All In Good Time

Then there is Cruise, my handsome slightly higher strung black – Who just can’t seem to settle while I’m on his back.

I fell in love with Cruise the first time I laid eyes on him. We were visiting my stepdaughter’s horse at the farm where she was boarding at the time. My attention was drawn to a very handsome black face with a pretty white star watching me from another stall. The eyes were so soulful and something just struck my heartstrings. I spent my entire visit standing and staring at that horse.

A well-loved Cruise

A well-loved Cruise

Of course, he belonged to someone else and we didn’t even own the farm yet, but there was something about him that said he belonged with me. When we moved onto the farm, Cruise came up for sale, but I already had a couple of horses by then. My soon-to-be son-in-law was searching for a horse and I told him I knew the perfect horse. That didn’t work out and he was sold to another lady who adored him and changed his name to Beauty. Once again, he slipped away. Over then next few years, I always asked about Cruise and kept track of him. The story was always the same. His owner loved him and he was doing fine. I always finished those conversations with: “I always liked that horse”. Five years after I first encountered Cruise, I was at a party where the woman who had boarded him happened to be. Again, I asked about him and again I repeated “I always liked that horse”. About a week later my phone rang and it was her. She asked if I still had an interest in him. The owner had fallen and broke her wrist. When they treated her, she discovered that she had a severe case of Osteoporosis and would have to undergo extreme treatments for a couple of years. She was going to have to sell her horse as she couldn’t ride any longer. Of course I was interested, but I had 4 horses already and didn’t need another horse, couldn’t afford to buy another horse and my husband definitely did not see any reason to get one. With a broken heart, I told her I couldn’t buy him. She called me back and asked if it could be worked out that she could give me the horse, would I take him? I emphatically told her that I would figure something out if that was the case. Turns out it was a possibility. Now my brain and my heart are both racing. I said I was interested but I hadn’t seen the horse for over five years and would like to do that before making any commitments. I went to visit him and he was the same horse I fell in love with. He was magnificent. The place where they were keeping him was not he ideal situation and he obviously wanted to come home with me. He behaved beautifully and was a little stunned when I left without him that day. I could just see him asking me with those deep dark eyes what he did wrong – he tried so hard to please me. But the owner asked me to give her 30 days to try to sell him and make some money back on her investment. I told her I was definitely interested and agreed to her request. Ten days later she called me, crying: “Come get my horse”. She was not happy or comfortable with the options given her from interested buyers. She didn’t have a good feeling about his future. She knew he would be happy and well loved and cared for with me. When you really love your animals – the money is not the issue. It meant more to her to know he was going to be OK. A woman after my own heart. So, long story short -I now have Cruise in my pasture just like it should be.

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I Get It Now

The problem lies in the fact that he doesn’t seem to need me at all. He doesn’t seek my attention and is content left alone in his stall.

Breeze and I never connected. A fact that is very uncommon with my animals. I have always been a magnet of sorts for animals and my horses are no exception. I never understood it at the time and even grew to resent him somewhat for his lack of interest in me. Breeze was by far the best horse I have ever owned as far as looks, kindness, work ethic, ability etc. Everyone who met him  always oohed and awwed over him. He was everybody’s favorite. A very distinguished looking and fabulous horse who always performed beautifully – but he didn’t like me. He never did anything bad, he just didn’t care if I was around or not.

A Lonely Breeze

A Lonely Breeze

I had a friend who fell in love with him the first time she saw him. I ended up selling him to her and she kept him here and boarded with me for awhile so we could ride together. The change was unbelievable. All she had to do was call his name and he literally ran to get to her. He adored her in a way that I never thought he was capable of. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t witnessed it over and over again with my own eyes. He lived for her visits. So what did she have that I didn’t? I have pondered this many times over the past few years and can’t deny it any longer. I gave him no reason to give me his affection and his heart. I didn’t give him mine – it is as simple as that.  From the moment he was given to me as a birthday gift, I had my mind and my sights on another horse. When I bought his tack, I bought it with the other horse in mind. I was forbidden to get the horse I wanted and he was chosen for me even though I protested. Although Breeze was a far superior horse in every obvious way, he was not the one I had my heart set on and he knew it from the start. To top it off, for the first couple of months I had him, every single time I saddled him up for a ride, before I could get on him, I would get a phone call telling me my father had taken a turn for the worst and may not make it through the day. It happened so consistently that I got afraid to even think about riding him. I made the association of bad news with him. It wasn’t his fault- none of it was- and it wasn’t fair to him, so he just tuned me out. I deserved it. I knew he needed more than I could give him, which was the only reason I sold him to someone who adored him. Everybody thought I was crazy to do so because he was such a great horse – a really wonderful horse. But I knew I had to – for his sake. Do I regret it? Yes, sometimes I do. I understand it all now and know what to do that could have changed things between us. On the other hand, I wasn’t ready for him. Things come full circle and this week he is coming back to board with me again. He has his special person and now it will be my turn to be the one on the outside looking in.

Good News Travels Fast

The soft nickers and nuzzles, the majestic beauty and speed – The private comical antics are an envious treasure indeed.

It has been at least three years since Dallas resided on my farm. He was a gorgeous retired show horse who didn’t know how to be a horse. He had to learn how to make friends and respect the social order of the herd. He had never been allowed to play with other horses in order to keep him from getting any injuries or marks on his perfect coat during his show days, so he was a little slow making friends at first. He had always been a “hot house flower” and got the best care. This included the best food, hay and treats – and he got them often. This fact is what made him very popular very quickly. It didn’t take long before the others figured out that when we called “Dallas” that it meant something good was coming and no one wanted to mess up a good thing. Although the treats and extra servings of feed were earmarked for Dallas, I always felt guilty about showing favoritism and made sure everyone got a couple of bites of something good every time he got something. The others all wanted to be his best friend and get in on the goodies. In a very short time, when I called “DALLAS”, the entire herd would come thundering over the hill and race down to the gate.

They come running.

They come running.

Dallas was eventually moved to another state, but the tradition remained. All I had to do to get the entire herd down from the pasture is to call out “Dallas” and they would come running. The funny thing about this is that not only the do the horses who were here and experienced the benefits of responding to that call run to the gate, but the information has been passed along to the new horses who have come to live with us since Dallas has left. Somehow, it has been communicated to them that when we call out that name, it means dinnertime. To this day- and it has been years now – that is how I call my horses.

My Re-awakening

Now that I’m older and wiser as such, I know that some wishes fell off of the grid – But I find I am still dreaming about horses not much different than when I was a kid.

I was on a winter night’s horse-drawn sleigh ride in Banff, Canada. The night was freezing cold but bright and clear. We were traveling down a frozen river that ran through the picturesque town, cuddling under warm blankets, enjoying the brilliant stars and the sound of the horse’s hooves on the ice as we glided along. I didn’t think it could get better than that, but it did. Much, much better. That cold, icy ride rekindled a fire that had been smoldering inside me for more than 20 years. As I gazed dreamily into the winter wonderland I was surrounded in, suddenly a vision appeared that would forever change my life. No, I didn’t see God, but I did see an angel in the form of a horse stepping onto the ice upon which a young girl effortlessly rode bareback. As I watched them trot gracefully up the river, I knew in that instant that I wanted to be that girl – that it should have been me. I could not think of anything or anyplace I would rather be experiencing in my life that would give me more pleasure than to be living my life like that. I was so moved that my heart actually ached. I knew I had to get horses back into my life and when I did, I was going to have that kind of a relationship with my horse. I asked around about the girl and her horse and the story was that she rode her horse to work every evening. She worked in a popular local restaurant until 10:00 p.m. or so while her horse waited patiently for her in the snowy parking lot and then together they traversed the frozen river in the moonlight. You could just feel how strong the bond between them was by the ease of their movements. It was as if they were one being – It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen to this day.

Back in my life & better than ever

Back in my life & better than ever

Such bittersweet memories of a very similar relationship with my horse many years ago -a lifetime ago -of a spirited 3/4 Arabian. 1/4 Thoroughbred mare named Blaze that only I could ride, and the fearless, passionate young girl I had once been. I hadn’t had a horse for many, many years and the love was buried under life’s circumstances. I realized in that moment that the ember had continued to glow and it was time to fan the fire. It wasn’t long before  horses were in my life again stronger than ever. Now they are my heaven on earth as you have probably noticed by now.

Horses That Haunt Me

There is absolutely no substitution to cure the unfortunate broken hearted – Than acquiring another horse to love once your four legged friend has departed.

There wasn’t many things in this world that I loved more than my first horse and her colt – including my first husband. Which was a big part of the problem. When the marriage didn’t work out, I had to leave the farm and figure things out. When I went back to visit my horses, they were gone. No warning, no notice, just gone. I frantically investigated and finally one of my husband’s friends took pity on me and told me where they were. My soon-to-be ex had sold them to a horse trader who buys horses based on the poundage. We all know what that means. I found out where he was keeping them and paid him a visit. It was winter in Michigan and he took me out to a big open pasture where he had about 30 horses. They were all shaggy with mud crusted winter coats and it had been several months since I had seen my horses. At first, I couldn’t pick them out. As I stood there, out of the herd came my two horses. They walked right up to me as if we had never been apart. The man was astounded as he was the kind of guy that would never consider actually having a relationship with an animal. I spent a few minutes caressing them and breathing in their familiar smell. I pleaded with him to sell them back to me. He refused. I asked for just one of them. He refused. Broken hearted,  I had no choice but to turn and walk away from them knowing I would never see them again. Before I left, I made sure he knew these horses were not ordinary horses. They had papers – good registration papers and would make the right person a fine horse. All I could do was hope that he used that information to market them instead of taking them to slaughter.

Sad, but true

Sad, but true

Actually, I don’t know what I would have done if he had agreed to let me have them back. I was young, broke, living at my parents and had no plan. All I knew was that I loved those horses and would have done almost anything to keep them in my life. But, at the same time, I knew deep down it wouldn’t work  right then. I had to take care of myself first and couldn’t ask anyone else to take on the burden. If I would have been more mature,  I would have made sure they were taken care of properly by finding them great home before I left the farm. I was in denial and assumed they would be there when I got ready to reclaim them. It was my fault they ended up with that man.  I guess I can’t really blame my ex for not keeping them for me. It took me over 25 years to have my own horses again. Now I am blessed with 4 incredible horses including my colt who was foaled here on the farm. It is more than I deserve and I have learned the important lesson of responsibility for them. Even with all I have now, I am still haunted by that day in the frozen field when Blaze and Devlin came up to me,forgave me and said our good-byes.

Define Natural

When it comes to generalities and common cliche’s, I admit I have enjoyed giving and getting my share – I get protective when it comes to sayings about horses because not a lot of truth is usually found there.

It is the big buzz word in the horse community – Natural Horsemanship. Everybody is talking about it and seeking out so called “horse whisperers. Now what exactly does that mean? The concept is wonderful. How great would it be to train your horse in a gentle, kind way that uses a relationship instead of  methods which promote domination, force, pressure and/or pain.  But is that what happens? Unfortunately, there is a very broad spectrum of training methods which are labeled Natural Horsemanship. From what I have observed over the past few years, I would have to say that the term seems to apply to running a horse around in a round pen until he decides that unless he complies, there will be no relief. So, he figures out that it will be much easier to give it up. At that point, he has “joined up” with the trainer and allows himself to be saddled and  ridden without much fuss. This is in lieu of the traditional cowboy method of just holding an unbroke horse, throwing a saddle on him without any prior acclimation and riding out the bucks until the horse gives up out of sheer exhaustion or frustration. Granted, the first way is definitely an improvement over the latter.  There are by far less injuries to both the horse and rider this way. But, what is natural about that? Natural for the human to force an animal into submission is the only “natural” thing about it – albeit in a much nicer way. Now, my ideal of natural horsemanship is derived from the scene of the beach ride in the movie “The Black Stallion”. That is natural. Is it just a thing of legends or is that kind of a relationship really possible? I want to believe it – I have to believe it. I keep striving for that Holy Grail of horsemanship, searching and exploring countless philosophies and techniques that make some sense to me and feel like a good thing for me and my horses.

Forming a bond, naturally

Forming a bond, naturally

It is like learning a secret language that both the horse and I will instinctively understand. It is a process of evolving and no, I do not own a carrot stick. Can I brag that my way is better or that my results are faster and more predictable than if I lunged my horse in endless circles around and round, ever reminded of my power over him by the crack of a whip?  Not yet, but I am still working on it.Most of us just don’t know any different. It is the way  it has always been done and we don’t question it. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, right? Sorry, that is not good enough for me. In the meantime, I will go with my gut and forego the whips, spurs, drilling, tie downs, harsh bits and any other tools that seek results by causing discomfort in my horse.

Perception is Reality

If she is the Alpha who looks out for the herd, remember her position and please don’t forget – She carries the responsibility of her job seriously – She won’t hesitate to offer her life to protect.

The day started warming up nicely after a nasty wet and cold night. I had blanketed several of the horses the evening before, but now temperatures were rising and I decided to remove the coats. Most of the herd was in the upper pasture already so I had to carry the heavy coats back through the lower pasture to put them in the barn. I carried one in each hand and had to hold my arms up on either side of my head to keep them from dragging on the muddy ground as I walked. The result was that I looked like a big, tall shapeless form with no visible head. As I came through the lower pasture where a few of the horses were grazing, they were startled at the sight of me and ran up to be with the horses in the upper pasture-or so I thought.  I suddenly became aware of a movement behind me. Then I heard the snorts and pawing. Turning to see what the commotion was all about, I saw my alpha mare, Guilty, making half circles side to side and behind me. She was following me and trying to determine just what kind of monster had eaten her owner and what she was going to do about it. As I turned to face her, she lowered her head, pawed at the ground, tossed her head and snorted. I realized that she was getting ready to charge me. She started for me, still not knowing what she was attacking. I dropped the coats and stepped away from the pile, shouting: “Guilty, it’s me”! As soon as she heard my voice and saw me in my usual form, she stopped dead in her tracks and looked me in the eye still thinking it might be a trick. As soon as she was convinced it was really me, she came up and touched me.  She then went directly over and trampled the coats – just to be sure. She was proud of the fact that she saved me, but I was even more proud of her. I want to believe that she defended me because she thought she was protecting me and would do just that if the situation really called for it.

The Alpha Mare

The Alpha Mare

She is the lead mare and it is her job to protect her herd.   Instead of running away like the other horses when they saw the strange sight of me coming over the hill, she stayed and was ready to fight. She was brave and courageous.  I got a good laugh out of that incident but I didn’t let her know that. That’s my girl and I love her.