Sunday, September 29, 2013

Not all the horses: Day 4 of the Blog Challenge

This blog is supposed to describe the important horses in your life. It will take more than one blog to do justice to this topic. At least the stories should be entertaining.

Muffin: four year old palomino appaloosa mare. First solo ride. Earliest memory of my father being thrown from her back onto the roof of our old chicken coop.

Seabisquit: First pony of my own and probably 20 years old when we got him. He was a complete shit. Hard mouthed. Stubborn. Crafty and mean. I had bruises on my chest from where he double barreled me with his hind feet. I have a Lisfranc fracture on my left foot from where he stomped me. He was my first wreck on my very first ride. He didn't teach me to be soft - he taught me to be brutal. I broke a wooden gate with my face when he slid to a stop with his head ducked and I flew over his head and hit the gate. He was sold to us by family, which tells you something about my family. I broke my hand falling off of him while playing Civil War soldier. You couldn't turn him and you couldn't stop him, even with a gate, and I got a lot of practice finding a soft place to land when he was racing home.

Tinka: Bought for my brother, who hated horses. She was a 23 year old Welsh pony and very well trained. I learned to summersault off her back and roll to my feet standing next to her, since she would stop as soon as she felt you move. She was a wonderful ride and my sister did really good on her in 4-H. Even though she was in her twenties, she gave us two foals, Sham and Crystal, and she did a solid job in 4-H for 10 years.

There was one summer when my sister and I did 4-H camp in the Palisaides area of Idaho. It was a lot of fun. We spent three days riding all day long and our nights in a cabin with a bunch of other girls. The last full day we had, the camp did a trail ride up into the mountains. I was riding Queenie and D was on Tinka. We got up to the place they had lunch set up for us. We ate and then started back. D and I got separated in the group on our way back. D went with the main trail ride leader and they headed back to camp. The group I was with made a bad turn and we ended up going down a narrow, ravine like creek. Queenie was frantic for her herd mate and made that trip on her hind legs, whinnying non-stop for Tinka. We didn't know how to get back to the main camp, since our guides were lost and going back up the wet, slick ravine didn't seem smart. The area around Palisaides is wilderness and we could have been in serious trouble, except for D and Tinka. When they got back to camp and Tinka realized we weren't there, she turned and headed back out, encouraged by D. Tinka led D to our group, probably called by Queenie's frantic cries, and then turned and led us back to camp. She was an amazing horse and did a great job for us.

Sham: God, I hated this horse. He was half welsh pony and half something else (QH maybe). He was mean from the moment he hit the ground. The first time my brother tried to ride Tinka after Sham was foaled, Sham reared up and struck my brother in the ribs with his ears pinned and his mouth wide open, trying to remove the rider from his mom's back. He was supposed to be my sister's horse, but I was the only one stupid enough to try and work with him. He would bite at anything that came close to his mouth. He could cow kick, which meant even up next to his shoulder he could get you with a hind hoof. At one of the 4-H shows, I was cleaning his hooves and he popped me in the mouth with his hind hoof. (I ended up getting six horrible stitches in my mouth at the emergency room - four of them fell out before the end of the day - and made it back to show my foal.)

When Sham turned one, he became a hellion. He was a stallion still and I couldn't keep him in our pasture. I tried hobbling him. Front hobbles didn't work, he just moved both front feet at the same time. I tried hobbling both front and back. That didn't work. I tried tying all four feet together in a square about 18" to each side. This worked briefly, and I was feeling somewhat vindicated in slowing him down. However, after throwing himself four or five times and struggling back to his feet (I still have no idea how he managed) that sumbitch figured out how to hop like a freaking jackrabbit. I stood in the pasture with despair in my heart as I watched that like bugger hop over to the fence and then fall into it. You could hear the staples popping off the wood posts as he carried the fence to the ground, rolled to his feet on the other side and took off for greener pastures and in heat mares on the other side. I went after him, brought him back and tied him to a tree. (Have to wonder why a twelve year old was responsible for all of this stuff, but that's how it was. The horses were my kingdom.) Then I fixed the fence. Then I put Sham in a stock corral on the property. By the way, Sham was about 13.1h and could jump like a jackrabbit. The top rail on the stock corral was over six foot tall with a irrigation ditch on the back side. Sham reared up and touched his nose to the top of the corral, dropped down and jumped the fence and the ditch on the other side. (I did jump him informally over a pole placed a top a set of barrels - maybe 3'6" to 4' - and he could clear that height with me on him bareback.) When I finally caught him, several miles away from home in a pasture with a herd of mares, I took him back and used a single leg hobble and tied him to a tree. I kept him that way until the vet came out to take away his desire.

And then, my idiot father who was the FFA teacher at our school, talked the vet into Proud cutting that little bugger. Proud cut is when the vet takes the testicles but leaves the tissue that controls the hormone levels of a stallion. They left that horse shooting blanks, but still wanting to shoot. It did slow down his need to escape - instead he seemed pretty content with his small herd of horses - but it didn't help with his attitude toward humans. Me in particular.

The year my father and mother divorced I was fifteen. All of my sibs went to Southern California to spend time with my maternal grandparents and I was left at home with my horses and a ton of time. My mother and I knew we needed to thin our herd of six and we decided to sell Tinka and Sham. Thus began my summer of riding to produce a horse we could sell. I would start with lunging him in both directions for over an hour. By the end of the summer, Sham was very well conditioned. Then I would saddle him and swing on. At this point in our relationship I was riding him in a snaffle bit and a western saddle. As soon as I was on, Sham would swing his head around and try to bite me. I would jerk his head around and we would spin in a circle until we were both dizzy. Finally, Sham would give and stop spinning, at which point I would straighten him out and he would swing around to bite my other leg. His nose would meet the toe of my boot and then we would spin again. We did that process in both directions several times until he was bored. Finally, I would get him straightened out and he would lean hard on the bit, steady, relentless, and I would shorten and shorten my reins until his chin was almost to his chest. At that point Sham would rear and lunge forward, throwing all of his weight on his head and jerking me forward over his neck, then with vicious forethought, Sham would snap his head back into the middle of my face. He broke my nose twice and my glasses four times that summer. (I'm a slow learner.) I finally figured out how to let the reins slide through my hands when he lunged forward, then met his head with a stout stick when he threw it up hoping to catch my face. At that point I had some semblance of control and we would head for the back 40 where we would ride the edges of the alfalfa and wheat fields (edges of a 40 acre field) at a gallop until he was ready to relax and listen. At that point, I could work on walk/trot. By the end of the summer, he was as broke as he was going to be. We sold him and his mother to a young woman to be a 4-H project. I really hope she had better luck with him then I did.

That was four. Time for a break. I will tackle the other horses of my youth next time.


  1. It is nice having so many horses that touched our lives and taught us lessons.

  2. What a little ass. And what a hardass you were as a kid to train him! Very awesome.

    1. We really should have just had him put down. I have never had to deal with a horse as vicious toward humans as he was. Even after I had him trained enough to do what I asked under saddle, he would bite and kick at every opportunity. He's what Cowboys would have called an Outlaw and he was that way from birth. You could never just hang out with him, love on him, groom him: it was always a fight. Thank god he was only 13.3h. If he had been 16+h he would have killed someone. Probably me.