Some of my favorite movies include “Secretariat” and “Sea Biscuit”. Both movies tell us a story about two amazing horses and the people around them. Both movies inspire us to persevere through difficulties. The role of the horses and their cooperation with the requests of their owners brings to mind my experiences with some of the horses we have owned.
|Steve is riding Misty, a gray mare that is one of the
top three horses I have owned. Kim is riding a
gelding named Oscar. This is in 2001.
Recently we had to say good-bye to a horse we have had for twelve years. We called him “Red” because he was a big, red horse. His registered name was “Rifle Site Tonto”. We bought Red when he was 15 years old for two purposes. We wanted a horse the kids could ride and one that we could use for riding pens in the feedlot. We were Red’s fifth and final owners.
|Kim tried using Red as a 4-H horse. She took him to a
horse clinic and is working on halter class here.
It didn’t take us long to figure out that Red was more of a feedlot horse than a pleasure horse. He had plenty of energy and liked to work with cattle. Red was not my favorite horse but he was a hard working horse for Steve. Red was the “boss” around our other horses. He liked to dig through the hay to get the leaves at the bottom thus throwing hay out all over the ground. I don’t know how many times I said “Red, can’t you just eat the hay from the top down?” And he would just look at me and keep doing what he was doing.
|Kim and her friend Kelly riding horses. Kelly is on the left
on Red. Kim is on the right on Haley. Haley was a nice
bay mare that was my favorite horse to date. She currently
lives on a ranch near O’Neill producing nice foals!
The past few years Red hasn’t been used for feedlot work. He has become more of a vacation highlight in the summer when relatives visit. We have been called “Camp Ruskamp” for the many activities our nieces and nephews can do when they visit and no camp is complete without horseback riding. Red still had energy but for the most part he was like an older person and just plodded along.
|Kim and her cousin, Megan, riding horses. I am not sure
what the white tape on their legs was about. I might have
to ask the girls if they were decorating the horses for fun.
This past winter we were noticing that Red was laying down more and just not himself. We suspected that his age and winter were starting to show. After a veterinary checkup confirming no health issues we continued his normal care. Our horses have an open front barn that they can go into when it snows or rains. They also have access to hay, water and a pasture that even in the winter allows them to get a little exercise.
|Steve is riding Paco on the right. A college friend of our daughter,
Emily, is riding Red. Paco was named by Steve and although I
didn’t like it the name stuck. We raised Paco as a foal from Misty.
When Steve gave me the news that Red had died I wasn’t really surprised. I felt sad in the way we feel when we experience death. The deep bond of human and horse started to ache inside of me when I heard the whinny of Red’s pasture mate, Paco. Paco was looking for Red. As I drove up the drive-way to run an errand Paco was looking at me. I stopped, rolled down the window and said “Hey, Paco” and he just whinnied, looked around and whinnied again.
I couldn’t help but feel the ache of loss. Paco had lost his buddy. Red always made sure Paco knew his place but nonetheless they were still companions. I had to go over and rub Paco’s forehead and tell him all is OK even though he didn’t have a clue about what I was saying.
Paco is adjusting but I think we are going to need to look for another buddy for him. I don’t ride often and I have been teased about having horses around just for decoration. Perhaps this is a great time to look for that horse that will be a fit for my granddaughter. I think my list of qualifications just doubled as I think about my granddaughter riding!