Friday asked to go out tonight (I got a lot of meaningful looks over the gate) so I haltered her up and we went for a quick walk down the road. Pretty windy tonight, and of course her two other mare friends were calling and galloping along the pasture fenceline. Then a couple of big hay trucks came up behind us (but it had been so quiet when we LEFT the driveway…sigh). Friday did fine, but she was clearly having trouble keeping herself under control. I walked her into the neighbor’s field so we’d give the hay trucks (and resulting clouds of dust) a wide berth.
Then one of the guys hauling hay stopped the truck and came over to admire her. This is a man whose offspring have all gone off to win rodeos, so they know horses and own dozens of them. Cowboy Man was polite, but it was clear that he was evaluating Fry for a possible purchase–down to remarking on the blemish on one of her front legs. (Oh, and he also said, “If you keep her this fat you’re probably going to cripple her.” Good thing he didn’t happen to look over in the pasture to see Dicey and Dove, who have reached true hippo proportions. Our weird cool/wet spring has made the pasture look like something out of a Kentucky storybook. I could lock them up part of the day, but after an ulcer incident over the winter I think I prefer fat mares to fence-chewing, in-pain mares.)
It’s funny because I’ve often thought of this particular rodeo family when I’ve been frustrated with this mare. I know Fry would probably perform well on a ranch with a big job to do. I think Kathleen Lindley may have put it best after working with Fry for a little while: “This is a horse a pro should own.”
The guy who trained her said, “She needs to work cows for a couple of months so she can figure out she doesn’t always have to go at top speed all the time.” I watched him ride her around his spread when we went to pick her up. The waves of pissed-offedness were all but emanating off of her.
Kathleen’s comment was the one I really took to heart–because I’m so obviously NOT a pro. Some days I wonder if I’m doing Fry a disservice just by owning her. I know she has the closest thing to an idyllic existence a horse can have (good grub, nine acres to ramble 24/7, shelter, good health care, mare buddies), but she doesn’t have a job. The fact is that she’d make an excellent cow horse. She’s catty and faster than snot. She even loves chasing things.
And I’m afraid to ride her.
This mare’s respect and willingness don’t come easily, and that’s putting it politely. This is not a docile, willing little critter—and I know that horses like that often wind up misunderstood and mistreated. I also know that people who rodeo and show horses have a completely different set of expectations than I will ever have–and I don’t know that a mare who is essentially a complicated little turd would get a lot of second chances with owners who were mainly interested in appearance and performance.
But I also know they’re probably a lot more likely to be able to handle a horse like this.
My TW mare, Dove (same age as Fry) knocks herself out trying to please me. Sometimes it’s almost laughable how different their personalities are. I have to become a totally different person when I’m working with Dove, who doesn’t multi-task well. She gets upset if she doesn’t easily understand what I’m asking, and she’s a lot more reactive than Friday is. Dove can also get really uncoordinated when she’s spooking, which is scary as hell. She needs constant reassurance from me—unlike her “sister,” who needs me to be the demanding Boss Mare all the time.
Anyway. I stopped myself from asking Cowboy if he was interested in buying Fry. “I always wanted a bay-and-white paint for barrels,” he said, grinning, as he headed back to his truck. “Just curious about her.”
After we got back to the pasture, I went out with a shovel to whack at the Canadian thistle and milkweed (apparently this will be my fitness program this summer). The “girls” all like to keep an eye on any pasture work, so when I moved to a different spot they came trotting over. Friday has a beautiful floaty trot, and sometimes it just fills my heart to watch her—so young and so sure of herself. I remembered one day when a friend of mine was over, and we watched this little bay-and-white baby racing around the pasture…and race, and race. “Oh boy,” my friend Kyya said. “You are going to have your hands full with that one.”
She was right.