Wednesday, January 21, 2009

First Ski Trip

We went to Reno last week for our family vacation. We also got to get in some skiing. This year was Ashlyn's first time on the slopes. She was so excited about getting on skis for the first time. She did a great job. She proved to be quite the athlete...she could ski down the hill and eat the snow off of her mittens at the same time. It got a little tricky staying on the skis while she was trying to reload the mittens with snow after she ran out. Here are a the pics we got of our little bug skiing for the first time. Great job, Bug!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

My Little Brown Mare

Flashy she was not. She stood about 14.2 hands, not very tall. She was sorrel. She was registered as a red dun, but that was a stretch. She was just brown. Aside from a few stray hairs in the middle of her forehead she didn't have a white hair on her body. Her mane was always thin and she didn't have much of a forelock to speak of. In so many ways she was nothing but an ordinary little brown mare. But I knew her better. I want to talk about my little brown mare.
My mom tells me that she saw Prissy acting like a fool out in the pasture and decided that she was the one she had to have. So she bought her for $500 on April 25, 1987. I was eight years old. Prissy was not yet broke when my parents brought her home. You couldn't even get a halter on her. I can remember my mom sitting in the stall with Prissy with a bucket of food just waiting patiently until Prissy decided to come to her. Mom would later send Prissy to a trainer who had her for a minimal amount of time. When he returned her he said, "She never even bucked. I just got on her and started riding."
My parents had bought another horse along with Prissy whose lot in life was to find new and interesting ways to torment her rider. Flip over on them, drag them up against barbed wire fences, run under low hanging branches to try to clothesline them, you name it, she tried it. So I quickly decided that Prissy was the horse for me. She had a much sweeter nature. I began riding Prissy more and more.
When my dad was murdered in 1990, Prissy was my therapy. I began riding more. I think it was around then that I decided that I wanted to run barrels and poles. I needed something to focus on. My stepdad, Buddy set up barrels and poles in our pasture so that I could start teaching Prissy the patterns. I cannot tell you how many thousands of times I walked that little mare through those patterns, stopping her at each turn and backing up. I used to think that Buddy just made me walk those patterns because he didn't want me to have fun. I know better now.
Prissy and I learned how to run barrels and poles together. At my first barrel race that I went to on her I won $1.25. I still have it. When we were doing our best, I can remember bringing home hundreds of dollars that I had won at a barrel race and showing my mom. I didn't care that all of my friends in 4H had new, expensive horses. I have these memories that flood my mind right now...humor me. I can remember two sisters that beat me by full seconds in both patterns one year. By the next year, their parents had bought them new barrel horses that cost who knows how much. They put velcro in the saddle so the girls would stay in because the horses were too much for them to handle. I still had Prissy. We beat them just about everywhere we went. When I was about 15 I was at a barrel race on Cowboy Christmas weekend (that July 4th for all the city slickers) and ran an awesome pole pattern. I was walking my little brown mare out to the trailer when I man came up and offered to write a check for her for $10,000. I told him she wasn't for sale. After he replied that he was serious I told him that I was as well.
When I went to college I tried to keep riding her as much as I could, but studying and work consumed my time. I didn't give her the time that I knew she needed. When I graduated I decided to sell her. I sold her to a little six year old girl just knowing that she would be loved forever. I found out a couple of years later that Prissy was too much horse for the girl and had been sold again. This time, the situation was not so fortunate. Prissy had been sold to a family with a 14 year old high school girl who just wanted to run. Although I never saw it firsthand, I have been told by several people that this girl would just run her into the ground. When Prissy did anything less than perfect they would hit her. I sit here now and cry. It breaks my heart to know that this horse that I loved so much was so mistreated.
Fast forward to 2006. I was married and had Ashlyn. In conversations with my mom, she had mentioned that she wanted to get some horses and start riding again. I told her to be sure she got an older, smaller horse. I think it was a couple of months later that Mom called me to let me know she had bought a horse. This is how the conversation went:
Mom:"I bought a horse!"
Me:"Really, mare? Gelding?"
Me:"What is she like? What color is she? How old is she?"
Mom:"She is twenty years old. Sorrel. She is very pretty. Short, but stocky little mare."
Me:"Cool, what is her name?"
I couldn't believe it. My mom had bought the horse that I had grown up riding. The family that owned her had mistreated her so badly that she would no longer face a barrel or pole pattern. They sold her to my mom for next to nothing because they thought she was useless. Mom knew better.
In the few years that followed, my daughter would get to ride this same little brown mare that I had loved as a child. I remember crying when I put Ashlyn on Prissy's back for the first time. My little girl was sitting on the horse with the biggest heart in the world and she had no idea.
Prissy lived for the next few years at my parents orchard. Her only job was to enjoy life as a retired horse and be lead around giving rides to grandchildren a couple of times a year. We brought her to Mansfield for a short while in my attempt to start riding again. I wasn't able to get out to see her as much as I wanted so we moved her back to the orchard several months ago.
My little brown mare died today. She would be 23 years old on March 7. The little horse with a heart of gold that I loved with everything in me is gone.There are details that don't really matter. My mom has been sitting by her side for three days making sure she was comfortable and hoping that she would get better. I drove down to my parents orchard today to say farewell to my horse that I called my friend for 22 years.
In my six hours of driving today I thought a lot about Prissy. I have been thinking about how much a part of my life she has been. I have been thinking about the lessons that she has taught me and the things that she has brought to my life. Sure animals give kids a sense of responsibility. I had to take care of her. But I also learned that when you set your mind to something you finish it. When you are eight years old, you can't get a saddle on the back of a horse - unless you stand in a wheelbarrow. When your family doesn't have a lot of money you can't ride an expensive, trained barrel horse - unless you train one yourself.
Prissy also gave me a bond with my stepdad that most girls don't have. Buddy grew up riding horses and taught me much of what I know about horses. I can remember him telling me that he had forgotten more about horses than I would ever learn. Now he calls me often with questions about horses that I know he knows the answer to. I love you, Buddy. Thank you for teaching me.
My little brown mare was buried at my parents orchard this afternoon. I was able to once again see her sweet face and know that she was not hurting. She was not flashy. To most she was just an ordinary mare. But she had an extraordinary heart. Buddy told me this afternoon that she was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of horse. He said I would never know another one like her. I know.