Thursday, September 13, 2007

How Bubbah Came to Us*

It was the last horse sale we went to this summer, Farmmom and I, and we were just seeing if anything spectacular jumped out at us, pretty much.

We had some cash laid by, in case, but not a lot, and we were half looking for a horse for Farmmom, so that we could ride together. I'd already bought my mare, and Mamaw had bought her filly, but the filly wasn't broke so we needed another horse.

We were walking the pens, looking around, watching what was coming in, when we came upon a corner pen, where two bays and a paint were hitched to the fence, and one of the bays was being saddled.

Instantly, Farmmom went "ohhhhhh pretty" at the bay as he stood, head up and looking around, a sheen of red to his coat that made him stand out.

We talked to the owner for a few minutes, watched him take the gelding out to warm him up before going in the ring, and as he performed a few roll backs.

We both chalked him up as going to cost too much for us, sighed a bit, and moved on.

But somehow, we kept wandering back to that pen. I was half in love with the little paint gelding, sweet disposition, but extremely green for all of his calmness. I felt I couldn't afford a horse that green at the time, he only had twenty five rides on him.

The tall, leggy bay had forty five, more workable, and in spite of our misgivings we noted his number so that we could see what he went for.

When he came into the ring, he was beautiful, moving lithely and responding well to his rider, considering it was his first trip to town.

Somehow, though, the bids were staying low. Farmmom elbowed me and muttered "I'll go to six hundred on him, but I can't afford any more."

So, I began bidding. The bid price slowly climbed, and Farmmom was fidgeting in her seat beside me. Something about this horse had captivated her, and I resolved to throw in some of my own cash if I couldn't get him for under the six hundred dollar limit.

Four hundred.

Five hundred.

Five fifty.

I glanced at Farmmom to see her glaring at the guy bidding against me. If looks could have killed, that dude would have been a smoking puddle.

Five fifty, and it's my bid. On a hunch I hesitated, thinking about it. The auctioneer was pointing at me and rattling off his numbers and gibberish, the owner was watching me, the entire sale barn was eyeballing the little skinny chick.

Finally, I raised the hand holding the pen. Five seventy five.

I turned to look at the guy who had been bidding against me, who was now staring at me as well. I cocked one eyebrow, thinking "Go ahead, mister. Make me embarrass you in public. Farmmom wants this horse, and she's gonna get it, if I have to kill you after the sale to do it."

"Going once! Going twice! SOLD!"

Farmmom squealed like a little girl, and did a little happy dance right there in her seat, sticking her tongue out at the other guy, while I sat there calmly and wrote down the price, and collected his papers and the signed transfer of ownership form.

And thus, did Bubbah the Big Bay Wonder Horse come to us. And they all lived horsey-ly ever after.

* The main points of this story are true, we did find Bubbah at the sale, and Farmmom did instantly fall in love with him, we did bring him home for five hundred and seventy five dollars. The rest of it, I might have embellished a bit on. My memory is a little fuzzy on the subject, probably due to the beating I got when Farmmom was talking about "her" horse and I piped up with "Hey! Who's name is on the receipt?? Mine, that's right, my name, my horse! But if you're nice to me I'll let you ride him once in a while."
You'd think, living around me for so long, she'd be able to take a joke better than that.....

My Horse

I talk a lot about my horse, I know. You guys have been receiving regular progress reports, but most of you, the Farm Parents excepted, don't really know what he was like to start with, except for snippets that I've shared.

Well, when we started, he wouldn't give to the bit, he was nervous and kickey, he'd sling his head around, he'd wheel, and he'd try to stomp on my feet when I mounted. He didn't bend, he didn't move out, or he'd try to have a runaway. His ears were perpetually forward, or pinned back, he didn't respect me, or anyone, and he never stood still. He was so gate sour that he'd try to buck every time I took him by it, just to see if I would come off so he could try to go back to the barn. He was a little nervous about his stall for the first few days, being a small enclosed space.

Now, he respects me more every day, he listens for my voice for the vocal cues I've been teaching him, he's lighter on the bit than ever before. He doesn't kick at me, although he's taken a couple of shots at other horses that have come too close to his hindquarters, he bends and moves out for me with little pressure, and while he's still a little gate sour, we don't have a rodeo every time we go by. He goes willingly into his stall, and if there isn't a lot of activity around I'll pull his halter just at the door of the stall, leave the lead rope wrapped around his neck, ask him to go on in, and just let the lead pull off his neck as he reaches the back of the stall.

We still occasionally have the attempts to go faster than what I want him to, but he listens when I ask him to slow down. Tuesday we spent an hour just walking and slow trotting, which he hates, but he did really good, considering I didn't put him in the round pen and work off some of that energy before I got on him.

What most of my class mates aren't understanding is that he's four, he's still green, and he's used to being in a pasture where he can run and jump and kick and play all day. He's getting more food for less work, so he's got a lot of extra energy, and he's putting on the pounds. Which isn't a bad thing, he was a little skinny when we got him, and he got enough exercise in the pasture that while he filled out to an acceptable weight, he didn't get fat and sleek. Now he's getting nice and sleek, filling out nicely. His shoulders are still a little weak but that slow trot is good for that, it'll work his shoulders and build up that muscle.

He still looks like he might be a smallish thoroughbred, with his narrow shoulders and developed hindquarters, but his shoulders will fill out and he'll look like a proper quarter horse in time. He's just never used his shoulders that much, he uses his hindquarters for drive, and his front end is just for steering and stabilization. But we're changing that. He's learning to use his front end for drive too, and he's starting to like the challenges that I give him.

He's smart. That's why he was such a butt to start with, and why we still have a few issues on occasion. He gets bored, and he doesn't want to do the same things over and over again. If we do something completely new, he gets a little confused at first, but if we add new things to what he already knows gradually, he picks them up in a hurry.

Yesterday, we added the bigger round pen, and the lunge whip. He already knew what I expected of him in the round pen, so the larger one was just a matter of curiosity. The lunge whip was a little bit more intimidating for him. I sent him around a few times in each direction at the trot, and then asked him to whoa, and went to walk up to him, and he saw the long whistly thing in my hand, and didn't want any of it. I had to put it down, go to him, tell him he was a good boy, and then work some more. He was more relaxed after that, and at the end of the session, when I went to take him back to the hitching rail and saddle him up, I let him smell the whip, and inspect it, which he did, and then he tried to eat it.

I don't use a whip as a means to correct the horse... the lunge whip is just an extension of my arm, much as the lead rope was in the smaller pens. I just needed a longer extension for the bigger pens. It just tells him where I want him to go, and if he starts to lag before I ask him to slow down, I'll make it whistle, to signal him that that's not what I want. It never touches the horse while he's moving, or in a way that will frighten him.

He's learning. He's learning to trust me, to look to me for instruction, guidance, and support. He's becoming more affectionate with me all the time, and he's learning that it's easier and more fun to do what I ask him to than to fight me.

And, I'm learning too. I'm learning how to communicate more clearly with him about what I want, and I'm learning how to be supportive of him, even while I'm being firm with him. He's teaching me more about horse psychology than I knew before.

I'm also learning that some of my class mates want the challenge, while some of them want the pretty, docile nag.

Me, I want the horse with a personality. One that will keep me interested, and give me as many challenges as I give him. Eventually, Bubbah and I will be a team, and eventually, I'll be able to hand him off to another rider, and they'll be a team too. It's yet to be seen if Bubbah will work for anyone else the way he does with me, or if we'll have to go through a couple of times of letting a new rider earn his respect and trust all over again, before he grasps that I'm not going to let someone he can't trust ride him, but that's all in the future.

And from here, the future looks good.

Ahhhh Thursday

After this last week or so I've been looking forward to today with an eagerness usually reserved for times of the year when people give me presents, or historically, holiday breaks from school.

(This year, I don't want the holiday breaks. I want to keep going to classes and playing with the pretty pretty ponies!!!)

Thursday is my first "slow" day of the week. I only have two classes, Lit and riding, and Lit doesn't start until eleven. Friday is another good slow day, only riding at ten in the morning (which makes me happy because it's cooler then.)

This morning, I'm relaxing. I'll probably get caught up on my dishes before class, but I'm not rushing anything. I slept in (for me, anyway, my body still woke me up at six expecting to hear the alarm but I rolled over and catnapped till six thirty) and talked to Farmmom for a while once I got up.

She's all excited to see how Bubbah is doing, and I can't blame her, I've been giving him glowing praise to her, and he HAS made a lot of improvements. He's not perfect yet, but I don't expect him to be perfect yet, and neither does she.

Oh, and to fyremandoug, I don't know how many hands he is, we haven't measured him, and he's still growing. I'd estimate he's somewhere between fifteen and sixteen hands, though. He just looks taller 'cause of all of that leg.

Farmmom wants to get some pictures of me and Bubbah while she's up here, so I may have some pics of my... erm... her... well... our, big beautiful boy later.

I think I may be stealing my mother's horse, an inch at a time, lol.

But anyway, back to the point, today is Thursday, I don't have feed crew for a while, Bubbah will be well cared for this weekend while I'm home helping move cattle, and I'll get some time to relax, as well.

I think I deserve it, this last week I had a test in my business class, a Lit paper to write, which I wasn't entirely happy with but the due date snuck up on me and we'll just have to see how it turned out, and feed crew, as well as working with Bubbah and getting that questionable look out of my instructor's eye about him. Not to mention my class mates.

It's been hectic enough that I'm behind on laundry, completely out of towels, and my apartment carpet looks like I've dragged half the barn in with me. Gotta vacuum.

But, I don't feel harried today. This is a good thing.