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Posts Tagged ‘horses’

Back story: we stopped at a little brewery out in the country after we cut our Christmas tree last December. While we were there, three lovely women in jodhpurs came in to sit by the fire with us and chill. What are jodhpurs? Only the kind of pants one wears when riding “English” or huntseat on a horse. Their very presence said “horses nearby”. I happen to be incredibly horse crazy although I’ve only ridden western and I haven’t owned a horse for 18 years.

Flash forward to about a month ago, same place, but we were sitting with friends. “K” was lamenting how she wished she could smell horses in a barn again and how she’d passed a lovely looking barn/arena on the way to the brewery. And – serendipitously – two of the same women came wandering in to chill, wearing their riding clothes. I made the bold move of edging in on their table and introducing my friend. We had a great conversation about horse rescue, volunteer opportunities, and “just come to the barn to see the horses”. My friend has an autoimmune disease and I hoped this would be a great low-impact opportunity for her.

Sadly, she never followed through. On the other hand, I started following the rescue on Facebook: Arabian Horse Rescue & Education. I kept forgetting to call to see if I could come to take photos to use for artwork, but still – I was following them. The other day, they posted a shout out for volunteers to help bathe the horses and my husband suggested I follow up on it. I messaged the rescue to see if I could come in at the same time and take photos and the answer was “YES!”

I was there by 8:30 this morning, camera in hand. Most of my photos are sketch quality only – just general outlines of horses & horse heads.

Arabs are so inquisitive and have such unique faces that it is hard to not fall in love with their profiles. I tend to like other breeds more, but even I fall for these gorgeous dish-shaped heads and pointed ears. They’re around 14-15 hands, which is not a large animal in the horse world. Intelligent, loyal, and sometimes a bundle of nerves, these particular animals have come out of abusive situations and auction houses (where the other bidders are from the meat industry – in short, they were animals headed to slaughter for no more reason than someone decided they couldn’t keep the horse any longer or they never learned how to handle it in the first place.

I haven’t got to the best part – her name is Amirah and she has the same calm persona my horse did. I had a little Arab/Appy that we passed on to a friend when we moved into town with the understanding that I could come visit Whisper when I wanted to. They kept her a couple of years before giving her away to an unknown party and I have no idea what her fate was. It kills me.

Amirah is thirty-ish, the same age Whisper would be if she is still alive somewhere.

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This is how I met her. That battered old face hanging over the stall wall, just asking to have her ears scratched. She was waiting her turn to be groomed and bathed, calm, serene, and an absolute love.

She looks pretty amazing for an old girl, and a lot better than she looked when AHRE saved her.

I am fully, completely, irreversibly, in love. Best of all – she is so photographic!

I left after an hour, my hands smelling like horse (best smell in the world) and my heart full. I’ll go back. I’ll be donating to the upcoming gala to help fund the rescue. I am not in a position to own a horse right now, but I can foster one of these babies (or help foster). I feel like God opened the door for me to begin to understand what my mission here is truly about – at least partially.

I’m also very grateful to a husband who suggested I step out of my comfort zone, get up early, and just go.

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Jarbidge. Mahoney Ranger Station. 1957-1959.

Mahoney. Ma-HOE-nee. Irish. “Descendant of the Bear”

Jarbidge. Shoshone, probably. Tsahabits? Giant in the cave. Site of the last know Stage Coach Robbery.

The best mud pies can be made in a gravel drive as long as the fire crews aren’t expected any time soon. If there are fire crews, you can’t play in the driveway.

I liked to pick the rocks out and mix the white dust with the old rain water until I reached a moldable texture. It was all in the feel of the mud, cool and brown between my fingers. I picked wild yarrow and Queen Anne’s Lace and pulled the tiny florets off to mix into the “dough”. I didn’t know the flower’s names then, those came with age.The idea was to make the pies pretty, but the mud enveloped the florets and turned them an icky brown.

I wiped my hands on my top and looked around. If there was an adult watching, I was blissfully unaware. In retrospect – not in memory – my mother was probably by the picket fence, holding my infant sister, and watching. My brother was probably getting into trouble.

There was an empty pasture to the west of the parking lot. The barn to the north, with the corrals. Eastward, where the ridge came down and the aspens mixed with pines, there was a pair of pastures between parking lot and tree line. In the southern pasture, a lone horse was held. The palomino.

There was something wrong with the palomino, but I didn’t understand what. He was wild? Crazy? Hurt? Today, he was antsy, pacing his pasture and nickering. When I turned to watch him, he suddenly reared up onto his hind legs and pawed at the sky, whinnying loudly. Sunlight glinted off of his cream mane and tail. He reared a second time and then bucked a little in the grassy pasture.

I was delighted. He’d done this just for me. I clapped my hands and bobbed on my legs, “Pretty!” I had my very own Trigger, in my very own back yard, even if I was supposed to stay away from him!

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I looked around at the fetlocks and hooves. The smell of horse was overwhelming. Dust swirled around me. I was so happy.

Then I looked up.

Maybe it was the voice that prompted me to look up. There was a face in the little window of the barn loft, a face pale and ashen. It was shouting my name. I didn’t know who the face belonged to, but he sounded upset. I froze. Was I in trouble?

“The baby! The baby is in with the horses!”

Somehow, I knew I was in trouble.

Then I was not in with the horses and the memory disappears.

My father confirmed that yes, I did walk into the corral while they were feeding horses once. Yes, his heart stopped. Yes, he thought I would get kicked. It never occured to me or to the half-wild remuda that circled around me, fighting for hay.

I have a crooked middle finger on my left hand. I asked my mother about it once and she blinked. “I think it was the cow,” she said, quietly. We were both nursing a glass of wine. I was 17 and she was my best friend.

“The cow?”

She nodded. “I sat you down. We were watching them rope or something. I forget. We were so far away that I didn’t think about it, then the cow bolted. It came straight for you and I couldn’t get to you in time. It stepped on you. I think. I think it broke your finger.”

I don’t remember the cow. She swore I was no more than 6 months old. She didn’t know if my finger broke or not. Who took kids to the hospital from remote Jarbidge, Nevada?

Sometimes I wonder if the horse memory isn’t mixed up with the cow charging. But I could stand when I toddled through the horse corral and the fire crew freaked out. And I only remember the smell of horses, that wonderful hay-y smell of horses. Hooves, shoes, fetlocks, and dust.

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Dog or Cat Person??

A couple of you have commented on how adorable-looking Murphy is and my friend teri asked “what makes a person a dog or cat person?”

I like dogs. I love cats. I love horses even more, but I can’t have one in the house.

I saw one in a house, once. I was somewhere between 10 and 12 and it was Girls Day With Dad, meaning my dad, the Forest Ranger, took my sister and I along with him on patrol. We stopped at some ranch in Paradise Valley to visit. The ranch wife invited us in and poured us cool drinks while she and my dad visited about whatever they were visiting about. And this orphan colt walked into the house. Right through the kitchen and into the living room. The ranch wife didn’t blink an eye, just explained that his mama rejected him, so she was bottle-feeding him. In the house.

I always thought one of the reasons my dad wouldn’t get me a horse when I was a kid was because he was afraid I’d want to bring it into the house.

He didn’t have to worry: even when I had a horse, I didn’t bring her into the house. She was claustrophobic.

I really like dogs. I even like Murphy – sometimes. But I do not like 85# of pure muscle bounding into me when I am in my dress clothes (or any time, for that matter). I do not like dogs who take it upon themselves to rearrange my garden. I do not like dogs on furniture. I do not like dogs that nibble. Murphy and I have had a bit of a power struggle: he’s an Alpha dog and you have to be on top of his behaviour all the time. I don’t trust Murphy around babies and cats.

I’d take a dog, but I think one dog running around the house playing “don’t touch the floor but stay on all the furniture” is more than enough. Especially when said dog weighs 85#. Cats play that game, too, and occasionally they break things. There are plenty of reasons to not like cats, all of which endear them to me (except litter boxes and hairballs – which is why a horse is superior to a cat: no hairballs to hack up).

I have a parakeet, but he isn’t cuddly. He is hand trained, but he just isn’t something you can curl up with at night when your husband is spending his night up in the woods somewhere, sleeping with his 85# dog. I don’t half-way mind sleeping with Marmaduke on the bed, but a cat doesn’t take up that much room and you can still roll over with a cat in the bed. And cats purr. And cats lower your blood pressure.

Except for when they use your shoes for a litter box. then the blood pressure rises.

So there you have it: I’m no more a cat person than a dog person; I’m a horse person. And the real problem with Mr. Cute and Adorable Murphy is that he weighs 85# and has the brain of a toddler.

But rest assured: when I get home after work, Murphy meets me at the door, tail wagging and ready to jump up on me. He’s just so excited to see me that I have to like him.

Imagine THAT coming at you when you’re still in your dress clothes…

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I read this news article today about high school students trying to save money by riding their horses to school. I was reminded of Jenny* (not her real name) and her pinto horse.

I attended high school in Ely, Nevada in the early 1970’s. Jenny lived out on the sagebrush flats between Ely & McGill. She was a year ahead of me in school, but we had some classes together and we both loved horses. She was a great artist who could draw horses like Walter Farley (The Black Stallion author). I drew stylized Arabians.

What set us apart, other than the crowd we hung out with (Jenny smoked) was this: she worked hard to buy her own horse by cleaning out dog kennels for Mrs. B’s dog grooming business (also out on the flats about midway between Ely & McGill, say five miles out?) And Jenny owned her very own horse, a brown and white pinto she named… Horse.

In those days, the high school was a three story monstrosity right across Aultman from the city park (where there was a lovely gazebo. Someone blew up the gazebo with dynamite in the 1980s). The smokers hung out at the park because they could smoke there.

Every May and September, as long as the weather held, Jenny would saddle up Horse and ride him to school, for no better reason than she liked to ride him. She kept him tethered in the park during school hours and the smokers lounged around him during breaks. At one point, she sold one-half of Horse to someone (the brown half) for a quarter (or fifty cents, I really don’t remember the details). Horse was not a very big horse, probably 15 hands, a Quarterhorse in build, and extremely gentle. He was a handsome little pinto.

When I was a junior and Jenny was a senior, she gave Horse to me. Lock, stock, saddle and bridle. All mine. Free. She was getting married and wouldn’t be able to keep him any more and she wanted him to go to someone who loved horses as much as she did.

I owned Horse for all of ten seconds. The truth was, I was going away to college and I knew it. I wasn’t going to return to Ely after college. My folks wouldn’t care for a horse if I left one behind (they were a little ticked that I was leaving a cat behind). I really wanted Horse, but I couldn’t, in all honesty, keep him. I handed the reins back.

I did eventually own a horse (I got her for free, too, incidentally) that I owned for seven years. I never rode her to work or school. I did a little trail riding, but not much. She cost a lot of money to keep – probably more than I spend on gas and car repairs on my truck. It is tempting to think about riding a horse to work, but where would I ride along the I-5 corridor? I could probably manage most of I-205 (except the overpasses). But I-5…

And to think Jenny rode along the McGill highway. Oh, yeah, that’s right: nothing but sagebrush for miles on either side…

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