Just before Christmas last year, I helped my neighbor Gary buy a pony for his girls. We went to look at a couple of private-sale ponies but decided early on that the best place to look was a local “horse dealership” named Hemphills. That pony seems to be working out fairly well.
On the day the picture at left was taken, Gary decided that in order to get the best use out of the pony, he needed a horse for himself. His girls are only 4yo and 6yo so they’ll need to be ponied on the trail for a while.
For the last few months he’s been sending me links for private-sale horses and I kept saying no for one reason or other. Finally he decided that was the best place to go was back to Hemphills. So last week off we went.
The first two horses they showed us were totally unsuitable... the first horse had teensy-tiny feet, and the second one freaked out under heavyweight riders.
The third seemed good. He was a 6yo registered Quarter Horse. He was built relatively well, though because he was young he had some filling out to do. He was calm under saddle for the salesgirl and for Gary, and I liked him when I rode him. (He was the only one I bothered to ride, which tells you something.) He apparently arrived with a french braid in his tail, and he still had four shoes with clips, so with his conformation (and the fact that he direct-reins better than he neck-reins) I’m guessing he was previously an English Hunter Under Saddle show horse.
Here he is with Gary, then with the 4yo aboard. Soon after the 4yo got off, the horse kissed the 6yo on the cheek and quietly, politely stuck his nose under Gary’s arm for a cuddle. Awwwwwww...
The fourth (and last) horse they showed us was our second favorite, he was built better but didn’t seem as calm-minded. He was ok, but not as solid as the dun.
On the drive home, Gary and his family decided to go with the dun.
Fast-forward through my MN trip, to yesterday, when I took Gary and “Rocky” for their first trail ride.
Here‘s Rocky in the driveway before we left, modeling his new bridle (from the MN Horse Expo), borrowed hackamore, and the new saddle that Gary bought from my friend Lysh. It’s a 17” Big Horn, and even on the last hole down, the stirrups are still a little bit short for Gary.
His main complaint with it, though, is that it doesn’t have a cup holder for his beer. He was quite jealous of my saddle bag with its’ built-in bottle holder. I told him I trot too much to have beer on board, it would explode everywhere!
We headed out on the trail that connects Gary’s house to mine. It crosses one road and two streams, and I hadn’t been through since last fall so I was sure there would be plenty of blow-downs to hack through with my folding saw.
And here is Mutt and Jeff (I'll let you guess who is who) at the road crossing. This picture was taken by a very surprised friend of Gary's who saw us as he was backing out of his driveway... he decided he needed a closer look at this marvel so he actually turned his car around and got out to talk. (Gary got that same slack-jawed look from everyone else we encountered. EVERYONE knows Gary.)
We had to ride alongside the road for a short while, maybe a few hundred feet, so I decided to let the horses trot. (It’s a quiet road with a good shoulder.) Rocky kept insisting on trotting on the pavement! He responds to leg pressure but Gary doesn’t yet know how to easily use leg/rein pressure to keep a horse straight, so they looked drunk as they swerved between sand and pavement.
A little ways down the trail on the other side of the road, I completely lost the trail. I couldn’t even find the ALTERNATE fork of the trail... there were way too many blow-downs. We had to turn around and go back out to the road. We took a shortcut through the neighbor’s wood-yard... both horses were fine with the machinery... and Gary got some good-natured ribbing from Buddy and Jason.
Once we got back out onto the road, we made a left onto another paved road (the one we both live on) and then a left into my neighbor’s driveway. We then attacked the blown-down trail from the other side. There were no trees down on that piece of property (one owner).
Here’s Gary and Rocky at one of the stream crossings (actually more like a small river). Rocky isn’t scared of water or mud AT ALL, so clearly he rode trails with his previous owner in addition to showing.
As soon as we got across the stream, the trail started to get blocked more often, but most of them were small dead saplings that I could just break up and throw off the trail. One was bigger but I was able to clear a path around it. The funny thing was, from that direction we had no problem AT ALL following the trail!! I honestly have NO IDEA how we couldn’t find it from the far side! Anyway, we cleared it all up and turned around to head back to my house. Here’s Rocky at the same stream, going the other way.
We got all the way through to my house this time, and said goodbye to Gary and Rocky, who then rode home along the road. Gary later reported that Rocky did just fine, though he did still want to trot on the pavement. I wonder how long it will take before Gary gets stopped for RUI (riding under the influence)? He sure does like his beer...