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Regional, Monthly All-Breed Horse Magazine • Since 1993
Idaho • Montana • Nevada • Oregon • Utah • Washington • Wyoming

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Regional, Monthly All-Breed Horse Magazine
Distributed throughout the Greater Rockies Since 1993

 

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Copyright 2010 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Dog Hair & Mule Sweat

with Natalie Riehl

editor@rockymountainrider.com

 

June 2010 Issue

 

     It’s been one of those “Are-we-jumping-the-gun?” Springs. The ditch company turned on the water ten days early because there’s a water shortage, so we set up the irrigation in the pasture. For the first two weeks, we had an ice show every morning on the grass and fences.

     The weather has been cold… even my horseshoer snarled last week as he looked up from trimming a mule hoof, “Can you believe this rotten weather we’ve been having since the first of April?” And he’s not the snarly type. He’s a man whose job produces enough sweat that he would prefer to work when it’s cooler outside.

     The horses and mules are still shedding out. This time last year, they’d been slick for a month. But this season, they cleverly anticipated the cold six weeks that began when March “went out like a lion.”

     We started some garden vegetables indoors in late March, and other than the chili peppers and basil, most have gotten too leggy to plant. The spinach we put out a month ago hasn’t grown at all.

     We pulled out the yard sprinklers and hoses, and my question is: Why is it that stuff, that worked perfectly fine when we put it away at the end of last season, now malfunctions? There’s only one explanation — barn gremlins who make mischief during the dark winter nights. They seem especially fond of tweaking and bending rainbirds.

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     The mule and I took a ride last weekend when the temperature spiked into the low 80s. It’s a very dry year, with a low snowpack in our mountains. Grass that should have been green was yellowed, and the only wildflowers I saw were perhaps a sparse dozen with purple petals on north-facing slopes.

     As the mule climbed the hillside, I guided her in long zig-zags, as always, climbing gradually and frequently stopping to let her blow. She lets me know she thinks I’m lazy when she flicks her ears back and sprays sweat into my face.

     Mercifully, clouds slid in to cover the intense sunlight, and a refreshing breeze blew across us as it sounded in the Ponderosas.

     I reflected on our tracks up the incline, and realized that when I hike, I climb a hill like I’m riding. I zig-zag. On the other hand, Rick, who’s a hiker, usually just walks straight up the hill, no matter how steep, much to my amazement and horror!

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     The mule and I reached the old apple orchard which hasn’t seen irrigation in, maybe, eighty years. Fifteen trees still stood, but only seven were leafing out on a handful of live branches. Their small apples provide a little sweetness for deer and bear come fall. I counted the fallen remnants of at least another fifteen trees.

     A bird’s song rang sweetly, and I looked at the upright trunks’ peeling bark and weathered, gray limbs outlined against the cloudy sky. I felt stirred by how those trees had clung to life for so long.

     Then I saw the bird — a small brilliantly-colored bluebird — singing from its perch on a gray branch. It was a poignant reminder of the hardiness of life and the beauty of Nature.

Copyright 2010 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

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PO Box 995 • Hamilton, MT 59840 • 888-747-1000  •  406-363-4085 • info@rockymountainrider.com