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Tribute to a fine mare

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leanin' H

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We had an great old mare put down last weekend. Such a heartbreaking and yet necessary decision. I’m sure y’all have been there a time or twelve. Spent some time putting my thoughts down this week. Thought I’d share them here with y’all.

Never-

That word is so final. It’s a heartless word and hope and faith seem to flee from its presence. Never! It’s a statement of people who are angry. It ends marriages and it breaks friendships. It sometimes has a few other words that run around in a pack with it. Words like pride, resentment, unforgiveness.

But tonight, my mind kept trying to think about another use of never. I will never see my sweet old mare again.

Reba was a plain little sorrel filly when she came to me as the only payment I’d ever get for an electrical job that had cost five times what she was worth. She’d been picked on by a bunch of older mares and wasn’t very friendly to us two legged critters either. I loaded her and took her home with the intention to send her to the next horse sale so I could to try and recoup my money I’d spent on parts for the delinquent bill. But she grew on me. She had long pointed ears and she was rail thin and I took to calling her my little red mule. Unlike her previous owners, we had plenty of hay and she started filling out into a pretty mare.

She quit being a little bitch too. No longer did she spin her hips and pin her ears back and threaten to kick ya when ya approached. In fact, those tall red ears would silhouette over the corral rail and she’d whinny her hello as we went to feed her. I told my young wife that a broke horse would bring more money than an unbroken one would and she gave me her blessing to see how I could do. So to the round pen we went. I’d wanted to try a new-to-me method of breaking horses I’d been introduced to and Reba was the Ginny pig.

I’ll never forget walking toward her with the rag tied onto a light whip. The white in her eyes was evident from across the corral. She came inside out and whichever direction she went, I was there to meet her with the rag on the whip and the pressure it placed on her. The videos I’d watched and studied said it may take several hours until the horse quit kicking and running and trying to get away and turned to face the hated man with the rag. It took Reba two minutes! She suddenly turned back towards me and trotted across that old wooden round corral and stuck her whole head against my chest. As if to say, enough already. From that second minute on, she did anything I asked of her. I had her saddled an hour or so later. I used a rope on all four legs and she released on every command. I lead her with a rope around her flank and even under her tail. Not a single blow up and not a single buck. She’d get confused and then she’d turn back to me and bring her head to my chest for reassurance. She won my heart that day. I wouldn’t be selling the little red mule.

Reba was never a athletic horse. She wasn’t super fast. But she gave ya all she had. We put on a bunch of miles moving cattle in tough, mean country. The desert is steep and rocky and makes for long days a horseback. I saw lots of miles looking at the view framed by two tall, thin ears. I rode or packed salt on her for 18 years. She seemed to enjoy every trip. We’d pull up in some high desert pass to let our horse puff a little. Other horses would start looking for grass while Reba would survey the scenery. I swear to God she loved the quiet high desert trails as much as did. And at the end of a long day, after she had a good roll, when I went to the corral to lead her over to water, she’d cross the corral and bury her head against my chest.

I buried my head against her a time or two as well. When my grandmother, the matriarch of our ranching family died, I walked to the corral with my grief. Reba knickered quietly and then sensed my hurt. I stuck my tear covered face on her neck and sobbed. She never moved. Healing began,thanks to the old red mule.

As time passed and more horses filled our corrals I gave her more time off. And I had a few horses with more skill and ability. She graduated from every day horse to once in a while and then on to kids horse. Both my kids grew up with the old red mule for a babysitter. They loped along the pony express trail as we re-enacted the mail delivery service in our little town every July 4th. They rode in parades and in the local roping arena. I even took the grand old lady up for a night with the young ladies in our church youth program. Some had never been around horses and never felt that amazing privilege it is to sit astride a good horse. Reba pricked her ears and calmly welcome each young woman as they fussed and fretted and bonded. I will forever remember those girls as they lost their fears and found their confidence with the help of an old red mule.

Age is an enemy that never relents. And time kept marching. We buried Hacksaw and Dandy, Topper, Wally, Vega, Bar Ran, Pumpkin and Ranch. We lost Bandit and Rooster and Cisco and Doc. If my math is right, Reba outlived 17 horses our family or my cousin’s family, who have my grandparents ranch now, owned. She got a slight sway back and her knees got knobby. Arthritis started to spread. We treated her and coddled her and spoiled her. But time kept marching. 28 wonderful years I got to have those two skinny red ears turn toward my voice and send an unspoken beckoning.

Until it was time. I knew what needed to happen. And as tough and manly as I am, I knew I just couldn’t be the one. So with a full, sad, thankful heart I called the vet and made the appointment. It was the hardest thing to walk into that corral the last time and have her place her head against my heart. It was a lonely ride the 60 plus miles to the veterinarian. It was a sacred moment as I untied her for the last time and led her to back of the trailer and handed the lead rope to the staff. I took a walk and when it was done, I turned west for home and the empty corral. I brought her thin, old red body home to lay next to her amigos. I dug a deep hole and gently laid her, and part of me, in the desert clay ground.

But tonight, through the tears, the word Never doesn’t hold any weight. I buried her body but not her soul. She runs like a three year old across the tops of the mountains. Our mountains. My grandparents will keep an eye on her for me until it’s my time to ride the high mountains of heaven.

The word never is powerless. Unless we weaken and lose the light of our faith. I will see and ride and snuggle my fine red mare again. Of that I know.
 
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webfoot

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OK, that is a tear jerker. I am certain that it was much harder to write than to read. A great tribute to a four legged friend. Thank you for that.

You have now dispelled any notion that you might be dumber than Biden in a spelling bee.
 

Faster horses

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What a wonderful partner. Her for you and you for her.
I'm crying as I type. That was so touching and a great tribute to a great horse.
Maybe not great in anything, but the SPECIAL ones are great in eveything.
I remember pictures you posted of using her in the mountains but I didn't know
how special she was. Oh my! I loved what you wrote.

I'm going to read this to Mr. FH...when I stop crying.
Run wild and free, Reba!
 
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leanin' H

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168E6285-F0FD-44A6-9BAB-235C3BC8A93A.jpeg

AD77F6C6-08A7-4BAA-BD10-56773F3E0896.jpeg

A few days after everything had happened a card came in the mail. If ya ever need to know ya have a great vet, here is the proof. There may be vets closer and who specialize in more things. But there ain’t one better! I don’t cynically think the card was a marketing attempt for a business. It was a heartfelt and caring way to say we support ya. It’ll never be forgotten
 

Nicky

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Wow, well done. Mike's old stud horse is 27, we thought we'd have to put him down before winter but he is in the bull pen, get's all he wants to eat and doing fine. He too is full of arthritis but as long as he is happy we'll let him be.
 

leanin' H

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Did you ever send those folks that stiffed you on the bill a invoice marked PAID IN FULL?
Ya know I didn’t. It really bothered me for a while. But they were poor folks who had lost all the power to their trailer when their meter base caught fire. Lucky it didn’t burn the whole thing down. I was young back then and didn’t have the compassion life teaches you. I heard the lady died after she moved away from the valley. But BMR, you are correct, they do not owe me a dime.
 

Mountain Cowgirl

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Reba was a great-looking desert and mountain cow horse to my eye. Nice chest, sturdy legs, and rock footed. Your photo #3 above is testimony to the terrain and ground that qualifies a horse as rock footed. 28 years is testimony to what a rugged horse she was. What a sweetie! I dug out this photo as a tribute to Reba and all the great desert mountain horses of the past.
24142020WfhjS4gL.jpg
 

leanin' H

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I’m sorry for your loss Leanin H. I dread the day I have to put down this old sorrel mare of ours. She sounds a lot like Reba.View attachment 1627
Where ya been Brother???? I figured after all the fame from the podcast you’d forget us little folks 😁😁😁
I’ll send ya a PM. I need your number so I can invite myself down to see ya
 

leanin' H

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It’s one done by a lady in southern Utah called Cowboy stories. Hang on a minute and I’ll post a link. It’s just cowboys and ranchers telling stories about their experiences ranching. The vast majority are top notch.
 

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