I lost my horse Rudy on the 3rd of January. He was almost twenty-eight years old, and ever since he came to live with us in October, I have worried about him. I knew he wasn’t going to live forever, but I had hoped for a few more years, especially now that we were reunited. I had mentally prepared myself for being with him during his last days, but it’s still such a sad reality that even the very best ones die.
Last week we had a special visit from my parents. They drove all the way from Idaho to Iowa pulling a gooseneck trailer with six horses in it, dropping off two at our place, staying overnight and spending the next day with us, then continuing on their way to two other siblings’ homes to deliver the rest of the horses. After 50 + years of ranching, my parents are finally retiring, selling their ranch and cattle, giving away most of their twenty-some horses and mules, and buying a house in town and a travel trailer to enjoy some southern winters and visits to grandkids.
We have reached another milestone in our horse life: we rode Cletus, our four year old buckskin gelding! If you remember, we bought him as a baby alongside his mother, Penny, in the fall of 2011. Last November, we sent him to the Rosebud Indian Reservation for a crash course in behaving under saddle….the trainer raved about him and said he was the best horse he’s ever trained. So then we brought him home and (due to me being pregnant and my husband being very busy) he stood around in our corral for almost another year. The good news is that we have been riding him this summer!
At the end of May, as we try to do each year, our family went west to visit my parents in Idaho. We spent several days with them, enjoying ranch life, mountain-style farming, beautiful scenery and their many horses. The highlight of the trip was the all-day cattle drive up into the mountains, through the Pass Creek notch, over the Summit, and on to Big Creek where the cattle stay for a few months during the summer.
As mentioned in a previous post, we recently took our two untrained horses out to South Dakota for training. Due to me being pregnant with our fourth child, the training was going to be postponed for another nine months at least, and we really wanted to see these two colts started as soon as possible. So in October they made the trip out to Mission, SD, to spend at least a month with a horse training family.
We extended our stay in Idaho a couple extra days so that we wouldn’t miss their annual cattle drive where they take their cow and calf herd fifteen miles up into the mountains. It is an all-day event, starting early and ending late, and involves a lot of horseback riding and beautiful scenery. We didn’t want to miss it! All week my sister Karmen and I had been getting horses ready. Karmen put shoes on four horses so that their feet wouldn’t wear out on the rocky trail. I rode Donegal to give her a little refresher so she would be well-adjusted to being ridden again, as my dad was going to ride her on the drive and he is seventy years old and still recuperating from his accident that broke ribs last November. Karmen planned to ride her young mule Garnet, and I was going to take Stormy, the young mare I’d been riding all week.
I’m on vacation this week. No, not sunning on some beautiful beach somewhere like most people would think of, but in my opinion this is better—I’m visiting my family in Idaho and spending a great percentage of my time horseback. I usually refer to my folks’ place as a “working cattle ranch”, with emphasis on the “working!” I am not used to this much physical exertion, andevery muscle aches, my arms and neck are sunburned, and I am saddle sore. But this is my kind of vacation!
That old Kenny Rogers song came to mind today, as I was thinking over the happenings of my weekend. In terms of horses, you should never be too sure of a horse. Riding horses is always a gamble. There are no sure bets, and you can win or lose with a stroke of luck, good or bad. I always say, “That’s the way the cookie crumbled.” And there’s no predicting it, how events are going to go or what exactly is going to take place. I think the cards were stacked against me in the hand I was dealt on Saturday!
I got a phone call last weekend out of the blue. The guy had been searching online for horse trainers in the area and found an ad I had placed probably eight years ago (before I had kids) when I was looking to take in outside horses to train. He wondered if I could help him with two horses he was wanting trained, and me being the horse enthusiast I am, I said “Sure.” I had to follow that up with a lengthy explanation of how I am a mom of three, work full time, and almost never have the time to ride anymore–but I assured him that I could help him put some rides on these horses of his.
Cowgirls of yesterday were famous for being bronc riders, sharp shooters, Wild West performers, and Hollywood actresses. They were brave, fun-loving, hard-working, and maybe just a little bit crazy in the head. I love reading their individual stories and lists of accomplishments, and it is so inspiring to look into the history of cowgirls. Not all of them were famous, and it is some of the more obscure stories that I enjoy the most. We’ve all heard of remarkable people like Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, and Dale Evans. But there are so many more wonderful cowgirl stories out there! Here are just a few quotes and excerpts about some amazing horse women:
We recently stayed at a swanky hotel in St. Louis where my husband attended a business conference for his work. The kids and I went along just for fun, the thought of spending three days at an indoor-pool-equipped establishment being our main motivation—yes, the long winter is getting to us! While there, my husband got his cowboy boots shined at the shoe-shine station in the lobby. After seeing the transformation from scuffed to gleaming, our son wanted his little boots shined as well. While he sat and got them polished, one of the hotel managers struck up a conversation by asking our son if he had a horse to go with those boots….
Riding horses is dangerous. So is operating an automobile. So I’m not saying we shouldn’t engage in either activity, but I’d like to point out that when you are around a horse, virtually anything can happen. I’ve seen good horses in bad wrecks, great riders get broken up, and not-very-cautious riders get away with doing some stupid things around horses and get away with it. What we all should keep in mind is that there is great risk involved in riding horses and training horses, and a smart rider will do what he can to protect himself and his horse.
I love reading about horses, especially horse headlines in the news. No matter how serious the story is, there is almost always some humor in it. Either that, or it’s a heartwarming story, like the woman who stayed with her horse that was stuck in the quicksand along an Australian beach, until both were rescued after 3 hours. Here are some of the most recent horse headlines I’ve read.
I told a customer at work yesterday that I have “Horse Radar”. He looked at me funny…and I explained that I had seen his wife out trail riding the other day along a road, and wondered if he was riding with her. He said, “No, that was her daughter and a friend. Why?” I said, “Oh, I was just jealous, and told my husband—see? That’s what we should be doing today!” He said, “You have horses?” I said, “Yes, but I don’t get out to ride much.” He said, “Well, you should talk to my wife, she’s always looking for somebody to go riding with.” Phone numbers were exchanged, Facebook friend requests sent, and now his wife and I are planning to go ride at some trails as soon as we can!
Not every horse story is a happy one. I talked to someone yesterday who told me about a filly that was causing trouble, fighting with other horses, and when tied up would pull back hard and break halters every time. So they tied her with a log chain around her neck, trying to break her of pulling back….and so she broke her neck. That story left me stunned, with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I can’t get away from. I saw this filly not long ago, a beautiful bay roan with a big white star on her face. And just like that, she’s gone.
In June we traveled out to Idaho to visit my folks. It’s been almost a year since we’ve seen them, as we didn’t make it out there for Christmas. So we were really looking forward to the making the trip, getting some fresh mountain air, spending time with family, and going on some adventures.
When I was a teenager, this time of year was so exciting. School was ended and we were free to ride horses all day, which was pretty much all that was on my agenda. While Dad finished up the spring planting, we kids would be putting cattle out to pasture and checking on the late-calvers daily. There was so much to do on horseback!