So Khaliq has been home now from Amber’s since October 1st and I’ve ridden her quite a bit. We’ve done about 3 rides over 20 miles in length and many more of much shorter mileage. She is my dream horse in every way. She’s flippin’ beautiful, as beautiful as her father and grandfather, smart, balanced in body, loving and seems to enjoy herself out on the trail. It’s been about 10 years since I rode a “young” horse; while I am 10 years older I want to be riding like Julie Suhr, when I am in my 90’s. It’s on my bucket list. I have battled fear and confidence issues since I was in my 20’s when I got the string of free & cheap horses with no training. It’s a wonder more people don’t die from doing just that. My first Arabian (a 2 yr old nearly untouched gelding from a well-known Arabian horse farm), an Elimar son I named Asil, bit me, then kicked me in the face all in the same grooming session. Levon, the 2 yr old paint gelding bucked me off when my girlfriend & I went galloping down a dirt road. I was knocked out (and later found out in the ER I had a concussion and some lower back issues that still plague me). In the darkness of my mind’s eye & concussed brain, I saw him make a big arc in the desert and head for home, across Sierra Hwy at rush hour, stirrups flyin’ in the wind. I didn’t come to until my girlfriend’s mom got me back home in her station wagon some 40 minutes later.
My mustang mare Juta bucked me off while trotting her through a neighborhood on maybe our second ride out in the world. All I know is what I heard at several training clinics; to let the horse have forward movement. You want their feet to move. So as she trotted with nice impulsion, ears forward thinking how cool this was, “boom boom boom!!!” I found myself underneath her with the reins wrapped around her front legs looking down at me like she was wondering why I was underneath her. I remember thinking (like all the launches) ~ “Thank God I’m ok”. Apparently there is a big difference in a horse who is moving but engages with YOU, and a horse who could give a shit about you. She gave zero shit. I gave her away to the same young girl who watched me get bucked off of Levon and told her she could have her for free if she spent the $400 for a months training with Rex Peterson ~ (the head wrangler for “The Black Stallion” who lived a mile from us http://horsesdaily.com/article/movie-business-just-part-dressage-and-western-world-rex-peterson-and-cari-swanson). My future sister-in-law told me he had an enclosed round pen that had blood on the sides of the walls. Like he didn't take any shit from any horse. This sounded like the perfect place for Juta. The girlfriend didn’t do that, probably because she was younger and poorer than moi. When Juta reared and bucked with the poor girl and got hurt, she went bye-bye and I have no idea where she went, but hopefully it was painless. My initial training with Juta was a John Lyons clinic where she was weirdly exceptional for 4 days including the final trail ride in a snaffle bit with the 10 participants. John told me after the clinic maybe she was different, but he didn’t trust mustangs. He obviously knew more than I did.
While these are the risks of riding horses, some things just are flat out dangerous. One is buying a young horse with no training because they are the right price (free to $200 is what Lori & I were good. We used to peruse the “Recyler” for deals on horses and brought home a few because, even though I didn’t have water or electricity in my single-wide I had 5 acres to put lots of horses). Those were fun times but now after having some 20 horses come through my life and having my share of “incidents” with all these wild beasts I’m finding myself not in the same mindset to take those kinds of chances.
With Asil, after John Lyon’s first clinic I took, I had him very well trained in an arena. I could even ride him without reins & leg cues only, but he still scared me. The 4-day clinic with John I’d put on the Top 20 Most Impactful Events Of My Life list. The second night was when we all rode our horses for the first time and I was so scared of Asil I could hardly stand it. Every time I got near him he’d jump and I’d jump. John was (and is) such a master at working horses and he used either one of his stallions Zip or Dream to “snub up” a new horse so the horse respected them. John then could get the clinic participant to get on and off the horse with a lot of control. “Half way up. Half way down ~ Ok pet your horse”. On both sides. Over and over until it was a non-issue and then we’d swing our leg over. When it came my time to get on Asil I was so jumpy and near tears. I was pretty sure I was gonna die. John had a big talk with me right there in the round pen. He’s incredibly handsome and to have such a life altering talk really did it for me. He told me that Asil was as afraid of me as I was of him and if I couldn’t come to terms with this fear and calm down (and get on the horse), I needed to sell him. True enough. Back then in 1987 I had to get on him. So I did and I overcame my fear, at least for that night. And the next day even, and a few days after. Then the clinic was over. Tracy offered to let me keep Asil at her place for a month (which turned into a year, thank God) if I helped clean up her stalls. It was a deal, but in reality, Asil was way over my experience and I could never get over my fear of him. He was a big, beautiful, rose grey (turning white) Polish-bred Arabian that I had aspirations of riding Tevis with. The partnership was not to be. I feel like I failed him and myself but in my dreams I hope I met him again and we can ride without fear. He was the horse that got away, but at that time it was what needed to happen
The years have gone on and I have had so many horses come through my life. I counted the other day and it’s around 20. 5 of those horses are here now and not going anywhere. I have had some nice successes with my horses, almost all Arabians. I have finished Tevis both times I started with my first homebred Arabian gelding Khemali’i. It’s not a ride for snivelers and endurance in general isn’t either. But you can be slow and you can be safe to ride endurance. It’s ok to do. To finish is to win.
Baby Khaliq has been pretty awesome most of the time, but Amber did tell me she’s a dominant mare and will test me. And she will test me in that 4-6 month period after their initial breaking. And it’s winter. Horses get all jacked up and more “puffy”, as I would describe it. The first thing that has concerned me is Khaliq has tripped MANY times this last 6 or so weeks. 2 times were so bad her face was in the dirt and while I stayed on, it wasn’t fun. At. All. Then last week we went to Foresthill to do the 24 mile loop. She must have tripped some 30+ times. We’ve figured out it’s a right front so we’re not sure why, but I’m not fond of going more than a walk, or a moderate trot. She is sound otherwise, but this issue needs to be figured out.
Last week I took her to the training hill and while all the other times she’s been quiet and amazing, this time she was AWFUL. I usually do the hill 2-4 times and after one time we were off to the trailer. I was afraid I was going to get bucked off. She was distracted, agitated and wanted to go much faster than I would let her. And it started with her not paying attention as I got on. I PM’d Amber then I realized I had not ridden Baby in 15 days. I thought it had been a week, which is still too long in between rides with young horses. Ugggg.
This last ride in Foresthill Khaliq bucked with me on 4 separate occasions, all bucks getting bigger than the last buck. Weirdly I was more worried about the tripping because her bucks were easy to sit, but the fact that she was even offering it, I wasn’t interested in finding out if the next one would launch me. The ride was still fun, as I love who I was riding with, but at the same time I couldn’t wait to get off of Khaliq. It’s sorta like “I survived another ride without dying”even though it was funnnnnaaa….sorta…….”
Having said that, I wanted to cry. I realized it’s been brewing. I am pretty specific on who I will ride with, where we will go, how fast, if I’m in front, or not. I’m a pain in the ass. I have a friend who has wanted to ride with me for a few years and I’ve told her no way in hell. She’s new in horses (though finished Tevis on a mule this year) and goes way too fast for me. She has no fear. Nada. I need to ride with people who have a healthy respect for danger. She is not one of them. But having said that, I’m still probably not the fun one to call up to go for a ride. I see on FB all of these groups doing their big rides in big groups and I can’t go there. I feel like such a baby. Such a wimp and I wonder how I rode Tevis at all and am the lucky recipient of TWO buckles on a horse that has tossed me a few times! I had my mini-meltdown/cry and contacted Amber. She assured me I am being too hard on myself and we scheduled a lesson, which happened yesterday.
While I was there, Amber assured me again that I am not a wimp and that I am smart to pick and chose my rides and riding partners. I felt like I was talking to someone who knew my history and my fears and could support my wanting to work out those little bugs. I don’t think I’m unusual and just today I read a post from an acquaintance who sounded a lot like me. So I realized it’s ok to be cautious and have a tiny bit of fear.
I had my lesson with Amber yesterday and she hopes to get Khaliq back in training soon. It depends on what her doctor says. I want to have someone with experience work out those 4-6 month bugs on my Baby Brain, someone who can nip it in the bud right away, rather than me, making it worse. Khaliq is possibly my future Tevis horse, but even if we never did that ride, I want to be on her back with I am 76 and she’s 26. She melts my heart in a way that only comes with raising a baby who you waited for some 13+ years and is your dream vision. I want to do it right and step back and fix those little things that could turn into big things if I don’t know what to do. All those free & cheap horses I had taught me a lot. They taught me to not stand in the spot they’re going to kick you in the face. They taught me to slow down and not go faster if they aren’t paying attention. They taught me cheaper is not always better. I remember a friend telling me that I needed to get an old, trained horse so that horse could teach me. I refused to listen to her, that I knew better, that I could train a horse and be safe. I had taken my horses through clinics. In all reality, I had no money to buy such a horse. One of my girlfriends wants a horse (my age-ish), I tell her to get a trained “bomb-proof” horse and expect to spend some money. No horse is 100% safe, as with life, but some horses are a much better bet than a whole bunch of others.
Because Amber chose to bail off a dangerous horse (and broke her back in the exit), she is just starting to work horses again. It’s been about 3 months and I’ve said so many prayers that she would heal. I was so scared when I got the first message from her that she was in the hospital, and she didn’t know details yet. Just tell me you’ll be ok, I thought. It goes back to that agreement we make with ourselves that the risks are worth it, to be on a horse and ride, sometimes for 100 miles at a time. It’s our life and our love and when it’s all said and done, no material thing will come close to the exquisiteness of being on a horse’s back. Life is dangerous even in your own home so I choose to take those risks, but at this point in my life I am willing to make sure my risks are better trained than those free/cheap horses of my youth. And with Baby I think I have a pretty awesome prospect.
Having spent a bit of time writing this post, I decided to find photos to give a visual "How I Got My Horses". I will attach the photos here and describe a little about each photo underneath. Enjoy!
1971 or '72. This was either Blackie or Fury, one of the Thoroughbred rent horses from Pickwick Stables, now the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. I saved up $100 by working for my dad and leased him for 7 days that summer. I also saved to buy my own leather headstall and bit and was loaned a very nice English saddle from one of my mom's friends who was a stunt rider.
I love the background horse. Typical riders at Pickwick ~ cowboys. My poor horse's feet are just hideous to look at. Long, ridgy and icky looking. These were the horses my girlfriend Susan and I would race around the "track" out in the big field. Talking about tripping! They did not and I'm not sure why with their feet!
I believe this is a horse I leased for a few months. Very nice horse, though he was about 26 and I remember he tripped one time very badly with both of us going to the ground. The footing was so soft where I rode, so it wasn't a big thing. .
While riding the horse in the last photo, the neighbor across the street met up with me ponying this beautiful Palomino on a bay quarter horse. I ended up riding Nicky for close to a year. It didn't end well and it was a relationship that really messed with me for years but I have to say Nicky was an amazing animal. I was NEVER afraid of him. He was so well trained, rode in the Rose Bowl Parade every year and was the most "push-button" horse I have ever ridden. I rode him all over the hills of Griffith Park in every gait, along side the 134 Fwy in Burbank/Glendale and never had a fear of anything. I loved that horse. He had a wonderful "parade" trot, loped on both leads and stopped on a dime. I never had to correct him for anything.
Nicky & I at my dad's desert cabin. I was 13. Those are not my dogs btw.
A long time passed before I got back into horses (10 years). When Don & I moved out to Agua Dulce, we lived in a single wide on 5 acres. There was no electricity or water, so we used a generator to get power in the evenings. Water was shipped to our tank and basically if I forgot to turn off the horse water and the tank ran out, I was fucked. I was poor and Don wasn't into helping me pay for a new shipment so it could be another week before we had water. There was a few feet in the bottom of our tank that dripped out into a round horse feeder so I was able to get water for the horses & dogs AND flush the toilet. The best thing was we had the land and I got my first horse. All that other stuff was minor details.
The grey pony (Welsh/ArabX) was Lori's. (It was summer and had rained so she was rolling in the dirt in this photos). We got her for free and she stayed on the property until Lori decided to sell her. I got Juta, the sorrel mustang for $200. She was 2 years old. Seems Lori & I both had a run on buying 2 year old horses!
Our next purchases were 2 geldings. This paint was mine, a 2 yr old horse I named Levon. Lori and I found our horses one day in the recycler and figured out how to borrow her friend's truck, rent a trailer (getting pulled over on our journey by the most handsome & yummy smelling cop for being the in wrong lane) and drove to San Diego to get these guys. She was better with her money and gave the woman cash. I gave the woman a post-dated check that I have no idea when I told her she could cash. We got home at midnight, decided to take the horses for a walk down the road to get my mail (????) and when I opened the mailbox they spooked so bad they both split into the darkness. I don't know how we found them, but we did, walked them back to my property and let them loose in the upper 2 fenced acres (with Juta and LeGen, the pony) and went to bed. All night long the horses ran around like wild animals and finally towards dawn they settled down. We were awoken to the neighbor honking at the front gate. He asked if we could get our horse, as Lori's new gelding had literally bolted over the neighbor's chain link fence (not injuring himself) and was just standing on the other side, wrecking it in the process. These are the little things you learn, like don't give 2 new horses free rein on 2 acres. But, I didn't even have a pen to put them in so they got what they got.
Here is Juta, LeGen and I believe Tarn, Lori's collie and Tais, my young Kimberee bitch. It's hard to see, but Juta had the BLM brand on the left side of her neck.
After the fun with those horses, the bucking & rearing (Lori's horse liked the rear ~ one thing I will not tolerate), we found some more horses. We went to Mekeel Horse Ranch in Temecula (San Diego) and picked up 2 purebred Arabian geldings (AGAIN, 2 year olds) for $300 each. In typical fashion, Lori paid cash for her horse, and I gave the woman a $50 check and promised to make payments. I am ashamed to say, she probably only got $150 from me over the course of several years and after that she never pursued me for the remainder of the money. Both horses were Polish bred, Lori's had a different sire from mine, but both well know (Port Bask and Elimar). After we got the horses, we had a fight and Lori moved her horses off of my property and we didn't talk for 3 weeks. After Asil kicked me in the face I knew I was over my head and called her. She couldn't talk long because she was actually on her way to the ER as she had been launched by her horse "Zerrin" and sustained a broke wrist. After that we never had another fight and signed up for a John Lyons clinic (above photo) with our crazy Arabians, Lori sporting a cast on her arm. She went on to ride her horse quite a bit and was braver than I was, but I remember her telling me she spent more time OFF her horse walking the trails than riding. They were a lot of work.
Here is Juta, my mustang at Tracy's, the woman (and future though not permanent sister-in-law's) property. I saw an ad for this John Lyons Clinic that basically said "$250 for 4 days with John Lyons. Guaranteed to take any horse and have you riding it in on the trail in a snaffle bit on the 4th day or a full refund". Gotta love it. John was true to his word and we actually did this. Twice! Once with Asil & Zerrin and once with Juta.
Here I am, probably the 2nd or 3rd day of John's clinic with Juta. She was sooooo good and didn't do anything wrong. Such a faker! Scary shit and even more scary is we didn't ride in helmets. I love my helmet now, even if I don't look as cool!
Asil and two of my Barbados sheep. I found the ram one day with a hoof print across his forehead. He was pretty dead.
My next fun horse was Tori, a 3/4 Arabian Pinto. He also was a stallion, 6 years old. Always looking for a challenge I guess. I went up in age, but stallions aren't always the best choice for most people. He was cute, but aggressive. I remember when I first lunged him he charged me. Badly. I did correct him, but he was very full of himself. I sold him within a few years.
Pretty horse. Not the best photo because I shot it with my iPhone thru glass and frame.
Here is Cisco. He was a non-colored registered Appaloosa. I got him from Tracy, also about 2-3 years old. He actually was a wonderful horse, very steady and predictable and didn't need to be ridden every day. 3 weeks could go by and he was still predictable. I sold him a few years later to a barn that did drill team and several years later the owners told me Cisco had had enough of that work so they sold him to an individual. He was just a GOOD horse.
Cisco and I at Vasquez Rocks ~ he was so cute with his tongue. He'd always stick it out and play with it or I could grab it and he didn't care. I ended up letting him go because my husband & I wanted to do endurance and felt he wasn't the right horse. I only remember one ride where he spooked but he was solid, even at at young age.
Unknown chestnut, but could be one of two horses ~ If it was the unknown he may have been a horse that had only one speed which was RUN FAST!. I didn't ride him, my husband did. He got sold after about 6 months; Or, a Arabian stallion I named "Teak" who was a very nice desert-bred Arabian. If that was him, he was really wonderful and never gave me any issues, even ungelded. I had him & Cisco for sale at some point and my neighbor bought him. She needed to buy Cisco but didn't (Teak was pretty) and ended up in the ER with a busted spleen. Her accident was not Teak's fault but because she didn't know how to ride. I told her she needed lessons AT LEAST. We went out for a trail ride and her stirrups for so long as were her reins. And she also only rode on major holidays. Not a good combo.
Here is Cisco & Tori, my pinto, getting saddled up for a ride at Vasquez Rocks. It was probably one of the prettiest places to ride and very close to our home. In the rear is Toska, a Arabian mare Lori's sister owned.
This is Sabi & Daryl. Sabi is about 3 years old here. He was (and is) still a gorgeous animal and a great Arabian. He was probably the most comfortable horse I've ever ridden and I named him "The Cadillac Ride". I did my 1st 50 miler on him in 1999 and came in 19th. A few years later Daryl took him to a 50 miler and got pulled for lameness. When he didn't recover the vet came out and said he had ringbone in his front fetlock and wouldn't make an endurance horse. What I know now is that may not have been true and I should have let him heal, then brought him back. Years later he was sound when I rode him, but by then I was on to other horses and he grew old. He's 26 now and not in the best of health, but I will forever love him.
Somewhere in all of this I got this bay mare I named Nazika. She was an Egyptian bred mare, very delicate and sweet. We did some nice riding together but she was given to me and a fight ensued with my brother and she went back to him. She also was quite nice to ride, but looking back I'm not sure she had the structure. She also was very unhappy at my house and spent all her time walking back and forth at the fence closest to Tracy's house (3/4 of a mile east of our place).
Good girl but she needed some body building! To date I had not done an endurance ride yet, but our entry was "Endurance Riders" in the Agua Dulce Parade haha!!
Daryl & I had a few project horses, one being a "bombproof" chestnut Arabian mare named "Tirzah". She was VERY pretty but reared with Daryl, and we felt she wasn't the horse advertised so she went back to the owner. In this photo is Tahoe, who still lives with us at 26. He came to us at 6 and has always been a project. Daryl was NOT a horse trainer (though he begged to differ as he had attended several Buck Brannaman clinics) and he worked this horse too hard, ie, he didn't know when to back off when Tahoe showed he understood something. Anyway, I rode him quite a bit and even did my 2nd 50 miler on him. It was the Hog Wild in 2000 and was 112 degrees ALL DAY. I thought I was adept enough to start with the pack and Tahoe ran away with me for the first 4 miles. I was so terrified I was sure I was going to die. My hands were bloody trying to hold him back and finally 4 miles in there was a water stop and I was able to get off of him and let the front runners go. I finished the ride, very close to the end of the pack. I was in so much pain and didn't ride him for 6 months. Needless to say, he's not been my favorite horse to work, so he's a pretty pasture pet, now with Sabi.
Daryl & Tahoe at Vasquez Rocks.
My first dream breeding ❤ Khemadorrable & her son Khemali'i ~ my future 2x Tevis Horse with my brother Brian. I leased Khema to breed to her 1/2 brother Khuchullin, who lived in Lancaster. Having bred a few collie litters, I wanted to double up on the Amazing Khemosabi and I have zero regrets. I love this horse.
Khema with Ali'i. Khema was for sale a few years later and I could have bought her for around $5000 and she was very much worth that, but I put the money towards a down payment on the house Pierre and I bought. She was my style, about 14.2 hands, and JUST BEAUTIFUL and trained. I only rode her a few times, one was a "poker ride" with a bunch of horses and she was very nice.
My next breeding, so many years later is my Khemosabi granddaughter Khaliq which puts makes this post current.
Like I had mentioned above, Khaliq is my dream horse. There are several more horses not mentioned in this post, Aura, Summer, Shiiq, Shahara, but they all have made me. Having gotten down the line in my age and experience, I can see I've been lucky to have a variety of horses to teach me things. With Khaliq I want to do right by her be a good partner. I've learned it's really easy to screw up an animal and with horses, it's much more serious than a dog, (for the most part). I am excited to be beyond some of this baby stuff as I know it WILL happen. Spring will come, then summer and Khaliq will have a year on her. It will be good.