While I Was Away

Seems like forever since I wrote a post, and it almost has been. It has been nearly a year and so much has happened while I was away. I closed my horseback riding and equine therapy business. I dispersed all my horses except for my very special personal horse, Dancer. I retired and moved to Northern California.

Zion viewI now live in a beautiful, but rural, area and it has been hard for Kelly and me to find other equestrians to ride with. It is so different from Southern California. Since pretty much everyone here who has horses has them on their own property, it is hard to find them, but we keep working at it. We’ve never seen another horse on the trails!

We’ve ridden lots of the local trails, which are accessible from our front doors, but now that the weather is so much better, it’s time to get the horse trailer ready for some summer camping and away day trips. We should have some adventures to tell you about soon.

In the meantime, Horse Expo is in Sacramento this weekend and I thought that would be a great thing to get started posting with again. We plan to go all three days so should have lots to tell you about. We are excited to see our friend from Southern California, Mary Rose Anderson, here to compete in the Super Horse Challenge. We wish her luck!

Come back next week to see what the buzz is all about.


Equine Vision: What Do Horses See?

As a riding coach and equine specialist for equine assisted programs, I am often asked if horses are color blind. Humans, and in fact all primates, have three cone types in their eyes (blue, green and red receptors) giving them what is called trichromatic vision. Horses, and humans with color blindness, only have two cone types giving them dichromatic vision. So, the answer to the question is, yes, horses are color blind by this definition, but that doesn’t mean they don’t see color.

Primates with trichromatic vision see four basic colors: red, blue, green, and yellow as well as all the intermediate hues. Horses cannot How horses see colordistinguish red. Human dichromats say they see only two colors: yellow and blue. A research group in Wisconsin did one of the most detailed studies on equine vision in 2000. Using the results of the study, they were able to create a color wheel that represents how horses see color versus humans.

Color is not the only difference between human and horse vision. Just how and what do horses see?

What Do Horses See?

A horse’s eyes are placed far out on the side of its head to give it the widest field of vision and high up on the head to give it the best view while grazing. Horses have the ability to use binocular vision, like humans, when they look straight ahead, or they can use monocular vision, seeing a different picture with each eye. Monocular vision is very flat with no depth perception but can detect movement at a great distance. With one eye they can see approximately 190-195 degrees horizontally (e.g. from side to side–the horizon) and about 178 degrees vertically (e.g. from top to bottom or “grass to sky”). Using both eyes, they have a sphere of vision of about 350 degrees with only a couple of small blind spots directly in front and behind.

Although horses don’t see quite as clearly as humans, they have very good vision. If the average human has 20/20 Equine Vision: What Do Horses See?vision, horses are rated at 20/30 to 20/40. That’s better than the average dog (20/75) or cat (20/100).  If you’ve ever looked closely at a horse’s eye, you have noticed that the pupil is a long rectangle, designed to scan for predators at the horizon. This strip has a high number of ganglion which allows for more distinct vision. The area outside of it is where motion is detected. If the horse detects motion, he will usually turn or tip his head to use his binocular vision and bring the moving object into clearer vision.

What do horses see?The position of the horse’s head can enhance or inhibit the horse’s vision. A horse uses binocular vision very well when its head is extended and it is looking past its nose. If we confine the horse’s head in a position where the nose is behind the vertical, forward vision is inhibited, not allowing the horse to use its binocular vision with depth perception to see where it is going. This can create a dangerous situation when riding as we approach an obstacle, jump, or unlevel ground.

Horses have better night vision than humans but it takes their eyes longer to adapt to changes in lighting. Give them plenty of time to adjust before moving them from a lighted barn to a dark trailer, etc.

Color has probably not been an important factor in the evolution of vision in the horse. They don’t need it to catch or find their food and their predators are not brightly colored. Their visual acuity, ability to function in dim light and wide range of vision are far more important to their survival.

More Info:

Vision in horses: More than meets the eye
Equine Vision and Effects on Behavior
How Horses See
How do Horses See the World?

Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park

Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park048081014
33401 Ortega Hwy. (P. O. Box 395) 
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675 
(949) 923-2210 or (949) 923-2207

Park Brochure
Park Map

Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park is an 8,000 acre protected wilderness preserve nestled among the river terraces and sandstone canyons of the western coastal Santa Ana Mountains. It is the largest park in the OC Park system. The park’s many fertile valleys contain specimen groves of native Coastal Live Oak and magnificent stands of California Sycamore. Seasonal wildflower displays and running streams add to the natural beauty. Wildlife is abundant and can often be seen along the parks’ numerous trails. The park has a long and interesting history which you can read on the OC Parks website.

The park is open for day use year round from 7 am to sunset. Camping is also year round with a check-in time of 2 pm and check out at noon. To make a reservation, go to the online reservations system, or call the reservations line at (800) 600-1600. If your camping party has 17 or more campers, you must camp in a group campsite. Call the park to reserve a group site.

Day use area has ample parking, stalls, restroom, picnic area

Day use area has ample parking, stalls, restroom, picnic area

When you enter the park, the first camping area is Ortega Flats. This campground has 13 sites and the only electrical hookups in the park. Some reviews I read said there was a lot of noise from the road in this area. Next down the road is the San Juan Meadow Group Area. Beyond this, at the stop sign, go left for the Nature Center or right to continue to the other camping areas. Live Oak campground has 42 campsites. One of the two shower/restroom buildings is located here. Star Mesa Equestrian Campground is next with 23 sites. The Owl/Quail Group Campground is adjacent to that as well as the second shower/restroom building. Finally, at the end of the road, is the day use parking area. There is plenty of room for parking rigs and there are stalls for your horse while you picnic or just rest.

Amenities at Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park

  • Amphitheater: Located at Nature Center034081014
  • Barbeques/Fire Rings
  • Bicycling/Bike Trails
  • Camping-Family Group: RV electrical hookups available
  • Dump Station
  • Equestrian Camping
  • Equestrian Trails
  • Family Picnic Area
  • Hiking Trails
  • Interpretive Center: Open Saturday & Sundays only, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Interpretive Programs
  • Playground/Tot Lot
  • Restrooms
  • Scenic Overlook
  • Showers: in Live Oak Campground and in the Owl & Quail Group Camping Area

Dogs are not allowed in Caspers as they affect the native wildlife in unnatural ways. When marking their territory, dogs signal the native animals that there’s a predator in the area, which affects feeding and even breeding patterns. Horses are allowed because they are not predators and they are vegetarians. The scents they leave are not invasive. Park Rangers have observed deer and ravens scavenging their “road apples” for the digested grain that will show up in the poop. And speaking of poop, I had to laugh at some of the reviews on line. Several of them included complaints about the horse manure — the abundance of it everywhere! It reminded me of my instructor days, educating kids about the composition of horse poop and how stepping in it was not a big deal like dog poop.

Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park 2013

The girls riding off without us!

The last time Nancy and I were at Caspers, Nancy was in a walking cast. Her horse had fallen on her at a sorting clinic and she broke her ankle and clavicle. Not to be outdone by her, a few days after her mishap, I stepped down off of my horse into a hole and badly sprained my ankle. We still went camping, horseless, and kept each other company in camp while the others in our group rode. Although we missed our horses and riding, it was a very peaceful, restful weekend. We both needed it!

On this trip, Nancy and I camped with the OC Park Rangers who were having a retreat. They camped in the Owl and Quail Group Campground and we were in space #9 in the equestrian campground. This site is right next to the short trail that leads to the group campground and the restroom/shower building.009081014

Nancy left Friday morning with the horses to set up camp. I was supposed to join her that afternoon but wasn’t feeling well so I didn’t make it until Saturday morning. We needed a few supplies so I picked Nancy up and we drove the 5-6 miles into town. As soon as we returned, we saddled up to hit the trail.

There are beautiful vistas everywhere and trails of varying degrees of difficulty. The trail map is very descriptive and the trails themselves are pretty well marked. Trails range from rocky, single tracks to wide fire roads. Some are petty level, some are steep. There’s something for everyone!

We did a lovely, hour and a half loop that was fairly level. A good portion of this loop was shaded, especially through Cathedral Grove on the Nature Trail.

Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park on EveryTrail

Click on the picture to see the interactive map

When we returned from our ride, we decided a nap was in order. As you can see from the photos, our site had no shade. Not many sites do, so I recommend you bring a popup or two. Nancy napped in the tent, which she said was quite warm. I put my chair just beyond our campsite in a lovely shady area and that, along with a great breeze, provided the perfect place to catch a few zees.

Looking up from the shady area where I snoozed

Looking up from the shady area where I snoozed

After our nap, we headed up the trail to the group campground. We played dominoes for a while then got to work on dinner, or at least Nancy did. She made a fantastic tri-tip, potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, and ranch beans. I did help. Later, we visited with the group around the campfire.

Sunday morning, we had breakfast, broke down our campsite part way and went for another ride. So much 015081014beautiful scenery.

We scouted all the campsites to evaluate them for a return trip with the Hot Trotters. We were surprised at how empty the campground was. Only three other sites were occupied besides ours. The equestrian campground has water in five locations so the sites nearest these are often considered desirable. These sites are 4, 10, 13, 18 and 21. We like sites 10, 11 and 12 for a group. They are large, double sites with four stalls each. Sites 2, 4 and 6 seem to have the most shade. There are also some extra stalls across from these sites so they might work for a group. There were a couple of other sites we liked but they didn’t have enough room for our tent. Each site comes with a fire ring with a removable grill, a barbecue grill, a table and at least two stalls. Some sites have hitching posts.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As a wilderness area, Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park is characterized by certain inherent dangers. These 001081014dangers include mountain lions, rattlesnakes, poison oak (leaves of three, leave them be), and rugged terrain. It is important to always be aware of your surroundings and stay on the trails. There’s lots of other wildlife including coyotes (they woke us up during the night), squirrels, skunks, rabbits, deer, and dozens of species of birds. There are also ants, spiders (including tarantulas) and, yuck, yellow jackets. They can be such pests around the kitchen area and when you are eating. Taking along some yellow jacket traps is a good idea.

Some of the critters we’ve seen at Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Visibility on the Trail at Night

night trail ridingNancy and I sometimes ride after dark, especially in the winter months when the days are shorter. And, of course, we do those occasional full moon rides. We have been putting together things to make us and our horses more visible at night. The first thing we added was a reflective vest. Later, we ran across some reflective leg wraps on consignment. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be very reflective anymore — probably why they were on consignment — but I think they can be made functional again with some reflective tape. We also bought some little battery operated red lights for the tails.

We’ve tried glow sticks but haven’t found a very good place or way to attach them yet. There’s always duct tape but it leaves such a sticky mess so I don’t like putting it on my tack. Also, beware of the glow sticks from the dollar store. Ours didn’t last very long. They are supposed to last 8-10 hours but some of ours only lasted a couple of hours. And what about cutting them open and putting the fluid directly on your horse? Have you done this? I recently saw a flyer from Riverside Recreational Trails for their Summer Nights Light Ride where they said they would be doing this. I did some research to see if this was safe. Of course, there were the sites out there that said “don’t do it,” but the bottom line is that it seems to be pretty safe unless you swallow it or get it in your eyes. You also need to be careful of the broken inner pieces.

While I was shopping at Costco yesterday, I ran across a set of two headlamps and  thought this would be a good visibility on the trail at nightthing to add to our arsenal. These are not to light our way on the trail. We wouldn’t want to ruin the ambiance of the darkness or interfere with our horses’ night vision. If we were in a spot so dark that we felt we needed additional light, we would use glow sticks. The headlamps are to make us visible to drivers when on busy streets and are much more convenient than a flashlight. (Be aware of shining your headlamp directly in the eyes of oncoming drivers.) Our horses are very used to bike riders wearing headlamps, lights on bicycles and headlights of cars, but if yours isn’t, here’s how to desensitize your horse to a headlamp or other moving lights before you head out on the trail.

From Patti Bailey in Horse & Rider:

  • At dusk, tack up your horse. At this time of day, the flashlight won’t seem as bright. Hand-walk him to a small, enclosed area, such as a round pen for better control.
  • With your reins in one hand and a flashlight in the other, stand at your horse’s front legs, facing him. Talk to him in soothing, reassuring tones. Point the flashlight at his hooves and turn it on. Run the beam over his hooves, then slowly up his legs, as though you were giving him a bath for the first time. Act blas?, so you don’t transmit any nervousness to him.
  • “Bathe” the rest of your horse’s body with light, until he’s completely desensitized.
  • Turn off the flashlight, mount up, and sit quietly. Point the flashlight straight down, and turn it on. Slowly move the beam around until it ceases to distract your horse. Then pick up a jog, and continue to move the beam. Then try it at a lope, gradually moving the beam more quickly. Your goal is to teach your horse to ignore an erratic light beam-even at a lope.
  • When your horse is comfortable with the flashlight at dusk, repeat the drill in darkness, so he’ll get used to a brighter light.

Increasing your Visibility on the Trail at Night

  • Reflective vest
  • Reflective leg wraps
  • Tail lights
  • Glow sticks
  • Headlamps
  • Flashlight

Tell us about your night riding experiences and what you use to increase your visibility on the trail at night in the comments!

Any Day with your Horse is a Good Day

Lots of personal goings on have kept me out of the saddle for the past three weeks. Don’t you hate it when life gets in the way of your horse time? Finally, yesterday, I made it! Nancy is out of town for a few days so Dancer and I went to the OPA arena. The first order of business was a much needed turnout. Even though I knew she desperately needed this turnout, she was a perfect angel walking to the arena. While she ran and bucked, I watched some girls practicing for today’s gymkhana show. Dancer eventually watched too!


After her turnout, I saddled Dancer back up and got ready to head home. As luck would have it, the girls practicing gymkhana were leaving also. Dancer got very pushy and excited and wanted to join them. So, off we went to the round pen! I hadn’t planned to do much yesterday for our physical well-being. It was very warm (near 90) and humid and neither of us had much exercise for the past three weeks, but this issue needed to be addressed. After lots of trotting, direction changes, hind quarter yields and a few other exercises, Dancer’s attention was back on me instead of the other horses. We enjoyed a very calm and leisurely walk back home.


At home, Dancer got a nice cool rinse off and her progesterone injection. As you may have read in the post Does Your Mare Act Mareish?, Dancer is VERY mareish so has been on progesterone shots for the past two months. Even this was nearly a week past due so she is in season. Nancy was concerned again that she was going to push the fence down leaning on it. The only good thing is that she is so sweet when she is in season, albeit an airhead! I can’t give a good evaluation of how the progesterone is working yet since I haven’t been able to keep on schedule but I know for those first two months it did help tremendously. Even if it didn’t get any better, it would be well worth it.



It was so great to be back in the saddle and with my horse. Any day with your horse is a good day. Hoping to ride more this weekend!

Horses in the OPA 4th of July Parade 2014

Thank you to Lois Powers, Patti Ault Gretzler and various other photographers for providing these wonderful photos of horses in the OPA 4th of July Parade 2014.

Horses in the OPA 4th of July Parade 2014

Ava and Connie representing the Hot Trotters section of the Orange Park Acres Women’s League

Horses in the OPA 4th of July Parade 2014

Debbie, stunning as always!

Horses in the OPA 4th of July Parade 2014

Mary Rose and her Rowdy Cowgirls

Enjoy the slideshow!
Click the play button (>) below to hear the Star Spangled Banner by Madison Rising while you watch.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hives in Horses

Nancy texted me this morning at 6 am and said, “Wake up, Girl. Let’s go to Fiesta Island!” A few minutes later she texted that she had gone out to feed and Frankie is no better. On Thursday morning he was covered in hives. Nancy gave him benadryl and the day off. Friday was the 4th and she had been planning for some time to ride in the Lido parade so she went ahead and did that. She continued with the benadryl, but this morning he was no better, so no Fiesta Island for us.

Symptoms of Hives in Horses

hives in horsesSo, just what are hives? According to the Merck Manual, “Hives (urticaria) are groups of itchy eruptions of localized swelling in the dermis. They often develop and disappear suddenly. The most common causes of hives in horses are insect bites or stings, medications, and exposure to allergens.”  Urticaria is a result of immune stimulation to a “trigger” that causes a cell called a mast cell to release its contents, which are irritating to surrounding vessels in the skin causing them to leak fluid into the dermis (middle layer of the skin), causing the lump.

Although the Merck Manual says they are itchy, quite often they are not. Hives are seldom harmful to the horse. If touched, the raised portions will not be warm, painful, and in most cases not itchy. The horse may not seem adversely affected by the hives at all, other than the unsightly appearance of the lumps. More serious cases are rare but can include respiratory distress.

Treatment of Hives in Horses

Common treatment is antihistamines but these are quite often ineffective, as in Frankie’s case, at least so far. Acute or prolonged hives may be treated with a corticosteroid called dexamethasone. Chronic (longstanding) urticaria may be treated with a long term oral corticosteroid called prednisolone.

Hives can occur at any time but are especially prevalent during the summer months. There are so many possible causes that, most of the time, hives come and go without the cause ever being determined. It is very difficult to narrow down any specific changes in routine. If the cause is something in the environment, like pollen or a particular plant, the hives may reoccur. Finding the culprit can be difficult and frustrating. Intradermal skin testing may be recommended by your vet. This is done very similar to allergy testing in humans as is the desensitizing.

Is Your Horse Parade Ready?

Is your horse parade ready?

OPA Parade 2012

So, your local community is having a parade and you are thinking of entering you and your horse. But have you asked yourself, “Is my horse parade ready?” You may think you have a bombproof horse, but parades have lots of elements that are hard to duplicate when desensitizing your horse. The noise and confusion may be too much for your steady trail horse.

Some things that might cause your unflappable horse to flip:

  • Loud and sudden noises like sirens, horns, cheerleaders and marching bands
  • Balloons, streamers and other waving, glittery things
  • Cheering crowds that might try to crowd your horse
  • Constant stopping and startingdecorations on a parade ready horse
  • Moving at a slow pace with other horses or animals in close proximity
  • Strollers and running children
  • The decorations you put on your horse

Help Your Horse be Parade Ready

If you have a sound trail horse that you work on desensitizing on a regular basis, you should be in pretty good shape. Here are some things to consider to help decide if your horse is parade ready:

  • First and foremost, be sure your horse knows his leg cues and you can control him in all directions.
  • Get your horse used to riding on pavement and in traffic.
  • Be sure your horse doesn’t shy from painted lines on the street and will cross train tracks.
  • Loud noises is probably the hardest thing to prepare for, but be creative and do what you can there.
  • Always be working on your partnership with your horse and building trust.

A Fourth of July parade is probably one of the worst parades to start with as it is usually very loud with lots of shouting, even unruly, people. A calmer parade, like at Christmas or Thanksgiving or other local festival, is a better first choice.

And remember, it is not all about the horse. Are you ready for this amount of excitement? Can you be calm and cool if your horse does get nervous? The better your partnership with your horse, the more fun you both will have in a parade.

N&A copyThis 4th, Nancy will be riding Frankie in the Lido parade and I’ll be riding Dancer in the OPA (Orange Park Acres) parade. Even though this is a Fourth of July parade, it is much smaller than the Cherry Festival Parade we did a few weeks ago and Dancer has done it many times. Hopefully, she will be more comfortable than last month!


O’Neill Regional Park — Equestrian Camping

O’Neill Regional Park 031061914
30892 Trabuco Canyon Road 
Trabuco Canyon, CA 92678 
(949)923-2260 or (949)923-2256

Park Brochure
Park Map
Campground Map

030061914O’Neill Regional Park‘s 4,000 acres are situated in beautiful Trabuco and Live Oak Canyons. The park is heavily wooded with coast live oak and sycamore trees. The hillsides surrounding the park are filled with cactus, wild buckwheat, sagebrush and chaparral of scrub oak, buckthorn and mountain mahogany. Trabuco and Hickey Creeks also meander through the park, flowing in winter and early spring, dry in summer and fall.

The park is open for day use year round from 7 am to sunset. Barbecues and picnic tables are available throughout the park.

Camping is also year round with a check-in time of 2 pm and check out at noon. Seventy nine campsites of varying sizes accommodate parties up to eight in RVs and tents. Eight large campsites are available for parties of 17 or more.

Dogs are welcome at O’Neill but must be on a leash at all times and directly under the control of a human. The only trail they are allowed on is Mesa Trail. In case you are wondering why they aren’t allowed everywhere, the park brochure says “when marking their territory, dogs signal the native animals that there’s a predator in the area, which affects feeding and even breeding patterns.”

Harmon Equestrian Camping

equestrian camping at O'Neill Regional ParkThe Harmon Equestrian Camping area has five campsites with corrals, water, tables, fire pits and barbecues.  You can bring your own firewood or buy wood onsite. Collecting firewood is not allowed.

Equestrian site #1 is the largest. It has seven corrals and can accommodate several vehicles. This past weekend, there were three rigs with trailers and a couple of RVs in this site. The restroom with showers – and HOT water! – is right next to this site but it’s not far from any of the equestrian sites. The restrooms are solar powered and there is no electricity for your hairdryer. Sorry, Nancy!

Site #2 has the least amount of shade of all the sites. With the heat of summer coming on, I was especially focused on the amount of shade each site has. If you are looking for a shady site, choose #3. It is almost completely in the shade of large trees. Otherwise, an easy up or two is highly recommended for hot days in the other sites.equestrian site #4 O'Neill Regional Park

Sites 3, 4 and 5 are the closest together. Site #4 is my personal favorite and the site we stayed in this past weekend. Sadly, the tree in the middle of this site that shades the table and stalls during part of the day is loaded with mistletoe and is dying. We were lucky to have perfect mid 70° weather so the lack of shade was not an issue.

equestrian site #4 O'Neill Regional Park

There are two clean porta-potties directly across the road from sites 3 and 4. And, as mentioned, the restroom and showers are just a short walk away.

If your horse needs some turnout time before a trail ride, there are two round pens just across the road from site #5. There’s also a public arena if you want to do some arena work. Check out our previous post on O’Neill Regional Park to see some photos of these amenities.

There are more than 23 miles of multi-use trails in O’Neill. One of our favorite rides is up Live Oak Trail to the Vista Point. We have never done it, but if you continue down Live Oak Trail past the vista point, it will take you to Limestone Canyon and Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park.

the vista point


We campers usually make our lists and check them at least twice, but there’s still the chance of forgetting something or just thinking of something you wish you had. One of the great things about O’Neill is that it is just 10 minutes away from some major shopping in Rancho Santa Margarita.

We love O’Neill Regional Park and highly recommend it.

Cherry Festival Parade

N&A copyFor more than 90 years, the Cherry Festival has been the largest community event in Beaumont with virtually the entire community participating in the four-day celebration. With lots of live entertainment, a car show, vendors, a carnival and a parade, there is something for everyone.

Nancy’s friend, Shannon, is part of a large group that always rides in the parade and she invited Nancy to participate. We were very excited and really got into decorating for it. Nancy had a great idea for our hats and we had fun shopping for all our supplies and being crafty.


Nancy's hat for the Cherry Festival Parade

Our plan was to camp in Bogart Park for the weekend with the group and ride in the Cherry Festival Parade on Saturday. We had to roll with the punches when our camping trip was interrupted by a fire in the park. With just a few hours sleep in a motel Friday night, we got up early Saturday, picked up our horses and went to the staging area to decorate.

The judging was to start at 8:30 am but the judges kindly gave us until 10:00 to be judged due to the fire and being relocated the night before.

Once everyone was ready, we took group photos and stood for the judges. Then we rode to the staging area to wait for our turn in line. We had about an hour wait for our turn. While we waited, bands, cheerleaders, cars, sirens and more all made a great deal of noise.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s been a while since Dancer was around so much commotion and I felt really bad for her. She was terrified. She trembled almost the whole time and did not want to leave Frankie’s side. As scared as she was, she was still a good girl.

Last year, our group (we were not in it) won first place in the equestrian groups. This year, they (we) took second place. The Buring Ranch and Spencer Quarter Horses entered this year “to give our group some competition” and they took first place.

2nd place trophy in the cherry festival parade

Our group’s trophy

Bogart Fire, Bogart Park

What a long, strange trip it has been. Well, actually it was a pretty short trip — much shorter than planned.

Yesterday morning, Nancy and I loaded up and headed out for our first camping trip of the season. We were to meet some friends in Bogart Park in Cherry Valley (near Beaumont) to camp for the weekend. It is the weekend of the Cherry Festival and we had spent a great deal of time making preparations to ride with their group in the festival parade on Saturday (today).

We were the first to arrive at the campground in the early afternoon. We checked out all the sites and chose the one with the largest level spot for our tent. Most of the other sites are a little to a lot sloped but would be fine for smaller tents.


If you have been following this blog or our Facebook page, you know we have been working on ways to glamp up our tent and campsite. It took us about three hours to set up. It looked fabulous! I’m glad I took quite a few pictures as we were setting up.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We had just sat down to have a drink around 5:30 when one of our friends came barreling into the equestrian area. They jumped out of their truck and yelled that there was a fire in the park. Nancy and I did not grasp the urgency at first and decided we should go take a look. Holy smokes. The fire, later dubbed the Bogart Fire, had only been burning for a few minutes and it was already spreading rapidly up the hill less than a block’s distance from our campsite. Fortunately, the wind was blowing away from the campsite and the fire was burning up the hill away from us. We called 911 immediately and apparently a few others had called also.

Bogart Fire

Although I thought it was safe to stay until the fire department got there and told us if we needed to leave, Nancy insisted we load the horses and leave immediately. I knew she was probably right and better to be safe than sorry, so we did just that. We left our beautiful campsite and all our new treasures.

We waited at the entrance to the park for quite a while and watched fire truck after fire truck arrive. Then the air support started. The response was pretty impressive.

By the time the 14th or 15th fire truck arrived, we were pretty sure we were not getting back in last night so we decided to stay in a hotel/motel. A friend in our group offered to let us drop the horses at her place for the night. She also told us about Buring Ranch and that we might like leaving our horses there better.

Buring Ranch and Spencer Quarter Horses is a fire evacuation site for horses. Billy Buring was very warm and hospitable. He offered us pasture or box stalls and we opted for the box stalls. We had left our hay at the campground but he said not to worry, that they would take care of them. We felt they were in excellent hands so left to get a bite to eat and find a motel.

The last part was not as easy as it seemed it should be. First, there aren’t that many motels in the area. Second, the Cherry Festival was going on as well as a softball tournament. Several hotels we called were full. Finally, we found a room at a Rodeway Inn. It was a very small, old motel but clean and we were tired. Nancy wanted a shower. When we left the campsite, Nancy grabbed her clothes and toiletries. Mine were still in the car. At least we had that and weren’t totally without.

It was an early morning today but we had to get our horses and get to the staging area to decorate them for the parade. Of all things, when we left the campground, we grabbed the hats we had made for the parade. All of our decorations for the horses were in the horse trailer so we were good to go there. We just had to stop to buy scissors, oh, and red lipstick.


After the parade, we went back to the campground and packed everything up. There were still about 10 firetrucks on site. As of this evening, the Bogart Fire was considered 100% contained.

Cal Fire Stats

The group was talking about going somewhere else to camp for the night but Nancy and I were kind of over it for this trip. We really didn’t want to set everything back up again so we headed home. It was a long, stressful 24 hours!


Our Take on Glamping

Glamping, the term used for upscale, or glamorous, camping is one of the fastest growing trends in the eco-luxe hospitality industry. It brings the comforts of a hotel to camping out under the stars. There are places all over the world to go glamping but you can bring glamour to your own campsite with just a few extra touches.

Usually when Nancy and I camp, she sleeps in her Suburban and I sleep in the horse Bed in horse trailertrailer. Now, that doesn’t mean that we just throw a sleeping bag in and crawl into it. No siree. We have plenty of creature comforts like a porta potty so no treks to the restroom or outhouse in the middle of the night, comfortable beds, candle light, and sometimes even Netflix on the iPad.

We have a camping trip coming up where we will need to use the horse trailer to haul horses during our stay. Setting up a sleeping area in it was going to be inconvenient so, a couple of weeks ago while shopping at Costco, we decided to buy a tent. This is not just any little tent. It is a 10-man tent (so they claim) with a screened porch. We set it up in Nancy’s backyard to make sure we knew how to do it and that the two of us could do it alone.


Almost there

I told Nancy about a post I saw about “glamping” and we knew we had an adventure ahead of us! We usually do a pretty good job of glamping any time we camp but saw our tent as an excuse to search for all kinds of new treasures. So, after scouring garages and pantries, off we went to Shinoda, Michael’s, Goodwill, etc. to see what else we could find. We found fun things everywhere we went.

just the beginning of our take on tent glamping

Nancy loves pink and her boas so had to have some of each.

Were we having too much fun?

Were we having too much fun?

Our new motto is:

too much fun

We are really excited to head out on our camping trip – first trip of the season – and get our site set up. The tent is all packed up and ready to go!

tent packed

Mutt Lynch’s, Our Horses Are Always Welcome

Yesterday, we rode in Newport Beach again, spreading the word about Rope ‘em In, our Mutt Lynch'smarketing and advertising company. The businesses we visit are always so receptive and welcoming to the horses. One of our favorite places is Mutt Lynch’s, “Orange County’s #1 dive bar since 1976.” It’s almost always our first stop when we ride in Newport.

We usually tie up at the bike racks across the parking lot. We always find a seat where we can keep a close eye on them as weekends are crazy at the pier and they never fail to draw a crowd. People photograph them and walk up to pet them. Kids are always especially fascinated but grown ups love it too. Friends were waiting inside for us yesterday and said when we arrived, the bar emptied out as people came out to look.

horses tied at bike racks, Newport Beach pier

Chris, one of the doormen and security guys, noticed us watching them and told us we could tie to his truck, which was right outside the door, if we wanted to be able to keep a closer eye on them. Wow, Chris! Thanks.

our redneck hitching post

Nancy called this our redneck hitching post

The security guys love having the horses there and I think keep an even better eye on them than we do. They asked if they could give them water and carrots appeared from somewhere.

They guys at Mutt Lynch's take good care of our horses


Don’t want to miss any of those yummy carrots!

When we were leaving, Chris saw me looking for a place to mount (I’m having some nerve issues in my left leg and can’t mount from the ground) and he offered a leg up! You guys rock. Always above and beyond. Thanks for a great time.

A Day of Discovery Includes Sea View Park

How much research do you do before you trailer out for a ride? I usually do quite a bit. I like to know as much as I can ahead of time so things go smoothly. This past weekend, Nancy and I didn’t choose a particular location in advance. We had our maps from OC Parks and decided to just “go someplace new and decide on Sunday morning.”

Ready to ride!

Ready to ride!

Sea View Park

22801 Talavera, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

I love the ocean so when I read the description of Sea View Park, I thought it sounded likeregulation sign at trail head in Sea View Park a place we should try. I did do a little research but could find very little about it. It is located in the City of Laguna Niguel and is owned and operated by OC Parks. There were just a few sentences about it on the Laguna Niguel website and I couldn’t even find it on the OC Parks website. The best info I found was from a blog, Nature Play Trips.

So, armed with just our little OC Parks map, we headed out. Using the GPS on my phone, it was very easy to find. Finding the address to put into the GPS, however, was not that easy. Parking is on the street and the trail head is at the end of the grassy area.

(Click on a photo for the slideshow)

Our ride started out splendidly. The horses were excited to be someplace new. There was a breeze and already the views were amazing. About a half a mile down the trail you are at the highest point with ocean views all around you. I can imagine that on a really clear day, this would be absolutely breathtaking.

Once we got to the end of the trail at the top of the viewpoint, it became a very narrow single track and dropped off steeply down towards the beach. It wouldn’t have been too bad except that it was very rocky and had a deep groove from water run off. When I saw hikers with two large dogs coming up, it made my decision to turn around. Frankie has been having some lameness issues off and on and he just didn’t need that. And I forgot to put Dancer’s boots on.

We decided to head back to the trailer and look for the next adventure. We had more new trails to discover.

Sea View Trail MapToday, looking at the map, it seems there should have been a switch back to another trail where the trail dropped off to the ocean. We sure didn’t see one, but Sea View Park was so beautiful, it might be worth another look to see if we can find it.

The next trail we decided to try was the Irvine Coast/Shady Canyon Trail. Since neither of006052614 us is familiar with this area of Irvine, I misinterpreted the tiny little map and thought that since Mason Regional Park was labeled prominently on the map, that is where the trail was. We circled the park and came back to the entrance when we couldn’t find the designated trail head. Inside the park, Park Ranger Candy Hubert was very helpful. She wasn’t familiar with the exact location of the trail head either but it definitely isn’t in Mason Regional Park. She gave us some other great maps which will be helpful on other outings.

We found a place to pull in the shade to have some lunch before moving on — pesto chicken salad sandwiches and pasta salad. Thank you, Nancy!


By now, the afternoon was wearing on so we decided to just go to Irvine Regional Park near home and ride rather than continue to search for the unknown. What on earth were we thinking? It was Sunday of Memorial weekend. As we approached the park down Jamboree, we could see cars parked (illegally) forever down Santiago Canyon and the park entrance was closed. The large flashing sign said “Parking Full.”

So, when all else fails, go home, water the horse015052614s and ride to Wise Guys for a drink! Fortunately, we didn’t have any goal for the day other than discovery, and that we accomplished. We had a great time!

a toast to a day of discovery at Wise Guys Pizza

A toast to a day of discovery, at Wise Guys Pizza

Does Your Mare Act Mareish?

I have had several mares over the years and, frankly, I prefer them to geldings. I think they “think” more and are less reactive than geldings. Perhaps throughout time, stallions have had to think quickly and react to dangerous situations and mares have had to think about their foals and the consequences of their actions. At least, that is what I like to think.

Behavior of Mares in Heat

Behavior of mares in heat

She loves Frankie

People have said to me on more than one occasion, “A mare, how do you deal with it?” I’ve always been able to say, “I never even notice when my mares comes into heat.” Boy, did that stop with Dancer. She displays all the horrible behaviors of mares in heat. She leans against anything and everything and bounces against it. She squirts incessantly. She stomps and squeals when a horse gets near her. She swishes her tail and “complains” while she is being groomed and tacked up. She tries to back into her gelding friend, Frankie, every chance she gets, teasing him horribly. We have to be very aware of how we tie them during this time. But the worst part is that she is a total airhead while I’m riding. She ignores leg aids and constantly rubber necks.

Behavior of mares in heat

Turned out at the arena alone, she would run around then run back to the fence looking for Frankie

I have dealt with this for several years, but now that we are out and about so much more in public, I have decided it is time to do something about it. Last year, a friend told me about raspberry leaves, the only ingredient in Mare Magic. The downside of this is that it needs to be fed daily for a period of time which just wasn’t practical for me. Also, it doesn’t stop the heat cycle but supposedly helps calm the mare down.

I discussed all the options with my vet and she recommended monthly progesterone injections which will keep her from coming into heat. This was the most convenient and least expensive option. Progesterone is a natural progestogen prepared from the oil of seeds from sesame, cotton or sunflower plants. It is also prepared from polyethylene glycol, to allow for a slow or prolonged release following intramuscular injection.

Dancer received her first injection on Tuesday and I will administer the next one in 30 days. If the injections do what they are supposed to do, I will continue monthly injections through the fall.

How have you dealt with this situation?

We have to be very aware of how we tie them

OC Parks Ranger Reserves Learn About Horse Etiquette

A few weeks ago, Nancy’s friend Vicky Malton, Senior Park Ranger with OC Parks, asked Nancy if she would do a presentation on trail etiquette for her ranger reserve training class. Since Nancy knew I taught this sort of thing for years, she asked me to do the presentation.


Waiting for the presentation to begin


OC Parks and the County of Orange Board of Supervisors established the OC Parks Ranger Reserve program on May 5, 1987. The volunteer Ranger Reserves work along side Park Rangers providing support for the park operations staff during holidays, weekends, events, public programs and they facilitate development and leading new programs. The OC Parks Ranger Reserve Program is the only reserve program of its kind in Southern California. Currently, there are about 40 volunteers.

Vicky Malton, Sr Park Ranger

Vicky Malton, Sr. Park Ranger, with Nancy’s dog Atlas

Vicky has been a full time ranger for 14 years and currently works at operations support. She does incident command and provides field assistance when needed. As the Reserve Ranger coordinator, she supervises and provides training for the volunteers.

The training class we attended was held at Santiago Oaks Regional Park so we were able to ride over rather than trailer to the headquarters in Tustin, which was the original plan. It’s an easy 20-30 minute ride for us.

I haven’t done any teaching in about eight months so I wasn’t sure what I would talk about for an hour, but when you’ve been talking about horses and how to behave around them for years, it’s kind of like riding a bike. It all came back quite easily. And it helped that the group asked so many great questions.

After the classroom presentation, we went out and mounted up. Everyone had an opportunity to practice approaching the horses and ask any final questions.

OC Parks Ranger Reserves had a chance to practice approaching the horses

Everyone had a chance to practice approaching the horses

OC Parks Ranger Reserves got to see the difference between English and Western

They got to see the difference between English and Western


And of course, we had to get a group photo.

OC Parks Ranger Reserves training class

If you are interested in joining the Ranger Reserves, contact them at (949) 923-3746 or reserve.program@ocparks.com. The current class started on March 12th and will run for two months.

Moonlight Ride to Orange Hill Restaurant

The knowledge of a full moon always tempts us with a moonlight ride. Timing doesn’t always work in our favor but last night it did. The full moon was actually on Thursday but one more night was better in a couple of ways. It worked better with our schedule and it was almost 110 degrees during the day on Thursday so not all that cool yet by late evening. It was still 83 degrees at 7 pm last night when we headed out but cooler than at the same time on Thursday. With the sun down, it was a beautiful, perfect evening for a ride.

We had a spectacular sunset during our ride. We took a “selfie” trying to capture it in the background but the phone camera had a different idea.

selfie during our moonlight ride

This is what we were trying to capture.

sunset during our moonlight ride to Orange Hill Restaurant

We rode to Orange Hill Restaurant, our favorite place to ride to for cocktails. Well, maybe it is our favorite because it is the only place in Orange Park Acres to ride to with cocktails! At any rate, the bartenders are friendly and skilled and it has a spectacular view.

001coctails at orangehill

We decided we needed a little something to nosh on while we enjoyed our libations. We looked over the appetizer menu and the cheese plate was no longer on it. We asked one of the bartenders about it and she said she would check with the chef to see if he could put something together for us. And boy did he!


Orange Hill has a tie rail for horses just outside the parking lot on the trail. Our horses tie well and will wait patiently for us for hours. (This photo is from a different ride.) They were half asleep when we came out to mount up and head home.

001027 The moon was just starting to come up. What a beautiful evening!

002 copy

Ticks – What You Need to Know

I’ve always dreaded the thought of ticks but now that it has been pointed out to me that spiderthey are arachnids and not insects, I really detest them. I won’t say I’m terrified of spiders but maybe you’ve seen that comic graphic of the horse jumping in the air exclaiming, “Spider.” I’m almost that bad. At least ticks are slow moving and can’t fly or jump.

Tick activity typically begins after Thanksgiving (in California) but peak season is May through June. Ticks thrive in grassy, humid areas, such as the northern coast, and locally when vegetation isticks climb up fresh vegetation fresh in late spring and summer. They climb up low-growing vegetation and wait for a host to come by then use their clawed front legs to latch on.

Ticks crawl around on victims sometimes for several hours, seeking the perfect spot to embed. Once embedded, they begin their blood feast and stay until they are fully engorged, which can take days. A glue-like substance from its salivary glands firmly secures its connection to the skin.  The saliva acts as both an anticoagulant and as a local anesthetic, ensuring the blood keeps flowing and the host feels no pain or irritation. Depending on the species, a tick can Caution Ticksincrease its body weight by as much as several hundred times.

Sometimes these ticks carry germs like bacteria or viruses that can be transmitted while the tick is attached and feeding. The sooner ticks are removed the better, so riders should do frequent checks on themselves and their horses.

The proper way to remove a tick is to use tweezers or a special tick removal instrument. Grasp the tick by the head right where it is attached. Do not grab the body. Squeezing the body can force harmful bacteria into the bloodstream. Pull straight out without twisting. Place it in a jar of alcohol to kill it. Don’t try any of the old wives tales like matches or alcohol. They don’t work and may cause the tick to deposit disease carrying saliva into the wound.

remove ticks with a tweezer

How to avoid ticks on humans

  • Wear light colored clothing – ticks are easier to see
  • Wear long pants and long sleeves
  • Tuck your pants in your socks or tape them at the ankles
  • Stay on trails and avoid brushy areas
  • Apply an insect repellent with DEET to your skin
  • Apply a permethrin formulation to at least your shoes, socks and pants
More info:
Ticks commonly found in California
California Department of Public Health
CDC Geographic Distribution
How to Safely Remove a Tick

Dancer is a Palomino!

Oh my gosh. I am so excited. Dancer will be turning 10 this year and she is finally the Patch and Dancerpalomino I always hoped she would be. If you’ve been following the blog or our Facebook page, you know how light she was. When she was born, people would ask me if I was sure she wasn’t a cremello. Since her sire, Kenos Riverdance, is a cremello, I guess that was a reasonable question. However, since her mom, Patch (Aprils Dispatch), was a sorrel, I knew that was genetically not possible.

I bred Patch because she was an amazing horse and I was hoping to pass on her wonderful genes to her offspring. She had a sweet, agreeable personality and was incredible to ride. I bred her a second time because I really wanted a filly — a filly that would eventually replace her.

the day Liberty was bornI did a lot of research when looking for a stallion to breed Patch to for the second time. Buckskin is my favorite color so the first time I bred Patch I chose a buckskin. Even though I had a better chance of having a buckskin or bay, I ended up with a wonderful little sorrel colt. I knew I did not want another sorrel so I chose a cremello stallion for the second time to be guaranteed a palomino.

So every year for nine years, Dancer has grown her light winter coat and every spring when she started to shed I would curry, brush, use the shedding blade and pumice stones every chance I got. Lots of hair would come out but never all of it. She would tease me with darker patches of what could be, but overall, she remained a very pale yellow palomino.

Nine years of being a pale yellow paolomino

These photos from 2011, taken by photographer and friend Amanda Sannes, show some teasing hints of what could be


And then, last month it happened. Her winter coat started coming out in handfuls with no help from me as I was recovering from major surgery and couldn’t do any grooming. The first time I was able to see her after surgery, I couldn’t help exclaiming out loud, “Oh my gosh, she’s finally a palomino!”

a much darker palomino today

Here she is today.

Bath time

Bath time