It's long been a dream of mine to breed horses. I came so close this year--my yearling is the perfect foundation mare for my breeding program. My mare had an absolutely divine filly for me this spring--it's been kind of a dream year for me as far as horses are concerned. But just like writing Throwaway made me aware of human trafficking in our own backyard, writing Finding Broken Arrow clued me in to a serious problem in our country with unwanted and untrained horses.
After publishing Finding Broken Arrow, I joined a Facebook group that rescues slaughter-bound horses. At least once a day, I see a horse I wish I could bring home. At least once a day, I wish I had more money, more time, more land to save them all.
So I talked to my husband and I changed my dream and Firefly Bluff, our little farm, won't be an appaloosa breeding farm, it's going to be a horse rescue.
In order to fund that, and not take away from the work we're doing to help humans, I'm going to use the money from the Remuda Ranch series to fund my new dream, Firefly Bluff Horse Rescue. Wish me luck...
I think every little girl goes through a horse phase. Some of us just don't outgrow it.
As a child, I memorized every horse book I could get my hands on. I learned colors, conformation and communication from the pages of a book. The instant I was old enough, I sought out chances to be around the real deal. I took care of other people's horses, volunteered for vets, and gentled my first horse at 13 - before it even occurred to me that climbing barebacked on an untrained horse could be dangerous.
It never quite worked out for me to have my own horse. My grandpa had just begun to horse shop when he was diagnosed with cancer. The summer was supposed to be one where my dream came true. Instead it was the summer I tended to my hero as cancer ate him away, piece by piece. I wound up treasuring those days for a very different reason than the one I'd planned.
But the dream to own and train my own horses never died. I still had this vision of taking the unlovable horses of the world, training them, and helping them find their place. I wanted to save mustangs. I wanted to barrel race. I wanted to learn to jump. There were so many things in that world I yearned to see, touch, experience.
My little girl dreams of horses had to take a back seat to life when I had kiddos of my own. My attention turned to their dreams. When my oldest son decided to take horseback riding lessons, I soaked up all I could as I watched him experience the things I'd dreamed of so long ago.
For a while, I could almost touch that dream. We'd found a barn home and we owned two of the most amazing horses I'd ever laid eyes on. I had the privilege of exercising and riding animals that were truly the cream of the crop. The time I spent at that barn was one of the happiest of my life.
And then our middle son, Blake, had his accident and the horses had to be sold to pay medical bills and the dream once again faded, giving way to the reality of helping our son through a major life trauma. The accident never made Blake scared of horses - he'd been in a coma through the worst of it and didn't remember the accident itself. But changed things for the rest of us. We were shaken to our core, and I wondered if we'd ever ride again.
That's when Dixie came into our lives, the little red appaloosa with enough spunk to make her fun but a gentle enough nature to soothe my rumpled spirit. An accident had left her blind in the right eye, and when she came to us, she didn't want anyone on the right side of her body. I worked with her and she worked with me - we patched up the broken pieces in each other. Her herd mate was a little appy gelding, who sadly passed away last spring. He left a great-big hole in our hearts and on our little homestead.
As we talked about what kind of horse we wanted to add to our homestead so Dixie would have a friend (besides her alpaca buddies), I came to realize that I'd fallen in love with the appaloosa breed. There's something in their nature that draws me to them - though that could be a post of its own.
Now it seems that some of those little girl dreams are on the verge yet again of becoming a reality. Some of it doesn't even feel real yet, so I might save it for a later post, but I will make one big announcement: My Dixie girl is going to be a mama! She is bred for a May 2016 foal. I got to see the baby on an ultrasound. I actually cried when I saw the little black dot on the screen that I was assured is a baby.
Dixie and I have always been buddies, but now that she's bred, she's decided to stick to me like glue. Her favorite spot is the backyard, and she's even followed me onto the porch a couple of times (which is not intended for horses). She threw the only temper-tantrum I've ever seen from her when I locked her in the *gasp* horse pasture the other day.
I will keep you guys posted as the pregnancy progresses. God willing, next May will bring us a healthy foal. (A bay with a blanket and spots on his rump would be an added bonus...)
About the time I get my feet under me with all of the different things competing for my attention, the season changes and my to-do list explodes all over again. We live in a busy world - sadly, exploding to-do lists are probably the norm. Still, I'm trying to shuffle things around and realign priorities so I don't find myself too buried to enjoy any of the things I love - writing being at the top of that list. I think I'm getting close to finding that balance. Close-ish, anyway.
Another thing on that list is horseback riding. After Blake's accident, it took me a while to love riding again. He was ready to hop back in the saddle long before the rest of us were - I'm guessing it's because he slept through the scary parts while we got a front row seat. I'm thankful for my patient and sweet mare, Dixie. She was coming back from an injury of her own when our paths crossed. It's taken us three years, but we seem to have finally "fixed" each other. My boys and I have decided this is the summer to wade back into the world of horses. No more hanging out at the shoreline for us!
So, in addition to our full springtime schedule of getting the garden in and fencing off new pastures, we've added building a new horse shed to the to-do list. (I think the alpacas will be sad to lose their horse buddy, though. They think she's their leader.)
Christopher, the youngest, has caught the bug big-time. He spends every waking moment on all things horse and several hours a day working with Dixie, trying to teach her new things and letting her teach him. This summer, his birthday present will be a foal from the appaloosa breeder where we bought Dixie. He's already decided to name him Apollo Butterworth so he can call him Appy Butt. We get to meet him in June and pick him up at weaning - around August or September. I'm trying not to wish away my summer, but I'm as excited as he is!
We're still deciding who else to add to our herd. The decision making process makes me think I need more land. (And I'm gonna need a bigger barn...)
I realize that getting serious about horses again will do absolutely nothing good for my exploding to-do list, but it's done wonders for my soul. And the goats aren't too jealous.
Rolling hills that had been vibrant green just weeks ago were now muted in tone, as if they were taking a deep breath before bursting into the song of fall.