Picked out of a hat with several names in the running, the name, Duke, won.
Actually, a lot of family issues have been solved this way. That is, by drawing one out of a hat; short stick vs long stick; rolling dice; or toss of a coin. It has helped to avert several family feuds where no meeting of the minds met.
The name fits him well. He is a gentleman of a horse in every way. Standing about 15 hands, he is all black with a beautiful white star, and three white socks. Right now, in this cold winter weather though, he looks more like a big fuzzy fuzzball.
June 2020 will mark the fourth year he has been here. It had been a long time since a new horse was brought to the property. A couple bad mistakes were made. The biggest one was not keeping him isolated from the herd for 1-2 weeks. He should have not been allowed to touch noses with the other horses until that time period was over. Many ailments are transmitted through noses, and an upper respiratory illness hit full blast within a week of his arrival.
That was poor management. The high veterinarian bill proved just how poor a move it was. Every other horse in the barn was sick, except Duke, of course. He was the carrier! Two long weeks of coughing was heard from the barn day and night. Wellness and good health came back to all with much relief.
He was put in with the herd a little too quickly as well. He became ‘high horse’ immediately. Because he is a well-tempered horse, that did not cause too much upset. In some herds it can be a huge issue with some horses getting very beat up. Thankfully it was not a problem.
He integrated quickly with students, family and friends. They like his gentle personality, and he is pretty!
He does not like folks mad at him and will leave the barn if able. Part of that is because of his good disposition. It also seems to be the nature of his breed. He is a Tennessee Walking Horse. They are very mild tempered horses.
He came to us late in his life so little is know of how he was trained, raised and handled. Though he responds very well to everyone who rides him. He is easy to work on the ground. He can get a bit jacked-up if his rider gets a little too forceful. Though this is true of most horses. A rider can make them or break them.
Come on out and meet him, along with all the horses. If it is a pretty day, you may get a pony ride on him!
What a silly question. Or is it? How do you see your horse?
We get a kick out of asking our students funny questions like this during their riding lessons. It makes them wonder just what in the world we are getting at. Which is exactly why we ask. We want them to turn their horse brains on the moment they step into the barn.
After the rounds of laughter, they are asked to describe the differences between dogs and horses. Have you ever thought about the differences between these two animals that so many of us enjoy over our lifetimes?
If they stumble (we do not let them sweat it out too long), they are asked this question, “Are horses prey animals? Or are dogs? Who hunts whom? What is the difference between a ‘herd’ animal and a ‘pack’ animal?” “Which one does the horse belong to?”
By now our poor students are wondering why they even asked their parents for horseback riding lessons. Hey! They just wanted to ride off into the sunrise. That ain’t going to happen at this barn.
From the get-go we want them to have a clear understanding that horses are not like their pet dogs. Not in the least, and they must not put them in the same category. This is mostly for safeties sake, but it is also a building block for becoming one good horseman.
Safety first, beauty second. This has been the motto of our small horseback riding school since our beginning. We are small. Only two horses, and four miniatures make up our stable. Lessons are private. They begin on High Hope, our pretty buckskin mare. Once the students hands and seat are improved and controlled, they move on to Duke, our Tennessee Walking horse. This exciting move is made only when satisfactory progress has been made in the riders’ seat, balance and hands. Primarily hands, because good hands produce a good seat.
Though small in equine numbers, our lessons are big is scope. Students learn quickly that actual riding comprises a small part of weekly lessons. Groundwork, horse care and horse knowledge carry a lot of weight and precede the skill of riding. We believe that good groundwork produces good riding.
The first fact students hear from this barn is, “A horse can kill you if they want. They can kill you if they don’t want.” The best student is the one who innately knows this truth. For they understand the ultimate lack of power they have over the horse. Either through fear or wisdom of the horse, this knowledge will serve them well.
“What are your goals in wanting to learn to ride?” The answer to this question helps decide if our school is the right fit for them. Our focus is basic horsemanship knowledge and good soft hands. Knowing how to “put your horse brain on.” We believe that if it is not done “on the ground”, it will not be able to be done on the back of the horse. In other words, our students must know how to move a horse while working around them on the ground before they will ever be able to move them from sitting in the saddle. They have to learn how to ‘read’ a horse. These are developed from groundwork and good observation. They will soon learn that all horses are not the same. They may not like a horse for some reason, and that is okay. Did you know horses do not like all people either? Some prefer men over women and visa versa. We teach them how to care for the horses, i.e. how to tie them safely, groom them, look for ailments and injuries, pick their hooves, how to tack them up, and so forth. It sounds like a lot, but it’s a learning curve. We try hard to make it fun, informative and tasty. There is a jar full of candy for hungry horse wranglers in the tack room. Help yourself.
I always have fun telling my students that at this barn, I am the groomsmen, tack man, barn man, hay man, go-fetch-the-horses man, and main mucking man. These students catch on quickly, as they know they will be learning all that too.
Does this mean our students do not ride? Certainly not! We ride english, western, bareback, with a bridle or without. In the round pen, out in the fields, in the woods, on roads, and through streams. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
Basic health care is another part of training. Horses are expensive, but expenses can be controlled. We do not need pink buckets, halters, or lead lines. They cost more money! Less is more, and we learn how to take good care what we have.
Our Fall Riding Recital. What is this? It is a unique ‘show’ we put on every fall for parents, and guests. Students demonstrate the skills they have learned during the year. Each student has a particular skill they have learned well. It is a time to show-off their skills to their parents, friends, and guests. Oh! And there are refreshments for all afterwards, time to talk with students, and meet the horses. It is a fun, unique opportunity for all. Enjoy these photos of recitals past and present.
So if you are interested in having a fun time learning about horses, and becoming a good horseman, swatting flies, sweating, getting stepped on, having a velvety muzzle to pet, and a fun ride, come out and meet us. You may want to give it a try.
Father Harry and I raised five children in an eighteen-hundred square foot home. Four of these busy little critters were boys and one sister, who is the youngest. Twenty plus years of busyness filled that simple, happy home. I was describing our ‘small’ house one day to a dear friend. She sweetly reprimanded me and said this paradigm shifting comment, “Don’t say ‘small’, say ‘intimate’ “.
What a different frame it put around my thoughts of our smaller-than-everyone else’s place. We had suddenly become a family that was no longer crowed together, but rather characterized by “close personal relations; warm friendship; warm, cozy.” How strong and wonderful words are!
This was the exact word I used when we packed the pick-up truck full of one grown son (our main driver), his sister-in-law, her three adorable children (with one still in a car seat), and this Primary Farm Operator. On the road for a 1,300+ mile trip out West to attend a family wedding. It was the first time for my sweet DIL and children to be away from their dad/husband, who could not get time off work. Uncle Gordon would have to do for the nine days.
Leaving their dad/husband was a bit rough, but we were all packed and ready to go. I have always believed everyone should make a road trip across our mighty country at least once. It is stunning, fun, and tiresome (I don’t know why Dorothy ever wanted to go back to Kansas!) Just the same, it is beautiful to drive through.
It took about 27-28 hours to drive from our farm here in Virginia to the Gordon’s, Longtime Ranch, in Green Mountain Falls, Colorado. We stopped for a quick nights rest on the west side of St. Louis. Snacks, fruit, sandwiches, books, i-pads, toys, blankets, pillows and of course a good atlas had all found a traveling space. The luggage carrier strapped in the truck bed was full.
The joy of traveling with little ones, and a momma that have not experienced a cross-country trip made it all the more fun. Crossing the Ohio, Mighty Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers were thrilling. Passing through towns that look so different in form and feature from our own filled us with wonder. How amazingly different our country is!
My twinster and her family went beyond the call to make us feel comfortable and welcomed. Even with the amount of work at their ranch for their daughter’s wedding, they had time for us. It was truly a blessing from start to finish.
Perhaps this little blog post will give you the notion that traveling with family can be done. It surely was well worth it!