Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Clinic and an AMAZING Discovery

[NOTE: Late last night, I hit "Publish" instead of "Save"--so this post was originally put up prematurely, without the story! But it was bedtime on a school night, and there were so many photos I didn't want to just delete it.
So here was my challenge: "See if you can figure out the story-line."
Now I've returned with the narrative.

All last week I hemmed and hawed, trying to decide which of several events I would take Kate to this past weekend. There was the very expensive two-day mountain trail clinic; the Saturday trail challenge (competition) a long ways away (mucho gas); the little local show on Sunday, with their first "ranch trail" class; and the KVTR was sponsoring a "mini-clinic" of skills that would be helpful on the trail on Saturday.
Originally, I opted to let others sign up for the mini-clinic, as I had taken one of the two slots at last spring's clinic with Maddie. I decided I couldn't afford either the expensive clinic or the long trip for the trail competition. So I was going to just do the local show for practice, maybe even taking both Kate and Maddie.
Then RT's mommy's mommy emailed to ask if she could come over for a quick visit with the ol' man on Sunday, so there went that plan. Then Pat called to say that KVTR president Walt had said there might still be room in the mini-clinic, so I should come ahead.
Well, okay then: Saturday's mini-clinic it was.
After a bit of racing around in the wee hours to prove that they were in charge of decisions,Kate loaded and traveled well, and we arrived at Windsong Ranch (something familiar sounding about that name...).
The amazing thing that happened started as I was unloading Kate: a woman walked by leading two horses to an outside pen next to the outdoor arena. At first I thought the dun overo was a fellow club member's little mustang, but no, he was too big to be Wendy. But his coloring was sure close to Kate's, I thought, and went back to saddling up.
What happened next I will save for a moment.
Suffice it to say, I was barely able to focus on the instruction being offered.
Kate did well in yielding both her hind quarters and her forehand from the ground.
She paid good attention to the instructions for the mounted work.
Lots of bending and turning and follow-the-leader, with only one or two instances of "ugly-face" when others got too close--for which she was rewarded with work, work and more work.All in all, Kate and I did nicely on exercises that we were both familiar with, but it was good to have some structure and feedback--as I commented on Lytha's blog, I get awful lazy when I work on my own.

But what happened just before the clinic was worth 100 times what I paid to attend:
I had led Kate up for a quick look-see at the indoor arena, when I glanced over at the little Paint that had gone by the trailer earlier. There was something familiar about the marking on the right shoulder and side of his neck... It looked a bit like a musical note (or maybe, my daughter the cop would say, a set of handcuffs).
I convinced him to turn around, and found the two "cattle skull" spots that I was pretty sure were there.
Do I know you? he seemed to ask.
It was "Pete" (registered name: TwoWay Waltz),
the second colt I bred and raised out of Misty!
Pete is Kate's uncle--his sister is her dam.
They would be a perfect matched pair, in build, color, and temperament.
Growing up, Pete was a character! Several times after we moved out to EvenSong Farm, he would sneak out of the pasture to "play" in the swing set.
As a yearling, Pete took champion gelding at the Kittitas County Fair.
He was a breeze to start. These two photos are from his third ride!
I don't think I put even 20 rides on him that spring--he was only two. But several were in walk-trot classes at local schooling shows!
It was this laid-back personality that got him sold, to what I thought was a good couple (a former 4H leader and a farrier) from Yakima.

But from there, Pete's story took a turn for the worse.
I started hearing from different people later that they abused him in various ways. When I heard he was for sale, I tried to broker his purchase to a friend of a friend, who really wanted a mellow Misty colt. But the owners snubbed me, and refused to tell me where he did go when he was sold.
Two years later that girl contacted me and offered to sell Pete to me (she found me through APHA records). But she called on a Saturday, I went to see him on Sunday, and she needed the money by Monday (she was leaving the state)! I just couldn't put anything together that fast! Later, when I had the money available and contacted her dad, he said she had decided not to sell him. Pete was left, pretty well unused, at her parents' home for two more years. But he was back here in the Kittitas Valley, and every month or so I would go by , just to check on his welfare; the last time was last June, just before school got out.

Now, here he was, at the ranch I went to for a clinic that I hadn't planned on attending!When I asked, I found he was in for training. He had been purchased (along with the flea-bitten gray) by a young family with two kids under 10. (Trainer's wife thought that the dad might be a state trooper?) They had been told he had never been ridden, but the trainer could tell that wasn't quite true. And telling him about the abuse, he also said he could sense that as well, in Pete's occasional defensiveness. Pete had been there about a month and was making good progress in learning trust and how to be a saddle horse (again). I gave the trainer my contact info, and asked that they pass it along to the family. He was sure the couple would love to find out about his past, and get some baby pictures, as well. I'm anxious, myself, to hear how they came across him for purchase.

Ironically, I met my friend Anita when she and her husband fell in love with Pete as a yearling. But all their cash was tied up in a small group of rescues, so they were never able to buy him. When I called to tell her about "finding" him again, she asked what the name of the trooper was. When I told her, she said the the wife/mom was the daughter of one of her and her husband's best friends!
I haven't yet heard from them, but it's only been two days. But even though he's not back in my barn, I feel as though this was a reunion that was meant to happen. It's good to know he will be loved and cared for.
And I will let them know that if he ever needs a home, he has it here with me.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I Get To Ride My Own Horse

I have not had the opportunity to ride Kate for almost six weeks, what with grandkids and husbands using her.
So on Labor day (my last day of freedom before school started) I saddled the Dun Wunder up and headed out the driveway. As willing as she is away from the place, leaving home all by herself proved to be a bit of a challenge! I had trouble getting her past Hank's place, partly because of some newly painted, bright red storage containers hiding behind the potato barn. Once past them (about a quarter mile from home) she settled a bit.
Then I made the [poor] choice to take to the ditch bank out to the next county road. The problem with the roads that skirt the irrigation ditches is that there is only about 10 feet between the drop off to the water, and what is usually an equal drop off on the other side into adjoining field. And often, as on this ride, the edge of the field has a fence: in this case an old barbed wire fence, no longer even on it's posts, but instead, hidden in the tall grass. I knew it was there but Kate didn't.
So when she would balk a little at the mini-dams in the ditch, or horse-eating rock piles, or distant rumbling tractors, I had very little room to work with her. The first few times I was able to do some very small circles and move her feet. Then on a couple of more stubborn stops, I would turn her and back in the desired direction 10 or 15 feet, then turn on the haunches and she would proceed a little further (backing is hard work, and horses would usually rather move forward).
But as we approached the two mile point, where we could have gotten off the ditch bank and started down the road for home, we came abreast of a hay barn/equipment storage area, and Kate had had enough! She would not move forward, and she got around the backing trick by losing her "steering" and heading off the road toward that hidden barbed wire. So I dismounted and we did a little work in place, then I led her the last 100 yards or so to the road. It was probably a good thing I stayed on the ground, as the little herd of sheep that lives at the corner came bounding down the hill, bleating all the way, to see who was visiting.
Coming back, she was much happier and forward. I'd like to think it was our groundwork, but I'm sure it was more that she probably knew she was headed home.
Next time I'll go out on the road, where I have more room to work with her (though I'm not crazy about antics on asphalt) and come back on the scary ditch road.

The next Saturday, hubby Al and trail riding buddy Pat convinced me that, despite all the projects that need finishing before winter, I deserved to go on a trail ride with the KVTR. We caravaned to the Flying Horseshoe Ranch, on the Teanaway River outside of Cle Elum, Washington, and headed for the hills.
There were a couple of places where the road was washed out and we had to drop down very steep banks to bushwhack around. I really liked that Kate sat right down on her butt to negotiate these places, without balking or hurrying, and climbed back up without scrambling.
Then we got to the biggest obstacle of the day!
Possibly the biggest trail challenge of Kate's short life!
The Teanaway River.
Going across the first time, she hesitated a bit, but as everyone else worked their way across, she gave it a try. Here where we were the first time, the current made us both a little sea-sick as we looked down, but she picked her way through the rocky footing to the mid-way rest stop on the opposite shore.
Going back, I found a spot where the water was a little more placid, and she trundled across, slowly but steadily.
Going back through the woods: What are we all looking at?
Can you see him?
How about now? (Same photo, cropped.)
This little buck was laying not 30 feet off the trail. Four or five riders passed him before anyone even noticed. Then he just watched as everyone after that who had a camera, stopped to document his presence. We had seen another deer, a doe, earlier in the day, also happy to just lie there until we all rode past. Shortly after spooting her, we also saw one older fawn (half grown?) frozen in place, as a curve in the trail allowed the group to "surround" him on three sides; but once we had moved far enough along, he sprinted for the hills!

We rode for three and a half hours, for a total (according to Barry's GPS) of about 10 miles.
It was a beautiful late summer day to be in the mountains.