Mark’s Excellent Adventure in Ava

Saturday August 25 –

Okay, here is what it is going to be like for my trip and competition at The Celebration. 

I decided that we would compete in the Ranch Horse Versatility Amateur Classes that take place on Thursday and Friday of the Celebration.  To prep for those classes I think we will enter the Western Pleasure and the Trail classes on Tuesday so Frank will get the “feel” of being in the arena before we get to our serious stuff.

So Frank and I have been preparing phyiscally for the trip for some time.  We normally ride Trails with Sweet Donna on Girl and do arena work about four or five days a week.  When I decided that we were going to Ava we stepped it up a notch.  Frank and I would go to Larry Creek by ourselves a couple days a week and do some “real work”.  Most know that Donna and I have a rep for being too fast on the trail, but in these workouts Frank and I really flew.  We went the long outside loop (7.5 miles and lots of uphill) at a lope most of the way.  Because I am a woose when it comes to sidehill and steep stuff we would walk the switchbacks and narrow up hill trail.  But, we still made it back to the parking lot in 50 minutes on average.  I don’t want Frank to get too tired to be at his best in the afternoon.

We also have some corriente steers we use in the arena for roping and working.  Our main exercise in the arena has been the trot over poles and the jump.  Seems Frank is not real sure it is necessary to trot over some big sticks on the ground when we can just go around them. Makes sense to Frank, but not the judge or me, so we have trotted over poles for about 400 miles.  And Frank is not sure of the real value of jumping the big stick on the blocks, so we have jumped from both ways over the raised pole about a gillion times. He can just about do it backwards.  The problem of course is what happens after we get through the gate.

Today, Saturday, I start serious trailer prep.  I will start to load all the stuff, and it is a long list, and to get things organized.  Frank and I will work the cows some and we may make the loop this afternoon depending on trailer loading progress.  I also have to wash thte truck and trailer and clean out the truck cab from my trip to the Wyoming show that left used wrappers and empty Pepsi cans laying about.

I decided that we would stay at the show grounds this time.  I rented two stalls from some very nice people that will be just a few feet from my camping spot.  One stall for Frank and one for the stuff I have to take for Frank.  The RV camping spot comes with water, electric and sewer so I wil be living in style.

I sent my entry a couple weeks ago.  I got health papers and a West Nile booster for Frank a week ago, he already had coggins done for other out of state trips.  So we are pretty set paperwork wise.

The trip itself will take three days. I am driving by myself, Donna won’t drive the Freightliner even if she was going, so I don’t do more than about ten hours a day.  First day, Tuesday, will be barn to Buffalo Wyoming fairgrounds. They have great stalls there and good parking. Second day will be to past BSFTA members, Ed and Mary Auger’s place in NE Nebraska.  Ed has said he will shoe Frank for me (for those who don’t know, Ed is retired, but he and Mary are two of the all time great farriers) for which I am pretty pumped as Ed knows what he is doing.  I will stay there Thursday and leave early Friday for Ava hoping to arrive before 6pm.  I don’t drive fast.  The truck does best at 1500 rpm and that is around 63 mph.  Fuel costs are my biggest expense so I am very careful to try for max fuel economy.  If I get 9.5 to 10 mpg I will be happy.

So that is the start of this deal and I will try my best to post progress and what is going on every night.  I have my camera, so I will take pictures of the show grounds and the whole redneck party deal (being a card carrying redneck I can make accurate evaluations of just how good the thing is).  This is a very cool event in the life of the MFTHBA and its members.  I just hope it is something more than one person will be interested in. (note my sentence structure in that sentence and you can tell I am a registered redneck)

Sunday – August 26 –

Well, everything is loaded but the cold food and the saddle and tack and my clothes.  I will be riding tomorrow on the cows. Would like to head up to Larry Creek but the smoke is pretty bad and if it is too smoky then I will just ride in the arena and rope and take it easy.

There is a chance that the hurricane coming onto the gulf coast may put some big rain into the Ava area. It will be over by the time we get there, but the residual could be bad, lots of water and eletrical disruptions.

Tuesday – August 28 –

Sorry I did not post anything last night, but we were busy until supper with other things and Sweet Donna fixed me some great sucatach to go with a huge T-Bone steak we shared.  Parting is such sweet sorrow.

So anyway, Frank and I left this morning at 5:10am.  I did not stop for anything but bathroom breaks until Bilings where I stopped in at Buckaroo Businesses. Folks you have to see this place.  It is in a pretty worn out building, but once inside the place is fantastic.  They have some of the coolest cowboy stuff you ever saw.  If you get a chance stop there sometime.  I bought me a new rope and you should see it.  Pink. Well the fella there called it red, but its pink. But, I am secure enough to use it.  I will however, not be able to show it to Bob Womack for concerns of its safe keeping.  Bob is well known to harbor thoughts similar to a 14 yr old girl (Bob has a Justin what’s his name T-shirt) and would surely like to possess the pink rope for his personal use.

We made it to Buffalo WY and the Johnson County Fairgrounds around 3:15pm.  It must be 110 in the shade.  Thank goodness for AC in the trailer.  I could have gone on but I thought that 10 hours in the trailer would be enough for Frank on a hot day like this.  Of course, I stuck him in a pretty hot stall in the barn so who knows. 

So far pretty uneventful trip.  On tomorrow to Augers in NE.  May have to wait out the hurricane rain in MO there for a couple extra days.


Looks nice and shady and cool, but it is not even close. At least 100 degrees.

August 29 – Wednesday

Left Buffalo, WY at 5:20am this morning in the dark.  Fed Frank a small flake of hay to get him down the road.  Did not stop until 9:30am for breakfast of peanut butter on 8 grain bread (yep I am living life large)  Got to Auger’s about 4:30pm (lost an hour due to MDT to CDT change).  Ed was very accomodating and fixed venison steaks and a salad and we later had some Maker’s Mark to cap off a very nice evening.  The temperatures here are record highs. Today it was 102, tomorrow should be hotter.  Frank was glad to be out of the trailer and I turned him into a couple acre run and he kicked up his heals and ran around until he reallized there was green grass at his feet and it really needed to be trimmed back.


Sunrise over I90 east of Buffalo, WY

August 30 – Thursday –

A day of rest and decision.  I have decided to stay at Ed and Mary’s to wait out the big rain coming to Ava and will leave Sunday morning.  Just don’t want to get there during a torrential downpour and have to park my big a__ rig in mud.  Forecasts say the rest of the week will be great.

Spent the morning watching Ed work at his forge.  He has some real talent with a hammer and hot steel. Here are some pictures I took while he was making a hoof pick.  You can buy these from Ed for $15 which is a real steal (no pun).  He starts with a used horse shoe and this is how it comes out.  You can have your name put on them and Ed will even use one of you horse’s shoes if you like.  He also makes quite a few other items including a steak turner that has a steer head handle.  Those are made from horse shoes also.

Ed at the forge starting a horse head hoof pick

Ed heats the horse head for more shaping


Ed uses a special tool he made to add the eyes to the horse head

Ed uses a wire wheel to smooth the pick before finishing with a coat of Johnson’s floor wax

Friday – August 31 – 2012

Mary got home from her vehicle counting job with the state last night and we all set out by the barn and had brats and pork and beans until way late.  Told stories and drank some adult beverages.

Mary and I rode this morning prior to the heat arriving. we did about 7 miles on the roads around the Auger Farmstead.  It was a good ride for Frank in that I did not want to get him fired up and he was a bit apprehensive about the new surroundings.  We walked most of the way with some fox trot thrown in.  Frank gets new nikes tomorrow, said he can’t wait. He loves to have Mary trim him and Ed nail shoes on.

Looks like Ava will clear on Sunday as I had hoped so I am planning an early departure Sunday around 5am.

Saturday – September 1 –

Still hot as the hinges on the doors to Hell.  But, we got Frank shod and found some problems with his angles and got those fixed up.  Frank is sure that he is being treated poorly because Mary and Ed’s horses are running together and he does not get to go over there and see them. Seems he remembers them from Arizona.

Heading out early tomorrow.  Ava here we come. 

Speaking of Old Wives Tails

Mary puts the finishing touches on Frank’s right hind hoof


Sunday – September 2 –

WELL, LOOKEE HERE NOW!   I got to Ava right at 4pm today. Pretty quick trip it seemed, but, I left Ed and Mary’s at 4:20am.  Just could not sleep so I was up and gone about 3 hours before the sun was up.  I got here and found the stalls and got Frnak settled in and all our stuff loaded into the other stall.  Man, it is hot and humid. You could ring water out of my shirt.  I forgot what humidity is like. Frank is getting a lot of electrolytes. Probably need some myself.  Hhhmmm, does Bud Light have electrolytes?  Probably.

Went up to the opening front arena classes this evening and watched about 5.  Pretty horses and boy were they shaking.  

Tomorrow I get Frank out early and ride and go up and watch the versatility classes.  Bob said I should go down and run the competitive trail practice course.  Sounds llike a good idea.   

Center ring at Ava waiting for the placings. Doesn’t get much more tense than this. All the moms were anxious and jumping up and down

Lead line class had 22 entries. The judges could not agree on the best horse so they gave all 22 the blue ribbon. And all of them got their picture taken.












Monday – September 3 –

Got up this morning and it felt like I was standing in the shower only no water was falling it just sticks to you.  Frank and I went up to the versatility arena and looked around.  We saw several people we knew.  Joyce Graening, MFTHBA President came over to howdy a bit, then Elmer Scott came by, and Suzanne Nebeker visited a while. Dallin Story showed up, seems he sleeps in alot.  We talked about what classes he would compete in this year.  You have to admit that Dallin is a miracle due to his horses.  Remember when he showed up in 2005 in a wheel chair and had to have two people walking beside him?  Well, he competes in regular classes this year here in Ava.

Folks, if you think that you can’t show in Ava because you aren’t good enough, think again.  There were a couple horses that only paced, never fox trotted and were placed accordingly, but their riders were having fun back there and nobody made fun of them.  So if you have the ability, come to Ava someday, it’s an interesting experience.

Frank and I went up to the front arena tonight and hung out to watch how that deal works.  Real interesting.  Frank was just a bit skittish in the dark but he was real interested in all the horses and goings on.  We stayed for an hour or so then I took Frank back, washed him down, cleaned his stall and fed him then went back up for a couple more classes.  Dallin showed in the Amatuer owned limited class and there were 19 entries.  He did well, but did not place.

Craig Danzie from Wyoming and our regional board of director member won his class, which I can’t remember the name of.

There are only about 5 million golf carts and four wheelers and gators etc running around here.  They are dangerous because at night they don’t have lights and you can’t see them when they come down the road at warp 7.  They should just do away with those things.

Boy howdy are there a lot of good looking fox trotters here.  Up and down the roads of the showgrounds there are horses that are just spectacular going.  You sure will know what a fox trot sounds like if you spend any time here.

Well, tomorrow Frank and I do western pleasure and then the trail class to get him in the arena and conditioned for the place.  Of course, tomorrow it’s going to be 98 degrees here and I guarantee it is going to be 90% humidity. This is hard on these horses.  Frank was standing in his stall with his head in the fan and still was sweating pretty good aroung the shoulders and neck.

Craig Dansie on his victory lap. Sorry about the quality.

Dallin Story competing in the Amateur Owner Limited class. It is just beyond belief to see the progress Dallin has made since his first show in Hamilton when he could not even sit unasisted in a saddle

Tuesday – September 4 –

This is a banner day for Frank.  In the Western Pleasure class he picked up his left lead like he did it all the time.  It was pretty cool because he has this difficulty with the left lead.  So when the class lines up for the ribbons, I look down the line and count the horses to see if I will get a ribbon. I count ten riders so that means I will get a ribbon and won’t be left standing out there like the boob I am.  Announcer says ” and the winner is number 208″ I think well almost, I’m 203. then he says ” Frank’s Wild and Wicked H.”  Well, I had to look down to be sure my number is 208 and it is. I won the Western Pleasure class at Ava.  Can’t even get close in our show and win the danged thing here against some pretty danged good horses.  Shows that some times the stars align and God says give old Mark a chance.  So many of the Open Amateur horses are not trained by their owners but a trainer who brings them to the Celebration and the owner gets on and rides only at the show.  Makes us real amateur riders kinda at a disadvantage.  You are seeing more and more of that in versatiltiy.  It has been the way of the performance arena for years. An addendum to this day. I just thought about the fact that Frank is almost certainly the first horse to win the western pleasure World Championship while being ridden in the hackamore.  I rode Frank in a half inch bosal with a fine Sara Hagel mane hair mecate.  You can see this setup in the pictures. It just goes to show you that the fox trot is not in the mouth. It is in the horse.     

Frank and I screwed up the trail class and finished 8th.  My fault. the pattern was a bit different to say the least (when have you seen a pattern that requires you to tie a ribbon around a pole?)  But, I had a brain poot and got confused on directions and although I guessed right it fried my brain and we did not do good,

It had to be 100 degrees today.  Performance classes happen at night but versatility is a daytime thing and it about killed me today.  I drank a tub of water and Gatorade (low-cal) and took Frank back to his stall for a while so he could drink and stand in front of the fan.  I got good advise from Mary Auger on where to put the cool water out of the hose on his big arteries and veins so it would cool him quick. Sure seemed to work because Frank got this “Whoa now that feels really really good” look on his face as soon as I started shooting that water up under his back legs.

Tomorrow is a down day without a class for us so we will go over the competitive trail course and then head down to Wally-World for some stuff. 

There was a pretty good wreck tonight when the second place horse is a class decided it did not want its picture taken and headed around the gazebo with gusto.  The lady rider slipped to the side and then the horse was sure something was trying to eat her and she lit out for home at about 100 mph.  This went for about 60 yards when a guy jumps out of the stands and tries (I am not making this up) to tackle the horse.  Did not work out for the tackler or the rider.  The horse pretty much knocked the guy on his ass and that caused the rider to crash on her head.  The horse came out okay, the tackler was wiping blood from his face, and the rider took 5 minutes to be able to get in a golf cart to be transported somewhere there are adults who can fix her.  In retrospect the fellow probably saved the rider from a more serious situation.  That horse was going out of the arena and if the rider wanted to come along that was okay but not necessary. I think when the horse got to the gait she would have just jumped it.  That would have been very bad for the rider who was hanging on to the side of the horse for all she was worth and probably would not have made the landing.


Thtis is where Frank lives at the Celebration. His stall is just to the right of the blue canopy. Tiny little stall (10×10 I think)










A World Champion fox trot

 Wednesday – September 5 –

Today I had nothing to do so we rode the competitive trail course here on the grounds.  It is pretty cool but was no challenge for the fearless and ever talented Frank.  Well, okay, he did think that a plastic tarp hanging in the trees was not something normal so he took a few minutes to consider his options and found that it was not necessary to walk through the thing.  Took me a couple minutes to get him through.  But the rest of the stuff were pretty normal trail class obstacles.  Had fun though and would like to make up a course for my back fields.  HHhhmmmm.

After the trail course I went up and watched the futurity and derby in the versatility arena.  Helped out a couple times on the cutting class as herd holder. Frank got a little cow fix, and I mean little they were using Jersey heifers that aren’t a year old and as docile as a 9 yr old lab.  I hope they have a little snuffier bunch for tomorrow.  That is when we have the ranch horse cattle classes.  I have to uphold the Montana dominance in these classes. Pres Boob said it was all on me, so he has put a tremendous amount of pressure on me.  This year it seems there is a much larger group competing.  So it won’t be as easy as Boob had it last year when there was only one other horse (I think, but maybe more, can’t remember)

Funny thing happened today.  I was sitting on Frank at the vers arena talking to Elmer  and Suzanne Scott and the vers committee chair Sonny Nelson when Sonny says  that his 74th birthday is Monday, Elmer says his 74th birthday is Monday and I say well my 65th birthday is Monday. What are the chances that three of four people in a casual group have the same birthday and two are the same age?

Tomorrow – Cow Class Dominance  Frank is revved up and ready to go eat a cow.  Well okay maybe not so revved up but he will be awake and he will dominate.

Thursday – September 6 –

Well, maybe not dominance, but we were the top dog today. Won the roping class, 2nd in cutting and 2nd in working cow.  That is better than any other entry.  It was another hot day that turned a bit iffy late as thunderstorms threatened but did not show up.  Huge number of entries in the cow classes.  In the versatility cutting which is a required class for vers champ had 16 entries then the open, open am, and youth were another 15 or so.  That would not have been bad but they only brought 20 cows and we used them hard and they got real tough as the day went along.  Surprised they didn’t tip over from the heat and humidity.

I don’t often brag on Frank (yeah, right) but I have had just a ton of people who have come over and told me they “just love Frank” and that is just the ladies.  The guys admire Frank with different language, like “pretty good horse”, or “I sure do like your horse”.  I even had one fella that asked if he could ride Frank.  Now folks, we all know Mark don’t let nobody ride his horse, and we know that it is kinda bad manners to ask a fella to ride his horse.  So I said, “Well sir, I would love to let you ride Frank, but HELL NO!. 

There were several “hired guns” here who train horses for some of the entrants in cutting, roping and working cow as well as versatility.  All I have met are great guys and ladies, but this is a trend for the future in versatility and ranch horse.  Those with big bucks hire trainers to work their horses then they ride them in the class.  It is kinda funny to watch some guy getting the horse warmed up and then climbing off, adjusting the stirrups, and then helping some owner up in the saddle.  If only I had lots of money like that.  If I did, I would be driving a Corvette and Frank would be hauled around by some guy whose job it would be to drive and keep Frank alive until he got where I am.  I guess I don’t understand the trainer riding your horse thing.  Most of these people who hire the fellas need to have them teach them to ride better.  A good horse doesn’t make a bad rider a good rider, it just makes a bad rider look bad.

I have met several guys here who are hooked on the ranch roping deal.  It is neat that these “easterners” are seeing the light.

I will tell you that I made a really, really long throw to win the roping today.  I bet it was 30 feet and I caught the cow out of the herd as it was trying to escape.  These cows were not real easy to seperate and I had to send a loop over two cows to snag the one I was given and I ended up with about 4 feet of rope left to dally and when the cow bolted I had Frank standing still and he had to jump to keep from losing the rope and that resulted in “Stupid Mark without the roping glove on” taking a good chunk of hide off his right little finger. And boy howdy does that burn. But, I didn’t die, so everyone got a good laugh when I was able to peel a piece of skin the size of a dime off that finger. Boy that polyester rope is hot.

Tomorrow it’s ranch pleasure, ranch versatility, and ranch conformation.  It is also highly possible that we will have thunderstorms in the area with the chance of hail and high winds and lots of lightning.  I am going to pack up right after the classes and hope to be on the road early Saturday. 


Frank with his cow class ribbons. Hishead is not this big even if Boob and Randy say so. It is the product of the wide angle lens. Or maybe it’s because he so proud of being a multiple World Champion Fox Trotter

Friday – September 7 –

Ladies and Gentlemen, the 2012 MFTHBA Versatility Ranch Horse Open Amateur World Grand Champion

Frank’s Wild and Wicked H.

The 2012 MFTHBA Versatility Ranch Horse Open Amateur World Grand Champion – Frank’s Wild and Wicked H.


I can’t really believe it.  But today, Frank and I became the World Grand Champion Open Amateur Ranch Horse.  We started with Ranch Pleasure where Frank and I finished second, then in the Ranch Versatility we placed second, and the final class Ranch Conformation we finished second. So in the six ranch horse classes we had one first and five seconds and that was enough to put us in first overall.  

I can’t describe the feeling when I heard them call out our number as the WGC. I have always kind of been laid back in this showing deal and if we do good we do good and if not that’s okay if we tried our best.  But, this is unbelievable.  

And to top off the whole thing, after the judge turned in her score card for the conformation class (last class of the competition) she came down and said, “Am I through judging you now?”  To which I said “I believe so, yes.” thinking that she was going to tell me where I went wrong I prepared myself for the old “you dummy, why didn’t you think of that?”  But, instead  she pointed at Frank and said, “Do you think I could fit him into my suitcase, because I sure would like to take him home with me.”  Makes a fella proud when people like your horse that much.

Now that it is over and I am headed home tomorrow morning I can say that I really enjoyed the trip much more than I thought i would.  The competitiors, show staff, and spectators back there at the versatility arena are the best at the show.  I met some new people that were very nice and enjoyed my time with just about everyone, just about. 

As soon as the ranch stuff was over the storm showed up.  I had just enough time to load all my stuff but Frank into the trailer, get the trailer down on the truck and ready to go and it opened up big time.  The versatility committee had a BBQ dinner planned for 6pm (you will never see the performance people do that by the way) but at 6pm you could not see 50 feet for the rain.  The show was postponed for 30 mintues while the storm passed. Only problem is the storm didn’t pass, it just stayed.  But they started the show with Model classes and it went on until the lightning struck relatively close and they put off the rest of tonights classes until tomorrow at 10 am with the normal Saturday night lineup starting at 6pm.  Oh yeah, the BBQ supper did go on at about 7pm and it was tremendous.  Good food and good friends. Kind of reminded me of the Big Sky show and people.

Boob Womack called me as I was telling Sweet Donna of Frank’s great accomplishment. I told Donna I’d call her back and talked to Boob.  He congratulated me and told me he was really glad for Frank and me.  But, he said it was a win for him either way since if I had not won he would have been able to ride me like a rented mule.  He even had started to make a list of harrassing and degrading remarks he was going to use on me from now until the endtime.  Boy did I dodge that bullet.

So tomorrow early, hopefully around 5am, I will load Frank and head to Auger’s then on to Buffalo WY again on Sunday and be home Monday in time for a birthday supper with sweet Donna. 

Sunday – September 9 –

Sorry for not posting last night but I got to Auger’s and we had to visit and the time got away from me.  But, now I am back in Buffalo, WY at the fairgrounds for the night and have a little time to catch up on some things.  I am waiting for the water heater to get the water hot so I can do all the dishes and silverware I have used before I get home tomorrow. I had instructions on how to do all that and keep up on things from Sweet Donna.  Only problem was that I counted the silverware and found I had enough to go the distance without washing and I used paper plates and bowls. Except for the ice cream (Blue Bell Black Walnut) which I, of course, ate straight out of the container. If you get a chance to eat that brand and flavor get some, it was fabulous.

Anyway, I wanted to acknowledge a few people as this is probably my last post on this blog. 

Sweet Donna made it possible for me to go to Ava by staying home and keeping the horses fed and dogs in line.  I really missed not having her along. It takes me about three days on the road to get where I sleep through the night without her there with me. 

Suzanne Scott helped me every day with Frank.  She held him when I was otherwise occupied and made sure he did not run away. Well, if you know Frank there ain’t much chance of that, but, it gave Suzanne a lot of time to hug on Frank.  And hug she did.  Frank would come out of the arena and walk straight to Suzanne. 

Elmer Scott, Suzanne’s husband, helped me in my roping and cutting classes and with some valuable tips during the competition.  A judge much in demand these last few years, Elmer is a good one to ask about rules and listen to his observations on you and your competitors.

The whole MFTHBA versatility arena mgmt team and show committee.  They did such a good job of putting on a superb show under difficult conditions of high heat and humidity and pressure from the front office.  These people were super.

The other competitors were so willing to help each other out (almost all the other competitors that is) that it was a breath of fresh air to see everyone having a good time and not getting a knot in their tail if they did not win. As one fella said, “The only person you cna blame is yourself and the judge, these other people are helping out all they can.”  The difference between the “Front  Arena” and the “Back Arena” competitors is the difference in an MMA match and Rachel Ray’s cookin show. 

The office staff was very helpful and took care of a couple situations I had that needed attention.

The Auger’s, as usual, were great friends and put me up in style and took care of both Frank and I. Ed and Mary shod Frank for me and he was so different moving because he was trimmed right and shod correctly.  Frank could not pick up a left lead for the last year or so and as soon as Ed nailed the shoes on Frank easily slid right into the left lead and did flying lead changes like he knew what he was doing.  Of course, it does not hurt to have to put up with Mary’s cooking and Ed’s homemade wine.  Ed also knew how much I prefer the fine nector of the god’s, Maker’s Mark, and had some there in the fridge ready for me when I arrived. With friends like these what else could you need?

So, Frank and I are about 9 hours from home tomorrow and tomorrow is also my birthday (65th) so I am jonesin’ to get home to Sweet Donna and the Button (most of you don’t know the Button, but she is our Attack Russell Terrorist) and hope that as usual Sweet Donna will have a cherry cheesecake for my birthday.  Can’t wait.

If anything else comes up before the end of the trip I will post.  Otherwise, thanks for reading and I hope this gives you a taste of what I did to get there and to get back and a little idea of what the show is like and the people are like and what a World Grand Championship means to a fella that has a pretty good horse who is just about the perfect pardner.