Posted tagged ‘appaloosa’


February 15, 2011

Spring is too far away from February, but the moon was clear and near the tip of the sky.  Jigs and I gave it a try tonight- it will probably take an hour for my fingers to defrost.

We rode over a snow ring, covered with recycled manure to keep the footing firm. Jigs was into it, easily up shifting into a light trot then downshifting to a walk with just a slight request, despite my dragging him away from his hay.

What gives?

He must be bored too.

This weather has made us all inmates. We are at the mercy of this terrible ice and snow. Cold and wind drives us inside. Movements have become limited to avoid slippage. We do what must be done and not much more.

Tonight was different. The sky was too expensive and the moon too bright to ignore.  This is when bareback is best. You feel the breath of your horse through your seat. You stay warm together. You actually manage to sit the trot.

It was cold tonight. But we got to ride.

Of Horses and Work

January 7, 2011

In between some work activities today, I changed my desk top photo to a new one of Jigs and me riding in the snow. I like to keep a visible reminder of why doing a good job and just working in general, is important. (And yes, there are also photos of my grand kids all over my office).

As I was looking at for the download in the picture folder of my work computer, I realized there was a record of my re-involvement with horses.  Back 7 years ago, there were downloaded photos of mustangs and horse art that at one time were my desktop background. Just looking at horses made me smile and broke up the day.

Jump head a few years and there is the photo of Pepperoni, at Bobby’s Ranch, the day I decided to purchase him. His red-rimmed eyes look out to future blindness. I recall obsessing over his eyes and nearly backed out of the purchase.

There are more photos of Pepperoni, aka, Pepper- the first bath I gave him, my first try at lounging him. There’s even one with me and my 3 year old grandson on his back. He hated kids and could not be trusted around them, but looking at the photo, you’d never know that.

Then there is the photo of Jigsy the day I brought him to Bear Foot. He’s standing in the ring looking big and shaggy, and a lot more muscular than Pepper.

There are many photos of Jigs from the past two year. My grand kids are in many of them. Unlike Pepper, Jigs is fascinated by kids. He is especially interested in babies and toddlers and is careful around them. A friend’s little one once poked him in the eye and he just stood there calmly, not reacting ears forward the whole time.

It’s been a wonderful journey despite the tears over the loss of Pepper. I’ve learned so much and gained confidence along the way.

I think it has made me a better Manager as well. You have to be calm and authentic around horses; that translates well to the workplace. And sometimes you have to figure things out from the horse’s point of view to move forward. That’s a useful Manager’s Tool too.

So the few moments I spend updating my desktops photo are not wasted. The photos remind me of things I must consider  in my daily interactions.

And they make me smile.


November 14, 2010

Nov is a strange month. When I think of past Novembers, I recall faded, yellow grass  bending in the wind against a gray sky. But yesterday was warm, sunny and glorious. It was the kind of day you expect in September, not November.

Jigs needs a bath. He’s filthy. But I refused to give up one hour of our time to do it. We spent the afternoon riding over the land trust from Hassanamesit Woods around the circuit returning back around Silver Lake.  He’s still recovering from a torn muscle, so we took it slow.  I figured we’d be back in time to get a quick wash done.

As we came back onto the barn owner’s property, I told him he could choose his way home. We’d been gone longer than I had planned and I expected he would choose the shortest route. He didn’t. He decided to cut though the hay fields rather than taking the shortcut to Brown’s Road.  It surprised me.

Okay, maybe his mind was on the last few bits of green grass in the open fields. But, he clearly wanted to lope up the hill. Getting back wasn’t his primary object, as it usually is. We took it slow and he was enjoying the warm sun on the fading fields as much as I was.

Mark Rashid writes about considering what the horse wants. What is really great is when you find a moment in time or in space where you and your horse want the same things.

So this last warm day of the year, we skipped the sensible bath and spent  a few extra hours on the trails soaking up the last bit of warmth the year has to offer.

Horse Color

October 1, 2010

My first real horse, Freedom, was a registered appaloosa. He was a yearling when I got him at 15. While I would never recommend a young horse for a relatively inexperienced young rider, he turned out to be a great horse for me.

He wasn’t the horse we had gone to see when we found him. I had my heart set on a quarter horse that was advertised in the paper. When I got there, the bay quarter horse had a cough. Even if he hadn’t though, I had eyes only for the black appaloosa with the snowflake blanket was in the pen across from him.  I ended up with the appy.

The appy came with papers and a large cut on his nose from a bolt in the stock trailer he arrived east in from Montana. He was sold to us as a gelding but 6 months latter his testicles dropped and we realized we had a stallion. Easily corrected but it was an embarrassing mistake for a first time owner.

For the next few years, Freedom and I did everything together. The first year consisted of long walks along the road and trails. He followed me around the yard always curious what I was doing.

After he came back from the trainers, we traveled the same roads and trails.  I’ve never been a great athlete, but we had fun. We tried and competed in all the local shows, never getting a ribbon. My 4 H club leader felt bad for us and made up good sports awards every year so I didn’t feel left out.

But when it came time for college, my family insisted I sell him. This is my one, true regret in life. I still shed tears over it. I lost my best friend.

I tried to keep tabs on him, but his new owner ended up selling him at auction, even though verbally she had committed to give me first refusal rights. I tried to find him but never could. To this day, the ApHC lists me as his owner.

So 30 some odd years later, I bought another appaloosa- Pepper- a beautiful sorrel who reminded me of Freedom.  It didn’t turn out quite as well, but I learned much from him, and I like to think he found some peace with me. He never had papers but he was so well put together, I know they must have been lost as he made his way through the auction circuit.

After Pepper passed, I had all intentions of finding a nice little registered gelding- probably a quarter horse because I wanted something sane and well trained- not as old and full of baggage as Pepper, but not as young as Freedom

I’ve never been a big fan of sorrels or chestnuts, but when a fellow boarder suggested I check out a quarter pony that was for sale one town over, I did not want to hurt her feeling. I had no intention of buying him. I wanted a larger horse with papers, if possible and a different color. He was also $500 more than I had to spend. This was about 6 months before the recession, but he was still expensive for a green-broke, unpapered quarter pony.

As I pulled behind the barn where he was stabled, I was running a script through my mind-  ‘nice horse, but not what I’m looking for. “

The first thing I saw was a  shaggy red horse tied to the fence.

He was definitely a sorrel, but plain is does not describe Jigs. He’s not flashy, but from a distance I could see  humor in his eyes. He had a jagged lightning bolts that ran 3/4 down his nose and his face was roaning. He was too big to be registered as a quarter pony.  His body and legs were compact like a pony, but the muscles in his rump were defined under his shaggy coat, definitely some foundation quarter horse in his blood. He was he’s a muscular as any quarter horse I’ve ever seen.

He greeted me with outstretched nose. I ignored him, as coached by my trainer, and my lack of response caused him to set his nosed deeper into my winter jacket.

“This is Jigsy,” a voice said from behind a horse trailer. “His name was Chase when we got him, but the family who owns him thought he was more a Jigsy. It fits. “

“He’s been here a few years, since he was three and he’s not finished. His owner is going through a divorce and he hasn’t been worked much. Here, why don’t you walk him?”

She handed me the lead. I tried backing him up with the rope and my body. He stood still.

“Oh, we don’t do that natural horsemanship here. We’re a traditional barn. I’m sure he’ll pick it up though.”

I walked him a bit and then rode him. The phrase ‘just a sorrel’ rang in my head. He was so in my pocket. Not really pushy, but interested in me and what I was doing. I really liked him.

“Why don’t you take him on trail for a month? If you don’t like him, you can return him.”

So I did.

Over the next few weeks he learned about personal space, standing still, and listening. I learned that he wasn’t going bite me if I got too close, the way Pepper did.

He seemed to enjoy attention and being brushed. Pepper hated it. Jigs approached new tasks curiously and his enthusiasm was infectious.  He actually greeted me with a whinny when he saw me coming and was glad to see me. He only nipped at me once and that was in play. My reaction showed him it wasn’t acceptable and he didn’t do it again.

By week four I realized that his plain color wasn’t important. Later that year I discovered he turns a spectacular metallic copper in the Summer  and literally glows. But by then, it didn’t matter.

And did I need papers? We were just going to trail ride, maybe collect miles or do the occasional hunter pace. No, I didn’t’ need them.

Jigs  was what I needed. Over the past few years he and I have become partners.  If someone offered me the finest, blackest , papered horse of any breed, I wouldn’t trade Jigs for it. To me he is priceless – the most beautiful little unpapered gelding in the world. Color really means nothing.

There is a larger lesson there too…….

I Found What I Wasn’t Looking For

September 25, 2010

Jig and I often ride out alone. Sometimes I think I know where we are going but then we end up somewhere completely different, like the time I headed out intending to do the Silver Lake Trail to the power lines and then go back the Hassanamesit Trail.  But when we got to the power lines on a whim I went up toward the north instead of south.  We’d never attempted that before.

That part of the power line trail is rocky and steep, but we found a side pass that avoids the worst of the rocks. When we came to the top, there was a wide path to the trees on the left. We headed that way.

It was cool under the pines and oaks. The path was soft and wide enough to canter without worrying about tree roots or mud.  We stayed straight through for a few miles coming to a large field that had just been hayed. The trail circled the field and passed through the edge of the local show barn, finally coming out behind a Christmas Tree farm. It was a glorious ride with stretches of leisurely loping.

Of course we got back later than expected. 3 ½ hours and folks had started to wonder where we were, but what a time we had.

We’ve gone back to those trails several times since.  They are a great place to hide from the world; a place to let loose and go.

If I’d not strayed from my original plan that day, we’d never have found those trails. Yet I know it is not always a good idea to deviate from ‘the plan’.  Alone on horseback it can be dangerous. (I always carry my cell phone on my person not in the saddle bag). But for me and Jigs, it was worth the risk.

It’s gotten me to thinking about how many things we miss by sticking to the plan and doing safe, sensible things. In a way it is about routine versus risk.

Most of my life I’ve followed the well worn path, the known, safe trail. I’ve done what everyone expected, graduated college, worked in an office, raised my girls, and gave up the childhood fantasies of becoming a poet or owning a racehorse. I never allowed myself to consider doing anything else.  And now it occurs to me that I’ve probably missed some things along the way.

But over the past couple of years I’ve done a few not so so sensible things. I decided to buy a horse and ended up with a crazy Appy on a whim because he looked like my childhood horse, Freedom, knowing he had eye issues. I got back into horses at an age most folks are getting out of them. (I’m the oldest boarder at Bear Foot)

But I’m not sorry about any of it. Pepper taught me more than any other horse could. I’m grateful  for his lessons. I wouldn’t change our time together even knowing the outcome. I still talk to him sometimes.

And now I have Jigs. Or more likely, he has me. It’s not clear who belongs to whom. The truth is, we are partners in exploration. Together I hope we continue to break from routine; to take the left instead of the right;  to go north instead of south. Who knows what we will find when we do?

Remembering Who I Am

August 23, 2010

The least few years have been a mix of joy and wonder along with frustration, sorrow, and the continuing realization that I am mortal.

At 52, I know who I am. I know who I am not. I’ve given up the adolescent dream of being a poet, of writing a memoir, or leaving behind anything except the children I bore and their descendants. That is how it should be.

A few Saturdays ago I threw away years of journals kept during my years of being a single parent. They were stained with mold from water damage but could have been salvaged. They were full of solipsistic obsessions on myself and my ‘loneliness.’ And there were drafts of poems- I am sorry about loosing poems.

But I am not the woman on those pages. I wouldn’t recognize her if I met her on the street. She was a struggling single mom barely making enough money to raise two girls. She was selfish and cowardly, yet not afraid of doing what needed to be done. She indulged her children to the point of spoiling them.

We live our lives with what we are given and some of us make more than others of what we have. Some are never given enough of an opportunity to do much more than survive. I don’t think I believe that each human can be 100% actualized. I want to believe in equality but reality doesn’t match up. Equality is a nice dream.

Generosity and great heart does not always lead to happy endings. Life savings are lost. Those we love make mistakes. Our faces grow lined and etched with spots. We will all die one day.

I do believe in reincarnation and the idea that we keep returning until we learn what we need to know. I guess there is an equality in that but on the eternal scale.

The woman in the journal who was so enamored of her sorrow doesn’t exist any more. She grew out of it. She faces each day secure in the knowledge that what will be, will be. Some days we laugh; some days we cry; but everyday we learn and grow older.

She doesn’t keep a journal any more.

Pepper’s Journal

April 5, 2010

April 5, 2010

A year ago January, I made the decision to put down my Appaloosa, Pepper. He was only with me a short while (just under two years), but during that time, he taught me more about horses than any other horse I’d owned, ridden, or loved.

Then a few months ago, the training journal I’d kept was lost in a computer crash (stupid of me not to back it up). I’ve been thinking a lot about the event that lead up to keeping the journal and have decided to blog about Pepper, my new guy, Jigs, and our experiences.

Pepper was a tortured soul. He was in pain the whole time I owned him due to Uveitis. Like a high percentage of Appaloosas, he suffered from ERU. It’s a genetic fault, I believe, painful and not easy to treat. Most of the Appys who get it go blind.

He was also blind on the left side. The eye specialist at Tufts said his lens was sitting at the bottom of his eye. Most likely it was from a blow to the head. He had a deep muscle scar on his neck on the left side. Somewhere, somewhen,  someone abused him terribly.

Trust was an issue. Pepper did not like humans. He was withdrawn at best. And he had episodes of dangerous aggression. He attacked me, fellow boarders, without provocation, and from behind. He would be fine one moment and then lash out with no warning. I have a few scars. (And he liked me)

So I found a great trainer and we worked with him to gain trust. He did become a more respectful and I a better horse owner. He learned a few tricks and respect. For the most part, we had a good relationship.

Pepper was a WONDERFUL trail horse. Our last ride together was in the snow along the railroad tracks. We cantered and galloped for a few miles, both enjoying the rush of cold and the heat of sweat that morning.

But his demons got the better of him. Later that day he brutally attacked me, pinned me on the ground and held me down until one of the mares chased him off me. Three days latter, he savagely bit another boarder. It was then, I decided that he was no longer safe.

Responsible horse ownership.

So much is discussed(argued) about the unwanted horse problem. Slaughter houses in Canada and Mexico. Starvation and neglect. How many ads do you see trying to sell a horse “sadly outgrown?” How does one ‘outgrow’ a living being? Why is it okay to use up a horse and then pass it on?

I remember the day I got the call that Pepper attacked someone else. I was on my way to a meeting when I saw I had a voice mail. It was the barn manager telling me about the attack. I immediately called back. In my heart, I knew I had no choice. Putting him down was the kindest thing I could do for him. A gentle death. No more pain.

The next day I spoke with the vet. While she didn’t tell me what to do, she listened and was supportive. Later I found out she thought I’d made the right decision.

Pepper’s aggression surfaced the first day I got him. He had little patience with being lead and required a strong hand. That night, he bit the barn owner. I would have returned him but when I called the stable I got him from, they told me to hit him with a broom handle if he tried to bite again. I couldn’t send him back. It felt wrong.

So I hired a trainer to work with me and with him, but her techniques were more aggressive than I could be. Then I found Gwen. For a good part of a year, Pepper and I put a decent relationship together. We went on rides; taught each other tricks. We both had fun.

I moved him to a more relaxed barn where he could be outside all the time with a larger herd. He adjusted quickly and seemed content.

I hoped he would stay happy and comfortable but his eyesight got worse. He spooked easily and turned more aggressive. Even with me. It didn’t matter. His behavior was erratic. After attacking me and then another boarder, I  had to do the right thing for him.

I could have passed him on. I could have sent him to auction. But he was not going to get better. He was broken on the inside. One day, he would seriously hurt someone, or himself. I owed him for what he had given me. He taught me about respect. About setting boundaries.  About responsibility. The least I could do was give him peace.