Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bonnet on the Tevis Cup Ride

Bonnet on the Tevis Cup Ride

Shortly after this romantic interlude Bonnet moved to new quarters in Sunland and for us life went on. The next thing we heard, Lona had taken it into her head to ride Bonnet on the Western States 100. She conditioned him and trained him. I thought it was madness, but nobody ever asked me. (Nobody ever asks me.) She and the pony showed up, both of them in great condition because they had been working in the rugged San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California.

The trail ride board of directors had stipulated that each horse had to carry 150 pounds of weight. Lona and her saddle weighed 130 pounds, but nobody cut them any slack. If Bonnet was going to play with the real horses, he was going to have to abide by Real Horse Rules. So he was fitted out with lead weights for his saddle.

I was concerned because much of the Western States ride is made at the trot. You’ve seen people riding English saddles where they bounce up and down while their horse trots. It’s called “posting.” It’s a way of equalizing the load and making things a little easier for the horse. People riding Western saddles don’t post. Instead, they put their weight from side to side as the horse progresses, counterbalancing the motion. It also equalizes the load. But both riding methods have something in common. The rider looks like he’s going to fall off any second.

Many people were concerned about Bonnet. Compared with the trail horses, even the relatively small Arabs, Bonnet looked like a Yorkshire Terrier running with Great Danes. But he was in such great physical condition that a hundred-mile trot only made him horny. He propositioned every mare he could identify along the way, and maybe a few geldings, too. When you’re young, you’re not particular.

The ride ends at the Auburn District Fair Grounds. At 6:00 a.m. certain vets conduct a quick post-ride survey of the animals. bIf they find some horse massively dehydrated, for example, they can do something quickly. Since Joanne was the vet secretary, she had to get up early to make the 6:00 a.m. call with them. She told me that Bonnet was still propositioning the mares. One of the vets commented, “That’s a damn tough pony.” “Damn tough” is a technical term used among veterinarians.

Bonnet lived into his middle twenties. He pulled carts, appeared in parades, and was Lona’s friend and companion during all that time. Several times he won the NTRA (National Trail Riding Association) national open championship.

When he died, Lona sent us an edged-in-black note saying she had lost her friend. And we mourned with her. He was one of the planet’s good guys.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bonnet Breeds His Last Mare

We had let Bonnet breed a few mares before we sold him to Lona, if you could call it that. Breeding horses is tricky business. It takes more than a willing pair of horses. You must wrap tails, engage breeding hobbles (for mares who aren’t quite so willing), and make sure that the stallion is wearing a halter equipped with a nose chain to get his attention in case he gets carried away by passion and injures his partner. Last, but not least, one requires a bucket for an antiseptic solution and sponges to apply it to the stallion’s member. He doesn’t always take kindly to this procedure. Imagine, Bonnet and his girlfriend have just gone through the beautiful act of creating a new horse, and while he is still dreamy with beta waves, we slosh him in the crotch with a bucket of Phisohex.

Breeding horses presents so many technical difficulties that it’s a wonder horses can do it for themselves.

We had one more mare to breed, and we just didn’t want to be bothered with all the usual foofaraw. We just bound her tail to keep it out of the way. Then we stepped back. Bonnet was so gentle that we didn’t fear that he would hurt the mare; in fact, he was quite a lover. He looked at the mare, nuzzled her a bit, looked at us, got a huge smile as he realized that he was going to do this on his own, and leaped into the air and clicked all four feet together. His pure joy made our day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More on Bonnet

More on Bonnet
Copyright Ken Harris 2008

I mentioned before that there are advantages to raising horses on hillsides. They do not grow up, as some rural myths say, with legs shorter on one side than the other. Instead, since no matter where they go, it will be either uphill or downhill, the horses or ponies muscle up in the hindquarters.

And so it was with Bonnet. After six months with us in Auburn, he no longer resembled a Friday Horse. (To refresh your memory, you never wanted to buy a new car built on Fridays because that was the day they cleaned the factory and built cars out of parts that didn’t fit right in on first attempt at assembly Mondays through Thursdays.) All of Bonnet’s horse parts seemed to fit together better than they had when we first got him from Montana. Men no longer laughed when they saw him. We might have even finished 22nd in that show at Stockton, instead of 23rd. .

At that time Joanne and I were heavily involved with the Western States 100 Mile Trail Ride. We had both done the ride before and won our much coveted silver and gold buckles. (To win the buckle you had to ride one horse the roughly 100-mile distance from Tahoe City to Auburn within 24 hours.) Both of us realized that we only needed one belt buckle because we only needed to wear one belt at a time. But we still worked on the ride, clearing and marking trail in the spring to get ready for the summer event. I used to be a drag rider and sweep up lost riders and try to get them in so they could earn buckles. Joanne was a vet’s secretary. We did all this when we were not trimming our ponies’ feet.

During this time we met Lona Sweet and her family from Sunland, California. I don’t know if Lona will ever read this story, but she was a little bitty woman who might have weighed ninety-nine pounds if someone put rocks in her purse. She fell in love with Bonnet and bought him.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Owning a Horse

Owning a Horse
Copyright Ken Harris 2008

A few thoughts on horse ownership. If you like to ride and don’t own a horse, you go down to a stable and rent a horse or even take a class. Perhaps you have friends who own horses and are willing to loan you one or go riding with you. But, if you buy a horse, then either you must board the horse or put it in your back yard, if you have a big back yard. You have to feed your horse, take care of him when he’s sick, pay for the damage he might do if he gets out. You brush the horse, bathe the horse, braid his mane and tail. If you want to go anywhere far away, you must have a trailer. A trailer is not much good without a vehicle to pull it. You can’t ride very far bareback, so you need a saddle, bridle, saddle pads. You also need clothes for yourself, which could mean anything from jeans and shirt to coats, jodhpurs and rat catchers for fox hunting and jumping classes. Boots are always expensive. You’ll need to buy feed for the horse and you will need a barn to put all of this stuff in, not to mention a place to park your truck and trailer. By the time you have done all of this, your horse has died of old age and you have done everything but actually ride. You never found the time for that.