Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Searching for Unicorns - Some may be disguised as fire breathing dragons

Have had horses nearly all my life.  Was not born into a "horsie" family.  Over the years I take a pride in my accumulation of knowledge.  I have trained a few, ruined a few and overall spent my life in pursuit of understanding my horses better so that the relationship we have is a positive one for all involved.

My dependable horse is getting up there in years.  I am no spring chicken myself.  Cotton (old
dependable) is 21 this year.  Hard to believe.  We have been through so much together.  He is solid citizen and he will be with me until the day he crosses the rainbow bridge.  Realizing how many years it took to build the trust I have with him it was time to go in search of my next unicorn.  However, we had been given an old guy several years ago.  Obe (the old guy) was intended for our grandkids to ride the problem is they don't live close or come to visit often, so he just sat in the pasture.  Now I do not believe that pasture retirement is a fair trade off for a good horse that is still sound.  Horses who give us their lives deserve the same amount of care in their old age as they did when they were young.  My husband wanted me to start marketing him.  For anyone who knows me, you know I just am not a good horse trader.  Sorry to say there are many people in this world who should not own a horse (or a dog, or any other living thing).  Then there are those that are just looking to try it out.  Well  they are the ones that need an old horse, yet that is a crap shoot whether or not it will be a forever home for that horse.  Now I get attached to all my animals.  Which has been a problem over the years.  As a rancher you just can't keep every calf, or adopt every stray dog.  So needless to say Obe wasn't going anywhere fast.  In trying to encourage me, my husband said I could take whatever money I get for Obe and buy a young horse to bring up to one day replace Cotton.  As tempting as that was I only put minimal effort into the endeavor.  Well that is the selling part, I was actively looking for a new prospect.

I was on vacation between Christmas and New Years 2019.  Sitting cruising through Facebook while my husband watched the hunting shows of which I have no interest.  On one of my groups was an advertisement for a black filly.  I liked the way she moved and how she was put together.  As I had done a hundred times I quickly sent my husband the link.  Then I started reading the comments.  Turns out the owner was looking for a broke, safe, kids horse, well heck I have one of those.  I quickly messaged her to ask if the filly was still available.  She said yes so I quickly sent her pictures of Obe.  A lesson horse for small children was the perfect retirement job for this old man of mine.  He loved kids and I felt very confident in my offer.  We messaged back and forth for a while and setup a day and time for me to bring him out and to look at the filly.

Obe at a branding

The stable was located approximately 2.5 hours from our home in Mariposa.  We needed to check cows in Merced and run a few errands so we made it a day.  From Merced it took about an hour and 10 minutes to get to the stable.  The whole time all I could think of is what was I doing.  I am not a horse trader.  This was way out of my comfort zone.

We arrived a few minutes early and met this wonderful young trainer.  As we talked she told me that the owners of the stable were new to the business.  They had purchased the place two years before and had been fixing it up.  It was clean and I was impressed to be honest.  Now I ran a boarding facility for 15 years.  It is no easy task, and not one for the faint at heart.  I took Obe out of the trailer.  As the gentleman he is he just walked out and looked around.   The young trainer wanted to turn him out into a large arena so he could roll.  I had no issues with that, while personally I thought it was a waste of time, I am sure she had a purpose.  So we turned him out.  He rolled and trotted around a bit, nothing major.  She suggested we go over and take a look at the filly.

Well from the moment I set eyes on her I knew she would be a handful.  She was playing nippy bite with the horse in the next pen.  Part of her mane was gone from this practice and she had a few places on her face from hitting the rail.  All normal things for a baby.  She was jet black as the advertised, and put together well.  The only downside was she was small.  But she was not even two, so there was hope she would grow into herself.  Her ground manners were bad.  She was pushy, invaded your space and did not respect people.  From the moment we met I could tell she was smart, really smart.  She had figured out her people right away.  Which was good and bad all at one time.  Now I have only owned one mare that I will say was a unicorn.  I have owned several that were fire breathing dragons.  At this point it was a 50/50 guess how this one will end up.

We turned her out in a small covered arena.  She bucked, farted and was generally a kid.  Then she came back over to us and began playing with a trash can.  I clipped the lead back to her halter, then asked her to move.  That is when the she ratted out her owners, trainers and anyone else who had been handling her - she was a spoiled brat.  She leaded over to nip me for which she got the end of the lead rope.  Her "people" had taught her how to not do what they wanted.  I messed with her a little more satisfied I knew what I was getting.  I was willing to give this a go.  She moved beautifully.  She was grade, which I was more than a little annoyed about.  The ad stated that her mothers papers had been lost, not that she did not have any.  Now I have no intention of breeding, but that just made me feel as if I wasn't getting the whole truth.  Now her daddy is registered with great breeding.  In horse trading you have to be prepared for the truth to be stretched and that is why I hate it so much.   I was satisfied so when went to get Obe so she could try him out.
Obe and our Grandson

I am not Obe's person.  We will leave it at that, he loves our grandson, my daughter or just about everyone but me.  It is not that we had a bad relationship, however given two choices I would always be number 2.  First the young trainer when in to get him.  He walked away, then I went in, he trotted away.  While I was trying to collect him the owner of the ranch and the one looking for the lesson horse walked into the arena.  Just like that he had a new person.  He trotted up to her put his head in her arms and that was that.  Now in all my years of buying and selling horses I have only seen this happen three times.  Which in my book means it was meant to be.  It was honestly love at first sight on both their parts.  They took him to the back of the property and saddled him up.  Now he hadn't been ridden in over a year, and I did not ride him ahead of time on purpose.  The is what he is, period.  If they wanted him fine, if not that was ok also.  Mostly because I know he was worth more than the filly.  After 10 or 15 minutes they decided he was perfect.  In between these happenings I find that the stable owner wanted him for her to ride.  There was a trail head close by and she wanted a horse she could trust.

During this phase the filly was tied to hitch post.  She started to throw a fit, but just a mild one.  After she realized that was that, she just stood there.  I was encouraged.  She was smart enough to know when enough was enough.

We did the paperwork, I felt good about Obe finding a forever home where he will be loved.  He will be able to make a positive impact on the lives of many children.  He will get the attention he deserves for all his years of hard work and loyalty.  That alone was worth the trade.

Ms.Kitty meeting her
new brothers
Ms. Kitty checking out her
new home.
They told me the filly's name was Catalina.  Well not anyone.  Her name was promptly changed to Ms. Kitty.  We loaded her in the stock trailer and off we went.  She threw the same fit as at the tie block, again only until she realized she wasn't going to get her way.  It was a rainy miserable ride home over the Pacheco Pass.  We got home well after dark.  She was surprising good in her new surroundings.  Pushy but know freaked out.  Put her in her new stall fed and called it a night.  Now comes the hard part.  Not just training but several months of untraining those bad habits.  We were told she is not quite two yet.  The paperwork given us with her says she is two and few months. 

Either way she is young enough and smart enough to figure it out.