Horsing Around

This past weekend was an eventful one out at the ranch. My daughter and I headed out there Friday night so she and I could get up early and go riding with a friend before it got too hot on Saturday morning. I wanted Jordan to try out the mare my friend has because if J likes her we are going to bring her to the ranch and she will be J’s horse for all intents and purposes.

Now I rode this horse a couple of weeks ago myself, and let me tell you it was one of the best riding experiences I have had in a long time! My friend’s wife died about a year and a half ago after a long battle with cancer, and basically this mare has stood in the pasture ever since. I told my friend that I would love to ride her and he eagerly took me up on my offer and we made a date.

Considering this mare hadn’t been ridden in a long time I wasn’t sure what to expect. We brushed and saddled the horses and after a short foray into his flooded arena/round pen I told him I wanted to just ride down the road. He seemed surprised but agreed and off we went. I’ve ridden long enough to know if a horse is going to be a problem, and this horse was so laid-back I had no worries at all about taking her out.

When I say this horse seemed bomb-proof, I’m not exaggerating. She walked down the road just completely relaxed. Cars and trucks whizzed by us and she didn’t even blink. I was thrilled–I felt I had finally found the perfect horse for my daughter! I couldn’t wait for Jordan to try her out for herself!

So Saturday we finally drug ourselves out of bed, had a little breakfast and some coffee, grabbed her saddle and headed out. On the way out the gate I realized I forgot my horse cookies, so I went back to the barn. That was when I noticed my girlfriend’s colt laying up against the fence in his paddock with a foot stuck in the rails. I hopped out of the truck and walked over to him, speaking softly so he didn’t panic. I pushed his hoof back through but he didn’t try to get up. I figured he just didn’t realize he was free, so I went into his paddock and slapped him on the butt a couple of times with the lead rope until he got up. He followed me into his stall, and as I walked away I heard him lay down. IN his stall.

This was odd. I went back and opened the door and he was laying up against it, so I slapped him again to get him on his feet.  I put his halter on and tried to get him to lead. He started knuckling over and I realized he was colicking. Crap! I sent Jordan up to the house at a run to tell my friend and started walking him.

Colic in horses is deadly. The pain causes them to roll and thrash on the ground, which in turn can twist the gut. If it isn’t repaired surgically the horse will die. Or they can get an impaction, where the intestine is completely blocked, and it may take several doses of mineral oil through a tube run through his nose into his stomach to clear it. Any way you looked it was not a good situation.

I told my daughter to head over to my friend’s without me. I was going to be busy walking the colt until the vet showed up and I didn’t see any reason she should forego a fun day of riding just because I was busy. I felt a slight qualm at sending her over there by herself, but I quickly shook it off. After all, I had ridden the mare and she was dog gentle. What could possibly go wrong?

The vet arrived and treated the colt and I forgot all about my daughter until I received a text from her. “Do I have a story for you” was all it said, and all my misgivings came rushing back. I don’t know how things work in your family, but in my family a “story” usually means something went horribly wrong. I couldn’t wait for her to get back to the ranch to find out what had happened so I called her, after frantically texting her back “Are you all right?”  and not getting an answer. She answered on the second ring and started to laugh. And told me her story.

Apparently this horse has a bit of the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome. She was absolutely sweet and gentle with me, but when my daughter tried to ride her she turned into a spinning, snorting, wild-eyed monster! My friend’s gelding has been behaving pretty badly the last couple of times he tried riding him, and he immediately began acting up as soon as they left his property. My friend finally decided that maybe he just needed a good gallop, so he took off down a dirt road, leaving my daughter on his mare by herself.

This did not go over well with the mare, who proceeded to spin, buck, rear, and bolt, while all the time trying to scrape my daughter off on the almond trees in the orchard. She finally slammed her leg into a post that was made of three railroad ties held together with barbed wire, ripping Jordan’s pants and scraping up her favorite boots.

Mind you, Jordan is not a terribly experienced rider, and is fairly timid when it comes to riding. She’s been riding since she was four years old, but that was on a Shetland pony and consisted of being led for several years in gymkhana events. The past year or so she’s been  riding her friend’s mom’s old Arabian gelding, but usually doesn’t do much more than walk or trot. So when she told me everything this mare had put her through, I was shocked! But the biggest shock came when she said “You know, Mom, I really liked her–she’s a sweetheart when you are on the ground with her!” and she wasn’t afraid to ride her again! She admitted she made some mistakes in how she handled the horse, and had debated whether she should stay on or bail. (By the way you never bail, unless they are going down or going over! )

I was very proud of my girl. She stayed on even though she was scared and unsure of herself. She kept her head and her seat and rode that horse! We have decided that the mare is very herd-bound and barn sour so she will be coming to stay at our ranch in a paddock by herself so she can be worked with and weaned off her need to be with others of her kind at all times. I’m convinced she and my daughter will have a long and happy relationship and I am very happy!

The colt ended up spending three days at the vet’s getting tubed periodically to help push the impaction through. He is back home now, eating some grass a few times a day and doing very well. The weekend could have been a disaster, but instead it turned out rather well. My daughter gained a lot of confidence in her ability to handle a horse and my friend’s colt, the last of the line of horses her dad bred for 50 years, pulled through and should make a full recovery. All’s well that end’s well my dad use to say, and I have to agree with him. But I don’t think I want to put that old saying to the test again any time soon!