Just thought I would stir up some noise and share some recent photos! Relentless (and me), Cash, and Lailah.
Those of us who have lost an equine friend know very well the swelling emptiness in our heart as we step out to the barn acutely aware, yet also with a feeling of disbelief, that we will not hear the familiar nicker of our horse, nor will their inquisitive eyes follow us as we move about taking care of barn chores.
Empathy among fellow equestrian friends runs deep because I believe all of us struggle to understand and accept the bond, physical and spiritual, that we have with our horses. The loss of any pet brings grief to our heart, but there seems to be something about the death of a horse that really hits us to our very core.
We lament our late equine friend but the memories of our good times together will help us through our grief, reminding us why we choose to dedicate ourselves to the equestrian life.
I’d like to share the story of Margie’s horse Cinnamon, who recently passed away at the age of 28. She was one of the lucky horses that found a forever home with Margie, ruling the roost and making sure everyone knew she was queen of her domain.
It gladdens my heart to know I was the matchmaker who brought Cinnamon and Margie together to enjoy many years of adventure, fun and sometimes a bit mischief.
In early 2000, the husband of a friend asked if I would ride a horse he had just purchased for his wife over to their home. I wasn’t sure why he thought his wife wanted a horse because I knew she was petrified by any animal larger than a chihuahua. Nice family, but what I call “backyard horse” people. The horse lives out its life in a stall, fed and watered, but manure never mucked, never gets brushed, not much attention or acknowledgment of its needs. There wasn’t much I could do about the situation other than check in on the horse and offer advice to help the animal have at least a modicum of care and comfort.
So on a blustery cold February day, Jeff drove me over to the seller’s home where we found a good looking chestnut Paint mare tied at the hitching rail. A nice old fellow came out to tell me ‘Cinnamon’ had been granddaughter’s gymkhana horse but the teenager had lost interest in riding…she had not been on her horse in at least a year.
I saddled and bridled her, then rode her around the yard a couple times to see how she handled a rider. Jeff drove down the street and parked just to make sure I was going to be okay but I waved him on, telling him, “I’m fine!”
We had to cross the highway and travel about 3 miles to another house where Cinnamon would stay for a couple weeks before I could ride her over to my friend’s house. He had to get a stall ready for her before she could move in. Nothing like good preparation.
I fell in love with her on that first ride. Two weeks later I got to ride her again, this time to her new home about 5 miles away. This little horse had so much energy and personality that it saddened me to think how she would live out the rest of her life in a dull and uninteresting environment. Now here the story takes a turn, in the long run for the better.
Cinnamon and Margie, scouting the trails
I went over to visit Cinnamon several times during the first 3 weeks in her new home, taking her out for a couple rides (my friend couldn’t understand why her husband got her a horse), and then one day out of the blue she disappeared, no sign of how she could have escaped her paddock. Did someone steal her? The brand inspector was alerted and it must have been about a week later that he came up to my house to ask if I might be able to give a description of Cinnamon, which I did. She had been found about a mile from my house, hanging out with horses belonging to a local rancher. That meant she had traced her trail back from the way I rode her the previous month, and would have continued back to her old home if not for the rancher taking her in.
I went to the ranch and walked Cinnamon up to the house where she spent the first 2 weeks before moving to her new home, figuring she could stay there a few days before I once again rode her home.
But less than a week later my friends had to move out of their house (a terrible fire, but no lives lost. Did Cinnamon sense this?) and they would not be able to move back for another year. Cinnamon would need to stay with the neighbor during this time. Months went by until I was finally asked if I could help find a new home for Cinnamon.
What luck that my friend Margie was in the market for another horse. January 13, 2001, a cold but sunny day (hey, I keep journals to log my bike and horse training!) and Margie came over to take Cinnamon for a ride…and fell in love with her. The pretty little chestnut mare moved to Margie’s joining Micahh, Surprise, and later Apache, for a full and rewarding life.
Margie is one of the best storytellers and has had me in stitches so many times with her tales of misadventures on the trail, in the barn or arena, you name it. I could never retell them with her flair but can relay that many involve training techniques (“how long will it take Cinnamon to notice me if I lay on the ground and don’t move?”), endurance rides, dressage lessons, kids’ camp horse (haha!), trailer loading, and much more.
Cinnamon and Flicka began a long standing rivalry from the first day they met. “Better keep out of my way. b–” could be read in their expressions. This wasn’t surprising since they were both alpha mares, accustomed to being boss and always getting their own way.
If I was told last year that understanding and applying “biomechanics” to my riding would not only improve my skills but also have a positive effect on Sage’s training, I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t have believed it. Probably because the word just sounds so…well, “mechanical”. I hadn’t read anything about it, nor did I know anyone who even used the term relative to riding, so I didn’t have an opinion as to whether or not it truly enhanced communication between horse and rider.
But in a little less than a year after switching over to an instructor who incorporates the application of biomechanics into our training program, I’m now able see and feel the difference in the “new” Sage: his frame (muscle development, suppleness), movement (balance, engagement ), and ever so important, his mind (willingness and confidence).
There are numerous books and magazine articles written about “biomechanical riding”, but here’s a link to a good article that does a dandy job explaining how it is useful in creating a more harmonious partnership with our horses: Understanding Biomechanics and Dressage
Check out the sequence of photos below: the photo at the bottom of the set was taken in August 2010, shortly after Sage and I began our journey. This was my first ride on him and I was totally confounded by his stiffness, lack of forwardness, etc, etc. The top photo was taken the other day when Kristy was riding Sage in a lesson; I had the advantage of being on the ground and therefore better able to see the improvement in his movement.
Sage shortly after starting in a new direction with our training program, Oct 2013
At this stage, just 2 months into our training with Shelley, I was finally beginning to understand how the application of biomechanics creates a positive influence on our training of the horse. My hands are not as stuck in a holding position as before and appear to be more giving (oscillation..what a foreign concept that was!).
I finally got around to getting a new computer to replace my old one that expired months ago, so no more excuses for not posting anything to this blog. Ok, a little laziness on my part? I’ll admit to that!
With summer nearly here I hope we will be able to get together for a few rides and just some visits in general. Kathy, Kristy, Cherie and I will be in Smith Valley this Sunday, June 15, to watch and maybe help out a little at the Western Dressage clinic and show, held at the Broken Bit Ranch. Maybe we’ll run into a few of our friends there?
We’ve all been having a good time engaging with Kristy’s filly since her arrival to our home in late January. It has been rewarding to see the progress as Kristy and Frankie work through things, from haltering, hoof cleaning and trimming, to being ponied behind her “gramma” Flicka. How great it has been for wise old Flicka to have this youngster come into her life. She LOVES her baby!
Kristy ordered the Ray Hunt http://www.rayhunt.com/dvd.htm Colt Starting dvds and has been pleased with the results she sees using his philosophy and techniques. I’ve been calling her Kristy Hunt. We recently decided it was time to walk Frankie to the park, so with Flicka and I following we made our way down the street to the entrance. Like everything else she’s done, Frankie took it all in stride and didn’t make a big deal about the trek.
Sage has been in fabulous spirits and our rides are now much more spontaneous than they used to be. As his mind opens up it seems to me he has a “joie de vivre” where before it was locked in resignation. Working with our new trainer over the last year has opened doors for us and I now have a better vision (“clarity of purpose” as Mr Herbermann would say) of the possibilities we can achieve.
Being able to watch Tea and Breeze as they have flourished under Shelley’s training during the past several months gives me a lot of hope that Sage will come along just fine. I’ll try to write about our progress more often as we continue our schooling lessons . Meanwhile I’m simply delighted that I now have a horse who is actually enjoying going out on the trails.
Kathy and I ran into Caddie and Beverly on the trail a few weeks ago, riding their horses Raven and Jiggs, along with Caddie’s ever present sidekick pup, Rip. It was good to see them; they are sensible horsewomen and pleasant riding companions.
We had a spring tune up with the chiropractor http://www.doyleanimalchiropractic.com/about.html just to make sure everyone is in good shape for increased riding hours. Micky Doyle is so good with the horses and they respond to his gentle manner and touch. Maggie B brought Mr Spud over for his first treatment and wasn’t at all fazed by the manipulation.
Spudly getting the stretch
Well, that’s about all I can think of. I do want to mention that our hearts go out to our good friend Desna whose sweet horse Strider had a serious injury to his knee last month. Serious enough that he will go into early retirement.This was one of those silly things that horses do, all on their own, no human involvement; an accident that can occur to any one of our horses. He will be content in his life, and we also hope Dez will be able to continue her passion for horsemanship and find another equine companion to share her journey.
Happy Trails to All!
Here are some pictures of my little girl. 🙂
“That’s a long way to drive to buy a horse.”
This was my thought last November when my friend Chris called to tell me she was planning on driving 1,600 miles round trip to bring home a 5 month old Quarter horse colt she had purchased online from a breeder in Montana.
Reno, NV to Hamilton, MT, with potential early winter storms looming ahead and then hauling a baby horse all the way home? Didn’t sound like much fun to me. I wished her a safe journey, happy that she had a friend joining her, but so glad I wasn’t the one driving in winter weather to bring home a horse. ha!
A mere two months later I would find myself preparing to undertake a similar excursion…
Kristy had recently made the decision to start looking for a horse of her own. I really did try to send her to websites and ads for horses within a 2 hour drive from home, but all to no avail. None of those horses were “the one”. Then, thanks to a tip from Maggie B who mentioned the Pidcock-Coates Quarterhorses, Kristy found herself drawn to their webpage. And there was her baby. End of search, start of travel plans.
The last time I hauled horses over a great distance was nearly 25 years ago when I moved to Nevada from Oregon. Those were my own horses, well seasoned to travel and manageable (yes, young Flicka loved to travel back in the day) in just about any situation.
This filly was just turning 18 months old and never been hauled. My first thought; call Chris for some advice on trailing long distance with a youngster . We went over to meet her darling grulla colt Stewie, who made quite an impression on us, plus we got some good pointers from Chris for hauling Kristy’s soon-to-be baby.
Like most road trips, this was about making lists, route planning, checking weather and road conditions far in advance and in general, trying to make sure we had everything covered in case of emergencies or other obstacles, like maybe getting stuck in a snowstorm, which what I especially hoped we would avoid.
First on the list. New tires for my big truck. check! Needed them anyway or I would soon be driving on slicks.
Cherie graciously offered the use of her 3 horse slant load trailer; we dropped it off for routine maintenance and were reassured to learn everything was in tiptop shape.
We pulled out one of the dividers and left the other one pinned back along the wall. Best to give Baby full use of the trailer.
We even purchased tire chains for both truck and trailer. Overkill, but we wanted to be prepared for anything.
New halter, lead, extra lead ropes, water buckets, feed buckets, orange pylons and flares (we sure hoped not to use those), a small bucket of cob, 5 gallon water bottles, shavings for the trailer floor to add a little comfort, hay net (although we doubted it would be used), knife, hoof pick, emergency kits for horse and one for us. What else? Although the baby had never been wrapped or blanketed we brought along wraps and blanket, again, “just in case”.
Maps from AAA for each state we would be driving through (four), directions between each town printed from Google mapping, in addition to directions to the places we would spend the night and finally, directions to the ranch!
“Fill ‘er up”
Then our food, enough in case we got stranded, and plenty of warm clothing, spare blankets, sleeping bags. Geez! My truck looked like were ready for a week in the woods rather than a three day road trip.
Kristy had a few loose ends to tie up with the owners re: brand inspection, Coggins, vet, vaccines, but we were set to go.
Daily checks on weather forecast indicated we would have a very brief window between storm systems. We would need to get on the road early Friday morning. I’m a morning person, Kristy not so much, but she arrived at my door by 5am and we were on the road by 5:15, leaving somewhat worried husbands behind us!
Pretty clear travel from Carson City to Reno and we thought we’d made it ahead of the bad weather, but that was not to be. White knuckle driving for me out of the North valleys until Susanville, with fresh snow and freezing rain pellets making for slick roads.
Arriving in Klamath Falls, it was Kristy’s turn to practice driving the truck while hauling an empty trailer, in anticipation of taking her turn driving with Precious Cargo on board.
At Bend, Or., we traded again, stopping briefly to get fuel, stretch and calculate if we were close to our estimated arrival in Prosser, WA. We kept in touch with a few of our friends along the way, letting them know we were safe, although maybe not sane.
Beautiful vistas ahead of us kept our attention, as well as lots of talk about horses, training and riding.
We pulled into Biggs, Oregon around 4pm, fuel for the truck and ready to cross the Columbia River and into Washington, figuring a 2 hour drive to Prosser, WA. The is a scenic drive with expansive vistas, but we had little time to appreciate the views as it was here we hit our first glitch in the drive. Our mapping directions sent us by the most direct route, Hwy 97, which *might* be fine during daylight hours, but at dusk into darkness it is a mighty scary two lane highway commandeered by semi trucks. Everyone knows I don’t drive fast, but even at 60-65 mph we were being passed by long haul drivers. Another white knuckle drive in the dark and on an unfamiliar road made for one grouchy Amy. I told Kristy that once we made it to town and checked in at the hotel, I planned to consume an entire glass of beer at one of the local microbreweries. That’s a big deal for me.
Over 13 hours after we left Carson, we arrived in Prosser, WA, a small town nestled in the Horse Heaven Hills.
Checked into the hotel, and drove downtown (trailer still hooked up) in search of the Whitstran microbrewery . This is when we learned from the locals that we could have taken a much easier route to Prosser and avoided the heavy truck traffic. Oh well, at least we knew there would be a safer way to travel back to Oregon with the baby.
We were up early the next morning, refreshed and excited by the anticipation to meet Kristy’s new horse. The ranch is only 2 miles out of town and GPS Siri took us to right the address. Or so we thought.
Several mules, donkeys, and a few older Paint horses gazed at us amid a plethora of junk, old fences, plastic toys and rusting cars. I’m sure Kristy had the same sinking feeling that I had.
No one answered the door, so Kristy walked down the driveway to a nearby house and inquired of the neighbor (at least someone was home!) if this was the Pidcock ranch? “Nope”, replied the neighbor, “that’s right across the street”. Thanks, Siri.
This meant I would need to back the trailer between the piles of rusting tractors and try not to crush anything as I attempted to turn the truck around. Good for practice, but I wasn’t in the mood for it. Finally, after backing up and pulling forward numerous times, and with Kristy guiding me, we got truck and trailer pointed in the right direction, headed out the driveway and drove directly across the street to the ranch.
Here we were warmly greeted by Mr and Mrs Coates, who had been patiently awaiting our arrival. We had a pleasant visit with them, Kristy got the paperwork completed, and then it was time to get Baby loaded into the trailer for our drive home. We needed to get on the road before noon in order to get to our destination in Bend, OR before dark. No problem getting the baby to walk right into the trailer, leaving her loose to turn freely rather than tied and pressed against a divider. Mr Coates packed up a large swath of their hay into the back of the truck for transitioning Frankie to Nevada hay, and off we went.
The drive went much quicker once we were on Highway 14, a quiet and smooth road running along the Columbia River Gorge. We made two fairly brief stops on the way to Bend to give baby a break from the constant movement, and each time we checked on her she seemed fine.
Pulling into Bend around 4pm, we only had one missed turn in the directions (not really Siri’s fault this time!) to find the Flyspur Ranch, our destination before the final leg of our trip home. We found this wonderful resort by researching (online at Horsetrip.com) overnight horse boarding facilities. This is the only place we could find that offered a place for people to stay, too.
Our hostess Therese, and Kristy do a Happy Dance jig
Hosts Therese and Kevin were so welcoming and accommodating; bringing firewood, a basket filled with goodies, simply just making us feel at ease, safe and comfortable. We couldn’t have wished for any better place to stay. Kristy was up frequently during the night, looking outside and even padding over in her slippers to the stall, which was not more than 10 or 12 feet from the cabin door, to check on baby.
We waited until first light before leaving, not wanting to haul before sunrise. Kristy got her horse fed, watered and haltered well before our start. We would have a full day of driving, with several rest stops, meaning the 7 hour drive from Bend to Reno would be closer to 9 hours.
Kristy took over driving duties in Alturas, all clear sailing until we reached the outskirts of Reno when we encountered light snow flurries. We were barely ahead of the snow storm and would arrive home before the roads were slick!
As Kristy pulled into the driveway of “Flicka’s Barn” we both took a deep breath and exclaimed, “We did it!” Tired but happy and elated to be back. Frankie B (baby’s new name)stepped out of the trailer, looked around and calmly followed Kristy to her new home.
What a great road trip, we were prepared for almost anything (left my sunglasses at home, so we traded using Kristy’s)and best of all, Kristy now has a beautiful young filly to call her own!
More photos of the trip on our Flickr photostream, just look for the set titled, “Road trip to Prosser”.
Two months ago I shared a little flash of the amazing new path that was presented before me right where I wanted to be on Planet Equus. I have trusted the Universe that this is the right thing, so when the Universe throws things my way I accept them and keep trusting that I will be provided for. This outlook has served me quite well as it’s proven very true. First, out of sheer desperation I had decided it was time to give up a job that was quite literally killing me. The question, was how? Queue Relentless, a rain storm, and my own panic. I was cleaning Relentless’ feet and he had a very minor case of thrush, so I made a phone call to my dear mother who gave me the best holistic cure for thrush ever. She also referred me to a website, which led me to another website, that was for Equine Pacifica. Lo and behold, this was my answer! Equine massage therapy! I must make this happen. So I did.
Flash forward, I was in the middle of my certification in beautiful Del Mar, CA at a polo barn giving these very deserving little ponies some much-needed deep circulatory massage. I was working on sweet little flea bitten grey who everyone referred to as “Gramma”. She was as sweet as can be, even through the tell tale scars, lumps, bumps, and calcium deposits that told her sad story as a school horse for aspiring polo players. As a side note, I will do my best to avoid all things polo for the remainder of my days. As I was working on her neck, a woman approached on horseback towing a little bay pony behind her. She was stopping and talking to each of the massage students and our instructor as she made her way down the center aisle. The little bay pony, named “Boo”, needed to find a home as he was headed for dog food, and she was asking if anyone was interested. It just killed me. I was very close to taking little Boo home to live out his days as a beginner horse for my husband and some close friends’ children. I went back to the beach house and put it out there that if it was the right thing, the universe would make it happen. As it turned out, I did not bring Boo home with me from Cali when I came back. It was just not to be, but I know he did end up in retirement, not Alpo. The wheel was in motion… Angel would be getting another horse. There was a horse out there somewhere that needed me, and Relentless and I needed it.
So home I came, no extra horse. I was so excited to get going with my massage, I got business cards and began practicing on Relentless immediately. He loves his massages! I also was dealing with working 6 or 7 days a week, 10 hour days. I had enough and decided I would quit my current job and do massage and other things full-time. After all, it made me a happier person. Knowing it meant no second horse, put my 2 weeks notice in and did not look back. Or so I thought… within 24 hours the main reason I was resigning was no longer an issue and I was asked if I would consider staying, so I agreed on the condition that I got to work 5 days, not 6, and keep my days to no more than 9 hours. Done.
A couple weeks later, the other reason I was resigning also was taken care of. It was a good thing, because someone on my Facebook shared a status about horses in need of homes before they were shipped to slaughter. Shit, here we go. There were several mares heavy in foal destined to go to slaughter and there was an hour left before they were loaded and shipped. I immediately posted that I could take one on but didn’t have the upfront $650 to purchase as what extra I had would have to go to board for the new horse. The funds were suddenly there… I had people willing to pay if I would take her. I was seconds away from being strapped with a severely underweight mare that was due to foal in late December. Then someone else spoke for her, and the others all had homes. I was so happy there was a happy ending for all that didn’t involve me taking on too much, so I went on about my day. This was a Monday. 3 days later, there were more horses posted. I watched the clock and I watched Facebook to make sure all the little ones were spoken for. This was a group of 18mos. – 2 year olds. No halter training, no handling whatsoever. I saw the post at 8am. It was now 10am and 5 babies hadn’t been spoken for. They only had until noon. Oh the anguish! I started scrambling to pull money together. I posted again that I would take one, but was working on the money to purchase. This is when the miracle happened. 2 of the babies found homes but 3 were left. A bay, a sorrel, and a little bay and white paint filly. I had pulled together $150. I needed another $300. I put it out to the Universe that if this was to be, the money was going to have to come from somewhere. Oh yeah, the miracle… Someone had messaged me and asked if I had found any money and I told her I had and how much. She told me that she was willing to donate $100 and thought she had a couple other sources that might be willing as well. I let her know there was not much time as it was already 11am, and they only had until noon. The dear soul got back to me within minutes and let me know she had the money. I was elated! I quickly ran out to my truck and rushed to the bank to deposit the money for my new horse! The deal was sealed. 15 minutes before her ride to slaughter, I had managed to save the little paint filly. I was stressing about how I would be able to get her home, and voiced that in the comments section and an amazing woman and fellow horse lover told me she could help with transport. There were 2 little ones were left, and my transport savior stepped up and grabbed them. The next morning I was heading to Fallon to pick up my new horse! That was October 17th.
Myself and my new-found friend headed out early on Friday morning to pick up our 3 fillies. We chatted the whole time about how crazy it was that we just bought these horses sight unseen. I was still in shock that it had actually happened. I was all at once scared and excited. Here I was, taking on a very young, unhandled, horse that I had no prior knowledge of. It was different when I got Relentless. I knew Relentless and I knew he was fit as a fiddle. Well… a bass fiddle, and I had been riding him for quite some time. Either way I love him and he and I needed another horse. When we arrived at the feedlot and I saw the babies I questioned my sanity. Completely untrained, they were terrified of everything. They were all loaded up in a squeeze chute to put their halters on and then funneled out to a small holding area. We had the trailer backed up and ready to load our pretty little girls. I was so relieved when we were back on the road home.
We arrived at the facility where I have Relentless boarded and got the three fillies unloaded into the round pen so we could cut my little girl out of the herd and get the others loaded back in to the trailer. I decided I would call her “Cash”.
This is just the beginning, the title says part 2, that’s really a misnomer. This is the first leg of my new life journey. I’ll post more in-depth looks into Cash’s training separately for those that are interested. The quick version is this: I took an untouched long yearling and went from no training whatsoever to halter trained and first time on the longe line (That was today!). I had no idea how to do this, so I learned. It’s taken me about 9 weeks to get this progress with her and I both learning together. So far, She leads, lets me handle all four feet, stands quiet for grooming, and is learning to longe and tie. There has been no pain, and no trauma. Nothing to undo. This experience has been and I’m sure will continue to be, nothing short of miraculous. I have to thank everyone that has been so supportive of this harebrained idea of mine. Especially my new friend Lisa, and my dear friend Amy. So thanks. 🙂
I’m planning to audit the Buck Brannaman clinic in May and I’m soaking up all the training material I possibly can, taking the good and leaving the absurd. So if anyone has any input, please! I’m all ears.
Until next time,