Monthly Archives: March 2012

Quote of the Day

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore, dream, discover.”

-Mark Twain

Categories: My Favorite Quotes, Travel | 1 Comment

Australian Pub Crawl on Horseback (Part I)

In the fall of 1997 I made the unprecedented (for me) move of quitting my supercool job in the high tech industry to travel the world and figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I was 34 years old.

My brother Rob, who was living with me in California at the time, was scheduled to start at the police academy in the east bay the following January.  He agreed to accompany me on a couple of trips to get my feet wet; then I planned to travel more the following year by myself.

We decided that our first trip would begin with a Pub Crawl in Australia, and then culminate in a long pack trip through the mountains of New Zealand, with several luxury segues in the mix, including a ten-day backpacking trip on the island of Tasmania.  Both of the main trips were to be undertaken on horseback.

This was funny because Rob really didn’t then, and definitely doesn’t now, like to ride horses.  Midway through the Pub Crawl this sentiment was to be strongly reinforced.  But I get ahead of myself.

As we all know, travel involves a lot of waiting. Here I’m waiting around outside an airport terminal somewhere in Australia.

Waiting with Bags

Our First Stop: Sydney

We started out our trip with a few days in Sydney, time to get acclimated to the time zone and see a bit of the city.  I was a little in shock by the fact that I had actually quit my job and was completely footloose and fancy free.

Rob was on the hunt for three things 1) Beer, 2) Girls, 3) More Beer.

It was immediately obvious that his quest for number (2) on the above list was going to be severely hampered by the fact that everyone who saw us travelling together thought we were on our honeymoon.  How they reconciled the fact that we always had two separate hotel rooms was beyond me – I guess they thought we were starting right off with an open marriage.

In Sydney we stayed at the Hotel InterContinental. Anyone who has travelled a bit or ever stayed in any InterContinental knows that they are always among the top luxury hotels in any city.

I described the hotel in my journal as “….a nice old hotel, well-trained staff, though the furnishings are a bit dated.”

Boy, I was a snobby little thing back then.

We spent three days in Sydney, most of which Rob spent at a pub called the “Fortunes of War.”  After he went there alone one night and I hadn’t heard from him by mid-morning the next day I started to get a little worried.  He turned out to be fine though.

My journal entry read “Well, Rob turned up. He apparently woke at 6, decided he might not live ‘til 7, and went back to sleep until 11.” This was a pattern that was to be oft-repeated during the trip.

The Pub Crawl Begins

We flew to the tiny hamlet of Glen Innes and were picked up by the tour operators.  They had not received confirmation of our arrival and they weren’t expecting us that day, but they took us in with good grace nonetheless. I am not sure what we would have done it they hadn’t happened by the tiny airport at the right time.

Porch with Beer

We went to their small ranch and had some refreshments. There we met our fellow rider, a lovely woman named Jill, who was visiting from Wales.  Actually, the way she introduced herself was to say she was from “Wales.  Which is NOT a part of England.”  This was a fact she was to repeat several times a day during the ride.  I don’t know why.

Then we went over the details of the excursion, which were as follows:  we would begin our riding the next morning.  After a couple of day trips around the base ranch to get used to the horses and the riding time we would head out, riding cross country for about 20 or 30 kilometers (our rides varied between 10 to 20 miles per day) to arrive at a small hotel/bar/restaurant (the pub).  Our luggage would be transported via automobile to meet us at the pub.  We would have dinner and play some pool (and if you were Rob, stay up ‘til the wee hours of the morning drinking local beer and chatting with the drovers who came in from the outback to see the American guests).  After four days of cross country riding we would return to the ranch and see some local sites, spending a few more days there.  Our whole experience would be eight days long.

Once we had the plan down,  it was time to meet our horses.

Rob was assigned a gentle old appaloosa gelding name Shandy.

Rob brushes

I got a spirited thoroughbred-type gelding of indeterminate age called Cognac.

Me and Cognac

We got our saddles assigned and adjusted by our hosts. Here is Rob with one of our hosts Joan, getting his saddle adjusted.

At least that’s what they said they were doing.

Rob gets saddle

He swings into the saddle for his maiden voyage on Shandy.

Rob climbs on

And adjusts himself for his first ride in Australia. Shandy looks so calm. But I get ahead of myself again.

Rob adjusts

After a good night’s rest we were up early the next morning for our first day of riding.  It was raining.

saddled up

The rain only added to the ambiance of the whole thing.

Join me next week when we embark on the adventure.  I can promise lots of rain, extremely rough country, excessive amounts of beer, and plenty of pool.

And you can find out why Rob grows to hate Shandy.

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Quote of the Day

“Happiness must be cultivated. It is like character.  It is not a thing to be safely let alone for a moment, or it will run to weeds.”

-Elizabeth Stuart Phelps

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Through the Ears of a Horse

This is me, on Mitsy, at about a year of age.

Paula on Mitsy

I have loved and ridden horses since I was a baby. Many of my most significant life moments have been experienced on the back of a horse, and in fact my relationship with them has been so significant that I’ve discovered the most efficient way for me to track time is to think of all the wonderful horses in my life and relate from there.

The horses represent chapters in my life, and more than that.  They represent the love of my grandparents; the camaraderie of friends; the thrill of competition; the indulgence in luxury and adventure; and the joy in spending real quality time with a child.

When I reflect on a horse, I instantly remember the other details in my life from that time: who my friends were; where I rode the horse and what I did with it; in later years where I lived; worked; what car I drove; who I dated.

Here I am at about eight with Buck. Buck was the first horse I was allowed to lope, an anxiously awaited privilege accorded to me at age five.


As I child I spent entire summers and as much other time as possible at my grandparent’s ranch at the base of the Owyhee mountains in Idaho. There I rode everything I could catch, often with a twine tied around the lower jaw, “Indian Style.”

Here, at eleven, with Buck, Mitsy and Peanuts. Peanuts was the first horse that was really truly my own.

Buck Mitsy Peanuts

My sister and I grew up showing in Horse 4-H. Here I am on her mare, Kelly, at the Owyhee County Fair.


As a junior in high school on my second “very own horse,” Cinder. I rode this horse through high school and most of college, until he got a broken leg when he was kicked and had to be put down. I was gone to school at the time and my grandparents didn’t want to tell me the news until I got home. I got up early my first day back for break and bounded upstairs with my boots on to go for a ride. That was a sad day


After college I lived in San Francisco and didn’t ride much until I was about thirty.  At that time I got the bug to learn to jump.

After thirty days of lessons I bought Hennessey, a fancy bay thoroughbred gelding. This is our first show, sixty days into my career as a hunter rider. We got first place!


That started a strong love of the discipline of jumping.  I bought Austin next, as a “practice” horse and ended up winning more on him than my most expensive mounts.

Austin Barn

After a couple of years I started travelling to Germany and Holland with my trainer.  There I would buy horses and import them to California for resale.  It was a magical time in my horse world, travelling all over Europe with famous Grand Prix riders, riding every horse they would let me throw my leg over. I rode dozens of cool horses, and met lots of interesting people. I even had one memorable trip travelling around Holland with the Princess of Jordan.

This is my favorite horse that I ever imported.  Her name was Atlanta, and she was a Hanoverian mare out of Germany.  I rode her for several months and I was so sad when she sold.


I travelled more of the world on horseback adventure trips.

I rode over the roughest country imaginable on this non-descript sorrel horse in Australia.

Australia Horse

And crossed raging rivers and mountain peaks on the back of a giant black draft-cross mare in New Zealand.

New Zealand River

I even ran full speed across the plains of Africa on the back of a polo pony, right in the middle of a herd of giraffe.

Giraffe in Africa

When I moved back to Idaho in my mid-thirties, I brought some of the hunter jumpers with me, but found it was impossible to maintain such high maintenance horses without my trainers. I eventually sold them off and moved into barrel racing and roping.

This is one of my nicest barrel racing and roping horses, Jet.  He was the first western horse I bought when I moved back to Idaho.


When I married I was able to introduce my young stepdaughters to the joys of horses. This is Sami and Hana riding Annie and Jet.

Hana and Sami

Eventually I moved into the sports of reining and then reined cow horse.  It was from these demanding disciplines that I learned the most about horsemanship and riding.

This is me showing my mare Daz in the novice bridle class at the Snaffle Bit Futurity in Reno.


When my little girl Annabelle was born I wasted no time in introducing her to the back of a horse. Her love of this magnificent animal started as early as mine did. This is her and I on Lucy.

1st ride March 18

We raised some babies for a few years.  It was so fun to watch them grow up. This is Blossom (Shiney Dresser), with her baby Addie (Shineadoodledoo).

Blossom and Addie

Life forced me to take a little break from owning horses for a few years after the kids were born, but I still rode on occasion through the generosity of friends and relatives.

A couple of years ago I got another horse to call my own.  She is a little bay mare named Spice, and I have enjoyed hours and hours of time on her back so far.

McCall Birthday

The vast majority of time I spend with horses nowadays is shared by my Horsecrazy daughter Annabelle. It is so rewarding to be able to share this joy and passion with her.

Annabelle Grumpy

Some of the best times of my life have been spent looking through the ears of a horse, and I look forward to spending many more years experiencing the wonder of these incredible animals.


Copyright 2012 Paula Cook

Categories: Horse Adventures, Random Musings | 4 Comments

Quote of the Day

“Fun is good.”

-Dr. Seuss

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First Day of Spring…..Sledding?

Yesterday was the first day of spring, but you wouldn’t know that by looking out our back door.  This is what the view was like by mid-morning.  The pastures and trees were covered in a couple of inches of snow.

Snowy Landscape

The little baby tulips by the barn were frozen.

Tulips in Snow

Nothing was safe from the sticky white stuff.

Jumpy in Snow

At about noon Aunt Susie called and invited us to a sledding party. Yippee!

We headed over to her and Uncle Lonnie’s after the kids finished pre-school.

First we got the four wheelers out of the garage.

Susan and Annie

Then Uncle Lonnie attached sleds to the back of each of them.

Lonnie Prepares

We loaded up and the fun began!

First the kids rode together.

Kids go By

Then by themselves.

Zach Flies By

Annabelle Alone

The only sound to be heard over the whine of the four wheeler engines was “Faster!  Faster!  Faster!  Let’s go faster!”  These kids are little adrenaline junkies!

After awhile the cousins arrived and joined in the fun.  It was twice as much fun with four of them.  Even Potus the Beagle joined in a for a  few laps.

All The Kids

When we first started it was pretty snowy, but as the afternoon wore on it became increasingly muddy.

Annabelle didn’t care.

Annabelle on Belly

I am sure I had as much fun riding the four wheeler as the kids did being pulled behind it.  Zach bailed off the sled about halfway through to ride on the front with me.

Mm and Kids in Mud

When we finally called it quits two hours later we were shocked by how dirty Annabelle was.

Annabelle in Mud

She was a pretty good sport, but I think she was really really cold.

We all went inside and Aunt Susie made us hot cocoa and pizza for dinner.

On the car ride home Zach said “Aunt Susie is a good girl, isn’t she mom?”  I said “Yes, she is. She’s a very good girl.”

He thought for a moment.  “She’s a really special girl isn’t she mom?”


Categories: Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Quote of the Day

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

-Robert Brault

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A Hairy Day On The Farm

Even though we woke up to snow this morning (really, Weather Gods?!) spring is on its way, and we are seeing the signs here on our little piece of paradise.

The big forsythia bush in the front yard is almost ready to bloom.

Forsythia Branch

The tulips are coming up by the barn.


And the horses are shedding. Like crazy.

Hairy Mare

So yesterday we decided to have a “horse grooming day.”

Annabelle went out before I did to catch the horses. She insisted on wearing her new pajamas from Costco.  She loves pajamas very deeply.

When I went outside there was no sign of Annabelle or the horses.

This is where I found her. Anyone surprised?

Caught in the Act

We caught the horses and got started.

Brush G Face

Annabelle worked from head to tail.

Tail Brush

Zach rode around on his sister’s four wheeler looking for mud.  He found a little.

Zach 4 Wheel Mud

That was fun until Winston jumped up and stole his hat.

Winston Hat

Then he just got off and played with the hair.

Zach Gathers Hair

Winston also spent some time stealing our brushes.  That pup has a serious oral fixation.

Winston Brush

Aunt Susie dropped by for a little visit and she helped brush too. It was great to see her.

Aunt Susie

When we were finished, Grumpy had a very artfully braided/knotted tail.  It took Annabelle about fifteen minutes to put it in.  I’m not sure how long it will take to get it out.

Tail Braid

Happy first day of spring everyone!

Categories: Horse Adventures, Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | 5 Comments

Quote of the Day

“You grow up the day you have your first real laugh at yourself.”

-Ethel Barrymore

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Bay Mare 1; Overhead Door 0

Alternate Title:  And how was YOUR Sunday afternoon?

Yesterday was a cloudy, rainy, windy day.  After lunch Horsecrazy Annabelle and I decided to load up and take our horses to the indoor arena for a nice relaxing afternoon ride.  The weather had been pretty bad all week, so our riding time had been more limited than usual and we were anxious to stretch our legs.

Five year old Annabelle went out and caught the horses.  I was in the shower, so I didn’t realize there was a driving rain outside until I looked out the window to see my little girl approaching the horse trailer, with her horse Grumpy and my mare Spice in tow.  She was totally drenched to the bone, but determined to go anyway.

I made it outside and we loaded up for the drive.  Our first obstacle was a looooooooong train.  We waited it out.

Train Pic

We met up with some friends at the arena and chatted for awhile.

Shane LR 3-18

Horsecrazy Annabelle went right to riding, while I stood around for some time just shooting the breeze.

Annabelle 3-18 LR

I love talking nearly as much as I love riding, so I did more of the former than the latter.  Annabelle rode the whole time.

After we had been there for an hour or two, we got ready to leave.  We said a merry goodbye to  our friends and headed outside. Ingress and egress at the indoor arena is via a huge overhead garage-type door, which you roll up to lead your horses under.  A door, by the way, that our horses had been in and out of at least two dozen times over the course of the winter.

I pulled on the chain to roll up the door.  When the door was about 4 feet off the ground I turned to Annabelle to tell her to wait to approach until I got it rolled all the up.  I shouldn’t have worried about her.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a blur. Then I felt Spice’s reins pull right out of my hand as my quiet and sensible little bay mare ran toward the light.  As I mentioned, the door was about four feet off the ground.  The saddle horn of my saddle was about five feet off the ground.  You do the math.

March 18 2012 014

There was a huge crash and then a really loud screeching sound as the horse and saddle pulled the door partially off the hinges and bent the bottom panels beyond repair.

Once she was outside, Spice stopped and turned, looking at the door and snorting softly.  I went and wrapped her reins around the post while I figured out what to do.  I think she looked sorry.

Spice Outside

My friends approached and said “What on earth happened?!”  I couldn’t really answer that.

All I said was “My husband’s gonna freakin’ kill me!”

This was a phone call I definitely did not want to make.  The last time I had to call Handsome Hubby after a non-injury accident, that one involving a brand new $70,000 living-quarters horse trailer and an unfortunately-placed concrete post at the Reno Snaffle Bit Futurity, he did not speak to me for three whole days.  I foresaw perhaps a similar attitude after this day’s events.

We spoke with the owner of the barn.  He was very nice.  He assured me that accidents happen, and he would get a bid and give me a call.  He seemed unconcerned.

I didn’t want to call Handsome Hubby. We spent some more time visiting.

Annie Carmen 3-18           Blach Horse 3-18

We took a long look at the door from the outside. Dan, the barn owner, had been able to roll it down somewhat so that it blocked the wind.

Door is Down 3-18

Then we got in the car.

I could avoid it no longer.

I called Handsome Hubby.  I started to cry.  I told him the story. I admit I briefly considered blaming it on Annabelle.  But she’s not a very good liar.

There was a long pause.  I could practically hear him biting his tongue.

Then he said these words:  “Well, we can buy a new saddle and we can buy a new door.  As long as you and Annabelle are OK that’s all that matters.”

I love that guy.

Categories: Horse Adventures, Life in the Country | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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