Yesterday was September 1st. It was a pretty big day because it marked “hopefully” the end of 100+ degree days here.
It was also a big day because it was the first day I had with the horses since we’ve been back from our week long vacation in Colorado. They didn’t let me down.
I saddled the black horse up cold and put him right to work ponying Fin out. He’s been lounging around, bossing Chisholm around, and eating alfalfa with no real release of his extra energy. I was very proud of him for keeping level and flat while long trotting along with a fizzy two year old warm blood. We have a long way to go in the way of refinement and detail. But he is turning into an indispensable saddle horse. It made my heart swell to know that he is starting to find peace with his work.
And then there’s Fin. I’ve not been around many warmbloods but the ones I have made my stomach do flip flops. They all seemed so tuned out to humans and ready to burst at the seams over the slightest thing. Fin, luckily, seems to have a lot more common sense than the others. Still, when I saw her cock her ear back at an odd angle while we were trotting along, I did cringe inwardly. I looked back and saw she had managed to catch a huge tumble weed in her long, thick tail. It was alternately dragging on the ground and banging against her hocks with each stride. “Hmmm. Well, there’s nowhere to go but forward.”, I thought to myself. She kept trotting, giving the tumbleweed the beady eye every once in awhile. Eventually she got tired of it, swung her tail in a huge arc, and karate smashed it off. All, while never breaking stride or making a fuss. Well played sister, well played. After we got back I tied the black horse up, and took Fin back down to her neck of the woods. Over there, there is a long, narrow cement walkway with stairs up to it that weaves around the public bathrooms, takes a corner and then ends in a wheelchair ramp down. It is maybe three feet wide with a wooden rail along the edge. Apparently, as I was walking past it with Fin, she felt she was too close to me so rather than crowd me to get away from the walkway and building she opted to walk up the stairs and along the walkway. The slack never left the lead rope. It wasn’t her version of, “Hey, let’s see what’s over here!” It was, “I am not supposed to push on you, so I guess I am supposed to do this.” I led her along the walkway, her several feet above me, we wove around the corner, she walked down the ramp, and we continued on to her pasture. Never a snort when she passed the open door with fans blowing. Never a falter. We were just walking. I hugged her before I turned her loose. I was over the moon. The kids are growing up!!
After that came another important part of my day. Sitting in the yard with my husband drinking a beer. As I sipped I let my gaze wonder over our herd. I let it stop on Chisholm. Chisholm is the youngest. He is around 16 months old. I talked Louie into buying him early last spring to replace a colt we sold. I pitched it as an excellent investment. He is papered, has a great mind, and if he grows up to look anything like his full sister, he will be stunning. Still, I always have the hope of starting one that has the feel I am looking for who grows into the size I am looking for. I want to be sitting on a gentle, solid twelve year old horse someday and know that he is as good as he is because somewhere along the line, I figured out what I was doing. It is ego I know, but hey, just as horses are horses, I am human.
Louie saw me looking. “So, what are you going to do with your colt?”
“Well, long term, I still have no idea. But tonight, I think I’ll pull him out and brush him.”
Chisholm has currently been rooming with the black horse. When he came to us his feet seemed awful stuck, and I wasn’t crazy about how he moved off, more stiff and fleeing, than soft and subtle. I worked a bit with his hind end and got some results, but I felt like maybe there was an easier way to get my point across. I did, and physically, it was real easy for me. Albeit, it was a little nerve racking for the first few days. I decided that the black horse had loosened up many creatures’ (both two legged, and four legged) feet. He’s over pushing humans around. But, I’ve yet to find another four legged that he tells to move, who doesn’t.
When I was first learning round pen work, I was told that if I needed a horse to move and he was being sluggish, to pick my line and walk to him with an energy that says, “If you’re still there when I get there, I am going to walk right through you.” It works pretty good for me. But it REALLY works for the black horse.
After a few days of the black horse walking right through Chisholm, I noticed a change. Now that Chisholm’s been in with the black horse for a few months, I have a pretty observant, soft colt on my hands. Thanks again black horse.
So, I got little Chisholm out and brushed him down. Then I took a couple of glamour shots of him, inadvertently working on his ground tying. I’ve got a year and a half to put everything in him that I want to before we start riding him. If all goes as I hope (I gave up planning) he will be my “one”. There’s plenty of other options for him though. Louie may fall in love with him. He may end up being a perfectly nice horse that we are proud of, but just doesn’t have the exact feel either of us is looking for. If so, we already have people standing in line, waiting for the work to be done and for him to come up for sale. If all goes as hoped, he will have a successful life with someone who loves and appreciates him.
If. All. Goes. As Hoped.
The idea for this blog came while I was brushing Chisholm. I started thinking about a friend who has put years into her colts, and who has recently suffered losses that make me shake my head. She goes out of her way to do her homework, and only invest in hardy, healthy colts who have the breeding and temperament to grow into marketable, usable horses. Her facilities are to die for. She has beautiful, well kept pastures and impeccable fences. Her horses want for nothing, be it friends, forage or freedom. They have the best vet and farrier care money can buy. They have an extremely knowledgeable and empathetic owner/trainer. If I die and come back as I horse, I want to come back as one of her horses. If I win the lottery I am going to plan my horse facilities based on hers.
Still, with all of the odds on her side, her heart has been devastated again and again. Most recently, she had a long two year old she had bought as a yearling struck by lightening out in pasture. She had put blood sweat and hope into this horse to prepare it for success. For a year and a half she had planned and worked and focused on what needed to be done. A year and a half, and she hadn’t even swung a leg over him yet! And then, he was gone. Poof.
We’ve all had to put down horses. We’ve all seen young ones go away too soon. But it’s a bit ominous think about how much work we are going to put into these colts’ early years. We put a lot of ourselves in these guys. If everything goes as planned the horse lives a long, happy life. It can be pretty daunting though, to ponder on the years to come. I’ve been lucky. Things haven’t always worked out in my favor, but I’ve definitely come out of my fair share of close calls. I don’t know that I’d have the heart that my friend has. To keep plugging along day in and day out, starting from scratch, and not really having a way to “fix” the things that are going against her.
As usual, my only answer is to go forward and do the work. She taught me that.