My Horse Stories
Because my most memorable horse stories have roots in earlier events, my narrative starts in 1992, when I started riding again, (thus hinting there was an earlier time when I was smaller and started out with a pony), after a decade of focusing on school and my computer based career.|
The number of times an event of years past turns out to have connections to the future, is still amusing, if not astounding. Watch for how many times I describe something seemingly out of the blue and un-related, that later comes back in a big surprise. These events are the basis for this story, focusing around the treasures that came from having horses in my life.
The path back to horses came from my co-worker Mark, who with his wife Kelly, had 3 horses. A few years earlier, she had participated in helping at the 1988 Olympic games, so had an interest in dressage, which I then took an interest in, and took training lessons as a condition to lease Roxy, a 20 year old percheron-thoroughbred. In my record book, Roxy was the 5th horse I ever rode, the first four coming before high school.|
Also at the time there was a lady named Mary, who worked as a florist, tending the plants at the ComputerLand store were Mark and I worked.
Over the next year, I lost my health, and then my job. Thus cementing my reputation "from high tech to low tech" (See the About Me page for that half of my story paralleling this one.) I fell back to spending my time, working with Roxy. Getting away from magnetic fields was what I needed, and Roxy provided that path to do so.
In 1994 I took up helping a man named Cap who gave stage coach and wedding rides by horse-drawn carriage. One group of customers we took on a stage to Everson (in NW Washington state), included a couple named Larry and Renee. My constant migraine headaches didn't help things, so this job didn't last long. One of my best memories from this period is from when we sailed on a ferry to give rides on Orcas Island. Riding a horse named Thunder up Turtleback Mountain to an overlook of the strait was an added bonus.
When I stopped boarding Roxy at stables, and took her back home, to Mark and Kelly's, just before I released her Kelly was taking pictures. Roxy hugged me. She put her head around my chest and squeezed. Then she rested her head on my shoulder. She was thanking me for rejoining her herd, which included her son. A big horse I had rode once for Kelly.
Over the next year as I drove from my home to Roxy's home, I saw many horses over the 20 mile distance. Around 100 by my count. One pair outside Lynden were a white arab and palomino quarter horse.
In 1995 my doctor told me I needed to move, to get away from the constant exposure to power lines, if I wanted to get better. After traveling first to eastern Washington, where I stayed at an RV park near Kettle Falls, in June I settled on the SW Washington coast in the Willapa valley, at a Swiss hall which rented for big gatherings, and for RV groups there were a hundred hookups.
The neighbors had 2 horses in their field, and a black dog who visited me. In early December word came that Roxy was dead. Her front hoof had rotated, and she had to be put down. I had logged 553 rides totaling 353 hours on Roxy, across a span of 1049 days (from first to last ride). I took the news hard. By 1996, mid-January I went next door to ask the neighbor if I could brush their horses or something to fill the void in my heart. Then I learned it was Larry and Renee, who had moved the previous year. The stage ride was a moving-leaving present. By April I had moved my trailer to their farm, and started helping with the dairy cows, and then I started helping clear trails for the 4-H club she hosted.
The Swiss Hall was glad to see me go. They never expected anyone to want to stay 9 months. Even though I did not cause trouble, and stayed out of the way, they ammended their policy to limit stays to 2 weeks.
The healthy exercise and clean air helped me. This is where I really improved my health, and over the 4 years there, I got better, and finally had a day without a headache.
However, back in 1996-December, Larry's 20 year old horse named Chevy died from a colic, leaving them just the one horse named Roan, a 14 year old roan colored quarter horse, who she had barrel raced with. I had logged 87 rides over 139 hours on Chevy, following cows and riding the trails around the area.
At the next summer poker ride (in 1997) one of Renee's friends drove down with her 2 horses... It was Mary, with the white arab and the palomino. It's a small world!
I was offered the palomino to ride. Her name was Shadow, and she was 13. Her name came from her behavior to follow Mary around like a shadow, having been orphaned at birth. Thus she thought Mary was her mom, and people were like family. Mary had taught her to speak, or mimic. When her name was spoken, she neighed back.
My first meeting with Shadow may not have been a good sign. She kicked me on the leg above the knee. She was establishing her position in the herd, and this is after all how horses maintain pecking order, although a bit agressive from the start! Didn't phase me, I quickly yelled once, and then ignored her, (apart from staying out of her kick zone of course.) Mary was apparently happy to find a home for Shadow. After a group ride on the beach of the Pacific Ocean, and the poker ride the next day, I bought her. Looking back at this, I suspect this was their intention.
Over the next several months I figured out Shadow's high strung attitude was not natural. She was not comfortable. When Renee had a chiropractor look at Roan, I had him also look at Shadow. He found her shoulder was all locked up tight, and whatever was wrong with her hind end, he couldn't accomplish anything there, as she was prone to kicking. Mary filled in the missing puzzle piece. When she was one year old, Shadow reared up and landed on a wood post, and impaled herself at the briscuit below the neck. She lived, and the wound healed, but the long scar remained, and nobody thought of it further. She had training difficulty over the years, and was labeled with a bad attitude. Trainers knowing nothing better tried to discipline her, and work her harder out of the behavior. Shadow was angry with the world, one where no one would listen to her, and no one understood what bothered her. A feeling I could empathize with, for I was in the same situation, suffering from EHS.
After her chiropractic adjustment, even I could see her walking normally. Her shoulders were moving (again). Shadow started moving out on the trail with longer strides.
Shadow's attitude improved with her healing and herbal remedies I fed them. Each year we expanded our network of trails into the neighboring tree farms, gaining access to various entry points to the logging roads that criss cross the area like the network of spider webs.
One frosty January morning in 1998, I looked out the window to see Roan picking up branches that had blown down in the windstorm overnight. I grabbed the camera when he had ahold of a branch much too large to move very far. When he got a firm grip on a mid-sized branch, he trotted toward Shadow and chased her with the stick, until the branch became unbalanced and he dropped it. He picked it back up, and repeated this a few times before I got out the door to feed breakfast. But the look on their faces!
Roan: I've got a stick! Chase!
Shadow: Eeeek! A monster! Run away!
Roan: Tag! Move her feet! I'm the boss!
Then in late 1998 we started crossing the Forks Creek A-line. A natural barrier that represented a 9.5 (index or calorie) mile round trip. This is the main road in and has logging trucks coming in and out every day, but at low enough rates so it is easy to avoid any encounters. Weyerhauser is always logging somewhere in their vast holdings.
Shadow got sore from that first longer ride, but I then built her up slowly, and by summer of 1999 we were riding to the top of the next ridge, newly logged, where we could see even the Olympic Mountains, some 90 miles away to the north, and Mount Ranier to the northeast. An excellent viewpoint to take pictures from.
One day in 1999, May 10 was a frosty morning, and by afternoon it was 64 degrees. We set out on an ambitious ride to go up the B-line to the waterfalls, with the intent to loop back around on the D-line. This became our longest ride (to date), lasting 4 hours, that measured 13 miles if flat, but because of the 2090 feet climb to get there and back, it was the equivalent of 22.1 Calorie Index Miles. (Calculates to 1636 calories burned.) Up near the east waterfall, after climbing a narrow skidding road, heavy in branches and bushes, we came out on a upper road, long abandoned, that had an inch of snow on it. Snow in May!! We went around or over many downed trees, until reaching a fork in the road I did not expect, as it was not on my map. The direction I was aiming for went down, not up. My confidence in knowing where I was on the rough map, started evaporating. This was before GPS and aerial maps, so I had nothing more than simple paper maps and compass style, sundial reckoning to go by. I finally decided to turn back, and Shadow seemed happy to do so. I could practically see her thinking: Are you sure you know where we're going? Not when we have to go over and around this many trees across and low hanging the old road! I looked for the corner we had emerged from the bushes, but finally realized we must've gone past my turnoff. I looked down and noticed our footprints behind, or lack of them ahead... I went too far. So I backtracked until we found the right spot to climb down the hill. As is the nature with hills, we came down a lot faster than we went up. It only took 1 1/2 hours to get home.
Later in August, I camped out overnight further up the ridge along the A-line. It was a beautiful sunset with a herd of elk feeding below me in the short regrowth. In the morning I saw the valley fog, from above.
This inspired me to ride Shadow out a few mornings later, before dawn. We forded the river and rode up the small hill under the dark cover of trees, up to a nearby hill with overlook of the valley, before sunrise.
I took several pictures, of the morning fog, and Shadow's profile toward the sun.
I thought camping out as far away from the power lines as possible, on that ridge line, would be a good thing. But I did not feel better on that morning. This was around when I started to realize my sensitivity also included wireless. The amount of exposure I received up on that ridge was significant, with line of sight to SeaTac airport and the airline traffic patterns. Later camp outs in the deep valley proved to be refreshing, and these were places I felt much better.
1999 was the year I reached the peak of our accomplishments. I had cleared 12 miles of trails within just two square miles, logged and measured 50 (unique flat) miles of trails or roads ridden, participated in leading and dragging 4-H rides, was mentoring one 4-H teenager who lived up the road, went on rides with her and other friends who lived nearby, and expanded my knowledge of the local roads out to a fair distance. I had rehabilitated an unwanted horse, and built up her strength and endurance to go nearly anywhere. Except chasing cows. She was not mentally disposed to cut cows. Roan was. He was the slow thinker with the chase instinct.
Also in 1999, the dairy started applying a new insecticide on the cows backs, to kill the flies. When I later connected the dots, I remembered it was an organo-phosphate, a powerful nuro-toxin. This almost certainly played a significant part in how I was affected.
This was also the year that I started getting affected by portable phones, and cell towers started appearing. One above Lebam, (2 miles to the west). So by 2000 my recovery had turned a 180. I started making mistakes on the farm, and became frustrated by my declining health.
Roan was also having problems. Every time the farrier trimmed him, he would get sore and even lame for a couple weeks. Then he started having muscle cramps, where muscle groups would ball up into a hard mass. Renee dismissed the feet, saying he has always been sore after shoeing. And to solve the other problem he needs more exercise. I disagreed. I saw a horse that was hurting.
Shadow's attitude returned, and when she kicked at the farrier, I began leaving her hinds barefoot, and started learning the art of trimming myself. Because when the farrier quits, there is nobody else to volunteer! Unfortunately Shadow did not like this new arrangement, and started acting up. Or perhaps my attitude was affecting her... This question became my biggest fear, and regret of this time period.
Then Renee told me that while I was gone to town one day, Shadow had run toward someone, jumped up, spun around and kicked out at his head. In disbelief I dismissed it until one day in July just as I was riding out, I had a visitor looking for me for a hall rental. Yes, by now I had a very-part-time job of taking care of managing the rentals for the Swiss Hall next door. Wrap your brain around that! When the visitor petted Shadow, she kicked at him, putting her foot through the side of my travel trailer.
I must admit I didn't handle the aftermath of that situation well. My brain fog was affecting my decisions, but I couldn't accept having a dangerous liability on my hands. Renee didn't want her. Mary didn't want her back. Poor Shadow... unwanted...
I managed to find a buyer and sold her. Le cheval.
The hours I logged with Shadow was a record that stood for a decade. 305 rides totaling 500 hours spanning 1081 days. She was the 20th horse I had ever ridden, but the first I had owned myself. I was heart broken, but could not see other viable options considering my situation.
Within the week, I was also no longer welcome on the farm, so I was gone as well. I intentionally skipped over describing how many mistakes one with short-term memory problems can make, that belongs in my health story, not my horse story. However when I gave notice I was leaving to the Swiss Hall, I was surprised they did not want me to leave. So I moved back over to where I first arrived 5 years before. They were now willing to make an exception for their policy, in my case.
You can't make this stuff up! Life is stranger than fiction sometimes...
Handling phone calls, greeting people, and acting as caretaker with keys, and by the way, getting woken up at 1 am by kids opening the big gate to spin donuts in the grass... let me also play security guard. (It was the mayor's son and another kid, with 2 girlfriends. Tsk tsk tsk, that made an amusing report at the next board meeting.) These responsibilities were within my abilities.
There I moped for the next 1 1/2 years, hiking into the neighboring tree farm and revisiting the trails I helped create. I became caretaker for the Swiss Hall, but with the continuous exposure to smokers and the new portable and cell phones, and drunk party guests, I knew that this was not where I wanted to live long term, and would likely be leaving soon, and so I soaked in the peace and quiet of those woods while I could.
In mid 2001, the break between me and Renee thawed, but not necessarily for the best reason. Roan became sick enough that Larry asked my help to bury him next to Chevy. I had known Roan for 6 years, the longest of any horses I had worked with. I had logged 258 rides for 434 hours across a span of 1690 days. He had a tough guy attitude that was special in it's own way.
I was totally alone, with few friends. My shadow was the only one who walked beside me. I knew Loss.
Finally word came from my parents that the family farm, where I grew up, was finally selling, after 7 years of trying to sell. The search was on for where to move to. In 2002-February, we all moved to northeast Washington, to begin a new chapter.
|I want to read more, show me Chapter 2|