Category Archives: Horses

Fair Memories – April

Another Fair memory…
Back when the Mrs and I were brand new, a foal arrived during a gentle snowfall, around the first week April-Snow-1st-weekPaula-Daydream-BW-2of April. Minnesota can be fickle like that, and to be honest, I’ve seen it snow in May. As I recall, I don’t think we were expecting to see a little red filly to be standing in the stall with her Dam, Daydream. We named her April Snow. And then we got married. No, it didn’t happen the same day, at least I don’t think so, but close enough to keep the bride a bit preoccupied.

Little April was our first foal together. We got in there and rubbed her, picked up her feet, draped ropes around her and kept an eye on Daydream, who was not entirely sure this was something she was going to put up with. In fact, one of the early days she expressed her displeasure by butting me in the chest, with her open, toothy mouth. She was just doing her job and it all worked out in the end. April took it all in stride and developed into a fine little filly.

When she was old enough to start training, we brought her out to Reflection April-Snow-2farm. In fact the whole reason there was a Mrs and anything horse related was due to the subtle connivings of Jean Liestman and the crew of Reflection farm, of which my wife was part. April was introduced to all the things necessary to becoming a good horse. As she developed, it became clear to my wife and others that maybe getting her into the show ring would be added to her training. April was not so sure of this.

April-Snow-DadOne of my favorite life memories stems from April’s reluctance to get with the program. I think she was 2 and we were in the indoor riding arena. I don’t really recall what we were trying to accomplish, but part of it involved me leading her around the arena at something more than a walk. She did this with reluctance, but eventually picked up the pace. And that pace continued to get faster still, until I was literally flying around the arena, my right hand on the cheek piece of her halter. She was cantering and I was taking 1 step for every 30 feet or so. We kept it up for a couple of laps and then petered out. It was the closest I ever came to having Superman-like powers, and I am not sure about the horse, but I had a blast. She eventually understood what was being asked for and got with the program.

A year or so later, there was talk of getting April in the show ring, she must have been 3 or 4. Jaime, from Reflection farm, worked with April that summer and had decided she would like to show her at the Fair. Keep in mind, this was 20 some years ago, so Jean and Jaime, if you have any corrections to the story, just let me know.

Fair time comes around and April gets sent to town, where she got all prettied up and installed in a box Missy-April-Paulastall in the horse barn of the Meeker County Fair. Now some horses like showing, some horses are indifferent or resigned to showing, and some horses just aren’t down with the whole idea of putting lipstick on and strutting their stuff. April was a category 3 girl. She couldn’t believe we would just drop her off and all these strange people would make noise and paw at her. She took to putting her backside to the whole thing and sulk. I thought she would pout a bit and she’d get over it.

Show day arrives, Jaime gets April out and starts getting her warmed up. I think she was going to show western pleasure, and as she was walking April back from lunging her in the arena, she mentions that April is a little tense. Nerves, I said. She’ll shake it off. Now, smart guy that I am, I was telling a kid who grew up with horses and showing them, it’s no big deal, she’ll be fine. Jaime gives me the side eye and takes her back to the stall. My wife sidles up mentions April’s a little tense and also gives me the side eye. I’m starting to get the message. Jaime gives it the old college try and mounts up in the parking lot. About 5 steps later, Jaime dismounts and with a shake of her head, hands me the horse and indicates not today. Hmm. Okay, let me see if I can get this sorted out. I put my foot in the stirrup, mount up to see if I can get her past this sticky point. Because I’m a guy and guys are prone to doing stupid stuff, I made it about 30 steps when April starts whole body shaking like she’s a ticking time bomb, just about ready to go boom. I very carefully dismount and stand with her until the shaking stops. We start to head back to the barn, I pass my wife, shaking my head, not today.

I don’t really think I saw my life pass before my eyes while riding her, but that’s because I’m thick headed and not prone to introspection, and after the 5th step, I was too busy calculating which car we were going to land on. I had never felt that from a horse before. We put April back in her stall and enjoyed the rest of the fair, in a somewhat half hearted fashion. Sunday night comes and time to load up and head home. Our horse trailer had a 2 piece device that clamped around the ball hitch of the truck. It is held together with a bolt, that broke in half and fell into my hand, as I went to clamp it up. Mr Murphy was letting me know that I had been skating on thin ice. Thanks for the heads up, pal.

So, some fairs you win, some fairs you lose, and some fairs you’re just happy to make it home in one piece. Like an airplane crash, any Fair you can walk away from is a good one. Jaime, thanks for not smacking me in the head on that long ago fair day. I sure deserved it. April went on to live a long and happy life. A couple of years after that fair, we sold her to a friend of Reflection farm. She was our first foal and you always remember the first ones with fondness, and are grateful that you lived through it.

Authors note: The picture at the top of the post is of my wife and Daydream. It really does not have much to do with the story other than it is one of my favorite pictures of them.

Memories

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.

KsapaWindow

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.

SunKsapa

I miss my old man.

Goodbye Ksapa. Run with the wind.

February, 2009

Horse Tales

When I first met my wife, it was at a horse show, Howard Lake MN, and she was showing her horse Daydream, with Reflection Farm’s whole herd. It was a banner day for me. I was hanging around, making myself useful. Empty this muck bucket, tote that hay bale, whatever the ladies wanted done. I had been taking riding lessons from Jean Liestman, owner of Reflection Farm, so I got to come along as a handyman/groupie type deal. Jean never turns down an offer of free help.

I was standing at the rail, waiting for the Showmanship class to start up. One of the participants was a young lady, Joy Houske, a friend of Reflection farm, and she was showing her horse in this class. Now, since I was a relative new guy at the horse show business, I had seen all these people, but did not know them very well, and to them, I was Hey You. Joy was out in the ring with her horse, getting ready and she looks up, notices I am standing there, points to me and says “YOU!” I snap my head in her direction and point to myself and say “me?” She nods her head and says “yes, I want you to be my groom.” Joy was a very sweet girl, still in high school and very easy on the eye. Also, her dad was there, and I was old enough to be her kindly, helpful uncle. I popped over the fence and was standing next to her horse, before she finished her sentence. Much like I would imagine a helpful, horsy uncle would do. Her horse snorted and gave me a side eye, but I ignored it and did my groom thing, which was hold the horse, brush the horse, stand next to the horse. I am thinking, yup, I could like this horse show stuff. We finished the class, and I was dismissed to go back to my free help status.

A bit later, the Western Pleasure class was going on. I noticed this long haired chick on a Pinto Saddlebred that caught my eye. She was well out of high school, so I dropped the whole Uncle routine and ambled up to her after the class, to see if I could be helpful-like. And wouldn’t you know it, she asked me if I could help her out of her chaps. Heck yah, I can do that. This horse thing is looking better all the time.

So, I made first contact with the hot and friendly long haired chick, and now the horse show is over. I think Jean, the owner of Reflection Farm, had noticed my interest in the aforementioned long haired chick, and more than likely contrived a continuation of our first contact. She decided to stop at a local restaurant in Howard Lake for some well deserved food, and amusement at watching how things were going to develop. Our party consisted of Jean, Annie, Jean’s teenage daughter, (very good looking I might add in my Uncle voice), Paula, (Miss could you help with my chaps), and myself.

We all placed our orders and the party started. Jean mostly sat there with a benevolent smile. Annie and Paula were working me pretty hard, but this wasn’t my first rodeo, so to speak, and I was giving as good as I got. The food comes and we all apply ourselves. Looking back on things, this next moment was a paradigm shift in my life. I picked up the ketchup bottle, to suavely apply it to my fries, and what happened next pretty much shaped my life from then until now. Annie and Jean were sitting across from me, Paula sitting next to me. I tip the bottle, give it a shake and nothing happens. Another shake, still nothing, and I give it a manly, but gentle tap on the bottom. Loki, Murphy or Cupid, maybe all three of them, decided they needed to up the ante and helped the ketchup bottle spray Annie and Paula with what I wanted on my fries. Time slows down, you see a fork in the road. Which road do you take? What the ketchup was metaphorically asking me was, do ya feel lucky punk? Well do ya?? I did, indeed. I told Annie, sorry girl, I was aiming for Paula. Paula elbowed me in the ribs, but in a friendly way. Jean just nodded her head, mentally thinking the new guy dufus is going fit in, and I asked both of the ladies if they were going to use all that ketchup on their shirts, as I was a little short.