We are wrapping up an exciting and crazy week!
My rare time on the farm has kept me sane this week, among all the craziness that comes the week before a DIY, socially distanced wedding. Don’t get excited, I’m a bridesmaid, trust me, you’d have a lot more details if I were getting married, but for now, there’s no danger of that.
It’s been so warm and beautiful these last few days, I’ve been able to spend some time outside with the girls, riding and working. I think it might be time for formal introductions.
Oreo is my 7-year-old paint mare, she came to us on October 8th, 2020 after I fell head over heels in love answering a craigslist ad. Funnily enough, she had already been promised to someone else, who backed out due to her medical condition in her front legs. I’m retired from showing and rodeo, so the fact that Ro needed a slower pace of life and a little extra care on her legs didn’t bother me at all. I’m hoping with proper management her legs won’t bother her much at all for many years. She was also born blind in one eye, which doesn’t slow her down at all, but it does mean she has the sassiest little head tilt. We are learning how to be retired from competition together… it’s a little hard sometimes.
Ro is a very patient little mare most of the time, unless you’re holding up dinner, which means she puts up with my hugs after a bad day, my I’m-too-exhausted-to-ride-so-lets-just-goof-off days, and she is always willing to give kisses. I love her to the moon and back.
This little girl has put up with my nervous rider habits coming back in force after realizing I was in this on my own, has put up with the litany of goofy mistakes I’ve made as I get back to full time riding (college has a bad habit of killing hobbies). Ro has made me a bolder rider, and a more confident horsewoman, because she makes no bones about telling me when I’ve done something wrong or right. I was a little worried, Ro-Ro can be a lot of horse, but I love the team we make, and sometimes it’s all I can do to actually go to work and not hide out in the pasture all day. Her affections can be bought with peppermint cookies and applesauce.
My absolute favorite thing about Ro though is her giant emotions. She wears them all on her face and in her body language. I never have to guess what Ro is feeling or thinking, most of the time it’s happy, bossy, or annoyed… a typical mare. Just yesterday she jammed her leg while having a goof, which ended our fun a little early (she’s fine, just limped a bit, I just don’t push things health-wise when I don’t have to). She was so disappointed the fun was over, and she kept trying to get my attention to check in, “You aren’t sad, are you, Mom?”, with little nibbles and earnest eyes. Lots of cookies and nose pats solved the moping issue, but it simultaneously warmed and broke my heart how much she cared that our “work time” ended early. Such a special little mare, I’m lucky she’s my girl.
Then there is Anela, my 12ish year old mystery mare, who has many names of endearment. Most commonly we call her Nellie, but she’s also referred to as Nels, Nellie Belle, Nella Bella, and Miss Belle. Aaaand if were being entirely honest she gets the lion’s share of “sweetheart”s, “baby-girl”s, and “little one”s. See, Nellie is our resident rescue, and she came to us about two weeks before Ro. She was an accident, and I joke, my craziest impulse buy ever. Here’s how it went down.
I was trying to look up Ro’s Craigslist ad again, by searching “black and white mare”, and Nellie’s picture came up. The ad said she was permanently lame and looking to be someone’s pasture mate. I knew I wanted two horses, as horses are herd animals and I find it cruel to keep them solitary, but the plan had been two riding horses, since i have some little cousins who might grow up to be cowboys and cowgirls (cowfolk? I dunno). So why I responded to the ad is beyond me. But that night I scheduled a midweek visit to the rescue.
I brought a giant bag of treats to donate and walked out into the rescues herd to meet Nellie. I was warned she was shy of everyone, especially males, so I brought my dad along (I wanted to make sure this shyness was something I could feasibly handle). She cuddled right up to me, actually took some cookies from my dad, and the rescue coordinator asked when she could drop her at my place.
I told the coordinator I wanted to think about it, that I didn’t have the adoption fee on me, and I’d call her when I knew. Smash cut to the next day, I get a call from home, while I was at work, asking why there was a horse trailer parked outside my barn. Ten minutes later I was squealing to a stop in my front drive and running down to see what on earth was going on.
Turns out the coordinator had decided Nellie and I were soulmates, and I am to-date the only person the rescue accepted a check from, because I’m not in the habit of carrying adoption fee amounts of cash. Nellie and I spent most of the next few days together, and got pretty close, but she was terrified of everything and cried anytime the train whistle blew from across the valley. Shed hide from my dad and brother. She almost killed the vet. I think the vet held similar feelings in return. I questioned my sanity taking on an abused horse.
See, Nellie had good reason to fear men. Some terribly mean men had decided that she was too feisty and needed to be “cowboy’d” before she could be ridden. They tied her head to a fence and left her for hours, they incorrectly hobbled her and managed to permanently damage her leg, bone and tendon, and when they realized the damage meant she would never be a saddle horse, they abandoned her.
A couple people had tried to rescue her, but she’s a lot of horse, so her placements hadn’t lasted, and she had no reason to trust I would keep her. Were about 2.5 years in and she just now is coming to terms with the fact that she’s found her forever home.
But it has a happy happy ending, this crazy tale.
This girl has grown so much. Today she shouted her good morning at my dad when he threw breakfast and gave him kisses. She came running in to the arena when it was time for exercise and tried to bully me for cookies (she won). She loves her farrier, is curious about the horse trailer, and no longer cries at the train. I’d even venture to say my kind-hearted little mare can get bossy. She uses her thinking brain way more often than her reactive brain now and is such a cute little bean.
And as for that leg? A lot of time and effort later, she runs everywhere, bucks and kicks, dances and plays all day. She’ll never be able to hold the weight of a rider, but there’s so much more value to horses than that. The vet swears I pulled a switch and there’s no way it’s the same horse. It’s a fantastic feeling.
I knew I’d own horses someday; I’ve been riding since I was 13 in some form or another and i swear half if my sanity relies on hearing nickers every so often. But I didn’t realize it would be so soon after starting my official, adult, real life… post college Amanda changed literally every part of her life, some voluntarily, some not-so-much, but I don’t know how I ever made it through my day without horses outside my window.
Until we chat again, my friends!