The title of this blog probably seems a bit weird. What’s even weirder is that it’s Rosa’s real name. Unlike the rest of the horses on the farm, Rosa has registration papers, and her registered name with the American Quarter Horse Association is Shesa Lil Ichi.
T and Nollind could have called her Shesa or Ichi or some other derivation of her full name, but they thought she looked like a Spanish lady with her long, dark hair and big, brown eyes and called her Rosa. Even when she first came here to the farm, at just eighteen months old, Rosa had a longer mane than I’ve ever had.
Like me, and many other horses, even the purebreds, Rosa ended up at a livestock auction. Auctions in and of themselves are not a bad thing, but some of them are places to get rid of unwanted animals, and too many of those animals end up at a slaughterhouse. Rosa and I both went through the same auction yard about four years apart. I was purchased by a meat buyer, and quickly rebought by T and Nollind (whew!), and Rosa had the good fortune of being picked up by Bear Valley Rescue, along with her half-sister.
T and Nollind bought Rosa from Bear Valley as a project horse, with the intention of finding her a good home when she was four years old, trained to ride, and had seen some miles on the trail. On June 5, Rosa will be fourteen. She’s trained to ride, and she’s seen those trail miles, lots of them, but she was just too sweet to part with.
I wasn’t exactly well-handled when I came here either, but Rosa was a complete untouchable, not much different than a wild horse. Funny story about that. After being kept in a neighbouring paddock for a couple of weeks, T decided it was time to turn Rosa out with the rest of us. We’re not an unfriendly lot, but we are pretty curious about newcomers, and when our curiosity pursued her to the corner of the pasture, she up and jumped the fence, stood there looking back at us from the neighbouring farmer’s field.
And how do you catch a horse you can’t get close to or put a halter on? Well, you use another horse, or two. T and Nollind led Nevada and Alta, the herd boss and his second in command, out into the farmer’s field near Rosa and when they turned back toward the home gate, she followed.
T and Nollind looked after all of her initial ground training, but Rosa was sent to some trainers when she was three or four to have those first rides put on her. Not sure what those folks did, but by the time she came home, she would just stand like a statue whenever T or Nollind got on and asked her to do anything. It’s common practice to desensitize young horses during their training so that we’re not flighty about every little thing, but it was like they took every ounce of sensitivity out of her. After a few sessions with no success, T and Nollind decided they’d just ride her in the fields over the winter, see about putting some life back in her limbs, with me along to show her the ropes.
Once she was outside the fenced areas of the round pen or riding ring, she was fine, walked out like a champ, wasn’t afraid of much, and didn’t mind leaving home. Between you and me, I think that’s when she became a permanent resident rather than a resale project, when she showed her solid mind and easy attitude. The following year on the trails, it was like she’d been doing it for years, rarely spooky about anything and always keen to see what was around the next bend.
Her timing was perfect because, by this time, Nevada was twenty and starting to experience some difficulty with the steep trails we ride in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It was a natural transition. Rosa became Nollind’s mountain horse and Nevada was semi-retired. Good thing he was reaching retirement age or it might have been me left behind at the farm. I love to go, but I can’t say I have the same relaxed attitude toward strange things along the trail that Rosa does.
She’s Nevada’s girl for the most part, but the three of us are pretty tight. T often refers to us as the three amigos since we’re rarely farther than a few feet apart. She’s my trail partner and also my diet companion, cursed with the same slow metabolism as I have. Nollind refers to her as rubenesque, which I think is part of the reason she loves him so much. 🙂
Her ability to put on weight easily is coupled with a tendency toward a condition called laminitis, an inflammation in the feet often caused by too much rich food, like spring grass. And she does love her grass. This year, T is trying some new supplements, Nollind’s got her on a different trim program, and we’ve all got hooves crossed that she won’t have to be locked up in a dirt pen and fed hay for the spring and summer. It wouldn’t be the first time.
To sum Rosa up … you know that girl you went to school with that didn’t draw attention to herself or show off even though she was pretty, and she wasn’t the star or head or president of anything but just a really nice person that everyone liked? Well, that’s our Rosa.