Archive for category: Pets

My Beautiful Brave Paso Fino Horse

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Conscious Living, Horses, Pets, Self-Improvement, Women's - Tags: , , ,

This story, sent to me by my Paso Fino horse-loving friend  is so inspiring to those of us who cherish our horses, I had to  share it with you.

LAKE TAHOE – Melissa Margetts and Cabo, “my beautiful brave Paso Fino

horse,” made history upon completing the Tevis Cup, the world’s hardest

and most technically difficult 100-mile endurance ride, from Lake Tahoe

to Auburn, Calif.Horse and rider have 24 hours to complete the 55-year-old race, and only
50 percent of them make it.
Melissa Margetts and Cabo Complete Fabled Tevis Cup

Cabo, a buckskin-colored Paso Fino, is the first of his breed to have
ever completed the race, in which 98 percent of the equine participants
are Arabians – their strides maybe half again as long as the stride of
the quick-stepping Paso Finos, who are known for their  smoothness.

“His natural four-beat lateral gait’s short steps make his ride so sure
footed and smooth,” Margetts says of Cabo, “but it also means he is not
as efficient as an Arab” – and that her horse “probably did 150 miles to
their 100!”

Most horse-and-rider teams are pulled out of the race because of
fatigue, or because either they or their horses are not able to because
of the technical difficulty, lameness, dehydration, metabolic imbalances
caused by the altitude and temperatures of over 100 degrees in some of
the canyons.

The trail is treacherous, narrow and rocky in places, with granite
trails especially slippery, with sheer drop-offs into the abyss.

Hardship notwithstanding, riders from all over the world apply for the
Cup a year in advance, in the hopes that they will be lucky enough to
have a spot among the maximum 210 riders that every year take on the

This year, riders came from Australia, Japan, France, Switzerland and
the United Arab Emirates, in addition to the American riders.
International riders who do not have passports for their own horses pay
roughly $5,000 to lease a conditioned, Tevis-worthy horse for the one-
day ride. Most of the riders are from the U.S., however, and have spent
years conditioning themselves and their mounts for this ride. All riders
and all horses are required to complete hundreds of miles of documented
endurance rides either nationally, with the American Endurance Ride
Conference, or internationally with the Fédération Equestre
Internationale, headquartered in Switzerland.

“To finish is to win” is the motto in the endurance world, and to that
end the Tevis Cup offers no monetary prizes – its only prize is a much-
coveted silver belt buckle with a picture of a pony express rider at a
gallop and the words “100 miles…One Day.” The buckle is only given to
horses and riders who have proved themselves to be “fit to continue” the
grueling race and cross the finish line.

Bottom line, Margetts emphasizes, is that “it’s all about the horse, as
it should be.”

As is the case in other major world-class sports events, participants’
blood is drawn regularly to ensure no performance-enhancing drugs are
being used (or drugs to mask the pain from injuries). More than 700
volunteers and 17 top veterinarians (with 30 veterinary assistants) man
17 Vet Checks and Stops along the route.

“They couldn’t care less if the rider is dead in the saddle and held in
place with duct tape and bungee cords,” Margetts says, by way of
describing the race’s central emphasis on peak condition horses. “Your
horse had better be in fine shape every inch of the way, and they are
there to make sure that happens. At every vet check, they look at each
horse’s capillary refill, heart rate, respiration, hydration levels,
muscle tone and attitude, and check for soundness. They listen to the
horses gut sounds with their stethoscopes to make sure everything is
moving and even check ‘where the sun don’t shine’ for anal tone if your
horse looks a little off. I’ve never had such a going over myself, but I
can guarantee you Cabo has!”

All that information is then marked and recorded on the vet card riders
carry with them to the next vet check.

“Cabo got all A’s and B’s every time,” Margetts relates proudly.

Margetts herself rode with with a heart rate monitor attached to her
horse’s girth to transmit his heart rate to her watch every three
seconds, to ensure he was being kept at an aerobic pace. “You are
trotting for the entire 100 miles and are hardly ever at a walk,” she
explains, so as to not “squeeze all of the toothpaste out of the tube”
at the start.

“Another way to give both you and your horse enough energy for the whole
ride – and a better chance of finishing – is to get off the horse
wherever you can cover ground on foot just as fast as he can with you on
his back.”

To that end, Margetts says, “I ran on foot down all the steep canyons,
leading him over the rocks and holding onto his tail and one rein to let
him pull me up the really steep terrain.

“There is a lot of training and conditioning,” she emphasizes, for both
horse and rider to prepare for the Tevis Cup. “This ride is like the
Olympics, and these horses are the elite athletes. The sport is
dominated by Arabian horses who, in addition to their long and efficient
stride, have thin skin “to help dissipate heat, large nostrils for
taking in oxygen and a large lung capacity.”

Living at 9,600 ft. on Wilson Mesa and “being able to train at altitude
ranging from 10,000 to 130,000 feet gave Cabo what he needed for most of
the ride where we were climbing up over the Sierra Nevada,” Margetts
says, praising the horse for being “sure-footed and fast” in mountainous

“We were well-conditioned” from training for the race, she says, adding
that “our biggest challenge came when we hit the canyons midday when the
temperatures reached around 105 degrees and I was running down 3,000
feet and then ‘tailing up’ the next 3,000 feet. “You are so happy to
climb out of those canyons and get into a vet check,” and meet up with
the pit crew, before descending into the next “hotter-than-Hades
canyon,” she says.

While the horses and riders guzzle water with electrolytes, the vets are
swarming all over each horse, the crew is taking off the horse’s tack
and dousing him with buckets of cool water, and buckets-full of grain,
cut-up carrots, apples and alfalfa – and then putting on a dry saddle blanket.

“Then it’s tack back on, jump in the saddle, grab an energy bar on the
fly and you’re off again.” As night falls, and horse and rider come into
the next Vet Check, glow bars are duct-taped onto the horses’ breast
collars to help them see, as headlamps and flashlights are too
disorienting. Now the rider grabs a jacket for the trail and horse and
rider take off for yet another the part of the ride showcasing the
camaraderie and teamwork between horse and rider.

“It really does take a leap of faith to trust your horse, who can see
the trail better than you can at a full trot in the pitch black,” says
Margetts. “One misstep and both horse and rider could be cartwheeling
over a cliff.”

That did happen, she adds, although it was an accident with a relatively
happy ending, as the horse was “just a little cut up, but not seriously
hurt,” and the rider broke several bones, punctured a lung, bruised his
liver and after several hours in the dark perched precariously on a
ledge, was rescued and helicoptered out.

“You spend a lot of time with your heart in your throat,” says Margetts,
who is still ebullient from the experience, “but I am always amazed how
a horse sees so much better than we do at night. You just need to trust him.

“It’s an incredible experience to ride at night, and at that pace,” she
adds. And then, “just when you are really starting to enjoy the
experience, despite the exhaustion, it comes time to swim your horse
across the American River, following a path that volunteers have marked
with glow bars on ropes attached to the rocks underwater.

“It was so beautiful!” she says.

The river’s dam is shut off (for just that one day all year) so the
Tevis riders can swim across the river without getting swept downstream
by its swift-moving current.

And then the last lap begins. “Drenched up to your thighs, you start
climbing up the very last canyon, across No-Hands Bridge and into Auburn
to the finish line and your victory lap around the stadium in the
fairgrounds – and to a cheering crowd of camera-toting fans, “food and
rest and tears of joy when you receive that coveted silver belt buckle –
and that even more special prize of burying your face in your horse’s
mane, throwing your arms around his neck and crying, knowing that the
two of you just accomplished something very special and that you both
took care of each other.”

Margetts, who recently retired after three decades as a wildlife
rehabilitator and educator, founded the Telluride region’s much-loved
Rocky Mountain Ark Wildlife Center.

She says she’s enjoying her so-called retirement – and viewing the world
from between the ears of her horse. Emphasizing that she has never in
her life owned a cowboy buckle, and has “always kind of shied away from
real cowboy attire,” she says: “You can bet yer boots I’ll be sportin’
this thing around for a while!”

So if you see Melissa Margetts around town, once you’ve recovered from
the sun flashing off of that silver buckle, tell her congratulations.

And give her an apple for Cabo.


Categories: Adventure, Animals, Biking, Dining, Gourmet, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Pets, Travel - Tags: , , , , , , ,


We have been book tour traveling off and on since Pulling Up Stakes: Stepping Into Freedom ( was released in April.  This month we have dates at bookstore in Vail and Boulder, Colorado.  Of course, being savvy travellers, we’ve cherry picked our trips and it has really worked out well for us.  So when we were confirmed at Bookworm in Vail ( and Boulder Books Store (  in Boulder, I went on the web to find out what else we might do to light our fire while in Colorado.

One of my favorite websites is Luxury Links ( We’ve stayed at some amazing places all over the world during our sabbatical that we found, bid on and won at Luxury Links.  This time I found a property called Kessler Canyon ( that looked like it might just be the spark to light our fire for the Colorado tour (oops, too many wildfires are burning right now in the west….anyway, you know what I mean).

It was a competitive bid, but luckily, this place must be the best kept secret in Western Colorado.  SO, drumroll….I won the auction—3 days and 2 nights, all meals and activities included.  But, we didn’t have a clue we had won the JACKPOT until we landed in Grand Junction, got a free upgrade to any car of our choice (a 4 wheel drive Jeep SUV) because they were out of compact cars.  We drove north to DeBeque and 17 miles west through high desert before we found the gates to Kessler Canyon and drove 4.5 more dusty dirt road miles into a canyon surrounded by rugged sandstone and shale peaks before arriving at the oasis that is this private resort.

Kessler’s Homage to the Wild Mustangs Greeted Us–6 Larger Than Lifesize Sculptures Galloping Across the Crest of a Hill

We were greeted like long lost relatives, I was immediately hugged and called “Lil Darlin’” by Chef Lenny, a generously proportioned cowboy (definitely gourmet) cook/chef.  They’d been waiting for us and couldn’t wait to welcome us, help us get settled in this amazing place. Our huge room has original old west paintings, leather easy chairs, hand carved wooden tables and chests and a gorgeous spa-like bathroom.

We soon learned that the Kessler family fortune was made in the 1970s with the establishment of the Days Inns along highway interchanges.  This canyon has been the family’s private 23,000 acre hunting and fishing retreat from managing over a dozen other boutique hotels throughout the south. We’re here, it turns out to our amazement and delight, with only two other guests and a hand-picked gifted staff of 19.  Oh, My!  If there were stars to award and five was excellent, this place would rate a ten!





Cowboy Chef Lenny in a Rarely Pensive Moment (He is Usually Laughing or Singing)



We have been treated like visiting royalty.  Encouraged to fish in one of the lakes, take lessons in shooting skeet (this is a private big game hunting lodge during hunting season)—both shotguns and high powered rifles.  Now as a Buddhist, I clearly clo not believe in killing, but I certainly don’t object to shooting skeet and tin targets at 250 yard, especially when a Navy sharpshooter who has been teaching for almost twenty years offers himself as your private guide and instructor.

We’ve also been mountain biking and this morning we took Tess, the family Springer Spaniel, a reportedly $10.000 dog who recently gave birth to eight wonderful puppies, on a challenging hike up to the top of the plateau overlooking this canyon (see above photo)—about a 3,000 ft climb.


Mama Tess, the Amazing Springer Spaniel

We really feel we deserve the phenomenal gourmet meals Cowboy Chef Lenny prepares for us each meal.

We also were invited to learn (fast) and take out our own ATVs —for someone who’s never done that, and always only hiked, biked or ridden horses, that’s another adventure into a testosterone-drenched world, like shooting guns,.  Suffice it to say, we didn’t flip our ATVs. But there were more than a few “Yee Haws!” as we swooped down through stream beds and up steep banks to gun it (lots of guns here) out the straightaway.

Well, all I can say, is “Present Moment, Wonderful Moment” has many unexpected, sometimes challenging, yet extraordinary meanings.  It does appear, for the price we paid and the amazing experience we have had, that we have surely hit the jackpot.

The Zen of Wilderness Llamapacking

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Meditation, Mindfulness, Pets, Travel - Tags: , , , ,

This is our 21st summer packing with our Llamas into the High Sierras.  Over the years we’ve had ten llamas: Machu, Pichu, Hopi, Mica and Sierra all now walk the next world; Miwok and Jambo, the parents of Llao Llao and Zuni, and Tio Sequoia are with us now. 

Over the years we have packed into the Lost Coast of Northern California, all over the central Sierras including the Dinkey Wilderness, Black Cap Basin, Red Mountain Basin, Bench Valley, the Silver Divide, out of Florence and Edison Lakes and Courtright Reservoir, and into East Lake out of Bridgeport, commemorating the place Jim and I met 32 years ago, backpacking before we had our llamas.

This summer we decided to cross the Sierras and head in near Mt Whitney from the jagged and dramatic Eastern slope, planning to hike over 12,000 ft Kearsarge Pass into the Rae Lakes Basin.  It sounded fabulous until some of our llama buddies warned us that there is no grazing and no dogs allowed across the pass in Sequoia National Park, only in the Sequoia National Forest on this side of the pass.  We can get along with no grazing as we can carry sufficient food for our llamas, but no dogs?  No Tashi and Beau?  That’s a non starter.  So we decided to stay with the plan to drive from our ranch near Yosemite, south across the Sierras past Lake Isabella, to Lone Pine, boarding the llamas overnight at the Lone Pine High School as guests of the Future Farmers of America.  We would drive north next morning to the 9000 ft Onion Valley Trailhead out of Independence, and trek up toward Kearsarge Pass, but not across into the National Park.  That plan assured maximal happiness for us all: our five llamas, Jim and me, and our two athletic backpack-carrying  poodles, Tashi and Beau, a perfect recipe for the Zen of Packing with Llamas into the John Muir Wilderness!

So it was that we set out three days ago, and so it was that I am breathing and smiling  deeply and broadly here in the gorgeous High Sierras.  What is truly Zen about this experience is that packing up the llamas, each with their colorful packs is a meditative ritual, and setting out on the steep ascent is a devotional exercise.  Jim takes the lead with the two girls, Miwok and Zuni and Sequoia, followed by Tashi, with his own little “Search and Rescue” lime green pack.  I follow with the two boys, son Llao Llao and his father Jambo.  Puppy Beau elects to bring up the rear carrying his own small blue pack of dog food and toys.    Climbing ever higher, one step at a time, slowly, slowly into ever thinner air, we ascend 1600 feet, switchback by switchback over a beautifully maintained trail.  With each breath, I feel Llao llao’s gentle breath cooling the back of my neck.  As we fall into a rhythm, I turn on my iPod and listen to Buddhist chanting, the meditative strains of Avolokiteshvara, and fall into a perfect Zen reverie.

Matlock Lake/ Near Kearsarge Pass

We are back in the high country we both so love, this haven of natural beauty and restorative calm.

Peace Is Every Step.  I have arrived.  I am home.

The Zen of Travel Packing: 5 Tips on Filling Your Duffel Sans Losing Your Mind

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Meditation, Mindfulness, New Age, Pets, Self-Improvement, Spiritual, Travel - Tags: , , , ,

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy……”Summertime”–Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong…  iframe>   but then sometimes, as we’re getting ready to take of into the great beyond for that long dreamed of summer vacation, it can be pretty nerve-wracking.  There’s so much to remember, plan for, think of.  It can leave us, as my world-traveling cousin likes to say, “Sometimes I feel I’m spinning like a hamster on a wheel with my hair on fire.”  Not even close to a zen image. Andale! Turbo Hamster


We Need All the Help We Can Get Packing for Our Trip!


OK, so how about approaching this task of packing from a different energy bank?  In our three year sabbatical of traveling around the world, my husband Jim and I have packed and unpacked so many duffels I couldn’t begin to count them.  And, I am happy to say, I have learned a LOT about how NOT to do it, and how to do it so it doesn’t make you crazy.  I’m happy to share some tips with you.


  1. First, don’t leave your packing to the last minute.  Last minute packing is inevitably harried and fraught with anxiety.  Consider that packing can actually be an enjoyable entre into your vacation.
  2. Second, make a list of what you’ll need.  I love and rely on my lists.  I have a generic shopping list on my computer with my usual haunts for groceries (Trader Joe’s, Costco, Shopper’s Corner etc) and categories to remind me of things I might forget—butter, eggs, yogurt, etc.  I have also created a checklist on my computer for travel packing.  It includes dop kit, cosmetics, underwear, socks, shoes, daytime outfits, evening wear, rain gear, umbrella, jacket/coats, jewelry, reading material, laptop, medicines, special gear (skiis, hiking poles, bike clothes, etc) plus reminders to change my outgoing office message, emergency contact info, etc

If you are going on an organized adventure travel trip, you will probably be given some packing tips.  Pay attention to them.  They know what they’re doing.

  1. Weed out everything non-essential. Whenever possible, take the lightest most easily packable and washable version of what you need.  Remember, you’ll be travelling, keep it simple. When you are schlepping your bag in and out of airports, buses, trains, etc. you will be so grateful that you didn’t bring that bulky coat, or those heavy shoes or that extra outfit.
  2. Take an extra, empty, folded up lightweight carrying bag if you think you might be “collecting” treasures to bring home.  Also, consider, if you are going to a third world country where people may need things you could donate, that you might even lighten up as you go along.
  3. Finally, allow time AFTER your bag is packed and before you get into the car, or the cab or whatever conveyance will take you on your dream vacation.  SIT DOWN and BREATHE.  If you do, your departure will be infinitely calmer and more enjoyable, and if indeed there IS something you forgot (say, the airline tickets) you have time to calmly retrieve them and still keep your smile and your equanimity.

And on the subject of leaving plenty of time, DO leave plenty of time with that mindfully packed duffel if you are taking public transport, to get to the airport, deal with traffic delays, go through security, etc.  Breathe…….Smile…….Enjoy…..

Beware! The House Land Sharks

Categories: Animals, Pets - Tags: , , ,

Have you ever been in a House of Land Sharks?

No?  Well, Full of tooth and ire, they may come upon you in stealth, rip your flesh from stem to stern, and proceed gaily off to chase another prey, just for the sport of it.   You’d best be, in the noble scouts’ term, Prepared!

To prepare for entry, be sure you have a few tricks and treats aboard, an amiable disposition and a willingness to get down and scratch behind some ears (gills) if need be. A couple of tennis balls may come in handy as strategic distractions–fearing an impending shark attack, toss the balls and pray that their retriever instinct will derail the attack.  Better yet, they may return to you, their teeth fully engaged with the tennis ball, not you, and panting, dropping the ball, tails swishing, entreat you to toss again….and again….ad again.

In which case you have fully successfully fended off a dreaded shark attack.  On closer examination of your new fan club, you will discover they are not land sharks at all, but a pair of poodles dressed up in the silliest of costumes.

Here you have it: Beau and Tashi, dress up to greet guests from the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club for our Annual Not So Progressive Ride.

And, what else? These timely costumes, (gleaned from The Bark Place’s Going Out of Business Final Sale) also celebrate this year’s auspicious passage of a smart new California law banning the sale of Shark Fins for Shark Fin Soup.

Let’s hear it for sharks!  (Furry and Finned)

Babies & Bon Bon de Beau Beaune II

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Family, Parenting, Pets - Tags: ,

What a re-entry.  We got home last Monday from our great tandem adventure, exhausted, jet-lagged and struggling with colds.  Coming through customs, we get a phone call from Seth, our new ranch caretaker in Aptos, regretting that he can’t pick us up today as planned.  His partner, Leilani’s water broke this morning and their long awaited baby is due to be born in our new yurt.  Wow!  How auspicious can that be.   Their baby is about to be born!  What a blessing.

We manage to locate a shuttle to carry us, our bike bags, duffel full of dirty laundry and weary bodies, home to Santa Cruz where we unpack, crash and wait for word about the progress of Leilani’s labor.  Her mother is there with Seth and their doula. Jim and I awaken at dawn Tuesday morning to see the lights still on in the yurt. Labor progresses slowly.  Jim, heading out to reset his bio-clock with some coffee from Starbucks, hears the screams of Leilani’s intense labor, and pales.  He was one of those dads in the day when many men squeamishly avoided delivery rooms.  Decades later than Jim’s birth experience, Seth, Leilani, the doula and midwife are thrilled to be able to birth this baby at home in the yurt, where we are too far from any neighbors for anyone to hear whatever noise Leilani wants to make to ease her laboring.

Hours pass and finally, just before noon, an unshaven new dad comes stumbling down from the yurt in the oak grove on the hill behind our house to announce that their son, Nathan, has arrived!  It was a difficult birth, and the midwife will be here for several more hours looking after mother and baby to make sure they’re both OK, but within the next few days, both are doing well.  With our colds, we dare not visit the yurt yet, but Seth brings his camera and gives us a great slide show—from laboring mom in the birthing tub to the birthing stool to the crowning, to the emergence of a beautiful dark haired boy, quickly named after his maternal grandfather.

Yesterday, four days later and both feeling much better, Jim and I set out north for Sonoma to pick up our new pup.  On the way, invigorated by the success of our tandem trip and impressed by the improvements we have seen in other tandems since we bought ours almost ten years ago, we stop at Crank 2 to look at new tandems and feed our fantasies.  Just about sundown we finally arrive at Cheryl, the breeder’s house and there he is….the most adorable little black fluff ball imagineable.   She lifts him out of his crate and as soon as his four paws hit the ground he romps over straight for Jim and me and jumps up, tail wagging, total body wiggling gleefully, and running back from Jim to me, back to Jim then to me.  We are besotted.  He is just like his uncle Tashi, athletic, sweet, engaging and funny.

Bon Bon de Beau Beaune (“Beau” for short, pronounced “bow”) immediately follows me wherever I go.  What a great little pup.  Cheryl gives us all the papers, instructions, a little bag of the food he’s used to and helps us settle him into his crate in the car.  We wave gratefully to her for making this all work out so perfectly, and set out to spend the first night with him in Sonoma with our friends Maggie and Peter at the cottage in their vineyards.

Peter is a great winemaker and we enjoy a celebratory bottle of his vintage Zin with a delicious dinner of fresh wild salmon and vegetables from their kitchen garden.  Beau settles in like a perfect little guest.  Any worries I’d had about not being able to pick him up at the “ideal” 8 weeks, evaporate.  At three and a half months he is socialized, calm and so easy.  He plays with everyone before dinner then quietly naps in his crate while we eat.  Cheryl has said that he sleeps through the night in his crate, saying, “Just take him outside before bed and when he wakes up and then every two or three hours.”  It works like a top.  Here we are, guests of Maggie and Peter, and this brand new puppy doesn’t chew on anything or have a single accident.  He just plays and sleeps, and we don’t hear a peep from him for eight hours the first night.  In the morning, I take him out  and he discover’s Maggie’s chicken coop.  He sits, enthralled, cocking his head this way and that, as the chickens cluck and scratch and flap around, forgetting for a few minutes, that he hasn’t peed or pooped since before bedtime.

Before breakfast, Maggie carefully introduces their two big older dogs, Oso and Ivan, one by one, to Beau.  At first, he quivers with terror, they’re so big.  But in moments, he discovers they’re friendly and off we go for our first hike through the vineyards.  He roars around with the big guys like he’s totally at home.  On the hike we meet probably five other vineyard dogs and their owners out for their morning hikes.  He makes five new friends and keeps us all giggling.

So much new energy.   What a re-entry: new babe and new pup.  We silently make a bow of gratitude to Jullay, thanking her for teaching us how wonderful it is to have a dog, and telling her that little Beau is a tribute to her and to Tashi, and a permanent reminder of a great trip to France.