Some of you know by now that I have pretty much given up ever trying to get Dolly sound enough to ride consistently again. She can still walk 30-45 minutes a day, but, beyond that, things start to fall apart. So when this friend of mine, Craig, told me he had the perfect horse for me, I got to thinking that I’d like to ride a wee bit more than Dolly could handle. Not that 30 minutes at the walk is so bad. It’s just that that sort of implies two fat old gals out for a casual relaxing evening stroll which is about as far from reality as you can get. Dolly is one of those horses who NEEDS to get out and MOVE. Take that away from her and she begins to get a bit—shall we say—flighty? rambunctious? downright wacky? I kind of want to ride…on a horse that can go faster than a walk…and isn’t wacky!
I have been trying for weeks now to set up a time to pick up this horse to try out, but it never seemed to work out. Finally, we said 2 o’clock Sunday. I dutifully hitched up the horse trailer, then called him to see if we were still on. Problem is, the pack station he runs is out of phone range, while his home is down here in the valley. I was under the impression that the horse was at his home, so that’s where I went. He wasn’t there, but his brother Travis was. Travis walked out of the house and said, full of self assurance, “I know which horse you’re getting!”
So I believed him…
Which maybe I shouldn’t have…
Travis is an interesting character. Born with multiple handicaps, my understanding is that doctors said he wouldn’t live long. But they didn’t reckon with Bart Cranney, Travis’s cantankerous old grandfather. As soon as it was feasible, Bart strapped Travis to the back of a horse and began hauling him along on pack trips to the back country. Some of my earliest backpacking memories of the area are of passing pack trains with Travis tagging along in back. I didn’t even know him then, but got to know him when he became a student at the high school. He moved along a couple of years ago, but still comes by to visit us from time to time. But sometimes I think Travis thinks he knows what is going on, when he really doesn’t.
I even asked him, “Did Craig tell you which horse I’m taking?”
To which he replied, “I know which horse you’re taking.”
So I followed him out to the pasture, a dry lot, really. The front section is maybe 10 acres and the back section is about 5. There is a fence between them, but the gate was open so that the animals had access to the whole thing. There were maybe a dozen mules and 5 or 6 horses out there. Travis set off confidently across the field and I dutifully followed. He led me up to a nice looking bay horse that was maybe an appendix quarter horse. He was also a gelding. That’s when the alarm bells should have gone off. The little voice in my head that says rational things was saying “maybe you should just wait to hear from Craig.”
Instead I said. “This one’s a gelding, Craig told me it is a mare.”
Honest mistake really.
So we looked at all of the other bay horses out there and they were also all geldings. But then we spotted her, a rolly-polly bay mare hidden in the center of a cluster of mules. She looked more Morgan to me, but I conceded that she could be a half Arab. I mean, what do I know? The other half could be Clydesdale! As soon as we turned our attention towards her, she left. And all the boys followed. So did Travis and I. So we all walked up to the gate and through the gap into the other section of the pasture where she exuberantly took off and all the boys did too. They stopped short at the far fence line where she apparently felt safe back amidst her cluster of admirers. So that’s how it is! She’s the queen bee!
Only now we had them up against a fence line, so we were in a better position to try to get nearer to her. The funny thing was that most of the other mules and horses kept clustering around us saying “pick me, pick me.” She was the only one playing hard to get. After Travis made several attempts to get a halter on her, she somehow ended up nearer to me, so I bent down and reached out my knuckles for her to sniff. She gave me a sniff, I stroked her neck and she figured the game was over and let us halter her. Then we took her back up to the gate followed by a whole train of mules and horses. Getting her out without any of her posse tagging along was the biggest challenge, but after that, she jumped right in the trailer. As I pulled out, I heard her yelling and several of the boys galloped hopefully along the fence line yelling right back.
Things were not so relaxing at the other end of our little trip. After all, what is a queen bee without all her peeps to run the hive! She bulldozed her way out of the trailer covered in sweat with a decidedly un-queen-bee look in her eyes. She danced around for a moment astonished at the lack of workers and drones amongst which to hide. What ever is a girl to do? I grabbed a carrot stick for self defense and we headed for the corrals. Dolly let out a lusty yell which assured my charge that we were, at least, heading in a more promising direction. I thought we were going to be okay in spite of the fact that she was walking like an really animated stork in about a foot of water when, all of a sudden, she stopped and her eyes practically popped out of her head. I turned just in time to see Annie come sauntering over.
She, of course, was thinking “Hey guys! What’s going on? Hi there new horse…”
While new horse was thinking “A giant grey mouse! Eeeeek!”
Good thing I had the carrot stick for self defense! I waved it at Annie. “No! Stop! Don’t come any nearer!” As the mare began to simultaneously crouch in preparation for a giant leap and swell up to twice her size in absolute terror of whatever horror was about to befall her, I was getting a better grip on the rope and wondering if I was going to be able to hang on when the storm broke. Fortunately, at that moment Annie, choosing to be insulted by our obviously uncouth behavior, turned on a dime and stomped off in a huff. Annie, apparently, doesn’t qualify as a peep.
Somehow, we made it over and into the corral. I only had to bop her on the nose once to keep from getting run over, but it was obvious that in her panic, she wasn’t about to observe anyone else’s personal space. She wasn’t much comforted by the presence of Dolly and kept looking around and yelling for her boys. Smart mare really, Dolly, too, is a queen bee. And though I would never scruple to propose the sport of horse fighting and would be horrified at its mere suggestion, still, the evil voice inside my head said “I wonder who would win?…” Wisely, I placed her Bee-ness two corrals over from Dolly. The vet has seen far too much of me in the last few years!
Once safely in the corral, we played a little bit. Move your hindquarters. Move your forequarters. Back-up—not much back-up there… Come around me, then turn and face.
Bend your neck—stiff as a board to the right, but some bending to the left. When I first asked her to back up, she stood rigid. I just gently bumped her nose with the halter and she got the idea. After a couple of steps backwards, she lowered her head and licked her lips. She visibly relaxed and her eyes got much softer. Okay, maybe there’s hope here. Only problem is she already reminds me too much of Dolly. Oh, I like Dolly. But she’s been a lot of work. Our personalities don’t necessarily mesh very well. I’ve certainly learned a lot from her. I’m just not sure I want to buy another horse that is just like her. Given the choice, maybe I’d like a different poison this time!
Still, I could work with her for a couple of weeks. I could comb all the knots out of her mane and trim her feet. I could work with her on the ground and see if I could get her relaxed and focused enough to ride. Maybe I’d even be able to ride her enough to get some of the weight off and get her in a little better shape. And maybe once she got over the shocking change in her lifestyle, she would prove to be a very different animal. You never know, right? So I went up to the house satisfied that I was at least willing to give it a try.
Then Craig called…
“You got the wrong horse.”
And you know, before we got hit by lightening, things like this used to surprise me, but not anymore…
The right horse was at the pack station and Craig had been busy dealing with a sick horse and etc, etc… I said “why don’t I take this horse up to the pack station Tuesday morning and exchange her for the right horse?”
Judging from the alacrity of his answer, I think he was relieved at the suggestion. He told me the horse I had was also a half Arab, named Rasmin. The horse I was after was named Jasmine. Maybe this is why Travis was confused? (Or maybe all bay horses look alike to Travis…) He said Rasmin was a real sweetheart and I should ride her on Monday. I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen, but I didn’t want to insult him by suggesting that his horse might be just a little bit, you know, SCARY, when not surrounded by other equines. Anyway, I had appointments in town Monday morning and by the time I got home, the wind was blowing 50 miles per hour and it was raining. It was snowing in the mountains. Not exactly riding weather. That’s June for you.