Horses: past and maybe future

Posted: May 20th, 2019 under Life beyond writing.

Last year–I think I posted about this–I bought three mares, serially.   Mocha, a very pretty smoky buckskin half-Arab, half Quarter Horse cross…bucked me off hard the first time I swung a leg over her–before I was mounted completely–and gave me a concussion, and kicked my husband in the thigh in the same tantrum.   Not meant to be my horse partner, not at my age.

Molly, a much gentler red dun Quarter Horse, merely refused to walk around with me on her back (the trainer I’d hired to work on Mocha–who was also bucked off after a month of no bucking, had found Molly for me.)   Molly tried to drag my leg along fences, backed up in circles, etc.  Molly turned out to be an excellent kid horse, though, and one of the kids taking lessons on her found that Molly loved running barrels.  Former owner had no idea.  Mocha now lives on a ranch in California, where she’s been perfect for the rancher.  Molly now lives with a family whose daughter wants to do barrel racing.

And then there was Kallie, an Arabian mare I found online, and went to look at with my trainer–trail and endurance horse, supposedly, but when we got there she was lame in three legs, with a mouthful of teeth that hadn’t been cared for along with the feet.  But she gave me the look horses have given me before so I bought her in September.  Of the three lame legs, my trainer and I got two of them disease free…but the third foot finally couldn’t be fixed, and in early May we put her to rest.   I did get to ride her some, and she was a lot of fun.  We got along perfectly–she was a sweet and willing mare who wanted to please.  I knew it was a risk when I bought her and I don’t regret it.

So now I’m horseless again, but taking lessons from my trainer on one of her horses…and I have another horse in my sights.  Another Arabian (l like their personalities and their gaits)  who maybe, I hope, will be the horse I need for the years to come.   Heading off to North Texas again to take a look at him in a few weeks.  Grey, an inch taller than Kallie, and a really lovely horse.



  • Comment by Richard Simpkin — May 22, 2019 @ 1:02 am


    Whose teeth were worse, Kallie’s or yours?

    (No need to answer that)

  • Comment by Elizabeth Mancz — May 22, 2019 @ 3:39 pm


    I am so sorry for your loss. It’s hard to put an animal to sleep. I hope your next horse works out for you.

  • Comment by Jim DeWitt — May 22, 2019 @ 9:09 pm


    Good luck!

  • Comment by elizabeth — May 22, 2019 @ 10:48 pm


    Elizabeth Mancz: Thanks. It’s hard, but sometimes the best thing for the animal. I hope the next one works out, too.

  • Comment by elizabeth — May 22, 2019 @ 10:49 pm


    Richard: (Good because I’m not answering that. I don’t know the way to compare them.)

  • Comment by elizabeth — May 22, 2019 @ 10:51 pm


    Jim: Thanks. I expect to see the horse in person within a month. But juggling the schedules of my vet, my trainer, the horse’s trainer who now has him in for a refresher, and me, to find a date that everyone can be where they need to be and do what they need to do…is tricky.

  • Comment by Terry Ann Frick — May 23, 2019 @ 11:57 am


    I’m so sorry that your time with Kallie was short, but because of you her last days were loving and caring.

    Finding a partner horse is tricky. Sometimes they just appear and sometimes we have to search for them. Good luck finding the one that’s meant to be with you!

  • Comment by Jazzlet — May 23, 2019 @ 5:20 pm


    I am sorry you had to put Kallie to rest, but as Terry Ann says at least her last days were loving and caring because of your efforts.

    I hope number four turns out to be the one.

  • Comment by elizabeth — May 23, 2019 @ 9:19 pm


    Terry: Thanks…you are so right about finding a partner horse. I am hoping the grey works out, but trying not to *depend* on it and make a bad choice (for me and for the horse.) Kallie was a joy to have on the place, in spite of the sorrows of seeing that hoof slip farther and farther into “this isn’t going to work.” With the two from last year that absolutely did not work for me, I’m so happy that they’re both now in the right place for them.

    Jazzlet: I can be sad that her condition was ultimately not responsive to anything we tried…but not sad that she didn’t suffer any longer. We had that few weeks between her coming out of several weeks at the vet clinic getting sound–her joy at getting “home” again, walking her out on the grass to graze in the spring stuff, hours spent just hanging out with her when it was too wet to ride, and getting to ride her a few more times. The day she went lame again, I actually thought “This is it. She’s not going to get better, even if we get her past this episode. If the vet says that, I need to be ready to let her go.” So I definitely hope #4’s the one, but if not…I need to be ready to *not* buy him. He may be someone else’s dream.

  • Comment by Leslie — May 24, 2019 @ 8:06 am


    Thank you so much for posting, I’m reading the Paks books again. I never had the opportunity to be around horses and reading your books and your blog lets me know just how much I missed. Good wishes for your continuing recovery and that you find the horse for you.

  • Comment by Terry Ann Frick — May 24, 2019 @ 11:00 am


    Elizabeth, on re-reading your comments about Mocha and Molly, it sounds like you didn’t ride them before you decided on them. I understand you couldn’t ride Kallie, but it seems to me that if you’d ridden the other two before bringing them home, you’d have had some awareness that Molly refused to walk with you and that Mocha was troublesome, which would have told you to pass them by.

    The one time I brought home an already trained horse and didn’t ride him first, I did it because I was able to bring him home on trial and because he’d been a lesson horse, so I figured he was calm and pretty much used to anything. The first time I got on him he bucked and reared repeatedly, and while he never offed me, every time I got on him he thought about trying to. Sometimes personalities just don’t mesh and, especially with his background as a lesson horse, I finally accepted he simply wanted nothing to do with me, so he went back to his owner.

    I rode Nathan before I brought him home, but he was very wormy and malnourished, so he just didn’t have the energy for the antics he occasionally demonstrates being sleek and healthy. However, what I learned from that first ride is that he was very willing, but (at five years old) his training was minimal and faulty. I worked a bit on showing him how to be supple through the poll, as well as flexing and bending to resolve his extreme body stiffness, and he demonstrated that he was listening and learning. That, his sweet soft eyes and guileless expression, and the feeling that he wanted to be with me, told me he was my partner horse work-in-progress, meaning he was willing and it would be my job to show him how. Now at 12 he is in most ways a partner horse, though in his head he’s still somewhat a youngster so we continue to have rough spots on occasion, but his way of being makes me a better horsewoman, rider and partner, so we’re good for each other.

    I apologize if you know all this and you did ride Molly and Mocha, but it surely sounds like you didn’t, so I highly recommend you take your saddle and bridle with you so you can ride the grey with your tack. Since you’ll have your trainer and the horse’s trainer present, you’ll be as safe riding him then as you would after you bring him home, and you’ll know as well as you can whether or not you’re meant to be together before you make a commitment.

    Again, apologies if I’ve overstepped, but I wanted to make sure you have the best potential for choosing wisely.

  • Comment by elizabeth — May 24, 2019 @ 7:27 pm


    Actually I did ride both before I bought them, though I didn’t ride Mocha very long. Longer would’ve been smarter, and so would paying closer attention later, and doing more longe work with the saddle I was using then (instead of the one I tried her out in, which was a very large man’s roping saddle with “iron ring” stirrups.) I am well aware of the mistakes I made in buying her…it was one of those reflex things. Mac (my old guy) had died right before Christmas, and my husband was in the hospital, and so on. Then the weather turned really bad and it felt like I was *never* going to get to ride a horse I’d bought, and had a saddle-fitter come fit a dressage saddle for. It was stupid.

    I rode Molly a couple of times before buying her. I didn’t really like her a lot but she had been a kids’ lesson horse and was placid–in the test rides never moved out of a slow walk, which is what I needed right then. After the concussion, I thought that would be a safe ride (so did my trainer), something to plod around on until my reflexes came back, and then I could sell her as a kid’s horse and get something else. But she didn’t want me on her back–never bucked, but resorted to other uncooperative behaviors. She had NOT dragged my leg on the fence (or tried to) where I did the test ride, though she did stop a couple of times. Molly surprised both my trainer and me, and surprised her former owner when she turned out to be eager to run barrels. A kid horse, yes, but one with untapped desire to run. At the time, only a month and a bit after the concussion, I was not able to deal with her negative behaviors–my balance was still unstable and my confidence still bent. We would never have been a happy partnership, but if not having those problems, I would’ve been able to deal better with her.

    I don’t know if I wrote about these details here last year; the post you’re referring to was not intended to give all the details but merely as a quick review of those three horses. I had described them and my adventures in full on Facebook, at least, when they occurred, and I’ve written a lot of other posts there about my past experience with various horses. I agree that it’s ideal to ride any horse under consideration before purchase, but there are circumstances when that’s not possible and you have to rely on seeing someone else ride.

    The plan for the grey gelding is to follow all the steps: trainer and I will both look him over, ask the horse’s trainer to ride, and then either my trainer or I will ride. I’m not sure about using my tack–it depends on his back. I have an adjustable saddle, a Wintec, and a collection of gullet irons, but would prefer to ride him first in a saddle he’s used to and is comfortable in, and then–if I have the right gullet iron in, try him again later in the day with mine. I’m OK in most saddles, now that most of the concussion effects have eased off, and he was started English; his trainer trains and teaches lessons on sport horses, so either dressage or all-purpose is fine, and I’m reasonably comfortable in a full-on close-contact jumping saddle. My own refresher lessons have included riding in both a barrel racing saddle and in my own all-purpose. What I’m hoping for with him is a big walk, a forward attitude but controllable. Given his trainer’s background and that she will have had several weeks of refreshing his moves by the time I see him, I’m expecting good flexion laterally and longitudinally. I will bring my tack, and some markers I used with Kallie, to make it easy for me to ride equivalent patterns. I may or may not know about the “meant to be together” thing right away with this horse…if he’s “numbed” by some of the events of the past few years, he may not show me, now that he’s back with a familiar person from his past. (He was taken by a stable for non-payment of board, used a rent horse by random riders, used in lessons, and suffered a serious injury and infection; his identity was confused for awhile–now cleared up–and by the way he’s holding his tail in the photo I’ve seen, he may still reacting to that with emotional shutdown, as horses do.) Kallie, who was a very sweet mare eager to connect to a person, became increasingly open with time. I do expect to be able to tell if–if he seems “remote” or “numb”–whether he can recover from that part.

    Everybody’s eager for me to choose wisely…and that includes me. I am prepared, if my trainer sees something off, or my vet does, or I don’t feel anything for him, to let this one be someone else’s horse and keep looking.

  • Comment by Terry Ann Frick — May 24, 2019 @ 8:51 pm


    Thank you for taking the time to so thoroughly explain your experiences and process. I wish you all the best for finding a horse you can enjoy being with.

  • Comment by Linda — May 30, 2019 @ 2:35 pm


    So glad you are improving. Just re-read Into the Fire and every time I re-read your books there are new things to notice and lessons to learn.

    Your patience with the horses and the “brain challenges” point me to the need to re-tool my own abilities in the area of patience. I write “non-fiction” for my church newsletter, website, etc. and thank goodness Unitarians have a habit of forgiveness.

    Brain fog and tremors in my hands have replaced a lifetime of fine memory, creativity, and the ability to do detailed and precise work. The garden is one of my life saving activities and I am adding a real greenhouse and a different way of thinking about food production to fight the scourge of the climate crisis.

    A Ky Vatta lesson … explore new ways of looking at the world, never give up, fight for justice. Thanks for all you teach! And I pray you will thrive.

  • Comment by elizabeth — June 11, 2019 @ 6:36 pm


    Linda, it sounds like we’re in similar boats. That concussion has left fog in my brain as well. Our garden is producing tomatoes this year because we’ve had so much rain and though it’s hot, it’s not *super* hot…with the nights well below 90F, the tomato plants can recover from a hot day. And I agree…never give up, explore, fight for justice for those who can’t fight at all. I hope your garden, and you, thrive.

  • Comment by elizabeth — June 11, 2019 @ 8:11 pm


    This is the week…I’m preparing to go see the Grey Gelding on Saturday, and most likely will bring him here on Sunday. He’s thirteen years old. Fifteen hands tall. Impeccably bred; his sire’s sire on both sides is the former British National Champion Ralvon Elijah, from the famous Australian stud (later imported to the US, hence this horse being bred in the US. It’s “old” breeding, and he’s an “old style” Arabian, and looks it: the short strong back, the substantial hindquarter, all parts balanced. What I heard called a “three-circle horse” when I was growing up, a useful all-purpose riding horse with comfortable springy gaits, endurance, and a very trainable temperament.

    He’s had an injury, now healed, near the stifle–had a bad infection there, but had good surgery clean it out. I’ve been told he has a big scar on that side, which would knock him out of show rings (but that’s not my interest.) The person I talked to on the phone was his original trainer–and he was sent to her for a refresher (which she says he hardly needed) before being sent to someone else to finish and advertise (which would mean show-grooming, photography and video, and so on.) Thanks to the kind breeders of the little chain that led me to him, I’m getting an advance chance at him. From the one snapshot I’ve seen of him, his conformation is much better than Kallie’s was. His disposition has to have been reasonably amenable (his trainer said “very easy to break and train) because he was used in a livery stable and for lessons at one time.

    So a week from now, once he’s here, I should have pictures I can share (I don’t have permission to share the one I’ve seen online. So it all boils down to whether my vet finds anything I really can’t deal with (coffin bone out of place would be that) at the pre-purchase exam on the 19th, or the horse takes an instant dislike to me. Meanwhile the car’s in the shop, should’ve been finished today, but a part needed wasn’t in today’s shipment, and I have a stack of things to go in it when I get it back: saddle, pad, two sizes of girth, half-chaps, helmet, gloves, grooming tools, horse treats…and of course the checkbook.

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