Monday, April 30, 2012

Scotch Broom

When we first moved to Traverse Creek Ranch in the beginning of this year the whole place was covered in Scotch Broom. It´s invasive plant originally from southern Europe. Now it´s a huge problem in our part of California. The county even lets you borrow equipment to take it away. Scotch Broom grows very fast and the plants can be up to 3m high. They are very beautiful when they are blooming April-June. They have yellow flowers. But they are disturbing the environment and tend to take over big areas of pastures for example. They are lightly poisonous for horses, in large amounts. They have deep roots and you have to take everything away to hinder them from taking over.

We have a goat pen that we move to a new area after the goats done their job.
Everything looked like this when we moved in.

We have declared war on the Scotch Broom here at our ranch and it´s a tough war! Our allies are goats. Goats love to eat the plant and they are chewing on the bark, which kills it. We only have a few goats right now but are planning to get many more. To completely wipe out the Scotch Broom on pastures we have to use a tractor as well. Making and keeping the pastures nice for the horses is one of our major priorities when it comes to spending time working on the ranch.

It makes us much more happy to see our organic strawberries grow like weed in our garden :D I tasted the first ones today and they are delicious!

Sunday, April 29, 2012


After a very busy week with a lot of driving around we had a chill weekend at home. Sleeping in late, brunch at the front porch, doing things around the ranch, reading books, hanging out with the horses. The weather´s been really nice, around 75 degreese and sunny. I wouldn´t mind if it stayed like this all summer. It doesn´t necessarily have to be warmer.

Diamond is the only horse that actually worked on the trails both days. Trigger and I have been playing a lot on the ground (Parelli games). On Saturday both horses and dogs got baths outside. As usual they all roll around in the dirt the minute after J

I started to clean out our mudd room for the summer. Cleaning winter jackets that we don´t need any more. Oiling all leather products. We have a pretty big mudd room were we hang our outdoor clothes and leave our outdoor shoes. It´s very convenient, then I can keep the rest of the house CLEAN.

I´ve also been writing to some of the best (in my opinion) breeders and trainers of Icelandic Horses in USA and Canada about my plans to ride The Tevis Cup on an Icelandic Horse. I´ve got a lot of positive responses and been offered many horses. Only a few of them are interesting but I am confident that it is possible to find that very special Icelandic Horse: brave, fast, good minded, with a big heart and excellent conformation = potential for The Tevis.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Love Maria

Friday, April 27, 2012

Horsemanship and safety

My Rescue Horse Trigger

Today when we went shopping groceries at Whole Foods, a man in his twenties looking at Philip’s knife on his belt said in a sarcastic tone “How many people have you killed this week, man?

Philip answers with a smile “None this week, I´m retired.” (He´s a retired Marine.)

After a long pause he then explained that we work with horses and that the knife is part of our safety equipment, so we don´t lose any fingers if we or our horse accidently got caught somewhere.

The young man’s girlfriend then asks as how that possibly could happen when you´re working with horses. I actually didn´t hear Philips answer, my mind was already thinking of all the situations when I use my knife every day. Well…I must admit that shopping groceries is not one of those ;)

The meeting with those city people made me think of different actions of safety that we´re taking every day and some that we should take.

My first boss always talked about “learning by doing”. I guess that we are doing that all the time J For example we recently came to the bright conclusion that in the future we’re not going to load untrained horses at night. Hahaha….

Two months ago I also learned that it´s not a great idea to ride your 4 year old horse freestyle (bareback and bridleless) with two other free horses with you in the woods when you´re pregnant. (Everything went well but I´m not going to do that again!)

I personally like to wear a helmet when I ride and I always make my son wear one when he´s riding. That´s not saying that I think that simply wearing a helmet is going to take care of my safety issues around horses. The education of the horse is much more important. Starting with establishing the relationship on the ground. Spending a lot of time with my horse is critical. I like to be able to ride my horse everywhere: on city streets, in the forest, without other horses, with other horses, among other animals, through rivers, over obstacles, being able to shoot a gun from my horse, take him camping for a couple of days etc.

I don´t expect him to just be able to do all these things at once. It´s my responsibility to prepare him and make him ready. I´m not crazy! I don´t wanna die! I want to be free and have fun with my horses. As safe as possible.

I love watching good horsemen and women work with horses. As often as I can I like to attend to clinics of trainers who’s work I respect and admire. Knowledge of horse psychology it´s critical. To continue the building of a relationship with my horse will always be my biggest safety tool.

"The eyes of your horse is a mirror of your soul" - Bent Branderup

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


The horse in all the pictures in todays post is my 16 yearl old Arab/Mustang Diamond.

Yesterday we were driving around to different feed stores all over Gold Country looking for fencing. We have to fence new pastures ASAP. We have the land and we want to use it better than we do right now.

Diamond and his friend Marlin playing on one of the pastures.

At one of my favorite (favorite because they´re not only in to show tack, they have the real thing that will last on real rides in rough country) stores Placer Farm Supply among many other things a book captured my eyes. It´s written by a local author Sharma Lynn Gaponoff, “Tevis, from the back of my horse”. It´s a thrilling story about how Sharma and her horse Tahoe prepared for, rode and completed The Tevis Cup in 2010.

The only thing with the book is that I couldn´t stop crying reading the prologue! A very touching story with lots of guts, determination, intelligence and heart. The language is brilliant.

Every horse lover that values their relationship with a special horse should read it. I haven´t read the whole book yet, only half of it but I don´t doubt that I am going to finish it tonight. I love the thorough descriptions of how they are preparing themselves and  dealing with difficulties.

It´s interesting that her strategies were very similar to what we´re already doing and are planning to do before our ride in 2014. It obviously worked for her! The Lady in the feed store, Pam, also said that Sharma was one of the nicest girls she ever met. I so wanna meet her and talk more about her experiences J

Diamond and Buster

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Madrone Tree

At the very back of our property there is a big Madrone Tree. We have many small ones on different locations but this one is huge. Yesterday when we passed by I stopped to take a closer look at the flowers that were blooming. I saw something that I haven´t seen before. Marks of a Black Bear climbing up the tree.  I should have seen it before because the marks weren´t new ones.

The tree already started to heal itself from the wounds of the bear claws. The bear must have climbed up the tree for the berries. The climbing marks went further up than I could see without climbing the tree. Madrone Trees have berries in the middle of the winter. I´ve seen cake recipes with Madrone berries. Something I´m definitely going to try next winter.

The Native Americans liked to chew the berries and also made a cider of them. Some used the paper like bark for medicinal use. Madrone Trees are dangerous when it comes to forest fires; they burn very hot and longer than most other trees (even oak). They are related to Manzanitas that are dreaded by the fire department for the same reason.

The tree itself is very beautiful and some like to plant the trees in their garden. It´s not that practical though, they shed something all year round: leaves, flowers, bark and berries at different times. It´s also hard to plant a new Madrone Tree and have it survive. If you want to do that, they are truly beautiful, you should plant it at a permanent place while it´s still very small.

               Wanna read more about this tree?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Endurance Country!

American River
When I was five years old my Grandma gave me my first camera. At that time I was already involved in my love story with horses. I loved all outdoor activities. Still my passions are horses, photography and being outdoors (especially in the wilderness).
North Folk

I was born in Sweden and lived most of my 32 years there. As an adult I began riding Icelandic horses. What I loved the most was their ability to go in any kind of terrain and just go and go and go for hours and days. Not speaking of their outstanding mentality. They also have four or five gaits which makes riding even more interesting and challenging. Tolt and flying pace are experiences incomparable to everything I tried in this life so far! Icelandic horses have a special place in my heart.
Me and my Icelandic Horse Pjakkur. He lives in Sweden.

My boyfriend is from California and he is as crazy about horses as I am. When we decided to look for a place together one of the most important criteria was that we wanted to be able to ride out on the trails directly from our home. After looking around in many different areas in Central and Northern California we fell in love with the “Gold Country” also known as “Endurance Country”. This area has everything we want: endless trails in hundreds, endurance communities, The Tevis Cup and many, many other endurance races and trail riding competitions every year. You see horses all around when you´re driving to the grocery store or running errands in town. We LOVE it here J

Our goal is to ride The Tevis Cup in 2014. The Tevis is known as “The worlds most difficult equestrian Endurance ride”. It´s 100 miles in one day. Tough, rugged terrain, steep mountains (starting near Lake Tahoe at Truckee) and rocky, narrow trails, river crossings, bridges (one of them is a swaying bridge), wilderness and a finish line in the middle of Auburn city. Did I mention that the last part of the ride is during complete darkness? Temperatures from freezing early in the morning to extremely hot in the middle of the day. It´s definitely going to be a challenge.

How are we going to do this? We essentially live at the finish line of the competition and we believe that that will give us an advantage towards other competitors from all over the world. Not many riders can train at the actual course. That will especially give us an advantage on the night portions of the event. We will know the trail like the backs of our hands and so will our horses. We’ve already started to familiarize ourselves with the trail. We divided the trail in different sections and are going to ride each section again and again and again. Starting next spring we´re going to ride the whole course from start to end several times. At first we´re going to do it very slow, mostly walking and getting to know all the different places. After a while we´re going to do it on a time schedule.

All the pictures exept the picture of Pjakkur and me, are from the Tevis course.

It´s going to require good horses in excellent condition and we have to be in good condition.. Many of the riders that place top ten run a big part of the course themselves, next to their horses. There are several vet checks on the way and you have to pass them all, otherwise you´re disqualified. After the finish line there is also a check point and it´s not unusual that horses and riders get disqualified after finishing the ride! I think all the vet checks are a really good thing. You have to know what you are doing.
My goal is to build a strong relationship with my horse and make an interesting journey with him…..and be at least in the top ten ;)

I have two good horses right now. One four year old Quarter/Mustang and one sixteen year old Arab/Mustang. Both are excellent trail horses. As different as two horses can be! The young one is bomb proof and goes everywhere. However he is a dreamer and enjoys watching all the beauty on the trails. I´m not sure that he has the speed to be in top ten. Probably not. He´s a rescue and my best friend, but maybe not a Tevis winner. Diamond on the other hand, the sixteen year old has definitely got the speed. I´m not so sure that he has the confidence to do the whole course though. He will be eighteen 2014, which might be a little old. I am currently training them both on the trails.

I am tempted to get a horse especially for The Tevis Cup. I would love it if that horse turned out to be an Icelandic Horse! I have been looking at Icelandic horses here in California, but haven´t find any that have the right potential. Icelandic Horses are not so big here as they are in Sweden. I would love to show people here what Icelandic Horses can do. Especially here in Endurance Country! They are the most perfect, safe trail horses that take you anywhere you want without any fuss. If you have the right horse for me don´t hesitate to let me know!

Love Maria

Saturday, April 21, 2012


It was really hot today around 85 degreese Fahrenheit all day. (That´s close to 30 degreese Celsius.) No wind.

This morning after our play time Trigger and I took a bath outside. Later this afternoon I gave Diamond, Buster and the dogs baths as well. I can´t say that they look cleaner than before…the second after I turned the water of they all rolled around in the mud. I believe they enjoyed their baths anyway J

Diamond is recovering well after Triggers attack last week. I was very worried for a while. His wounds are healing well and he got three clean gaits now….and tons of energy! He was very excited today when I took him for a walk. At one time I actually let go of the rope when he got really excited. I didn´t feel that I had the energy to match his. The property is fenced so there was no danger of him running out on the road or something. When I walked up to him he looked at me and I could almost hear him saying “What took you so long?”

He´s an interesting horse Diamond. I only had him since February. He is an Arab/Mustang Cross. I am thankful that I have the chance of getting to know him. He teaches me a lot. I´ve got ta feeling that he was under a lot of pressure when he was young. Forced through situations that he didn´t understand and wasn´t ready for. He is very submissive and knows what he is supposed to do. When you come up with a halter he always comes to you and put his head in the halter. At the same time he chews frenetically and keeps his mouth open a long time after you put the halter on. He does the same thing with rope halters and headstalls with bits. When you put a saddle on him he stands completely still but his body is shivering. You can tell that he is really stressed. He doesn´t like being tied up for grooming. He stands still without being tied, so most of the time there is no need for tying him.

He got a great personality and he is the first one to welcome me every morning. I feel that we´re getting closer every day. I also feel that all that energy that he have could explode any second if the pressure somehow got to be too much for him. He loves attention and that is what I am going to give him. Attention, time and a lots of love.