Posts Tagged With: Horse Adventures

Two Good Legs and a Whole Lot of Heart

I heard my little sorrel mare nicker to me as I walked down the warm barn alley toward her stall, dust motes floating lazily in the air as I scuffed my black boots.  When I heard her welcoming neigh I felt a little guilty.  Annabelle and I had both shown her over the weekend at a reining show at the Idaho Center and I knew she had to be tired this Monday morning, but you would never guess it from the bright eyes and happy ears looking over the top of her stall door waiting for me.  She lowered her head into the halter just like usual and stood quietly as I buckled the latch.  I led her over the stall entry and into the aisle, stopping just outside the door to take off her sheet and leave it on the hanger of her stable door.

As I turned to the task of unhooking the blanket straps my eyes went, as always, to each of my mare’s legs, looking for anything out of the ordinary.  A quick glance at her right front leg almost made my heart stop.  The tendon on the back of the leg was puffy from the knee to the fetlock, and as I gently reached down and palpated it it was very hot to the touch.  Tears filled my eyes as I led her out of the barn, walking backwards to watch for signs of lameness.

On any ordinary day I would have called my veterinarian immediately for a consultation.  Today, though, I walked her out of the barn, past the saddling area and to the big arena, where my trainer was working a cow.  Like me, he was busily preparing for the IRCHA Futurity, Derby and Horse Show that was slated to start two days later.  Despite his focus on the subject at hand, Jake stopped immediately when I walked over to the arena and rode to where I stood.  “Freckle’s leg is swollen,” I said miserably.

As I waited for him to dismount my thoughts couldn’t help but flash to the previous three days when Annabelle and I had shared Freckles and ridden her for hours combined as we prepared for and then showed in our respective classes.  I had felt after the first day that she wasn’t quite right, nothing I could put my finger on, but maybe a little body soreness or one of those hard-to-pin-down lamenesses that seem almost transient as you try to evaluate them.  I had asked friends to watch her trot around at the show too, and they saw the same thing I felt.  She wasn’t really lame, but she didn’t seem quite right either.

Freckles was wonderful for Annabelle in the show, with the exception that my little girl couldn’t get her to take her right lead, which was the same direction I had felt a little soreness in as I rode her around that day.  I chalked it up to the short legs of the rider and the inexperience of the duo together, and didn’t worry about it too much.


Show horses like Freckles are athletes, and it is not uncommon for one to feel a little stiff or sore every once in a while, so since her legs looked fine at that point, and there wasn’t even a definable problem to focus on, I went ahead and showed in my last class early on Sunday morning. She was great in that class.

I didn’t run her hard or ask her to exert herself since I was in the class to practice for the upcoming IRCHA show, but like always my little red mare had given 110% and shown beautifully.   We had won the class, receiving a beautiful embroidered turnout sheet and my very first NRHA plaque, along with a check for our efforts.


As I waited for Jake to get off his horse and look at Freckles’ swollen leg I felt sick.  Had I injured my wonderful horse by going ahead with my schooling when she had felt a little off?

Jake’s expression was not totally comforting, but his words made me feel a little better.  “Go ahead and saddle her, and just ride her easy.  It looks like her suspensory is a little swollen, but we can baby her through this last show and then she’ll have the whole winter off.”

I knew I might be taking a chance on some level by riding my horse with an injury, even one that didn’t make her seem very lame, but I desperately wanted to compete in this last show, and Jake didn’t get to be a leading trainer in the NRCHA without a good share of his own diagnostic veterinary skills and proficient judgment about what was safe.

I got Freckles saddled and wrapped her front legs securely with stretchy polo wraps to support the tendons.  If I had any choice I would not have ridden her at all, but the show coming up in two days required herd and cow work competitions as well as the reining, and neither Freckles nor I had worked a cow in over six weeks.  With the level of competition I’d face at the IRCHA Derby it would be suicide to go into the pen without putting the mare on cattle at least a couple of times.

She felt good as I trotted her around, and in the deep ground I couldn’t even feel the small lameness that I had sensed the day before.  When we went into the big wooden round pen to work fast steers out of a small herd, Freckles amazed me. She was just as athletic, fluid and limber as she had ever been on a cow.  I felt relieved and even a little optimistic about the upcoming show.

When I left that day, Jake told me not to worry.  He’d have the leg wrapped in a standing wrap to take the swelling down, and we’d work a cow one more time in the morning to make sure we were ready for the show.

The next morning Freckles walked just fine as I led her out of her stall.  The standing wrap was supportive and smooth, so I was shocked to see her leg still swollen when I unwrapped it.  It was still hot to the touch, and now there was a quarter-sized bump right on the back of her tendon.  The bump was hot and very sore to the touch, and I felt my dreams of finishing the show season with a win on home turf weaken.

I led Freckles into the arena to show Jake her condition, and he surprised me with his evaluation.  “It looks like the bandage was just a little tight to me.  Go ahead and saddle her up.  Wrap her with polos and bring her in to see if she’s still sound.  That swelling should go down when you ride her,”

Once again I second-guessed myself, but I had competed all season long with the goal of winning the Intermountain Circuit Non Pro Limited Derby Championship, already showing in several shows around Idaho and in Utah to accumulate points in my division toward the year-end award.  I was tied for second in the Circuit going into this last show with my long time friend Shane Broome, and while I wouldn’t have minded losing to her and I knew it would be a long shot for me to earn enough points here to move into first place, I really wanted to win one of the organization’s big events before Freckles and I were no longer eligible for limited age events in the NRCHA.

This was our last derby.

At age five, Freckles was in the final year of her limited age competition.  Our future together as show partners was in limbo as I decided whether to stay and compete in the cow horse competition in the regular boxing class or move strictly to the reining arena.  All year-long I had planned on resuming competition in the cow horse fence work after this year of boxing derbies, but Jake and I had recently decided together that I wasn’t ready to move back up to that level of competition just yet.

This might not be only me and Freckles’ last cow horse derby together, but our last cow horse show, period.

I wrapped legs and saddled with trepidation.  Freckles stood quietly as I pulled the stretchy material around her front leg, although I knew it had to have hurt.  I got on her in the indoor arena and walked her around for several minutes.  She felt fine.

I kicked her up into a trot and she still felt fine.  Jake watched her go and said “Aw, she’ll be alright. We’ll just take it easy on her and get her through this last show.”  I worked a practice cow on her with a glimmer of hope that we might make it to the competition after all.

When I got done riding I walked Freckles out to the barn to unsaddle her. As soon as I stepped off and looked down I my heart stopped.  During our cow work practice she had stepped on the inside of one hind foot with the shoe of the other, tearing off a silver-dollar sized piece of outer hoof and skin right at the top of her hairline.  It hung from a flap of flesh toward the ground as blood dripped slowly in the dust.  When I started to touch the wound Freckles held up her leg in pain.

I got my mare unsaddled and took the wraps off the front legs.  As soon as I did so I could see that the swelling had not gone down in the right front at all; in fact it was, if anything, even more swollen and tender to the touch than it had been.  I waited for Jake to finish riding with a heavy heart, feeling sure now that my hopes for this show and my Circuit award were done.

When my trainer finished working his horses he came out to take a look.  He took his pocket knife and cut off the big piece of torn hoof and told me how to bandage it.  Then he looked at the front leg and shook his head, saying these chilling words “That doesn’t look good.  Looks like she’s trying to bow to me.”

He was referring to a bowed tendon, any horseman’s nightmare and often a career-ending injury to a performance horse.  “Put an ice boot on it to stop the swelling and then we’ll sweat the leg.  You’re going to need to have it looked at, but it wouldn’t do any good right now because they won’t be able to see anything on the ultrasound with all that swelling.”

Throat tight, I walked Freckles over and hosed her leg with cold water as I waited for one of the assistant trainers to get some ice from the house.  As the time crept by Jake and his team of help loaded his eleven-horse semi-trailer and departed for the show.  Jake’s wife Jessie had dropped everything she was doing to run to town to get supplies for Freckles’ bandage, so I watched helplessly as the leg swelled further and stayed feverishly hot despite the ice and cold water.

Jessie came back and wrapped the leg and left for the horse show herself.  I made an appointment at the vet clinic situated adjacent to the horse show venue for 8:00 the following morning.  The first portion of my competition was due to begin midday, and if by some miracle the vet gave her clearance to be shown I would already be right there.

I went home and packed the trailer, getting a temporary-but-needed distraction by the kids’ rescue of Perry the Pigeon II, and threw a show shirt in the pickup along with my chaps and a hat, even though I felt in my heart I would not be wearing them the next day.

I spent a sleepless night thinking about my lovely mare and all she had done for me.  I had bought her almost exactly one year previously and shown her at this same IRCHA event last year after two weeks of owning her.  I was very rusty, and the mare was pretty green at that show, but the whole experience made me remember just how much I loved and missed showing.  (Read Red Mare Beware, my blog from November of 2012, to see how Freckles had come into my life.)

After a couple of months of reining training that winter, I moved Freckles to Jake’s so she would be nearby and started riding her myself. Jake helped me with advice and lessons all spring, and in March I took her to an NRCHA Premier Event, the Stallion Stakes in Las Vegas, Nevada, where we place third in a field of ten, winning more money in one show that I had in all my years of showing cow horses, right up until a fence work accident had ended not only my showing but my riding career for the next several years.

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After I got home from that show I continued to work with my horse, getting more confident and enjoying myself more with every competition.  Despite her relative lack of experience, Freckles was remarkably consistent, giving me the same ride and high level of performance every single time.  We competed in both reining and cow horse events, tallying up a dozen different shows and over thirty separate “goes” or individual performances over the course of the spring and summer.

Reiner Stopping

She just got better and better.

Pretty Circles

In a sport where a lot of horses need to be in training at least part-time in order to prepare for their non pro riders to show them in competition, Freckles never needed schooling after her initial two months of training.  Despite my misjudgments and riding errors, the little mare never got mad or defensive with me or took advantage of my mistakes.  There is an old saying that some horses are ‘born trained,’ and I think Freckles is one of those rare ones.

She just did her job over and over again, forgiving my bobbles and exhibiting the wonderful attitude I had fallen in love with when I first met her.  Over the entire course of the summer Jake had gotten on her only two times.  Even more amazingly, out of the twelve shows I had competed on with Freckles, she won money in 10 of them.

She is just that kind of horse.

I lay awake all night thinking about my friend, worried sick about the chances for her rehabilitation but trying my best to think positive thoughts.

At seven-thirty the next morning I pulled into Idaho Equine Hospital. I had beaten the veterinarians there, so I waited in my truck in the parking lot until my appointment time.  When the young vet came out to perform the evaluation, I stuffed a couple of tissues in my pocket and unloaded Freckles out of the trailer.

Dr. Wahl was professional and compassionate, taking off Freckles’ blanket himself before having the technician trot her in a circle on the asphalt of the parking lot.  She wasn’t off much at all, “just a titch,” as he said, but I knew not to take comfort in that.  I had had plenty of time to read up on bowed tendons on the internet, and everything I read said they many times didn’t cause initial lameness.

We walked inside and the technician unwrapped the leg.  To my dismay, it was still swollen, though after several hours of sweating and then spending the night in a standing wrap logic said it should have been as tight as the other front leg.


The doctor took a deep breath and gently felt the leg.  The look on his face said it all.  I knew it didn’t look good.

Before the ultrasound could be performed the leg had to be shaved.  Because it was so sore, one of the helpers had to hold the opposing front leg up so that Freckles would continue to bear weight on that foot and allow it be clipped.

As Dr. Wahl ran the clippers slowly along the puffy area, an amazing sight appeared.


Although it was impossible to fathom how it could have happened, it almost looked as though the leg had a snake bite.  In reality it was just one of those obscure injuries a horse gets that you never figure out the source of.

Dr. Wahl let out a long breath.  Then he smiled at me.  “I don’t want to speak too soon, but I think you are going to be just fine.”  He ultrasounded the leg over and over again, up and down with different views and cross-sections.  At the end he said “Your mare’s tendons are perfect.  We are dealing with a simple infection here.  We’ll put some topical antibiotics on it and wrap it up.”

He told me that the injury to the hind foot was likely more problematic long-term, but we could leave the hind shoe on until the show was over and then we’d address the problem.

Then he patted me on the back and said “Go show your horse.”

I drove across the parking lot to the show barns and put Freckles in her stall.  We’d given her an oral anti-inflammatory medicine and she was sporting two brightly bandaged and taped legs.  She hadn’t had a bath or a decent haircut.

But that didn’t matter.  As I kept telling anyone who would listen, I was just happy to be there.

Freckles performed as well as ever in the reining that day, ending the first leg of competition in the lead.


In the cutting pen the next day my mare was as good as she could be despite me.  The cattle were fast and I got a little flustered, kicking and hee-hawing her completely out of position a couple of times.

We were soundly trounced by our friend from Utah, Scott Wagner, who had beaten us at nearly every single cattle event in our Intermountain show series and was sitting first in the year-end standings.  When our herd work set was over I still clung to the lead but it had dropped to a slim half-point.

As it often does in these shows, it all came down to the cow work.  In the end, I drew a better cow than Scott, and Freckles worked like a champ, two-legged or not.  We topped the field by a small margin, finally achieving my year-long goal of winning an IRCHA show on home turf.

I even got a new buckle, which was even more fun since I shared that distinction with both Annabelle and my friend Jacki.

Three Happy Girls

Freckles and I were Champion in our division for the Idaho reining affiliate circuit we competed in this year, and we ended up Reserve Champion in the Intermountain Reined Cow Horse Circuit, behind Scott by just a couple of points.  But I didn’t mind.

I was just happy to be there.

As for Freckles, Desperate Hubby spent the next weekend building her her own safe enclosure at our place.  We’ve pulled her shoes and are waiting to see how the injured hind foot grows out.  Her front leg still bears a small scar but is almost completely healed.  She’ll spend the next few months sleeping, rolling around in the sand and flirting with Grumpy over the fence.

Happy to be Home

She’s earned it.


Categories: Horse Adventures, Life in the Country | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Trails My Beautiful Friend

Yesterday I said goodbye to one of the best friends I’ll ever have.  It wasn’t a sad, teary, final goodbye, because I know I will see her again, maybe even ride the trails on the Boise foothills just like we always did.

But there will be one difference this time – I won’t be riding her and she won’t be mine.

The Long Road to Spice

The beautiful bay mare Spice entered my life just over two years ago.  At that time I had not had a horse to ride for over five years.  A year before I met Spice I had been so desperately missing having a horse that I bought a cheap bay mare off of Craigslist.  I knew the second I saw the mare that it wasn’t right, but I talked myself into it.  I liked her breeding; she was my favorite color; most of all the price was right.  I had so missed having a horse in my life that I just thought I’d make it work.

It turned out to be a disaster.

I was coming back to riding after several years off following a bad accident and my confidence was at an all-time low. The mare was not gentle or well-trained and spooked after an equipment malfunction when I was riding her (in the trainer’s saddle) the second or third time.  I came off of her, and though I wasn’t injured I was so unsettled that I never got the confidence to ride her again, and sold her after just a couple of months, feeling like I might be done with horses forever.

The next spring though, the bug bit again.  We had gotten a little black pony for Annabelle to learn on, and I wanted to find something that I could enjoy riding with her.  Horses were not a very important factor in our budget at that time, so I didn’t have much money to spend.  Once again I turned to the online ads on Craigslist, and I started hunting.  This time I was prepared to take my time and find something that really suited me, no matter how long it took.

And it took a while.

I looked at half a dozen horses over the next couple of months, and out of them only one was even worth riding.  She was another bay mare,  and she was great on the trail and fairly quiet in the arena.  She was pretty, with one weird exception:  her head was crooked.  Really crooked.  When you sat on her and looked down at her ears they were set slightly off to one side.   It was disconcerting to look at, though it didn’t appear to really hamper her.  I assumed that the horse had pulled back really hard on her halter at some point and damaged her neck.  That worried me some, but as I said before, it didn’t seem to affect her.  I almost bought that mare, but something made me stop.  The lopsided head bugged me, and I had promised myself I’d buy something I loved this time.

I passed on the mare then, and again two weeks later when the seller (a very nice well-respected rodeo-family-mom from Kuna) called to ask me if I’d just come get the mare.  She was dealing with family health problems and didn’t have time to fool with selling a horse.  She’d let me have the horse for practically nothing.  I felt bad for her, but politely said no.

I wanted to love my next horse, not talk myself into it.

I’d almost given up on finding something when about two weeks later I saw another ad.  It was once again a bay mare, this one located in Sand Hollow.  The ad said she had cow horse training and could be a family horse.  I called and got directions to the place, and the next morning after I dropped the kids off at pre-school I followed the directions.

I got lost a couple of times and almost just went back home, but I finally called the number on the ad and spoke to the owner, who talked to me the last few miles to help me find the right place. The owner of the horse was a young BSU student who lived in Boise, and the horse was boarded in Sand Hollow at her ex-step dad’s place.  There was no one home, she said, but I was welcome to take a look.

I Knew She Was The One

As soon as I drove up the driveway and glimpsed the mare I made arrangements to have the girl meet me that evening to ride her.  Without even getting out of the car I knew she was the one.

Of course I did get out of the car.  Spice was in a stall with a run, and I crawled through the panel fence into the pen with her.  She walked to me and stood quietly as I checked her all over.  She was absolutely beautiful, and gentle as could be.  I petted her and picked up her feet; looked at her teeth and stroked her long black mane.  I was smitten.

I called Desperate Hubby excitedly, and he agreed to go with me that evening to watch the kids while I rode the mare.

The day seemed to drag on forever, but when DH got home we loaded up the kids and headed out.  I brought the horse trailer and my saddle, since the girl said she didn’t have a saddle available at the property.  The weather had rapidly turned from a sunny morning to a cold, windy afternoon.  As we passed through Middleton the rain showers started, along with a pretty impressive thunder and lightning show to match.

I was undeterred.  Nothing was going to stop me from riding that horse.  DH stopped at Purple Sage Golf Course and I ran inside to buy a hat at the pro shop.  I was drenched by the time I got inside, and when I told the guy behind the counter that I needed a hat so I could go try my new horse he just laughed at me.

Then he gave me a hat for free and told me good luck.

We pulled up to the farm where Spice was and there was not a sign of her owner.  I went into the barn and got a halter and caught her.  When the girl called and said she was running late, I pulled the mare out of the pen and tied her to my trailer.  The rain had stopped, though it was windy as all get out.  Spice stood quietly as I saddled her and we waited for another half hour in the cold damp evening.

As we stood there the step dad came out of the house and told me what he knew about the horse.  He and the girl’s mother had bought the mare several years before and the girl had only ridden her a handful of times before losing interest.  Spice had had a few months of cow horse training at the very beginning, but had stood in the pasture without being ridden for over two years.  He was sick and tired of boarding her for free and it would be good riddance as far as he was concerned.

Before he went back into the house he produced a legal waiver form which exculpated him from any liability should I be injured on his property.  He said I’d have to sign it before I could do anything else with the mare.


When the young owner girl arrived the circus began.  She was with her younger sister and their very energetic and untrained lab-mix dog.  The dog kept getting loose and running all around the horse while loudly barking non-stop.  The owner was wearing Ugg boots and stretch jeans, and did not seem the horsey type at all.  She didn’t have a bridle, and I hadn’t thought to bring one, so she went into the house and out came step dad again.  He found an old bridle that he had used on one of his mules.  It didn’t really fit Spice but we slipped it on and the girl climbed aboard.

Spice walked out calmly into the arena, looking as though she’d been ridden just the day before.  The wind howled and spit rain, and the dog ran in circles around the duo barking incessantly and pausing every few steps to jump up and bounce off of the rider’s leg.  It was something to see.

They walked around calmly for a few minutes, then trotted.  All looked good.  I was just about to tell the girl that I’d get on when she tried to kick the mare into a lope.  Spice was feeling good and she tossed her head a little and kicked a bit at the dog as she went into a canter.  This caused a panic attack in the young rider, who hauled up on the reins and jumped off the mare right in the middle of the arena. She led the horse over to the gate where I stood and apologized profusely.  “I don’t know why she did that.  She’s never done it before.  I can’t go on with showing her to you until I get someone to ride her and fix whatever’s going on.”  I was puzzled, but it was clear the girl was terrified of horses and completely undone by the experience.

I offered to get on her, but the girl said no.  She was done for the day.

What Was I Thinking?

I loaded my saddle and we drove away.  In my gut I knew there was nothing wrong with the mare, and I was certain she’d be perfect for me.  After a little discussion with DH I called the young owner. She was driving back to Boise as I called, and I told her that I’d like to buy the mare from her, for a third less money than she was asking.  I would pick up the mare tomorrow, cash in hand, and she would never have to get back on her again.  She balked at first, and I felt bad.  The mare was a great buy at full price, but money was at a premium for me at the time, and I knew that the young owner had no desire to ride the horse again.  She said she’d call me back, and it wasn’t five minutes later that she did.

It was a deal.

After all my experiences over the past year in trying to find the perfect horse I had just bought one.  Without ever swinging a leg over her.  What was wrong with me?

I met the young owner at 10 o clock the next morning.  We exchanged paperwork and with a little effort I got Spice loaded and took her home.  I wasted no time at all in saddling her to see what I had.  All brushed off and standing tied in the sunshine she was even more beautiful than before.

First Day Home

I immediately put a bridle on my new horse and climbed aboard.  She went through her paces like a champ, and though it was clear she was rusty and hadn’t been ridden in quite a while, her early reining training was evident, and she never offered to set a foot wrong, let alone buck with me.

The Love Affair Begins

I had found the horse of my dreams.  She was gentle and quiet, and while she had a few bad habits to overcome (like trying to nip you when you saddled her), her ground manners were impeccable.

In only a few weeks Annabelle was riding her around the pen, with me  close at hand of course.

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I rode the mare every day, and it wasn’t long until Annabelle and I ventured out on the trails together.  We went to Eagle Island a bunch at first.

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And tried camping… in Stanley.

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She traveled with us to McCall.

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We rode with friends.

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And climbed the hills of Avimor.

Annabelle Mom on Trail

Every time I rode the bay mare I loved her more.  She reminded me of why I enjoyed horses so much.  I felt like I did as a kid – I just couldn’t wait until the next ride.

That fall we were fortunate to get Grumpy, a retired reined cow horse that Annabelle was going to learn to rein on.  With Grumpy added to our string we could all go out for a ride, even Batman.

Kids Top o Mtn

Spice patiently ponied Reno the Black Pony over dozens of miles of trails with Batman in tow.  My son never touched the reins once, or even used his stirrups for that matter.

TR Batman at Top

Annabelle and I rode for uncountable hours with Grumpy and Spice.  Usually with Winston along for the ride.

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We rode with friends and family, sharing our horses with whoever needed a mount.

Girls at Rocky Canyon


Spice just got better and better.

Annabelle could catch her easily; the mare lowered her head almost to the ground so my little girl could put her halter on.

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She could clean her feet.


Brush her off.


Pony her from Grumpy.

Walking to the gate

And give her a bath.

And A bath

While Batman never did get much into riding, he loved Spice in a way that only a little boy could.  He just liked to hang out with her.  She stayed right beside him.


So Now You’re Probably Wondering What Happened…..

And it was this.  As time went on Annabelle got more and more into showing horses.  I considered finishing the training on Spice and trying to get her ready for horse shows, but at the age of 11 it didn’t seem fair to put the mash on her and risk hurting her or blowing her mind.  One trainer I asked said “She is wonderful for what she is; just enjoy that and don’t try to make her into something she isn’t.”

That was good advice; as an older horse she would have to compete with horses who had been in cow horse training since they were two  or three years old, and even though Spice was an exceptional horse with a great foundation, that would be a hard curve to catch up to.

I missed competition myself though, and last fall I was finally able to get a show horse and re-enter the reined cow horse competition arena.

We trail rode less and less.

Don’t get me wrong, we used Spice occasionally for trail rides with friends, but I mainly needed to focus on riding my young mare Freckles, and there usually just wasn’t time enough in the day to do both.

Still Meandering

When I did get out on Spice I remembered every time just how much I loved her.  She was always the same, whether you rode her every day or once a month.

Riding Owyhees

I hated to have such a nice horse just sitting out in the pen, and occasionally I thought about trying to find my beautiful friend a new home where she would be ridden and loved.  Batman absolutely went crazy when I mentioned it though, and truth be told I really just wanted to keep her around.

And Then I Got The Email

A friend of mine who had been on many trail rides with me and Spice knew of a trainer who was looking for a horse for a pre-teen girl.  They needed a gentle and calm horse that could instill confidence and teach a kid to ride. The family ran cattle on a big ranch in central Idaho as well, so they needed a horse that could be ridden out and was comfortable around cows.  Did I think Spice might fit that bill?

I knew Spice was perfect, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to take the next step. I employed my passive-aggressive side and said that sure, my friend could give my number to the trainer.  I knew I wouldn’t call her, but if she wanted to contact me that was fine with me.   “She’ll never call,” I told myself.  I knew the email had gone out to several friends and I figured that the trainer would be overwhelmed with calls from people who really wanted to sell their horses.

But she called.

We talked about Spice. I told her that I really didn’t want to sell the mare, but I hated having such a good horse sitting around.  She asked lots of questions and said she’d be back in touch.

A couple of weeks went by.  Whew, I thought.  Dodged a bullet.

Then she called again.

The family was coming back from the Bahamas and wanted to see the mare the next week.  Unfortunately I was gone to Paso Robles for the NRCHA Derby that week.   We could try for the following week.

When we finally got it together, it was agreed that I’d take Spice to the trainer’s place on a Tuesday evening.  After a perfectly nice day the weather had turned nasty.  A huge dust and wind storm was blowing through the valley as we drove, reducing visibility to just a few feet in front of the truck.  We finally made it to the trainer’s barn and it was pretty chaotic.  Tin was banging, tarps were flapping and dust swirled everywhere.  I couldn’t help but think of the evening I had first tried Spice.

I knew it was a sign.

We met the girl’s father and brother, and I liked them both on the spot.  We decided to go ahead with the trial in spite of the adverse conditions and I unloaded Spice and saddled her up.  Being the level-headed mare she is, she was unfazed by the wind or the noise or the half-dozen horses running and bucking on the hill behind the round pen where we rode.

I rode Spice.  The father rode Spice.  I changed saddles and Annabelle rode Spice.  The prospective new owner, an eleven year old girl, Ginny, showed up as we were all finished with our rides.  We changed saddles once again and she rode Spice.  I could tell right away that she was nervous, but she had wonderfully soft hands and a beautiful seat in her english saddle.  She was a gorgeous, sweet and shy girl, and I just knew she and Spice could be great friends and partners.

When the ride concluded we agreed to take Spice to the family’s property for a trial period.  I had told the trainer previously that I preferred to make absolutely sure the pair was a match before any money changed hands, and she agreed with me whole-heartedly.  Spice’s new home was beautiful, with big welded pipe pastures and a large well-maintained arena.  We turned the  mare out in a pen alone, and I drove off; happy for her but melancholy for the loss.

Ginny rode Spice and got to know her for a couple of weeks. I went to give Ginny another lesson on the mare before a final decision was made, and I was amazed at how they were getting along.  Spice was quiet and willing; Ginny was already much more confident in her riding and looked so beautiful on the pretty mare.

Yesterday we met Ginny’s dad and the trainer at the vet for a pre-purchase exam for Spice.  Annabelle went with me to the early appointment, and she had to time get in one last ride on our friend before she changed hands.  She walked Spice quietly around the round pen at the vet while we waited for Dr. Billy to come and take a look.

Happy Girl

I have bought and sold many horses in my lifetime; and isn’t always easy to part with them.  In this case though, the impending separation was especially bittersweet.

Spice had rejuvenated my love of riding, and without her calm and willing attitude I don’t know if I would have ever gotten back in the saddle.  Her presence had fueled an even stronger bond between me and my daughter and given us opportunities to spend more quality time together than some families do in a lifetime.

I have always believed that things work out the way they are supposed to.  I would have never gone out of my way to try to find Spice a new home, but I do believe that she was meant to pass the love of riding on to another girl in the same way she had for me.

Annabelle came into my office last night as I sorted through pictures to put on this blog.  She saw that I was crying and said “What’s wrong mama?”  I told her that I was really happy Spice had gone to such a great home, but I was sad we wouldn’t see her anymore.  “She has been such a big part of our lives,” I said through the tears.

Annabelle looked at me sagely for a few seconds.  “But mom,”  she said “now she’ll be a big part of their lives too!”

And so she will.  I hope you enjoy Spice as much as I have, Ginny.

Happy Trails.

Categories: Horse Adventures, Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Australian Pub Crawl on Horseback (Part 2)

Our first official day of riding started with a rainy two hour ride around the ranch. Rob managed pretty well for a non-rider.  What I say in my journal about my non-horsey brother is that “He did very well on the introductory ride – managed to post at the trot and hold on during the canter.”

The next day we had another ride around the ranch, then came back for a late lunch.  The lunch was exactly like a lunch you would be served in England; bread with canned meat, tuna and a pasta salad.  This was served with sliced tomatoes and chopped lettuce.  We also had the option of Vegemite.  I went for the tuna.

I think Rob just had beer.

Rob in the Kitchen

We departed the next morning in the pouring rain.  The ride started by fording the river behind the house and setting out across extremely rough country.  We forded two more rivers and crossed gullies and hills steeper than anywhere I’d ever ridden before.

Water Crossing

Because it was rainy and cool the kangaroos were out in force.  We probably saw a hundred of them that day, as well as wild goats (which looked exactly like domestic goats) by the dozen.

Our guide told us that the kangaroos were considered a pest, eating forage that could be better used for cattle or sheep.  They are not protected, and are often shot for meat and hides.  Occasionally the local stockmen hold kangaroo roundups, herding large groups of kangaroos into an enclosure where they are disposed of with rifle shots.  They often poison them as well.

The terrain was treacherous in the rain and mud, but we forged ahead.

We finally arrived at the little town of Emmaville at about 4:30.  We were drenched and tired by then, and plenty happy to see the little pub where we were to spend the night.

I wrote “The local pub was a welcome site, with warm fire and cold beer.  We had a hearty dinner and retired to the bar to watch some  dart players and visit with the locals.”

This is our group in front of the pub the next morning before leaving.

Group Photo

We set out at 9:00 and had an easier riding day, though we had some steep uphill climbs where we had to stand in our stirrups and hold the horses manes to keep our balance.  We saw lots of sheep and baby lambs, and had several good long gallops. There were a couple more river crossings today, too.

We even got to jump over some logs.  Rob didn’t jump though.  He was too scared.

Jumping the Log

At the end of the day we stayed at another little pub, in the tiny town of Torrington, population 82. We spent a couple of hours playing pool and talking to a local stockman and his wife until dinner time.  We had roast beef with potatoes for dinner, an excellent meal after our exertions of the day. The next day was our rest day.

On our rest day we hiked out to see the lookout site of Thunderbolt the Bush Ranger, a very famous thief on the order of Robin Hood. The views were spectacular from the top.

Rob at Lookout Point

We went back for lunch, then hiked off to see the “Mystery Face,” which is a natural rock formation shaped exactly like a real face.

Mystery Face

After a few more hours of beer drinking and pool, where Woodsy and I beat Rob and Woody for the World Championship, we turned in for the night.

Rob Pool

And headed out on a beautiful sunny morning for our next leg.

Tableland Hotel

It was a perfect day for riding.  The ground was smooth and we had the opportunity to do lots of galloping and more jumping of logs.

At one point we were galloping along through a farmer’s paddock when suddenly a horse came out of nowhere and shot by me.

It was Shandy.  And he had no rider.

Rob on Ground

Rob landed in fairly soft dirt, and wasn’t injured at all.  This time.  But I get ahead of myself.

We stopped in Deepwater for the night, where we had some unanticipated and vaguely disturbing entertainment.  The Publican, which is the owner of a pub in Australia had a two year old stud cold.  Our guide Woody made arrangements to have the stud colt service our hateful little packhorse Chartreuse, who was in season.

We joked about who was more excited about that, the stud  colt or the Publican.  We never could come to agreement.

At each pub we visited there was a schedule posted as to when the Pub Crawlers would be visiting.  One pub had a huge board for us to sign.  It had obviously been there for quite some time.

Hall of Fame

Rob stayed up late every single night, drinking beer and playing pool with the local drovers who came to visit.  Much hilarity was always enjoyed by all.

The next morning we headed out for our final long cross country tour.

Deepwater Inn

It was another great day for riding, and we made the most of it.

We raced.

Over the Hill

And this is where Rob took the coolest picture of our whole trip.

All Four Feet

Isn’t that awesome?!

Rob didn’t participate in the race. He was chicken. But he took lots of pictures.

We swam through a reservoir, then forded another river before coming to an area called Ranger’s Valley.  Ranger’s Valley is home to Australia’s largest feedlot, feeding 70,000 cattle.  It is owned by the Japanese.  Huh.

After Ranger’s Valley we went for a nice gallop over hard flat ground. Those Australians love their gallops.  Rob was right in front of me when Shandy suddenly literally jumped right out from underneath him.  He hit the ground very, very hard. Rob, not the horse.

He broke his wrist.  But we didn’t know that until we made it back home. He was in terrible pain for the rest of the trip.

How he hated that spotted horse Shandy!

We eventually made it back to the ranch.

Join me next week when I show you the super cool event we got to do before we left the ranch.

And I’ll explain why trying to stop chewing tobacco while on a trip overseas with a broken wrist is not a good idea.

Categories: Horse Adventures, Travel | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

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