Note: if you’re getting this as an email, you’ll miss most of the fun – there are a zillion photos in the last part of this post.
A couple of weeks ago, I got a note from Lynn, who rescued the orphaned mustangs I’ve blogged about previously, asking me if I’d trailer a couple of horses to another sanctuary. One of the horses was at her place, one was in Gilroy, and the sanctuary we were taking them to was near King City. I agreed to meet her at 8 AM on Sunday. I forgot that it was the day of the time change, so it was really *7* AM! How do I get myself into these things?
Anyhow, I got the trailer hooked up and arrived at Lynn’s driveway at 8:02, where I found her standing at the side of the road holding a cute little paint mare – Passenger #1. I refer to her that way because she didn’t come to Lynn with a name – can you imagine owning a horse, and not naming her? Or even handing over a horse to someone else and not telling them her name? People are amazingly uncaring sometimes. Anyhow, this mare’s story is that she’s 16 and been a brood mare all her life: never been ridden, and only haltered enough to get her bred. She injured her hock and the owners put her on Craig’s List for free. After several weeks, someone brought her to Lynn.
She might not have been trained for much, but she was willing to get in my trailer, so we loaded her up and headed for Gilroy. When Lynn told me about this guy, Sam, I got a little worried: he was a 12 year old gelding who went blind a couple of years ago. Sams’ owner had kept him and even continued riding him, but she got caught in a serious financial bind and couldn’t afford to keep him. She looked around for a home for him, but his blindness scared people off, so she had no takers. Finally, someone pointed her at Lynn and Lynn found a place for him. It was heartbreaking to see his stall – the owner had made a neat pile of his grooming tools and his food, along with a little bag of carrots, apples and other treats for the trip, in front of his stall.
I was concerned that Sam would have a hard time getting in the trailer, but it turned out to be a non-issue. Lynn led him up so that his front legs were touching back edge of the trailer floor, and urged him to take a small step. He lifted his hoof up to the trailer floor, verified that it was steady, and stepped right in. As soon as we got him angled correctly, he realized there was hay in the manger and he settled in. So we were off.
If you’re wondering why Lynn wasn’t keeping the horses herself, here’s why: Lynn’s rescue operation is aimed at unwanted pregnant mares and orphaned foals – horses who are in imminent danger of death. Her mission is to get them through their current crises, then find them a permanent home. For the orphans, that means getting them healthy and halter-broke, so they can be adopted. For the mares, it means helping them foal, getting the foal weaned and adopted, then finding a permanent home for the mares. “Permanent home”, in this case, usually means a sanctuary – think about it: if a mare was pregnant and unwanted, what are the chances that she’s had a role as someone’s steady saddle horse? Or a family pet? Anyhow, these two horses didn’t need the special resources that Lynn brings to bear, they were candidates to go immediately to a permanent sanctuary.
We had a totally perfect trip down 101 to King City: great weather, no traffic good conversation. At King City, we stopped and called Lynn’s contact, Quenten, who is a native American of the Chumash tribe.
There was some discussion of the “Chumash” designation that I didn’t hear due to trailer parking responsibilities, so if that’s inaccurate – sorry! I really am just a driver on these expeditions, so I miss a lot of the conversation, and I can misinterpret things I *do* hear.
It turned out that Lynn hadn’t actually met Quentin; he had called her after reading about Pregnant Mare Rescure (PMR), Lynn’s organization, and asked for advice about setting up a non-profit rescue organization. Lynn gave him some ideas and he offered a home for these two horses, so they decided to try to get the horses down to the sanctuary, and have a face-to-face business meeting while they were together.
Lynn connected with Quentin and he gave her directions to our meeting place, so we took off. We drove about 25 miles toward the coast, onto Fort Hunter-Liggett, and into the coastal range. After passing a couple of landmarks, we saw Quentin’s red Ford truck, left the main road and started following him. First, we went uphill on a single lane road for about 6 miles – I thought it was never going to end. Then we turned onto a dirt road that climbed more. And was crossed by small creeks, which we had to cross. Finally, we saw this sign:
Whew! We made it. Quentin opened the gate for us and we drove in. We followed the road for about a quarter of a mile to a house with a huge, beautiful pasture behind it, holding several very happy looking horses.
As we pulled up, the family poured out to see the new horses; there were Quentin’s mother and father, who live on the land, Quentin’s sister and her three boys and a girl, Quentin’s daughter, and three dogs, all of whom seemed delighted to see all of us – but were particularly excited about the horses. At this point, we found out that Quentin’s name was actually pronounced Quin-tone’, with the accent on the last syllable – so we adapted.
I was a little concerned about Sam getting out of the trailer, but by this time I should know better. Lynn turned him, so he could come straight out and started him toward the exit, taking tiny, tiny steps. Sam followed her lead, and also minced his way toward the step down. When they got near the edge, they took itty-bitty steps until one of Sam’s hooves was finally balanced on the edge. He put his other hoof even with it and then sort of slid off the rubber-bumper that runs over the edge of the trailer floor, then calmly stepped his rear end out. And that was that.
I got the Nameless One out while Lynn, Quen-tone’ and his family discussed what was to be done with the horses. The goal was to get both of them out in the pasture with the other horses, but the mare had to be a little less lame and Sam had to figure out a way to navigate. Quen-tone’s Dad had a plan: they had a reasonable sized paddock with a shelter in it. We’d put both horses in the paddock, so the mare could be medically attended to and so that Sam and her could buddy up.
The Aha! part of the plan (to me, at least) was that, at that point, he produced a bell, small, like a Christmas bell, and proposed that we tie it to the mare’s halter, so when she moved, she’d jingle, letting Sam know where she was and giving him a cue to move, too. Pretty clever, eh?
The Ranch Limo - note the driver
So we headed for the paddock, Lynn leading Sam, Quen-tone’s father leading the mare, an d the rest of the interested parties in the ATV.
Quen-tone's Dad Leading the Mare
As soon as we got to the paddock, Quen-tone’ found some twine and tied the bell onto the mare’s halter. We were chatting about her having no name, and someone suggested “Belle”, for all the obvious reasons: she was getting a Bell and she *is* a pretty good-looking mare! So Belle she became.
Belle Surveying Her Kingdom - note the bell tied to her halter at the fitting below the buckle
When the bell was attached to the halter, both horses were led into the paddock and were taken for several laps around it, showing them where the water is and where the shelter supports are, etc. Between laps, Quen-tone’ fed them carrots – nothing spells H-O-M-E like carrots, after all!
Quen-tone' Supplies the Carrots
Lynn Walks Sam Around the Paddock
The grown-ups got things to themselves for awhile, but pretty soon the kids got involved.
You Can't Keep Girls Away from Horses!
Then the dogs:
Max isn't Used to Sharing the Carrots!
After quite awhile of hand-walking Sam and Belle, Quen-tone’ took off the halters and let them work it out for themselves.
Belle and Sam on the Loose
It didn’t take them long to figure out where the water was. Note that in the picture below, Sam is up against the water tub and behind the shelter support post. Right after I took this picture, he decided to move. He sidestepped around the water tub, then walked (gently) into another support post with his shoulder. He just stopped and sided over, about two inches at at time, keeping his shoulder in contact with the post, until he could get by. Sam is my new avatar of Cool. We knew that they were settling in when Belle dropped and rolled.
Sam Waits While Belle Drinks
At that point, the consensus was that we should leave Sam and Belle alone to start working things out, and we headed for the house, where the business meeting was to be held.
As I understand it (and, I say again, I just drive the truck – I may have gotten this all wrong), Quen-tone’s Mother had taken in a few horses, one by one, that really needed homes, and the whole family lost their hearts to the horses. One of their neighbors was so impressed that he had his lawyer draw up the papers for them to form a non-profit corporation, so they could apply for grants, get appropriate tax treatment, etc. Quen-tone’ read about Lynn in a magazine, liked her attitude and accomplishments, and wanted her help in getting started in the right way.
So, Quen-tone’s Mother and Father were in the conversation with Lynn, as well as Quen-tone. Lynn put several things on Quentin’s to-do list, then said, “And you MUST come up with a tag line: something just five or six words long, that will fit on a business card, that captures what you DO.” Quen-tone’ and his father looked at his mother. She, in turn, looked at Lynn and said, “I want to save them forever.”
I don’t get teary often, but the passion and commitment in her voice took me to the brink. It stopped Lynn pretty much cold, too, which brought the meeting to a halt. We said our good-byes and left – but those words have been circling in head from the moment she said them until now: “I want to save them forever.” Can any horse lover ask for more?