Spot Turns Thirty!

We horses are generally longer lived than our four-legged, human-companion counterparts, the dog and the cat. Dogs get the short end of the stick (pun completely intended) with a life expectancy of just seven to fourteen years, depending on breed and size. Although, there was one little Cattle Dog (good news, Chico) who lived to twenty-nine and a half. Cats live longer, in the fifteen to twenty range, with one outlier named Creme Puff living to thirty-eight years old.

Horses, on average, live to be anywhere from twenty-five to thirty, but many live into their thirties and a handful have lived decades beyond the average age. Three reached fifty-one, a pony named Sugar Puff lived to fifty-six, and a guy named Old Billy made it into the record books when he lived to sixty-two. Wow, right? Based on Creme Puff and Sugar Puff both living well beyond the majority of their species, I just might change my name to Storm Puff. What do you think?

Enjoying his birthday meal and party hat.

Nevada isn’t registered and there’s no record of the month and day of his birth, but, as a horse born in 1991, he officially turned thirty on the first of January. It’s likely he was born between April and July like the majority of Alberta-bred horses.

He was added to T and Nollind’s then collection of one horse and three cats in 2002. As T tells the story, Nollind started taking riding lessons that year and in the fall started shopping for a horse. Nevada was advertised as a well-trained, eleven-year-old, Appaloosa gelding. Another horse named Jack, advertised at the same time, was in his teens and reported to be a very experienced trail horse. Since the two horses lived in the same area, a day was set aside to go and see both of them.

Still likes showing off in the snow.

They saw Jack first. T loved him, thought he was perfect. Great temperament, good age, lots of trail experience. Nollind thought he was okay until they drove up the driveway of Nevada’s home and the big guy came loping along the fenceline through the deep snow, looking majestic and impressive, as he does. Nollind’s eyes lit up, and the two rides that followed, one outdoors, one in, were really just for T’s satisfaction. Fortunately for Nollind, Nevada passed her scrutiny and has been part of the clan ever since, moving here to the farm with Alta, T’s mare, in the spring of 2003.

Nollind’s new (and first ever) horse at Park Stables west of Calgary.

In case you’re wondering what happened with Jack, T liked him enough that she sent a student down to see him and then buy him, and years later, when that person was ready to sell him, recommended him to a friend who was shopping for a husband horse. In 2010, T, Nollind, Nevada and I went trail riding with Jack in the Smithers area of BC where his new people had moved. By then he was in his mid-twenties but still rocking it on the trail.

Jack in the lead, where he most liked to be.

Nevada’s name was Snowflake when they bought him, usually just called “Flake” for short. I won’t comment on whether or not Flake suits him, but Nollind didn’t think so. Since we horses are more inclined to come for the sound of oats in a bucket or maybe a whistle with a bucket of oats to follow, name changes aren’t really a big deal.

T and Nollind had learned some Spanish while travelling in Central America so started searching for a good Spanish name that was a translation of something snowy, to keep the spirit of his existing name. When they landed on Nevada, Spanish for snowfall, they’d found it. Little did they know they’d be spending quite a lot of time in Nevada a decade down the road.

Lunch break on the trail.

Somewhere along the way, he earned the nickname Spot, sometimes Big Spot, which is how I tend to think of him. He’s the biggest horse in the herd and has spots. I like things that make sense.

Spot was Nollind’s mountain horse for about ten years, until he was in his early twenties, and he really excelled in his trail boss role. Strong, brave, and setting a good pace, I couldn’t have asked for a better leader when I started out on the trails as a youngster.

My first big, multi-horse trail ride with my trusted leader as coach.

When he began to show signs of hind end challenges on steep hills, Nollind retired him and started riding Rosa. On Spot’s last trip to the Rockies, he was ponied behind me without a rider and that didn’t sit with him too well. On one narrow, downhill trail where the hill rose and dropped steeply on each side, he climbed the bank and went around me, accustomed to his front-of-the-ride position.

There was another creek stop that wasn’t this peaceful, but that’s for a future “adventures on the trail” post.

So, the big guy is thirty this year, which puts him on the back edge of the life expectancy range, but other than some of his incisors being worn down to nearly the gums, and a bit of a hitch in his backend, he’s in great shape. He needs a little extra feed to keep him in good condition through the winter months, but he keeps up with the rest of us just fine. Maybe he’ll find himself in the record books with the horses mentioned earlier. Nevada, you up for another twenty or thirty years?

How many?

Happy Horse Birthday!

Happy Birthday to us,
Happy Birthday to us,
Happy Birthday dear Nevada, Rosa, Gidget and me-eee,
Happy Birthday to us!
And many moooooorrrrre.

Ready for cake!

Those of you not familiar with the world of horses may be surprised that the four of us are celebrating birthdays on the same day. But, in the life of a domestic horse, this is just the way it is. It’s not that we don’t have unique birthdays, we do, but not in the eyes of the industry. Truth be told, you probably won’t find a horse in Canada with an actual birthdate of January 1. It is way too cold at this time of year for a foal to be hitting the ground.

In reality, I was born sometime in August, don’t know the day, and Nevada’s and Gidget’s birthdays are a complete unknown. It’s likely they were born sometime in late spring or early summer which is normal for horses in northern climates. Rosa, who is a registered Quarter Horse, is the only one with a recorded birthday, June 5. To her credit, even though she’s the only one with papers, Rosa is a humble girl, never lording it over those of us of unknown origin.

Not looking at all like 28 years old.

So you may be wondering why January 1 is our official birthday. Well, it’s because humans require a means of standardizing horse-related events. Many equine sporting events are specific to a certain age of horse (like the Kentucky Derby is only for three-year-olds) so it’s important that the same standard is applied to all who enter. The Derby is held on the first weekend in May and a horse who turned three in April is quite a different competitor from one who is three on Derby weekend but four a week later. To work with the equine breeding cycle, January 1 was chosen for the northern hemisphere and August 1 for the southern hemisphere. Obviously, our date was selected in a place where winters are warmer and spring earlier.

The Kentucky Derby

For the majority of us equines who spend our time lounging around in pastures and packing a rider to a local competition or down a trail, the whole age thing is a lot less of an issue. Whether I’m sixteen, which I actually am until August, or seventeen, which I am according to industry standards, doesn’t make much difference to T, but it would be important if she were trying to sell me (which would never happen, of course.) But, let’s say in some crazy, alternate reality I’m for sale. The person shopping for a horse and reading an ad for a 17-year-old, handsome, clever, athletic gelding can be confident that I will be seventeen sometime this year, and not turning eighteen the day after she gets me home.

Birthday treats!

All of the above is to say that it was our collective birthday on January 1—Nevada turned 28, Gidget 24, me 17, and Rosa 13. We celebrated in the fashion we enjoy most, eating! For Nevada it was pretty much feeding time as usual with a few extra chunks of carrot thrown in, and Gidget also gets regular feedings of grain, but for Rosa and I, who have the misfortune of slow metabolisms and are on a perpetual hay-only diet, it was a glorious day. Sweet feed (which is a delectable mixture of grains covered in molasses) with chunks of carrot and apple mixed in was better than any birthday cake. Yum! Drooling just thinking about it. Seems Chico and I are both afflicted with over-active and anticipatory salivary glands.

It’s a special day when our feed tubs come out.

Because of this blog’s time-sensitive nature, I co-opted Logan’s “First Fur-iday” spot this month and I’d like to thank him posthumously for letting it become a pony-post day. Chico will be back next week to share some tales from the Logan archives.