Loving life with the horses

The farrier came this week to shoe the horses. There are three now. Smokey, our 23-year-old gelding, Dixie Darling, our 20-year-old mare, and Caroline, our 6-year-old.

olivia6-25 Page 4A.inddWe haven’t had Caroline long — just a few months — but she has improved tremendously since being given an ample and nutritious diet.

She was thin when Fowler brought her home, but is filling out nicely. Caroline is larger than Dixie Darling and so tall she’ll have to stand in a ditch to be mounted. Or a rider can bring a stepladder to get into the saddle.

But she is a beautiful horse and as far as we know has no bad habits. And there are plenty she could have had.

She doesn’t kick when you walk behind her, doesn’t crib (gnaw the wood in the stable) doesn’t nip or kick the other horses and is easy to catch.

When it was her turn to be shod, she cooperated beautifully, didn’t resist during the process and was clearly a veteran.

Now that the weather is cooling down a little, Fowler will begin riding her. Dixie Darling is still a dependable mount and is a very smooth ride, but she does have some age and may retire from trail rides if Caroline can match her performance.

Smokey has lived with us for more than 20 years. He’s an old man now, but still considers himself the herd leader.

Each morning, he leads the mares out to the pasture to graze. He still enjoys running and makes a pretty picture galloping through the grass with mane and tail flying. And the mares run behind him. You can tell by watching them what the pecking order is.

Caroline is at the bottom of the totem pole and defers to her elders. Smokey thinks she is attractive but still demands that she mind her manners.

Fowler still has to supervise the supper hour, as Smokey will run Caroline away from her share of sweet feed if he isn’t watched.

He has plenty of sweet feed of his own, but that isn’t the point. As he’s top horse of the outfit, he wants to make sure he’s getting the best of everything.

Smokey is not an ambitious horse. He doesn’t insist on getting ahead of all other riders on the trail but could be called a bit lazy as he’s satisfied to walk along, biting off the tips of tree branches or attempting to graze.

We did have a horse, Copper Top, who should have been named Lightning, as he was the fasted thing on four legs I’ve ever seen.

When Fowler acquired him in a complicated horse trade, we saw he had a tattoo inside his ear, so we knew he’d been raced. I honestly believed the horse would have dropped dead before he’d allow another horse to pass him on the trail. He could always move into another gear to stay in the lead. He was exciting to watch, but unnerving to ride. I never rode him and didn’t want to. There was something about the expression in his eyes that gave me the idea he was just waiting for an opportunity to do away with his rider. He was unpredictable and high-strung. Fowler sold him after one season, and I was glad to see him go.

Even though Smokey is more or less just a pasture ornament, we’ll keep him in that position for the rest of his life. He’s content where he is, and we’re attached to him. If Dixie Darling retires, she will stay on Fowler Farm, too.

Each morning after waking, we’ll be able to look out the bedroom window and watch them run into the pasture. It’s a picture I never tire of, and I hope we get to see it for a few more years.