Sunday, July 14, 2013

Only Constant


in life is change. Someone told me a long time ago that love it or hate it, the time I was living in would change and I might as well just start getting comfortable with the idea. I will tell you that I get that . . . in theory.

I am turning, right before my own very eyes, into one of those gnarly old guys I used to hang out with that kicked back their chairs, sipped inky black coffee out of unimaginably stained cups and shook their heads ruefully at the state of the world in which we live.  Well, I  have to go a long ways to fill those old timer’s shoes but my attitude is developing nicely.

It’s the way of things. 

Umm, horses? Yes, gentle reader, there will eventually be horses in this blog, always are. I am getting there. (see? old! cranky!)

I work part time at a place called Shady Lanes Ranch. Just shy of 400 acres a couple miles north of Council Bluffs, IA. There’s a lot going on there, primarily they offer guided trail and hayrack rides to the public. They keep their hack horses year around, and it takes quite a horse to make the string.

As the world continues to evolve (de, some might say) from our rural and agricultural roots, interest and knowledge of those areas is waning quickly.  I could go on an entire soapbox about how these lack of awareness's are effecting our lives, politically, socially and yes, spiritually . .  . but I will stop there.

Talk is the guided trail rides will cease in about a month. I am needing to find time in my schedule to set the hack horses up for portraits and get them listed for sale.

I have tears gathering in my eyes as I write this. While I understand change is inevitable, it’s going to come as a shock to BlackJack, Scout, good Snuggles, lovely Bravo, ever reliable Peacock . . . and the rest. They know their lives and they are good ones. I wish I could ensure that each of those good boys, proven, steady and tried beyond measure were going to end up in homes that are aware and deserving of the treasures they have found.

Hack Horses

I have worked hard with a couple of the younger ones, Big Ben, who was an uncertain four year old three years ago, will now pretty much land well wherever he goes. Little Miguel, spicy little cow horse type who would NEVER have made the general string has come so far, I can only hope Epona, horse goddess, looks after her smart, sensitive child after I no longer can.

Big BenLittle Miguel

I asked my boss a question yesterday, who I have known many a year and who actually gave me the name for my business once upon a time ago. (“It takes damn good hands to ride those colts” a man gruffly refuses my request to take on some training work .  . . and I thought, well heck! I  HAVE good hands . . . and such it was born.) 

Hindsight says those hands not as good as I thought they were then, but it made for a good name! Yeah, he lets me ride the colts now . . .

So back to the question; when is a person justified to have more than one horse?

Anyone who knows me at all just had eyebrows hit hairline. I am not known for asking advice and about my personal life with horses, not much at all. Charlie is one smart son of a gun and he has given me very good advice for a very many years, most of which I have chosen to not follow and only seen the value of, some time past the point.

“Stupid.” He looks at me over his coffee. He is not calling me stupid but he knows where I am going with this. “Find one good horse and keep it” he said after years of insisting I didn’t need a horse at all when others paid me good money to sit on the backs of theirs. That’s done and he and I both agree Royal is the keeping horse.

Royal in the specialized

“You don’t have time for the one you own.” This is said with some care. He knows the investment I have put in Ben and Little Miguel, how damn hard it’s going to be to walk away and let them go. Ben is a big boy . . . my husband and family could ride him. Gentler than Royal ever will be, he’d make a knock out grandbaby 4-h horse . . . in time. Fiery Little Miguel . . . only I can ride . . . but I am the one that does ride, really, except in my dreams.

I spent most of the day on Miguel yesterday. When he’d had enough, and we are careful about that, we put him up. Little sorrel gelding, not eye catching at first maybe to the average person (a horse person sees him immediately) he was stand offish, next to impossible to catch and hard eyed a year ago. Now he looks up at my approach, and while he is not yet a pocket pony, I haven’t had to pen him to get a hand on him in awhile . . .  He puts his ears up, looks at me, shows appreciation for my touch and acknowledges me as part of his world.

That is a huge gift from any horse and from a skeptic like him . . . I am honored.

For many years I have understood my role in most horses’ lives that I come across to be temporary. When it was the trainers, that was obvious. The saddle horses I rehabbed and sold, again, pretty clear. It has been a sacred duty to give every horse I touch a better deal than they had before. If my time with them is days, weeks, months, whatever, I want them to have a chance for a better life than what they had, coming in.

The thoroughbred babies I halter break, I take care to introduce them to the idea that humans are essentially good (even though I don’t always believe that, myself). I teach them to release from pressure from the first gentle touch, set them up in tiny baby size jams so they start learning to use their brains when they are in a wreck. I figure most of them will survive though not succeed their race horse years and they need skills for that, and a future beyond as well.

Ben nickers to me when I walk past him. He is in the line up these days, has graduated from wrangler only and can carry the experienced guest, should that mythical creature ever arrive (most people mark their experience level “good” or fair.” How many times have you been on one, I have learned to ask. Oh a couple! Or, I rode out here last month) Ok. Grab Scout, will ya  . . .

I know I have discharged my duties for these wonderful horses. I have helped each feel safe putting their heads down to be bridled.  A couple other younger horses are easier to catch, easier to handle from the ground. I handle them all with care and I let them know I see who they are and that they matter to me. You may be surprised how much their outlooks change when handled with a little respect.

Royal? He’s okay. We are both dealing with the trailer trauma. I have not asked him to get in one yet since the wreck. He barely tolerates standing by it, still won’t eat off the fender comfortably. I know it’s a hurdle we both have to get over, and we will. It’s just another step in the journey.

In the meantime . . . if you know of someone looking for a great horse, I know of about 15 of them . . .

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