Saturday, June 3, 2006

Another Stormy Day

June 3 2006

I have no home, I have no horse trailer, I have no truck to pull one. I do have a horse.

You know how parents are – always think they have the best looking kids. Well, that doesn’t have anything to do with me, but I do just happen to own the Most Beautiful Horse On The Planet. That would be Stormy (A.K.A. Studmuffin, Chunky Monkey, Stormdrain).

How Stormy and I ended up together is another chapter in my future book, but, long story short, I was his groom at Emerald Downs racetrack in Washington in 1996-1997 . I made the mistake of falling in love with most of my horses, but he was a special one. My roommate warned me “You’re going to end up with him one day,” which I denied vehemently – I mean, I had no Real Job (though if you are a groom, 7 days a week, 4:30 AM mornings, 8 – 16 hour days, low pay - that is more than a Real Job), no real home, no truck or trailer, no land, no time, no future plans… no way I could have a horse.

But she was right, it was meant to be; and he ended up with me – or I with him, in 1999. Stormy knew it would happen all along. He’s spent the last 8 years drifting about California, more or less with me, hanging out with our forest service horses, or with endurance horse buddies, or dude ranch horses.

This summer he’s here in Bridgeport at the Hunewill Guest Ranch. For a couple of years he actually worked there to earn his keep – the wranglers rode him out with the dudes on daily rides. For a sometimes-dingy-brained racetrack thoroughbred, he did quite well riding out with groups and not losing his mind. However, he has navicular disease – pain in his front feet – the pain of which comes and goes, and over the last few years it has pretty much ended his work. As long as I can keep front shoes on him he seems to stay fairly pain-free, though not really consistently usable.

Which is TOTALLY fine with him. See, Stormy and I love each other, but our relationship is built on a shaky foundation of misunderstanding. When we first came together after his racing career was ended, I told him he was retired – which meant he was retired from racing. HE thought I meant he was retired from EVERYTHING (but eating, which he takes very seriously.)

So now, Stormy, ex-Thoroughbred racehorse, winner of 6 lifetime races and earner of $45,882, carrying the royal blood of his grandfather, the great Mr. Prospector, is just another anonymous horse running free with a herd of 150 head of other horses – mustangs, quarter horses, draft horses, appys, mutts. (‘Running free’ sounds so romantic… but they all mostly graze). They are brought in every day for the dude riders; the horses that aren’t used for the day stay in pens behind the barn until the working horses are done for the day; then they are turned back out till next morning. This actually keeps Stormy from eating 24 hours a day, a situation I’m sure he’d like to remedy.

Today was the horses’ day off; they were out in one of the big pastures when I went to visit. I always take binoculars with me to help find Stormy – sometimes the pasture is so huge and the herd so strung out, I have left without finding my horse. He can be very hard to spot, because he’s just another brown horse speck out there, and he never lifts his head up from the grass.

But today, he happened to be watching me walk into the pasture about 150 yards away, and today, he actually stopped what he’d been doing (eating) and he walked up to me! Often he ignores me and keeps eating and waits for me to come right up to him, because he knows I will. Sometimes we’ll have a staredown: “Stormy, you come here!” 'No, you come here.' He always wins. I walk up to him, grab his head, and kiss him where he loves it best, right below his ears and at the corners of his mouth. Then he lifts his head up high so I will scratch under his neck, and then he lowers his head and rubs it on my shoulder, then has me scratch his ears. Then he goes back to eating, pulling grass right by my feet.

I often take my camera out there for pictures (E.P. – Equine Photographer) - with 150 horses around, and the snow-covered Sawtooth ridge for a backdrop in the mornings, there’s always some photo opportunity.

Stormy is the subject of much of my equine photography: . He was a great poser at the racetrack, and he’s still got that talent. Just don’t bother him when he’s busy eating.

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