To my mind, one of the drawbacks of having a guest ranch is the inevitable aging of horses. I always think it’s so sad that animals should become old so much more quickly than we do – witness all the beloved dogs and cats that one has had over the years. Not fair that they live a mere fraction of a human life! Dogs, popular wisdom says, age seven years for each human year, and horses age three years for each human one – still far too quickly!
And what to do with those who served so willingly, who were so faithful? You either try to find them good homes, or ….. you keep them, of course! Naturally, to keep them all is not feasible. I wish it were. I wish I had limitless wealth and could keep all my old horses in a sort of horsy heaven, until they departed this earth in the fullness of their years. I did have many like that – Skoshi, whom I had for 33 years, and therefore longer by some eight years than I had my husband Gerry, died at the ripe old age of 39 – but it was still hard to see her go!
So I keep them. But keeping them brings other problems, apart from the inevitable feeding, farrier and vet care. Just consider some other unintended consequences, as for example in the case of a retired horse here, called Buddy. Buddy was in the Grapevine string for years, and has therefore earned an honorable retirement, no question. He has some vision problems in one eye, and so I put him in with two other retired horses, Gerry’s cutting mare, Bonny, who is not all that old, but who, unfortunately, has navicular disease in her right front foot – and with Peanut, another retired Grapevine horse. So that made three in that particular, fairly large pasture, full of nice mesquite and cottonwood trees, with a creek running through it, and lots of horsy company across the road.
Some time back we brought over another mare from Grapevine, and housed her in the pen next to Buddy’s pasture. To my dismay, he immediately fell violently in love with her, and took to standing and gazing longingly at her across the fence until I couldn’t bear it any more and asked Danny to put him in with her. Peace reigned for a while – the two of them ate peaceably side by side, dozed head to tail, swished off flies – until Bonita had to return to Grapevine. And then my heartbreak began again – Buddy remained standing by the fence, gazing sadly in the direction of Grapevine, where his love had gone. It was beyond awful to see him there, day after day, not moving, not eating, just looking north, silently weeping. It was about to drive me crazy – my bedroom window looks directly across at this corral, and first thing every morning I was treated to the spectacle of Buddy pining away for his lost love. About five days into this, it occurred to me that there was no reason on God’s earth why Buddy shouldn’t equally well fall in love with Gerry’s mare, Bonny. Bonny is very handsome, and has a nice personality – and she is far more peaceable than Bonita, who is a bit apt to be marish and kick out at suitors when the mood takes her. So I considered why this didn’t work, and I came to the conclusion that the fly in the ointment was Peanut, who had taken total possession of Bonny and wouldn’t let anyone else near her.The problem was finally solved by putting Peanut in with the Grapevine vacation horses, where his attention was distracted by so many old friends to whom he could be nasty (because Peanut, in spite of his size, is quite a tartar with other horses) and so leave Bonny free to accept the attention from her other suitor. It worked – finally I have peace in the mornings. Now I can see Buddy and Bonny standing nose to tail, fly swishing, and I no longer feel like the owner from hell. Truly I don’t know how the plantation owners of the bad past could have separated, so cruelly, families of slaves by selling some of them down the river, as the phrase went! Awful.
But further to old horses – there were a couple of others who could no longer negotiate the steep trails and rocky mountainsides of the ranch, but who are still young enough to make someone happy. And so they do – we have some neighbors by name of Anne and Charlie, who teach little children to ride and to enjoy the company of horses. They were very happy to take our two, Rusty and Nemo, and last report says that both horses are very happy and are loved no end by the children. Anne sent me a couple of photos and I thought I would share one with you, so that those of you out there who also loved them, will see they are doing well in their new life.
And to complete this week’s narrative, is there anyone out there who would like to come and join our kitchen crew? Ed is looking for another cook to share the joys of our kitchen with him. If you are interested, or know someone who is, please e-mail Anne@gcranch.com and join the happy staff at the Best in the West!