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Good horses are hard to find

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        12-24-2009, 08:27 AM
    I've said before that one of life's little joys is to know the love and companionship of a dumb animal be it a horse or a dog.

    When my much loved, hairy, yappy, little, faithful terrier died my Father made up a little wooden memorial to him. I watched in surprise, as I did not realize that he had the ability to carve on wood. Then as I read the words, my eyes watered.

    Father turned to me and said: -

    "Son, if you had not known the love of the animal, then you would not be experiencing the price in grief to be paid when the animal dies. You got a bargain."

    Those words were spoken nearly 30 years ago and I guess I shall remember them until I can't remember anything.

    So if around this time of year you folks are provoked to shed a little tear in memory of a much loved steed, then hopefully it will bring back a few good memories as well.

    Barry G
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        12-24-2009, 09:14 AM
    When I was younger, I never had my own horse due to financial reasons. I rode anything and everything that someone would let me, and a wonderful trainer that took me under her wing to start training horses as a teenager. I bought my first horse when I was 16, but he ended up having to be put down from long term physical issues in just over a year. I was working some other projects at the time, but nothing great. I was glancing through horse ads in my parents office when I just said "mom, that is my horse". He was just coming 4 yrs old, dunskin paint gelding with minimal white. We went and saw him and the woman selling him turned down higher offers on him while we were there, saying that she agreed with me, he was my horse. We put tons of miles on together, riding through busy towns, cow pastures, woods, we traveled a good chunk of the country together before I was 20 and before he was 7. He's the kinda guy that could win a western pleasure class and a barrel race in the same day. He helps me train other horses and lead groups in parades. He always keeps me humble, and has put me in the dirt a few times when I start getting too cocky. But, at the same time, that single horse has been a key in building most of my business. He definitely knows how to ham it up when the right people are watching. I've had several people walk up and say that he looks proud when I get up on his back. He's one of those jerks that you can't help but love, he's locked me in feed rooms and thoroughly enjoys throwing water on me, but all in good fun. He takes his work seriously, always my right hand man when push comes to shove.

    He and I now have a full barn to work. He gives me that look, everyday when I walk in the barn, that look that reminds me about what it was like when it was just the two of us. Sadly, its a rare occasion when he and I can go for a ride without a problem child to pony or an inexperienced rider to babysit. But, we both keep working, he takes on every problem horse that we get in, keeping the structure in the barn. He calms them down, gives them manners, and I teach them their skills. He is only 11 now, but I know he will always be here, the donkey won't let anyone else ride him anyway!
        12-25-2009, 11:06 AM
    A Fast Night Ride Home.
    Longford Golden Appollo (Puddy) was not the first horse which I ever owned - he was the second. His predecessor was a cross breed cob who we named Sunshine. Thinking back to those days Sunnie’s main handicap in life was that he was born around 1970 as a bay gelding cob which pretty much made him ‘common‘. Nearly all horses born in Britain back in those days were bay geldings since coloured horses were distinctly unfashionable. With hindsight I owe Sunnie a lot because it was he, a natural schoolmaster, who taught me to ride. There were no surprises from Sunnie who went on to have a good life taking a young Welsh farmer fox hunting.

    Puddy on the other hand was distinctly unusual in being a golden palomino with a silky flaxen mane, a long full flaxen tail, four flaxen hairy feet and, importantly, two flaxen ears. As a young man I had been seriously impressed by this beautiful creature, first seen languishing in a scrubby field. Noticeably his neglectful owner had lost interest in horse riding. Puddy, very obviously, had lots of class and looked the part. We paid the money asked for and Puddy came home without much ado. Over the years this pretty palomino proved to be a skittish handful but he gave me a lot of fun in the process. Puddy was the cause for my selling a picturesque 16th century house in the centre of a snooty village in order to buy a pig farm, so as to provide the chap with a stable and some pasture. Many years later, Puddy was sent on to heavenly pastures but memories of times spent with him will stay in my mind for as long as my memory works.

    It was customary on most Sundays to ride around the town, through the woodlands and up onto the moors. There was a network of interlinking paths and we could choose many ways to go to the pub either directly or by taking a roundabout route. Much depended upon the weather. It was always a lot of fun to chase the leader. One Sunday we set off a little late and by the time we stopped for a quick tipple at the pub, some friends were already there celebrating a birthday. We were invited to join the party. As a result Puddy and my brother’s horse Ranger were tied up to a convenient tree whilst, I and my stunt man buddy had a beer or two. In those days I could drink beer - pints of it. The honest truth is that we stayed too long and by the time we had noticed that the clock was going too fast, it was already dark. In the mean time the two horses had been standing tied to a tree for a couple of hours and they were mighty miffed - to say the least. They wanted their evening meal. It was also the first time they had been out after dark. Of course the two riders were happy and noisy - that is what beer does to men. We mounted up and off we went - at the canter from the very beginning.

    Now the real problem was that the shortest route home was not along the tracks on the moorland; rather it was a few miles down the hill and through the woods. The path was about four feet wide. On the left side the bushes grew and on the right side there was a steep downward sloping bank. There was little room for lateral movement. However there was a problem in that the daylight had faded and for much of the ride we would be in neglected and overgrown natural woodland. It would be pitch dark. In fact all I could see forwards were the two white ears of my Palomino. I couldn’t see the surface of the path nor even the edge of the path and I was in the lead. I wasn’t worried about losing my way; Puddy knew the way better than I did. But I did know that the quickest route took us around a sharp 120 degree right hand bend. Neither could I see the low lying branches which I knew from previous experience could swipe me out of the saddle. There was only one thing to do and that was to rise up off the saddle, push my knees into the knee rolls of the saddle and bend forwards so that my head was lower than the horse’s ears. Effectively I was laying on the horse’s neck, sprint race jockey style. There was no way by which I could hold my horse back, even assuming that I could persuade my stuntman friend to rein in. I was only in front because his horse was slower than mine. Din earned his living in the film world doing this type of riding. We roared down that path and I began to get a little worried about the bend for I knew it would be coming up soon. As it happened it was no big deal because at the speed we were going it was the centrifugal force which kept me in the saddle. Horse and rider must have been leaning over into the turn. The track was gently downhill all the way and we didn’t stop motoring until we reached the tarmacced lane by the parking area. We had to slow down then and bring the horses back to trot as we could not canter through the town, especially on a Sunday.

    Finally we got home to be met by a younger Her Indoors (she of flaming red hair) waving her broomstick and asking where on earth we, two, irresponsible, selfish, inconsiderate, yobboes had been for all that time. The sweaty horses were quickly led away from us to be fed, watered and groomed. We were to be treated as the lowest of the lowlife.
    However that ride was one of the most memorable rides of my life.

    Of course nowadays I would scold anyone who even thought to ride in such an irresponsible way.

    Without doubt it would not have been possible to get home safely without those white ears. The branches would have got me.

    Barry G

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