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HORSE STORIES

After a lifetime of being around horses I have a lot of experiences to share. Here are a few short stories from 30 years spent loving horses. More to come!




"Watch Your Feet"

Over the years in training animals I've often come up with some interesting commands, out of the norm of what a dog or horse would normally know. With Bo, over a period of time, and unknowlingly at first, I taught him "Watch your feet". He can be lazy and drag his feet some especially if he's not really paying attention. When I started riding him in the desert and we'd have to make our way down something steep or travel across a rocky area I'd say "Watch your feet" and over time, he'd start to look down and be careful about where he stepped.

A couple of years ago I was in a group of riders, returning to the start point of a parade, after dark. We were crossing city blocks and heading across a big parking lot, up and down curbs and so on. Bo and I had never ridden in this kind of situation. I noticed some of the horses were tripping on the curbs as we went up or down them. I told Bo a couple of times "Watch your feet" and he never tripped once. It was one of those proud moments where a several years' long relationship with a horse and the use of a possibly unusual command made for a great end to a ride.



Almost an Apartment Arabian

I grew up in a small town where the county fair coming to town every year was the big to-do. Granny entered baked goods, flower arrangements and tatting doilies in the fair. I could be found riding any horse I could bum a ride on. Some years I was actually quite busy warming up and cooling down various rodeo horses for several cowboys who took pity on a horseless horse loving girl.

I remember my Granny dropping me off at the fairgrounds with strict instructions NOT to ride any horses. They were dangerous she said. One of my favorite childhood memories from the fair days was the time I was aboard a random roping horse in the parking lot when I spotting my Granny's car coming to pick me up. I bailed off the horse in a hurry, but Granny's first words when I opened the car door were "I saw you!" She couldn't be too angry, she knew I would ride if given the chance - despite her warnings. Granddad for his part used to just say “Horses are too big to play with”. But he was full of horse loving stories of his own. He always said that a horse running was one of the most beautiful things to watch.

One year during the fair, someone was going to raffle off an Arabian colt. I bought several tickets, much to Granny’s dismay. At that point Granny and Granddad had moved into town and were living in an apartment. Granny was distressed about the possibility of me winning the colt, but Granddad told her it was no big deal. He said that he and a friend could build a shed for the colt out behind the apartments and I could keep the horse out there. Granddad was always a good kidder and he had a lot of fun with Granny that day. And no, I didn’t win the colt.



Diamond in the Rough

I worked with my first horse as a training project when I was 14. His name was Milargo. He was a dark brown/seal bay 5 year old gelding. I was told he was 3/4 Arabian, 1/8 Morgan and 1/8 Quarter Horse. He'd been ridden a few times a year before and then he stood in a pen for a year. That’s when I came across him at a farm next to where I had my first summer job. I started working with him for his owner, an elderly man who owned the farm. There were people who boarded horses there and I remember them teasing me when they saw me taking the shaggy, dirty, out of shape horse to the arena each day. It was summer and he still had his winter coat. He was covered in mud and his feet were overgrown; I guess he probably didn’t look like much, but he was a horse and I loved him. I curried and brushed him to a shine and worked him on the lunge line every day. Then I started riding him. I taught him to neck rein, we did some coursework using cones and I had a lot of fun with him. I wanted to buy him, but it was not to be.

I remember one day toward the end of summer, the old man who owned him came over to me at the arena. He said, “You know, people around here have been saying ‘That’s a nice looking horse, where’d that kid get that horse?’ and I’ve been telling them, ‘That horse has been for sale back there for a year and none of you ever wanted him!’” At the end of summer I stopped working at the job next to the farm and I never saw Milargo again. I’m not sure what ever happened to him, but I’d like to think after he was polished to a shine, someone gave him a good home.



Trust

The first wild BLM mustang I worked with fresh off the range was a yearling filly. Her name was Sadie. I learned a lot from that little filly, the most memorable lesson being one of trust. I had only been leading her for a couple of days. She was pretty well halter broke already and we were out in the arena, doing some exploring. She spotted a rope handled muck bucket sitting along the fence and it gave her a scare. She didn’t bolt, but froze, front legs spread, snorting at it from afar. I gave her some slack in my 20 foot lead and I approached the bucket. She watched me closely. I handled the bucket all over; telling her there was nothing to fear. She approached and put her head down to investigate. Her legs were shaking, but she was brave. She sniffed the bucket all over and was finally convinced there was no danger after all.

We set off again on our maiden voyage around the arena and a bit further along she froze again. This time the potential horse eating monster was a big plastic barrel on its side. Once again I gave her slack in the rope and I approached the barrel. This time however, the instant I laid my hand on the barrel, she came forward. Again she investigated the scary object, even rolling it around a bit. Then she looked at me as if to say “nope, not bad at all”. I had tears in my eyes as I realized that this wild little filly trusted me. The moment I touched something scary, she had already figured out that no harm would come to her. It was an amazing experience.

I’ve since worked with several mustangs and I’ve found them to be wonderful horses. In my experiences, once they trust you, they will give you their all.

All you have to do is ask.



Bucephalus

In the spring of 2001 I made my first trip to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary while on a visit to Rapid City, SD. A friend took me to the Sanctuary to look at that years foal crop. The place is an 11,000 acre sanctuary for a few hundred wild mustangs that have been taken off the range and have not been adopted. Each year the Sanctuary produces a crop of registered Paint and Quarter Horse foals, with proceeds of the foal sales going to support the wild ones. I’ve had a long love affair with Paint horses, because of the beautiful coloring many of them have.

On that first trip, I saw a lot of gorgeous horses, including many babies and a few mares for sale. I wanted to buy a horse and I had several on my list at the end of the day. I couldn’t decide which my favorite was. One of the foals in the running was a 1 month old colt who was bigger than the others his age. He was a stocky little guy and had a huge white star on his forehead. His foal coat was a sort of light dusty brown color, but the lady at the Sanctuary assured me he would be black.

That night, at my friend’s house, I pulled a random horse book off her shelf and flipped it open to the middle to start reading. I had flipped open to the story of Alexander the Great and his horse Bucephalus. It said that Bucephalus has been described as a large black horse with a big white star on his forehead. As soon as I read that, I knew I was going to get the big black colt with the huge white star on his head. I also knew that I would name him Bucephalus.

I asked my friend what to call him for short, since I figured Bucephalus would be a mouthful. She offered the shortened version of “Bo”. “That’s a good ranch horse name” she’d said. The rest, as they say, is history.

--- As a side note, I often make the joke that my love of the wildly spotted Paint horses led me to that shopping trip for a Paint foal… and I went and picked out a solid breeding stock (non spotted) foal – ha!

Baby Bo

Baby Bo