Cleaning up some files on my computer and happened upon this, that Mr wrote in February of 2009. Brings back lots of memories!
Now Is The Winter Of Our Discontent
Having grown up in the frozen north, January has never been a month to look forward to. Oh sure, back in the 70’s, when we ate, drank and slept snowmobiles, it was a different story, but we were young and easily distracted. Winters in Kansas are not so bad. I love the warm spells, when they sneak up on you. So did my old buddy. He loved dozing in the sun, letting the unexpected heat soak into his bones. That Thursday was a beauty! 65 degrees and hardly a breeze. He decided to lay down and take a nap, or maybe his rear legs just said they had done enough and it was time to rest. Being a 29 year old horse, just about everything was clamoring for a rest. Being a 29 year old Arab, you normally just toughed it out and keep on going.
I knew something was up the moment we drove up the drive. He would always be coming down the ridge to meet us or already standing there, bellyaching that we were late for feeding time. This time, no old man impatiently waiting for grain. I went over to the shed and called for him, but I knew he would not be coming. I took my time walking up the ridge and out to the north pasture, just thinking about all we had done together.
He was 14 when we traded a thick-headed silly quarter horse that I did not love, for a spirited bay Arab with a lot of trail experience. He had been tragically named Foxy Commander or some such tripe as that. Since we had dealings with the Lakota down along the Minnesota river, and sold them a horse that they never quite completely paid for, we decided to name him Ksapa. Means pretty much Foxy Commander in Lakota.
My wife was helping out at Reflection Farm, a large horse farm in South Central Minnesota, and she brought Ksapa out to show off. Everybody at the barn had left about 10 minutes before, on a trail ride, out in one of their pastures. She quickly saddled up the new guy and headed up the trail after them. She was making good time, gaining on them, when 5 of the farm dogs that had gone out with first bunch had decided to head back home, and were loping down the trail, directly at the Mrs. and her new horse. You ever see a horse canter in place? No, it’s not all the common, but that is what Ksapa did as those dogs charged down the path, directly at him. My wife was a bit wide eyed at the thought of him bolting and heading back to trailer, but he had better manners than that. The dogs just parted in the middle and swept past, while he held his ground with style.
He was quick as wink when asking him to go from a standing stop to a gallop, much like a barrel horse. I do confess to asking him for that trick many times. He also did not like to ride out alone, without any other horses for companionship. He would let you know this by shying sideways, from one side of the road to the other in an single bound. Quite amazing really. Something like 33 feet and I do not remember touching any ground between those two points. Once he learned that I would not come off his back, we went about our merry way.
He also was not shy about cooling off on a hot day. It was in the high 90’s and very humid when we met a group down on the Minnesota river for a trail ride. My wife was riding her Saddlebred mare, Daydream, and I had the old man. The other people were riding horses that had been on quite a few trail rides that spring. We pretty much just pulled our two out of the pasture, trailered them up and headed out. One of the trails we used that day crossed the Minnesota river. As it had been a dry spring, the river was only about 3 feet deep, but moving pretty fast. It so happens that I was riding drag on the trail and was the last to cross the river. Everybody else was waiting on the other side. I knew Ksapa had a wide range of experiences, so I was sure crossing the river was not going to be a problem. Remember, it’s very hot and humid as we size up the river. I ask him, and we just step right in and make for the other side. About the middle of the river, I notice that all of a sudden, it was getting deep, fast. Doggone if he did not try to roll on me in the river. I wise up about the time my foot is caught between him and the river bottom. Having read Louis L’amour, I knew just what to do. Grabbing a rein I pulled his head under the water. Boink, up like a cork we pop, and then wade on through to the other side. Much laughter and ribbing from the dry people, although I felt quite refreshed after our dip. We finished the ride a couple of hours later with the other horses just dragging back to the trail head. My old Arab was fresh as a daisy, prancing and jigging back to the trailer.
Yes, he was a character, my old buddy was. A survivor too. In 2002, when the West Nile virus broke out in Minnesota, all four of our horses were at Reflection Farm while we were moving. Horses started dropping left and right. Spiff, our beautiful Pinto Saddlebred gelding, went down, then Daydream. Ksapa got the damn virus but stood his ground and survived. Thankfully Riff never got sick. It took him a good year to get back to normal. Feisty as ever but a good friend. You could throw a saddle on him or just go bareback. He was ready to go.
Two weeks ago I noticed his hind quarters losing a lot of flesh. He was getting very slow going up the ridge. I found him near the north fence, with our 3 other horses standing around him. His back legs had just quit working. Maybe the West Nile virus finally did get him. I kneeled down next to him, putting my hand out to his muzzle. He reached his nose up and nickered. I sat there and we chatted for a good long while, as the other horses stood around us.
Riff finally edged me out. She was his best friend. She was his protector when we got the Appaloosas. She grew up with Ksapa, and she stood by him until the end.
I miss my old man.
Goodbye Ksapa. Run with the wind.