have time before the clinic.  Simply ride the horse for several days prior to the clinic constantly using you legs until the horse will completely ignore them.  Don’t worry about “ruining” the horse.  You will fix the horse at the clinic–all while toning your body!

So what can you expect from four days of the Buck Brannaman workout?

On day one, you will learn some of the basic moves. This will probably include the short serpentine and the open serpentine.  It is important to work on the correct form in these movements in order to get the most from these exercises.  In the short serpentine, you should keep the shoulders down, stomach in, outside leg forward and inside leg back (or, wait, is that the other way around?), keep your reins short, pelvis in position one, hips and lower back neutral, twist at the waist and keep your chin up. Your head should be in line with your spine at all times except when it shouldn’t. Your horse should also be in proper form, so be sure he is bending 90 degrees, weight on the haunches, reaching with the inside front leg, all four legs moving evenly, head and neck soft when changing the bend and tail following the circle.  It’s simple, really!

If you feel like you are having a difficult time with this exercise, you are probably doing it right!  You are allowed to stop and ask Buck for help, but he will generally have one of two responses:  Either you need to use one leg more or you need to use both legs more.  So give this a try whenever you feel like you are bogging down. Also you probably need to have the horse bend his neck more.  This works your upper body.  If you are doing this exercise correctly, you should feel the burn pretty quickly.  You will feel this exercise working in your gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus and gluteus imaginarius.  Also your quad muscles, hip flexors, calf muscles, shin muscles, foot muscles, adductors, abductors, inductors, and reductors should all be “feeling the burn.”  If your legs are shaking after 30 seconds of this exercise, congratulations–this tells you that you have maximized the calorie burn.  You should keep it up until Buck tells you to move on to the next exercise or you pass out from the pain and fall off the horse–whichever comes first.

Over the next few days, you will add more varied exercises to your routine.  Soon, you will link these exercises together to create the perfect circuit training routine!  The best part is that you get to choose how you mix up these exercises, so if the short serpentine is kicking your butt, move on to getting a soft feel for awhile.  This will allow for that all important muscle recovery between periods of intensity.  Sure, some of the exercises seem a little touchy-feely, but even those are adding to your overall fitness.  The secret is in the movement of the horse!  Yes, Buck Brannaman has finally revealed this little known fitness secret that was previously known by only a handful of top trainers!  The horse is the perfect exercise machine because even when you are “just” walking and trotting, the physical action of maintaining proper position (remember folks, you want to remain on TOP of the horse’s back) is giving you a comprehensive workout that is guaranteed to hit every major and minor muscle group.

Remember, the Buck Brannaman workout clinic is an intensive experience that will take place over four days, but the fitness benefits will continue well after the clinic experience. During the clinic, you will be riding several hours each day, but nobody has that kind of time to spend at the gym every day.  That’s okay!  You can fit in an effective total body workout in anywhere between 15 minutes and one hour using Buck Brannaman’s proven workout routine.  But wait, there’s more! You can also send your metabolism through the roof cleaning stalls, hauling bags of feed and moving bales of hay.  The possibilites are endless!

So if you haven’t yet experienced this HIGH INTENSITY TOTAL BODY EXPERIENCE, you should sign up for the nearest Buck Brannaman clinic RIGHT NOW!

Signs and portents

That little voice inside my head just won’t shut up.

You know the one.

It says “Do you think this is a good idea?…  Because I don’t think this is such a good idea…”

It’s been going on like that non-stop ever since I signed up to ride with Buck Brannaman again.

I wasn’t going to ride in this clinic.  The classes that were offered were Horsemanship 1 and 2.  I knew the upper limit on H1 would be 30 riders and I really didn’t want to be in an arena with 29 other random molecules all bouncing off of fences and each other until they manage to reach critical clinical mass and create horsemanship clinic nuclear fission.  That’s just not my idea of fun.  But I was a little intimidated by the idea of riding in the H2 class.  Then about 3 weeks ago, the stars all aligned and the angels sang a chorus of “Laaaaaaaaa…” and they changed the H2 class to H1 advancing.  I took it as a sign from God.  I mailed my check that day.

Yet even as I wrote the check, the little voice was saying, “I don’t think this is such a good idea, do you?”

I keep telling it to shut up, but it keeps making some very valid points.

Point one is that I’m in lousy shape and so is Max.  I simply haven’t been riding enough this spring.  I have no really good excuse for that, just a lot of vague not-feeling-wells and bad-weathers and other-projects and going-sailing-this-weekends.  If I’d realized I was going to sign up, I would have at least done some more long trotting, but it is what it is.

Still, I had three weeks right?  So the first week was spring break—hours and hours to ride.  Well, not exactly…  First two days we had a sailing event.  We returned from that Sunday night.  I played with Max on the ground Monday morning, and then drove down to Mom’s for the next two days.  You can’t just weasel out of the obligatory Mom visit.  Not even for Buck Brannaman.

“Are you SURE this is a good idea?”

Wednesday night I drove home.  Thursday morning played with the horse until the vet showed up to do Coggins, shots, etc…   And I still have Friday, Saturday and Sunday to ride little voice!  Ha!  Only Friday morning, the horse couldn’t turn his head in either direction because of the shots.  We played on the ground some until I gave up in disgust and put him away.  Saturday I gave him a gram of bute and the day off.  Sunday I gave him a gram of bute and the day off.

Shut up little voice.

Monday I was finally able to ride.  In fact I rode most of the week.  The week culminated in a mini-clinic on Sunday afternoon at the same facility the big clinic will be at with the clinic coordinator Karyn Shirley.  If you want to ride with someone in the Reno area who can explain what Buck really said at the clinic, she’s the go-to person.  I thought I knew how to do the short serpentine after riding with Buck.  Karyn set me straight on that one.  I plan to take some lessons with her this summer.  I think that will really help maximize my clinic dollars to knowledge value.  Otherwise, I’m just assuming I know what Buck meant during the clinic at which I have already proven to be horribly unreliable.

Anyway, the mini-clinic went really well and now I know what the facility is like and Max has shown me where all of the dragons are lurking.  My torn hamstring has informed me that it will quit for good if I don’t take care of it on the short serpentines and since I want to be able to ride with Buck for four whole days, not just one, I plan on humoring it.  Now I know how long it takes to get there and now I know how long it takes to get home if you blow a tire out on your horse trailer on the new 580 causeway coming out of Reno.

Yeah, that wasn’t good.

I was probably going 50 or 55 at the time because it was so windy up there.  The sign had said “use caution.”  I was using caution.  Then I felt this little tug on the truck.  Nothing big—could have been a gust of wind.  But the little voice was saying “that didn’t feel right,” and I had to agree.  I glanced in the side view mirror and saw something in the lane behind me.  I couldn’t believe I had run over something without even seeing it, so I pulled over right away.  That’s when I saw the shredded tire on the horse trailer.  I hadn’t run over something—the thing in the lane was the tread of the tire that had been ripped off the wheel.  The sidewalls were still hanging on the rim.  Ugh!


Fortunately, it was the back tire.  The front tire was intact and the axels on the horse trailer are close enough together that the front tire was holding the back one off of the ground.  All I had to do was change the tire and be on my way.  All I had to do was get out there on the driver’s side of my trailer next to traffic with cars zooming past at a jillion miles an hour and…  Ugh!

But I have to thank the designers of the new causeway.  Apparently, they were expecting a LOT of accidents when they drew up their plans.  There are pull outs spaced about every quarter mile and they are wide enough to give you enough room to change a tire on the driver’s side with cars zooming past at a jillion miles an hour and not feel like you are going to die instantly unless somebody does something really, really, stupid.

So I prayed that no one would do anything really, really stupid and changed the tire.  I was about 30 seconds from finishing when some nice guy pulled over to “help.”  He laughed and said “I’m not really being much help am I?”

That’s okay, at least he bothered.

And then the voice started in:

“It’s a sign from God!  This clinic is a bad idea!”

I’m not listening…

Monday morning I was out in the grey half-light of dawn unloading everything from the horse trailer.  Monday afternoon after work, I dropped it off at Schwab.

“You’re leaving your horse trailer at Les Schwab for two days?  It’s going to get stolen!”

Now you’re just being ridiculous.

Although the voice could be right.   In my oftentimes sit-com life, that’s exactly what would happen.  Schwab would call me up “Um…  Did you take your horse trailer home?  Cause it’s not here anymore.”

After dropping the horse trailer off to be Schwabified and/or stolen I went home and went to bed.  Did I mention that our prom was Saturday night?  Did I mention that I got to bed at 2am Sunday?  Or that I got up at 7 so I could get to the mini-clinic?  Or that I got to bed late Sunday because I was busy changing a flat on the 580 causeway?

“It’s a sign from God!  This clinic is a bad idea!  You’re too tired!  You’re going to get sick!”

Did I mention that one of my students was diagnosed with strep last week?  Monday night, I took two benedryl and enough vitamin C to kill a Rhino and hoped that between sleep and the placebo effect I could beat off any possible infection that might be brewing.

And did I mention my gall bladder?  Pretty sure that’s on its way to the big medical waste container in the sky.  Or maybe it’s my kidney or pancreas or liver.  Maybe it’s just my back…  I’m scheduled for an ultrasound.  I scheduled that for AFTER the Buck clinic.  I tell people I’m on the 30 day gall bladder diet.  No, it won’t cure my gall bladder in 30 days.  My gall bladder has to last 30 days.  Once school is out, it can behave as badly as it wants.

“This is a bad idea.  You’re going to have a gall bladder attack while riding and next thing you know, you’ll be writhing on the ground in agony in the middle of a Buck Brannaman clinic.  Won’t that be embarrassing!”

Sometimes you just have to put your hands over your ears and yell “lalalalalala… I can’t hear you!”

So I made a chiropractic appointment.  I have a great chiropractor.  We call him the Witch Doctor.  I told him that everything hurts and my gall bladder is misbehaving and he did his voodoo thing, most of which involved poking, prodding, thumping, squeezing and smushing most or all of my internal organs.  I got to thinking that maybe it isn’t a good idea to have your chiropractor squeezing your gall bladder and kidneys two days before a Buck Brannaman clinic, but that’s what you get when you pay the big bucks.

I figure that either:

A. I’ll feel better

B. I’ll feel the same

C. I’ll feel worse

Two out of three ain’t bad!

And then there’s my left foot.  I have a neuroma the size of a cantaloupe in there and I could barely keep it in the stirrup when riding, much less walk around looking cool and calm like I would prefer to look at any clinic.  Instead, I was hopping around dramatically like a one legged stork.  So this is how much I want to ride with Buck.  I willingly submitted to a cortisone shot last Friday so that I might be able to keep my foot in the stirrup and walk like a cool, non-limping, person at least for the duration of the clinic.

And I got my horse trailer back last night.  It wasn’t stolen after all.  The wheel bearings are packed, the brakes are checked and the tires are new or mostly new and I have not one, but TWO spare tires (I always carry two for the horse trailer).

So I’ve managed to shut the little voice up for now.  There’s still time, though.  I haven’t made it to the clinic yet.  I’m sure it will wake me up at midnight spinning all sorts of new disastrous scenarios.

I don’t want to hear it.



Sometimes you don’t want to go where you really want to go…

It was decision time.  There we were, sailing up Hale Passage, the wind, the waves and the tides all conspiring to sweep us out into the Strait of Georgia.  Which was exactly what we wanted.  What we wanted was to sail out across the Strait of Georgia to Sucia Island where we would presumably tie up to a mooring or dock and celebrate the first night of our big sailing adventure in idyllic splendor.  Except that we had one small problem…

Our outboard motor had just died—expired might be a better word.  This was not a simple honey-why-don’t-you-try-the-choke-this-time kind of a problem.

I suppose it might seem odd to the non-sailorish type to have your “sailing adventure” crippled by the lack of a motor, but there it is, the sordid truth: you can sail all you want when there is wind, but when there is no wind—and there is often no wind in the San Juan Islands—you need a motor.  You might also need a motor when there is too much wind to put any sails up.  And it is certainly a handy piece of equipment to possess when trying to maneuver in and out of harbors and marinas especially when dodging giant ferries, fishing trawlers and multiple other boaters.  So you can see why we were a tad concerned.

We had set out that morning from Bellingham, Washington after over 20 hours of driving punctuated only briefly by 5 hours of sleep in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Klamath Falls, Oregon and multiple food and potty stops for us and the dog.  We had negotiated interminable rush hour traffic in Portland, Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle.  All of this was followed by the final insult: the detour around the collapsed bridge over the Skagit River in Burlington, which was quite possibly the most badly marked detour I have ever attempted to follow.  Thank goodness for smart phones and Google Maps!   David navigated and I managed to pull it off with only one illegal lane change and no visible damage to boat or truck.

All of the delays put us into Bellingham much later than we had planned.  And we still had to make the obligatory trip to Wal-Mart, Home Depot and a grocery store before launching to buy all of the bits and bobs we had remembered on the way that were vitally essential to setting out on our trip and that we had completely managed to overlook in our initial preparations.  Somehow, we navigated all of these hazards and even managed to find a restaurant still open for a quick bite at 9 o’clock, but by the time we arrived at the marina it was far too late to even think about launching and we were far too tired to bother.  Instead, we crawled aboard the boat on its trailer and listened to the 1000 car freight trains rumble past the parking lot as slowly and as noisily as possible all night long.

We were finally able to rig the boat and launch Friday morning.  I left David to get things shipshape while I washed the salt water off of the truck and trailer and parked them in the long-term lot and walked the dog one last time.  When I arrived at the boat, David said he had to go up and get some hose clamps and hose for the outboard motor from the nearby marine supply store.  It always amazes me that we can watch a TV mystery and pick out the murderer in the first 10 minutes because of some stupid tip off and yet we never, ever, seem capable of spotting the foreshadowing of doom in our own lives.

But David procured the necessary parts in short order and oblivious to danger, we set out into a strong headwind and powerful chop.  It was so rough that the dog buried herself deep in the V-birth and refused to move even as I attempted to strap a life jacket on her.  We hoisted sails quickly “because the motor was running a bit rough” and we still didn’t hear the dum…dum…dum… in the soundtrack.  At one point, David looked back to notice that our American Flag had blown off of the backstay.   We probably should have turned back right then.  In the movie version, the camera would have zoomed in ominously on the empty backstay and the soundtrack would develop a decidedly menacing sound all meant to inform the viewer that we were as good as wearing red shirts on the Enterprise.  In our movie, we just sailed blithely on.

And it was a good sail.  The dog notwithstanding, it is exciting to beat to windward.  That’s when the boat heels over and you take spray over the bow and your sunglasses become worthless and you smile a lot.  Once I got over the initial jitters of finding myself pounding through the chop headed for who knows what adventure, I was really enjoying it.

We sailed out across Bellingham Bay, over the bar and into Hale Passage, which takes you between the mainland and Lummi Island and out to the Straight of Georgia.  That’s where the wind began to drop off some.  It was about one o’clock by then and we weren’t sure how long it was going to take us to make it to Sucia Island, so we decided to fire up the motor and motor-sail up the passage to speed things up a bit.  Only the motor was still running rough.  This might bother normal people, but this motor had run rough pretty much since we acquired it.  We had taken it in multiple times to be worked on and most of the “fixes” generally lasted one trip out of the harbor—if we were lucky.  I kept joking that it was possessed by evil demons and that we would be as well off hiring a priest to perform an exorcism as we were after multiple “repairs.”  We kept threatening to buy a new outboard, but we had yet to find ourselves angry enough or desperate enough to overcome the price tag. I was getting used to seeing David pull the cowling off and begin fiddling with the motor mid trip, so it didn’t concern me too much when he began working on it.  Mentally, I was calculating how many times he was going to have to do so during our upcoming week of sailing when I heard a loud snap and David said some very bad words.  Somehow, during the fiddling process, a brass fitting in the carburetor had snapped.

So now we weighed our options.  We could continue on our merry way with no outboard and hope that somehow, by some miracle, we could make our way to a port—without a motor and very likely in fickle wind conditions—where we could somehow and by some miracle effect repairs or purchase a new outboard.  Or we could turn around and head back to Bellingham where we knew there was a marine supply store within walking distance of the harbor with possibly the most complete collection of bits and parts for boats that we had ever seen.

We turned around.

Now, before you go typing any smarmy platitudes in the comment section about how we made the “smart” decision or the “wise” decision, let me tell you we made the only decision possible.  To have continued on for a week of “sailing” in the San Juans in that particular boat without a motor would have been insanely stupid (a lesson which would be pounded blatantly home less than two hours later) and while we can be stupid at times, we are not insane.

And I know this is where the story should end, but not so fast—literally!  We had been sailing north on a beam reach which means the wind is coming at a 90 degree angle over the port (left) side of the boat, so that when we turned around, we were still sailing on a beam reach, only now with the wind on the starboard (right) side, headed south.  We were moving along quite smartly approaching the red buoy marking shoal waters off of Portage Island.  This had been the last “mark” we passed on the way out.  Now we would be reeling them in in reverse order—first the red buoy, then the point off Portage Island, then over the bar leading into Bellingham Harbor (giving the buoy marking the rocks off Eliza Island plenty of room), past the anchored barge, then the red buoy off Post Point, then on to the marina where we would whip out our trusty credit card and purchase a new outboard motor.  Or so we thought.

And the red buoy was there.  It was right there!  Only that’s when the wind chose to die.  It didn’t die suddenly, though.  At first it toyed with us like a cat playing with an ill-fated mouse.

“Over here!” It would cry, ruffling the water temptingly.

And we’d follow the ruffles and gain a little way on our buoy until the wind would laugh and die off again, only to ruffle a new spot that was…just…over…there… And then we’d watch the buoy recede as the tide began sweeping us north up Hale Passage in the direction we desperately wanted to go, but just as desperately needed to avoid.  And this, children, is what we call irony!

So we came up with the brilliant idea that we could somehow, you know, wire the broken fitting back together.

Only, that didn’t work.

As we watched the red buoy grow smaller and smaller, we finally became really desperate and decided to try to run the outboard with David simply holding the fitting together.  Only David couldn’t hold the fitting together and start the outboard at the same time.  So he held the fitting together inside the carburetor while I stood behind him and pulled the string to start the engine for all it was worth, and it worked!—sort of…  He could only hold it together for so long before his fingers cramped and he would have to let go.  So we travelled in spurts.  We kept trying to improve the system so that he could hold things together longer but we could only ever get so far at a crack.  Every time we would stop for David to rest his fingers and to brainstorm better ideas, the tide would continue its inexorable attempts to push us in the wrong direction.

But finally, we managed to spurt ourselves over the bar and into Bellingham Bay proper where the tide was not quite so insistent.  We even got a little bit of a breeze and made some progress under sail…for a few tantalizing minutes anyway.  Then it died completely.  We tried a few more engine spurts, but by now, David was having real problems holding the fitting together with the result that we were spitting as much gas out of the engine and into the bay as we were using—not good!  (It had also occurred to us that we had created the perfect bomb with David at the epicenter.  All we needed was one spark and that movie might not end so well!)  We had to write the engine off completely at that point and think of other options.  Using our trusty GPS, we estimated that we were only two and a half miles from the marina at this point, but it was a long two and a half miles!

First, we called the harbormaster.  Was there someone who could tow us in?  We would be happy to pay.  The perky lady who answered the phone gave us a couple of numbers and we started there.  The first people we called weren’t even willing to come out because they were “just too darned busy.”  Okay…  The first fellow said since we were a sailboat, we should just sail in.  Really??  Cause we never thought of that!

Next we called BoatUS.  For the non-boaters, BoatUS is the AAA of boating.  Could they give us a tow?  This turned out to be a not-so-simple process, requiring a conference call between David, BoatUS, Vessel Assist and the cast of a Broadway musical–at least that’s how it sounded to me.  The nearest Vessel Assist turned out to be in Anacortes.  We had foolishly assumed there would be one in Bellingham.  So, it turned out we would have to pay for Vessel Assist to drive all the way from Anacortes (about 16 nautical miles), then tow us 2.5 miles to the marina, then drive all the way back.  The price estimate came out to about $750!  We could simply dive overboard, swim to shore and buy a new boat for that.  And our particular plan with BoatUS does not cover unlimited towing, so we were going to have to pony up more than half of that ourselves.  David thanked everybody politely and we went back to examining our options.

Next we called the Coast Guard.  Assuring them that we were in no way in any sort of danger and wouldn’t ever remotely even think of using their resources, we asked if they had any suggestions.  They said call Vessel Assist.  They may also have suggested calling the “just sail it in” guy.  I can’t remember.  Then they suggested we flag down a passing boat to tow us in.  We scanned the nearly empty bay, then looked at each other despairingly—also not-so-simple…

That’s when we started paddling.  I know some of you might ask why we didn’t think of that sooner.  Well, you know how much I love our boat because it is ballasted?  I believe I’ve mentioned this once or twice now.  See ballast would be…um…weight.  So while we had, indeed, thought of paddling; up to this point, we simply hadn’t been desperate enough to try to force all of that weight to get up and move using our own feeble physical strength.  It’s not like paddling a canoe or rowboat.  The deck of the boat is high enough off of the water that you really have to reach down to get the paddle to bite and the boat weighs almost 2000 pounds.   But we did seem to be out of other options and surprisingly, we actually began to make progress.  We were able to keep up a consistent pace of just under one knot.  We calculated that at this rate, we would make it back to the marina by 10 o’clock that night—assuming we could continue paddling at this pace for 2.5 hours.  Unless one of us had a heart attack first!

It was about that time that we saw two RIBs festooned with armed and armored men dashing across the bay.  We were amazed when they turned and dashed over to our location.  Had the Coast Guard had a change of heart?  It turned out that they hadn’t.  The guys in the RIBs had noticed us paddling and had come over to see that we were okay.  They hadn’t even spoken to whomever we talked to on the phone.  They were friendly and polite and yet ever so unhelpful.  I offered to fake a heart attack, but that would only have gotten me off the boat and then poor David would have had to paddle alone.   Soon they dashed off to look for mariners stupider than us who might be in real, actual danger.

So we were pretty much resigned to paddling until the wind came back up or until we were completely exhausted when we saw a fishing boat working its way back to the marina about a half a mile off.  We waved in a desperate and desultory fashion meant to convey that we would really like a tow, but would totally understand if they couldn’t or wouldn’t help us because that’s what we were getting used to.  We actually thought they hadn’t seen us and were chugging on their merry way when they miraculously began to describe a slow turn towards us.  They had seen us and were willing to give us a tow.  So we tossed them a line and were finally “rescued.”  The fellow driving the boat was great and didn’t tow us too fast or try to “crack the whip” with us just for a cheap laugh.  He must have been Uncle.  Grandpa minded the towline while Dad sat and cleaned up lingcod after beautiful lingcod while the kids watched in rapt attention.  They refused to take any money for gas and simply let go of the rope as we passed the guest dock and we coasted right in.

The punch line of this story is that when David walked into the outboard motor dealership the next day expecting to whip out the credit card and cringe while they rang up a new motor, he said “unless you happen to have a carburetor for a 1985 Yamaha…” and it turned out they did! In fact, they had several in stock because, as the girl at the counter put it “That’s a real work horse of an engine.  A lot of people around here are still using them.”

So for a tenth of the price of a new engine, he was able to replace the carburetor and we were able to set off again on our great sailing adventure, just one day late.  The motor ran great the whole time and our new American flag stayed firmly attached to the backstay!