Saturday, September 19, 2015

WILD MUSTANGS! Just a little something

  • As a young girl growing up the last horse I had before my world fell apart was the best horse, I really didn't think of him as a horse, he was my friend, my partner, my escape, my love, my life, my future, he knew my my every thought and move sometimes even before I did, but we didn't start out that way. My last horse started off as if you looked at him headed for the glue factory,he was a California/Nevada Mustang already heading to his second home.
    My Mustang was wilder than anything when i got him, you'd think he just came from the ranges but he was supposedly broke. He was the most beautiful thing you ever saw, midnight black, 3 white socks and a white question mark on his beautiful face. When i bought him from his previous owner he was not well taken care of nor was he broke. What he was, was hard on the eyes, under weight and also understatement of being green broke and tried anything and everything to kill me just to get me off his back when i tried him out. After that first ride I was set on getting that horse. My mother, had other ideas, she even made me try him out on two separate occasions he was that rank. He tried to rare, buck, bite, run away, stomp on me, everything a rank unbroken horse could do, this little dirty black horse did do, he did and quick, like lightening,he could have put a PCRA rough stock bucking horse to shame and if i hadn't been riding my whole life and seen the spark that lit when this horse moved and the intelligence that he had he probably would have succeeded in killing me he wasn't trying kill me he just wanted me off his back and was doing damn fine job at, but I was having the time of my life. On both occasion  I walked out of those test rides dusty, exhausted, exhilarated, and with the biggest smile on my face that nobody could wipe off even if they tried. I knew that horse was gonna be mine, even if I had to steal him, I wanted him that bad. 
    I bought that Mustang on that second try out, no questions but with many arguments with my parents. But I was going to have that horse. I  knew we would be good together and he would be the challenge I was ready for. We got him home and he was a terror to our other horses, he wanted to run the herd, he wast the wild mustang after all, or at least that's what his attitude was in the pasture. I would hear his squeals and battles in the fields those first few weeks and just laugh. I knew we were so much a like.  We were told he was about 6, and catching him in our pastures was nearly impossible. I had to trick him every day. I would feed him under a huge pine tree, I'd drop a huge flake of hay and some grain and then I'd climb up the tree and wait until he was engrossed in eating and then I'd jump, yes jump on to his back and hang on for dear life, because with him, I was taking my like in my hands, as soon as he realized that I was on his back he would take off hell bent on getting me off his back, going through the bushes, under trees and limbs, jumping logs and berms, anything to get rid of me. After months of doing this twice a day it became a game and a leisurely run with the other horses sometimes chasing us and always our German Shepard would join in on the chase He would chase us trying to make us run even faster, at first this was not a funny thing, a 115lb dog nipping at a wild horses heels and me hanging on only by his mane and my legs it was not a good combination, but I'm sure the scene was funnier than anything you've seen on Americas funniest videos.
    During all of this, I was taking English and Dressage lessons from a wonderful lady name Judy Herman and I would take Liquorice Twist on my weekend classes because those days it was just a more relaxed day and Judy just needed a good laugh, and that is when Liquorice got his name. Anytime Judy would ask us to do this one dressage move Liquorice would get it in his head to take off like a banshee, and i would just let him, well at first I wouldn't let him, but after Judys' reactions the first few dozen times i couldn't help myself and then I would just laugh my but off!! and Judy would just sit there and scream "control your horse! control your horse!!" and we would go back to the previous move and we'd start again and it would happen again and again, and by the end of the lesson Judy would be sitting on the arenas floor laughing so hard she'd just about pee her pants. So when we were going through names for my little black box of dynamite, sitting on the arena floor one during a Saturday afternoon laughing fit discussing my little horses name, because the name he came with just wasn't doing it for us we couldn't even call him by it, it was barred, I wanted something with finesse and punch, my instructor wanted something that would stand out in the show ring, go figure. We went through tons and tons of names, putting parts of names in hats and piecing them together with other names, and finally when he kept doing the open rein twist and taking off, and to boot  he was the color of wet Liquorice it all came together, hence the name; Liquorice Twist. Over countless hours, lots and lots of lessons, patience's,diligence and my stubbornness and pure love for this horse we became inseparable and he would do anything i asked him, i could do a dead mans ride on him, hang from his tail and he'd drag me,  ask him to jump 6 ft jumps and he'd clear them and go back for a higher one,  go threw any obstacle I would put in front of him or that we came across on the trail  and he would do it willingly, with out balking, ears forward and just with a slight nudge from my seat he would go anywhere I asked,  he was amazing he would do anything I asked him as long as I should him the same trust.
    One weekend we were at our riding clubs arena practicing for the upcoming show and there were some of the "high fluting" girls with their high dollar horses there practicing.  We were all doing our thing and we were practicing jumping and getting our horses warmed up and use to the arena, the sights and equipment.  As we show girls do we started having a jump off. I have to tell you my little mustang was just over 15 hands, barely a horse by horse measurements some of those professional horses were well over 16 hands, they made my baby look like a pony. We'd canter around the arena and take a stab at the jump, it was a game of HORSE with jumps, you know like they do in basketball? Anyway you make the jump you get to jump again and it goes up a tire, you miss your out. Well needless to say the jump kept going up and up and this dang jump was up to my horses nose and we were still going and he wasn't stopping or missing, and all these girls were going," whats that horse made of springs" and i just would smile and make another pass. We never did miss, my mother made us stop and said, "OK Shawnee enough showing off" I really wasn't I just wanted to see how high we could go, he really was amazing and the bond we had was just like we were one. It was so much fun riding him. When we finally did quit that jump that we hadn't missed, it was well over 6ft. high and he hadn't missed once or balked it once. He was like the wind and had the wings of an eagle, I think that's why the Native Americans were so impressed with them they are swift, agile and can fly threw the air so swift you wont even see them and they are just little slight things you'd think they would be frail and fragile, but they are hardy, strong, and have the heart of a bear.
    On the trail he was spook proof, but that came from being in the band always being on the look out for dangers, we did do a lot of playing with anything and everything we'd ride up to something and he'd snort it out and stomp his hooves and decided he'd won that battle and march past it and it wasn't ever a problem again. On an over night trail ride I decided to ride in my English saddle for two reasons, one is that he hated the western saddle, being short bodied he'd liked to buck if you put a western saddle on him, and two, I used a cloth girth and this way i could pull my stir-ups up and run through the rivers with out ruining my saddle, hence not getting my butt into trouble. Liquorice loved the trail I think it reminded him of the wild and with me on his back i don't think he minded because i loved be free and i would just give him his head and give him his way, i knew he would take care of me. He was sure footed and agile, steep inclines or declines were nothing to him, I think he was part mountain goat and he could go on for days if i needed him to. He'd out ride the trail bosses, they weren't to happy about that, but i had been riding that trail ride since i was 6 so it was no to big of a worry, i wasn't going to get that lost. But when we'd get to the rivers, I'd put my stir-ups up and we'd blaze through the water and have a blast. Then back to the trail and over and under anything I should have thought about doing endurance rides, I've heard mustangs make awesome endurance horses, I can see why, they are like the energizer bunny they never stop and do anything you ask them. We'd arrive in camp and he wouldn't even be tired, it was like a walk on the beach, but we had been doing runs on the beach for months so he was in amazing shape and condition. 
    To see him run in the pasture was a sight to be seen, like seeing them in the wild, manes flowing, tales flying high, bucking and kicking, his favorite thing. It was like time standing still if only for an instant.
    In our first show he really out did himself in all his beauty, i was a nervous wreck, he was the picture of calmness. I couldn't even remember my contestant number, no kidding! I had been riding in shows, parades, playday's, and gymkhana my whole life and this one i couldn't remember my number. We were only entered in 3 classes, this being his first show, but we had been doing great  so far, in the first 2 classes and in the 3rd class which we knew was going to be our best and the strange thing: my parents sponsored the silver plate. If your a horse person you'll understand this. You have to understand this was a huge 2 day horse show with 50 contestants in a class, with horses that cost tens of thousands of dollars, I paid $500 for my little wonderful mustang, I'm 12, they are mostly professional riders, I'm training for the 80 Olympics (hopefully) yep I forgot my number. The class is English pleasure horse and rider, where both the horse and rider are judge together. I had thought through out the class we had done really well he had done everything I had asked him correctly without fail, i felt stiff, i was a nervous wreck, we were asked to line up in front of the judge, and they start calling out the ribbons starting from 6th and I'm not called and all the way to 2nd I'm not called, I'm patting Liquorice's neck telling him its OK, he did a great job ignoring the loud speaker and the lady on the massively expensive warm blood next to me says," um that's you, you just won." I say "Me are you sure? whats my number?" She says my number and i numbly trot up to the presenter of the ribbon and silver, my father, in total and utter shock and in tears. On the way out of the arena my best friend came  over to congratulate me and i busted out into tears and she just laughed at me. Liquorice, my little wild mustang had just won English pleasure horse and rider at his first show, he had truly come a long way and had come to truly trust me. In retrospect winning that damn class was my down fall with my horse, my baby, my love. But in that moment I don't think I had ever been happier or prouder.
    Liquorice and I had many many adventures he was my escape from a very dysfunctional family life and anytime i wanted to feel free or safe i would go out into the field and jump onto his back and just lay there bare back and he'd take me for a ride it was no longer a ride to rid his rider but a trip between friends discussing what had happen that day, we'd talk as he galloped over limbs and under trees, I'd sit and watch him graze on grass while i laid in the field making a daisy chain for his beautiful black neck. Then we'd be off again, i no longer needed to trick him to catch him, but still was our game, he'd try and out smart me to see if i could catch him before he finished his breakfast or his dinner  before our rides, I think he just enjoyed our little naked runs through the fields, i know they were my favorite times. Other times were when we ride through town, yes i grew up in one of those kinds of towns and at first this was quiet a ride, or i should say rodeo, but the trooper Liquorice was he championed the traffic, noises and lights and it too became seconded nature and it was a weekly trip that he looked forward to as much as i did, he knew as soon as we hit that beach i was taking that saddle off and he was getting to run for all his might in the waves, he loved to run in the waves but boy to see his face when he saw the ocean and waves  the first time the snorts and sounds were so funny i swear it was a monster coming to get him, good thing i didn't take the saddle off that day!!! But after the first few trips up and down the beach he was calm and in control, yeah like a keg of dynamite, but he was having fun with the feel of the sand and the smells of the beach. After that it was guns ho! We would run and run and jump drift wood, chase seagulls, play in tide pools, and play in the waves for hours and dread when the time would come to go home, but we would soaking wet covered in sand, salt and sweat but happier than the clams at high tide. 
    Liquorice had a natural elegance he was small but walked like a mighty Friesian! He thought his poop didn't stink, so when he was in the ring he strutted. I had been taking English lessons and dressage lessons for a while when i bought my little mustang, i need a challenge, I had no idea what i had, our lessons were comical but they were challenging, exhilarating exasperating and thrilling. He learned, I learned, my instructor was challenged and in our group class we all learned. Because he was such a piece of work we adapted to his little misgivings, his twist, his need to play, classes became fun so us youngins,  we learned faster. In my private lessons. which increased we excelled mostly because i needed to work liquorice, but also because we were just simpatico, we'd invent games to challenge us on balance and endurance. Judy would make us pull our irons up, tie our reins off and ride with nothing but our seats and thighs and make us go over cavaletties, does anyone know how hard that is on a wild stubborn mustang? well let me tell you nearly impossible especially one that has his own mind to do things when and how he wants to... but when he did it right he sure was a pretty sight and Judy would jump up and down screaming, " YES YES!! That's it you've got it now do it again!!" and you're wondering what the heck you've done because its the same thing you've been trying to get your horse to do for the last 15 minutes.. but it sure is funny to watch her go crazy when you do something right. But once Liquorice figures out what you want him to do, it stays in his head,OK well except for that damn open rein turn thing, that thing just was his one wild moment... he had to have his kryptonite. But it sure was funny to watch and to be riding him when he did it, and yes i tried to stop him most every time but sometimes you just gotta let that pony run.. and that pony loved to run...
    When we started our dressage training he really was like watching dancing OK at first he was like watching the first episode of dancing with stars but with 4 legs. But he went at it like Bruno, with gusto and vigor, he loved to be ridden, just not caught, funny how that works. He loved to show off, just not told what to do. He do anything I asked him, but not let anyone else ride him. Strange little horse, no wonder I loved him so dearly. He'd reach for those extended trots like a warm blood bred for dressage and do those cross overs like he'd been doing them for years. Riding him made me deeply and forever fall in love with the Mustangs, I had always had a love for the majestic wild horses of America but being partnered with one, gave me a whole new respect for the intelligence, endurance, swiftness,  and keenness, of the Mustang and just how devoted these horses can be.  
    Sadly and like a lot of the mustangs story, my story and Licorice's does not have a happy ending, we didn't have much time together and it broke both of our spirits,hearts, and our dreams. That show we won, cost us both. My parents had problems, big problems and we had to sale everything, and site unseen, untested, I had to say good-bye to my horse;  my beloved friend, someone had bought my world. I suppose it wouldn't have been too had for Liquorice had he gone to a good home like we thought. I had devised this devious plan that up to this point was workin' like a charm on people who came and tried him out i was rotten, evil in fact, this is how it worked; Liquorice hated the Western saddle and i would use one of our bigger saddles and put it on him and when they got on him to take a test ride, he would buck like crazy, test ride over, no sale!! I know bad, but i was young and in love with my horse, he was my only salvation. He wasn't going anywhere if i could help it. Until the dreaded people came from the horse show, i should have done crappy. Site unseen they bought my little black horse and crushed my world and broke my hoses heart, OK both our hearts.
    One of us should have gotten the happily ever after ending. I always thought about my little black twist, any time I watched dressage on TV or saw mustangs I would think about him. Then about 5 or 6 years later I was at the county fair walking with some girls I was helping with 4-H and I was coming up from behind this shabby little black horse in a western saddle and i was saying to myself," boy that horse looks familiar", but inside i was going, "no it couldn't be, no it can't "  but as I walked closer and closer I knew with out a doubt before I ever got around to his face that it was Liquorice. I walked right up to Liquorice, he was dull, unhappy, skinny, he looked like the same horse I had seen so many years ago on those fated test rides. I was mad, heart broken, and in shock, I spoke his name and he perked right up! I couldn't believe the treatment and the condition he was in, I wanted to beat the day lights out of the girl riding him and her parents. I got a song and dance about how her grand parents this, and parents that and this, and i said, "who's horse is he, yours or your parents, take care of him?" I gave him the hugest hug, told him I was sorry and I loved him and walked away in tears.
    That was the last time I saw my beloved Liquorice Twist.
     But it was not the last time I've thought about him, dreamed of him, or wished I had him, or that he had died of old age and happy in my care. I have had the pleasure of having or taking care of 2 other Mustangs in my life, they were Kieger Mustangs form Oregon. They are so different then the small bodied quick endurance built Nevada/California desert Mustangs but they also have so many of the same endearing qualities.
    They are a truly majestic beautiful creature and need to be protected and managed correctly
    Omigoodness! That's amazing! Thank you from the bottom of my galloping heart for sharing!
    'Z-Shawnee Fagnani thanks for all your beautiful pictures and stories of the herds you diligently watch. its brought so many memories back to me, not that i could forget, but its made me want another mustang so bad you have no idea!! and the Kigers are such wonderful horses and so smooth and much bigger then the desert mustangs not as quick but as age set upon us quick is necessarily a need but its still fun!!

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