Who needs fences?

We did not plan to become a rescue horse farm, but one horse, then two, three. It just happened. About 1 month after Beau arrived, despite the fact that our fencing was sketchy at best. (a single strand of wire will hold them right?) and only one section of our soon to be converted sheep shed was equine safe, Darling husband announced that we were going on a road trip to see a horse he had found on Facebook. The voice in my head screamed, absolutely not, we’re not ready. That voice of the logical, Angel, was silenced easily with duct tape by a pony obsessed demonic presence. Come to think of it, Angel’s voice/body were never heard/seen again.

It just so happened that I too had been perusing Facebook, but had not mentioned prospective farm residents because the angelic voice was still keeping me in check. I’m pretty sure the duct tape hit was taken out on Angel the moment I discovered our road trip would take us in the direction of a gorgeous creature, my heart had been pining for on the Book.

Originally, we planned to start with two trained horses (animals we could both ride), one intermediate (Angel’s influence) and one that at least let your butt touch the saddle before the aerobatics commenced. Since Demon works fast, that plan was pretty much a fantasy the moment our butts hit the truck seats.

For anyone reading this, I need you to know before we go any further…Yes, I have lots of experience judging horse flesh objectively. My knowledge was hard won (blood, sweat, tears) from working with new, green, untrained, and badly trained animals. Fully aware of the considerations one should contemplate when purchasing a horse, I’ve witnessed the consequences of catastrophically bad purchasing decisions involving equines, but Angel was taken out about 3 years ago; he was the custodian of the knowledge .

The three of us (Darling husband, me, Demon) headed off to Houston. Our first stop was Darling husband’s prospect, an absolutely stunning sixteen plus hand, eight year old, registered paint gelding. The gleam in Darling husband’s eyes rivaled the gleam he gets for a brand new Ram 3500 Cummins diesel. I knew in the depths of my soul no matter what happened during this visit, he would buy the horse.

Rio the equine god.

Rio had been with his current family three years (on turn out with cows that were bullying him). They purchased the gelding when he proved “too much horse” for an eight year old 4-Her. The exuberant bucking giant was an unsuitable mount for a small girl (who would have thought?). Their own seventeen year old daughter, an accomplished reining horse competitor found him intimidating (Where the F@#$ is Angel?). The daughter offered us a trial ride, but refused to ride him herself (Demon practically dances with glee). Darling husband mooned, I raised a skeptical eyebrow, Demon slapped the skepticism off my face, and I said “whatever you want to do honey.” Me, six months pregnant, and husband, unsure of his cowboy prowess, we waived the ride offer and agreed to pick the horse up the following week. Then we were off to see our next potential bad decision.

Odessa’s post had been on Facebook for over a month. For any of you shopping horses posted on social media, usually good animals are sold faster than that, but Houston had been under water for a month, so allowances were made. We arrived at Lake Houston where the barn owner ushered us into the barn pointing to the first stall on the left. Nothing prepared either me or Darling husband for the sight awaiting us. Demon probably already knew. I’m not sure how fast news travels through the underworld.

Dull coat, crusted in mud, neck sunken, and every rib showing, Odessa was huddled against the stall wall. The current owner stated she had saved her from neglect in Waco one month prior. Bringing a starvation case back to a healthy weight was difficult to do on a part-time Starbuck’s salary with only a few months of equine experience working at a stable. The horse didn’t seem to have the speed for barrel racing (because so many starved horses do). Say what you will for her horse knowledge, Odessa’s owner understood camera angles and filters enough to make Demon’s argument for the trip convincing.

Odessa after one month of quality feed and forage, still severely underweight.

Despite Demon’s tantrum’s, I asked the owner to tack up and show us that Odessa would at least allow a rider on her back. I can’t even begin to describe the horror of triple twisted wire shanked snaffle Odessa’s owner ensured me was the “perfect bit” for every horse. I figured if she didn’t get stomped wrangling it in the horse’s mouth, the horse was sold just to get her away from the torture device. After five minutes (magical milestone!) of seeing her rider’s horrific bouncing around the bog called a pasture, I looked up at Darling husband.

Demon and I have better equine instincts than Darling husband (mainly because he lacks the near death experiences and air time from the quantity of horses I have under my belt). I use my powers for good, and Demon well he’s Demon. After seeing the sleek, beautiful, registered animal near College Station, Darling husband wanted no part of this muddy heap of bones with rain rot in Houston. I could no longer see the starving creature. A flashy sensible appaloosa was the only thing standing in front of me (maybe Demon’s rose colored glasses, maybe not). “I don’t like her ,and we’re not paying the full asking price.” was all darling husband said.

Odessa starting to put on weight.

People think horses are expensive (and they are!), just not always to buy. Unless you are a breed/bloodline snob, quality inexpensive horses (like most livestock) can be found everywhere if you are knowledgeable (BIG “if”). For those of us excluding the independently wealthy or those with parents still funding your activity, the feed, housing, training, vet care, farriers, and tack cost your soul. Many self-proclaimed horse lovers are not prepared to give their soul to Demon and the horses suffer. I practically have him tattooed on my back. (right shoulder blade, just ask I’ll show you). It didn’t take much to haggle the price down on Ms. Part-time Starbucks, when the equine bills were creeping up and we had cash in hand. Demon’s work was done, the money spent, he hurried off to Hades to report another soul sold.

It can’t be overstated how unprepared we were. Forget the farm infrastructure, we didn’t have a way to transport two 1200 lb animals two hours away. Husband was not worried and went to work upgrading the barn with box stalls. While I was waddling my miserable third trimester a$$ to work everyday, he had been getting out and meeting our neighbors.

We were considering spending two times more than our new charges cost for transport when our next door neighbor (a saint who has helped more than one of our dreams become reality) reported that he knew someone that would let us borrow a trailer on short notice. So exactly one week later, all three of us (Darling Husband, me, Saintly Neighbor) retrieved our purchases (Demon was laying low).

Rio and Odessa after the fence upgrades. Fly sheet to protect her hairless rear still healing from rain rot.

In the way only horses can, Rio and Odessa developed a deeply cosmic bond on the ride home from Houston. The two lovers were dumped into a field of quality knee high grass and no cows! I don’t think either horse could believe their luck, perimeter checks of the containment didn’t even occur to them. We all congratulated ourselves on a good deed done.

Beau quickly shattered all illusions of a lovers’ paradise. Our resident miscreant somehow managed to break into the back pasture . I say “somehow” like I expected him to stay confined with only a few strands of wire fence that included more than one location with four by four gaps, and a gorgeous new lady next door. Darling husband assisted by saintly neighbor had been working their tails off on our fencing upgrades, they just didn’t move fast enough for Beau.

Beau went straight for Odessa. Her first thought was, stud! (literally). Rio sensing a demotion in pecking order decided to play blocker (Beau barely came up to his hocks after all). Rio’s miscalculation…he did not know Beau Pony could fly. The little fiend went airborne, four feet flying, teeth chomping, and got a good bite on Rio’s rump. At this point escape was the only plan that occurred to Rio (he’s a lover not a fighter); after all, Beau took at least four strides to Rio’s one. Beau would not be defeated that easily and made up for shorter stride length by taking more strides at Mach 5.

All of this happened while Darling Husband was away. Six months pregnant and unfamiliar with Rio, I calculated that catching the crazed stallion at his heels was my best option to prevent equine injuries. It was the best plan I (Demon) could formulate in seconds, considering the Kentucky Derby soon to turn steeplechase occurring on the property. Grabbing the closest item resembling a rope (dog leash), I waited until Beau had Rio running straight in my direction. As Rio passed, I stepped into Beau’s path, grabbed a huge clump of pony mane, and spun to the side redirecting his momentum in a circle, just enough to slow him down while I wrangled the dog leash lasso around his evil little neck. Of course his exhibition was enough to bring Odessa into heat, the beginning of a star-crossed (for obvious reasons, height difference) love affair.

Either Demon was merciful, or he was just building up to the
coup de grâce that would be my first experience with a mustang (horse not car), but nothing catastrophic happened despite our completely inadequate equine vetting process. Odessa blossomed and Rio seemed nice enough.

Odessa’s second show…

Odessa was everything Demon promised. She is a sensible horse that had a great first show season for a horse with zero professional training, whose workouts often occur in the middle of the night to accommodate my offspring’s schedule. Our son (barely 2) even rode her in his first lead line class (parents already feeding the equine addiction). Occasionally Odessa obliges me when children request a pony ride (not the pony, never the pony!)

Our little cowpoke in his first show…

Rio sadly was not the right horse for Darling husband. He ended up in a hunter jumper barn with a much more consistent training program than a new mother with a full time job could give him. We personally transported Rio to his new home to make sure it would be the right place for his needs. On the way home we (Demon and I) were already scheduling vetting visits (who am I kidding, pickup times) for the next two residents on the Gardner Farm.

Rio with his new owner at his first schooling show. He’s having a successful season in Dallas.
Odessa at her last show of the season.

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