Saturday, May 31, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
The palomino is a 4 year old Skipper W bred Quarter Horse. Both are very nice horses, with Skyler being the responsive angel boy that little kids can take a spin on, and Okie being the get-up-and go, maybe I'll be a barrel racer kind of boy. They are probably the closest to ranch horses we have in our family. Both of them were started by The Cowboy to be his roping horse. Every time my cousins go to The Cowboy's they come away with one of his horses.
And so the Cowboy loses another roping horse. I think maybe they just keep going back for the Cowboy. I have yet to meet these geldings, but I will this summer when we rendezvous for a horsey camping trip.
My Boy is not a ranch horse. Not even close. On one of our rides through the pastured neighborhood, My Boy took one look at a steer and about did a double take. It is my dream to own a ranch someday. Maybe then, I'll get to ride an honest to goodness ranch horse.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
I am not surprised the woman pulled off the side of the road after seeing the Appy in his pasture. Let me say that every time I took this gelding to the trail head, I got numerous compliments on him. Everyone said, wow, that is a nice looking Appy. Or, he must have a lot of Quarter Horse in him. Or, who is he by? And, what a cute Appy! We even ran into an old time cowboy on his Quarter Horse yearling (a sorrel beauty I quickly coveted) who asked if the Appy was for sale. The trainer knew that she had a horse she could sell in a heartbeat.
The trainer said to the woman, oh, yeah, he's a good boy, but he is not for sale. She went on to talk a little about his bloodlines and training. Then she gestured towards me (shaking in my Pony Girl boots!) and said she's leasing him, and she'll have first dibs when he is for sale. Then she told the woman that as a trainer she came across good horses for sale all of the time, so she got her number.
Whew, I made it through that one. It wasn't until I almost lost him that I realized how much I wanted him. But there was still the issue of saving up the money. Although not overly expensive, leasing was not helping my cause. The lease money could have gone into my horse fund. A week later the trainer and I were talking about the Appy (I was beginning to ask more questions about his bloodlines) and she said that she had a book that had been given to her when she acquired him. She took me to the house and showed it to me. It was a black binder full of photos of the Appy's dam, sire, daughter, and, pictures of him as a foal, weanling, and yearling. It also had his registration papers in. I dubbed it his "baby book." I really liked this book because it showed what a cutie this Appy pill had been as a foal. It made me forgive him for all his stubborn antics. Hard to believe he was ever this innocent! As the summer drew to an end, I began to get anxious about the leasing. I would be starting up school again in the fall. I hadn't been adding much money to my horse fund. I panicked. I felt like I was getting more and more attached to this horse. I was already thinking of him as mine, yet he really was not. It was a possibility that it might not work out. I think I took an emotional step back and began to question whether the lease was helping my cause of ultimately owning my own horse. As a distraction, I started horse shopping again. Looking at less expensive horses. I found a 4 year old unregistered greenbroke Quarter Horse for $1000. I considered going to look at him. And one day, while I was at the trainer's riding the Appy, I decided to tell her that come September, I could not lease the Appy any more. Let me tell you, it was a hard conversation to bring up.
Well, it did not go over very well. The trainer was taken aback. She was confused because she thought I wanted the Appy. I did! It had nothing to do with not wanting him. It had everything to do with not being able to afford him. She said if I wasn't leasing him, they would have to sell him. She said I could purchase him on a payment plan. Which was very generous of her. However, I was not sure I could afford to make a payment plus all of the additional monthly costs of owning a horse. She also suggested care-leasing him and moving him to my sister's place. I thanked her for working with me and giving me options. I told her I would think about it and let her know as soon as possible. I left the conversation with unresolved feelings. And more confused. I got home and called my sister. And I cried. And cried. I wanted that silly Appy more than anything. She said she would talk to the trainer and explain the reasoning for my, uh, emotional breakdown.
The next day, after a fitful night of sleep, I decided to do the care lease. It was still not helping me save money. If anything, the actual care of the Appy was going to cost more than my lease! But it was a way to hang on to him for now (and pray that I won the lottery or married a rich cowboy.) So we moved him to my sister's farm. I signed a 6 month lease. I had the option to extend the lease or to buy the Appy at any time during the lease. She did put a good sale price on the paperwork. Less than what she had originally told me she wanted. But still out of my range.
It was great to have that Appy at my sister's. He really felt more like "my horse." And it was easier for my sister and I to ride and "play" with our horses together. I was still worried the trainer might want the horse back or decide she needed the money and list him for sale. I was trying my hardest to save money.
December rolled around. My family and I got together around Christmas to do our gift exchange. Dinner was ready, so we decided to save one gift for each of us to open after we ate. My gift was a garment-sized box. For some reason, they wanted me to go open my gift last. As I put it on my lap, my mom and sister got out their digital cameras and posed them on me. Like they were the paparazzi! Now what was this all about? Seemed awfully suspicious to me. I ripped open the cute cowboy boot wrapping paper and took the lid off the box. I folded back the tissue and stopped. There lay the Appy's black baby book. I knew it immediately. I looked up and felt my eyes well up with tears of confusion and surprise. What does this mean? I croaked. Silly question, Pony Girl! My family had tears in their eyes, too. It means the trainer gave you a really good deal on this horse! My family, at the last minute, had arranged an even better sale price with the trainer and put in a little extra funds to combine with what I had saved to make the purchase. It was the trainer's idea to wrap up the baby book for me. I could not believe it! It was unreal. My sister kept asking me can you believe he's really yours? Can you believe you have a horse again?
For the next couple of weeks, every time I thought about that Christmas moment, emotions overtook me and I welled up in tears (I am such a baby.) It had been an emotional journey. I had almost given up this great boy. I guess I had to have faith. I remember somewhere along the journey I said it will work out if it is meant to be. If he is meant to be my horse, he will be. Well My Boy, you are stuck with me now! Til the end. You big pill.
To be continued......Is My Boy my horsey soulmate? Is there one horse for everyone? I will explore this in Part III.
Monday, May 26, 2008
At the trailhead we observe all kinds of interesting situations that horses and riders get themselves into. We have discovered that you have to be aware of your space, of your horse, and everything going on around you. There are horses refusing to load, dogs milling about, trucks and trailers pulling in and out, horses coming and going from the trail. It can be a bit chaotic and never short of action.
I have to tell you a crazy story about what happened at the beginning of our ride. We left the trail head and started out on a long sandy road to the trails. The one I am riding My Boy down in the above photo. We passed a man on a grulla colored horse. I complimented him on his horse. He said thanks, then told us that his wife was a ways back with a loose horse. He said don't freak out, the horse is old and follows her, he's like a dog. We thanked him for the information, not quite sure if the horse was with them, or just a loose lost horse. But we figured he meant the horse was with them, that they were kind of ponying it.
In the almost two years we have been riding these trails, we have seem a lot of riders ponying young horses on the trails. We even saw a loose Shetland pony wearing a bell that just followed along with his horses and riders. Although, he kept stopping to eat grass and was not keeping up very well. A lot of riders also bring dogs that trail them. This does not bother me too much as our horses are very accustomed to dogs.
We got to where the sandy road comes to a "T" and we needed to turn left. We could see that to the right, far off down the road, was a rider on a horse, and a riderless horse moving alongside of it. We were glad we were not going to have to encounter them, as they would be heading back to the trail head. So we started up the road to the left. I think I looked back once or twice. And on the third look back, my eyes widened as I noticed that the loose horse was in a dead run (I'm talking Kentucky Derby homestretch here) straight down the road, leaving it's other horse in the dust, heading straight for us. My first instinct was that our horses were going to panic and bolt. So I leaped off My Boy. My sister and her boyfriend followed suit. We turned our horses towards the dark bay, appendix type horse, who had galloped up and slid to a stop near My Boy. My Boy arched his neck. The bay circled us once. Our horses were caught off guard and a little snorty but it happened so fast I think that they were as surprised as we were. They did not panic as I thought they would. The bay had a halter on with the name "Ghost Rider" embossed on the nose band. As quickly as he had galloped up, he turned and ran full speed down the sandy road back to his horse and rider. It was the strangest thing we have ever seen. Having a dog run up to you to say hello is one thing. But a horse? In retrospect, we discussed how this behavior could have completely panicked a younger, less experienced or spooky trail horse. Nothing evokes the prey animal instinct in a horse like another horse galloping up behind them. We were lucky our horses kept their wits about them (but I sure felt better with my two feet on the ground!) After our horses settled down, we mounted back up and continued our ride. I wished I had taken some pictures or video of this adventure but getting my camera out of my fanny pack was the last thing on my mind. I was in flight or fight mode! Here is My Boy eating some grass and calming down after Ghost Rider galloped away. A little green grass and My Boy forgets everything.
The rest of the ride was without mishap, except My Boy got irritated by the buggins while on one of the forested trails and began shaking his head again.
We brought back some pretty tired ponies to the trailer. We tied them up and began unsaddling when we noticed a man in a trailer starting to unload his horse. Suddenly, the horse began thrashing and pulling back. I watched, holding my breath as the man almost became pinned against the wall and the horse appeared to be hitting his head on the trailer ceiling. The horse finally stopped. I am not sure if he pulled himself out of his halter, but he was still in the trailer and the man was haltering him again. Then, the horse began to thrash again and thrashed himself right out of the back. It was scary. After we loaded our horses up and were getting ready to leave, we noticed the horse, which the man had moved to the side of the trailer, suddenly pull back again. He was rearing, twisting sideways and nearly sitting on his haunches. The man got caught in the tussle and was thrown down. The horse was loose. We stopped and waited, as did another woman, to see if the man was okay, and then if he needed help catching his horse. The horse had trotted off and started eating some grass, but moved away again as the man got close. We held our breath that he stayed in the parking lot near the other horses. Not far out of the trail head is a fairly busy road. Luckily, the man was able to approach the horse again and attach the lead rope and lead him back to the trailer.
We drove away but I did not feel good about the situation. It is hard when you see someone struggling with their horse. We have all been there at some point, at varying degrees. But it was possible for that man or his horse to have been injured in both of those situations we witnessed. I just hoped his horse's ground manners were one thing, and saddle manners were better, as he appeared to be saddling up for a ride, alone. Maybe that horse had been abused and had haltering or tying issues. I do not like to see interactions between a horse and a handler like that. It makes me nervous. And very thankful that for the most part, My Boy is a fairly level-headed horse to deal with.
Here is My Boy and I playing in the creek. Instead of just walking straight through and up the other side, we walked around in a few circles. I think he was confused. I was just hoping he didn't decide to take a bath!
My Boy had a hard time staying on the road. He kept veering towards this green field. I wonder why? Okay fine, we will go there. And take a picture. With the big robot monster in the background. Pony Girl is wearing her bug-eyed Jackie-O sunglasses. Not so cute.
Here it is. The big robot monster. Really, it's just a power line tower. Or whatever they are technically called. I like to make up names for things. But they look like they might just start walking towards us at any minute. They snap, crackle, and pop as you ride under them. I wonder if it is healthy to ride under all of that electricity? I am just surprised they never bother the horses, with all that noise they make.
If you were allergic to scotch broom weed, you would not want to ride down this hill, bless your sinuses. Or let your horse eat it, as it is toxic. It is kind of pretty, though. In a photo.
It was a pleasant ride. It has felt good to get out two weekends in a row, and get about 5 hours of riding under our cinches. The horses are well on their way to being in good shape for summer riding.
I am just putting the finishing touches and photos on the final installment of how My Boy became mine. I will post it tomorrow! If you cry easily, get out your Kleenex!
This Memorial Day, I want to pay tribute to three special animal friends. There have been many special animals in my life, but these three were probably the closest to my heart. I have a hard time dealing with grief and loss. Pulling out these old photos and writing about these memories was hard, but also very healing. In our family, pets are part of the family. They live in the house (well, except for the horses, of course) go everywhere with us, and we talk to them like they are people. So losing one is especially tough. The first one was my childhood cat, Aria. We bought her from a lady for $20 when I was about 8 years old. When I left for college she stayed with my parents, so she was always there for me to come home to. She lived to be 18 years old. Here is a picture of us together as youngsters. Interesting note: the hutch you see behind us? That housed Junior. The baby chipmunk that Aria caught and I rescued and kept as a pet. How I never got rabies as a child is beyond me.
Aria: Chipmunk catcher, let me dress her up, beautiful blue eyes, slept in the sink or fruit bowl, drank water out of the river, napped and slept with me always, quiet, loved Meow Mix, was a good mama (once!) loved to play, even in her old age, followed you around outside like a dog. After we lost both of our childhood mutts in the same year to old age, my parents talked about getting a new puppy. They were considering a beagle. The had never owned a beagle before. And they have not owned one since. I picked out the puppy at a breeder, as a surprise for my dad for Christmas. After bringing the puppy home and keeping him at my house for one night, I left for my parents' place. Traffic was bad and I got home really late. My dad was already in bed because he was not feeling well. We woke him up with the surprise. Oh goodness, he was surprised! But how could you resist this little guy? Funny, that beagle ending up touching my dad's life in a such a special way. My parents loved that little hound dog, quirks and all.
Riley: food monger, present opener, lap dog, mouse eater, cat tracker, chewed up everything as a puppy, boat dog, beach lover, rolled in dead seagulls (or in anything dead, for that matter) slept on top of you, hated walking on a leash, couch potato, had to sniff everything, under the covers, whimpered with excitement whenever he saw me, bath-hating beagle.
A feral cat outside of my mom's workplace had a litter of kittens in the bushes. My mom and her co-workers fed them. When they were old enough, they found the kittens new homes. My mom ended up choosing a cream puff colored kitten for herself. She named her Snowflake. As she did not imprint on humans at birth, Snowflake was always very timid and shy. Even after 14 years, this cat would really only let two people pick her up: my mom and myself. My dad could pet her. Even though I had moved out of the house by the time my parents had Snowflake, she and I always had a special bond. She would always sleep with me when I came home to visit. My mom and I were with her as she crossed the rainbow bridge last month. It was a very sad day. Snowflake: shy, green eyes, soft mew, outdoor prowess, my mom's princess, loved her belly rubbed, slept on my pillow, hid under the bed or behind the couch when strange people came over, purring machine, loved her old tiger-striped feline buddy, Oliver.
R.I.P my dear animal friends. I miss you and think about you often.
Since I did not post yesterday, I will post again later this afternoon with the story of our crazy trail ride yesterday. Wow, two posts in one day! Can you say, carpal tunnel syndrome? I hope you are all enjoying the 3-Day weekend.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Hey, can you give me that net thing? I see some more muck that needs to be cleaned out of this trough. Figures a goat would have to take charge around here!
My Boy got a scrubbed trough and fresh water, too. Oh goodness, my back is still sore from scrubbing out that tank. I'm afraid it's time to get those free weights back out.This is how interested My Boy was in helping clean the water trough. Not very. After a nearly three hour ride, he was taking a well-deserved horsey nap under his tree in the late afternoon sun. I have been working hard on Part Two of How the Appy Became My Boy. I will have it posted soon....by early next week at the latest! Stay tuned!
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
When I got back from a trip to visit my Auntie J in the California desert a year ago this past February, I had caught the horse virus again. In the 16 years since I had last owned a horse, I had flitted in and out of the world of horses. In my mid-twenties I took hunter-jumper lessons for about 6 months. When I vacationed in British Columbia, Lake Tahoe, or on the coast, I was always sure to go on a guided trail ride. My sister was given her mare Brandy 4 years ago, and I would go up and ride and help her out. But I was not really back "into" horses and riding, like I was in my youth. But that trip, something about it, sparked the bug again. Maybe I should place the blame on my Aunt's Quarter Horse, Jesse. I got to ride him in the arena after a trail ride and I loped him. Oh goodness, it brought back all kinds of horse feelings. Just thrilling.
I returned from that trip determined to find a horse to ride or lease. I checked Craigslist.org and found an older Arabian gelding and went to try him out. He was a nice horse. But he was also leased by four teenage girls and I decided that was not the situation for me. Then, I found a mare for sale. Uh-oh. I emailed with her owner, who really wanted a new barrel horse. She was willing to part with the little grade Quarter Horse mare fairly cheaply, to the right home. Suddenly I was adding up my income tax refund and asking for handouts from the family and planning to go look at and potentially buy this mare. Moving a little too fast, maybe? I remember I was so stressed out about it all I could barely eat or sleep. However, I got an email the day before I was to make the trek over the mountain to see her. The owner had decided to keep the mare and lease her out to someone in her rodeo club.
At this time, my sister had her mare Brandy, and her boyfriend's new Paint mare, Fritzy, in training. My sister mentioned to her trainer that I was looking for a horse to lease or ride. Oh, said the trainer. She can lease my husband's horse. One drizzly Saturday in late February, we drove to the trainer's to try out this horse. My sister warned me that she had only seen the horse once on a trail ride and she did not really remember much about him, but she was pretty sure that he was not an overly handsome Appaloosa, meaning, he did not have much of a tail, etc. The trainer got him out of the pasture (he was a little challenging for her to catch) and brought him into the barn. She took off his blanket and I was like, hmmm. This horse is not unattractive at all! My sister rode him first and I realized that this was a very pretty Appy. I jokingly asked the trainer is he for sale? The trainer's husband had come out to watch at this point and said No, not unless I get my gaited Walker. I rode the Appy around the arena a little and found him to be quite nice. I told the trainer I would think about it but I called her back later that day and said I wanted to lease the Appy. The trainer said she would move him to the barn she was training my sister's horses at, since it had a covered arena and she didn't.
I remember the first day I was to go ride this Appy after work. I was literally shaking with anticipation all day. As soon as I was off work, I changed into my jeans and boots, jumped in the car, and started the hour long drive to the barn. It was such a great feeling, walking down the barn isle to the Appy's stall. It felt like I was home again.
At one point, about a month into leasing the Appy, the trainer told me she might have a horse for me, if she could get him sound. That she would just give me. For free. Someone gave her a Paint horse gelding that had some leg and hoof problems from being in muddy pasture conditions over the winter. The gelding was well-trained and in good condition, he just had to stand in mud and it had caused him to develop mud fever and other leg issues. The night she brought him home, we went to see him. She led him out of his stall. His legs were shaking and he lifted them like he was still walking knee deep in mud. I liked him, though, and became excited about the prospect of owning a black and white Paint tobiano that matched my sister's. But as time passed, the trainer realized the horse would never be sound enough for me. She ended up getting him back in light riding condition and kept him for her children to ride.
In the spring, the Appy was moved back to the trainer's place. The weather was improving. There was another boarder there that I rode with in the arena or on the neighborhood trails. It was great to be back into riding and having horse friends again. On the weekends, I would meet my sister and her boyfriend and we would go load up the Appy and head to the tree farm trails. I was the only one that was leasing him. He was used occasionally for lessons or as the husband horse. But the husband did not really ride him much. He had back problems and still wanted a gaited horse.
Now, during this time, I had realized that horse ownership was not in the cards for me quite yet, but leasing was the perfect option for me. Regardless, I had started saving money for a horse of my own. I opened up a separate account. I cut back on my expenses. I was set on getting a Quarter Horse. I was already searching horses on all of the online equine sale sites. I found a beautiful sorrel green broke filly at a ranch. I corresponded with her owners and they sent me some pictures. I kept a file folder of printed horse ads from horses that I liked. My dream file. Most of them were stock breeds.
Meanwhile, I was working out the kinks with the Appy. I found him to be a bit challenging at first. Mostly because I was a rusty, out-of-touch rider and he knew it. But I enjoyed riding him and he never did anything dangerous. He appeared to be rather trustworthy and was good on the trails. My sister asked me once if the Appy ever came up for sale, if I would buy him. Nah, I said. I liked him well enough, but he was not the horse for me.
Time passed. I began to get closer to the Appy. He was such a good boy. And goodness, such an easy horse to be around on the ground. One day while I was at the trainer's riding, she told me that her husband really wanted to sell the Appy, so that he could get a gaited horse. But she was not ready to sell him yet. She said that as long as I was leasing him and he was getting used, that was the important thing. And, he was too good of a horse not to have around. I am not sure if it was this prompted me to change my thinking. But I was talking to my sister one night and I realized that hmmm, this Appy might be the horse for me after all. At this time in my life, I was not going to do any serious competing. And I do not live close enough to my horse, which would be boarded at my sister's around 45 minutes away, to have a young horse that needed consistent riding and training. And let me clarify, I was not in a position of experience to be training a young horse, anyway! And there was something about this Appy that had grown on me. He was so darn cute. And in the months I had been riding him, I had come to trust him. I felt safe on him. That is a hard feeling to come by with a horse. Everyone said the Appy liked me. And that we looked good together. I decided to ask the trainer that when she seriously decided to sell the Appy, would she mind offering him to me first? She said absolutely, that I had first dibs. So I kept saving my money. But it was a slow go. The price that she had casually mentioned they would ask for the Appy was a little out of my range. Well, not even a little. Like two times the amount I could realistically afford.
One afternoon, when I arrived to ride the Appy, I noticed an unfamiliar truck in the driveway. The husband was standing over by My Boy's paddock talking to a woman. I figured she was one of the trainer's clients. I wanted to give the trainer a check so I went up to the house first. She asked me who the woman was talking with her husband and I shrugged and said I didn't know. We walked over to the barn and her husband introduced us to the woman. Apparently this woman drove by the trainer's place a lot (which was located right on the road) and had noticed the Appy in his paddock. She thought he was a gorgeous horse and she was looking for an Appy to buy for the Appaloosa Horse Club's annual Chief Joseph trail ride. She had an Appy in training, but he was not going to work out. She wanted to know if this Appy was for sale.
Well, needless to say, this Pony Girl's heart dropped and I probably had all kind of strange looks crossing my face. To be continued.....
Monday, May 19, 2008
Wide open spaces. This was better. He much prefers these wide, sunny, dry trails. I called My Boy "the tailgater" yesterday. He does not usually do that. Looking at this desolate, logged land is kind of sad. There are trails down in and out of these huge deep craters. We imagined that at one time, in the dinosaur days, those craters were lakes. Now, they are just filled with stumps and fallen logs.
When My Boy gets a turn to be in the lead, he is so funny. His little ears perk forward and he walks fast. He is on the lookout for danger. Stumps camouflaged as bears. Giant metal culverts.
What are you looking at silly boy? There is no bear over there! Wait, are you looking at that Mustang cowboy? Where did he go?
We make a pit stop. There is a nice meadow, a BBQ area for sanctioned rides, and of course, Honeybuckets. I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Guess who was trying to get a bite? I did not give him one. How do I know he's not allergic to peanuts?
Time to head back. Back into the woods. Sorry Boy, I know the buggins are going to get ya again.
I love this house. I do not know who lives there. But I say I love that house every time we ride by it. It is on the road we take back into the trail head parking lot. Just think, these trails are in their backyard! I love the ranch style of the house. I'd spend most of my time on that wraparound porch. Watching my cowpoke children playing in the dirt and reading Western Horseman while my cowboy well, um, maybe he's cooking me dinner. They also have some nice Paints and Appy's in their pasture. Hey cool house owners, if you ever want to give your house away, will you give me a call?
Back at the trailer. We have some tired horses and wet saddle blankets. It will take some time to get back into trail riding shape! For this Pony Girl too, who was quite sore today after spending almost three hours in the saddle!
My Boy and his girls are loaded up and ready to go home.
Awww....nothing like getting a hose down on a warm day when you are itchy with sweat. Since my camera has become my additional appendage, my sister was kind enough to squeegee him off for me. Guess what My Boy did the minute I put him in the pasture? You guessed it. A well-deserved roll in the dirt!