Since I have nothing planned this week that would really make a difference in the life of a horse (with the possible exception of paying their board bill or giving them their nightly mash) let’s focus on some that make a difference in mine…and let’s begin with how this incarnation of my horse-life started.
Late October, 2006 my husband, Les, handed me a section of the newspaper and said, “You should read this”…a story about how the Yakima Nation here in Washington was about to make wild horses on their lands available to the general public for the first time ever. This was to coincide with the release of the movie Flicka, the tale of a girl and the wild horse she tamed & bonded with. The article said they were adopting out horses at about $100 a head and gave some information on how to get in contact with the Yakima Nation Land Management folks.
A few days later Les asked if I’d called the Yakima people about the horses yet…WHAT!?!?!? I hadn’t even considered THAT possibility so my reply was pretty much a stunned & meek “I didn’t know I could.” And my wonderful husband’s exact reply was “Well, I don’t think you’ll ever find a cheaper horse than that!” so of course I had to make some ridiculous comment about having enough money to get ten of them and then realizing I was dangerously close to igniting my husband’s rethinking mode so I back pedaled with a “…but one’s good!” and I probably batted my eyelashes at him or something …oh Les…if you only knew… for that matter if only EITHER of us fully understood the naïvetivity of it all. But at that moment a universe of possibilities opened and my brain switched into high gear. And, of course, I called the Jim Stephenson at the Yakima Nation Wild Horse Program office the very next day!
Since I actually had 12 or so hours to both plan every detail of adopting a new horse and get a good night’s sleep, (and I say that with a delicate blend of hindsightful sarcasm & self-taunting) I did manage to realize I needed the answer to one burning question before I could make plans to make one of the wild horses mine.
If it’s wild, how would I get it home?
Not “Where will it live?” or “What will it eat?” or “What am I going to do with a wild horse?” simply…how does one get a wild horse who’s lived it’s whole life on open lands to agree to hop in a trailer and stand still for the lengthy of the ride back to the Seattle area? Safety did play a huge part in that process but the basics were the last thing I was thinking about. I was jumping ahead to the difficult tasks (and learning a valuable lesson –eventually- about doing the basics…like ground work!)
Jim let me know that viewing days were Tuesdays and there were tribal members who could break the horse for me for a fee, plus board. I hung up thinking I’d be going out the next week but decided to go get some horse magazines to see what I could find out about owning a horse recently. My last experience at horse keeping was the tender age of 12! I was pretty sure things had changed, if not improved since then and I needed to know what I needed to get for my soon-to-be-new horse. It felt a little like finding out you’re having a baby…. next week!!!
Les & were actually getting ready to leave town at the end of the month for a trip to Florida and a cruise in the Caribbean, After a few moments of reality/clarity I reeled myself back in and called Jim and told him that I’d get back in touch with him upon our return. Meanwhile, I had time to mentally work some things out. We were heading into winter and having never hauled a horse in a trailer before I began to think about all the horrible things that could happen hauling a horse …over the pass … in the snow. (Winter 2006 turned out to be one of the worst ever!) Then I started thinking about the training the horse might get while still in Yakima, my skill level and not being able to participate in that process at all. It finally began to sink in that a wild horse might not be a good fit for me, after all. I’d like to think that this is where I finally started to get a clue…but you’ll eventually see just how clueless I was…
My inner do-gooder kicked in and I came to the conclusion that a rehabbed rescue horse would be the perfect solution. If I wasn’t going to give a wild horse a home (as if it had none to begin with…hellooo…it’s wild, it probably liked it’s home just fine!) then, at least, I’d give another horse who’d previously had a rough time a forever home. That would make my heart feel better about giving up on “rescuing” that wild one and hopefully keep me safe and sane. (Note here how I focused on a “previously rescued/rehabilitated horse” because I felt didn’t feel qualified to take on one that needed help…)
The search began…the next order of business: Where will I keep one? An Internet search gave me a list of places to check out but almost instantaneously I had been given a sign, something I’d never noticed before; an actual sign on Pacific Highway that read “Stalls Available” at KCJ Stables. How did I miss that there were even horses there before? Perhaps because I had never needed a stall until just that moment, but there it was! I actually had made myself a list of places to go look at (and the top of that list was Pacific Equestrian Center…I know, I know…but I swear, I never even so much as stepped foot on that place) but there was my sign…right under my nose on the same road that I traveled every day, smack dab in the middle between my home and business. Perfect! Next…a horse…
I searched the Internet and read Craigs List every day. It was a Craigs List ad that drew me to a site called horsetopia.com and when that horse didn’t seem right I did a search for horses in Washington and began clicking on every horse in my budget range (at the time it was $1000 or less).
One ad really jumped out at me: Arabian Mare $500
My first reaction was to wonder what was wrong with the Arabian Mare that was only $500 (silly, silly me…again!!). In my head fancy horses were at least $2000. I’d always had a love for Arabians although the closest I’d ever been to one was when my grandmother took me to the Desert Arabian Horse Assn. Show at Del Mar Fairgrounds in the late 70’s. A friend of a friend of my Mom’s had written a book called The Kellogg Arabian Ranch, the First 50 Years and I had read and re-read every page many times over in the years since I had been given my own personally autographed copy in 1976 or so. I often fantasized about owning my own “Black stallion” or one of the “Three Graces”. Arabians were practically mythical status in my head!
I clicked on the ad and up popped two grainy photos and the name in large print “Coconut Macaroon”! Immediately I thought to myself, “How can I not have a horse named Coconut?” I’m practically a life-long Parrot Head, loving anything Jimmy Buffett, tropical or beach themed. Coconut, albeit a funny name for a horse, is a perfect name for a horse who could join my family! But I kept looking…every day for a week and every day for that entire week I kept clicking on that ad … until it was just a day before we were leaving for our tropical vacation. I wanted to write to the owner but I made a deal with myself that if that horse was still available when I got back, I’d go look at her as it must be meant to be.
Les & our friend, Pete, were going to Key West for a few days for a big Parrot Head event while Pete’s wife & one of my dearest friends, Jean, and I relaxed for 4 days on a cruise to Key West & Cozumel before we met back up with the guys in Miami for a few more days. I told Jean about Coconut and my plan to go see her if she was still available when I got home. I honestly didn’t even have another horse that I wanted to go see. The trip was wonderful & relaxing but I was anxious to get back home. The same night we arrived back at the house, before I even unpacked, I got on Horsetopia and her ad was still there so I wrote to the owner right away.
I explained that I was looking for a project horse. The ad had said she was 12 years old, 15.2 hands, had a big floaty trot, she was broke but needed a tune-up & that the owner had tried to register her but was unsuccessful or she would not be for sale. I got the email the next day saying that Coconut was probably the perfect horse for me to work on the ground with while I was recovering from some health issues. So I made the appointment to drive from Federal Way to Monroe to meet Coconut Macaroon.
Next time….Meeting Coconut…