As Dad was getting on in years, breaking horses became a bit more challenging. After his champion stallion died of old age around 1986, Dad wanted to always have a horse project, a horse he could just hop on in the morning and ride around the farm. He had a fancy for Appaloosas even though we were primarily Quarter Horse breeders and trainers. He bought or traded for this young Appaloosa mare that wasn’t broke to ride. My guess was she was about three years old. Dad took his time with her and after working a long while got so he could sit the saddle on her. But she was a hand full as she didn’t like anyone on her back. This would lead to trouble on down the line.
Chris and the kids and I came up to Ohio from Virginia one fall day and Dad was hurting. Mom said that he had hurt his back while doing some work out at the barn. She had tried to get him to go to the doctor, but he was having nothing of it. While she was telling the story, or really giving her opinion, Dad just smiled. We walked out to the barn together and he told me what really happened. He unbuttoned his shirt and his arm was black and blue, and his back was both scraped and black and blue. The story goes that he saddled the Appy mare and thought she was ready to go outside the corral for a ride. Everything was going pretty well, he said, until he prompted her to canter in the field.
She hopped into a canter all right. And bucked like crazy. Dad said he did ok for a bit, but just lost his balance and went off awkwardly. His boot got lodged in the stirrup and she drug him half-way across the pasture toward the barn. He was both a bit embarrassed to tell me that that the mare got the best of him, and that he was so jammed up by the whole thing. He made me promise not to tell Mom what had happened. He knew she would put her foot down and make him sell that mare. I told him that she may be one of those kind that was never going to be trustworthy and that he should get rid of her (the mare, not Mom). He asked me if I would ride her and see what I thought. I saddled her up and walked her out to the corral. Chris, my Mom and Dad, and the kids all gathered around to watch me ride the mare. I mounted up. All good.
I was watching her ears to signal what she was thinking. We walked around a couple of laps, then I legged her into a trot. Nice easy trot, ears forward. Easy peasy! Bumped up into a canter. The first two laps were nice, then one ear forward, one back and all hellfire cut loose. She bucked and spun and sunfished like the mad hatter ride at Disney. I was doing ok until the girth on the saddle broke. I felt the saddle move to the side and tried to right it, but it just kept going. I jumped off and landed on my feet as the mare went bucking around the corral. Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” That was one horse not to trust, especially for someone who just wanted a gentle ride. I thanked God that Dad was OK. And I can still remember Mom putting in the sell order.