Friday, June 6, 2008

I'm Rooting for Big Brown

I’m rooting for Big Brown to win. I like his name. It’s not a phrase, not clever, or meaningful. They didn’t take part of his dam’s name and part of his sire’s name and try to make a new word. Nope, it’s just plain Big Brown.

I’ve spent the better part of my day Googling to learn just how big he really is; how many hands, his weight, something to do with his size. The only thing I’ve learned is he has a big chance of being the next Triple Crown Winner. And, it’s been thirty years since we’ve had one. Came close a couple of times, but the last Triple Crown winner was Affirmed in 1978. Two others won the elusive honor in the 70s: Seattle Slew in 1977 and Secretariat in 1973. See those names are nice, but they don’t really sound like a horse. The name Affirmed sounds like a statement, not a name. And although I had the honor of meeting, and touching the great and beautiful Secretariat, his name sounds like a piece of furniture.

Yep, I like the sound of Big Brown. Tells me he is a brown horse, well he’s actually a bay. For you readers who are not horse folk, a bay horse is any shade of brown with black points, meaning it has a black mane and tail and the lower part of its legs are black. And I assume Big Brown is big, as most Thoroughbreds are big, standing at least 16 hands tall. You can tell from his photographs he has long, smooth muscles made for speed and endurance. But I couldn’t find out how tall he is. If you know, please tell me.

I wonder that he may be a little too big for his feet. Several articles mentioned foot problems even before his quarter crack on the left front hoof made the news. They are downplaying the crack. And, since the owners have more money than the average horse owner to deal with this problem it may not be so serious. A quarter crack means the hoof has a crack on the side. In front it is called a toe crack and near the back it is called a heel crack. The severity varies according to whether it starts at the top or bottom of the hoof and the length and depth of the crack, and if it involved the sensitive inner parts of the hoof. Patches and special shoes are common treatments. The staples or sutures used to help Big Brown hold the crack together and hopefully will keep it from getting worse. Bleeding or exudation will warrant such radical procedures like removing part of the hoof wall and further medication and treatment, and rest. Last I read this has not occurred in Big Brown’s case. There is much at stake on the condition of that hoof come race day.

So, I’ll be saying a silent prayer that Big Brown will be the first Triple Crown Winner of the twenty-first century. Go Big Brown! And then, I hope they make sure the crack heals without further ado. He seems to look the part of the invincible racehorse. Reminds me of another legendary horse, “Big Red” nickname of Man O' War, seen pictured above.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Retiring From the Horse Business

As a child I galloped thousands of miles on my imaginary horse, Leafy. He was named that because he ate leaves. I was an adult with children of my own when the first real horse entered my life. Back in those days feed was $2.50 a bag and you could buy hay out of the field for fifty cents a bale.

Our family added a second horse, and then two ponies to our herd. We cleared the three acres of woods we owned with a chain saw and a bush axe. We sunk fence posts and strung fence wire. We build our first barn out of salvaged materials. It was tacky, but serviceable.

The children and I took lessons. We all joined a local saddle club. We had a ball with our horses, riding for hours in the woods and on country roads. The children grew up and I went to college. The local community college offered an equine technology program. By then my barn had expanded. I was boarding horses, giving riding lessons, and had a thriving 4-H Horse club. I wanted to know more. I spent two years going to school sunup till sundown and got my two-year degree in equine technology. I took short courses, became a certified open horse show judge, and was breeding Arabian horses on a small scale. Then came the divorce. I moved from my small hometown and started all over again. I quit breeding and put my heart and soul into teaching. I ended up with a nice little group of clients and school horses. We showed in a few class ‘A’ shows, but most of our showing was at 4-H and small fun shows. I loved every minute of it. And that is what I have done for the past fifteen years. I began writing somewhere in the middle of everything else I did to carve out a living for my grand daughter, who lived with me, and myself.

The other thing that happened while I wasn’t looking was I got older. The physical part of having horses got harder. I know there are sixty-year old women out there that can lift a fifty pound feed bag or bale of hay with hardly a groan. Well, I am not one of those women. The other thing that has happened gradually over the years is the price of horse feed and hay is much higher than it was thirty years ago. The little farm I rented was sold to developers. I have two horses at a nice little place, but it is not set up for a horse business. Expenses are exceeding income.

So, I have decided to “retire” from the horse business, at least from having my own barn and horses. Miraculously, I have found someone willing to give my dear old mare a home. A couple, who are young and full of dreams and goals, and most of all, energy. I am turning over all my “horse junk” to them. They are building stalls, planting pasture, and putting up fences just like we did so long ago. When they have all that done Mira, and her pasture mate Nisha, will go to their farm. I am already feeling sad, and at the same time have a sense of relief that I will be free of that responsibility. I guess it can be compared to empty nest syndrome. Miramar and I have been through a lot together. I’ve sat up with her when she was sick and when she delivered her foals. I’ve been mad at her when she’d fling a fit at the horse show, thrilled when she’d win the blue or even the pink. We’ve been together so long, over the years, we can almost read each other’s minds. But, I don’t feel like I can afford to care for her, and what if she out-lives me?

I am scared of how I’ll manage life without a horse. I know I will miss my old girl. Who will listen to me with those black, knowing eyes? Where will I go to cry when life gets hard? How will I manage without the children giggling in the barn that make me giggle, too? I have Barnie, my JRT, but he just doesn’t understand. He thinks life is about barking at squirrels and everything is so darn exciting to him. He can’t sit still for me to cry on his shoulder.

Well, I guess life is in one of those changing modes and I’ll just have to wait and see what’s next. Maybe I’ll travel across country, go to Alaska, or to the beach. I won’t have to worry who’s going to take care of the horses, and Barnie can come along. He’ll show me just how exciting life can be. Maybe I’ll bark at some squirrels.