I have always loved horses! When I was a kid my parents wouldn’t let me have one, but I had a good friend whose parents owned a large riding stable, and I spent many wonderful days there riding out to round up the horses for the day’s ride, going on trail rides, and riding in gymkhanas, which were timed races, obstacle courses, and games played on horseback. When I got married and we moved to a small farm in the country, I got my very own first horse, named Candy. I also got two kids so my riding time was cut down. When we built the new house on the hill we had to sell her and I went far too long without any horses.
FALCONQUEST – American Standardbred
We’ve had many big horses through the years, but my favorite was Falcon. He was a Standardbred Pacer who won over $100,000 at the track, until a sesmoid fracture ended his racing career. I broke him to saddle and we went on many trail rides together. Trail rides scared him quite a bit at first, because he was never exposed to trails. He was bred and raised to race, so his environment was different. On the first rides together he had to be tied to another horse and dragged across a small stream, then led across a river by hand. However, he was so used to being handled that you could do anything to him; bathe him, clip him, trim his feet. I could actually sit on the ground under his belly and trim his fetlocks and never worry. But if we were riding at a county park and he came around the corner and saw a park bench, he’d freak out.
My beautiful boy!
NIATRICK – American Standardbred
“Gabe,” as we called him, was another Standardbred Pacer, but he was retired from the track after a lackluster career. When I rode Falcon and raced with another rider, he went all-out to win and we always led the pack, but Gabe was simply content to hang in the middle or bring up the rear. He was a huge horse; 17.5 hands tall. I could not get in the saddle without a step stool. Gabe was always subject to digestive issues, and a few years ago he collicked on Dec. 23, and despite the vet’s efforts to save him he had to be put down. It just killed me. Since he and Falcon were the only two horses I’d kept, Falcon was now alone. We couldn’t pasture him with the minis, and horses need a companion, so after a year we gave Falcon to another couple who had one of their two horses die, and their remaining horse also needed a companion.
Both Gabe and Falcon came from a place called American Standardbred Adoption. They would visit the race track in Ilinois and buy horses that were no longer going to be raced due to one reason or another, bring them home to Wisconsin, and then “adopt” them out (for a hefty fee!) When I got Gabe he looked awful, but there was something about him I liked. He proved to be an awesome, loving horse!
Pacers, such as Gabe and Falcon, move their legs laterally when they pace. A horse that trots moves their legs diagonally. That means a trotter moves his back left leg the same time as the front right leg moves. With pacers, they’ll move both front and rear legs on one side as they move. Some pacers come by this gait naturally, through years of breeding, while others need to be taught to pace by using “pacing hopples” on all four legs. These devices only allow a horse to move the legs on one side of the body at a time in a forward motion. While many pacers can learn to trot as a saddle horse, a natural trotter cannot be retrained as a pacer. Pacers are the most common type of harness racing horses. Riding a pacer, though, is not as smooth as riding a trotter. Sitting in a saddle, a trot will move you in somewhat of an up and down motion. You can learn to “sit” the trot and it’s quite comfortable. A pacer, however, will move you in a side-to-side motion, and there’s simply no “going with the flow.”
SKEETER – Quarter Horse
This was my big quarter horse, Skeeter. He was a wonderful, gentle horse. Great on trail rides! When I first got him a cowboy friend said, “This horse will probably run right through the bit,” meaning that he would be hard to control, but he wasn’t. He was very good.
I took Skeeter “Team Penning.” This is a sport with three riders on a team. There are a group of calves at one end of the field and the three team members must ride down and run them all down to the other side of a field and into a narrow gate into a pen. The time it took to do this is recorded. Then the next team comes up, and then the next, and the team with the best time wins! This was the first time Skeeter had ever been near cattle, and as we rode into the field and started down towards the calves he came to a dead stop! He looked them over, pranced around, and then decided they weren’t going to kill him and began playing the game. This was also my first time Team Penning, so it was a learning experience for both of us.
Quarter horses got their name from their ability to outsidstance other horses at distances of a quarter mile. Some of them have been clocked at 55 mph!
MISS KITTY – Fat Mixture of Who Knows What
Miss Kitty…. One of the few horses I owned that I really didn’t like. She was fat and lazy. Impossible to get to move faster than a walk, but if you dared put a halter on her and tied her to a gate and walked out of her eyesight, she’d rear up and break the rope or the halter and sometimes the gate as well. She just couldn’t ever be tied unless you were right next to her. If she needed to be saddled or brushed, you had to have all your tack or grooming materials right next to you. You couldn’t tie her then go fetch them or you’d have another broken halter and lead rope. Other than that, she was fairly docile. Just far too lazy!
PACO – Quarter Horse
“Paco.” He’d been a breeding stallion and was just gelded a month before I got him so his testosterone levels were still a bit high, LOL. One of the first times I rode him was in a fenced-in field, seen in the background of this photo. My husband was standing there watching. Something bothered Paco and he began sidestepping towards the barbed-wire fence. Before I could get him way from it one of the wires got caught on my stirrup, and then Paco pulled away, causing the barbed wire to snap and hit him on his flank. This caused him to take off running up the hill, bucking like crazy! I stayed on for a bit, then suddenly saw the sky as I flew off and landed on the ground. My husband said he was surprised how long I’d stayed on him! He thought he was at a rodeo! Paco was “fair” on trail rides. His big downfall was “trash” on the sides of the trails, and you will often find trash on public trails. Walmart bags were especially dangerous. If he saw one, he’d begin bucking, but I was aware of this and most of the time managed to keep his head reined-up during these unpleasant episodes. The first time it happened, though, I was bucked off and had to walk a mile to catch up with him.
TAXI – Arabian
This was a yearling Arabian stallion which I came by unexpectedly. I was at a farm to purchase my second miniature horse, and the owner had a lot of big horses as well as dozens of miniatures. I found this guy and was petting him and remarked on how beautiful he was. The owner told me she could no longer afford all her horses, and she would give him to me for free if I’d take him home. So, he joined the little mini in the trailer and came back with us! The first week I had him home, he was tied to a gate. I walked behind him and he kicked at me with both hind legs. Luckily, he just missed me. I happened to have a pitchfork in my hands so I immediately whacked the handle across his rear end with all my might, to teach him that kicking can HURT HIM! From that point on I was able to walk behind him or pet him on the rear end without him kicking. Taxi was a sweet goofball. No matter who came into the pasture, he’d come trotting up to visit, and if anyone was wearing a hat, Taxi would always snatch it off his head and run off! A year after I got him I sold him to a friend of mine who desperately wanted him. He was still too young to saddle train and since I had quite a few riding horses at the time I decided to let him go. Unfortunately, a few months after she got him he was coming down a hilly pasture on a snowy, icy day. He slipped into a hay feeder, breaking his front leg, and had to be put down. He was such a sweet horse!
DARLA – Quarter Horse / Draft Horse Mix
Darla, pictured below, was my best friend’s horse, and was left with me for a few years when my friend moved to Colorado. Darla was a “PMU” horse. PMU stands for Pregnant Mare Urine. This urine is collected and used to make Hormone Replacement Therapy medications for women in menopause. It’s a terrible way for a horse to live. The mares are bred, and during the 11 months of their pregnancy they are tied in a small stall with a catheter inserted into their urethras so the urine can be captured 24/7. When the foals are born they are sold at auction as soon as they are weaned. The lucky ones, such as Darla, made her way from Canada to my friend’s house. The unlucky ones are sold as meat to markets in Asia and Europe. Darla is a draft-horse cross. The bigger the mares, the more urine they provide. Please do a web search on HRT and PMU mares for more information. There are a lot of PMU farms in Canada, especially in Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.
This is my granddaughter, Braiden, on her trusty old mule, Amos, when she was about two years old. This was the mule Braiden’s mother learned to ride on when she was a kid! He was solid and trustworthy for a 2 year old to learn on. Amos lived till he was almost 40!
And here’s Braiden in 2015, on her horse, “Black.”
Please go back to the BIG HORSES drop-down menu to visit the three different pages on our mini horses, or click here: MINS PAGE 1