Gillian Larson – Taking the Long Way Home
Oct08

Gillian Larson – Taking the Long Way Home

Gillian Larson – Taking the Long Way Home By Author Linda Ballou John Muir said it best. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. Gillian Larson is a dynamic young Californian who has fallen in love with the ethereal beauty of the mountains. Foregoing a professional career teaching animal science for the moment, she is set on doing long-distance equestrian rides. In 2014 at the age of 22 she became the first woman to ride solo the 2,660 mile Pacific Crest Trail from the international borders of Mexico to Canada. Two years later, she rode the trail again to gain more knowledge for the guidebook for equestrians she plans to write. Obstacles on the trail include snowdrifts, downed trees, trails eroded from avalanches, bone-chilling temperatures, acclimatizing to altitude, landslides, and rattle snakes. But, the greatest concern for Gillian was providing enough nourishing feed and water for her two horses. These challenges were met with a pragmatic and well-thought out approach that she shared in her talk at Malibu Creek State park hosted by Equestrian Trails International Corral 36. The first 700 miles of the trip from Mexico to Kennedy Meadows is on a narrow track tracing a ridge overlooking Anza Borrego desert. Water is the main concern. On this stretch of the ride a pack horse carried extra water and supplies and her mother waited for her with supplies at designated fueling stops along the way. In this same region, she stepped off her horse more than once to move rattlers off the trail with a stick. Yikes—no kidding! When she reached the High Sierra where the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest are the same for 211 miles, snow drifts were a major challenge. I was especially interested in how she handled this part of her trek as I had taken a horse pack trip into “The Range of Light” that inspired sections of my novel The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon. I suffered from altitude sickness, and temps that dropped into the 20s at night in this celestial region where spires poke 13,500 feet into azure skies. Gillian said altitude had little impact on her or her horses as it is a gradual climb from the floor of Owen’s Valley outside of Bishop. Plus, she gave her horses day lay-overs along the way. After 1,700 miles, she left California and entered Oregon where she met fickle weather and more snow. She dropped the...

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Wild Horses Roaming Free – By Linda Ballou
Sep22

Wild Horses Roaming Free – By Linda Ballou

Wild Horses Roaming Free By Linda Ballou Photos by Tony Stromberg To see wild horses roaming free across the rolling green hills of California makes my heart sing. There is a long-standing battle taking place to save the herds of wild horses emblematic of the American west from the slaughterhouse. Presently, fifty thousand horses are being held in Bureau of land Management holding pens awaiting their futures. Sadly, they will most likely be destroyed if an answer to their dilemma does not come soon. The Return to Freedom organization with two central California locations, one in Lompoc and one on a 300-acre ranch in San Luis Obispo give safe harbor to 400 wild horses. You can see from this video that they have a good life, are fit and roaming free in this bucolic setting. The plight of the wild mustangs in America is not new. The cattlemen want the rangeland owned by the government for their stock. The Bureau of Land Management contend that the wild herds are over-grazing federal lands and must be culled. They continue to use helicopters to round up thousands of horses each year. Only 32,000 wild horses out of the 2 million that once roamed the west remain. Meanwhile, the battle in congress to pass a bill that would protect the herds and provide a budget to handle the situation humanely continues. Return to Freedom is a non-profit organization provides some fun and informative ways for you to support the cause. They offer a docent guided walking tour of the sanctuary with some time for quiet observation of the herd. You will meet some of the mustangs that live there and learn about the horses as a native species with its origins in American history. They also offer a photo safari on the San Luis Obispo property On 2,000 acres of horse heaven in Central Coastal California, 70 wild horses and 16 burros roam free. Safaris last 3 hours and can be scheduled for early morning or late afternoon. Picnic basket with healthy snacks and light meal provided – end your Photo Safari with a pre-arranged picnic lunch or dinner in the hills with mountain top views to the sea! On the Return to Freedom site under “Issues” tab you can sign a petition to let your representatives know that you care about the future of the wild herds, or you can simply donate funds to this very worthy cause. Visit the www.returntofreedom for more information. Photo Credit: Tony Stromberg Linda Ballou is the author of The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon available on Amazon and her site www.LindaBallouAuthor.com Audio Book coming soon! Editor’s note: Linda is a...

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Laramie Ride – By Linda Ballou
Jul29

Laramie Ride – By Linda Ballou

Every summer author Linda Ballou goes on an adventure that almost always involves horses.  “Lose your Heart at the Laramie River Ranch” is Linda’s latest exploit as she traveled by horse through parts of scenic Colorado and Wyoming. You don’t have to be a horse person to enjoy the Laramie River Ranch, but if you are, you will fall in love with the miles of trails in the vast expanses of Colorado and Wyoming. The ride to Crazy Mountain is a steady climb to a knoll with a head-spinning view of the snow-streaked Rewah Range. Long’s Peak in the Rocky Mountain National Park is seen poking into blue skies in the distance, and to the north, the frosty white Snowy Range of Wyoming rests on the horizon. In between there is nothing but you and the Wild West of America. The Laramie River Ranch is a breath-taking stop in time that reminds us how the world was before our ancestors came to tame this land. Krista Burleigh, leading my ride, dreamed of owning a ranch and spending her life sharing her love of the outdoors and horses with her guests. She and husband Bill, roamed the West to find the perfect spot. They picked the Laramie River Ranch for its isolation and endless miles of trails that fan from the ranch and offer a variety of terrain and great footing for the horses. I have sampled many dude ranches and the LLR offers an unrivaled, rustic, authentic western experience on the back of well-trained, fit horses. From a distance the sage-covered hills look barren, but on closer inspection you find they are peppered with a profusion of wildflowers; giant white angelica, lavender lupine, pink vetch, yellow cinquefoil, and orange Indian paintbrush brighten the scene. This is a land of extreme beauty and extreme moods to match. Our ride started out with a blustery wind that kept the bugs at bay. Then an intense sun shone through a mountain of mushrooming clouds forcing us to shed layers of clothing. When we returned to the barn, a cloudburst sent us running to the shelter of the lodge. All of the guests congregate for happy hour at the end of a riding day. Jalapeno poppers and Buffalo wings were my favorite appetizers. Dinner begins with fresh greens, followed by a healthy entre choice, and ending with divine desserts. The day’s activities are shared in the dining hall. Non-riders may hike with a naturalist, do a little fly fishing in the Laramie River, go birding, or just read a good book. A spate in the hot tub under velvet heavens scattered with stars...

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Equine Benefits – Ocean Trail Riding
Oct01

Equine Benefits – Ocean Trail Riding

       Surf and Turf Riding Holiday By Author/Subscriber and Contributor Linda Ballou “Shorten your rein, grab mane, prepare to canter,” came from plucky Lari Shea, owner of Ricochet Ridge Ranch. Mounted on a Black Beauty double named Rascal, this petite lady has led countless horse treks through the primordial redwood forests of Northern California. I tried not to think too much about the turkey vultures wheeling overhead, or the growing chasm between me and a soft landing and focused on the footing of the trail as the white-fringed Pacific fell away. The brisk canter took us through a frilly fern forest, splashing through a gurgling creek to a grand vista that is best reached on horseback. Horseback riding allows me to get into the scenery, away from police sirens or cell phones, and to get in tune with the rhythms of nature. So, when I found one of the last best riding opportunities in California on the internet and saw that Lari offers everything from slow ambles though gorgeous scenery for the novice, to week long “real deal” rides on fit endurance horses for experienced riders, I was eager to get on board. After a leisure rise and a hearty country breakfast, I began my full day ride through a shady draw beneath towering redwoods. Our energetic horses charged up a steep slope thick with devils club then sashayed into a dell where a creek whispered to us from a moss-laden ravine. This is the home of a 1500-year old giant that towers over the forest gilded with columns of light. This granddaddy of all the trees on the mountain was here when Columbus landed in the Americas and with luck will be spared the logger’s axe and continue to live for another 1000 years.  Another climb brought us back into the sun and a view of the blue pacific wearing a lacy white skirt. We trammeled through knee-high velvet grass meadows spiked with white daisies and red columbine. The crystalline air and endless blue sky livened horse and rider alike. Our group of seven, a mother and daughter team, two guides in training, Lari, her husband Harvey and I, moved briskly through tree tunnels shrouded in wild cucumber vines. Mats of sorrel, trillium and miner’s lettuce thrive on the cool forest floor beneath the canopy of Bishop pine, Douglas fir, spruce, and coastal redwood. A majestic stag standing in a shaft of sunlight upon a ledge above us was completely unmoved by our caravan. This ride is on private land where he remains Lord of the Forest. “It’s so great to ride the trails in an English...

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Equine Benefits – Achieving Excellence
Nov20

Equine Benefits – Achieving Excellence

        By Subscriber/Contributor – Linda Ballou   Susan Hutchison, a petite, powerhouse, was recently inducted in the Hunter Jumper Hall of Fame. Her show jumping career has been highlighted by more than three dozen Grand Prix wins. She represented the United States at six World Cup Finals and the World Equestrian Games in Holland.     I felt honored to sit down with her beneath a shady tree at Susan Hutchison Stables in Temecula. She has about twelve prize mounts stabled there and a fistful of students she trains in between competing in International events. I interviewed her legendary mentor, Jimmy Williams, in 1993. At that time she was his most promising protégé vying for the World Cup. Susie was the rider I had in my mind while I was writing The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon that takes you from the Grand Prix circuit, to the high Sierra’s, and back again.       Her life has been like an arrow shot from a bow destined to hit the bull’s eye. Groomed to become a riding champion from the age of 5, she has had no desire to become anything else in this lifetime. She is totally focused on the riding world, loves what she does, and aims to win. She often competes against her own students, decades her junior. She says horse jumping is one sport that you can actually get better at with age. She has had the litany of broken bones that come with the territory, but has no intention to slow down. Her motto given to her by Jimmy “No Guts, No Glory” is tattooed on her arm. My hat is off to Susan Hutchison. More to come about her incredible career and unshakable spirit in future articles. Adventure-travel writer, Linda Ballou, shares Great Outdoor days in L.A, as well as a host of travel articles on her site, along with information about her travel memoir, Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales, her historical novel Wai-nani, A Voice from Old Hawai’i and her latest action-adventure novel The Cowgirl Jumped over the Moon...

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