Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hank, and the History of Horses, Part 7

They called him Rain.


I wasn't too keen on that name. A big strong guy like him should have a big strong name. I would always chuckle silently at the names of the two Belgians we'd see at the Breakfast on the Farm - Jim & Joe. Simple, strong, to the point names. Simple, strong, to the point horses. Nothing frilly, either in name or duty. They did their job, and did it well. I suppose if they had been named Moonbeam and Dweezle I may have never taken those wagon rides. Just wouldn't seem right.

So Rain needed a new name. I never gave much thought to the possibility that I'd have to name my new horse. I didn't have a cute name all lined up - I just thought the one he'd been given would suffice. But Rain was too granola for me. Was he a Jim? A Joe? Too early in our relationship to tell.

Not only did I need to find him a new barn name, but his proper name had to be chosen as well. Turns out old Rain had never been registered. His purchase included his breeders certificate, but no one got around to picking a name and sending in the few dollars it would take to officially register him with the APHA. So the daunting task of finding a proper name became mine, and I was a bit, well, daunted. I mean, look at these registered names that horses get: Man-O-War, Smart Chic Olena, Scotch Bar Time, Zippo Pine Bar, Mr. Ed. That's some catchy stuff. So now I'd have to do the same. Heck, I thought just a regular old name was gonna be tough.

A lot of these horses are named by making a crafty combination of their parent's names, so we started digging into his pedigree. His sire was Skyler Poco King. His dam was Hank's Spotted Babe. Ok. Now what? Nothing there seemed like it could be combined, twisted or distorted into anything that rolled off the tounge, like Zips Chocolate Chip. Hmmm.

Digging a little deeper we found that his grandsire was none other than Hank A Chief, the famous APHA stallion. He was big and stong. He looked like a Hank.
Hank. Strong. To the point.

We also read that Hank A Chief was owned by Hank Weiscamp, who was known to be extemely stubborn and thick headed. You either loved him or hated him.

So Hank it was.

I came up with Hank's Rainy Sky for his proper registered name. I know, it's still a little dreamy, but I wanted to incorporate his old name into the mix somehow, and this seemed to work well.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Nasty cold today. Windchill is -45* . White out conditions.

Climb out of bed, get bundled up, go make sure the horses are upright. Huge drift at the gate. Wrestle with it to get it open. Get the atv stuck in aforementioned drift. Curse. Push, pull, heave until it's free. Try to hook up the plow to clear the drifts from the driveway, only to find that the plow bracket on the atv is iced over. Curse. Get screwdriver, chip ice off. Start pushing snow, get several facefulls as the wind whips it all back in my face. Curse at my iced over glasses. Head to work on desolate, iced roads. Arrive to find there is no heat or power at work. Curse. Amazingly, we have power to our computers, so they want us to stay.

Curse, curse, curse, curse curse.

Should have stayed in bed.

Hank, and the History of Horses, Part 6

Early summer of '02.

I don't know if it was the heat, but it was about this time when the delusions started about getting me a horse. Spending time with Charlie was fun, but no matter how much scratchins or brushins or luvins he got fromme, he'd never be mine. He was Sara's, as Sara was his. No breaking that bond, no sir. Add to that weekends at the barn were a flurry of activity. There was roping practice, team penning, trail riding, and bunches of horse related things going on. I started to think that as long as I'm there, I may as well join in the fun. But then reality would sink in, and the advent of another boarding bill and all of the accompanying expenses would make me quit that idea real quick.

I let this thought go in and out of my head for a few weeks, then mentioned it to Sara in passing one day. It wasn't the first, and sure wouldn't be the last time she questioned my sanity. I told her I enjoyed my lessons, I enjoyed the time spent with the aloof mount named Spencer, I was at the barn all the time anyway....

So the search began.

I didn't have many criteria for my new horse-to-be. I just knew that I wanted a gelding. And a stock type, not one of those leggy TB types. And oh yeah, he had to be a black & white Paint. Other than that I wasn't very picky. Sara watched the local ads. She surfed the internet. There sure were a lot of nice horses in my price range, but none fit the bill. Oh well, it looked like I may be horse-less after all.

Then one Saturday she called to me from the kitchen. She found one. Four year old black & white Paint. Green broke. And he was local. We made arrangements to go visit the next day.

He was as described, and then some. Solid. Stocky. Broad. Bulky. Calm. Personable. Flashy. Mischievous. Mutton withered. Toed in. The good still outweighed the bad.

His owner was very honest and up-front. He had a wreck the previous fall where the saddle got under him. It took some time, but he was ok with saddles again. He had a stubborn streak, but with patience, could be asked to work through stuff. When asked how his gaits were, she said she hadn't asked for anything above a walk since his wreck. Little gun shy, it seemed.

But I liked him, and he seemed to like me. Sara saddled him up and rode around the little pasture. I don't remember what was bigger - her eyes or her smile. "He's Smooooth", she said. He seemed to know the basics, but he needed finishing. We talked for a bit with the owner and said we'd be in touch. I went back to say goodbye to the horse, and as I reached up to pat his neck he grabbed the front of my t-shirt with his mouth.

Little shit. I knew we were going to get along just fine.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


It has been cold. Of the unbearable kind. I'm talking temps less than zero for a high. And that's not wind chill, folks. That's what the thermometer says.

Temperature is a funny thing. It's all relative (and I hate that saying). But it's true. As Fall rolls in, we complain and whine and pout about the first 40 degree day we get. Then Oh My, it drops below freezing and we have to scrape our windshields. Oh My. More pouting. What I would give for 20 degrees above zero right now. I would welcome it like won money, or better yet, like free beer. Forty degrees would shock my system too much and probably force a stroke.

You see, we acclimate. That first 40 degree day seems horrible because of many reasons. Physically, you have to harden to it. You have to brace against the wind, and your body has to learn to fire up that furnace and start producing some heat. You have to wear that ever-confining coat and those clumsy gloves.

It's also stressful on a psychological level. It's the end of warmth, of comfort. It's the beginning of long hours indoors, held captive by the cold outside. The days are shorter, the nights are forever. This all wears on a person.

But there is a strange serenity to the frigid wasteland of winter, especially during the early hours before sun up. During those times that I'm forced to cover myself in four layers and venture out, I like to just stand in the yard and listen. There are so many things you can hear in winter that go unnoticed at other times of the year. Down by the road you can hear the power lines sing. You hear the horses milling about, tossing their hay, looking for the tasty chaff. The fencer and it's patient click, click. The buzz from the yard light. Your own footsteps. That creaky hinge on the grain room door. Sometimes the stars are so bright you swear you can hear them, too. But not much else. You don't hear crickets or birds or wind rustled corn fields. No tractors, no impatient cows. Just quiet.

I'm not saying any of this to make myself feel any better about these crazy cold mornings. Just an observation.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hank, and the History of Horses, Part 5

Charlie's training progressed as hoped. Honestly, there's not much you can do with a two year old horse aside from leading it around. Riding doesn't happen this early in their life, so everything you do is from the ground. But these are the formative years, and the more you handle a horse and get it used to every little thing there is in this big scary world, the better your horse will be in the long run. So Sara and Charlie went on walks. Lots of walks. Walks thru the fields. Walks by the cows. Walks down the trail. Walks in the woods. He watched people riding horses. He watched team penning. He watched cars go by. He watched tractors and kids on bikes and four wheelers and loud motorcycles. And he'd do all of this in his calm, cool, and curious way of his. For sure not much of a "spooker". Sara got him used to all sorts of horse-eating objects, like tarps, hula-hoops, huge beach balls, big bags of empty aluminum cans. Always with the same "What's That?" result.

One of the first items of business with Charlie was to rid him of his "distractions". He started acting studdy not long after we brought him home, and one day of rearing on the lead line was enough to have us call the vet. Gelding is a simple procedure, but one I've never seen done to a horse. I was the "Blue Kote" guy during de-nutting at my buddy's dairy farm, and thankfully, gelding a horse is a lot less exciting. A simple sedative, me holding the rope on his leg, Sara holding his head, Marge on the camera, and the vet taking care of business. In a few weeks he was as good as new and all of those distracting thoughts were going away.

During this time of Charlie's upbringing, we boarded at a place about one mile from home. Very friendly place with a nice indoor, a huge outdoor, nice pastures, good hay and a Coke machine that housed fifty cent cans of Budweiser. It was my home away from home. While Sara and Charlie took their walks, I helped the barn owner rotate stock of the refrigerated product. He had a simple philosophy: with 40 horses to take care of there wasn't much time to go visit friends, so he installed a beer machine and friends would come visit him. It worked! Could have been the prices, but I'm not one to judge. Many may think that nothing got done during these long hours of beer drinkin' and shit shootin', but we accomplished plenty. A 400 square foot elevated viewing room was built looking over the indoor. Wood rail fencing went up along the road frontage. Eight small turnouts with shelters were built on the north end of the barn. Hay was baled, horses were fed.

It was a mutually satisfying experience. Sara got time to spend with Charlie. The barn owner got company and an extra hand. I got cheap beer.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Hank, and the History of Horses, Part 4

With the crazy OTTB sold, the search for a new horse began. Sara searched high and low, scanning for-sale ads in local papers and on-line. We knew two things for sure - we wanted a stock type, and we wanted a level-headed gelding. Oh, and a young one, as Sara wanted to try her hand at training one herself.

I don't recall looking at too many horses this time around. I remember a horse named Walt, a handsome dark bay with awesome ground manners and a sweet face. He also would rear straight up when asked to canter. He was an Appendix QH, which means he was 1/2 QH and half Thoroughbred. That clearly was a sign.

We later found an ad in the local paper for a two year old Paint, so we took a spin out to see him. We just had horrible ice storms, so the owner had all of her animals stalled in the barn. It was an old dairy barn converted to stalls, and there was every kind of animal in there.

An Ark amidst a sea of ice.

Sox was the horse for sale, and his big brown eyes peered at us from his stall, looking as pathetic as you could imagine. He was a filthy little thing - long toes, dry, dull, matted coat, dried manure crusted everywhere. But he was adorable, in a pathetic "I feel sorry for you and want to take you away from this bad place" kinda way. Mainly chestnut, with a big blaze, four high whites and a white belly. It took some brushing to get the old dried manure off to see that all four legs were white. Because of the ice, we couldn't take him outside, so Sara walked him up and down the aisle a few times. He walked past the chickens and ducks and the beefers and the other horses just fine, never putting up a fuss. He was barely halter broke, but calm and gentle. We left there after scratching a lot of ears and petting a lot of heads. Was he our diamond in the rough? Hard to say.

That night Sara called the seller and made an offer. She low-balled a little and the seller was firm with her asking price. "No deal", Sara said (she's stubborn like that). I tried to convince her to just pay the asking price. Buy that little mangy red horse. Nope. Did I mention she's stubborn?

Then a strange thing happened - Levi was for sale again. We found out he was owned by a lady that was greener than grass, and she was deathly afraid of him. So we load up the car and drive halfway across the state to see him. He was just as adorable as ever, if even more than the first time we saw him. He was out of shape and a little buddy sour (as his new owner was afraid to take him from the pasture), but he came around with a little encouragement. Sara rode him a bit and I gave him lotsa lovins. So now what do we do? As it turned out, Levi's price had doubled since the last time we saw him 18 months prior. But he was still at a fair price. And maybe we found him this second time for a reason. And he was what we were looking for....

We make an offer on Levi, just a few hundred less than the asking price. You woulda swore that lady got slapped across the face by a dead carp. She couldn't go that low, no way, not gonna happen, he's worth way more than that, blah blah blah... Geesh. So we tell her thanks, think it over, here's our number, and climb back in the car to drive home.

Three or four weeks later Sox's owner called us. She agreed to Sara's price. Yippee! We asked to come back out and see him again to refresh our memory. The ice had all gone and he was out on pasture with a number of other horses. The owner was busy with something, and she told us to just go out into the pasture and see him. He was happy to have company and came up to us right away. Another handsome horse came over to see why Sox was getting all the attention. I pet him some and gave him some scratchins. Just then the owner comes back and says, "I see you met Sonny, Sox's sire."

Sire? You mean Stallion?!?

I'm kinda freaking out because my limited knowledge about stallions was that you don't mess with them, and you never ever go in their pasture. They'll mess you up. They're territorial and mean as heck and they kick and bite just for fun. Here's this big guy poking at my hand for lovins or treats, and I'm eyeballing the gate to see if I can clear it before this horse mauls me. The owner must have sensed my terror or she heard me squeak, because she just laughed and said, "You don't have to worry about Sonny, he's a big baby." And he was. She said he passes his calm disposition to all his youngins. Good thing, because we could use a change from spirited thoroughbreds.

Sara asked if she could walk Sox around, so we got a halter and lead rope and started to lead him past the house. He caught his reflection in the big bay window and just stopped and stared at himself. Many horses, especially young ones will startle at this. The way he just stood there and looked at himself in that cool curious way of his was a defining moment for Sara.

We bought that little mangy red horse. We named him Charlie
(c'mon, Sox? Nah).

Sara found her diamond.

Monday, January 7, 2008

My Coworker

He's so unique, he's worthy of his own post.....

Among all of his disgusting habits, I'd say the one that drives me over the edge is my coworker's Snot Snorting. This isn't simple sniffling. This is incessant wet sloppy snot snorting resonating thru the office all the live long day. Both phonetically and onomatopoeically it sounds like "Hwork!", but done inward thru the nose. A perpetual transfer of mucous from his nose to his throat done so offhandedly that one could almost start to believe this is done by the President, the Pope and the Queen.
Occasionally this is rewarded by a loud gagging cough, obviously caused by an overshot of his own snot directly into his airway.

For the love of puppy dogs and bunny rabbits, please make it stop.

Friday, January 4, 2008


Another fun-filled Christmas season came and went. This year was no more and no less exciting than years in the past. Face it, when you have dysfunctional families on both sides, it's bound to be an adventure.

There's always the logistic dilemma about who goes where when. At times this can seem like the Most Important Decision Of The Year. With split families, divorced parents, and siblings scattered to the wind, it's tough to find that one magical day when all of the planets align and all of us can get together. Can be quite a drama. My idea always falls on deaf ears: If you can't be here, I get your presents. Never seems to gather much support.

I'm Grinchy. I'm not a big fan of holidays in general. They feel too forced. If you can't get together as a family on any of the other 360 days of the year, then why bother with the charade and the fake smiles and the make-believe howdy-do's. But it's a tradition. So we do it.

I could go on about the depths of dysfunctionality, but that'll just work me up into a lather and I don't need that on a Friday. Bath day isn't until Sunday.

I need to devise a new way of handling the holidays. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know of them. One thought was Vegas. That may be just the medicine I need.