19 April 2009

Memories--Colter in His Prime 1977

Colter's sire was National Top Ten in Park in the class won by *Bask. So people assumed Colter would be a Park Horse too. He had the movement, but his temperament was more Western Pleasure or maybe even Lead Line. He would have been glad to move out had people taken the time to explain what they wanted, but instead he more likely got the fire extinguisher treatment--certainly one way to get a horse to show "presence." When I got him, he had a broken rib from going over backward in a bitting rig and scars up both sides of his mouth, probably from the same experience.

When I got him, if was also terribly obvious he'd been mechanically collected with a curb bit for seven or more years. He was, in other words, stiffer than the average board.

As he rode my stallion during this March 1977 clinic, I also remember Dominique saying, "The old man is a little stiff, yes?" Indeed he was. But despite his stiffness and tension, Colter was still one of the most gentle and kind horses I've ever met.

I still clearly remember this moment. Dominique was relaxing, swinging his legs and saying, "Ah, another crazy Arab stallion!" Meanwhile, Colter was just quietly watching the other stallion then working in the ring.

By mid-summer, Colter wasn't nearly as stiff, and, instead of leaning into the full double of a park horse, he was yielding to a simple snaffle.

Of course, I'm really not big on using any sort of bridle if I'm riding for fun.

Memories--The Horse of a Lifetime

In the mid-1970s, a friend asked me to look at an Arabian stallion she was considering for her mare. I looked, told her I liked him, and thought nothing more of it until the phone rang many months later. The stallion's owner had leased him out, moved out of state, and was extremely worried--with good reason. I checked on him and found him about three hundred pounds underweight. When I reported this, she offered me time payments on a price that was a fraction of what she'd paid for him.

He sired a Reserve National Champion, several Class A Arabian regional winners along with Anglo-Arabians, colored part-breds, and many other nice horses.

More than that though, he was a fine friend for the eighteen years that I owned him. I just wish I had a photo of him with the Brownie troop. When they came to the farm to earn their Horse Lover's Badges, I selected the one horse I trusted to be perfectly mannered with a giggly, wiggly bunch of elementary school girls--my breeding stallion. I still smile when I remember him standing head down in the middle of his pen with a brush-wielding girl on each leg and still more on his head, neck, and tail. It was his idea of heaven. Mine too.

COLTER (Res. Nat. Ch. Afari X Rieza)
Foaled March 1965--Died January 1, 1995

Memories--The Mare Who Taught Me

Lemon and me in 1974

I found this little mare in 1971 at the military stable at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. She'd been for sale for a year without any takers. She wouldn't longe, but she would buck, bolt, refuse jumps, and generally behave badly.

On the advice of others, I asked the guru of Fort Leavenworth his opinion of her. Master Sgt. Roland R. Richmond (ret.), former head farrier for the US Cavalry, said, "Not a mean bone in her body." When I then asked him if he'd shoe her for me, he said, "Too old to get killed by a horse" and walked off.

Young and intrigued, I bought her and renamed her Twist of Lemon. She quickly taught me that intelligent, generous horses become calm, eager learners when rewarded for good behavior. She also taught me that punishments and attempts at "control" typically backfire. Together, we both learned a lot, although I learned more from her than she ever learned from me.

Six months after I bought her, Sgt. Rich walked by and said, "Shoe your mare. Two p.m., Friday." I've never had a higher honor in my life.

Update: 4 August 2015

I should have added that before Sgt. Rich started he said, "Been watching. We'll do it your way." That meant that no punishment was involved. Not even any yelling. When she cooperated, she got verbal praise and rubbing and then Sgt. Rich and I would have a cup of coffee before he continued.

We went through three pots of coffee and he didn't finish until six p.m., but by then Lemon had figured out what we wanted. Sgt. Rich charged me eight dollars, and Lemon, the terror other farriers had thrown and hogtied, earned the last slot of the day, the one a tired farrier saved for a horse with perfect manners.