Thursday May 30 2013
He had zero personality when he first arrived here as an 8-year-old from Rushcreek Ranch in Nebraska. Steph had gone to Rushcreek Ranch several years ago to do a story, and came home with the horse. "A real pistol," they'd called him on the ranch. Steph rode him at the Ranch and called him "an awesome mover."
When he arrived in Owyhee, Rushcreek Mac didn't know anything about hugs or pets or treats (he wouldn't touch carrots or horse cookies); he was a working horse - period. He opened and closed gates with you on his back with perfection; he did not react when you changed clothes on his back or tossed things from the saddle. He did what you asked: he stood until you asked him to move, he moved until you asked him to stop. He did his job and that was that.
At first he didn't interact much with our home herd - you could tell he was used to being in a herd and he was used to looking after himself and staying out of trouble, but he didn't put up with much guff.
It wasn't too long though before Mac started to blossom in the character department.
Pretty soon he wasn't ignoring treats, he was nudging my arm so I'd put my hand in my pocket and pull out the treat that he knew was in there, and hand it over. Pretty soon he started demanding carrots with just a look in his eyes.
Pretty soon he started playing with Jose (the Owyhee Social Director - nobody can resist playing with Jose!); and pretty soon Mac became the most ardent, feistiest, roughhousingest companion of the herd.
Mac and Jose played often and they played hard, biting, ripping hide, rearing and clashing, and finding toys to play with together. Masks were always a fine toy, especially when one was ripped off the other horse's head first.
Cardboard boxes and sticks and brooms made fine toys also.
He'd grab a feed tub away from other horses, and he'd reach out and grab one out of my hands as I was walking by.
He's the biggest Pig-pen of a horse that ever existed. Of course dirt shows up on grays best, but Mac doesn't just get down and roll - he'll roll a dozen times in a row, making sure he gets every single spot covered in dirt.
While Steph got Mac mainly to be John's riding horse, as the de facto endurance horse conditioner here, I did a lot of the trail riding and conditioning on Mac.
As it does with me and all horses, it took me a while to really figure Mac out. He went through some changes over time… first he seemed bored with the long distance riding and no cows; then he got a bit balky and spooky; then he became afraid of cows; he became a follower, and not much of a go-out-solo horse.
There was the time I did take him out solo, and he was trotting along just fine when a damn chukkar flew up out of a sagebrush right up his nose. Now I know for sure Mac would save his own hide before he'd save mine if it came down to a choice, and anyway who could blame him for spooking at an exploding chukkar like that… but I do give Mac credit for standing stock still while I, half hanging off his side and struggling to hang on and pull myself back upward before having to admit defeat and call it a forced dismount, clawed my way back on the top of Mac's back. He could have totally deposited me in the sand there, but he waited for me to climb back on top and settle into the saddle properly before we went on our way.
He'll scrunch up his chin and clamp his lips together when he's worried about something, like thunder, or trail gremlins. And while he might spook from something like an imagined cougar in a scary tangle of sagebrush, he's no dummy: he'll cut corners on trails (particularly on 2-track logging roads) - conserving the ground over which he must travel. He'll also cut off another horse while he's trotting along, preventing that horse from passing, to intimidate him.
Eventually Mac became a decent leader of a group on the trail, when it was his idea. Force him to take the lead, especially at the beginning of a ride, and he'll still balk and spook and jump and plant it; but later in the ride, when Mac decides he wants to take the lead, he flies, fast, sure-footed, no spooking, no messing around.
It's been several years since I've ridden Mac in an endurance ride; I got to ride him all 3 days of the Owyhee Fandango end of May. He was phenomenal! It was his first ride of the year and he covered the 160 miles over the 3 days, smooth and steady, and with that ever-efficient, effortless, all-day trot. The vets noticed his competence: Mac won the unofficial Best Condition award of the five horses that completed all 3 days of the ride!
While he's a fun ride, I never let my guard down on him. In the Fandango he threw a fit and almost went to bucking once when his stablemate Sunny took a different turn towards home; he almost spooked off a narrow hillside trail above the Snake River when some campers across the river fired off some gunshots (Mac hates gunshots); he bolted with me when the thunder canon-cracked from one of the scary storm clouds dogging us on Day 3 (neither of us like thunder!).
Mac and I are both scared of the storm clouds!
At the vet checks Mac grazed right next to where I was sitting down in grass, close enough to touch me with his nose.
When I tried to sneak away to get my own food he'd follow me. If I pulled out some peanut butter crackers to snack on while riding he stopped in the middle of the trail and turned his head to eyeball me and wait for me to share with him.
He's an entertaining Character, a fun ride, this Rushcreek Mac. And you can see by this bottom photo how impressed he is with himself and his Best Condition award.