Showing posts with label Mustangs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mustangs. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Sometimes You Bet on the Bay


One reader thought I wanted to be a horse.


 I don’t. 


I don’t even want to own a horse at this stage of my life. 


So, why am I writing this?


To alleviate sadness. Maybe it’s grief. Perhaps it’s a longing to feel as I once felt riding bareback around the orchard trees as though I was Slalom skiing. I was atop a perfect horse.


Years later, I can say with perfect confidence that Boots was a perfect horse. I thought he was then, but experiences with other horses have told me how accurate I was. I now see that Boots was what Pat Parelli would call a “Superhorse.”


He was only five years old when my dad bought him, so he couldn’t have had too much training. I was 12 and didn’t have much training either. Yet, we soon learned to be a team. He neck-reined, which means you could ride one-handed, and with only a slight turn of the wrist, with reins against his neck, he would turn on a dime. At the time, I didn’t know about the horse-human connection. I had not learned what the more-recent horse gentler/whispers say that a horse responds to light pressure. A slight movement of my body would cause him to leap into a canter smooth as silk and would eliminate the bumpy trot.



Why in the world a prey animal (the horse) would allow a predator (the human) on his back is beyond me. 


 A horse bucks to get a mountain lion off his back. He shies, which can put him, in a split-second, four feet away from a harmful object. (A snake, maybe? Or a plastic bag. If you have ever ridden out one of those split-second maneuvers, good for you. It can put you on their neck, on their tail, under their belly, on the ground.) 


Last night my husband called my attention to an article on Firefox called The Horse human corporation is a neurobiological miracle. (He knew I was interested in horses and brains.) And what happened? I slipped into sadness. 


I grieved over selling Boots. I thought of the horses we have had. Then, I thought of getting Duchess, a 24-year-old Arabian 40 years after Boots. Duchess lived out her life with us, eased me back into riding, rescued a mustang, and raised two young fillies to adulthood. 


(Read, It’s Hard to Stay on a Horse While You’re Unconsciousness by Joyce Davis. Paperback only. Long title, but appropriate.) 


I learned from a horse named Dee that my daughter bought and ended up selling because she bucked. Dee tended to go in circles. However, I found that if I focused on something ahead, like a fence post, she would go right toward that object. Don’t tell me there isn’t a brain-to-brain connection between the horse and rider. 


A horse will do just about anything he can for you provided you know how to ask—there’s the rub.


Thanks to the horse gentler/whisperers, only recently have we learned some of the subtle cues a horse uses to communicate. Their very nature has allowed him to be a partner with humans.


A twitch of the ear can tell another horse to move away. A pressure as light as a finger on your eyeball will move a horse. Yet for eons, we have used ropes, bits, spurs, and whips because we thought that since he is big and powerful, we need to use force to control him.


We evolved as hunters and being a predator, we believe in using control. Horses evolved as flight animals. If it looks scary, smells scary, or is believed to be something scary—RUN.


Years ago, when the Hermiston Horse Auction in Hermiston, Oregon, was in Vogue, my second daughter and I loved going to their once-a-year big sale. We would drive the two or three hours necessary up the “Columbia River Highway to Hermiston, Oregon, stay in a motel, and go to the Auction. One year we accidentally killed a TV set by placing an ice cream cake on it. Sorry about your TV, guys. We sold Dee there to a really nice woman who would finally give that needy horse the home she deserved, for she had been alone for a long time without attention.


Once at the Auction, three guys and two Norwegian fjord horses put on a show. Norwegian fjords are striking animals, buckskin or cream with a dark mane and tail. Their distinguishing feature is a white stripe that runs the length of their mane. The horses are husky and small, so a rider can hop on their backs relatively easily. The fellows were playing musical chairs with the horses. As the horses were cavorting around the arena, one guy would jump on a horse, another would pull him off and hop on, three men trying to be that last man riding. So, it went with one jacket getting torn to bits and the bidding going wild. My daughter bid on one, but the price went too high.


                                                     Norwegian fjord


Thinking there was money to be made at the Auction, Daughter Dear bought a gentle little mare named Sweetie. Poor Sweetie’s feet had been so neglected that the Ferrier I called in for a trimming thought her legs might be permanently damaged. We boarded her at the Auction yard for a week until time to drive to Hermiston. I rode her between the stalls just to see how she handled. Sweet horse, neglectful owner.  


Sweetie sold at the Auction to a mother and daughter who were as tickled to get her as two kids at the ice cream store. A few months later, my daughter received a call. “Who was Sweetie bred to?” 


“What?” Well, Sweetie gave them a foal that day. They were over the moon.


 A horse can make you a gentler person if you watch and listen. Let your adrenaline go up, and the horse feels it. Be calm, and the horse knows it. I suppose part of my sadness came from realizing that people have yanked horses around—because they didn’t understand. This animal will do just about anything he can for you—provided you know how to ask.


My dentist boss used to say, “Horses smell.” I would say, “Yes, a dirty horse, or their yard. Not a clean horse.” I bet my boss bathed each morning and wore a deodorant. A real horse person can bury their nose in a horse’s mane, breathe deeply and relax into an “Ahh.”


Besides having my daughters, my most exciting days were getting a horse. The day my dad led Boots down the drive and told me to make friends with him is permanently emblazoned on my brain. The day I bought Duchess, I told myself, “I’m going to be happy every day of my life.” The day I bought six-month-old Velvet at the Hermiston Horse auction driving up my bidder higher than I wanted, everyone applauded. A cowboy told us afterward: “Watching you guys buy a horse is more fun than buying one myself.” The day I bid on six-month-old Sierra at the Burns Wild Horse Auction only to drive her 5 hours home then have the truck, and trailer jackknife on the hill brought my adrenaline up. With a mustang stomping in the trailer and knowing that if I lost a mustang, I must pay for its capture, I trudged up the hill, remembering what a horse book told me: “A horse is prone to stampede, especially a young horse.” I saddled Duchess, and after Husband Dear opened the trailer, Duchess and I stampeded up the hill and into the round pen with little Sierra hot on our trail. 


 Slip out. Close gate. Horse penned. Success.


What would I have done without Duchess? Trying to get that truck and trailer out of its predicament would have severely shaken up little Sierra. (And bless people who pass down information.)


In my mind’s eye, I see Sierra and Velvet racing up the drive. I see Velvet taking a Lipizzaner leap off the embankment onto the driveway below. A freed horse is such fun. They would frolic around the house, run on the gravel drive, roll in the Oregon red dirt, then settle down to nibbling the grass around the house. 


“A horse, a horse, My Kingdom for a horse.”  Shakespeare’s Richard III


Point? That important things can change suddenly.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Wild Hopes

“I’m going to let our hopes run as wild as the Mustangs,” by Jocelyn, age 10.


We need the free spirit of the mustang right now. We need some hope of a free tomorrow where we can run like the wild horses. And we need little children like Jocelyn who have a purpose and a heart to help the wild things.


Remember the song from the movie Anne Mamie,“We need a little Christmas, right this very moment?”  Join in.


A dear friend, Jocelyn’s grandmother, sent Jocelyn’s drawing to me. I thought it was so wonderful, I had to use it. You know me and horses, and here I had found a kindred spirit in a little girl who loves horses as I did when I was her age. Still do. You don’t have to be a kid to love horses or to ever ride or even touch one. Watch them running across the prairie and imagine how that would feel--the wind in your hair, the exhilaration of the run, being with your herd.


 “Winged” has often been ascribed to the horse.


I told her grandma, “Nana,” that I had adopted a mustang, which sent us off talking about horses and exchanging pictures. I received a video of Jocelyn, who lives in another state, running down a wooded path—her giggles making a Doppler effect as she and Cookie, a pony, ran past the recording photographer.


Jocelyn is the illustrator and spoke’s person for her Girl Scouts Troop who is sponsoring the Wild Beauty Foundation. This foundation was formed by filmmakers Ashley Avis and Edward Winters on the heels of the upcoming feature film Black Beauty.


The Wild Beauty Foundation was inspired by Anna Sewell, author of the original 19th-century novel Black Beauty. As Sewell’s message was to give voices to the cab horses of her day. The Wild Beauty Foundation’s focus is to give voices to the wild mustangs.


So, buy cookies and help give voices to the Wild Mustangs.


To know a mustang is to love them. Well, you don’t even have to know one. Seeing a herd running wild and free is enough to swell your heart.


Sierra, my mustang, had a freeze brand on her neck that looked like a strip of hieroglyphics. If you had the translation of the brand, you would know what herd she came from, the area, and the date of capture. Having a freeze brand meant she could never be sold for slaughter. Never, never do that. That’s a crime against all that’s sacred. Her pregnant momma was rounded up and gave birth to Sierra at the BLM holding facility in Burns, Oregon, where I adopted her as a baby of five and one-half months-old.


What a character she was, and curious as all get-out, smart and loving. While my quarter horse thought plastic bottles in a box was a monster, Sierra knew that rattling box was a play-toy. 


After Sierra was gentled and knew that our place was home, I turned her and her roommate, Velvet, loose where they frolicked around the house, jumped and ran on the drive, then rolled in the Oregon red-mud. All that before settling down for some grazing. (We lived in the forest, so our property was private.)


Sierra had a wild heart and a sweet nature, with a propensity for gnawing on our pickup truck. She accepted a sack of kitty litter on her back (as weight) and later-on, me. Her feet were strong and kept perfectly trimmed by running on the gravel drive. 


(Not so for the quarter horse).


The strength of the wild.


This picture is also posted on, and that site includes more pictures of the Island, and horses.