I am so excited to announce the newest sponsor of the Nevada Discovery Ride -- Gentle Control Hackamore! You may have noticed Sage wearing this unique hackamore in just about every photograph from the first Nevada Discovery Ride and since. I have been riding Sage exclusively in this headstall for 3+ years and thousands of trail miles, and you bet we're gonna use it on our next long ride. The whole point of the Nevada Discovery Ride project is to show how trainable and reliable mustangs can be as riding horses, and to that end I have tried to use the most minimal aides when riding or training Sage. That's why I ride exclusively in a Gentle Control Hackamore - I love how truly gentle it is. There's nothing in his mouth and there's no constant pressure. This hackamore encourages soft hands and fingertip reins. It also allows for neck reining, suppleness, and collection, without painful pressure points or leverage. We're honored to have this Ogden, Utah-based company as a sponsor of the Nevada Discovery Ride and we highly encourage you to check try out their hackamore on your own horse.
This week I was lucky enough to see a special screening of the new documentary Unbranded!
3,000 miles, 16 wild horses, 5 states, and 4 men. The journey of a lifetime riding from Mexico to Canada through the deepest backcountry in the American West to see our remaining open spaces and prove the worth of 50,000 wild horses and burros currently in holding pens.
The film is incredibly well produced - with stunning videography and an emotional storyline. I found it particularly moving, especially given my own long riding adventures and wild horse adoption efforts. I feel like these gents from Texas are kindred spirits! I highly recommend you keep and eye out for this film and plan to see it when it is made available to the public. You can learn more about their project here: http://unbrandedthefilm.com/ and watch the trailer below.
Howdy everybody! It's not even technically summer yet, but it is hot, hot, hot here in Reno. The drought has made it really dry out there, which means the wildfire risk is already pretty high and the water levels are pretty low. For Sage and I that means we'll be heading up into the mountains as much as possible this summer. This week my friend Carol and I enjoyed a nice ride just outside the Mt. Rose Wilderness area. Even just a little elevation made the high temps much more bearable and made for some great views of the city below. We also got to practice some bridge crossings and chatted with some nice hikers and cyclists on the trail too. I met one nice hiker couple who recently moved to Nevada and was shocked to hear that Sage was a mustang! They were quite impressed with him!
In Discovery Ride news, planning continues for next year's ride. As always, I'm playing with gear, trying out some new things to see if they can stand up to the rigors of a long ride. We learned on the last ride that most things just aren't made with enough quality to handle constant use on the trail! I am also working on securing a few new sponsors and promoting the ride in general. I think things are coming together nicely and I think we will have some announcements to share pretty soon :)
In wild horse news, I am so excited to find out that the Bureau of Land Management just started another prison adoption program! As you know, Sage came from the prison program in Carson City. It is just the best program out there for wild horse adoption and one that I wish could replicated at every prison. The new program is in Elk Grove, California through the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center and the first batch of gentled horses will be up for adoption at the upcoming Napa Mustang Days in Napa, California. They will also be premiering the highly anticipated Unbranded documentary during the expo, so if you are in the region you won't want to miss it! Finally, if you are in the Reno area next month you should plan to check out the first-ever Nevada Mustang Fine Art Show - a three-day art exhibit featuring amazing wild horse art, with proceeds benefiting the Wynema Ranch Wild Horse Sanctuary.
Greetings! It has been far too long since I've given a proper update on things, but a lot of things have been happening!
Of most importance -- we have decided to adjust the start of the next NDR from this fall to the spring of 2016. Delaying until the spring is necessary for several reasons. My wonderful and supportive husband Ryan has personal obligations to attend to this fall - he's finishing his Ph.D.! Far be it from me to ask him to interrupt the process to haul feed and water around the Nevada backcountry for three months! Changing seasons won't change the nature of the ride though - in some ways it will be better. It will be safer, since we won't be riding during hunting season. And, fingers crossed, we should have more water to access. Don't let the ride delay bum you out -- if you'll recall the exact same thing happened in 2013. We had planned on a fall ride for 2012, but ended up waiting until spring! The new timeline will give us a little more time to prep and plan.
In other news, I am so excited to already have two wonderful sponsors for the next Nevada Discovery Ride. Top Trail Horse is a GPS-based online mileage program for the trail horse and rider. Using a GPS app, you can upload your tracks to the website for monthly mileage challenges. Personally, I love being able to see how many miles I am riding each month, and the lightly competitive aspect is fun too! The good folks over at Top Trail Horse have been extremely supportive of our next ride and they have some fun ideas for helping us make it happen. We'll reveal more on those ideas later ;)
Last month I gave a ride presentation to a group of residents at Sierra Place, a senior living facility in Carson City, Nevada. What a wonderful group of people! The residents were enthralled with the stories from the trail. I am delighted to have Sierra Place as a sponsor and to have the residents follow us along on the next ride. I'll be sending back personalized updates from the trail just for them!
Thank you to both Top Trail Horse and Sierra Place for supporting the Nevada Discovery Ride. It means the world to us to have groups like these supporting wild horse adoption. We're hoping to secure a few more sponsors for the next big ride. Let us know if you are interested!
Everything else is going well for the NDR team. Both Bella and Sage are turning eight this year!! Amazing how fast the time goes. Sage and I have been riding lots this winter, especially since winter pretty much skipped the Reno area. Bella has been tagging along on our rides too, enjoying desert exploration and chasing jackrabbits. Ryan and I have a few more scouting trips planned this summer to finalize some fuzzy portions of the route. Stay tuned for updates as we continue to get things ready for NDR 2016!
Due to overwhelming Facebook demand, we have decided to offer some of our branded NDR items for sale through the website! Just in time for holiday shopping, we have t-shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, and more. To kick off the grand "opening" of the store -- 2015 wall calendar are on sale! Visit the store HERE and start shopping! Shipping and handling is free and all proceeds will help fund our 2015 ride. We appreciate all your support to get this epic ride underway!
***Drum roll please!*** After months of studying maps and thousands of miles of trail scouting... here is the final route for the 2015 Nevada Discovery Ride! (You can click the map to enlarge it.)The ride will begin at the geographic center of Nevada. From there the route runs east through central Nevada, drops south down the spine of the White Pine Range, a short jaunt east again, north all the way up near the Idaho border, west across the northernmost part of Nevada along the Oregon border, and then drops south again to finally end in Reno. Whew! With the same plan of averaging 20 miles a day, and rest days built in weekly, this 1,100 mile route will take 70 days to complete. I plan to leave mid-August and should arrive in Reno at the end of October.
In many ways this route should prove to be much more exciting than last year's route. It includes a whopping 23 mountain range crossings, wilderness areas, desert crossing, forests, one interstate and one highway crossing, the Pony Express Trail, Hasting's Cutoff, the California Trail, primitive pack trails, and active railroad lines. Of course, it will also offer plenty of ghost towns and other forgotten sites. This time around we will only ride through one town: Jarbidge (population 182). Cell service will be spotty (just like last time) but I can promise there will be some epic photos and stories to share with you all.
Now that the route is finalized, I can get on with other ride preparations. I have some more gear to acquire, sponsors to find, and conditioning to do with Sage. We also need to set an actual ride start date. On the plus side, I may have secured a house/pet sitter (fingers crossed!) and I have already gotten the okay from my employer -- thank goodness! The next few months may be light on updates, but that's only because I won't want to bore you with behind-the-scenes ride preps. But things will definitely pick up as the ride date gets closer! Stay tuned :)
Welcome to the geographic center of Nevada... or as it will be known this time next year: the start of the 2nd Nevada Discovery Ride! Ryan and I spent this holiday weekend racking up the miles to scout more sections of the route. We began where I plan to begin -- in the middle of the state. There is not much in this valley southeast of Austin, except for this little marker. There's not even cell service, which means I won't be able to post a picture of our send off! But, I think it will be a great place start. Did you notice that road to the right of the sign? That's my road for day 1 heading off into the Monitor Range!
We also scouted Kalamazoo Pass (just northeast of Ely), Schellbourne Pass (on the famed Pony Express Trail), the Antelope Range and Valley, Goshute Valley, the Pequop Range (and it's unsettling route right next to an active railroad line), and finally, my Interstate 80 crossing (not easy!). On that last one -- I always harp about the importance of scouting in advance (where possible) and I think this trip proved my point. After consulting topo and satellite maps I thought I had found a good route across the very busy interstate... but when we went to check it out we found there is no gate along the fence line, and thus no way around the cattle guard! We ended up checking several more exits in an attempt to find a safe way across the highway. It seems no interstate exits have gates built into their fencing. And I suppose it makes sense - why would you need one? Anyway, after checking out several exits we finally settled on one, but it too lacks a gate, so now we know that Ryan will have to carry a piece of plywood in the truck that we can lay over the cattle guard for Sage to cross. Better to know that now then be stuck alongside the interstate next year!
We saw only a few bands of horses in our travels (photos below) but they all looked pretty healthy. There is, of course, beautiful country out there, and seeing bits of it just makes me more excited to hit the trail next year. All that's left to do route-wise is re-scout the Jarbidge area. It's the only part of the ride where I will be on old pack trails in a wilderness area. That means trails that may or may not be visible anymore, very tough mountain terrain, and absolutely no vehicle access - which means Ryan can't get in with supplies. So, we're going to try to head back out there in the fall and that should be our last place to scout! In the meantime, I should have our final route map and itinerary posted this week!!
On a side note, thanks to everyone that came out to the Wild Horse Faire in Virginia City last weekend. I feel like I talked to about a hundred people! Everyone was super supportive and excited to follow the next ride. I also raised about $550 through the sale of our branded merchandise. All of that of course will help fund the next ride. So thank you also to everyone who bought something. I have had a lot of requests, so I will work on getting some of that merchandise available through this website for people to purchase. Stay tuned!
This weekend (Saturday, August 23) is the 1st annual Wild Horse Faire in Virginia City! This exciting all-day event is going to be a celebration of wild horses. Along with demos, arts & crafts, music, and food, there will be dozens of horse-themed vendors. Look for the Nevada Discovery Ride booth, where I will be promoting the next ride and selling branded t-shirts, coffee mugs, calendars, stickers, and more. Everything is between $0.50 and $20.00 and proceeds will benefit the next ride. We have some really cool new items (I'm loving the t-shirts!) so definitely plan to stop by, browse, and say hello! I've had a few people message me that they can't make it to the faire but want to buy a t-shirt -- so I will get an order form up on the website soon.
The next ride may be a year away, but it takes a lot of preparation to undertake a safe long ride. We continue to pour over maps and finalize the route. In fact, Ryan and I will be heading out once again for another trail scouting trip at the end of the month. For this latest exploration we'll be checking out trails between Ely and Elko (in eastern Nevada). I'm sure I'll have plenty of stories and photos to share with you when we return.
In the meantime, I'll leave you with a few photos from recent activities. Many thanks to the Natural Horsemanship Association of Northern Nevada for inviting me to be a presenter at their monthly meeting last week. I think we had about 20-30 people there (I'm bad at counting!) and it was just a lovely group of people. Yesterday Sage and I headed up into the Mt. Rose wilderness area with some good friends for a beautiful, but challenging, ride through the mountains. Finally, look at who I spotted scuttling across the road on a recent ride through the desert! Six years I've lived in Nevada and that is the first tarantula I've ever seen!
The hardest part of planning for the next ride seems to be finishing the route! I'm about halfway done, but I'm just not sure where I want to end the ride. To help get ideas, Ryan and I just returned from a whirlwind road trip through the northernmost portion of Nevada, where we explored several of my route options. Over the course of 1,000+ miles we got to see some of the most beautiful and remote parts of the state. It is certainly inspiring to see such amazing country and several times I found myself saying "I want to ride through here!"
We began our adventure in Jarbidge, a small town in a remote canyon in northeastern Nevada, not far from the Idaho border. There's no such thing as a spontaneous drive through Jarbidge -- you have to want to go there. That's because after driving all the way to Elko (four hours from Reno) it's another several hours along a dirt road to the tiny town. We loved the mountains and the many flowing streams and creeks. Lots of tall grasses too - something for Sage to look forward to! On the way we did get a flat tire, but Ryan threw on the spare and we made it Jarbidge in one piece. Surprisingly, Jarbidge was pretty busy for such a remote town. Lots of campers and ATVs. Though the winter population is 12 people, it's hardly a ghost town in the summer and fall when recreation seekers and hunters flock to the area. Nonetheless, we found the residents to be quite helpful and they gave us some good contacts for when we pass through during the ride.
The next day, we headed for the east side of the Jarbidge Mountains. We found the perfect place to camp, perched high up on the mountain overlooking the O'Neil Basin far below. We spent a few hours hiking along an old pack trail which crossed a nice flowing stream and led us back into the wilderness area. The pack trail started out great, but unfortunately we lost it in the thick brush. I'll have to find a different route through to Jarbidge it seems. This is why it is so important to scout trails before the ride. You can stare at maps forever, but you don't know what the conditions are unless you see it. Especially with back country riding, it's best to scout in advance wherever possible. I'm sure I'll find a good route through -- there seem to be an abundance of pack trails on the topo maps to choose from. This is one section we'll definitely want to come scout again before the ride.
We left out perfect little camp spot and dropped down the long valley to the interstate and headed east. In Winnemucca we turned north and headed for the Santa Rosa Range. I really liked this range. The road in, though steep, was well maintained. Inside, I was surprised to find a pretty landscape of rolling hills, tabletop mesas, and lots of water and grass. The gentle country was dotted with roaming cows, but few people. This is one section I definitely look forward to riding through. I especially loved the view coming down from the Windy Gap summit. Stunning is the only word to describe it. This is the Nevada most people do not get to see.
After descending the Santa Rosas, we headed for the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in the western part of the state. It is desolate and dry country out there, despite the numerous springs. We saw an abundance of pronghorn antelope in the refuge, but only two wild horses. These handsome guys were standing in the tall sage near the road, but didn't run off when we drove by. The stallion in front with the little star on his head seemed to have sustained a pretty serious break in his rear left pastern or fetlock at some point. His lower leg was pretty swollen, but most disturbing was how his hoof now twisted unnaturally sideways. Despite this horrific injury, he seemed to be quite healthy and mobile. I was glad to see he had a friend with him. Ryan and I checked out two of the refuge's "horse friendly" campgrounds, both of which had corrals. This region is a question mark for me in terms of the ride route, but I'm glad we got to see it.
So it's back to the maps for me as I continue to firm up the final route. For now, I'll leave you with what is certain... I plan to begin at the geographic center of Nevada and head northeast to meet up with the Pony Express Trail. Just before the Utah border we'll head north and make our way northwest to Jarbidge. From there? Well we will see what the maps suggest. I'll certainly keep you all posted!
I am so happy that the winter doldrums are over! Sage and I have been busy taking advantage of the warm weather, logging many miles around the Reno area. In fact, we already did a three-day horse camping trip! Lucky for me, we were able to dive right into riding this spring because we never really stopped during the winter. Conditioning is much easier when you don't let snow slow you down!
Along with riding, I have been very busy with other horse activities. You may remember that Easyboot was a sponsor for the first Nevada Discovery Ride. I can't say enough about how wonderful the Easyboot Epics were during the ride -- I absolutely credit them with our success and Sage's healthy hooves after 450 miles. Well, I am very excited to have been chosen to be a 2014 Team Easyboot member. As such, I can be a reference for people who want information on the different kinds of boots and help with sizing. I'll also be blogging for the Easyboot website once a month. I'm working on my first blog so stay tuned for that!
But first I had to finish another article: http://www.equitrekking.com/articles/entry/experience-nevadas-diversity-riding-the-american-discovery-trail/. Equitrekking is an Emmy award winning PBS show that highlights some of the best horseback riding destinations in the world. I am very excited to contribute to their 50 State Trails Project - with the first article for Nevada all about the American Discovery Trail equestrian alternate route which is what I rode last year. I'm happy to showcase all the things Nevada has to offer, especially to an audience that, for the most part, doesn't really know Nevada.
It's wonderful how popular the ride continues to be... Next month I have two talks scheduled. On May 2 I will speak at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Reno and on May 31 I will speak at the Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park in Minden. I might be running out of Reno-Carson venues to speak at -- time to start looking out of state! Speaking of, I'm also in talks with Colorado Public Radio for an interview on long riding next month. Busy, busy!
All of this publicity is very exciting and I am honored to have a forum to use the ride to talk about so many things that interest people -- whether it's wild horses or adventure, there's something for the ride that appeals to everyone. I consistently meet amazing people because of the ride and I am grateful for that. Of course I constantly ask myself how I can do more to encourage wild horse adoption - which has always been the goal of the NDR. Sage continues to be a wonderful ambassador and we've generated a lot of buzz in the local community, but I wish I could take it to the next level some how. Well I'll just keep dreaming/scheming and see what I can come up with :)
As for our next adventure -- Now that the 2015 route is pretty much finalized Ryan and I will spend portions of the summer scouting. I've already started replacing gear and thinking about the many logistical issues. One of which is how I'm going to justify taking 2 1/2 months off work!
Enough about me! I want to let you know about another long ride that I am keeping an eye on. The Long Trail Home begins in just a few days. Matt Littrell, a former Marine, will ride two mustangs (!) from North Carolina to California to raise money for Semper Fi Fund which aids wounded veterans. Matt has already received a ton of press and he seems well prepared for his journey. I'm looking forward to his updates from the trail. Unfortunately, his route avoids Nevada, but we won't hold that against him!
Till next time ~ Samantha
The latest updates from Samantha on the Nevada Discovery Ride.