Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hank, and the History Of Horses, Part 3

As I re-read yesterday's post, I realized that I'm leaving big holes in the History Of Horses. There were many memorable moments from the time Sara started the jumping lessons til we sold the Thoroughbred.

One of the most memorable things during that time was a horse named Mo. Mo was special in so many ways that you couldn't begin to put a finger on his one sole source of charm. Mo was a horse that the stable owner didn't have enough time for, so Sara was asked if she could put some time on him as he wasn't doing any good standing in the pasture drawing flies. Before I go gushing about all of his big loveable wonderfulness, let me paint you a picture of this guy:
Mo's nickname was Curly. He was, in fact, an American Bashkir Curly horse. Well, at least part of him was. Other parts were Percheron, Thoroughbred, and maybe some Morgan, Quarter Horse and Belgian. We were neve quite sure. And by the way he held his ears, I'd say he was part Mule. Mo was huge. I'm guessing close to 17 hands, but I never measured him. But he was a big beautiful bay with big floppy ears and big soft eyes and a wavy coat and a curly mane and tail. He knew he was different, but it didnt' matter to him. Nothing mattered to him except attention. He loved people as much as they loved him, and he knew how to play the part of a ham. Sara rode him from time to time, and I don't recall any problems. She did some jumping with him, but I don't think that was his thing. He just liked to be doing something. He really helped me solidify a growing interest in horses, and he helped me realize that bigger didn't mean badder. I rode him a few times, and my only clear memory of those times was realizing that he was huge. But he was gentle and I was depending on him to stay that way. And he did.

I'm reminded of a time we went to the stables with some apples for the horses. Curly (Mo) was pastured with about seven other monster-sized geldings. I wanted to give him an apple, but he was peacefully munching on hay far from the gate. Sara was in a neighboring pasture feeding the mini his apple, and she called over, "It's ok, go on in." Well, it wasn't ok. Those seven other geldings had bionic noses, and were on me before I got twenty steps into the pasture. I was being mobbed by these huge things all wanting to know what was in the bag in my hand, and I'll I could do was look at Sara and holler "HELP!" I was genuinely scared, and all she did was laugh. "Drop the apples," she yelled. I did and made a bee line for the gate. I may have yelped or screeched.

Curly never stopped munching on the hay, and he never got an apple that day.

Curly was a prospect when we were looking to purchase a horse, but his price was out of range of our budget. It was probably for the best. I hear he lives near to us now, and I should make a point to see him this year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hank, and the History Of Horses, Part 2

Where was I? Oh yeah, Montana. That was in June of 2000. I've never been so affected by a vacation like that before, and I hope there are none that can best it. That place, the people and the horses and the mountains, had a profound impact on me. A life changing impact, as I was to find out.

Later that year Sara made the announcement that we were going to purchase a horse. I knew it was just a matter of time, but was hoping that time would be farther in the future. I put up a fuss, but not too much. I knew the decision had been made and I can't change her mind when it's made up.

So horse shopping begins. Classifieds are studied, as well as the ever helpful internet. We looked at few and narrowed down the choices to a super calm coming 4 year old 14.3hh flashy bay Paint gelding named Levi and a 12 year old shiny copper colored 16hh OTTB mare named Man She Ran. My mind was made up. Levi needed a home. He was sweet, loveable, not too intimidating in size, and just darned easy to look at. So we bought the Thoroughbred.

For those of you unfamiliar with the letters OTTB, they stand for Off Track Thoroughbred. Yep, we bought us an ex racehorse. Seems like a good choice for a first horse for a guy with a few lessons under his belt and a wife coming off of a 10 year horse hiatus, right?

I can look back at those 18 months of owning a Thoroughbred and say that I learned many valuable lessons, and I probably did. The most obvious one that comes to mind is to never ever own an OT anything. Especially a Thoroughbred. Especially a mare. And she was not just a mare, she was a hormonally unbalanced mare with some serious issues. She was a squealer and a snorter and a stomper. If she didn't like something, she'd make sure you knew it. The stomping was particularly fun when it came time to clean her feet (which I had become very proficient at by that time). Most times you were warned with a squeal or a hot blast of air out of her inflamed nostrils, but sometimes she'd just yank that hoof out of your hand and give a good stomp or two. She had incredible accuracy, and could rake the skin off the side of your shin in less time than it takes to say ouch.

We sold her to the daughter of the fella that owned her when she was raced. Not counting the expenses of boarding, the vet bills, the chiro bills, and the $5000 remodel required to the stable owner's barn, we actually made a few bucks on the deal.

I still think about Levi.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ok, so my family is strange....

That goes without saying. But conversations around the holiday table (when kept civil) are usually quite entertaining. Many times we reminisce on how much trouble so-n-so got away with, who smoked the first ciggy, who got busted selling pot in high school, who got pregnant the youngest. You know, the usual stuff.

Anyway, this year's turkey talk was about grammar. Not the old one with the wig. Ya know, reading and riting and reciting. Dear Mother was a stickler for good grammar, both spoken and written. And Mom enforced her rule with an iron fist in the shape of a wooden spoon.

Now, I'm not the goodest at proper speaking, and I for sure can't tell a dangling participle from a verb, but she made sure we didn't sound like the government cheese eating brats that we were. Especially in public. But I'm not going to take this time to rehash my youth. This little story is about the turkey talk and how we siblings all realized that because of the wooden spoon, we are very observant of the spoken word. We may not practice all of the learning that dear Mother feared into us, but we listen to others abuse the language. And we laugh. And we talk about it over turkey.

Here's a list of our findings.

Once, to end a phrase:
"Let me look out the window once."
"Could you get me a beer once."
"C'mere once."

Or What, same as above, but more commonly used at the end of a question:
"Could you get me a beer or what?"
"Is it nice outside or what?"
Synonymous with Er No, which is much more common in Northern Wisconsin, otherwise known as the U.P.

Irregardless, a made-up smart person word:
"Irregardless, let's go to the movie anyway."

In So, In That", useless, nonsensical fillers:
I'll buy two tickets and popcorn in that.
Where do you want to sit in so?

Is It, mostly used as an acknowledgement. This is a tricky one, as it can be used as an affirmation or a question:
As a question: 1st person "Sure is nice today." 2nd person "Is It?"
As an affirmation: 1st person "The Packers are doing really well this year." 2nd person - Is It."

Of course, Yooz Guys and its ugly cousin Yooz's Guys's, self explanatory:
"Hey, yooz guys going bowling tonite or what?"
"Which one of yooz's guy's parked me in?"

So, maybe I've made a discovery that my mild o.c.d. is rooted in my upbringing.

Er no?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hank, And The History Of Horses, Part 1

Ahhh, Hank....Where do I begin. The beginning, one would suppose.

Let's see, Sara began taking jumping lessons waaaay back (I'm guessing around '98?) after about a ten year break from horses. Heck, it was fine by me - got her outta the house. I'd go along occasionally to watch and maybe help brush. I had ZERO interest in horses. I appreciated their size and gracefulness in spite of their size, but that was it. I even got up in the saddle a few times, but was not really doing it out of any idea of mine, if you know what I mean. Well, next thing ya know, we're booking a trip to a dude ranch., a saddle, and a horse....for seven days....yeah right!

When deciding on which one to stay at (and there are many), I only had one stipulation: It had to be "in the mountains". Not at one of these dry prairies with tumbleweed and snakes and a view of mountains on a sunny day some 43 miles in the distance. I wanted mountains all around. And rivers. See, I'd go fishing; Sara would ride off into the hills. At the end of the day we'd have a glass of wine and share our adventures of the big one that got away and the hundreds of trout that I did catch and the grizzly bear that I scared off. And she'd tell me about her day bouncing around on a hard saddle. Sounded like a plan - if I'm going to a dude ranch, I'll make the best of it. Fish, read, drink some Scotch, do a little (very little) light riding.

So Sweet Grass Ranch in Melville Montana is our destination.
Reservations are made. To prepare, I buy some really nice new flies and string new line on my poles. I get a new fishing hat. I check into the out-of-state fishing license. I'm ready to go. Nope, not yet, gotta take riding lessons. You just can't run off to Montana without lessons, that would be akin to travelling to Jamaica without tanning first.

I got to ride a handsome Paint whose name I can't recall - Bo, I think. He's a gentle enough boy; stands when I brush him and ready him for the saddle. You see, I'm instructed in not only riding, but grooming, saddling, and cleaning feet. Cleaning Feet? What the hell? That's like renting a car, but having to change the tires before you drive it...What? So I'm taught to pick them up and scrape all the stinky gook from the nether regions of a horse's foot. For those of you not attuned to that smell, imagine rotten lawn clippings, mud and shit, all nicely fermented together. It's not any more or less unpleasant than changing dirty diapers, I assume. One gets used to that, right?

So the lessons go on. I took four, maybe six lessons. It went well, and my riding instructor couldn't have been better. In addition to cleaning feet, I learned how to stay on a horse that saw ghosts. Turns out old Bo was a tried and true lesson horse, but every now and then he would scoot to the side about 4 feet for no apparent reason. That in and of itself was not so traumatizing, but the thought of my Montana Dude Horse doing that same thing as I perch perilously above a five thousand foot abyss had me in some serious worry. "Not to worry", I was told, "Bo sees ghosts sometimes and just gives a little spook". Now here's something funny: I'm new to this horse stuff, and I don't know if Bo is unique with his sixth sense, or are all horses "gifted" like this. That abyss I mentioned now has a river of fire at the bottom. I'm not feeling any better about this.

Sweet Grass was spectacular. And mountains! The Crazy Mountains, no less. The ruggedness and awe and serenity that being near mountains imposes is indescribable. Sigh....
After checking in and meeting many of the other guests, a well weathered wrangler approaches and quietly asks of each of the guest's riding ability. I proudly raise my hand and almost shout "I've taken lessons!" Not one of my coolest moments. Rates right up there with the time I walked into the ladies restroom....

I get paired up with Spencer, a rather aloof buckskin. He really couldn't care about humans. But he was sound and safe and didn't see one single ghost. And we saw mountains and rivers and streams and snow in June and huge herds of pronghorn and walked up on three big
muley bucks napping in the long grass and saw black bear and we helped herd 200 blank Angus cows with babies at their sides thru 30 miles of rough terrain and we went on a search and rescue for a missing calf and we rode and rode and rode.
All seven days.

My fishing gear never left the truck.

The love affair with horses began in Montana with a stubborn buckskin named Spencer.

What a Beautiful Morning!

When we brought the horses home, it was agreed upon that I would feed in the mornings and Sara would get the evening duty. I don't mind one bit as I'm much more of a morning person than she is, and I'm usually up and at 'em before sunrise.

Well, today was one of those few Wisconsin winter mornings that make living up here in the frozen northwoods worthwhile. It was a balmy 17 degrees, no wind, and a light snow was falling. And quiet. There's an unexplainable quality to the quiet that you get when it is snowing. Then there's the crunch of the snow under your boots and the squeak of the horse's hooves on the snow. Add to that the soft nickers from the hungry beasts. It was a good morning.

How It Began

Well, it seems like it's time to let our readers (both of them, and we thank you) know a little about us.

We recently bought this little "farmette" in February of '07. Prior to that, we lived in a tiny town about 30 miles southwest of where we are now. Being that we were "in town", we boarded our horses over the years. Like anyone who boards their horses, you always think about how nice it would be to have them at home. Sure, it'll be more work, but the outcome of the hard work will be worth it. So the search for our own little patch of land began.

We looked for properties for about 6-8 months, not too seriously, just waiting for the right one to surface. We literally stumbled onto this place. Our realtor (what a joke he was, but that's a different story) was showing us a property near here, and Sara noticed the for sale sign for this place as we drove by. I checked the web when we got home, and the price was right, the description was right, but there were no pictures yet. Monday morning rolled around and I checked the web again, and the pics were up. I called the realtor immediately and said that we need to see this place now. We bought the place that night.

Oh, I should add that we sold our house in record time as well. Kinda surprised it went as fast as it did. My mom asks if we miss the old house - after all, we did a lot of work to it over the years. And you know what......I don't. I'm so wrapped up in the new homestead and I'm so excited about what the future holds for us that I don't look back. We have done a couple of drive-by's past the old place, and it truly feels like it's someone else's place. Nostalgia is a funny thing.

We have a lot of work to do yet before our dream is complete, but we're on the right track to getting it done. One of the big projects this year was to get the property fenced in. The previous owners mowed over four acres of lawn - it was beautiful, but four acres of lawn? Geez.

There's something about putting in a good fence that gives one a sense of permanency. And my fences are built to last. A lot of planning goes in before one just pokes holes in the ground, and a lot of thought has to be given to what changes may come in the future that may effect the location of the fences. So, I make sketches. Lots of 'em. Call me thorough or crazy; either may apply.

The property is fenced now, and it looks damned nice if I say so myself. I have a new saying - "A good fence is representative of a good farm". It's true.
An opportunity to purchase some adjoining property came into light, and we leapt at the chance. This parcel housed the old dairy barn foundation and silo that was once part of the original homestead. We bought the land this fall and razed the old foundation and sadly knocked over the silo and buried everything just recently.

Just another step in pursuing the dream. We can start to see how the new barn and riding ring will be layed out.

There is a big "to-do" list ahead of us, but we tackle it one project at a time. Now that winter has set in, most outside projects are on hold until spring thaw. I'll use this time to make more sketches and plan for things to come.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Big Dummy

I will let Andy tell you all about TBD, but I wanted to get his mug shot on here.

Our Other Kids

There's Freddie, the old guy in back; Desi, the ditsy one laying down; and Luci, the terror sitting.

They were all adopted or rescued and now very spoiled. I mean, really, who could say no to this face:

A Successful Show Season

Well, I think it's official...Jin got Reserve Western Pleasure for the WI Paint Horse Club open show points. I wonder what we've won! We'll be heading down to Madison for the banquet in January.

We were also Grand Champion in W/T Western Horsemanship and Reserve Champion in Open Showmanship at the Creekview Riding Center open shows. Plus we earned our Certificate Of Recognition for Western Pleasure (his first year under saddle!) for the APHA PAC program.

I'm looking forward to even bigger awards for next year after our first year on the Paint circuit!

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(Yes...he usually sleeps through the show!)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Dark Tiger

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Wyatt is a 2005 AQHA gelding. His pedigree includes great horses like Scotch N Lark, Walla Be Tiger and My Skip Vanzi. He currently stands 14.3 at the withers and 15.1 at the hip. He has a lot of growing to do yet, but I expect him to finish out at 15.2 or more.

Wyatt is always ready for attention. He was shown in August for the first time and seemed to enjoy the show scene. He even came home with a trophy and ribbons! He is now started under saddle and shows promise as an all-around open show horse. He is always well behaved. He's even been out on the trails and is very quiet. He can turn on the speed at times so he might even be a nice barrel prospect.

Asking price is $1,800 o.b.o. Contact me for more info!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Here we are!

Cedar View Paint Horses is a dream come true. Some of the dream is in progress yet, but we're working on it as fast as we can!