“With a few flowers in my garden, half a dozen pictures and some books, I live without envy.”
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
So my summer didn't quite turn out the way I'd planned. In April I bought a new horse, a Haflinger which I named Tristan. Tristan was supposed to be the all-around family horse - a trail horse for me, a leadline horse for John and Lucas and eventually a show horse for me and Alex. He was young, just five, and I sent him to a boarding facility for professional training the day I bought him. When he came home month later, he was shaping up to be the Perfect Horse. He was a bit too spirited for the kids, but I enjoyed riding him and looked forward to when those trail miles would settle him down.
Yep, those were good times.
Then on July 4th I took a spill during what would be my last ride on Tristan. It was one of those completely stupid accidents that was completely avoidable. I was getting on the horse when he started to walk towards the gate at a rapid pace. In retrospect, I should have just had someone hold him for me while I mounted; it had been about a week since I'd ridden and Tristan was ready to go. Fearing that I'd be unseated I swung my leg over - I had just one foot in the stirrup - I decided to just hope back off and call someone to hold Tristan while I got back on. Unfortunately, my foot got hung in the stirrup and when I went to dislodge it I gouged Tristan in the side. He jumped up in the air and I flew up with him, coming off and down on my ankle. I heard the bones break and as I lay there in the dust looking up at the horse that had thrown me I knew my summer was Officially Fucked.
I was right. The evening I'd planned to watch fireworks with my family were spent in the hospital. I had surgery the next day and came home a couple of days later to begin a recovery that has gone better than expected. But walking is only part of the equation. Some things, the doctor said, are out of the question for the next year, including horseback riding. I ride English and my ankle won't be strong enough for me to post a trot until at least next summer. And no, I can't bring myself to ride Western.
I was pretty depressed about the news and knew I'd have to make a decision about Tristan and my other saddle horse, Guinvere. They were both too much for the kids, who'd rather ride Lyric, my daughter's Shetland pony. I have plenty of horse friends, but they're all too busy with their own horses to exercise mine. I considered leasing but it didn't seem fair to get the horses used to another farm and then haul them back here away from their new friends.
It broke my heart to sell them, but that's what I did. I was very selective and it paid off. Tristan ended up going home with a 26-year-old woman who really clicked with her when she came out for a test ride. Guinevere went to a farm where she's now part of a therapeutic riding program.
It was the first time I'd been "horse-free" for years, but it didn't last long. Larry suggested I consider getting a miniature horse for driving, since the doctor didn't say I couldn't drive. The little horses appealed to Larry, too, because he's always been a bit afraid of horses (although he liked Tristan) and my accident scared the hell out of him. So after some searching we bought home Storm, a tiny white stallion who came with a cart and a harness. Even though Storm is intact, he's not at all hard to handle and is great with the kids. Here he is with Alex.
Next came Luna, a rescue pony that the owner said was difficult to handle, nearly impossible to halter and totally impossible for the farrier. The couple we got her from were well-intentioned but very old-school in their approach to horses. When we asked if they could get a halter on her so we could have a closer look, the man lassoed Luna around the leg and threw her on the ground and then pinned her. This was after she went through a chain-link fence. I had three words to say about that: "We'll take her."
Luna became my personal project. I've spent two to four hours a day with her since she's been home and can now catch her, halter her, pick her feet up for cleaning, touch her all over, lead her around, drop a towel over her head and even run a lunge whip up and down her body. When our farrier, RJ, came out last week to trim the horses' hooves, she was the best of the lot. Here are some pictures of me working with Luna:
We hope to start cart-training Luna this fall, but are waiting for a bit because we suspect she might be pregnant and close to foaling. Her former owner said she'd been exposed to a stud, so we will have to wait and see. Personally I'm hoping she isn't. There are enough horses in the world that need homes without breeding more, as we are finding out.
Rob Roy was our next acquisition. Lucas really wanted his own pony and when we found out that a nearby family had a cute little paint we jumped at the chance to bring him home. Rob Roy and Lucas are perfect for each other. They are both five years old and full of mischief. Rob Roy is the court jester of our barn, although not all his tricks are funny. Last week he chewed up one of Alex's show halters. She was not amused. But other than being destructive and mugging for treats he's a good little fellow. His cart training - and saddle training - starts soon. Here he is with Lucas:
That was going to be it for us until we found Kipper. I love going to pony farms, even if it's just to look and the one we visited about an hour a way had a lot of miniature horses, many of them in piss-poor shape. The owner tried to sell me a foundered chestnut gelding and a bony appaloosa mini with bad hocks. But the only horse on the place that I would even consider was an adorable dapple gray with the most incredible mane I'd ever seen. The fact that he was overweight and a good ten years older than his advertised age didn't deter me. I could only think of getting him out of there. And the lady, who had way too many horses to feed and apparently couldn't take care of them, accepted my ridiculously low offer.
Kipper has turned out to be a great little pony. He loves the kids with a dog-like affection, doesn't have a mean bone in his body and is an experienced cart pony although it had been several years since he'd been driven when we got him. He's been extremely patient, even as we struggled to learn how to properly put on his harness. And he's gentle enough for the kids. Here he is giving Alex and her friend, Hannah, a ride:
So what - you may ask - are we going to do with five miniature horses? Hopefully enjoy them and have them earn their keep, at least that's the plan. Currently we're getting set up to offer "miniature horse clinics" to local 4-H and other groups where kids can come out and enjoy hands-on activities with our pint-sized horses. Alex and I are working on a curriculum for the clinics and she and Lucas will be able to help teach their peers and - hopefully - promote miniature horses in the process.
I know we enjoy ours very much and are surprised at how versatile they can be. And while I miss riding and can't say I won't eventually return to the saddle, this will do quite nicely for now.