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Camping On the River Day One


7/29/12, Lenore, ID - There comes a time when you have to seize the moment.  Eight miles into our morning trek I found a perfect spot to rest the horses. A half mile west of the bridge to Lenore was a piece of public ground near the river. At first, it didnít look too promising.  However, the west end of the property looked really good. There is a little-used boat launch and a bunch of cottonwood trees, next to the river. Under the cottonwoods was some of the best looking grass that Iíve seen in a long time.  Green and tall from subterranean water, the grass was lush and at least as tall as a horseís belly, some of which grew to six feet high.

At first, I was only going to call it an early day and give the horses some feed and rest. However, I soon figured out that I could easily graze my crew for two full days without having to move the wagon.

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Camped at an overlooked piece of paradise alongside the Clearwater River.

All day long, a light, cool breeze blew up the river, keeping the temperature several degrees lower than it would be only a hundred yards away.  In keeping with the finest Wagonteamster tradition, I set my lawn chair in the river, grabbed a cold beer and a book and relaxed.  In between pages of the book, I watched an osprey dive into the water and come out with a six inch long fish grasped in his talons.  When a mother duck swam by with six little ones in a line behind her, I set the book aside, nature was proving to be more interesting than the book.

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When I first built this corral, the grass was so tall, it was hard to see the electric rope. My three mowing machines got into the act and did what they do best, quality lawn care!

With a short nap and a few visitors, it didnít take long before the afternoon melted away. Since I was in my camping mode, I threw together a campfire and grilled a potato and steak over the coals. To top it off, I sliced up a watermelon that was given to me a few days ago. Only two things are missing from this place to make it perfect; internet service and the Swedish Bikini Team.

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Ah, the good life!

The biggest concern that a traveling teamster has is the health and well being of his team. I have to pay constant attention to: their feet, the number of calories they get, the amount of physical rest they get and their mental health (how stressed they are).  Stopping at a place like this goes a long way to improving the last three things.

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Excellent grazing is the best way of feeding and resting a horse.  The act of eating grass is mentally soothing to them and is the equivalent of a small child sucking a pacifier.  When given the opportunity, a hard working team will spend about 30 minutes grazing, then 15 minutes sleeping. Theyíll keep repeating this cycle for hours. At night, when itís cooler and the bugs are gone, theyíll stretch the sleep cycles to about an hour and lay down during that time.  Usually one horse in the herd will stand up to sleep as he has designated guard duty; but, if theyíre comfortable with their surrounding, the whole herd will lay down on their chest and sleep.

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Just before the sun set, I moved Doc to his own playpen. This helps prevent a breakout during the night and gives him some extra feed. He works much harder than his two teammates, so he needs it. I left Bill and Bob on the mostly mowed section to finish it off.

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I judge how much a horse needs rest by looking in their eyes.  In this picture, Billís eye tells me that he is mentally not stressed, but is still tired.

The team hasnít had a full day off since we left Helena, MT, nearly three weeks ago. There have been several days when we only drove a few miles, then stopped for most of the day, but right now they really need rest.  The wagon is fully provisioned, so as long as the grass holds, Iím going to keep them right here.  They will have at least one more full day off here is this beautiful place. If the grass holds, I might even give them so more time off.

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Thereís nothing a tired horse like more than belly-high grass next to a cool river with plenty of time to just relax and be a horse!