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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label history. Show all posts

February 27, 2016

A Singularly Solo (S)Celebration

Can it really have been 10 years??  As I broke Solo's favourite candy canes into his 20th birthday breakfast last Sunday, I couldn't quite believe in a DECADE.

A DECADE - that's encompassed what feels like several lifetimes.  Maybe that's why I fantasize about naps, ha.  While our official 10-year anniversary isn't until Memorial Day weekend, I can't help but feel like we've checked a major milestone.
Beginnings: our trot in Aug 2006
LITERALLY our first jump together (& awesome critique here)
2009: My 30th, his 13th
I don't know Solo's actual birthday.  All I had was the Coggins in the envelope with the bill of sale, taken in January of 2006, describing a 9-yr-old gelding.

When I met him that May, he was advertised as 10, so I decided to give him my own birthday, sitting neatly in the middle & a date I might even remember.
June '07: Ian Stark shows me what my horse can really do!
Given the electric phenomenon of our initial encounter, I suppose I should have known that unimaginable adventures lay ahead of us.  But, well, I was an exuberant 27...and they were unimaginable!
May '07: 1st show (I still thought we were hunters, LOL)
Solo may have been the first horse who was ever my own, but I have had the privilege (some more pleasant than others...) of working with countless others, as far back as my memory can reach.
June '07: That Stark guy suggests he might have some jump (my eyes are closed in terror)
Yet, he remains astonishingly unique, truly his own sphere of being, capable of becoming what BFF once accurately described as "a force of nature," ALWAYS on his own terms.
Solo discovers his calling when Ian takes us XC that summer
But his kindness & fiercely loyal generosity have more than once moved me beyond words.
June '08: Our first XC at BN Foxtrack, making it up as we go
The greatest gift of my life, that chestnut face is also the sole remaining bridge to the person I was & the person I loved before the loss whose story is still trapped inside.
Fall '10:  We've found our stride...literally. Photo purchased from Brant Gamma.

Spring '10: The joy of flight. By Pics of You.
Many of you know I'm a painfully practical biologist, not prone to anthropomorphize.

However, I also know that "different" is not the same as "lesser;" I have seen animals defy our limitations too many times.

And Solo's ability to look into my core, to lend me his strength, his joie de vivre, to become so intently still when things fall apart & promise me, on a level of communication I can't explain, that he will wait with me & it will be ok...that horse continues to save my life.

It's a worn-out cliché, but a truth nonetheless.

May '07: Our first blues
So, my notoriously shiny, larger-than-life, impossibly endearing, hopelessly optimistic, greatest partner, everything I have & am is yours.

You taught me that trust opens up the sky for soaring, that being patient & fair is often more important than being right.
Apr '10: Owning Novice Longleaf HT. Photo by Pics of You.
You never let your body get in the way of your enormous heart, you gave...simply because I asked.  Even when you shouldn't have.
SJ at 2010 Longleaf HT: Poetic partnership.  By Pics of You.
Oct '10: Steeplechase w Becky Holder
We're both older, each with some busted-up cartilage, joints that predict the weather, & a longing to burst out of that start box together once more.

I can at least give you wide pastures & good friends, for which I'm so grateful.
May '11: Training Level sexy
And we can pause together in the loblolly's shade, watch the heron stalk unwary fish, & relive a thousand memories in every touch.  And if we're lucky, share many more new ones.


From a 2010 indulgence of my inner 12-yr-old, an illustration of...us:


Song by Templeton Thompson, a very talented & kind singer/songwriter/horsewoman I had the pleasure of meeting at an Equine Affaire in Raleigh.

August 30, 2014

Free Riding Clinics For You! A TFS Redux.

God spake to me...and I could not look upon his holy face.
Ever wanted to absorb decades of experience like a little fangirl sponge from greats like Jimmy Wofford, Ian Stark, Becky Holder, or Eric Smiley?

Well, aren't you a lucky little fangirl!!  In the spirit of relaxing over the holiday weekend, for those of us who can't access FEI TV (or don't want to), I have collected, in chronological order, our hilarious spectacular performances in front of these phenomenal horse(wo)men & teachers.  I'm sure they felt just as lucky as I did.  *insert sarcasm font*

I also wanted to share with more recent readers some earlier parts of this wild journey.  I'm sure you are spending every free moment catching up on the 500+ posts since August of 2009 (where's that font again?), but in the meantime, I set the time machine in motion.  Encore & I may appear fearless & quasi-competent at times (usually when no one is looking), but those moments are built on the foundation of 1,000 stumbling blocks of trial-and-error that Solo, my un-erringly brave & accidental partner, made with me.

Have no fear, I am unoffended if you point & laugh.  I do (at myself, past AND present).
The only Olympic-quality ride Solo ever got
The Man Who Ruined Changed Solo & I For All Time (or That First Time We Met The XC Grin)
Ian Stark - Summer 2007
(Yes, I was afraid to canter my horse in an arena because he misplaced that gait.  He only had trot & gallop...except on the trail.  I'll let you guess how humbling it is after 20 years of riding, to finally have a horse & be afraid to canter it.  And yes, I did try to make an eventing legend wear my sweaty helmet.  I failed.  Then Solo nearly dumped him.  Thank cod my horse did not gain infamy as The Killer Of Ian Stark.  *horror*)

I Finally Get To Meet God
Jimmy Wofford - Fall 2008
He only whacked my horse on the ass with his baseball cap once...

Becky has not convinced Solo that dressage has merit
We Discover Eventing Mecca & I Become A Bona Fide Stalker (& My Last Clinic With Solo)
Becky Holder - Fall 2010

Ok, he can jump
The Best Christmas Present Ever & Encore's First Proper Clinic (Thanks, Mom!)
Camp Becky Holder - 10 Days of Spring Training, 2013

A Scotsman Started The Fire, An Irishman Throws A New Log In The Flame
Eric Smiley - Summer 2013

Encore's 1st Training course (Fall 2013)
Wander at will & explore the evolution!  Or save it for some rainy day entertainment.  May there be useful lessons YOU can apply next time you swing a leg over.

And not least of all, thank you to my mother, to Jim, to our amazing friend, Beth, and to the victims kind, random people I threw cameras at.  Your support made these experiences possible & each one is a treasure, both in lessons learned & the partnership forged with my horses.  Not only did these incredible teachers raise the bar on my training & riding about 47 holes, but they did so with patience, grace, generosity of spirit, humility, & humour.

For that, I consider myself lucky indeed. 

February 21, 2014

Long May You Run

My 30th, Solo's 13th in 2009
I couldn't imagine a more fitting phrase for the birthday of my center of orbit, my sun, my Solaris.  Thanks, Neil Young (it was even inspired by his horse). 

I didn't know Solo's exact birthday when I brought him home.  From his Coggins, it appeared to be sometime in early spring, so I simply assigned him one that would be easy to remember:  mine.

While I often forget what day it is & rarely do much about my own aging, I always remember & celebrate not just Solo's day, but every day since he came into my life & irrevocably changed so many parts of it and me.

So here's to you, my very best friend, partner, & piece of my heart.  Even thinking about the insane adventures, ups & downs, glorious triumphs and the darkest of heartbreaks brings tears of both sorrow & gratitude of unimaginable depth.   

Seeing your head shoot up at the sound of my voice is still the best part of any day & even through my current exhaustion, the thought of seeing you at home is what keeps me going.  I cannot wait to present you with the farm that I built for us. 

Memorial Day 2006:  I brought him home
Our partnership would not exist but for the team of wonderful people that surrounds us &, most of all, the two who made it all possible along the way.   

Thank you, from both of us, although those words fail to encompass the emotion, to mum & Jim, the founding members of Team Flying Solo, for the gift of this extraordinary relationship that was & still is more powerful, more miraculous, and more intimate than I ever dreamed.

I revive, then, my inner 12-year-old girl and the Ridiculously Cheesy Solo Montage from a 2010 nighttime fit of boredom.  I love you, buddy.  Please resist your genetic drive to be a walking suicide machine for a while yet, ok?


The song is by Templeton Thompson, a very talented and very kind singer/songwriter and horsewoman 
I had the pleasure of meeting about five years ago at an Equine Affaire in Raleigh.

2011 Area II Indian Smurf Award:  For courage in the face of adversity
I hope we have many stories left to tell.  I WILL get you back in shape this year, I know you are bored and I am so sorry -- I know how much you have left to give, although you owe me nothing!

We have a fresh start with your younger chew toy brother, who entertains us both, & Awesome Crew B, who always lends a hand & a shoulder.

And we have you, my wonderful readers and friends.  You are part of our team too, & sharing our journey has enriched it even more.  It's hard to believe that there are over 200 of you on our feed now; I thank all of you for letting me share my shiny, stubborn, loyal, kind, & altogether remarkable flying Solo with you.      

As Neil Young so fittingly wrote:

We've been through some things together, 
with trunks of memories still to come.
We found things to do in stormy weather,
Long may you run.
Although these changes have come, 
With your chrome heart shining in the sun, 
long may you run. 

December 17, 2012

Red Reloaded

Imagine my delight when I clicked over to SprinklerBandit this morning and saw my one true love not only pictured, but referred to as the original!  Now, he's hardly the first awesome red gelding, but he was certainly MY first awesome red gelding.

Her description of him (I was so flattered!  Thank you, SB!) got me thinking, as has rediscovering his quirks which had become instinct to me but are all new to his beloved new minion, Amber.  And laughing fondly about what makes him so unique, so amazing, and so maddening.

If you have an Olympic medal, I do not helmet boss you.  Although I think about it.
Like the fact that if you need to change something while you are riding, you are NEVER going to get a damn thing on a straight line.  That horse has never been truly straight in his life and never will be.  You have to use a bend or a transition or a step of leg yield or shoulder fore to unlock his body and ask for the change you seek.  This is why he actually got better scores as he went up the levels and his best test was Training B -- because there is not more than three steps in that test when you are not bending, changing gaits, changing within gaits, or changing direction.

Like the fact that while you will work yourself into a sweat lathered frenzy getting him to trot FORWARD (you better be fit!), if you dig in your heel or spur when asking for the canter, you WILL be doing airs above the ground while Mr. Shiny expresses his disgust with your overzealotry.  Ask Amber about that one.

Like the FOUR YEARS it took me to get this kind, quiet gelding not to rear, bolt, shake, or run at the sight of a longe whip and the slow melting of fear into a trust that I wondered at times if I would ever get.

Like the fact that he HATES it when you hug his head or neck, or you pet his nose, but if I stand still, his expression of affection is to just rest his muzzle against me and I feel the incredible energy flow between us in that touch.

Like the fact that when most horses jig or get antsy on the trail, you just ask them to work (i.e. shoulder-in, get on the bit, etc) and eventually they give in and decide walking is easier.  Solo, on the other hand will NEVER. GIVE. IN.  Ever.  He will trot sideways, bowed up against the bit for two hours in 90 degree heat, his ears very clearly saying, F U, lady, the whole time.  Even if it is so hot blood starts to come out his nose, he's not stopping and you will have to get off or make him walk backwards so he doesn't kill himself before you make it home.  Then, he is such a tough bastard that you hose him off and 15 minutes later, he's brightly eating grass like nothing happened.

Yeah! We jumped the ditch!  Oh....crap.
Like the fact that he hated dressage so much, that after a test halt at a HT one day, the judge said to me, "Wow, he really doesn't like dressage, does he?"  Ever so subtle, my redhead.  Yet the day he discovered extended trot and every time I asked for it thereafter, he engaged his hind end and sprung forward with, dare I say, joy, floating powerfully over the ground with his face lit up like a candle.

Like the fact that you better keep your head in the game.  If you slack off and say, celebrate after leaping the ditch, or get excited and pitch your shoulder at him, you either ain't jumping at all or you jumping by yourself!

For those and a hundred other reasons, yes, there is such a thing as Mad Solo Love.  It's been almost seven years and now we just read each other's minds, but that same lightning bolt that hit the first time our eyes met strikes over and over again each time I arrive at the pasture gate.  He taught me things I thought I already knew about heart and patience and trust and courage.  And then, just to make sure, he would teach me again.

To this day, he will STILL test me one way or another every time I get on.  And to this day, it will still make me giggle at his huge personality.  And even though he is out of shape and he will never quite recover from his back injury, I will fall in love with him all over again every time he tries his damndest to give me the best canter he can or jumps a 12" crossrail with two feet to spare.

I wish on everyone a horse (you don't even have to own it) so special that he opens a door in your heart you didn't even know was there and changes you forever.

September 10, 2011

Thoroughbred Heritage

Warning:  longest blog post in history commences.

One of the exciting things about bringing home a gen-yew-wine (that's how we say it in NC) racehorse is that he comes with a paper trail.  His every move has been watched and logged since he set foot on a track and his family tree has been carefully charted.  So, as you can imagine given my irrepressible curiosity, I set out on a google quest and discovered that I had stumbled upon a pot of gold.

Watch Encore (running as "Joyous Jester") break his maiden with a bang at Pimlico in 2008. Well, now I know he can gallop.

Encore was bred for speed, stamina, and heart; his pedigree reads like a review of the TB leading sires list.  Great names that have almost been forgotten in modern racing spring off the page, as well as a few horses who were founders of the modern jumping sporthorse.  Settle in for a tour of the kings of racing and of the unstoppable heart of the Thoroughbred horse.

AP Indy
As I mentioned in my previous post, Encore is an AP Indy grandson.  AP Indy was purchased as a yearling in 1990 for a whopping $2.9 million, which turned out to not be such a bad investment.  In racing alone, he won almost $3 million and was crowned Horse of the Year in 1992.  He went on to even greater heights in the breeding shed, where he stood for $150,000 per cover until 2011, when he became infertile.  In 2003 and 2006, he was the leading TB sire in the country.  He sired many fantastic horses, one of which was Bernardini, the 2006 Preakness winner who was the first stallion chosen to breed the champion racemare, Zenyatta.

Encore's damsire is Allen's Prospect, a Kentucky-bred stallion, purchased at Keeneland's famous yearling sale for $560,000 (that was a heck of a lot of money in 1983).  A son of Mr. Prospector, he ended up siring a greater percentage of winners than the famed Storm Cat (who has a $500,000 stud fee) and topped both Seattle Slew and Unbridled in national stallion rankings.  He is also known for siring a number of VERY good jumpers and eventers, particularly through his broodmare line.   

It only gets better from here.  His papers include, from the USA:

Secretariat:  Does he even need an introduction?  Just in case you live under a rock, I wrote about him here.

Seattle Slew
Seattle Slew:  The only undefeated Triple Crown winner (1977),  the renowned tough guy Slew won the Eclipse Award in 1976 AND 1978, was awarded Horse of the Year in 1978, was the Leading Sire of 1984, and the Leading Broodmare Sire of 1995 and 1996.  Before he died, Slew sired an amazing 7 North American champions and 1 European champion.  Encore inherits his toughness and speed from both his sire and dam's lines.

Mr. Prospector:  Descended from the Darley Arabian through Eclipse, Mr. P earned the affection of many.  He had the misfortune of racing in the same year as Secretariat AND Forego and it is a testament to his courage and speed that he came second to both.  A Leading Sire 6 times, Mr. P sired a winner of each Triple Crown race, as did his grandson, Unbridled.  He is buried at Clairborne Farms between his old rival, Secretariat and the Canadian legend, Nijinsky.

Swaps
Swaps:  This 1955 KY Derby winner broke records left and right.  Named Horse of the Year in 1956, reporters wrote that Swaps would "go to the front of the race and say goodbye."  Also in '56, he fractured his leg in three places and most parties agreed he would have to be destroyed.  Swaps would have none of it -- he hung in a custom-built sling in his stall for four weeks and trotted out at the end of it to live a long life.

Nashua:  In 1955, he beat Swaps in a match race when the latter had an infected foot.  The two were hearty rivals and Nashua won out as Horse of the Year in 1955, when he won both the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.  He won over $1 million and was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1965.  He stood at Claiborne with his sire, the Irish champion Nasrullah.

Citation
Citation:  In 1948, Citation won the Triple Crown and went on racing until he was 6 to become the first horse in history to win over $1 million.  Inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1959, he held the American record on a dirt track for 30 years until Spectacular Bid blew it wide open.  Citation is listed as #3 on the list of Greatest Horses of the 20th Century (he trails only Man O' War and Secretariat) but he won far more races than either legend.

War Admiral:  Contrary to what Hollywood would have you believe, this son of Man O' War was only 15.3 but he won both the Triple Crown and Horse of the Year in 1937.  He was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame and was a Leading Sire in 1945.

Bold Ruler
Bold Ruler:  As a colt, Bold Ruler was so accident-prone that Bull Hancock (owner of Claiborne Farm) would hide him behind the barn in his own paddock so visitors wouldn't see him.  He was forever cutting his legs to pieces and once nearly bit off half of his own tongue.  Nevertheless, he grew to win the Preakness in 1957, even though there was a 2 inch splinter from his fetlock imbedded in his leg tendons for some time.  As a result he won the Eclipse Award and Horse of the Year in 1957 and was inducted posthumously into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1973.  He sired Secretariat and was the grandsire of Foolish Pleasure, Bold Forbes, Ruffian, and Spectacular Bid.

Round Table:  Foaled on the same night at Claiborne Farm as Bold Ruler, this stallion was the greatest turf horse in US history.  He dominated the world of racing in 1958, winning every award there was, including Horse of the Year.  In 43 of 66 starts, he won $1.7 million and set or equaled 14 records, including 2 US records and 1 world record.  He was the Leading Sire of 1972 and when Queen Elizabeth visited KY in 1984, she requested her own audience with the great horse when he was 30 years old.  He is noted for contributing jumping talent and good temperaments through his genes.

Buckpasser
Buckpasser:  Often called "the most perfectly conformed Thoroughbred ever seen," this stallion was an international record-winning two-year-old.  A quarter crack kept him out of the Triple Crown, but he still was Horse of the Year in 1966 and was the first horse to win over $1 million before the age of four.  He was syndicated for $4.8 million and was the Leading Broodmare Sire of 1983, 1984, and 1989 and is noted for passing on soundness.  His sons include Spend A Buck, Lil E Tee, and Silver Charm.

John P Grier.  I had to note this guy; he was the only horse who would race Man O' War in the 1920 Dwyer Handicap.  Although he did not win, he remains the only horse who ever ran neck and neck with Man O' War for a mile.  That, my friends, is guts.

There is a lot of very impressive international blood there too:

JJ Babu
My Babu:  I admit, I squealed when I found this one.  This French Thoroughbred is one of the most influential jumper and eventer sires of all time.  He set a stakes record in England in 1948 and in 1955 was imported to America for $600,000, the highest price ever paid to import a Thoroughbred to the US.  Syndicated for $1.2 million along with Nashua, he stood at Spendthrift Farm, where he was the Leading Juvenile Sire in 1960 and sired 47 stakes winners.  Even more notably to me, his blood produced Bruce Davidson's 1984 gold-medal-winning mount, JJ Babu, Anky van Greunsven's Bonfire, and the Grand Prix jumper, Sympatico, who set the world record for puissance (high jump) in 1973.

Princequillo
Princequillo:  Bred in France, his dam was shipped to Ireland, where he was foaled, to protect her from World War II.  His sire was less lucky and was killed by German artillery fire in France.  Princequillo and his dam were then sent to the US as the war escalated.  He nearly died on the boat ride over and was sold due to his poor condition.  His owner no doubt regretted the decision, as Princequillo went on to become the greatest distance runner in US history besides Kelso.  He was retired at 4 to the breeding shed of Claiborne where he was the Leading Sire of 1957-58 and the Leading Broodmare Sire of 1966-70, 1972 and 1973.  He is the grandsire of rivals Secretariat and Sham and known for passing on soundness, good temperament, and large hearts.

Northern Dancer
Northern Dancer:  The most successful sire of the 20th century, he won 14 of 18 races and never finished lower than 3rd place.  He set the KY Derby record until Secretariat broke it (who still holds it) and in 1964 he was Canadian Horse of the Year, North American Champion Three-Year-Old, and an Eclipse Award winner.  In 1965, he was also the first horse inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame (he now shares it with Big Ben) and in 1999 he got his own Canadian postage stamp.  With a $1 million stud fee, Northern Dancer sired a mind-blowing 147 stakes winners.

Nearco:  This Italian Thoroughbred was named one of the most important sires of all time.  He had his own bomb shelter in World War II.  He produced Nasrullah and Nearctic and was the grandsire of Northern Dancer.  Over 100 of his sons have stood at stud around the world, which is a world record apart from St. Simon.

Carbine
Carbine:  This incredible horse from New Zealand won 33 of 43 starts and was 1 of 5 inaugural members of both the New Zealand and Australia Racing Hall of Fame.  He won the 2 mile Sydney Cup in record-setting time as a 3-year-old and won the 1890 Melbourne Cup while carrying 53 more pounds than the 2nd place horse.  He failed to place only once because of a cracked hoof.  Imported to England in 1895, Carbine's descendents include 8 of the 9 horses to ever win more than $10 million.  From 1914-1978, half of the Melbourne Cup winners descended from Carbine and in the US, both Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra can trace back to him.

The Tetrarch
The Tetrarch:  An undefeated, white-spotted grey called "The Spotted Wonder," was named Britain's top 2-year-old of the 20th century.  An injury ended his racing career at 2, but he was Britain's Leading Sire in 1919.  His most important progeny was a mare named Mumtaz Mahal, called "The Flying Filly," who became one of the top broodmares of the 20th century. 

Gainsborough:  He won the English Triple Crown in 1918, he was the Leading Sire in Great Britain and Ireland from 1932-1933.  He left a legacy of conformation and stamina behind.

Cor de la Bryere
Dark Ronald:  Yes, that is his real name.  His sire was Bay Ronald; the owners were apparently not very inspired.  This stud stands at the roots of the modern show jumper.  He was purchased in Great Britain by the German National Stud in 1913 and his blood has produced horses such as Landgraf I, Cor de la Bryere, Furioso II, and Ladykiller xx.

Teddy:  Another founder of today's showjumpers and one of the most influential sires of the 20th century, Teddy was a French horse that raced in Spain and France in the mid-teens of the 20th century.  He won 6 of 8 races and was the Leading Sire of 1923.  Imported the US in 1931, he sired 65 stakes winners.

February 14, 2010

My First, My Best Teachers

At that point, I had already been enrolled in lessons for about four years. When we moved to Kentucky in 1987, my mother had found a local barn where I could learn to ride. Once a week for the next seven years, I met with my instructor and occasionally her German trainer and learned about dressage, a smattering of jumping, and perhaps most importantly, how to adapt to the horse of the day.





Like Lucky, this shiny bay who carted me around for many a lesson. Note my awesome dressage attire; even then I flaunted the DQ's. I loved my cowboy boots, dammit, and wear them I WOULD! The school horses were just boarders who wanted a half price discount, hence the permission to use them in lessons, or my instructor's horses over the years. Which meant I could be riding a TB who had just come back from a three-day event or there might be a 4-year-old Arab just learning the ropes or I might be riding a one-sided kid's QH who liked to buck at the canter.



A blurry capture of one of my first jumps. It appears to have been ridiculously cold. Northern Kentucky sits in the Ohio River valley and it was not unusual for us to see winter days 10, even 20 degrees below zero.

I grew up in this beautiful barn and it was more like home to me than anywhere else. I rode in it as a kid and worked in it in high school. I can still hear the sweet rumble of its stall doors, the soft, heavy footfalls of horses in the arena, the sound muffled by sand and bouncing gently off of heavy wood stall fronts, the soft munching of the horses in the stalls at their hay while I rode, and the rustle of the sparrows in the hay loft. I will always carry it with me in my heart, unchanged and undimmed by time and distance. These were the sounds I lived for every week and that hasn't changed two decades later.

February 13, 2010

Blast From The Past

Today is a nasty, snow-ridden, mucky day so in order to entertain myself in lieu of going outside and getting cold, I start instead shuffling through the stack of old photographs I brought home at Christmas.

Growing up, I never had my own horse. The closest I got was the Welsh Mountain Pony X we leased for a while in California. So I eagerly pounced on any opportunity to ride anything remotely horselike and counted it as a good day. Ah, 80's fashion was so unkind to all of us...





I am in the back, my little brother sits up front. Two childhood friends smile at the camera. I am turned away, peering around to see, fixated on the wonder of this magical, living, breathing, powerful, beautiful animal that carries us. She was a little Asian elephant at the Cincinnati Zoo -- with four legs and a tail, close enough to a horse to count as riding!

If, perchance I found myself near ACTUAL horses, I was fixated. Occasionally I would find myself reduced to paroxysms of ecstasy, like over the Christmas holidays of 1991. I was 12 and we vacationed at Tanque Verde Ranch, a luxurious place nestled in the mountains near Tuscon, AZ. You got to hang out with other kids away from your parents all day -- and you got to ride every day. Twice. Cantering on sandy trails winding through the washes and peaks of the beautiful Saguaro National Monument. It was heaven.



I wish I could remember this little bay gelding's name that I am riding (sans helmet, gasp!). He had a respiratory problem when he loped, so I could only ride him in their arena. When we went out on our rides, I had to switch to a big freckled grey.



I remember a clear desert afternoon as we rode through a wash, my little brother, myself, and our chaperone who led, we encountered a wide patch of quicksand. The leader's horse stumbled in and bounded through. Next, my little brother, 9 at the time, clung tightly as his smaller horse leapfrogged across. He dissolved into tears as the saddle horn pummeled his crotch repeatedly. In true big sister fashion, I giggled at his plight.

As I kicked the grey forward to cross the sand, he took two steps and plummeted to his belly in the muck. The gelding froze, unwilling to thrash with me on his back, but uncertain of his ability to escape. I immediately hopped off. Since I was a tiny beanpole of a kid, I stood easily on the surface of the quicksand that had swallowed my horse. I stepped forward and clucked gently and calmly to my grey friend, calling, "C'mon, buddy, you can do it." In two leaps, he popped right out and shook himself up. I scaled back on with a grin.

I believe our guide's eyes nearly popped out of her face at my calm problem solving and for the rest of the day, she told our story around the ranch. My mother heard the story third hand before we rejoined her for dinner and instantly realized, "Yep, that's my daughter." I always was good in a crisis, LOL.

January 12, 2010

Quiz Answers

Just because I know you were dying to find out, our two mystery horses from the 29 December 2009 quiz were successfully identified!

molly was the first commenter to successfully identify our stunning chestnut, Secretariat. A son of Bold Ruler, this red speed demon was not expected to have the staying power for the distance stakes races. It appears no one informed Secretariat of this. Not only did he win the Triple Crown in 1973, he blew it out of the water. In the Derby, he achieved the unprecedented feat of running each successive quarter mile faster than the one before it. That record still stands. He also won the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths and in the fastest time for 1.5 miles on dirt ever before and ever since. He is still listed in "Top Ten" lists of great athletes even in non-horsey circles, won $1.3 million, and his blood lives on in his descendents despite his death from laminitis at age 19 in 1989. As an honor for a great legend, he was buried whole at Claiborne, where he still lies. He also sired the first TB yearling ever to sell for more than $1 million; the colt, Canadian Bound, brought a $1.5 million sticker price, but was a failure at racing. Secretariat later became known for his penchant for producing mediocre colts, but excellent broodmares. Interestingly, necropsy revealed that his heart weighed 22 pounds, the largest ever recorded for a horse.


The grey was a toughie, but Kate chimed in, solving the mystery (even I couldn't figure out who he was): Spectacular Bid. He was a Bold Ruler grandson who may have also been a Triple Crown winner, only the morning of the 1979 Belmont, "The Bid" stepped on a metal pin in his stall and his jockey was in a fist fight, the two of which together cost him the prize. Nevertheless, he won 26 out of 30 races and never lost between 7 furlongs and 1.25 miles. He won $2.8 million and was syndicated at stud for $22 million. He left Claiborne in 1991 and he died of a heart attack in 2003 in upstate New York, 27 years full of heart.