Saturday, August 15, 2009

Horse Days

Naming my blog "Almost Paradisical" was easy. My childhood was just that.......almost, but not quite paradisical. At least in Glenwood. Writing down memories, (mostly the good ones) while knowing there are also catastrophic events that string them all together invisibly is an interesting undertaking. My siblings have totally different memories which don't match mine. Mom could make hundreds of corrections. But these are my memories, this is how I remember them. The bad ones don't stand out in three dimensional clarity as well as the good ones. There are a few, but if I write them down, they will be I continue as before, traveling back to Glenwood where Almost Paradisical got it's name and I became.

Noel was first and almost horse. She was a donkey and so cute she was ugly. It was a game to see how long someone could stay on her as she darted underneath low hanging branches to scrape the bareback rider off - deliberately. She later was bred to a regular horse and had Lily, a henny, jenny or mule, however you call the mixture. Lily always looked awkward, but she was mine and I loved her. Noel's hee haw was loud and long enough to wake the dead.

Horses are graded. Sold at sales for chicken or dog food. Sold privately through word of mouth or expensive advertising. Ahab, our little horse with a big heart was rescued from almost becoming dog food by neither method. Mom discovered him at the mangy looking feed store whose owner was predatory, abusive and an all around nasty person. Somehow, she persuaded him to give Ahab up, cheaply. She did have a dazzling smile and for a while, that guy would watch for her yellow scout to come down the only road to town and try to stop her by coming out onto the road waving. She was kind hearted and innocent, the first few times, then started gunning for him, aiming to maim him if he stopped her one more time. He terrified me!

Ahab was spunky, never realizing how puny he was. He turned out to be quite handsome after he was nursed back to health and vitality, but stayed small. Grandpa custom made a bridle for him, braiding the reins artistically round, like a cord, then attaching them to a handmade silver bit that would be soft and fit his injured mouth. Ahab responded to the love and care and trained alongside mom, who was just being introduced to the world of horses.

Mom wore a leather split skirt with double rows of long delicate fringe around each leg. It had probably been Annie Oakley's, Dale Evans' or Sacajawea's at one time, although she says she found it in a saddle shop, new. Perfect fit for her. She saddle soaped it often, along with the saddles to keep it supple and soft, wearing it every day during riding lessons. The thinner, longer and thicker the fringe is on any leather item, the more skilled the artisan who made it and the higher the price. This split skirt had the thickest, longest, thin cut fringe I've ever seen. The generous fringe would lift gracefully, showing her bare calves and sometimes slapped gently against the side of her horse. She looked so exotic and beautiful to my admiring eyes.

Riding happened in the morning. Chores after that. When I think of horses, it seems like they were ALOT of work for a little bit of fun? Feeding, medicating, mucking stalls, fixing fences, grooming, taking good care of the tack, and exercising them was never ending. Lunging was a strange way to exercise them, but it really made a change over time. Mom or grandpa would stand and go round and round in the same spot while the horse had to obey commands in a circle from the length of a long tether. By the end of a session, an indention would mark where the human had dizzily drilled down with their feet in the dirt in the riding ring, which was soft, deep and as fine as flour. It seemed like all it was wanting was some eggs and milk to make a big batch of biscuits. I can vividly recall the silky feel of it sifting through my fingers.

The catholic nuns had a retreat center down below us, which at one time was the town of Glenwood. Once, a few of the younger ones came up to visit and were invited to ride. Ahab was terrified of the long flowing habit and veil streaming out behind them, his eyes rolled desperately back in his head trying to keep track of where the wind was blowing it. He was so relieved when they dismounted!

Mom upgraded to a large palomino named Chain, who was skittish when anyone touched her head. It took patience and love for her to finally let mom bridle her. Grandpa thought someone had beaten her over the head. Anyone who would beat or mistreat a horse was the lowest criminal on earth in his opinion. We allowed him this opinion and agreed with him, as he was the original horse whisperer. His skill was remarkable. Horses almost begged to obey him.

He had a big black and white pinto named Wea, short I think for Sacajewea, who would effortlessly obey him without any outward visible signs from him. They worked as one, gracefully complimenting each other. It's a big deal now to do a rein less routine in a horse show. Grandpa did it without an audience. He trained a horse effortlessly and oh so gently.

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