This has been making the rounds on the e-mail lists. As I am approaching 50 with warp speed, I thought it was a good one to ponder.
I Hung up my Bridle Today
Yesterday, for the first time, I was too tired to ride I was afraid I would be hurt if I was thrown I heard someone say my barn was too shabby I let someone tell me I was too pudgy to ride I realized I was old I had to face that I could no longer keep up I had to let go of my dreams I felt my heart break I turned my back on my friend I knew I was done
Today, for the last time, I felt warm, braided leather in my hands. I ran my stirrups up so they wouldn't bang my mare's sides I released the buckles on the girth and watched my girl sigh I slowly dropped the bit so it wouldn't hit her teeth I gave my mare a cookie to thank her for the ride I buried my head in her soft, warm neck I inhaled the sun and the dust in her long winter coat I closed the gate and trudged to the muddy porch I tracked hay and horse hair into my house I pulled off my boots and felt the sting of warm blood returning to my cold toes
Today, for the first time, I cried after my ride I felt my hands shake as I set the saddle on its rack I hugged my young trainer a final goodbye I waited for the new owner's trailer to arrive I set my boots in a box to go to the Goodwill I sighed at the wear on my riding gloves I had no hay in my hair I did not hear nickering when I opened my back door I felt worse leaving the barn that I did when I entered I had no one to check on before going to bed
Tomorrow, for the first time, I won't have to buy hay I can stay in bed longer I won't see the poop pile grow I won't be able to fly on four legs I will be sorry I listened I will regret letting her go I will be angry at God I will be angry at myself I will cry the day away I will be glad to die
Day after tomorrow, for the first time, I will awaken in tears I will know I was wrong I will defy all the judgment I will ignore my old bones I will return the buyer's check I will bring my friend home I will take my boots out of the box I will be reborn
For the rest of my life, I will have a horse in my yard I will ignore the cruel judging I will watch the poop pile grow I will have hay in my hair I will track mud in my house I will bury my face in her soft neck I will let my soul fly I will never be alone.
It's summer time and 900 degrees in the shade. You are thinking about the river/lake/beach down the road, and wouldn't it be fun to take your horse in swimming! I agree, it is a lot of fun, and most horses seem to enjoy it too, but there are real hazards there, and if you aren't aware and cautious, it can mean disaster for your horse, and you.
Lets go step by step.
Is it safe to approach the water? Boat ramps into lakes can be slippery. Banks that are masses of reeds are probably boggy. Tall grass and brush can hide tires, other debris. Steep banks with faint deer trails are not a safe access. Deer weigh about 100 pounds, can climb vertical surfaces and can jump if they slip. Your 1200 pound horse plus you, plus tack, plus you pulling on their head to guide them will not be able to go down the same trail. Remember head room. You on your horse is a lot taller than you think, make sure you don't get scrapped off on a branch on your way down.
Is there a way back up? Just because you can get down, doesn't mean you can get back up. Esp after several horses have turned the bank into a mud pit. If you want to cross, make sure there is a way to get up on the other side.
What kind of floor does the water have? What looks like a clear, safe passage can actually be bog, quicksand, or a lot deeper than you anticipate. Rocky mountain streams seldom have this problem, but streams near lakes, bays, or swamps can be deadly deep bogs. Water in arid areas can create quicksand, just as deadly as the bog. Both can suck you down, causing strains, injury, and drowning. Ending up a lot deeper than you expect can also be deadly. Not all horses can swim. Remember rocks are slippery, and hard for a horse, esp with shoes to walk on. think about that before you ask your horse to pick their way through boulders and shale.
Is the crossing clear? If you can't see the bottom, be very cautious. Bodies of water often are dumping ground for all kinds of hazardous trash, as well as stumps and branches. The tire, or scrap metal you don't see can catch or cut your horses legs. Stumps and branches can catch legs, or hook on shoes pulling tendons and causing both of you to fall. Remember, it's not just what could be dumped here, it's what washes down stream. you may be in what looks like a pristine wilderness, but if a road or town crosses the river upstream, anything could be washed down.
Is your tack appropriate? Even if you only plan on going knee deep, you never know what could happen. Never ride a horse into water with a tie down, martingale, draw reins, or anything that would restrict their heads. It only has to be deeper than your horses chest for them to drown, if they can't raise their head. (Or if they don't have the experience or instinct to raise their head.) Remember when you go in water, things float, so make sure you don't have a lot of loose things (ropes, water bottles, etc) dangling off your saddle. They can float around and spook or tangle your horse. Make sure your tack is water appropriate. Leather stretches when it gets wet. If you have leather latigos you can find yourself with a loose girth, leather bridles can stretch, if it is salt water remember to thoroughly clean all your tack after the ride.
Is your horse prepared? Crossing a belly deep rushing river is not the time to find out if your horse crosses water! Prepare yourself and your horse by starting with small streams in the company of experienced confident horses. If you think the water will be deep enough to swim, make sure your horse is comfortable with that. Step them in slowly, or better, lead them in on a lunge line, and let them experience it without the weight of a rider. Some horses panic when they can't touch the ground. They can freeze, go into the prey animal shock, or thrash around. Be careful! Also, if you are going to the beach for the first time, even the most seasoned water horse will be unnerved by waves crashing down, and the foam chasing them. Be ready to do some desensitizing work.
Get good advance knowledge. If it is a known trail, talk to the locals, or better yet, get a knowledgeable guide. Even if you do though, remember, water is tricky, one good storm can change the entire geography of a crossing.
I have ridden horses on trails from GA to ME, and have yet to find a trail without some human debris on it. Never trust that you are in the wilderness, and there won't be a rusty pipe or plastic rings to snag your horses leg. I have learned the hard way not to trust any crossing.
When I lived in Annapolis, one of our regular trails crossed a creek. this creek was proably 1/2 mile from the bay. Muddy, but never too deep. We were riding in the winter and crossing it as normal. My friend on her trim little Arab trotted across, hopped the log on the other side, and went on down the trail. My 16 h TWH mare however, got halfway across and bogged down to her belly. She panicked, not because we were bogged in mud, but because her FRIEND LEFT HER! She reared up and in a move worthy of a Lipizzaner, leaped out of the creek and over the log on the bank. Doing this her 15 pound bone head slammed into mine and shattered my glasses. As she frantically charged after her friend, I put my glasses in a pocket, decided my nose had gotten hit too, then went on with the ride. Later I found out she had broken my nose. This was a known crossing, we had been through it many times.
Another time I was riding with a club (in the winter again). When we came to a stream, the person who was leading couldn't get their horse to cross. I was elected to lead the way, because my horse (again, my TWH horse Shadow) would always cross. I asked the host of the ride if the crossing was ok, because the water was muddy and I couldn't see the bottom. She said yes, they had gone through it on foot. Fine, I asked Shadow to cross and she hesitated. This should have told me something, but I pushed on. We crossed the creek, and just as we got to the other side, Shadow fell in a hole next to the other bank. I rolled off, and Shadow was hanging there, front legs folded up on the bank, the rest of her handing straight down into the muddy water. The hole was so deep my 16 hand horse couldn't touch the bottom. We eventually got her out by taking her front legs, and rolling her over in the water to solid ground. Then I got to ride in a wet saddle with wet clothes for another hour. Remember, even with a local guide, be cautious.
For a few years I boarded my horses near the Bay Bridge. At that time, we were allowed to ride our horses in Quiet Waters park, and take them in the water at a little side beach. (no, this is not allowed any more) We were careful, because the shipping channel was close, so never took our horses more than chest deep in the water. One time after one of the hurricanes had been through, we took our horses to our little beach, and were riding them in the waves, about knee to belly deep. I didn't want to go deeper because had my cell phone in my saddle bag. As we waded out a bit further, suddenly nothing was above the water but my head and Shadow's ears! It seems because of the storm, the channel had shifted (the channel at the Bay Bridge is 300 ft deep) and we were in it! Shadow came up snorting, and started swimming for the shore. She completely ignored me until we are on the beach, and then stood there refusing to go back in the water. She made it plain that this was not funny, and she wasn't happy about it. Fortunately for both of us, she figured out how to swim, and later would come to enjoy it a lot. But it could have ended very badly for us. We had been riding there for over 2 years, and thought we knew the safe places to ride. The cell phone did not survive the encounter.
This is the same place I encountered a pony who couldn't figure out water. Another time we rode there, I loaned my 13.2 pony gelding to a friend, and we rode down into the water. I looked back at my pony, and while he was willing to go in the water, the waves were breaking over his nose, and he couldn't figure out to raise his head. He was snorting water and getting panicked, his rider had no clue. I told her to take him out and we didn't take him there again.
Another winter ride, this time in the Avalon section of Patapsco. Again with my horse Shadow (yes, this horse is a saint). According to the map I had, there was a crossing below the dam. I was trying to ride different trails, so we decided to go for that crossing. I get there, and there are no markings. Since this was a popular area, there was no obvious trail. We had two options, a very rocky crossing, or across smooth sand. I looked at the water, which was very clear, and thought the sand crossing was quite shallow. I didn't like the rocks, so we headed across where it was sandy. Halfway over, suddenly I am wet to the waist, and Shadow is smoothly swimming across. She wasn't bothered, as we had been swimming for years by then, but this was Feb, and again, I had an hour long wet ride back home. My friend crossed at the rocks, and laughed pretty much the whole way home.
Be cautious, and think ahead! Many thanks to the MDHorseperson list for contributions to this discussion!
I don't show any more, but at one time I was a regular in the show ring. While I did have a goal, promoting the versatility of my breed of choice and earning Versatility Certificates, I never was a truly serious competitor. I just wanted to have fun. Plus, I know from my life experiences, if I took myself or my showing too seriously, the Universe would take her revenge!
My first show I was too broke to buy a morning coat to show in, so the night before the show I was up until 3 am sewing a skirt suit into a morning coat. it worked so well I had people asking me where I got it. This was the same show where I borrowed a western saddle for the western classes. The saddle didn't fit well, and my horse wasn't happy. (yes, it was Shadow) In the 3 gait class, when the judge called for a canter, Shadow bucked all the way around the ring. on the reverse, she did it again. Of course I didn't pin, and in the line up the Judge told me with a grin that he couldn't place me in the class, but he would give me an 85 on the ride. I loved that judge, he was sensible, fair, and funny.
I have shown at fairground with ground bees and the ring plowed like a field with huge dirt clods. (Anne Arundel fairgrounds) I've shown at the Howard County fair, which always seems to fall on the hottest most humid day of the year. One year a friends horse coliced and impacted. As we waited for the vet, she suddenly got a brilliant idea, loaded him in her trailer. He immediately pooped, and colic was over. Made perfect sense once we thought about it.
I have shown up at a competitive trail ride without a bridle for my horse. Yes, I know, brilliant. Fortunately it was the mighty pony Iceman I was riding, and I said what the heck and jumped on him with a halter and two leadlines. We got third.
The most fun was the larger shows, where we trailered up the day before, stalled the horses and stayed there for the weekend. Lexington, VA is a favorite. We rented an extra stall, and camped in the barn. They had hot showers, and food, and Domino's Pizza delivered to the barns. We rode our horses bareback in the dark around the rings, stopped by all the other barns to chat, and stayed up most of the night talking and eating pizza. It was great fun.
Lexington is also where I got a blue ribbon in western reining because according to the judge, we were the only ones who got the pattern right. Who knew all those years of having to memorize a jumping course in 5 min. would come in handy!
Remember as you show to think about your partner. You horse doesn't understand about ribbons, they only do this to please you so make sure you keep the show fun for them. Bring them hay, water, flyspray, and some treats. Don't tack them up at 8am and sit on their back all day, give them a break to graze, take them for a walk. At a show is where I have found out the most interesting things about my horses. They will eat ice, drink out of a cup, drink Mt Dew right out of a bottle, eat pretzels, and are very patient while little kids pet their nose of sit on their backs. If shows stay fun and interesting for your horse, they will do better.
After 2 weeks we saw a couple of changes, Shadow started taking an interest in life again and the filly decided she belonged the the teen aged daughter of the good Samaritan helping me with them. It was a mutual attraction. The daughter had never had an interest in horses before, but something in the starved little filly touched her heart, and something in the gentle care of the teenager brought out trust in the filly.
It was decided that they would adopt the filly. It was a case of the horse picking the owner, and to this day and am delighted with how that came out.
It's good we had these little victories, because the abusers were not letting go easily. They contacted a police officer that was a friend of theirs, and fed him a long tale of theft and harassment. This officer contacted me and my friends in that state threatening arrest, etc if the horses weren't returned. It seems the abusers though the horses were still in that state. Not knowing any better, we tried to deal with that officer, and the phone calls and threats got worse. The officer harassed us at all hours of the day and night. We all started to worry about our physical safety, especially as I had spoken with the breeder of the Arab colt who fathered Shadows filly, and she had warned us these people were the kind to torch your house if you crossed them.
Meanwhile we were still trying to bring these two horses back from starvation. I moved Shadow to a facility with acres of grass, and starting feeding her, worming her, trimming her feet, updating vaccinations, all the normal things you do with a horse you own. All the things that hadn't been done in 2 years for her.
This was Shadow after 6 weeks of food and care. Better, but still a long way to go. I had to drive 60 miles each way to go take care of her every day. Meanwhile I had the added stress on wondering what to do about the nasty calls.
I had no clue what to do, after all, the police were calling me, they should be on MY side! I called my lawyer, and we prepared a package of all the documents, the bill of sale, bounced check, copy of the papers still in my name, the letters of intent, and a notation of the relevant laws of that state. My lawyer sent this to the police officer, with a note that if necessary it would be forwarded to his superiors with an accounting of his harassment.
Suddenly the calls stopped. I found out there never were any charges filed, it was all a bluff to try and get the horses back. I was still getting calls from the abusers though, and letters that ranged from pleading to threats.
Meanwhile, the filly just blossomed! With good food, regular worming, and lots of love, (the vet said her liver damage would repair) she starting growing like a weed with the typical uneven growth spurts babies get. First her neck would grow, then her back legs, then her back, then front legs.
She recovered a lot quicker than Shadow, who still looked thin. I decided to move Shadow again, and advised the new owners of the filly, to move her as well, and not leave behind any information on where they were going. I would not have put it past the abusers to drive the distance just to hurt the horses if they couldn't steal them. By doing this, if either was approached we could in all honesty say we didn't know where either horse was.
The following fall we got together and took some photos. These are 7 months after the rescue.
I moved and changed phone numbers, and finally stopped hearing from the abusers. I was cautious for many years though. Through this I learned good lessons.
All the contracts in the world can't really protect your horse, but if you have one, at least you have a legal option if something goes wrong.
Never sign the papers over until you are paid in full, and you are satisfied with the home.
Always go the legal route. Get a lawyer, do your research, make sure you are on the right side of the law if you have to do something about the situation.
Document, document, document! I had every letter, every document, the bounced check, the sale contract, plus a statement from the vet on the condition of the horses when I got them back. If there was any question of ownership, I had enough documentation (I hoped) to insure the horses never went back to them.
Never give up. I spent 9 months talking to lawyers and animal control, a couple months planning the legal docs and the trip to get them. It took a year after I found out the situation to get Shadow back, but here she is now, 19 years later. 23 years old, happy and healthy.
She took a while to recover emotionally from the abuse, and has never been the same horse I sold them. Back then she was a mischievous little rascal. Always into things, playing, nippy and full of life. Her experience sobered her, she was quite serious, and quite worried for a long time. I would take her to a show, or trail ride, and if I moved out of her sight, to go register or change, she would break her leadline and follow me. She was so afraid I would leave her somewhere again.
Eventually, she has realized she will never be left again, and has become confident and content in her place in my life. We have shown, traveled, experienced many things together (including many hilarious events). She is a TWHBEA Versatility Champion, we have done everything from Hunter paces to western reining to Competative Trail. She is my heart horse, I have promised her she would never have to worry again.
We stopped every other hour, but I was afraid to unload the horses, I didn't think they could get back in the trailer. Both were leaning against the sides. Neither would eat or drink. Finally, at 1 am, we pulled into the barn in MD. They had made it. Both staggered out of the trailer. I put them in a paddock, with water and hay. I was afraid to give them anything else without first having the vet look at them.
I had told my vet what I was doing, and she came out the next morning at first light. The news was not good. Shadow wasn't eating, she just stood in a corner. It was like she had made it until I got there, but was at the end of her strength. The vet said she was in the early stages of organ failure. We ran tests on both, the filly was in a bit better shape, but was undersized, and had liver damage from worms.
These photos were taken the next day. Notice you can see not just the ribs, but gaps between the ribs. Backbone, hip bones, and all of this with long wormy fur. Shadow especially seemed to be depressed. Not caring about food, water, anything.
Notice the hollows above both their eyes, they have even lost the suborbital fat (if the baby ever had any)
Shadow would eat a bit if you hand fed her. and seemed to relax if you brushed, or just petted her. The filly wanted nothing to do with me or anyone after the trailering and vet visit. I had told some acquaintances what I was doing, and they volunteered to come help. We had shifts of people there every hour, brushing and feeding the two horses small bits of food according to what the vet recommended. For two weeks we did this.
I couldn't believe he was serious. It was a 12 hour journey down there, then load up a horse in who knows what condition, and 12 hours back. He asked when I was off work, and he would make all the arrangements. It didn't matter to him how hard the task was, there was a wrong to be righted, and an innocent life to save.
I spoke to my lawyers, and with them wrote a letter of demand, asking for the full amount or return of the horse, and sent it certified mail. No reply. I sent a second letter, stating I would come and get the horse if the price was not paid. Again, no reply. I did this to insure all the legal steps were taken. I gave them a week to reply, then we planned our trip.
I had friends there who would help me with a place to stay, and to load the horses. I took halters, hay, grain, water buckets and a first aid kit, and we left one early morning. We drove straight there, getting to my friends house after dark, and just collapsed.
The next morning we met a few houses down from where Shadow was at 9 am. My friends there told me Shadow had changed, and wouldn't let anyone catch her. No one had touched her for months. They wouldn't come with me to the farm, because they were afraid of the people.
I had prepared a letter to leave at their house, so they would know what I had done. We walked down the road and knocked on the door. No one answered, but the dogs were there, so I will never know if they were home or not. I walked to the pasture and called Shadow. She came right up to me and put her head in the halter.
I believe that was one of the hardest moments of my life. Shadow was a literal rack of bones, with long, wormy hair. She looked like an ancient nag, and she still had a milk bag, so still was nursing the baby (now a yearling). But in her face was no recrimination, no reproach for leaving her, just "You came for me." I wanted to sit in the ditch and bawl at how she looked. At that moment, I decided the baby was coming too. She was still nursing, and no way was I leaving her to starve. I couldn't legally touch the other horses, but I could take my two.
It took a bit of time to walk Shadow the short distance to the trailer. She dragged her feet, and walked very slowly. Not because she was protesting, but because she didn't have the strength. I began to wonder if she could make the trip home. I may have come all this way just to put her down. The baby followed along, but wasn't halter broken, or even handled. We were able to get a halter on her, but the yearling size I brought was too large for her. She was smaller than most weanlings.
Shadow walked right into the trailer, and leaned against the side. She was having trouble standing. The baby we had to drag in, not so difficult since there was nothing to her, but she actually passed out for a moment from the halter pressure. Once they were loaded, we left immediately. We had a long road back, and I was worried if either could make it.
After I received the photo of Shadow and her baby, I called every friend I had in that area, and a very alarming picture started to emerge. The photo was taken when the baby was several days old, because that was when they finally found out Shadow had foaled. The pasture is across the street from their house, and they didn't know she had a baby for days. Not only did they not bother to feed to check the horses at least once a day, they didn't even look across the street.
There were 8 horses in a 2 acre field, with a run off stream and a bit of a swamp. That was all these horses had for food and water. There were several more in an acre behind their house. The colt who bred Shadow (supposedly was never out with her) was a 2 year old Arab that they bought from his breeder, with his 1 year old full sister, with the understanding he would be gelded. The breeder felt this colt wasn't of quality to breed, and told them she would give him the papers once he was gelded. They hadn't done it because they had the idea they would breed him to his full sister and make money selling Arabs.
Of course the more I found out, the worst it got. I called Animal Control and the SPCA, and found out they have been reported several times for leaving the horses with no care while they went out of town for weeks at a time. I contacted a lawyer there and one here in MD. They both were understanding, and didn't even charge me to consult. They told me to get my papers in order while they did research. I pulled out the sales contract and the bounced checks, and Shadow's papers, I was still legally her owner. The lawyers both said I could only file for the money owed. At first my only concern was to get the horses to safety. I tried to find a home for them there, but no one wanted to get involved without some sort of legal action.
During this research, I was in constant contact with Animal Control and the SPCA. Both of which refused to impound the horses. They would check on them, and cite the people, but that was it. Meanwhile the horses were left several times without food and water, and even when the people where they, they weren't feeding them enough. Through all this Shadow was nursing this baby.
Eventually between the two lawyers I found out a few important facts.
As long as one dollar is still owed on a horse, the seller can repossess the horse for non-payment.
Any foal that is nursing is the property of the owner of the mare, until it is weaned.
States have different laws, but the one Shadow was in stated as long as I 'Didn't create a public disturbance, or break any locks.' I could legally go on their land and repossess my horse.
Well, this was all very well and good, but my horse (or horses, as even though it was now 9 months after I got the photo, the baby was still nursing) were 5 states, and 12 hours driving away. No one there would go get them. Finally, one of the Animal Control agents, tired of my calls said 'Why don't you just get the horses yourself?'
By now I was expecting any day to get a call that Shadow was dead. This was my baby. I had been there for every moment of her life from the moment she was foaled, until I left her behind to starve. I was frantic to do something, anything to save her.
I didn't have a truck, or a trailer. No way to get down there. I couldn't get a hauler to get them, none of them get involved in this mess. But as I was telling a friend about this dilemma, her husband said, 'I have a truck, I can get a trailer, lets go get your horse.'
We are going through tough economic times. A lot of people can't afford to keep the horses they have, people breeding horses can't sell the babies. Horses end up in bad situations or on the pipeline for slaughter, and often the people who bred them either can't or won't do anything to save them.
You know, times really aren't that different. I know that's not popular to hear, but I have owned horses since 1981, and there have always been people selling out because they are broke, and farms that can't sell the horses they produce. Life can hit you hard.
In 1988 I had my mare Neysa, (Senator's Rebel Lady) and her 2 year old daughter Shadow (Wind's Shadows Linger). I found myself pregnant, with my then boyfriend (later husband) out of work. My parents lived 5 states away in MD and said 'Lots of jobs here, why not move?'
My boyfriend traveled to MD and landed a job in 2 days. The fates had spoken, we were moving to MD. But, checking on barn prices in MD, I realized I would only be able to keep one horse here. Full board where I was living was $100 a month, it started at $500 per month in MD! Of course there were cheaper options, but none that I could find long distance. Remember, this was before the internet was big. So I had to sell one of my horses. I thought my 2 year old Shadow had the best chance of a good home as Neysa was a typical ex show horse, snorty, brilliant, and full of go. Not many trail riders would be interested in her.
I put out ads, but there isn't much interest in a 2 year old barely under saddle. (2 short rides) Finally, the neighbor of some friend were interested. We struck a deal, they would make payments, and when she was paid off I would send the papers. They handed me a check, and off I went the next day to MD. Note* Yes, I did have a contract, spelling out every detail of the transaction, signed by both parties. A couple weeks later, after we had everything sorted out, apt., bank, etc. we deposited the check, and it promptly bounced. I called them and they promised another check. Meanwhile I was setting up an apt. for a baby, arranging shipping for Neysa, and job hunting. I got another check, it bounced. This went on for 6 months. Finally, I called my friends and asked, do they love her? Are they taking care of her? "Yes, yes," I was assured, "They love Shadow." So I decided to let it drop. As long as she had a good home, I was happy.
A year later, another friend in the area went to see Shadow, and sent me a photo. They were not a horse person, and were just excited because Surprise! Shadow had a baby. The photo showed an emaciated Shadow, with backbone and hips sticking out, and the tiniest goat sized baby by her side.
These are old photos, so it is hard to see on the web what alarmed me so much, but this is a 3 year old, with a several day old baby. Her backbone is sticking up and every rib is showing. The baby should be starting to show some roundness and instead still looks newborn lanky.
I took Cricket to 'Boot Camp' this weekend. By Boot Camp, I mean a month or so with a friend who enjoys schooling my spare horse 'du jour'. She gets to play with a horse without the full time ownership hassle, I get free top notch schooling. Win-win for us, often the horses aren't as enthused. They get handled daily, ridden 4-5 times a week, and challenged to learn new things. We all know horses generally prefer to stand around and eat. The barn is a small community barn, 2 other horses, so mine usually get individual turnout. This is Cricket in the ring/paddock. She can see the other two horses, and the barn, but is separated and gets fed in the same paddock.
In the past I have sent over TB, Drafts, Crosses, QH, a variety of horses who have all taken it fairly well in stride. But Cricket is the first Morgan to come to the barn. On the trip over there, I got the first inkling this may be an interesting time for my friend. I have a 3 horse slant load, which Cricket had ridden in 3 times before, and loaded in happily (after a few cookie bribes). I had a full hay net tied up and knotted which she immediately started munching on. All is fine until as I am going down the hwy, I look in the side mirror, and see Cricket's head sticking out the side window of the trailer! I pull over and open the escape door to see what was going on. She had untied the hay bag, and it was kicked to the back of the trailer. She was untied (no biggie, it was a quick release), and she had somehow released the latch on the window grating to open it. I latched the window grate back, left everything else like it was an went on my way..quickly!
I get to the barn, and she unloaded perfectly, and since I was worried she was spooked about the trailer ride, I loaded her back up. No hesitation at all. I put her in the paddock, showed her the hay and water, then turned her loose. She checked out the ring, jumps, the horses over the fence, then started on the hay. No fuss at all. But, I saw the 'gate' they had for the paddock was 3 chains clipped across the opening. More than enough for the other horses I had brought, but I had my doubts about Cricket. I left her new safety halter on, just in case..
All was fine until the next day. After breakfast, the owner of one of the other horses was cleaning stalls in the barn, and felt a soft touch on her back. She turned around to see Cricket standing there, ears up, wondering what she was doing and could she help? She had simply stepped through the chains, and walked down to the barn where the humans were. She put Cricket back, and Cricket went back to her hay. But later in the day Cricket got out again, and then got in with the other two horses! She had made instant friend with one, who was protecting her against the more aggressive other horse. They have now made an intricate weaving with chains, ropes and some pcv pipe to keep her in the paddock. Personally, I'm betting on Cricket. She is smarter. But then she is a Morgan.
Oh and Boot Camp? Cricket is a star. She is doing well in her ring work, and on only her third time being ridden on trails, she went out alone for the first time without any hesitation. She is relishing any work she gets. Very bold and forward, but always willing to stop.
I named her Cricket when I first brought her home. She was small, black, and bouncing around the pasture hopping ditches, just like those little black crickets you get in the house. Now I know its her true name, because have you ever tried to catch, or keep out those crickets? They will get in where they want to be no matter what you do.
And I had to blog about it. This article by John Holland was passed on to me through a couple of rescue lists. Before you pro slaughter groups start rolling your eyes, and priming your keyboards to 'counter attack.' Lets just look at a couple of facts this article presents.
"..the New Holland auction in Pennsylvania is one of the largest slaughter auctions in the country. In October of 2008, they sold a total of 815 slaughter grade horses at an average price of $323, but despite rapidly worsening economic conditions, by February that number had dropped by 28% to 582 horses and the average price had risen by 31.6% to $425. It is largely the same story at auctions across the country."
So where are all these unwanted horses? According to the Slaughter advocates, we should be inundated with them. They should be filling up the pens at NH, should be loaded in empty trailers and left because they are not getting bids.
But the FACTS say numbers are down, and prices are up. How ya gonna spin that?
1. How old were you when you first started riding? I first rode when I was 7, on a pony my parents bought me. But I didn't REALLY ride until I was 21. 2. First horse ridden: Lady, 10 h Shetland saint 3. First horse trotted on: Ginger, a saddlebred lesson horse I rode when I was 12. I convinced my mother I needed the Girl Scout Horsemanship badge and got lessons :-) 4. First horse cantered on: Ginger 5. First Horse fallen off of: Misty, a friends QH whom we were riding bareback in a pasture. Just slithered right off in a turn. (barrel horse) 6. Most recent horse fallen off of Shadow, we had a difference of opinion on a canter depart. 7. Most terrifying fall: Falls - plural. Neysa, my first horse regularly slung me off doing 90 degree turns at a full gallop. 8. First horse jumped with: Neysa 9. First horse who ran away with you: Neysa 10. First horse that scared the crap out of you: Neysa (are we sensing a theme here?) 11. First horse shown : Neysa 12. First horse to win a class with: Shadow 13. Do you/have you taken lessons: Yes, years of lessons in various disciplines 14. First horse you ever rode bareback: Lady 15. First horse trail ridden with: Neysa 16. Current Barn name: Greenbank 17. Do you ride English or western?: Both. Have also ridden saddleseat, Aussie and driven. 18. First Horse to place at a show with: Neysa, 6th place at a pony club show in Equitation. (I beat other parents) 19. Ever been to horse camp?: No! and I wanna go! 20. Ever been to a riding clinic? Yes, several, but they were years ago. 21. Ridden sidesaddle? Faked it by flipping the off stirrup over. 22. First horse leased: Never leased a horse. 23. Last Horse Leased: nada 24. Highest ribbon in a show: High point champ in Versatility, ribbons and trophy 25. Ever been to an 'A' rated show?: Yes, what a zoo! 26. Ever competed in pony games/relay races?: We have done ribbon races, flag races, water glass, egg on spoon, etc. 27. Ever fallen off at a show Amazingly enough, no. Despite barrel racing in an english saddle, and jumping in a cutback. 28. Do you ride Hunter/Jumpers?: Yes, but if they realize I'm ridng a TWH, we don't place. 29. Have you ever barrel raced? Yes, but lets say we will never be going to nationals, LOL! 30. Ever done pole bending?: Yes, see above. 31. Favorite gait: Rack/Running walk 32. Ever cantered bareback?: Not voluntarily 33. Have you ever done dressage?: Yes, I use dressage principles in all my training 34. Have you ever evented?: Yes, much to the amusement of the judges. 35. Have you ever mucked a stall?: Oh, yes, many many stalls. And eaten lunch next to the manure pile. (smell, what smell?) 36. Ever been bucked off?: No, and I'd like to keep it that way! 37. Ever been on a horse that reared Yes, many many times. 38. Horses or ponies. Love ponies, but the gait is just too choppy. Big horses for me. 39. Do you wear a helmet?: Yes 40. What's the highest you've jumped: In shows, 3 ft, inadvertently on a cross country course, (after discussion with Shadow on which jump to take, coop or vertical) we instead jumped the 5 ft standard in the middle.*sigh* 41. Have you ever ridden at night?: Yes, moonlight rides, coming home to late on the hwy, etc etc. 42. Do you watch horsey television shows?: If I see them. 43. Have you ever been seriously hurt/injured from a fall?: Falling off a horse, no, but I did get knocked down and stomped on by a horse, fracturing my leg. 44. Most falls in one lesson: one 45. Do you ride in an arena/ring?: Sometimes, but usually we hit the trails 46. Have you ever been trampled by a horse?: Yep, by cranky TB broodie 47. Have you ever been bitten?: Just yearling nips, solved that in a hurry. 48. Ever had your foot stepped on by a horse?: Can't count the number of times, all toes on both feet except big toe have been broken at one time or another. 49: Favorite riding moment: Galloping Shadow down the trail jumping jumps. :-) but swimming in the river is a close second. 50. Most fun horse you've ridden: Shadow. We have been together over 20 years, and we can do anything. Plus, she loves to run and jump, and swim...
Ok, copy the questions below, and add in your own answers!
1. How old were you when you first started riding? 2. First horse ridden: 3. First horse trotted on: 4. First horse cantered on: 5. First Horse fallen off of: 6. Most recent horse fallen off of 7. Most terrifying fall: 8. First horse jumped with: 9. First horse who ran away with you: 10. First horse that scared the crap out of you: 11. First horse shown :!) 12. First horse to win a class with: 13. Do you/have you taken lessons: 14. First horse you ever rode bareback: 15. First horse trail ridden with: 16. Current Barn name: 17. Do you ride English or western?: 18. First Horse to place at a show with: 19. Ever been to horse camp?: 20. Ever been to a riding clinic? 21. Ridden sidesaddle? 22. First horse leased: 23. Last Horse Leased: 24. Highest ribbon in a show: 25. Ever been to an 'A' rated show?: 26. Ever competed in pony games/relay races?: 27. Ever fallen off at a show 28. Do you ride Hunter/Jumpers?: 29. Have you ever barrel raced? 30. Ever done pole bending?: 31. Favorite gait: 32. Ever cantered bareback?: 33. Have you ever done dressage?: 34. Have you ever evented?: 35. Have you ever mucked a stall?: 36. Ever been bucked off?: 37. Ever been on a horse that reared 38. Horses or ponies. 39. Do you wear a helmet?: 40. What's the highest you've jumped: 41. Have you ever ridden at night?: 42. Do you watch horsey television shows?: 43. Have you ever been seriously hurt/injured from a fall?: 44. Most falls in one lesson: 45. Do you ride in an arena/ring?: 46. Have you ever been trampled by a horse?: 47. Have you ever been bitten?: 48. Ever had your foot stepped on by a horse?: 49: Favorite riding moment: 50. Most fun horse you've ridden:
This past Saturday while my husband diligently did some house chores, I loaded a couple horses up and went riding. The horses left behind gave me lots of pitiful looks as the 'Chosen Ones' got a snack in their stalls, then loaded in the trailer with full hay bags to keep them entertained. It was all self pity, they had all gotten breakfast.
Sunday my husband came with me to ride, and as it was close to breakfast, we decided to just halter the horses we wanted, and bring them in rather than bring the whole herd into the barn. My husband went to get his MFT gelding Mithril, who after being snubbed the day before, was having none of it. He kept walking away, and avoiding being caught even though my husband had cookies. Meanwhile Cricket the Morgan was following him around saying Me! Me! pick me! I wanna go! and practically putting her head in the halter. So he haltered her, brought her in and groomed her. Making Cricket a very happy girl. (yay, attention!) Then he put her in her stall with a flake of hay to munch, pulled my horse Shadow in (Shadow comes when she is called, esp with cookies) and put her in her stall, leaving Mithril alone in the pasture. He then got Duncan, the draft from the other pasture and groomed him.
Meanwhile Mithril is looking in the barn seeing his girls happily munching, and Duncan (hated yet feared rival) getting attention and cookies. We put everyone up except for Mithril, then hubby went to the gate and called him. Mithril stood about 25 feet from the gate and turned his back on him. He wasn't coming, no matter what. Even if everyone in the world was in a stall eating, and cookies were being offered, he wasn't coming. My husband refused to leave the gate, insisting Mithril come to him. It was a standoff. So I went in the pasture thinking I would tell Mithril to 'go in the barn' a command he knows well, and as he is wary of me (boss mare in his eyes) he usually obeys very quickly.
I tell him to go in the barn, and even use my hand motions to shoo him along. His head goes up, he skitters a bit, but never once turns towards the gate. I walk up to him, grab his mane and nose, and try to lead him to the gate. Nope, he is not moving. He refuses to turn. He is determined to NOT go to the gate, because then my hubby would win! I told my husband 'You will have to come get him.' He walks over, and Mithril never moves while he puts the halter on, and leads perfectly back to the barn.
Mithril is still King in his pasture. It was totally a guy thing.
This is Cricket, also known as Pleasantviews Chances, a reg. Morgan mare. She is exactly 14 hands, which qualifies her for Large pony status at rated shows. But, if you go on personality, she is about 18 hands high.
She is 4 years old, and in her short life, has been trained to cart, bred (at 2 years old!), been an Amish buggy horse (not very successfully, I'm guessing) had a gorgeous black colt, and is now ready for her real career.
Since she was acting a bit traumatized, and we needed to wean her colt, I arranged with a local Morgan breeder to work with her for 60 days, taking her back to square one and starting over.
She left with fear issues, head shy, no sense of personal space, and very little respect for humans. She came back with lovely ground manners, a good grasp of this riding thing, and with a calm, trusting attitude. I watched the trainer ride her at a walk, trot and brief canter. She did very well, did spook at a car going by but just scooted a bit.
A couple of weeks later, we trailered her to our local park, where there is a big sand ring and easy trails to see how she would do. She stood tied to the trailer like an old pro, stood to be mounted, and did beautifully in the ring despite a small mis-communication with her rider which resulted in an unexpected canter depart and a fall to the sand. Cricket took a few more stides and stopped, then looked back at her rider. She wasn't alarmed or upset. As far as she knew, she did exactly what was asked and the rider meant to jump off. She was ready for the next task.
We then took her out on the trails for the first time. There are very easy trails (Schooley Mill Park). Wide, sloping but not too steep, with low logs to step over. She did great, and at the end walked over a wooden bridge. We decided this was enough for her first time out, and took her home.
Then we had bad weather, holidays and more bad weather. For over 2 months no one was riding. Then this past weekend, we had a beautiful day in the 50's. We had to ride! We decided to meet friends at Little Bennett park, and Cricket was requested by the person who rode her before. (she was fun!) Ok, we trailered over, and thought we would take the short trail. Well, ice still on the trails determined our course, and we ended up riding far more than I normally would on a green out of shape horse. We crossed streams, went up and down gullies, crossed roads, skittered over ice. Came up on a log in the trail, about 2 feet high. Cricket never even slowed down. She jumped it like a pro, nice arc, knees tucked. Passed loud picnic parties with dogs and kids, over scary long wooden bridges with no railing. She did great. This was only the second time we had taken her out, and first real trail ride. Our short ride ended up being almost 3 hours long! At the end we thought she must be getting tired, and took it easy on her. My friend hopped off her and walked her the last bit to the trailer.
We untack, and I go over to check my tired good girl. Cricket gives me her sassy look, and says "Is that it? Where's the cookies?" She wasn't even sweated! I massaged her back and while she enjoyed it, not a bit sore. While we readied the trailer, cleaning it out, etc. She kept putting her feet on the ramp and getting in our way. "See, I know this part too! You get in the trailer!"
When we got home she also decided she had to help me clean out the water tub, inspecting my work, and playing with the scrub brush. Gotta love these Morgans!
I was searching online for a file, and came across these photos:
They are from the 1999 Cherry Blossom Parade in DC. That is me on my TWH Shadow, and one of my riding students on her mother, Neysa. Both of us in 1840's riding habits. The lavender one my student is wearing is the first one I had made, but authentic means 22 tiny buttons up the front. Yeah, I decided to try again. The green one I am wearing has a hidden zipper. Not so authentic, but easier to get on and off.
The full skirt made riding much easier, and I actually had people who believed we were riding side saddle. Nope, not me. My horses were great, and had done many parades, but experience has shown me other people do not know how horses react, so just not taking the chance of kissing pavement. This was with the Chesapeake Plantation Walking Horse Club, who did the parade for several years.
It's funny, our horses always did very well in all that chaos. We held parade practices, passed around tapes of bands, etc to get the horses used to the noise, and did a lot of bomb-proofing clinics. Except for one year when parade planning fell apart and the horses got cornered against a band who deliberately tried to spook them, everything always went well. Our horses were well trained and trusting.
One year we were waiting in the line up, behind a wonderful group all decked out as cowboys, with a mule drawn chuckwagon. They were seasoned parade riders, having done these parades for years. A band marched by, and I noticed their horses never even looked up. I commented on how calm the horses were, and the rider said "You would be calm too with two tubes of Quietex in you."
I was flabberghasted, it never even occured to us to give our horses Quietex, or something like it. (honestly, most of us had never heard of it) I have to admit, they didn't have the same dancing and snorting we had. Even the calmest and best trained horse is still going to look and snort when I giant balloon goes over head, or a band booms it's drums right in your ear. Plus the crawl and stop, crawl and stop movement of a parade is especially trying on TWH since they really love to move out.
But after hearing this, I was even more proud of our horses, and our club. For novice parade riders, we did well and never had an incident. We eventually did parades ranging from St' Patricks Day in Alexandria, to Fourth of July parades all over Md, to the Thanksgiving Day parade in Philadelphia.
Parades are a lot of work, but it's worth it all for the kids. They love seeing the horses, and I remember being just such a kid, whose only contact with a horse was watching them dance by in a parade. It was the biggest thrill of the day.
Last week a furry, 20+ gelding was listed on a website. He was in a DTS pen, and had a week to live. For those who don't know, DTS means Direct to Slaughter. Horses there have been purchased by meat buyers, who will load them up in stock trailers and truck them to slaughter plants in Canada or Mexico.
Because of the efforts of AC4H, a local rescue in PA who has developed a relationship with several of the brokers (they are a touchy lot, and won't let anyone else come near), photos of horses in the DTS pen are put on their website, for a last chance of reprieve. The brokers aren't being nice, they are businessmen. If they can sell a horse for more than they would get for slaughter plus not have to pay to ship it, they will. It's all money in their pocket.
A Morgan breed rescue group, Forever Morgans looked at the furry gelding, and watching his video, spotted a Morgan hiding under all that fur. He was healthy, well trained (walk, trot, back, did everything his rider asked without hesitation) and sound. There was no real reason for him to be in the 'throwaway bin'. Many horse people think a horse over 20 is too old to work. But those who own Morgans know that they will go strong into their 30's or later! Plus it was really morally wrong, that a horse who has obviously worked well all his life for humans, should be tossed aside because of a number, or because someone lost interest in having a horse.
The group decided if a home could be found, he would be saved. Members made phone calls, and a home was found, with a riding instructor who also does therapeutic riding. Donations came in, everyone digging deep into pockets made light by Christmas, hay and grain prices, and other rescues in the last month. But they were determined. This gelding would have a home.
I volunteered to pick the gelding (dubbed Harry) up, and take him to his new home, saving the transport costs, and getting Harry to his new home as soon as possible. All horses run the risk of picking up diseases in the DTS pens, plus having to fight for their food and water. The longer they are there, the more risk to their health.
I set off Monday morning in snow flurries to drive to New Holland. When I got there, Harry's coggins had just been pulled, so I have a 2 hour wait. No problem, Aunt Annie's Pretzels were there so I grabbed a pretzel dog, and went to watch the auction.
To my surprise, the auction was busy. Lots of horses, lots of people. Most of the horses I saw looked good, well kept, and went for well over meat prices. Quite a few no saled because they didn't bring what the buyer wanted. To my MD eye, the prices were very good even for the no saled ones. $1,700 for a well trained sound w/t/c /jump 16.3 draft cross gelding who was gorgeous? He would have been snapped up in my area.
But there was the lower end as well. A lot of weanlings and yearlings going for $25 or less. STB and TB going for $100-125. A gentleman sat next to me and asked about the prices, why they were so low. I explained a bit about over breeding, and the prices of hay and grain. He then asked who was purchasing the horses at that price, and I explained most were going to slaughter. Shocked, he said "But we don't eat horses in America!" I told him about shipping to Canada, Mexico, he whole slaughter pipeline. He commeted that he had plenty of hay and left. I hope he went to get a number. So my time waiting wasn't wasted.
Finally the paperwork was ready, and I went to pick Harry up. Lately, thanks to some of the Forever Morgans folk I have gotten close to some real quality Morgans. When I saw Harry, I could look past the fur and see a beautifully refined face, and excellent conformation. Classic Morgan good looks! He was a total gentleman, loaded right up, and except for some calling and pawing at first, trailered like a champ.
It's good he was calm, as I had quite a challenge getting him to his new home. While I was inside the auction, the snow turned from a few flurries, to a couple inches. Shouldn't be a big deal, but obviously no one was expecting it. Roads weren't plowed, and traffic was at a crawl. I had a couple of scary moments from drivers cutting in front of me. Fortunately I was always able to stop, but a few were sliding sideways stops in the icy conditions. Not good with a horse trailer!
We crawled down the hwy at 10 mph. The trip I made up in 2 hours took over 4 getting back. Once I passed Baltimore, the snow disappeared, and the roads were clear. Harry arrived to a lighted pristine stall, with hay, water, and humans with pockets of carrots to welcome him home. I got a better chance to look him over, and I am even more convinced of his quality. Someone has taken good care of him in the past, has probably shown him. He is very well trained, and trusting of humans.
I am looking forward to photos this spring, because while he arrived in paupers rags, I know hiding underneath is a prince.
People who have never worked with horses, seem to consider them extremely unintelligent. They are supposed to be placid, obedient, and patient. Sort of like a bicycle, just sits there until you want to ride it.
Yeah, I hear all you horse people out there laughing.
Last night I had another example of horse intelligence and reasoning played out at my humble barn. We currently have 6 horses, my 23 year old TWH mare, my hubby's 11 yr old MFT Gelding, and a 4 yr old Morgan mare, all out together in one pasture. (the Morgan mare needs some horse etiquette lessons, which the alpha mare and gelding are happy to dole out). In the other pasture I have my coming 2 MFT colt, my daughter's 18 yr old Arab/Morgan ? cross mare, and a 6 yr old Clydesdale Gelding.
The Clyde is a horse we are concerned about. He came to us quite underweight, and we have been blanketing him in the extreme cold. Last night I decided since it was very cold and raining, but he wasn't shivering, to leave his blanket off and put him in the barn area for the night. That way no worries about him getting wet or too cold, or putting a blanket on him and having him sweat under it, which has happened in the past. I pulled my mare out, popped him in her stall, and proceeded to put everyone else out. Understand, I am a firm believer in making life easy for myself, all my horses are trained to voice commands, 'get in your stall', 'out', etc. so I do all this with out a halter or hand on the horses.
All went well until I came to my daughter's mare, Coconut. We have just gone through two months of rehabbing her from a rope burn that got infected. All better now, but while it was open, we kept her in out of the wet.
I opened her door, and said " OK, Coconut." Coconut stood there and looked at me. I Looked at her and spoke louder "OUT, Coconut." She looked at me, and walked across the barn aisle, and into the foaling stall we had used for her rehab, turned around, faced me, then put ner nose down to her feet then looked back at me. I tried a couple more times to get her to come out, then just when I am thinking I will have to get a leadrope, I realized she was waiting for room service!
For the last two months, every time it was raining, she had been put up in the stall for the night. Coconut was very plainly telling me, "I don't go out in the rain at night any more, now where is my hay?" It was great! She was right, for two months, she has been a pampered princess, and she saw no reason for that to stop now. I took her hay to where she waited (she hadn't moved) and left her in. Coconut resting her head on my husband's shoulder as her feet are done.
Having horses during the holidays can be a blessing or a burden. If you are rushing around with family to visit, dinners to cook, in between work and school, then going out to the barn to take care of your horses probably seems a chore.
While I have felt that time crunch, to me, they are more a joy. Being at the barn, listening to them munching is my zen moment, away from it all. Even when it's freezing outside. If there is snow, there is nothing more fun that your horses bounding through the snow to the gate to come in. Hooves make the best crunching sound in snow. The horses are warm, furry, and nose you for treats. Don't tell me they don't know about Christmas, because mine certainly know about candy canes! They will line up for their pieces as soon as they see them, or hear the crinkle of the wrapping.
In years past I have hung stockings of horse cookies and treats, and learned the contortions horses can do to get to them no matter where you hang them. We have had barn parties, gone Christmas Caroling on horseback. Christmas parades are always fun, the one time where you can hang ribbons, bells, wear santa hats and never raise an eyebrow. More is always better for a parade!
One Thanksgiving I was kid free, I went to Philly, and rode in their Thanksgiving Day Parade. A group from my riding club went, drove up the day before, stayed in a Youth Hostel, rode in the park, had a blast! Freezing cold for the parade, but good fun. Last year we went trail riding with friends on Christmas day. Good fun, and we met quite a few other people out riding also. This year we had the farrier on Christmas Eve, so all the horses got a complete grooming, while waiting on their pedicure, and lots of treats. But no time to ride over the holidays.
I always do apples and carrots in their dinner, and either for Christmas or New Years a hot bran mash. The last two years they have gotten their very favorite treat, a hot bran/oatmeal/brown sugar/dried apple and carrot/peppermint candy mash. Oh yeah, that's the good stuff! (yay SmartPak!) I've been tempted to sample it myself, it smells so good.
So I hope you took time to see your horses this holiday. I hope you went down to the barn, and enjoyed the sounds of quiet munching and footsteps. Smelled fresh hay, grain and furry horses. Horses don't have a wish list, color doesn't matter. No worries about batteries, cooking times or setting tables. No matter what you bring, even if it's just your company and some scritching, they will be thrilled to get it.