This is Wednesday, and I usually do a Wordless Wednesday post. You ask, why not this week? Well, today is a special day. Three years ago on October 8th, I bought my first horse, so I’m doing a “birthday” post, even though Nick celebrates his birthday on the first of January like race horses do, because we don’t know his official birthay.
I just took this picture in April of this year to show what he looks like now, almost three years later. It’s amazing how dark his coat is now that he’s on better grass and gets all the minerals he can eat. He gets a little orange during the winter, but nowhere near as orange as when I bought him.
It all began years ago; I’ve always wanted a horse. I began saving my money and within about three or four years, through my weekly allowance, and later selling plant starts I had $2,000. I had to save at least that much before I could by a horse. After our thirty something year old Belgian draft horse died, I was even more horse crazy.
In the early summer and into fall of 2005, we started seriously looking. Everyday when the paper would come, I’d get out the ad section and pore over at the ads.
Finally, in the last or second to last week of September, I think, I saw a promising ad. It was twenty-one year old appaloosa gelding, quiet, good beginner. My mom called and the owner said that we had just missed it; the horse just got sold a few hours ago.
A few days later, I spotted another appaloosa gelding; this one was eighteen, dead broke, etc. Mom called, and the woman said that someone was there looking at him right now, and she’d call us back. She never called back, so we assumed that the horse got sold.
A couple weeks passed, and another ad came along. “Quarter horse $900.00. Dead broke, great for beginners and intermediate. Has done it all, 16 hands, twenty-one years young. Must sell due to divorce.”
Mom called immediately. After talking on the phone for a few minutes, it was settled, we would go look at him on Saturday, the eight. We also learned that he was a buckskin/dun. My mom and I were so excited, he sounded like a good horse and he just happened to be a buckskin too! We love buckskins.
The lady said she would meet us at her house. When we got there, there were no cars in the driveway. We waited ten or fifteen minutes before my mom got out and went and knocked on the door. One of six or seven kids answered the door. The kid said that his mom was at the boarding stable a few miles away, riding some of the kinks out of “Nick.” My mom used their phone because we didn’t have a cell phone at the time – still don’t – and Kathy, I think her name was, sent her soon to be ex husband down to show us how to get to the boarding stable. He pulled up in his navy blue one ton Dodge pickup with a KUPL sticker on the back window, and led the through a maze of complicated, and twisted roads.
After ten or so minutes of winding our way up the mountain, we arrived at the stable. The stable was cut out of the bank on the right side, with a plenty of stable, paddock, arena room. On the left side was a large barb wire fenced field with grass as short as a carpet and twenty five or thirty horses in it and a couple trees out in the middle. Those were horses that were boarded at the stable.
We parked on the side of the road at the bottom of the driveway, and piled out. The husband had already disappeared up the gravel drive.
After walking up the driveway, there was a barn to the right and an arena to the left. The husband was leaning against the railing and watching a pretty blonde woman ride a lathered up bay quarter horse.
“So, where is the horse?” My mom asked.
“Oh, that’s him right there.” The husband replied. What? We were expecting a buckskin, not a brown bay.
Kathy noticed us and rode Nick over and dismounted. On closer inspection, Nick was thin and carrot orange – he shouldn’t have been thin and his coat should have been brown, not orange, coming off summer grass, and there was bite marks on his neck and hind quarters.
After the introductions were made, we stood by the arena – Kathy and Nick inside, us and the husband leaning on the fence – and Mom started asking questions about him. Is he good with his feet/horse shoer, etc.
Meanwhile, Nick was all worked up about being away from his herd and was dancing around on the end of reins and tossing his head, and pawing the ground in impatience. He was severely herd-bound, and we would later learn that that was a hard habit to break. After about five or six minutes of this, Kathy turned around and viciously yanked the reins. My parents and I flinched, astounded. That was one way to make a hard-mouthed horse that wouldn’t respond to light pressure on the reins. I couldn’t imagine how much that must have hurt his bars. That wouldn’t have even crossed my mind to do that. First, I would have raised my voice a little and said in a stern voice, “Quit it!” If that didn’t work, I would whop him lightly on the nose with the reins and tell him to stop, but never jerk his mouth.
He stopped dancing and tossing his head, and quieted a little. They both kept reassuring us that Nick wasn’t usually like this. Which he isn’t, unless he’s excited, stirred up, or mad. But still, you can imagine what it would be like, seeing this horse for the first time and having the owners assure you that he’s not like that.
After much hemming and hawing, my parents decided to take him on a two week trial. The money was shelled out, and Kathy began unsaddling Nick. As we were walking down the driveway, it started to lightly rain.
At the trailer, Nick hesitated and didn’t want to step up in it (I don’t blame him, I mean who would want to go in a dark box?). Finally she got him in and left him loose with his bridle. Kathy was barely out of the trailer when Nick whipped around faster than greased lightning, and was now facing backwards. Kathy kind of stared at him for a moment and we decided to take him out and reload him, only this time tie him up.
Kathy was hesitant to take him out, likely afraid that he would get back in the trailer. Mom thought that she probably gotten in a wreck or something with him. She led him back in the trailer and started to tie him with his bridle. That was even more astounding to us than jerking the bit. If Nick lost his footing or slipped, he’d be using his tender mouth to hold him up.
Mom jumped in and said lets use a halter to tie him with, and the husband ran back and got his halter. It fit, but it was too small in the nose. Next, the clueless husband got in with Nick and tried to figure out how to a halter goes on a horse, until Dad showed him that the nose goes through the circle, and the strap behind the ears. The husband tied Nick to the “D” ring in front of the trailer and jumped out the side door.
The rest of Nick’s tack was back at Kathy’s house, so we piled into cab and wound our way back down the mountain. The rain started to fall a little harder.
On the long drive home, we stopped to gas up and eat an early dinner of junk food. Nick seemed to be doing good, just a little nervous and upset.
When we got home the rain hadn’t slackened off at, and it was starting to get dark. I readied one of the empty old draft horse tie stalls and made it as comfortable as I could for him. While Mom was backing him out of the trailer, Nick threw up his head and hit it on the roof. After that, we ushered him into his stall and tied him up.
A couple days later, we had Dianna, a friend and local horse expert, come look at him to see whether Nick was good buy or not. She said that he wasn’t full Quarter horse, but a Morgan – Quarter cross, which would account for some of his high strung behavior. She also said that the was a good horse, but sometime during his life, he had been beaten up by somebody, most likely a man, because he’s scared of/doesn’t like men. It’s funny how he avoids them. If he’s out in the pasture and he sees a man approaching, he pretends that see saw some better grass “over there” and just walks off like he meant to, and isn’t trying to get away from somebody. With women, he’s fine; he just keeps grazing, or will maybe come over and investigate. We also had some work ahead of us, but overall, he was good horse. We had our vet come out the next day and do a vet check. He was fine no heath problems, except that Nick was more about twenty-five, not twenty. When the vet tried to lift his tail, Nick clamped it down and raised his foot threateningly, but he didn’t kick. The only guy he’s comfortable with is his farrier. I was surprised, but glad, because it helps if your horse likes the farrier.
For the first week or so when he was turned out in his paddock by the barn, he’d run back and forth along the fence whinnying and looking to the southwest, where his herd mates were. On the south side, it’s healed up some, but you can still that trail that he wore. It’s so nice that he hardly paces anymore.
Nick was good for a couple days after that, then one night when it was time to put him in is stall at night, I couldn’t catch him. For the next hour, we tried to catch him, but failed. Finally, we gave up and said “Fine, you can just spend the night outside!” Well, that was exactly what he wanted. We figured out that the tie stall was uncomfortable for him, so we took a couple panels and built him a stall in the cow shed, on the other side of the barn.
Dianna showed me how to run him in a circle when he didn’t want to be caught and that way I wouldn’t letting him win and learn that if he avoided me long enough, I would give up. It worked. He hardly does it anymore, maybe twice a year.
Mom tried to call Kathy a couple of times with a question about Nick, but she wouldn’t answer the phone or her messages. I guess she thought if we didn’t hear back, we’d just keep the horse. By the end of the two weeks, we decided to keep him
The western saddle that came with him was several sizes too small, so we hunted around and Dianna brought over an old western saddle that had been in her tack room for a while, that she thought might fit him. It actually did.
I started taking riding lessons from her. When the weather was dry, I rode Nick and learned on him, and when it was rainy, I rode her school horse, Ally, at her stable. With Nick, it was a lot of un-training, and going back to square one and starting over with him.
For a while, he was real sensitive to legs brushing his barrel and he’d speed up if your leg so much as touched a hair on his barrel, if you were riding him. It took a few months and a lot of bareback riding to break him of that. Ally, the school horse, when he gets tired, you really have to keep on him to keep up the trot; give him a firm bop, but if I did that to Nick, he’d either break into a gallop, or be in the next county. Two completely different horses.
Nick is a get on and hurry off, or go for trail ride kind of horse. He hates being ridden in a circle, or a square, he would rather amble along in a straight line than be ridden in a circle.
If you’re doing a circle or something like that, he tenses up and goes into almost bone jarring half trot that is hard to ride. Similar to how dressage horses trot in place, that’s what Nick does, when he could just walk and use less energy, since I most likely being that exercise at a walk, not a trot. As soon as you get away from the circle, and start “ambling,” he settles right down and relaxes his neck. He’s almost like two different horses in the same body.
Then Nick stopped standing still while I mounted, and tried to walk away just as soon as I set him up. He’d wait until I was just about to put my foot in the stirrup, and he’d then move. So, back to square one. With coaching from Dianna, I’d get him out and brush him, but not tack him up. The next time I’d put his tack on, then take it back off and put back out in the pasture. Then set up where I mount, and just stand there scratching his neck and talking to him, then put one foot in the stirrup for a few seconds, then take it back out and go back to standing. If he moves, just put him back in position and go from there. Each day, trying to lengthen the time with my foot in the stirrup. Then maybe get on and sit for a few seconds, then get off, and put him away so that he wouldn’t anticipate that every time I tack him up, I’m going to get on and ride.
Most of the time, he’d puff up so I couldn’t tighten the girth all the way.
Another tip from Dianna: outsmart him; he can only hold his breath so long, so just check the stirrups, adjust the throatlatch, scratch his neck, and when he lets out his breath, tighten the girth up. So with all these tips, he’s turning out to be a pretty good horse.
This year I noticed he calmed down more. When the cows are out of sight, he doesn’t get upset like he used to, he just continues to graze.
So ends the story of how I got my first horse. No, he’s not the ideal perfect first horse; calm and quiet, despite his quirks, he’s pretty bomb proof and doesn’t shy at a lot of things
but he is still a horse and I love him.