Monday, September 30, 2013

More of the Horses: Day 4 Blog Challenge

Again, I do not believe I can list all of the horses that made me who I am today, so this is the next installment in the series.

Before we start, I want to say, that as a horsewoman and horse owner now, I would never condone some of my behavior or actions as a kid. I grew up in the 1970's, given free rein to roam all over our county and some days I would leave the house in the early morning and not return until dusk. I was expected home for dinner, and we had chores, but other than that, we were free to do whatever we could think up. Some of those things were dangerous and deadly, like playing Planet of the Apes with real BB guns, horses and bailing twine nets. We spent a lot of time with neighbor kids, unsupervised. Our horses were always part of that. We also grew up in the West, where kicking your horse in the belly is standard behavior for the farrier, cruel bits were normal and whipping your horse to get results, expected. I have learned to forgive myself for some of the things that I did, but because of  events in my childhood, I am also committed to brutal honesty when facing the things that happened, with my horses, as well as everything else. As all things, the events and activities of my childhood helped to shape the woman I am today. They happened and they should be acknowledged and remembered honestly.

One of the things I forgot to mention, in 1976 when I was working with Sham (I was 14) I was given a broke down old buggy. I found two motorcycle wheels at a junk yard and managed to piece together harness from rope and bailing twine and I taught that little booger to drive. I used two bits in his mouth, a curb to stop him if needed and a snaffle for most of the time. He would drive all over our county with me and my sister in the buggy seat. Our last drive was to the post office to pick up a package. It was about six miles round trip and he trotted most of the way. As we were pulling into our front yard and preparing to stop, one of the wheels on the buggy locked up and began making the worse noise. Sham bolted. For one brief moment I tried to stop him and then screamed at my sister to jump. She bailed out one side and I bailed out the other. Sham headed across the yard, up and over the 20' high pile of chopped wood we had been stacking for winter heat, across one end of the garden, jumped the gate into where the horses were grazing, tore around that enclosure at his top speed while the other horses snorted and fled in terror, dragging the buggy upside down behind him. It ended with him attempting to jump out of the grazing area by going over the wire fence, which he almost made despite the fact that the buggy was being pulled behind him upside down through all of that fiasco. He went down in a billowing pile of dust. I screamed at my sister to get the corn and wire cutters as I raced down the road to grab his head. I hung on an ear, with my hand clamped to his nose until he calmed down. Then we cut him loose, brought him back home and stitched him up. A small three inch tear in the inside of his thigh was the only injury, although we never again tried to use the buggy.

Sometimes I think it was a miracle we all made it to adulthood.

Crystal: Crystal was Tinka's last foal. I have no idea who the daddy was, because we did not deliberately breed her due to her age. It might have been our neighbor's three year old Appaloosa stallion who thought crossing ditches and fences a real lark, and who always put himself back in his own pasture before daylight. Or it might have been our one year old colt between his first and second gelding. (I'll explain that in a bit.) Anyway, Crystal was a neatly put together little filly, dark chestnut with a lighter mane and tail (she might have been liver chestnut) who was an in-your-pocket type of filly. She was born in the spring of 1978 and was a tiny thing. I spent a lot of time working with her for the 4-H county show. She was as well trained as a dog, and would stand square without cueing. I picked her up and carried her to the front door to show my mom when Crystal was only a couple of hours old. I think it left a lasting impression. I do know anytime I wanted her to do something and she wasn't exactly sure, I would pick her up and put her where I wanted. She was a sweet heart and very well trained and I had hoped to be able to give her to my little brother (he was the other riding fiend in our family, who would ride Tinka out by herself when he was four), when she got a little bit bigger. I figured she would be perfect about the time he was eight (he was 8 years younger than me). Unfortunately, at five months old, when we weaned her and sold Tinka, she began to fail. I hadn't realized that she really didn't eat a lot of grass, subsiding almost predominately on mare's milk. After several vet visits and her declining health, the vet finally determined (I'm not sure how) that she had a pre-existing condition that didn't allow her the ability to digest grass or grain. I was sick with pnuemonia at the time but I remember my mom telling me the vet said there was nothing we could do and what did I want to do about her declining state. I told my mom we needed to have her put down the next morning. When we got up the next morning she had died during the night. I really don't know in retrospect why the vet didn't insist on doing that when he was there. I didn't know until years and years later that she wasn't able to digest solid food and blamed myself for her death. I was absolutely convinced I had done something wrong and that's why she died.

One of my favorite memories of Crystal was the day my paternal grandparents came to visit and it was raining. My mother wasn't home and I really wanted my grandparents to see Crystal, so I picked her up and carried her into the house. She wasn't in the house for longer than five minutes and was wonderfully behaved and then I carried her back outside. When my mother got home and found out she was furious. I was grounded for something like a week and I was really pissed, feeling like the punishment wasn't fair because my father had been there the entire time. The next time both my parents were gone, my sister and I took all six horses in the house. We stood Tinka, Sham, Ace and Queenie at the kitchen sink eating grain out of a bucket. Then we took Crystal and Shadow Dancer down to the bedroom and laid them on the bed. (By the way, not something I would recommend. I have nightmares now about the kitchen floor of our 1940's built farm house collapsing under the weight and dropping all of us into the coal chute in the basement. This is why I don't leave T alone with friends ever!) My mother didn't find out for years. My sister finally spilled the beans in the middle of a fight (we no longer lived in that house and I know longer lived with my mom) with my mother, which derailed the fight, but got me in deep trouble the next time I saw my mom. It can still make her angry and she probably has steam coming out her ears reading this. (I love you mom!! I was a bad kid. I'm very sorry.)

I thought I was going to write about Queenie in this post, but there are so many memories surrounding this horse, that I am going to wait. She will be a post all of her own. Maybe two. It's brought tears to my eyes just thinking of it and I want to do our story justice. So, perhaps tomorrow.

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