Friday, October 15, 2010

Horse, horses, horses.

Having a bit of a re-occurrence of that horse craze from childhood. Lucky for me, Eli is more than obsessed as well. He and I have even walked around our own barn lately, dreaming of remodeling to fit some box stalls. E is loving his riding lessons...he's so cute and serious when he's listening to his trainer. These Icelandic horses are the perfect match for him, small, strong, and mellow. They are bombproof and affectionate to the tiny kidlets, and full of spirit in the show ring. In fact, they are so mellow and understanding as a breed, I feel no fear around them. This is awesome as I've been attempting to get over my intimidation for about 12 years now, since we worked on that dude ranch the year before we got married. I went from riding every single day, for six months, in all weather, to a very fearful rider.

I can't say exactly where things went sour in that time, only it was the rule to give the paying guests the well behaved horses and ride the rotten ones ourselves. The rotten ones were usually horses we had no idea where they came from, probably abused, only half It was tricky, getting trailer loads of horses, with no background information, to try and figure our their stories. NOBODY wanted to be the first to test drive the monthly newcomers. And our boss really didn't treat them very well either, so it wasn't their fault, a lot of unfortunate events led to some of them being nasty but you can only get bit, kicked, bucked and thrown so many times before the whole thing just isn't so fun anymore. I guess I started to expect that the horse would hurt me and I was always tense, waiting for some mean trick. Obviously there were some wonderful horses too, but I only got to ride those in a slow week when they needed exercise which wasn't all that often. And usually when we rode one for exercise alone, we'd have to lead another, possibly a naughty one, who would nip at the one you were riding the entire time and wreck any enjoyment that might have been had otherwise.

I remember one sweet mare named Ruth that was so gentle and careful with her riders. We always put little girls on her because she seemed so motherly to them in a weird way that I can't really explain. She never buddied up with any other horse in the pasture, only grazed quietly or dozed alone in the sun. But when a family with kids signed up for a trail ride, she would come alive and nuzzle the children when they pet her and, I swear, her big horsey eyes would just shine. We always thought that maybe she had come from a home with a little girl and really missed her. She was older, not OLD, but older. The deal at the ranch was, if the boss could get a good profit on a horse (which was pretty easy since they were bought for nearly nothing, hence the many bad eggs) he would sell it if someone was interested. A family with a nine year old girl came and rode one day, naturally we paired the girl up with Ruth and they fell in love. The parents came back the next day to ask about buying her. Our boss (the jerk, I'll never forgive him for all this) was bragging about how wonderful and safe Ruth was, and talking about how he trained her himself (which was a crock, he never saw her before that summer) and telling them that her asking price was...I don't remember, but it was an insanely high amount for a grade horse that he paid seriously less than $100 for. Ruth had been standing in the corral, half asleep with her back to us this whole conversation. I guess to prove how sweet she was, our boss ran full tilt at her and vaulted onto her back. (He always acted like he was the swaggering star in some cheesy Western. He taught us all to rope things from horseback to impress the guests...he had issues. His dog, Colorado, peed on, or humped everyone's legs. I consider that a direct result of his owner's gross personality.) Anyway, of course Ruth bolted and tossed him off. She was basically just attacked from behind while asleep in the warm sun, what horse wouldn't react the same way?! The people who were looking at her were either scared away because they truly didn't know that much about horses, or disturbed by Boss/Jerk's attitude so Ruth's chance at a loving home was ruined. All the horses got shipped back to auction yards at the end of the summer, and who knows if they fared better at their next ranch/camp/farm. I've often thought of her and wondered what happened to her, along with a few other of my favorites.

We wished we had the money and space to save Spanky (clownish, white, smaller horse who was always my pick, if the choice was mine, probably a cow pony, lots of tricks but more goofy than bad...we got along well), Ruth (the aforementioned big, brown who-knows-what with a heart of gold), King (very young, darling Paint, who would let you sit on him while laying down in the field, had poor or no eyesight in one eye but was still 100% trustworthy), Montana (Huge, gorgeous,glossy long-legged TB that must have been bought by mistake, never put a foot wrong, tricked the guests into thinking we were high class), Johnny-Bravo (Justin loved him, also expensive looking to the untrained eye), Kate (dainty maybe-Morgan mare that seemed to be perpetually in heat, but mostly lovely just the same), Franklin (ex circus pony that loved to jump), and Harley (Half Belgian, half Cobb?, his back was like a sofa). But there are several that I hope were made into dog food. No, I don't mean that, though I do remember curling up, sobbing, in the tack room because I got bucked onto the saddle horn by a Draft cross that was only broke to pull a plow, one too many times, and another group of dudes arriving when I was thinking I NEVER, NEVER wanted to see another horse as long as I lived.

So...after all that, it's nice to be around horses that have been raised lovingly by people that know what they are doing. Not to mention the entire stable is simply beautiful...far nicer than my house actually. The horses have a SAUNA for goodness sake. Kind of strange seeing the other side of the horse world. A far cry from my last horse experience. I feel like watching the kids ride, and having velvet muzzles carefully eat an apple slice out of my hand is a good place to start over, for now. I have a sneaking suspicion that a few weeks time may find me back in the saddle again. Ti Yi Yippie Yo.


There are a million photos, as usual, on Flickr!