Monday, January 25, 2010

Horses are Pawns to be used!

Maybe you play chess, maybe you don't. If you do play chess, then you know what a Pawn is. It is the lowest form of player on the field, it is usually sacrificed at times and in some cases can be the one player to make the win.

The lowly Pawn as a Horse?? Yes!

Let's take a look at how one lovely mare was used as a Pawn.

Her name and all the names will be omitted, but the story is true!

Checking my Facebook page one morning, I came across a posting from a friend about a missing Appaloosa mare and how she hoped the mare could be found and returned to it's rightful owner.

I stared at it for a minute and then re-read the c/p from CL, this was in my backyard, very close to home. It could have been my 22 year old leopard mare. Dismay and fear were the emotions I felt immediately. What the hell was happening here? There must be some way to help. I trusted the friend who posted it, I knew the original owner had a good reputation within our breed, so what was going on?

I decided to call the number and talk to the well known, long time Appaloosa breeder and find out her side of this missing mare story. I was not disappointed!

My first contact with the owner of the missing mare was amazement. She was focused on recovering her horse to the point of minute details. Distance was an issue and the electronic age was not lost upon her. We discussed photos, laws of both state and county, peoples perception of "leopard", lack of response from buyers and people who you suspect are lying. It was a diverse conversation to say the least. I too learned a lot about people in my area from that phone call. People that I can only say go on the "don't deal with" list.

She agreed to start the work on the Stolen Horse International/Net Posse paperwork. This group is well known for it's excellent recovery rate of lost/missing/stolen horses. They have wonderful follow-up too on their website. So the owner embarked on the task of filling the missing/stolen horse report. There is a lot of detail in this report. Sheriff contact information, reported case number, dates and times, photos, descriptions, brand information and a brief rundown of the situation.

Speaking of Brands, the missing mare did have a brand and it was a registered brand. So one would think that if you contacted the Washington State Brand Inspector, you could get a person who would be interested in a possible stolen horse being taken across state lines w/o a Coggins and the proper Brand Inspection paperwork. All the numbers from websites either went no where or no one called us back. We finally got a good number from a local Vet.

Meanwhile, with the owner doing lots of "legal" contacting and paperwork, I told her I would do my best to "get the word" out. Oh my, how that works in very strange ways. You have the "curious", the "blind", the "gossips", the "naggers", the "scoops" all trying to contact you with or for information. During the Fran Farmer debacle, all of these same characters were there to help. Sigh....

The Curious really just want to know what is going on without really making any effort to assist. They have reasons why they can't/don't print out photos and reasons why they can't/won't drive out and look/photo a horse. They really just want to know the "juicy" details and don't care if the missing horse is starving, being abused or dead.

The Blind are good people, they are really trying to help, but they don't know one horse from another, can't see a difference between a mare and a gelding and haven't really looked at the photo's you sent to see there are spots in very specific places. These people just need some of your time to explain once again that the spots will tell you if it is the horse. You really can't hide a leopard. You can hide a blanketed Appy, you can hide a fewspot, but a leopard is pretty hard to cover up! And each leopard is distinctly different from each other, no two look the same!

The Gossips, oh my! Wish I could hang up on them, but that would be RUDE!! They call to tell you all the local trashy stories on who did what to who and when and why and how. And I sit and I listen and I hope to God I get some type of lead out of this and I am never happy to know these things. There must be something in my voice that makes these people want to elucidate on all bad marriages and parents and, and, and, ......finally they exhaust themselves and I might have a slip of a lead, but mostly my ear hurts and thank goodness they don't have my cell phone number!!!

The Naggers are folks who really are helping you, really they are, in their own mind they are helping you! They contact you over and over to see if you have done this or that and then they do it again a couple of days later. And then they....never really coughing up any new information or actually doing any recon work themselves. But they do make sure you are doing it all properly. Thanks guys!

And lastly....the Scoops!! These are the people who are AWESOME!! They call when they have a lead, they pass the word around and they actually HELP you in your quest! I love SCOOPS!!

I also learned a lot about some of our local Vet offices. The term..."I don't want to get involved" comes to mind. I really don't understand that one iota!! When someone says that to me, that means they either know something or they truly don't care. As a part of an institution that pledges to "care for animals", how can anyone in those offices have this mentality? I even heard of one Vet Tech who said the flier would clutter up the vehicle. WTH???

Which brings me back to the horse as a Pawn. Did the mare actually end up at the Vet office in need of medical attention or did that Vet office mistake another horse for her? When asked if they took photos of the horses they treat, the answer was a resounding NO...hmmm. So they can't be sure it is the right or wrong horse. Dead end...maybe! They made money, they have client confidentiality and they have to do business I am silently told to leave them alone and mind my own business.

The small matter of not paying board on a horse is a huge part of this story. Legally, I was told you must give the boarder notice and sufficient time to pay up on their bill. I don't board horses, but I am certain you can't just sell off a boarder's animal without contacting them. And if that boarder has receipts and states they are paid up, do you still have a right to sell the animal? If you took payment in another form and got your money, is that considered "paid up"? Which party is actually telling the truth? Does it matter? The party who says they paid their board is the party who did not make their purchase payment on the actual missing mare! So, who are you apt to believe? Both parties are in the wrong in my book. You sign a contract to buy a car and you don't make the payments, you get a notice, you get a chance to pay-up and if you ignore it, they come and repossess your car! Same - Same with the horse. I was working with the original owner who was trying to locate her horse and the so-called buyer of the horse. This takes time and sometimes animals don't have the luxury of time. They can be in imminent danger of death from abusiveness or starvation or plain old neglect. And it had taken months for the original owner to track down this none paying buyer, let alone find out where she had stashed the mare. When the location of the mare was known, she asked a relative to go check on her. Well, that right there turned into a nightmare (sorry about the pun).

Pawn exit stage left!

When I drive down a street and I am lost, I usually stop and ask for directions. So hearing that the "relative" stopped in at the boarding "facility" (term used loosely) to see the mare should really have been no big deal. But apparently this was not a normal helpful country type of person. He was run off of the property by the boarding facility owner in the usual ugly threatening way. Disputed "pawn" is standing on boarding facility owners property and relative has no recourse but to leave and seek council. Several days later, the "pawn" is gone! Must have been way too much heat applied by Craigslist postings and the relative to keep that loud leopard visible to people passing by on the road. Mind you, this "facility" has no trees, no privacy fencing, barbed wire, a travel trailer, a cab over camper without a cab to be over, a plethora of dogs, sheep, goats, horses, etc and NOT ONE HAY BALE visible! I know, I went by the place too.

Enter in another party, one who has a truck and trailer, because the boarding facility owner does not own a truck or a trailer. We will call this person the boarding facility friend (bff). Now, when I want to do something in secret, I would do it in the night or behind the comfort of a closed door. Loading up horses during the day next to a road, that is not so secret. So, now we have a "witness" who watched the "pawn" get loaded into a stock trailer. We will call this witness "w1". That is one story, the other story is the bff hauled the "pawn" to w1's place. Either way, another witness "w2", says the loud leopard mare did show up at the property next door to her owned by w1 and she ended up hauling the loud leopard mare back to bff's facility. Oh dear.....this is the convoluted part!! Since w1 does not own a truck and trailer, some of this is believable. But w1 swears the mare was never at her place. Now I called bff and had a short but telling conversation with her. This person stated clearly she did haul a horse for the boarding facility owner to the vet's office. I asked her directly if she hauled a leopard appy mare, that is when she told me "I know nothing about horses" and hung up. Hmmmmm.

Meanwhile, back to the original owner, who is getting some nasty emails, finally makes contact with the buyer/boarder and can't get the Sheriff's department to cooperate! The story on her end is unfolding but hard to understand who might be telling the truth and who might really be helping her. I have to say, if I were to have been her at that moment, I would also suspect "me". You do not know any of these people, so how can you believe anything they say. Your gut has to tell you something, but your heart and gut are not getting along with each other! Poor original owner! She is standing fast though and staying focused, still!

In the midst of all of this is another little pawn, a small puppy. This registered lap dog is said to have been used as "payment" for board by the buyer of the mare to the boarding facility owner. OK, so the boarding facility owner now has another dog to add to her pack, or should we say, another mouth to feed? Anyway, rumor has it the w2 has a neighbor who purchased said puppy for a sum of $600. OK, that is enough to pay for at least a couple of months back board owed, right? Apparently not!

One of the nasty emails the original owner got was from bff, it stated that the mare had gone to a good home and she would never ever see that mare again. Hmmmm, how would bff know that if she was not involved with boarding facility owner? Besides, she told me she knew nothing about horses, so how would she know if it was our lovely loud leopard mare? And, instead of bff sending that email directly to the original owner, she sent it to w1, who forwarded it to the original owner. More questions on who exactly is involved come up at this point.

And in the midst of all this, I think I have a good location on every leopard appaloosa mare in the PNW! The Stolen Horse International/Net Posse flier is ready and transmitted via email and Facebook to everyone and anyone who is interested in helping find our poor little pawn. I spend lots of time assisting folks on how to download and print the flier. I get lots of comments on the flier from people who don't want to help. Yep, this is FUN!!!

Have I mentioned that time is a factor? Did I mention that the mare was said to be thin? Did I also say it is Winter? As I write this, it is snowing outside. I am writing this before the saga is over, so I can keep as much of it as "straight" as possible. It is not good for a horse lover to hear a horse is thin, it makes us wonder "how thin"! How much time does she have? It is cold, wet, snowy, rainy and generally not nice weather here in the north eastern Washington area. So, without knowing exactly just what her condition is, we are worried. Worried she will get sickly, worried she is already dead, worried she might be suffering instead of dead.

The flier is out, getting put up everywhere and emailed everywhere. Calls and emails come in from far away places with encouragement and HOPE! And then I wake up and read an email from the original owner....stop the presses!!! We think we have found her and we think we can get her home in 48 hours. Jump for joy and Yippee!!

But we can't say a word about it to anyone, because whoever has her, purchased her. They did not know they were buying a "hot" horse. They saw the SHI flier after the fact. They don't want to be implicated in the legal process. They are victims in this game of Chess, just one more "pawn" to have been used. Or are they???

What do you do? How can you ever make the sorry ass low life's pay??? They made money off of her from the boarder, got themselves some new fencing and then made even more money off of our little pawn mare when they sold her!!

I freaking live amongst these cracker asses!!

But I am happy to say that the little leopard mare is back in the hands of the original owner, sort of. She is at a family member's home and is getting taken care of. She is not thin and is just as sweet as she was before all this began.

So what have I learned in this latest Appaloosa Adventure?? There are wonderful people who are honest and care. There are ugly game players who pray on situations for their own gain. The list of "not to do business with" persons is longer now. And that Chess is a board game with inanimate objects, not something to be played with living breathing animals or people!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

But but but but.......sigh.....cave

My horse is faster than yours! My horse is taller than yours! My horse is stronger than yours! My horse is prettier than yours! My horse is smarter than yours!!

Does that bring back memories for you? Childhood memories??? Is that why we have horse shows, rodeo's and races?? Because we couldn't get the childish nannernanners out of our system?

I would like to think we have advanced past the silliness of our youth and become gracious in showing our horses. Yes, there are still "sport" events that horses can and do "beat" each other at! Racing (in many forms), Steeplechasing, Jumping, Gaming and Sulky. I think they still have some Chariot races somewhere and the Chuckwagon races. I am not counting the downhill suicide is just silly and those folks can have at it!

There are the "competitive" stuff we do with horses that are very subjective to conditions and judges! Calf roping, steer daubing, working cow horse, bull dogging and cutting are all timed, yes, but they have that added condition...cows!

Regular Horse showing is just....well, judged! And that is always, always just some "other opinions" coming from a group of people who spent a lot of time and effort to learn how to fill out some score sheets based on criteria set forth by another group of people.

Think of when you go to a agree to the class rules when you enter a class. Yes, you do. No one says you HAVE to enter that class. So, IF you enter, you agree! You agree to ride in that class by the rules set forth for that class. Then, you also agree to abide by the opinion of the judges hired to rate (can't say score, 'cause some of them don't use a score sheet!) those riders and horses in front of them. It is as simple as that!

I know this stuff, I am a good sport too. So why am I so caught up on one stupid rule? The silly Western theory that 6 year old horses MUST be in a proper bridle and bit??? WHY???

If I have a nice headset, good response, lovely gates, smooth transitions and a happy horse, why can't I show him in the the snaffle he knows and is comfortable with?

I am perplexed?

Do I agree that 2 year olds should be ridden in classes? No, but there are two year old snaffle futurities that happen every year. Is it accepted? Yes. I would think there can also be acceptance of snaffles for aged horses. And that just gets me too, as if 6 years old is aged! Who decided this??? Is it written in the Horse Bible somewhere I don't know about?? My horse certainly was not aware he was aged and in need of a total new contact device.

So, I cave. I am caving in to the "system" that I truly feel needs a lot of fixing. My horse is a happy guy and I want him to stay that way. So I seek out the best way to move him into the barbaric bit (my term, sorry!) I am very fortunate that my wonderful Classical Dressage trainer is also very knowledgeable with the ways of the California Caballero! Which is only a different form of Mexican training due to location!

Enter the fix!! Thanks be to the English Hackamore! With this nice and sane device, my boy and I are learning some very good communication, subtle communication. My seat is better, my seat bones are talking, my legs are talking, my eye direction is talking and guess what? He is listening, ever so closely! And that shanked bit is just hanging there, not harming him one iota! Oh, I know there are those that think a snaffle is the wrong hands yes! For this rider, learning the proper way to use a shanked bit without causing pain to my happy horse is a boat load of progress!

Look out judges...we are coming to a show near you! Sometime this summer!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Trials of Winter Riding

What time are we riding today???

Are you done eating yet?

Did I plug in the truck?

Oh geez, I forgot I disconnected the trailer last week....sigh.

Yes, winter riding is a challenge. Just when I think I have it down to a manageable routine, somehow a monkey wrench gets thrown in. It takes two hours minimum for the truck to be "warmed" enough to start, which means remembering to plug it in before I feed my horses. With all the tank heaters going in the middle of 9 degrees, we try to only use what electrical devices we actually need. Since I don't drive my rig exclusively with the horse trailer, some days I have extra steps I have to take just to get out of the driveway. And you really must be kind to old diesels, they will work their heart out for you as long as you treat them with extra care. My old diesel is over her 300,000 mark, which makes both of us members of the "road well traveled" club!!

I hate to be late, but I have come to realize, being late is OK. Me and my horses arrive intact if I take time to prepare for the drive.

Sometimes the weather just does not cooperate either! Have you ever noticed how you plan for a picnic and it always seems to pick that day to rain?? Well, winter snow and riding is a lot like that. I tend to be a bit on the safe side and not drive this 45 foot rig when the roads are slick. I like tomorrow too much to chance missing it.

And just who do you take riding today? Which horse needs the workout most? Do I take the Thoroughbred who is way out of shape and burn off those precious calories I keep pouring into her? I know she will give me her best and love the full day of attention. Do I take my young filly who is going to be full of energy and fire? Do I take my stallion, who will give me a good quiet ride and could use burning off some winter chunk?

And then you must, absolutely must, dress properly to ride in 20 degrees. There is no argument on that. Making your helmet fit over your thermal cap is good for a laugh, not only do you get great helmet-hair, you get itchy helmet-head too! And just how does my trainer know I am's the coat I tell you!! I have 5 layers on under here, there is no way I dropped my shoulder on that transition! He can't tell crap about what my body is doing, my seat is fine, even if my seat bones can't touch the saddle through the layers of long johns and breeches! My wrist did not's the gloves, really!! I tell you, my back IS straight, I am NOT caving my arch!! I am sitting deep, can't he see anything???

Why do we do this to ourselves? What is the driving force that pushes us to crawl on arthritic knees to hook up those safety chains in a bed of snow? Why do we constantly push ourselves with numb limbs to ride it through?

Because we make progress and succeed! The horse is happiest when he is working with you. You feel better when you have ridden the perfect circle. You get an awesome workout, the day is brighter and you get to breath-in warmed horse body aroma. There is nothing better for a horse person than the satisfaction of the ride. It is an unexplainable thing. It is just there to be done.

When I get home, with my limbs warm and tired, I open the trailer door to see my horse standing, hip cocked and relaxed under his woolly cooler and I know he feels just as satisfied with the days work as I do. The drive home from the barn is just long enough to cool him down so his coat is dry when I pull off his cooler. Rubbed and combed, he gets his treat and off to his paddock for a good roll in the snow.

Here's to good planning for tomorrow, good weather for the drive and happy trails for everyone!!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Another New Year....Another Show Season


There is only a few months before the show season starts, before the trails are open, before the Poker Rides start up, before the...the...the...sigh. Yes, here in the NORTH we await the spring thaw anxiously. The farmers hope for a good mix of sun and rain, while us riders hope for longer cool days to practice, school and refine!

The farmers await the spring lambs and calves. Some horse people are awaiting the birth of a long awaited foal. Spring is the very best time of year!

Yes, Spring is just around the corner! Winter officially started just over two weeks ago, why are we trying to blow past it?? I still keep hoping for the right snow to come, but all we have gotten is powder or slush.....neither of which the runners on the sleigh will work with. I need some packed snow and a bit of fluff on top of it for the sleigh to work correctly and not be a drag! (haha!)

I really shouldn't complain though, it has been a very mild winter so far. Only twice now has it dipped below the 12 degree mark and both times were very short cold snaps! For the most part, we should be riding everyday if you look at our weather, but the ice buildup is incredibly dangerous. Any spot with standing water is now an ice rink!

Those of us die-hard riders in the north will haul to where we can ride. That is an adventure all it's own! But one must do what one has to do to be ready for the upcoming spring show season!

Spring Showing is half dismay and half hilarity! The dismay comes from not being totally ready and the hilarity comes from not being totally ready! When you get to work your horse over winter, he will stay in shape and learn about cues, moves and new stuff. You don't always get the chance to ride in an arena with 15 other horses, which is where the hilarity usually comes in. If you have ever been to a spring show where horses are rearing, bunny hopping or just plain "askeered"....that is dismay and hilarity. The poor owner/rider and the horse have probably worked very hard over winter to perfect their transitions, but the mind plays tricks with the horse in that first Spring Show! Sometimes it is the rider who is more nervous than the horse and that just feeds the horse. Whatever the cause, a Spring Show is bound to have some sort of "entertainment".

Usually by the end of spring all the kinks are worked out and serious showing can be done. It is very important to attend the Spring Shows, just so you and your horse can see, feel and absorb all the jitters felt by everyone else.

Oh, and the things we forget in the spring. All winter we have been riding with our long johns, sweatshirts, paddock boots and whatever else is comfortable and warm. We forget we need our stock pins, our hair up, our nice helmet, our jacket, clean breeches and polished boots. We forget we need to use the plain saddle pad and not our tie dyed one. We forget the schooling equipment we have come to depend upon must be put away.

Yes...Spring Shows are full of fun, surprises, hilarity and dismay. But those of us addicted to horse showing must go through the rites of spring, to get to the satisfaction of summer ribbons!

Share your spring show experience....I bet it was funny to look back on even if it wasn't so funny at the time!!