Time to Step Up the Bear Patrol (or Black Bears in Yellowstone)

•May 25, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Well, I did not see a grizzly in Yellowstone. Which may be a good thing, since it seems like a lot of those involved in fatal bear attacks (mostly from grizzlies lately) in the park have been from Michigan. (Yeah, I’m in Iowa not but I AM NOT an Iowan!) We did see a black bear though. To be more specific a black bear cub.

The black bear cub (sorry for the trees, the little guy wasn’t too photogenic).

We were driving along the north loop and went on the terrace loop (this is closed in the winter and don’t even think of taking an RV on it, way too narrow/rugged). We came around a corner near a steep cliff that rose to the right and saw a line of cars stopped. If you haven’t been to Yellowstone one of the easiest ways to see animals is to see where a car is stopped (or multiple cars), go stand next to all the people with cameras and ask what they’re looking at. (Or you can go in the off-season and do all the hard work yourself). If you like to mess with people stop your car, get out, and jump around excitedly pointing at nothing. See how many people will stop (probably quite a few).

Anyway, we started walking toward a woman with a camera. I asked what she was looking at, assuming it was a mountain goat given the terrain. She calmly said “Oh, a bear. Right there.” She then pointed over my shoulder to a black bear cub less than 30 feet away from me. My first thought was “Oh shit. That thing is close. And it’s not grown, momma bear is close and probably pissed.” The other members of my car came up as I was walking back to the car, hurriedly. While still walking, quickly, I told them about the bear. We all agreed he car was the safest location.

Now, as we were walking back to the car (it wasn’t very far, maybe 50 feet away) 3 kids come running past us, a worn-out dad not far behind. My husband was kind enough to tell him “Hey, there’s a bear right there.” He looked confused, then he focused on the cub and his eyes got very large. Her started gesticulating and yelled “KIDS! CAR! NOW!” Fortunately his kids were not at the age where they would ignore everything he said and they returned to their car too. Why the other people were out that close is a wonder to me, I guess survival instinct doesn’t run deep in all of us. All I know is don’t mess with a cub, the mom’s sure to be close.

The black bear cub (no, this guy was not full grown!)

The next day my husband and I wanted to hike a small trail near the loop and weren’t able to, a nice park ranger wouldn’t let us go as there was a mother bear and two cubs near the trail. I’m pretty sure it was the same group of bears. The only one we saw the day before was one of the cubs, no sign of the others but they were probably close.

And if you’re feeling mopey that you’re not in Yellowstone RIGHT NOW this should make you feel better: it’s snowing there. Yes, May 25 and they and Bozeman and the surrounding area are under a winter storm watch for the next 3 days. Brrrrr!

Sorry there aren’t too many bear pictures, here’s a landscape from Yellowstone:

Remnants of the 1988 Yellowstone Fire

To read about the Yellowstone fire of 1988 go here.

The Animals of….Yellowstone National Park!

•May 24, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I am starting a new series on this blog stemming from my husband’s and my trip to Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding area. We both love nature and so everywhere we go we try to see animals. Naturally, I take pictures of them. During our trip to Yellowstone last summer my hubby posted daily Facebook updates about the animals we saw there and people really seemed to like them. So, I will be continuing on that… in blog form!

Today’s feature: Buffalo!

Very close up of a buffalo

This guy was literally 5 feet away from me. I was in a car, it’s OK. (Really, don’t mess with the buffalo, they can be quite nasty. Don’t approach them, ever! Despite their size they can run 30mph.) We were driving near a herd and my brother-in-law told me to look out the window. This is what I saw, only he had his head up staring at me! So of course we took pictures and the buffalo went back to grazing.

 In this picture you can see more of the mountains in the background. Isn’t it beautiful there?

When we went in August buffalo fur was everywhere on the hikes we took. They shed in the summer as the days get shorter, just like horses and dogs do. I always thought it was weird my horse was shedding in August until someone kindly told me it was related to day length (artificial light can mess with this so your dog may not follow this pattern as closely as a horse or buffalo in more natural lighting and day lengths). The hair that comes in will be the start of their winter coat.

Buffalo undergoing a summer shed.

The herds were in almost every open valley in August. The herds can be huge and will often graze next to the roads in the park. Again, never approach them. They weigh more than horses, can run 30mph and are not domesticated. They will not like you. Some have horns. Some will be protecting babies, which will make them angry if you try to approach.

  Anyway, enough of my public service announcement. I hope you enjoyed the pictures! For more on the buffalo of Yellowstone check out the National Park Service page.

A Belated Rememberance: Lois Heyerdahl

•May 21, 2012 • 2 Comments

I really should have posted this earlier (blame school, blame my injuries acting up, whatever) and I feel guilty for not. I wanted to dedicate this post to Lois Heyerdahl, a wonderful horsewoman.

Lois instructs Angie and her Friesian mare.

I only met her once but she left quite an impression. My husband and I did a dressage clinic with her at Cedar Falls Equestrian Center with our horse trainer, Deb DeVries. Deb has known Lois for quite some time and encouraged all of us to sign up for the clinic.

 I was hesitant, I had a bad (and I mean BAD) accident with our imported Polish Warmblood (Arnold, or Hell Boy as was his nickname) a few years earlier. I started riding again as soon as I could, the accident was in October and I was on by January. It was a lot of fear and pain to overcome, but by that spring Iwas jumping just under 3 feet with a thrustworthy pony. I switched to dressage from back pain and was riding my previous eventer trainer’s horses and our two large Polish Warmbloods (yeah, even the one that almost killed me, I just don’t learn!) BUT that was before we moved to Iowa. The horses went with my husband several months before I left my beloved Detroit (say what you will but I will always love that city). Anyway, in those months I stopped riding. The fear came back. By the time I came to Iowa I was terrified to even be on the ground near a horse, especially if it moved suddenly. Slowly I began to ride some of Deb’s ponies and found one I clicked with. I did walk trot and cantered him once (I was deathly afraid of that gait in particular). So you can see why I was almost embarrassed to be seen by a top level judge and a clinician of Lois’ caliber.

Lois and Becky on her lovely gray gelding

Well, Deb was wonderful and scheduled me at the very beginning or the very end of the day for the 2-day clinic. I was the very first ride with Lois. I was really nervous. But, immeditely, she put me at ease. I told her my story and where I was and she was understanding, kind and very helpful. I told her “I can’t canter yet.” I expected her to nudge me into it. She said “That’s fine. Do what you feel you can. We’re hapy you’re riding.”  She worked with me with just as much passion and enthusiam as the upper level riders that came later in the day. I appreciated it so much.

She also worked with my husband and our two horses, big imported Polish Warmbloods who can sometimes lose their brains. She knew exactly what to do with them from the minute she saw them. I have yet to see anyone pin a horse’s personality so quickly. Lois knew exactly what Arnold was capable of, even with his innocent looks he is stubborn and will avoid work at all costs.

I also got to hear her stories of her horses and husband while auditing the rest of the clinic. I was impressed, she was so kind and funny and just generally fun to be around.

Lois helping me and Lakota

We had hoped to have another clinic with Lois but sadly it did not happen, she passed away a few months ago. I had the opportunity to take pictures and I think they show how sweet she was and how much she really loved horses.

Lois and Lakota

Rest in peace, Lois. You will be missed.

A Triple Crown Winner This Year?!

•May 20, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Let’s hope so! I’ll Have Another has taken 2 of the Triple Crown races so far and also won the “prequel” to the Triple Crown: the Santa Anita Derby. He is such a lovely chestnut!
I probably mentioned this before, as it is still one of my favorite memories, but I was able to have a private tour of Three Chimneys on Easter in 2007. The farm is just gorgeous and the horses amazing. Yes, I did meet Dynaformer (we weren’t allowed too close to him due to his, um, personality) and Smarty Jones (nice horse, very friendly!)

Rahy the day I met him in 2007

My personal favorite was and always will be the little red guy, Rahy. Tiny, fast and sweet. He passed away this year along with my childhood favorite, Strike the Gold (can you see a pattern? I’m Amanda and I’m a chestnut horse addict…). Both lived to old ages in comfort.

Anyway, as for I’ll Have Another, I have several reasons for liking him. First, his owner is a Detroit Red Wings fan so that guy knows how to pick a winner (and no, I don’t want to talk about this season. Not like the Bruins got very far this year either, did they?)

Second, I’ll Have Another was bred by Three Chimneys. My dream place of employment in lovely Kentucky. (When I visited they said I could come be a groom for Rahy. I almost didn’t leave!).  They have a wonderful program that if any horse from their farm needs a home they will take it back and find a permanent home. I hope other farms follow suit, that it so responsible and caring.

I’ll Have Another is by sire Flower Alley. You guessed it, a chestnut.

Flower Alley in 2007

Yes, I met him too. Another nice horse, you can see he likes having his picture taken. I’m still amazed at the amount of muscle the thoroughbreds have. 

Third, I’ll Have Another and Flower Alley are from the Princequillo line of thoroughbreds. Secretariat, Sham and Bold Ruler all were from the Princequillo line. He is known for the “large hearts” that seem to enable greater distance and speed without tiring as easy. (Secretariat was found to have a heart of 22 lbs, normally thoroughbred hearts are 9-ish lbs). So he has a great bloodline. The shocker for me? He is related to my horse, Olivetto, a Polish showjumper. We imported Ollie in 2005 and I never thought about his bloodlines. Yes, he is a wonderful horse. Sire is a German Holsteiner. Dam is a Gelderlander. Never looked too much past that until I had to get his passport updated for a possible overseas assignment in the future. When the commentators started mentioning Princequillo I thought it sounded familiar. Yup, he is in Ollie’s family tree. Even weirder? Sham is his great-grandpa. How does a European champion showjumper get American thoroughbred bloodlines? Apparently in Europe it is common to mix some “lighter” horses such as American thoroughbreds into the warmbloods to get faster, lighter horses. So, my horse’s “cousin,” very far removed, is up for the Triple Crown. The horse world is weird some days. Best of luck, I’ll Have Another!

Olivetto doing dressage in 2011

Kailie and Tiny, Husky and Kitten

•August 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Kailie and Tiny: Tiny is a kitten that was abandoned by his mom at our horse barn. We took him and and bottle fed him. He often got cold so he loved to cuddle up with our husky mix, Kailie. Tiny will be 2 this fall and was adopted by our friends. He is doing great!


•June 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Crocodile in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

Robin and 2 babies

•June 15, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Another shot of my resident robin and her babies.