Like a walk through the country side living on a small farm is full of daily surprises, sometimes wonderful and amazing, and other times puzzling and sad. I hope you will walk with me as I live out my dream of living on this tiny farm. You will come to know the dogs, cats, Shetland sheep and chickens that make up this farm and what goes into keeping them happy and healthy. Come and join the journey with me.

Friday, May 03, 2013

My Second First Horse

So over time details get blurred, but this is how I remember getting my second first horse.  The owner of the auction barn contacted us about a couple of 'possibles' that had come in and were slated to go into the ring that weekend.

Lady Bug
It was my Mom's birthday-- July 15, 1978--and we were going to swing by the auction barn on the way to my sister's house where we were going to a party for Mom.  I remember it was hot and the late afternoon sun steamed up the small arena behind the auction barn.  In it were several horses.  The first one that the auction owner had was a tall, light bay --two year old--mare.  I believe she was mostly quarter horse but was leggy and light built.  Just getting up on her was a challenge.  I rode her a few rounds and she was as typical two year old--frisky and full of energy and evidently green broke.  I'm sure she was a nice mare, but I did not want her.  I'd had my fill of young and frisky. 

The next candidate was a dull coated, pot bellied dark sorrel mare, with a roached mane,  blazed face and scarred neck.

She looked tired, and depressed.  After a boost up I rode her around bareback.  Around and around we plodded, with nary a twitch.   And that was that.  She was the one. I didn't need to ride anymore of those other horses.  I wanted a plodder.  A horse I could enjoy myself on--not have to worry about.  Her name was Lady and she was purchased that day for $350.00.

Another neighbor just happened to have their stock trailer there and we were able to get a ride for Lady.  The only hitch was, we had a birthday party to go to and they needed to go home.  This was problematic--and the solution was not ideal.   These neighbors lived about four miles from us across the river.   So we went to the birthday party and Lady went home with them to wait in the trailer.  I have no idea why they could not have driven her to our house later or let my dad drive the truck and trailer but that didn't seem to be an option.  We left  the party and headed out to retrieve Lady as dusk neared.  By the time we got to their house it was getting dark.

Now came the tricky part.  Dad was going to ride her home.  A strange horse.  In the dark.  On a strange (to her) road.  Phew.   She actually did better than you would expect and even crossed a very long high bridge over the river (quite remarkable since she later would balk at every bridge we came to).   However it was a harrowing ride for my Dad and Lady, and if I remember correctly he had to finally get off and lead her home a mile or two, as she just wouldn't keep going forward.

Good grief we were crazy.

But I had my horse.  Lady--or as I often called  her, Lady Bug.  She was a four year old grade quarter horse mare.   I believe she had had a hard life and was what you call 'dead-broke'.  She was also extremely head shy and very sour in disposition.  She wasn't mean, but she didn't really want much to do with humans.  She had been a working horse and had been worked hard.    I think she cow kicked my dad once, but that was about her worst.  

It took awhile--but she overcame her head shyness, and once she was treated decently (read spoiled rotten), wormed and put on a good feed, she perked up and lost her hangdog look.   Her coat became shiny and she lost that wormy looking belly.   Her mane grew out --a long and silky flaxen color.

Lady was a rock, but she was no deadbeat once she started to feel better.  She enjoyed rides as much as I did and would gawk all the way (when she wasn't trying to steal bits to eat).  We had many many lovely rides together.  I loved that horse and she was a gentle mild mannered creature.   She had a trot that would jar your teeth out and a slow plodding walk. Her feet were large and she would sometimes trip over them when she was busy sight-seeing.   My Mom and Dad would be way out ahead of us during most rides.   We would trot to catch up....fall behind...trot to catch up.

Lady was accident prone, and just off the top of my head I can think of several incidents she was 'involved' in.  One time she cut her chest badly (we think on the water tank) which took forever to heal.  Another day I came home and found her nose swollen and a huge gash between her nostrils.  It took me months to figure that one out---finding a huge hornets nest hanging low in the paddock I presume she was stung and yanked her face away only to hit her nose on a fence post.  That one took awhile too.  Then there was the time we both got into a yellow jackets nest while riding.  I did manage to get off and nearly got her led out, but they overcame us and she broke loose, bucking up the road.  She only ran to my Dad and his horse,  but we almost had a mass stampede as the yellow jackets followed  her.  On another ride I mistakenly let her step lively across the highway going down a hill and her feet came right out from under her.  We both had some skinned places but not as bad as it could have been.  I always wondered what happened to her poor neck where she carried a huge scar under her mane.  At some point she had been severely injured.

She bucked me off once.  Totally unexpected and out of character, but we had lagged behind the other two, and we were almost home.  One minute we are jogging along to catch up and the next I'm on the ground watching my gentle mare bucking off around the corner.  She was a little too gleeful looking about that, but once she caught up with the other horses she was happy.  I'll never forget the look she gave me when I came walking around the corner.  She actually turned her head back over her should to watch me walk in--- "Oh, there you are!  I wonder where you had got to".  

Lady blossomed and became a beautiful horse--she still had big clumsy feet, but had the most beautiful expressive face and eyes and her color was a rich deep sorrel.  We learned allot together.  For most of her life she lived with my Dad and Mom's horses (Comanche, my Mom's palomino gelding was added after I got Lady--it wasn't any fun to leave Mom home when we went riding!!  Sometime I'll write Comanche's story...).

We rode regularly for four or five years, but the roads became busier and we had less and less safe places to ride.  Some days it wasn't even fun to ride with the cars and motorcycles and all manner of rude drivers.  So gradually we rode less and eventually the horses became lazy pasture ornaments.  I would take Lady out and ride her on occasion and it didn't matter if it had been a year or a week she never offered any sass.  She was still 'dead broke'.  The last time I rode her was just a gentle bareback stroll around the place a few months before she started to go blind.  

When I moved out I moved Lady away from her pasture mates.  I regret that now, but at the time I didn't have a hope of ever riding her, without her being separated from the boys because they were all very herd bound.   A single strand of electric wire (rarely even hooked to a charger) kept her in.  I had Lady for 23 years before I made the very, very hard decision to put her down.

Lady outlived the two boys by a few years, but her last year was a difficult one.  I believe (now) that she most likely had Cushings.  At the time there was no internet access for easy 'diagnoses' and both vets that I consulted never mentioned this.  About two years before she died her coat became long and shaggy and I had to scissors most of it off because she wouldn't shed out.  Sometime after Christmas she started shying at things that would normally not even raise an eyebrow.  Then one day the pieces fell into place and it dawned on me she was going blind. I was heart sick.  I spent an entire day picking up rocks and other obstacles in her paddock and stringing yellow plastic rope to guide her on a path to the barn--for a while she could see enough to use this rope as a guide.

She did pretty good for awhile, but by summer she had developed a constant drainage from her nostrils.  Antibiotics and other drugs didn't cure it.  One vet said she 'probably' had tumors which had caused the eyesight loss and the constant drainage. She began walking in small circles in the pasture.  It was distressing to see her like this.   One day leading her out to pasture, her steps were heavy and her beautiful eyes were dull and I knew it was time.  She was 27 years old when I had her put down and we had spent 23 years together--good friends to the end.   

Lady was the horse I dreamed all my childhood of.  She was a one in million--maybe not the 'perfect horse' in conformation or talent, but the 'perfect horse' in gentle spirit.   I was lucky to get her and I think she was probably thinking she won the lottery to land in a 'soft' home where she only had to go out on leisurely rides a few times a week, and spend the rest of the time hanging out and eating.

It was a perfect match---a quiet sensible horse for a quiet and less than confident rider.  We had a good ride of it, we did.  I will always remember you Lady Bug.


Tayet said...

Aww, that is such a great story! I'm so happy you shared it. It must have been so hard to put her down, but you got a lot of good time together.

Teresa Coltrin said...

You've made me cry.

Michelle said...

There are no easy endings when we have to be involved. I know the next 20-something years with Lance will just fly by; I would be terrified if I lingered on that thought!

Phyllis Oller said...

What a beautiful story.You were such a great mom to her too,taping off the area so she could find her way when she became blind.I`m sure you taught each other alot of life`s lessons together,phyllis

Kathy said...

What a beautiful story to honor such a beautiful soul and spirit.
I'm sure she was just as proud of you, too, Tam.

I am so glad to hear of this wonderful creature who graced your life.

Vicki Lane said...

Aww -- but you had each other for a good long time.

Sue said...

I'm so glad you found each other.

Tina T-P said...

just checking in - were you carried away by a tornado? T.