Saturday, October 5, 2013

Wrapping up Day 4: All the important horses

There was one horse I did not own, that influenced me, when I still owned Queenie. There were some horses in SoCal, when I was living there, and several in Colorado about 20 years ago. I will try to be brief, but this should at least wrap up this day . . . oh, and the stories get a little less exciting as I got older, wiser, more aware of potential consequences. And like N says now, I have no need to prove anything and have no problem getting off my horse when I am beginning to be in trouble.

Blackie: She was a three year old mustang filly from the BLM of Wyoming, pretty small and very wild. One of the boarders at the first barn I stayed at, where Ace died, brought her and three other mustangs back from Wyoming, three mares and a stallion. The stallion was a handful. We couldn't keep him inside the corral, even though one of the first things Dick did was geld him. He was a powerfully muscled four year old dark buckskin, with a star and stripe. It took Dick most of the spring and summer to get that horse broke enough to ride. Of the other three mares, two were small, one black and one bright chestnut, and other than the color, they looked like twins. The fourth horse was a huge, rawboned, dark chestnut mare that Dick considered turning into a bucking horse for a short time (she fought all the time) but who ended up being a great cutting horse.

Back to Blackie. When she first arrived the entire front of her face was gone. When they were loading her into the stock trailer at the gathering corrals, she had thrown herself up and over, scrapping all of the skin and flesh off the front of her face, from her forelock to the bridge of her nose, from eye to eye.  (This is the primary reason I purchased a helmet when N offered her extra to me. I've seen the damage a horse can do to itself if it panics in the trailer. I don't think the concept existed in the 70's.) When I first saw her I couldn't believe it. In some places bone was showing through. Dick had to catch her and paint her face with medicine twice a day. This did not endear her to Dick or anyone for that matter. One day, about two weeks after the horses had been delivered, I played hooky from school. I walked to the barn from school, stashed my bag and went to mess with the black mare. I carried down an armful of hay and a couple of soft curry brushes, and set to work in the huge outdoor arena. I started by making a series of piles of hay, and then sat down next to the final one, with a small pile of fresh grass in my lap. At that point, Dick was leaving a halter with a long rope attached to it on her, in order to make it easier to catch her, considering she had to be doctored twice a day. At this point the front of her face was one large scab, which was very unsightly, but there was no infection and no proud flesh, so it was healing clean. Blackie had started out at the far end of the arena, but when I sat down on the ground, her head came up and her ears pricked at me. After waiting fifteen minutes or more, that little black mare came shuffling through the dirt toward the first pile of hay. I started talking to her as she began to eat, mostly nonsense, babble really, just familiarizing her with the sound more than the words. She finished her first pile, three or so mouthfuls really, and moved closer to me. Her ears flicked back and forth, listening intently to my rambling. I sang (only to horses and my son when he was a baby) songs and talked about school, talked about how pretty she was now that she was wormed and getting plenty of food every day, and I told her I wouldn't hurt her. Slowly, she moved closer and closer, until finally she lipped up the final flakes of hay right in front of me. We were only two feet or so apart, me still sitting and her waiting warily. She moved forward, finally, and reached out for the fresh grass in my lap. As she ate, I slid a hand up the side of her face and scratched her check, then the underside of her jaw. Even after she finished the grass, she stayed there and let me scratch her. Slowly I got up, still talking, and grabbed a flake of hay, easing back next to her and placing it on the ground. She just stood eating, shaking a little, while I began grooming her with a very soft brush. I used my fingers on the areas where she was most likely to be itchy, and pretty soon her shakes had slowed down and she was leaning into the brush. I worked all of her body, showing her how to let me lift her feet, sliding my finger into the corner of her mouth, lifting her tail and running my hands over every part of her body. She stood there, untied, hay gone, and let me tame her. By the end of the day, she would follow me around the corral on a loose leadrope, stand calmly while tied to the fence. She allowed me to approach her freely while she was at liberty in the arena (although I didn't dare take off the halter yet). I even eased my way onto her back and rode her slowly around the ring. Dick was blown away when I demonstrated our attachment later that afternoon.

From that day forward, that little black mare would greet me with nickers any time she saw me. I spent the summer working with her, teaching her to turn and back and go forward. We did several trail rides out and I found her to be honest and sure footed, if a little timid still. Her face finally healed clean, although it would always have a horrible scar. At the end of the summer, Dick took his horses and moved to another city about an hour away. I heard later that he had sold the little black mare for a $100.

SoCal: In SoCal I was approached by a man who came into my grandparents gas station on a regular basis. He lived just down the street from where I was working and he owned an Arabian farm. We talked about his horses and since I was horseless I was most eager to meet his animals. After talking off and on for several months, he offered me a job working with his babies. He had five foals that needed to be taught to lead, pick up their feet, and stand quietly while being groomed. I accepted and started working there in the afternoons. The foals were sweet, out of nice mares. This guy had the luck of owning a Bey Shah colt, coming up two, who he planned to stand at stud. The farm was clean and neatly put together and the babies were wonderful to handle. I even went with the Bey Shah colt and his trainer to a show. They didn't do great, but he was a nice looking horse. This comfortable arrangement didn't last very long, however. After I had been working there a couple of months the owner called me into his office and let me know that my employment was conditional on my sleeping with him, informing me he had this arrangement with the woman training his horses and he expected the same from me. I turned around and walked out. That was pretty much the extent of my horse experience there.

Dusty: Granddaughter of Secretariat out of a QH mare. She was four years old, red dun, when I started riding her for her owners, who had several of their children hurt trying to get her broke. She never tried bucking with me and after riding her in the round pen for a couple of weeks, I started taking her out on trails by ourselves. She was a sweet horse and her people were very happy with her when I was done.

Panda: Panda was a sweet, eight year old appaloosa mare owned by a woman I met through work. Her owner had lost interest in riding but didn't want to give her up. I offered to ride her just so she would get work. For almost two years she was under my care. She was honest and a fun ride on the trail. I once rode her around Boulder, almost thirty miles, in a day and she loved it. I stopped riding her when I got Keili and she went back to her owner.

Keili: I've told her story earlier on this blog, so I'm not going to repeat it here.

There were other horses in my long acquaintance with these animals, but these are the ones that stick out. And finally, we are done with Day 4 of the blog challenge.

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