Posts Tagged With: horses

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.

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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.

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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.

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She just got better and better.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Huh.

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…..here 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

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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.

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Brush her off.

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Pony her from Grumpy.

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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.

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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

Rain, Reining and Roses

Saturday was the first Snake River Reining Alliance Club show of the year.  Annabelle has been anxious to go show again after having to sit around without much riding for a whole week in Vegas, so she was looking forward to getting out in the pen herself.

The day dawned a little gray but pretty warm.  We loaded up early and headed over to Kuna to the Lucky Run Arena.  As we arrived, it was easy to see the show was a big success.  The large parking lot was filled with every description of trailer, and I thought to myself “it’s gonna be a long day.”

We had a several-hour wait until our class, which we spent by industriously eating donuts and talking to all our friends who were also hanging around.  A steady rain had picked up shortly after we got inside the arena, and we tried to wait it out before we got our horses out of the trailer and saddled.

Finally, after Annabelle asked me for the forty-seventh time when she could get on Grumpy, I acquiesced and we headed out into the drizzle to get saddled up.  It was immediately apparent that I had not packed warm enough clothes or coats for us.

It was windy and miserable, with the rain varying from a light drizzle to what my friend David Duckett describes so eloquently as “a cow peeing on a flat rock”.  Except he doesn’t say peeing.

It's Cold Out Here!

We tried to ride around outside with the other riders for a while, but eventually it was just too miserable, and we sat inside with everyone else waiting for our classes to come up.

We were muddy and cold, and our horses were definitely not the picture of show-ready that day.

We're Wet But Ready

Auntie Shane is such a funny girl!

Bunny Ears

Just before her class came up, Annabelle went back outside to lope.  You can actually the rain falling in this picture, but she was not to be deterred.

Raindrops are Falling

I was not as hardy or dedicated as my daughter in my rainy-day warm up routine, so when I entered the arena to school Freckles in the green rookie class she was…..let’s just say ‘not quite mentally prepared’. She spooked from the judge, swished her tail, and carried her head like a 14-hand giraffe for a bit, then settled down into her work.

Once she got going she was actually pretty good.  We were the first out in our class of 16 horses, and the judge must have seen something she really liked in my diminutive red filly, because she marked us a 70.  While I was thrilled with the score, I really did feel it was a bit generous, and I saw several horses follow us that I was sure would mark better.  Somehow, though, our number held up through the class and Freckles won her first reining money:  $49.70.  Yahoo!

Have I mentioned that I love this horse?

Here is a video of our run:

When it was Annabelle’s turn, she headed out all smiles.  She had been waiting all day to go show, and she was ready.

Despite the rain, she had succeeded in loping Grumpy until he was pretty tired, and he was definitely not in the mood to go out and be shown.  Annabelle had to work pretty hard at getting him through the pattern. The other kids had some problems with their patterns too, though, and in the end Annabelle and Grumpy did come away with the only score of the day, and an automatic first place.

I was really proud of her because she didn’t give up when she had some  problems getting her spins or her back-up at the end of her run.  That girl does have perseverance, no doubt about that!  I’ve had a problem getting her video to upload, but she did a great job of keeping her horse correct and honest through the pattern.

As soon as we were finished showing we loaded up and headed home, but not before Annabelle gave Grumpy his cookies as a reward for a job well done.

He Earned his Treats

DH had been home with Batman all day, and I knew they were ready for some female companionship in the house.  On the way home I called to see if we needed anything from the store.  “Nope”, he said. “I’ve got it handled”.

We walked in the door, still cold and very hungry, to find a large bowl of delicious home-made guacamole on the table.  There was already a glass of wine poured, and DH was in the middle of making fish and chips with fresh cod, paired with some special crunchy fries that he had just found the recipe for that day.

The food was awesome, but that wasn’t all.  The boys had picked me up a dozen red roses at the grocery store while they were there.

Just because.

The Roses

I love my life!

Categories: Horse Adventures, Kids Are Funny Creatures, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

A Dead Horse and the Snow Cat

After my sort-of-whiny post the other day about our long stretch of cold weather, a friend of mine called to empathize with me.  She said that she was getting sick of being inside too, and was making plans to leave the valley for a couple of days for a change of scenery.  Then she said something that really resonated with me:

“Sometimes you have to make your own change.”

Wow.  So simple yet so true.  I decided right then that I would embrace these chilly days of weather in any way I could.

Yesterday morning presented the perfect opportunity.  With temperatures outside  hovering right around zero and lots of humidity lingering in the air, everything in sight was absolutely covered in heavy frost.  It made for some awesome photo opportunities, so as soon as the sun started to peek out from under the haze I put on my snow boots, grabbed my camera, and headed out the front door to try to capture some of the beauty.

The animals were thrilled to have me out and about with them, and they bounced happily around as I crunched through the snow taking pictures of everything in sight.

The first volunteer for my impromptu photo session was Annabelle’s little cat, Ava.  I was sort of surprised when she came bounding over the snow toward me, since Annabelle is really the only person in the family she likes.

But bound she did.

She ran over to one of the fruit trees in the front orchard and sat playing with the frost that drifted lazily down from the tree branches.

Falling Snow

Winston-The-Maniac-Teenage-Birddog helped me out with the next part.  He raced over toward the vulnerable grounded cat and left Ava no place to go but up the frosty tree.

Wheres the Cat

She climbed up and walked carefully along the slippery branches, stopping every now and then to look around at the goings-on.

Frosty Cat in Tree

Eventually she jumped down from that tree and hopped through the snow to the tree next door.

She climbed up and sat for a long time peering down at me as the sky slowly brightened behind her.

Avie in Tree

After awhile she got down and ran away, with Winston in hot pursuit.

The rest of us meandered down the road to the horse pens, and I saw a sight that nearly took my breath away.

Is she dead....

My pretty little bay mare, Spice, was lying in the snow, completely motionless.  Her mouth was slightly open, and I could see her teeth shining through her gaping lips.

I really thought she was dead.

I watched for a few moments, and after a bit I could see her flanks gently heaving. She was just sound asleep.

As the dogs and Ava and I continued our ambling photo shoot, the next place Winston chased Ava was to the top of the post above the dog kennel.  She actually spends a lot of time up there.

I guess she likes the view.

Cat on Post

We wandered down the lane and toward the front of the property.  I wanted to get a shot of the chain link fence covered in frost.

Frosty Chainlink

Along the way I stopped for a picture of the snowy pasture.

Snowy Pasture

We headed back up toward the house with our ancient schnauzer Maddie slowly leading the way.

Maddie Snowy Road

I got a photo of Toby-The-Old-Man-Dog sniffing around the front yard.  I really don’t know what he was expecting to find in all that snow.

Old Dog in the Snow

I took some pictures of driftwood and bushes…..remember the “Flying Pig” from our Stanley camping trip?

Flying Pig in Snow

A couple of the big trees in the front yard looked pretty against the blue sky.

Frosty in Blue

And I loved this cool shot of the same tree from the other side with the sun shining through it.

Frosty Tree

It was pretty amazing to me that during  the hour I was outside the light changed so dramatically, and the hue of the sky varied completely depending on the direction of my camera lens.  It was so engrossing that I never even felt the cold.  Mother Nature sure is a fantastic artist.

Embrace the moment, my friends.

Categories: Horse Adventures, Life in the Country, Random Musings | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Winter Doldrums

If you are one of the millions of people not lucky enough to live in our beautiful Idaho valley, you are missing out on a winter wonderland.

A winter wonderland that has overstayed her welcome, in my humble opinion.

A measurable snow storm is rare enough in our area that we still rejoice at the first flakes, and delight in the snowman-making and frolicking that takes place if the fluffy whiteness actually accumulates on the ground.

Occasionally a winter inversion will even make for some pretty sunrise photos.

Snowy Morning

We got snow here in the valley between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and it was really fun.  We played and played in the snow, built snowmen and had snowball fights.  Then that snow kind of melted, until last week, when we got a major storm.

The snow was still fun then.

Batman, being the master of comic relief in our family, loves to run and “trip” in the snow, falling face-first in the powder with a squeal, then rolling around and around screaming “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

Batman in Snow

Winston is always happy to add to the show, bounding around and around and up and down, jumping over Batman when he falls down and generally being a big goofball.

Winston Bounds

Of course, he can also be the sweetest boy sometimes.  Notice how he is trying to twist his mouth around to pull off Annabelle’s glove.

Snow Winston

We played in the snow every day for the first few days, and the kids even got to enjoy a “snow day” last week when Annabelle’s school shut down due to the big storm.

All that was still pretty fun.

Batman got to spend lots of time doing one of his favorite activities:  helping.

After I shoveled the driveway and sidewalks after each snowfall, he would take the shovel and move impressive amounts of snow around on the long gravel drive in front of our house.

Put your body into it

He shoveled several large areas in the front of the driveway until they were completely clear.  While those areas were not necessarily expanses that needed to be snow-free, his effort was remarkable nonetheless.

Got a Job to do

At first, when the cold snap hit, Annabelle and I continued our normal routines.  We rode in the indoor arena where Freckles lives even when the temperature hovered in the single digits.

This is when something happened that I never thought I’d witness.

Annabelle asked if we could please quit riding.

She was so cold that day she didn’t even help me get the horses unsaddled, and sat shivering in a chair covered up with someone else’s horse blanket until we were ready to leave.

She gave up

That was almost two weeks ago, and it was the last day we rode.   Since then, even taking care of the horses has been a challenge.

Grumpy is breaking in his new pink blanket from Santa Claus (on top of the two he was already wearing) because he was shivering in his hairless splendor.

New Pink Blanket

Spice has icicles on her whiskers.

Spice is Frosty

Reno’s mane and forelock are tipped in fine white frost in the mornings.

Reno is Frosty

Our dining room sports a four-wheeled hose reel that contains the equipment we use to fill our horses’ water tanks, since the heater in the tack room cannot keep up with the sub-zero night-time temperatures.

Hose Reel

Even Toby-The-Old-Man-Dog has deigned to join us in the house a few times to warm his frozen bones, a move that is pretty much unprecedented in his thirteen years with our family.

Of course, who wouldn’t want to warm up on a Dora comforter?

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The snow still looks pretty from some angles.

Snowy Landscape

But the many consecutive days of below-freezing temperatures have left the roads in our small town still ice-covered and treacherous for driving.

To add insult to injury, the pipes in poor Desperate Hubby’s office have frozen solid.  Because the owner of our office complex is an absentee landlord residing in sunny Mexico, we have been unable to come to an agreement regarding the $500 or so it will cost to thaw-out said pipes.  In the meantime, our office resembles a sauna, with two space heaters keeping the mercury at around 90 degrees as DH tries to initiate the thaw on his own.  Sheesh.

Admittedly, the unseasonably cold weather is not without its merits.  I have finished all my accounting updates for the company and already submitted our books to the CPA to get our 2012 taxes prepared.  My home office is looking lovely (if I do say so myself) due to the amount of effort I have devoted to the makeover and subsequent revamping of my filing system and supply storage.  The company’s national and state licensing was renewed well before the due date, and I have responded to the half-dozen or so inevitable requests for additional information in a very timely manner.  I’ve even cleaned out and re-organized our pantry.

So the time spent waiting out the weather has not been wasted.

But still,  I am ready to be done with this ultra-cold weather.  I want to ride my horse and run outside and do all the stuff that we generally take for granted year-round here in our lovely state.

So snow and sub-zero temperatures go away. Come back again……next year.

Snowy Face

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

Pony Rides $1….uh….50 cents?

The kids and I had a rare free Saturday yesterday, and we decided to take advantage of it by going for a little ride at Eagle Island.  This ride was special for me and Annabelle because Batman had decided to accompany us.  His participation in equine activities has always been sporadic, and the time between his rides has grown greater and greater over the past months.

Annabelle was, as always, eager to show off her riding prowess, and she wasted no time in planning how the day would evolve.  When we discussed horse assignments she volunteered to ride the pony and let her brother ride Grumpy, as the pony had not been ridden for a couple of months and she was “a lot better rider than her brother.”

We caught the horses, and I saddled Reno first.  After I lunged him around for five or ten minutes I thought he would be safe for her to climb on.  She mounted up and started trotting him around in small circles, bending his head and bridling him up to get him to listen to her.  All seemed like it was going well, but I watched carefully for several minutes before I went back to saddling.  I knew the pony could be fractious after time off, and it was a cold winter day out there.

I was on the other side of the trailer removing mud from a less-than-thrilled Grumpy, and  I kept glancing  around the corner to check on progress.  At first, Reno seemed pretty compliant.

After about ten minutes though, I heard an alarming sound…..kind of a yelp/scream from my little girl.  I rushed around the trailer just in time to see her launched off the back of the little black bastar bad boy and land on the frozen ground on her back.

Then this.

I ran to my baby girl, who was actually crying.  She has been bucked or fallen off of more horses than most children her age will ever ride, and she almost never cries.  So I was really mad at that pony.

I got Annabelle up and asked if she was all right.  She answered in the affirmative, but made it clear she wasn’t getting back on.   After a long hug and quick check of body parts, she trudged off to get some grain in a bucket so we could catch Reno.  He has proven on more than one occasion that he enjoys a little freedom now and then, and it is almost impossible to catch him when he’s on a rampage.

I tried though.

He ran.

And bucked.

And ran some more.

He's Off

Although I knew I wouldn’t likely catch him without the grain, I couldn’t stop myself from chasing him.  I tried to head him off by jogging around the side of the horse trailer, where Spice was tied rearing and bucking in place from all the excitement.

Reno was thinking about running me down when suddenly Annabelle appeared behind him, rattling the bucket.

The pony screeched to a halt and his entire demeanor changed.

He turned and walked calmly to my now-smiling little cowgirl.

Who is the most forgiving person on the planet.

She patted him on the nose and said “Good boy Reno!”

There was no talk of cancelling the ride from any involved party, so we carried on with our plans.  I got Spice and Grumpy saddled, and we loaded up and headed for Eagle Island.  We decided en route that Batman would ride Reno, since the pony is always a perfect gentleman on the lead line, and Annabelle would regain her composure on her trusty Grumpy.

When we finally got on the trail it was a beautiful ride.  Although we are in the depths of winter, there is plenty of wildlife to be seen at the lovely state park.  We saw several blue herons, and the kids marveled at their long wing spans.

We even saw a heron sitting in a tree along the river.  I had seen them on the ground many times, but I had never before seen one in a tree.  It was pretty cool.

We stopped after going through one of the many gates we had to pass to take a photo of the team.

And speaking of wildlife, one of the funniest moments of the ride was an encounter between Winston and a big flock of geese sitting in a field.

Winston looked at the geese for a long time trying to figure out what to do.

He finally talked himself into approaching the flock, and moved toward them cautiously.

Batman was beside himself with excitement.  All ride long he had wanted nothing more than to “catch a bird” to take home to daddy.  Although he has gone hunting a few times, I don’t think he has the concept that you have to actually shoot a bird to capture it.  He was sure that Winston would catch a goose for us, and that it would be “the PERFECT PRESENT for daddy!!!”

Winston wasn’t so sure about that.  One of the geese honked at him, and he turned around and high-tailed it back to us.

We laughed at him for a while, and when it was apparent that he was not going to approach the birds again we started to walk back down the trail.

Suddenly the crazy dog got a flash of inspiration, turned around, and took off for the birds at a dead run.  He ran right into the flock, who took flight at a leisurely pace.

The geese in the park are so used to dogs that they glided only about ten yards away and landed again.  Winston was so proud of himself that he didn’t care if the birds actually flew away.  He returned to us wagging his stump of a tail and smiling with his whiskery face.

He is a funny dog, that one.

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Before we got to the trailer, we had one more gate to go through.  Unlike all the other gates, this green metal swing gate could be opened and closed while on horseback.  Annabelle was intent that she was going to do it herself.

Because she had been planning on riding Reno, she was not wearing her spurs, so she had to work hard to get Grumpy sidled over so she could reach the locking arm.  I asked if she needed help.  You can guess the answer.

Got the Gate

When she got the gate unlocked, she swung it wide so that Batman and I could pass through.

Batman waited placidly for his sister to maneuver the gate.  He was disappointed that we had not “caught” any birds, and he was ready to get in the truck.

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After we passed through, it took a while for Annabelle to get Grumpy side-passed over and to where she could shut the gate.  I asked again if she needed help, and she said “NO MOMMY! I can do it myself.”

She shut and locked the gate all by herself, and rode smiling over to resume our trek.

I know she is my daughter and all, but dang she is cool.

Once we got the horses loaded and climbed back in the truck, the cold and activity took its toll on four-year old Batman.  He fell asleep before we hit the main road and although I know he must have been roasting he slept for the entire 45 minute drive.

Gloves and all.

It was a fun winter day.  We all appreciated the fresh air and relatively moderate temperatures, and it is always rewarding to do a physical activity with the kids.

So remember, we offer pony rides…..

……..with a 50% discount if you have good insurance.

Categories: Horse Adventures, Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Real Man From Snowy River

We finished up our Tasmanian adventure in good spirits, rested and ready for our next trip, an eleven day pack trip through the mountainous region of New Zealand’s South Island.

Rob had regained much of his good humor from the rest and recreation in Tasmania.  Look at him here trying to contain his glee.

Happy Rob

We traveled from Tasmania to the beautiful city of Christchurch and checked into the lovely Millennium Hotel, where we spent a couple of days getting our laundry done and watching stupid movies on Pay Per View (I noted “Michelle and Romey’s High School Reunion” in particular, in my journal). It has to be a pretty bad movie if you take up valuable journal space remembering the name.

Our trip was based out of a picturesque ranch called Waitohi Downs, which is a mountainous 2,300 acre spread.  It is home to 50 horses, 3,000 sheep, 150 beef cattle and 450 red deer.  The red deer are raised for their antlers, which are shipped to Japan where the velvet is a high-priced Japanese aphrodisiac. Huh. I guess whatever floats your boat.

Anyway, our hosts on the trip were Jenny and Lawrie O’Carroll.  They were a fortyish couple, no kids, and they ran the 1-day to 11-day trips based out of their simple yet comfortable ranch headquarters.

This is Jenny.  She was our camp cook, and exhibited unflappable calmness and good humor through all the challenges of the trip. She made a mean dessert too.

Jenny

Jenny’s husband is Lawrie.  He is The Real Man From Snowy River.

Lawrie

I thought he looked kind of like a tall, masculine Richard Gere.  Lawrie and I hit it off right away (no, not in the “deer horn” sort of way) and he spend most of the trip trying to persuade me to abandon my life in the U.S. for a year and work for he and Jenny guiding pack trips.  I still can’t believe I didn’t do it.

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Rob made a new friend while we were at the ranch.

Rob and Pig

Unlike Australia, where our gear was carried from place to place by automobile, here all of our stuff was loaded on packhorses.  Our first night there we were taught to pack our swag, which was a combination of bedroll and duffel bag, and carried all of our personal belongings for the trip.  We were allowed three changes of clothing, a towel, some extra shoes for camp, and our cameras and journal writing materials. 

There was no room in the swags for a blow dryer or makeup.  You will no doubt notice that in some of the pictures later.

The swags were loaded on the sides of packhorses for the trip.

Which brings me to the horses.  They were giant Thoroughbred/Clydesdale  crosses.  Here is Rob with one of the packhorses.  They truly were huge.

Rob and Pack Horse

At just over 16 hands high, my mare, Fern, was the smallest horse in our string. Did I mention there was no room for makeup?

Me and Fern

Here is a picture of Rob with his horse.  Or is it the horse and then Rob.  I can’t tell.

Rob and Horse

We had a fellow rider who was a very nice woman from Colorado named Diane.  Here we are, all loaded up and ready to head out.

Group Photo

And going down the trail. Isn’t it beautiful?

Heading Out

As the most experienced guest on the trip, I was often assigned the ask of leading Matia, a high-spirited and somewhat wild three year old gelding who had never been ridden and was on his first trip with the string.  Daily, he stretched my arms, jerked my neck, and once almost pulled me off crossing a nasty raging river.

I nicknamed the colt “Junior,” and next week I’ll tell you about how Lawrie actually made me ride him. 

Leading Matia

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These Things Happen in Threes

It is said that bad luck happens in threes.

I publicly humiliated myself recently by admitting to an incident that happened to me and my bay mare regarding an overhead roll up door.

About a week after that, I dropped my brand new camera on the concrete outside my sister’s garage after capturing on film the wonderful day my kids and I had sledding behind the four wheelers after a first-day-of-spring snow storm. It did not fare well.

After those two incidents happened, I remarked to my friend that I was certainly hoping there would not be a third incident.  She was supportive; she said “I think you can count the overhead door accident as two incidents – one for the door itself and one for the saddle. There are your three.  I think you are good.”

I appreciated her positive attitude, but I wasn’t so sure.  I am not overly superstitious.  But I am superstitious.

Today was a beautiful spring day in Idaho.  The sun shone.  The birds chirped.  The maniac bird dog puppy ran around crazily with all manner of our personal belongings in his mouth.

Horsecrazy rode her wonderful horse Grumpy for a good couple of hours.

Annabelle grumpy

We got out my pretty, sweet bay mare, Spice, and Zach rode her. I took them both on a nice trail ride around the property.

Kid on Horses

On the way back we ran into our neighbor Kay.  She is married to Vernon, who most recently helped us in capturing the escapted Little Black Pony Reno.

We love our neighbors.  We stopped to visit.  Annabelle grew tired of the talking and went back into the pen to lope around some more.  Zach had to stay with me as I was leading his horse.

Annabelle Lopes Grumpy

After Annabelle and Grump had loped for awhile I saw them meandering around the arena.  Then I saw them wander into the pen next door, through the not-very-wide-gate.  I talked some more.  Then I heard a big crash.  I looked over in horror.

Annabelle was still on her horse.  But she was crying.  She was crying very loudly.  Then she jumped off her horse.

I noticed the saddle was missing a very important piece.  The entire right stirrup.

Saddle on Grumpy

I ran to my baby daughter, worried her foot might be somewhere with the missing stirrup.

She was fine.  The gate was fine.

The Offending Bracket

She had caught the stirrup on the bracket of the gate. It had torn the entire right fender off of the saddle.

Gate 1, Saddle 0.

Annabelle was very worried that she was in trouble.  I assured her that accidents happen and she was not in trouble.  She was still very worried.  She thought her saddle was ruined forever.

It did look pretty bad.

Broken Pieces

I did the only thing a mom could do.  I loaded up the kids and the broken saddle and drove to……..

Bob Bean in Door

All the way Annabelle cried off and on.  She asked me to tell her all the stories of the silly things I did with horses when I was younger.  That took pretty much the whole trip.  I did some serious editing.

Bob was very sweet to my little girl.  He told her that he had seen full grown adults do far worse things to their saddles.

bob Holds saddle

He worked on her saddle for about fifteen minutes.

Bob works saddle

And handed it back over, just as good as new.

He charged Annabelle a quarter.  She didn’t have one, so she still owes him.  He gave her and Zachary some candy.

We love Bob Bean.

And we are very glad the third thing wasn’t so bad after all.

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Aunt Susie Rides Again!

This past weekend we got the opportunity to take my sister, who the kids call Aunt Susie, out for a trail ride.

This would not be notable but for two reasons:  1)  Aunt Susie has never ridden with us before, and 2) In fact, Aunt Susie hasn’t been on a horse at all for several years.

Girls and Horses

Despite the somewhat diabolical look on Annabelle’s face in this picture, she had been looking forward to this day for a whole week.  If I haven’t mentioned it before, she loves to show off her horsemanship skills.

And she didn’t mind sharing Grumpy with Aunt Susie.

We did get a cute picture of her and Reno before we took off.

Annabelle Reno

We headed on down the trail.  We were riding at Eagle Island State Park, a location bordered by a river on both sides (oh, I guess that’s why they call it Eagle ISLAND, huh? I’m a genius!) and very prone to wet riding conditions.

We survived an attack by some huge rabid flying bats down on the south shore of the river. Okay, they were gnats, but they were really large.  The horses freaked out and I almost got dumped.  But we made it through and on to a water crossing.

Now, Annabelle loves nothing more than a good water crossing.  She forces her mount to walk through any available water even if there is a good three feet stretch of dry ground beside the water to walk on instead.  It’s the point of the matter with her.

This made her very happy.

Grumpy and Aunt Susie also managed with aplomb.  In fact, Aunt Susie acted like she and Grumpy had been partners for years.  Annabelle was impressed.

Water Crossing

Once we were through the water crossing it was a snap from there.

Of course we had to stop in the tree tunnel, which is my favorite photo spot of all time, and take about a hundred pictures of each other before we could continue.

Annabelle Susie Tunnel

Annabelle gets really tired of me taking her picture so much.  She is a good sport, but if it looks like she is smiling she is actually just saying “cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese” over and over again hoping I will give up and start riding again.

Mom Annabelle Close tunnel

Then we were on the last leg.  I love these “walking-behind” pictures.

Walking away

When we got back Annabelle insisted on un-tacking her own horse.  She is a hand, that girl.

Annabelle Haltering

We had lots of fun riding with Aunt Susie, and we are glad she is back in the saddle again.

Categories: Horse Adventures, Life in the Country | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Horses Can’t Read

 

Flat Trail

Saturday was a big day for Horsecrazy Annabelle.  We had a big trail ride planned with some friends.  Annabelle had never been out on a long ride with a group before, and we were going to a totally new  place to ride, so she was excited.

She loves to show off her skills. She was also hoping we would get to see a herd of wild horses, since we would be on the Hard Trigger Wild Horse Preserve during the ride.

We got up early and loaded the horses for the drive to the BLM Wilson Creek area south of Marsing.  It was supposed to be a really nice spring day, but it was a little colder than we expected. 

The horses were fresh.

The terrain was a little rougher than Annabelle had ridden before.

Rocky Point

But she handled it just fine.

Grump Rocks

We stopped to take a  few pictures.

Paula Annie Sagebrush

About halfway in to the ride the girls wanted to trot their horses.  We were up for the challenge, and off we went.  Two of the horses got way in front of us, and we were left quite a ways behind with my friend T.  T’s horse started to become very agitated because she wanted to lope and catch up with the other horses.  T made her trot.

Suddenly the (expensive, professionally trained show horse) mare started bucking like a saddle bronc right in the middle of the trail.  I mean really bucking.  I scanned the rocky ground where they whirled and wished that I had medical supplies instead of beef jerky and licorice in my saddle pack.  Or at least a flask of whiskey.

And I realized that T’s horse had not paid attention to her rider’s choice of attire that morning:

The Perfect Shirt

The shirt was so cute and fit T so perfectly that I had to take a picture of it.  This is before the ride.

T eventually regained control of her beautiful, expensive, professionally trained show horse and we headed on down the trail.  Horses can be so silly. 

T was a good sport about it.  She said “Who would have thought Annabelle could have handled speed better than I could?!”

The rest of the ride was accomplished peacefully.  Annabelle and Grump forded three small streams without a hiccup. We climbed steep hills and slid down embankments a little muddied by the spring rains.

All the while Annabelle munched on beef jerky and red licorice.  Guess I was a good thing I had them.

Grumpy and Rocks

We had lots of fun and can’t wait to go back to Wilson Creek.  Annabelle is sure we will see some wild horses next time.

Mom HC Wilson

As for me, the question I have long wondered has been answered.

Horses CAN’T read.

Categories: Horse Adventures | Tags: , | 6 Comments

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