Sunday, March 27, 2011

Three Is a Crowd

The first week Poco was home brought many days with nasty weather.  We had winds over 50 mph along with heavy rains.  The Belgians headed to their loafing shed to get out of the weather.  But where was Poco?  Way out in the pasture, standing there looking confused because he could no longer see his next door neighbors.

I noticed the hay I'd left in his loafing shed was barely eaten during the day and not touched at all overnight.  I also noted his water trough level didn't move.  I'd like to think the water level didn't move due to the heavy rains and that Poco was drinking out of the puddles in the pasture, but not knowing if he was getting enough water concerned me.

During the daylight when the Belgians were visible, Poco did pretty well.  He'd go into his loafing shed and grab bites of hay and then return to stand happily out in the pasture within sight of his new neighbors.  But when the Belgians were not visible Poco wouldn't get out of the weather.  There he would stand, back to the wind and rain, head down, getting soaked to the skin and looking miserable. 

I became so worried about Poco that many times I stood in his loafing shed trying to coax him in.  When I could get him to come to me I'd take him inside to a stall filled with fresh shavings.  He'd arrive to his Senior Feed, hay and water.  He could see the Belgians in their loafing shed from his stall so he'd happily settle down to eat and drink.

But keeping Poco in a stall full time was not an option I wanted for him.  Being a firm believer that having horses outside is better for them and with pastures and loafing sheds, I really want my horses outside as much as possible.  I decided it was time to give Poco a buddy to see if it would address my concerns and make Poco the happy horse I want him to be.

I brought Sunny, our older Belgian into the pasture with Poco.  They had shared a pasture for a short time last summer.  Sunny is a kind old soul and so I figured the introduction would be as uneventful as it was.

But now I had to contend with Gus, our younger Belgian, who voiced how unhappy he was with my decision to leave him alone.  Now it was Gus who stood outside trying to catch a glimpse of his buddy, who had abandoned him.

After a few days of this I decided it was time to put everybody together.  I opened up our spacious front pasture and let the three horses out together. 

Herd rules are interesting to watch.  I was happy to see there was no drama.  Gus was happy to see Sunny, Sunny was happy to see Gus and Poco was happy to have company.

Gus immediately took the lead position; Sunny took second in command and Poco third.  Poco didn't seem to care about who was in which position.  He just wanted to happily graze where he could sense another horse nearby.  Since then life on the ranch has settled down.

Three might be a crowd but it's achievable.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

False Start

I've been down the trail of looking for a new horse before.  I've been down it enough to know that my passion for what I'm seeing blinds my common sense.

Thank heavens for my good friend and Trainer, Rachel Koehler.  She spent most of the last week with me while I looked at one horse multiple times and online at many others.  In seven days I've spun like a wind chime on a windy day as far as what I saw and what I wanted.

My first jump into the water of horse shopping started when I joined Rachel and her friend, Kori, who is looking to replace the horse she just retired.

We met to look at some horses at a barn near our homes.  Upon the horses we looked at were some Mares that Kori was interested in.  I prefer Geldings, especially with a breeding farm next door and Stallions on my fence line.  The eight year old Appaloosa, Mick, pictured above, was a horse that caught my eye.

As soon as I saw Mick I got a huge lump in my throat.  For the first time since I lost him, I had encountered a horse that brought Champ back to me.  It was the inquisitive look in his eyes and the freshness in him during ground work.  It was confirmed even further when Rachel rode him and I saw the shimmer of that slow, western jog.  Champ's trademark.

Here was a horse that wasn't finished but had the potential to be a horse I could take sorting on Friday, to a Schooling Show on Saturday and out on a trail ride on Sunday.  That was the kind of horse I was looking for. 

When Rachel finished riding him, I told her that I thought this might be the horse for me (see what I mean about passion of the moment)?   Thank heavens that Rachel has my number big time.  She told me that we needed to come back and ride a few more times.  I wasn't to worry, there was nobody else currently looking at Mick.

Rachel, Kori and I returned mid-week to ride the horses we were interested in.  Rachel put Mick through his paces on the ground and then she rode him first while I watched. 

When I climbed up on Mick he stood quietly.  They say he has a quiet mind and I felt that.  I rode in a snaffle with long parachute reins and I had some challenges keeping the reins even. 

Rachel tells me that I have unusually soft hands.  I found that soft hands didn't work so well on Mick as I headed into the trot and lost my seat.  He was speeding up, almost loping and I wasn't ready for that.  I found I needed to be in total connection with him and I struggled with that, feeling like I was pulling on his mouth.

I finished my ride but found I was unsettled by his rough trot and the feeling of losing control as we moved forward.  I found it ironic that two years ago I didn't know the difference if a horse moved off my leg or not.  Today I seek reassurance that I'm in control and the horse moves off as I direct him to versus shooting forward like a bullet.

I left my ride contemplating this experience and feeling a bit deflated and frankly a bit embarrassed that I flopped around the saddle like a fish out of water. 

During the next two days I ran my ride over in my mind many times.  Rachel suggested I get on Dream Horse and see what was up there.  It didn't take me long to find a long list of horses that met what I was looking for (sorting, showing, trail rides) and that were a bit more "refined" than Mick.  But their costs were higher then I was prepared to pay and Mick was a horse I could buy now.  I could hear the words like a low level commercial, "Hurry!  Don't Wait!  Buy Now!"  Ugh.

After a few sleepless nights I realized that Mick does have a lot of possibilities but he isn't "there" yet.  Sure I could buy him "Today!" but I'd spend the next "Tomorrow's" with him in training to bring him to where I want him to be. 

Those "Tomorrow's" would take time and cost me more than saving up additional funds to buy a horse that I could bring home and immediately take out on a trail ride on Friday, to a Show on Saturday and Sorting on Sunday.

I called Rachel and told her my decision.  She was very supportive and agreed with me.  But I still had this tiny voice in my head that...maybe...just maybe...Mick might be "the one".

I returned back to the barn over the weekend to meet Rachel and drop off some tack.  She had brought a client with her.  They were there to look at Mick.

It was a real shock to go to Mick's stall and find he now recognized me.  He nuzzled me and I knew he'd remembered me from the past week.  Mick was brought out and saddled up for the new client to ride.  I wanted to say, "Heh, hold on!  He knows me!  I've changed my mind!"  But I'd already declined Mick and he was open game.

I stood silently watching as he was ridden.  It hurt to watch and it was no surprise that they liked him although part of me had hoped they wouldn't.  When they finished riding and started talking "business", I knew it was time to leave.  I discretely bid my farewells and with a lump in my throat I headed out the door.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

First Ride at Home

As the day came closer to leaving the barn I'd boarded at for over four years, I'd began to look forward to having Poco home with us.  By the time last Saturday arrived I'd probably mentioned 100+ times how much I couldn't wait for the day to come where all of our horses would be living at home with us.

Last Saturday dawned sunny and clear, something we hadn't seen for a long time.  It was the dawning of the special day, the day to bring Poco home.  Mr. 50+ came with me to pick up Poco, who seemed as anxious to come home as we were to have him here.  He all but jumped into the horse trailer.

On Night #1, I put Poco in a stall, letting him get accumulated to his new world.  Sunday morning I slipped off his blanket and let him go out in his new pasture.  He ran and jumped like a baby, obviously happy to have the space and freedom to run.  It was a joy to watch.

Sunday afternoon I slipped Poco's halter on and took him with me on my daily walk.  I've been pretty good on keeping up on my walks.  I find myself enjoying them with so much to see along the way.

Poco wasn't too keen when we passed the neighbor's buffalo, who sauntered up to the fence out of curiosity.  However, since I do four laps on my walk (from my house to the end of my road and back); by the time we were on lap #3 Poco decided that they weren't such a big deal after all. 

I knew all would be ok when he exhaled his signature sigh that all is well (I love it when he does that).  After our walk I gave him the rest of the day to continue to get accustomed to his new sites and sounds.

Yesterday morning was "first ride day" and I couldn't wait!  I was up early to face cloudy skies and a forecast of rain for the rest of this week.  I'm pleased to find that when Poco spots me coming to the barn he comes across the pasture to greet me.  Sure makes it easy to catch!

I saddled Poco up and snapped the above picture with my cell phone.  I was so amped to ride that I didn't want to waste any time by going back inside to get my camera.

I started out by taking Poco on my daily walk once more.  The buffalo still initially concerned him, but not for very long.  The Stallion and Mares that live next door charged their fence but didn't concern Poco one bit. 

The neighbor's little dog came thru the bottom of their fence and barked and tried to hassel my dog, Hank, who also accompanies me on my walks.  None of this bothered Poco (nor Hank) one bit and soon the aggressive dog decided it really wasn't worth her trouble and left us alone.

My ride was just as I hoped it would be.  I've never ridden and had my dog with me.  I was worried Hank would get excited and bark at us.  But Hank didn't even blink his brown Lab eyes when I hopped on.  It appears Poco has been around dogs in his past life and I can tell he actually likes Hank's presence, so off we went down the same route we'd just walked. 

Oh the joy!  The fresh air in my face, my dog at my side, my horse happy as could be, the freedom of riding outside, it was pure bliss.

My first ride on Poco at home is now behind me.  I look forward to many more rides and know now that I was so very right to decide to leave the barn and bring Poco home where he is free to be a horse and be loved on by this family.