It all started with Ash biting my mother before a lesson, saying she hurt. Ash doesn't bite, so this was a VERY big sign that she's really getting ready to retire. Of course, Ash also doesn't really complain about much, so with no limps, a good gait, forward movement, and all of her normal behavior, we really had no way to tell she was achy.
A little bute here and there is one thing, but if I need to bute the girl in order for her to give lessons, then she shouldn't give lessons. Bute can cause ulcers with prolonged use, and at 21, Ash has enough issues, especially her grey cancer. Hers is severe.
Well, I began shopping for a lesson horse. I just need something to hold me over about 3 years or so. I prefer aged horses for lesson horses, as they are calmer and more sensible. So when I got a message asking if I would be interested in an 18 year old Percheron, I jumped at it. Sadly, with my recent run of bad luck, it was over a month in the making, but yesterday the stars aligned (I thought) and I headed down south.
My first google of the trip said something like 3 hours and 47 minutes. Oh, oops, I mispelled the town name. Next search comes back with 5 hours and a few minutes. Woah, that's a trip! Ok, but this mare is worth it. So, I borrow Leah's trailer - a perfect one draft horse size - and head out.
I had the farm covered for the day, so no worries there. My plan was to leave around 10am, after all the morning crazy, and arrive to see Midnight at around 3pm. After an hour on the road, I hit construction. I hate driving a trailer in those lanes where the shoulder is right at the white line. It just makes me nervous. And then BOOM! THUMP THUMP THUMP.....
At this point I'm freaking a little, I admit. There's no where to go, and I just blew a tire! I slow right down, and take the next exit. Lo and Behold! Walmart! My choice and timing couldn't have been better.
The tire lost it's tread, but was holding air. There was a leak, but I could make it through the parking lot to the service area with out messing up someone else's trailer. Thank goodness! Got out, assessed the damage, and ordered a new tire. Easy peasy. Texted the horse owner to let her know I was now about an hour behind schedule.
By this time, I had texted mom, Leah, a few other people, and messed with my phone while waiting. My battery was dropping, so I bought a phone charger for the truck. Best decision I ever made!
So, we get the tire done, and head back out. Not a big deal at all. about 10 miles later, whacka whacka whacka sounds come through the window! WHAT IS GOING ON?!?!?! While I'm trying to get off the highway, Jae looks over and says it's another tire. We get out, and see that this time, it's blown the tube part, with the rubber all flappy but in place. Eesh. I was sitting in a parking lot for Discount Tires, who is of course closed on Sunday, and trying to google a tire place. Remember that phone charger? Yeah, my battery is about 20% by this time. I find a walmart just up the road, Jae makes sure that we can really make it, and we limp there. Walk around, and there's no tire section in this walmart super center! WHAT? I'm on the verge of tears by now, and pretty much freaking out.
Head back to google, and find that there's a Firestone right across the street. Call to make sure they are open, and can help me. When I pull in, they were so nice and helpful, I was starting to feel better. Then Jae tells me that it's just the tires. They are sun faded and brittle, and the highway speed and surface seems to be too much for them. We walk around the truck talking about our options. We can either replace them all (we've already done 2, so only 2 more to go) or we can turn back. As we walk to the other side of the truck, the answer is easier. Jae sees that one of the "old" tires is rather new, and in great shape. We'd only have to replace the 3rd tire to be safe.
Hell, as often as Leah lets me use her trailer, and as much as I want this horse, that was a no brainer for me. I owe it to Leah for the use, if nothing else, so I added that last tire to the order.
Now, while Firestone was nice, helpful, and caring, they were also slow as hell. 2.5 hours later, we'd had lunch at Braums (not that great) and twiddled our thumbs. I texted the horse owner to be sure she really was ok with me arriving THAT late. She said she was ok for it if I was. Nice.....we got back on the road.
From Dallas to almost Houston. What a trip that was. The name of the town is Cleveland, it has a population of like 245 people. The trip was nice, easy and relaxing. Around 6:30pm the horse owner texts me just to be sure that all is still well, and I answered "yep, has been easy going since the last tire". I no more then sent that (well, Jae was playing secretary for me) then we hit traffic. It took over 30 minutes to move 4 miles! Sunday, highway.... traffic? Weird!
No wrecks, no construction, just one of those weird things you get when traveling.
I finally arrived well after dark. At this time I'm worried that Midnight won't want to load into a dark trailer. Her owner assures me that she's good about loading, but I haven't exactly been having the best of luck. I meet the horse, and am instantly in love. She's PERFECT, and all that I could have asked for, so I pay the lady, and prepare to leave. We opened the trailer door, and she walks right in. NICE!
As we head out, and get moving back to "almost Oklahoma" area, I'm going nice and slow to see how this horse hauls. I swear it was like she wasn't even back there. No fuss, no stress, no shifting even. I stop a few miles up to make sure she's ALIVE. Yep, she was squared up and napping, trailering like an old pro. See, this is why I love aged horses!
About 45 minutes later, I'm still on some back country roads, going well below the speed limit (after the suicide racoon almost gave me a heart attack jumping out from between the guard rails on a bridge, under my truck) and going with the theory that I have all night to get home. I crest a hill, and see a T intersection below me, and a shadow moving.
I began to slow down, thinking it was a large dog, then a light comes on - something that flickered like an LED strobe - and this MAN steps into the opposite lane at me. It looked like he was trying to wave me down to avoid something ahead in the road. I honestly thought he was going to walk into my lane of traffic, so I hit the brakes and prayed. Midnight leaned on the left side of the trailer, and we started shifting. With no traffic coming, I drifted with the pull, let off the brake, and got back in control of the trailer, then slowed more gently. I swore I was headed for the ditch though!!! As I crest the next rise (the intersection was in a valley of sorts) I'm looking for what is so important that someone would walk into the street for it, and almost kill me.
And my saint of a horse..... well, she was riding straight and quiet again. No muss, no fuss. I stopped at the next gas station to check on her, and she was still napping. I hugged her then and there for being so good for me.
After that, the rest of the trip home was mostly quiet, if not boring. Ok, and LONG. Some where in central Texas, Jae got the worst migraine. I stopped and picked up my "miracle" migraine cure: aspirin and caffine. He sucked that back put on his shades (to shield from the headlights) and leaned back. So here I am, I've been on the road 14 hours by this time, and I'm in the middle of no where. Not even a radio station to keep me entertained. I'm tired, and I'm flipping channels.
I listened to some parenting show for a bit. I listened to country music, rap, hip hop, alternative, retro, classic rock.... no station seemed to hold for more then 15 miles. Midnight is riding like a saint the whole time, and the only way I even know she's back there is that the trailer isn't bouncing like it does when its empty. Hell, my fuel mileage was better with her in the back! (Never mind that I drove into the wind the whole way there, and with the wind at my back headed home.... details!).
About the time I'm starting to have to work at staying awake, Jae says his head is better. WHEW! We only had a few miles into Dallas by that point. It was 1:10am, and I was so tired. I got yet another coffee, and we talked about just about anything. From horses, to breedings, to video games and crazy old men in the road, the conversation kept me going.
Passed Dallas just before "beer o'clock" (2am the bars close) and loved the super straight roads the rest of the way home. I kept my speed to what made ME feel comfortable (60mph in a 70 zone) and was SO happy to see the highway 56 exit. A few miles down that, and nothing looked quite as nice as the Whitesboro City Limit sign.
About 15 miles from home, I could feel Midnight getting tired. She began to shift a bit (like most horses do the whole trip) and we'd been hauling almost 6 hours. It was 2:45 am. I had planned to be home by 10pm.
Pulled into the barn area, and my darling mother had prepped the big stall for the big girl. She would have room to lay down and roll, sleep, or what ever she wanted. It's a 12 x 24 stall, with neighbors beside her. Backed her out of the trailer, and she staggered a bit. She was exhausted! She hadn't had a drink in about 2.5 hours (since I drove so slow) and hadn't liked the water before that, so she was very thirsty. Got her settled, watered, and then went for her "dinner".
Soaked beet pulp, with a pound of "grain". Keep in mind, that my grain isn't really grain based. It's alfalfa pellets with stuff. Nice and easy on a tired tummy, and all of it was soaked into a mush, with a bit of salt added to be sure she drank.
Midnight of course, didn't need any coaxing. She stuck her nose in, and went to town. First a couple of gallons of water, then nose into the mush. I turned off the lights, and left to the sound of her slurping.
This morning, Mom fed for me, so I could sleep in. Jae and I crawled out of bed at 11am! We went to see the girl, and give her some turn out, and she's just as much of a saint now, as she was the whole trip.
No pictures yet, because that was really the last thing on my mind. I now have a PERFECT lesson mare though. She's big, she's beautiful, and in a couple of pounds (since everyone in TX is suffering from the drought and availability of feed) she will begin her work sessions. She loves my "alternatives" to hay (beet pulp and lots of it) and is pretty happy with the grain pellets too. Since she only had hay before, we're working her up to normal feedings slowly, with many small feedings of 3 pounds of soaked BP, and 1 pound of grain mixed in. By next week, she should be eating the same as everyone else, and I expect to see a bit more "fluff" on her just from the extra water I'm putting into her!
Pictures of the baby coming soon. My poor phone didn't make the whole trip, even with the charger! The navigator, the texts, and all the calls wore my battery down to nothing. Of course, I only remembered to plug it in this morning.
On the upside though, every horse I've ever bought who had a horrible trip, was ALWAYS worth their weight in gold. The only horse that even compares in "bad trip" levels is Spot. Well, he's the foundation of my entire program, so I think that says what I feel about him! I'm hoping the same holds true for Midnight, and her level of quality is inversely proportionate to the suckage of the drive to get her.
And Jae, in his sweet way, said to me this morning, "That wasn't that bad, I mean we never even left the state! No need to appologize to ME about the bad trip. It's part of horses, isn't it?"
Have to love a man like that.
A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses
I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.