Sunday, October 10, 2010

Long strange trip

Way back in 2006, life was pretty good. G and I had moved on up to a deluxe apartment in the sky in downtown Memphis. I was in law school, and he had a Good Job with a Big Company. We had mentally unstable Lab named Linux (yes, I know, I'm a nerd) and I wanted a motorcycle. Or a horse! But a motorcycle would do. Or a horse would be great.

There was a coffeeshop downstairs and two doors down from our building, a little independent place with a crazy owner and an ever-changing cast of baristas. I got to be friends with a particularly crazy one and learned that she had a horse! She kept her mare just a few miles north of downtown, in a really sketchy part of town called Frayser. She invited me to come out and ride, so I did a few times. I did some (in retrospect, rather unrealistic) math and announced that a horse would only cost, like, $100 a month. But a motorcycle would be pretty awesome too.

My husband finally decided that I was slightly less likely to kill myself on a horse, and he told me that we could get a horse if I would STFU about the motorcycle and never ask for one again. That fall, he got a bonus, and we sold my sweet little Eclipse to a friend and bought a truck and a horse.

I got Champ out of the newspaper, of all things. I had a $1500 budget, and I knew just enough to know I needed a bombproof gelding, 9-15 years old. I called about a few horses, from CL and from the newspaper, but Champ sounded like the best prospect. He was 12, and it was love at first sight. The sweet old fellow I got Champ from had three horses - a spotted chestnut TWH, a grey Arab, and a plain bay. The bay looked up at me when I got out of my truck, and I couldn't take my eyes off of him. He neck reined and did a slow gait, and he had four legs and a heartbeat, and I bought him that day.

Here he is the day I got him.
Champ, left side

Scraggly fugly thing. Half his mane was bald - I called it Gelding Pattern Baldness - he was sickle-hocked, he had a horrid topline and a pipecleaner tail, and he had the kindest personality I've ever met.

Champ, up close

The place I boarded at rented stalls for $60/mo, self-care. ($100/mo wasn't totally unrealistic!) They were out of tack rooms, so they gave me an extra stall and I turned it into a badass tack room. I put some tin on the walls, built a plywood floor, wired up switched fluorescent lights, added some benches and saddle and blanket racks.

The stable had three barns. There was a very sad old mare in my barn, perpetually locked in her stall with knee-deep manure and a 6 mo baby at her side. The baby was still nursing and had eaten all the old mare's mane and tail. That poor old thing hung her head out and watched me whenever I went in the barn, and I fed her carrots and rubbed her head a lot. When I heard she was for sale, I had to buy her. (Excuse: you can't ride the same horse every day, that's just cruel!) Silky set me back all of $450.

Silky 3

I commandeered a turnout paddock that no one ever used and my two horses lived there, except for when it rained. Champ was fun and easy to ride, and Silky was squirrely and pacey and very hard to ride. I rode them both, six days a week.

I did the most ridiculous dumb shit and got away with it. Champ almost killed us backing into the highway once, and he took up a minor rearing habit. Silky didn't want to stand still for me to mount, so I'd just tie her up and get on, then lean over and unhook the lead. They lived in a falling-down barbed wire pasture. I had never actually seen anyone wear a helmet in real life. One time I rode under a railroad trestle bridge while a train was going by overhead, because I needed to get away from the pack of four-wheelers roaring toward us on a narrow trail. I got chased by a dude on a four-wheeler with a shotgun once. My best riding buddy and I found a stripped torched car in the woods, still smoking. He saved me from riding Champ into a nest of cottonmouths one spring, and we went out after dark in the summers to watch the deer feed.

I let the farrier re-shoe Champ once, then decided I wanted to try that barefoot thing I'd been reading about on the internet. Champ was ouchy on gravel, but it was easy enough to ride around the gravel and stick to soft dirt, and he was fine there. I decided the farrier was a drunken idiot and learned to trim for myself. I hired him to pull shoes every time I bought a horse, and I don't think he ever really noticed that I never got him to come back and trim any other time.

I found a good hay farmer, but he only sold round bales. I started borrowing a 16' flatbed utility trailer to haul my hay home, and I learned to back that thing around trees and dead cars and tractors and mud puddles. I learned how to do a lot of stuff for myself.

I'll tell yall about my Percheron Poppy, and my beautiful Dixie, next time.


  1. Well hello little lady!(as JW would say!) Thats some tale, well done you, there are a lot of men couldnt manage all that, let alone reverse a trailer and truck!

  2. i have so many questions. what is a cottonmouth?

    i recently met a couple with a baby named linus and i said, "oh, like linus torvalds" and they didn't understand my accent and said "no, like the guy who made linux." *sigh*

    and the first thing i thought at your entry was, "go with the motorcycle!" way safer and cheaper!hehehehe

    sorry funder's man!

    and that first picture of champ, omgosh, he's beautiful, in form and color! and if he was sweet too, i'd have fallen for him right there.

    and that is where it all began. so cool! i love this story!

    and the farrier took the shoes off and let you give the horses a natural feel for the ground.

    you mentioned every time you bought a many have you had funder?

    thanks for the story, it makes me wanna tell mine, .....baasha at 4 galloping down the center of a city highway....


  3. Quite a story so far - can't wait to hear more!

  4. Loving this story! Excited for the next part!

  5. Oh my! The things we've done and lived to tell the tale! More, please!

  6. Lytha, a cottonmouth is a venomous snake, they normally don't attack people unless they're picked up, but stepping into a nest of them would be very very bad.

  7. Hey lytha, Grey Drakkon explained cottonmouths pretty well, but I wanted to add that in the spring it's mating season and they get really extra short tempered. They get together in big snake orgy balls and roll around in swampy areas. Like most of the North American snakes, a bite or two probably wouldn't kill a human, but that many bites would do in a horse.

    I've had four horses - and I'd love to hear y'all's stories too!


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