Even long stories have endings…or at least a bit of a pause:
The Long Story of How I Ended Up with Quixote and Lusitanos (Part 3)
So there I was with four half-Lusitanos on my hands. Maia was the only one who gave a hint of her maternal Andalusian/Arabian line. Quixote was in a class by himself, and Rio and Diego were mental clones. And I never had a batch of foals who were up to so much mischief!
They were all ridiculously curious. They slipped under things. They jumped over things. They played soccer with buckets. They chased each other. They chased dogs. They chased calves. They chased bulls. They unhitched gates. They tipped over whatever could be tipped over. They crushed whatever they could bat around. Years later, when the lady they were staying with called and told me they had killed a cougar, I wasn’t surprised. They were fearless.
They were also people-oriented, smart, patient, and athletic. Diego went on to a dressage owner and now spends his summers in Minnesota and his winters in Florida. Rio went on to a personal friend who rode him in Competitive Trail and took top five several years in a row against Arabs. I kept Maia’s cremelo colt Angelo (aka George – grandson of Sapphiro) and sold Maia to a friend near Milwaukee, Tuskey Dressage, where she is a lesson horse and gives painting demonstrations.
Quixote stayed with me. When he turned three, I gave him a mare to teach him to be a respectable gentleman. Then I turned two more bred mares out with him so he had a herd.
I truly believe in giving a horse as natural a life as possible. Although Quixote and Crew were introduced to living in a stall during the period they were weaned (together), the rest of his life he’s lived outside. I’ve joked that although he had access to a barn for the first four years of his life, he’s never used it. Quixote would stand on the outside of the building with his butt against the wall, keeping watch over his girls instead of entering in under the shed overhang.
Quixote would stand on guard over a mare who was giving birth. He would quietly parent the foals giving them reassurance that they were protected. He taught the foals there was nothing to fear from people or four-wheelers or tractors or the train that went by. Once the foals were older, he would babysit them while their mares would drift off to graze. Once I even saw him standing at the fence, grabbing apple tree branches in his teeth and holding them down so that his foals could nibble on the apples.
When it came time for Quixote’s foals to be weaned, I’d pull the mare out of the pasture and let Quixote continue with the foal’s education. He taught them not to be nippy or nasty. I was riding Quixote now and then in an arena at the time and his foals would line up along the rail to watch.
My daughter and I worked together training Quixote. He was awesome to ride right from the start. Sitting on him was like straddling a hovercraft which could smoothly move right, left, forward, or backward with just the slightest shift of weight. I confess I haven’t ridden him as much as I should because he is so sensitive and I feel I’ve not the rider he deserves. (But I’m getting over that.) My daughter had a great time closing her eyes and “thinking” herself moving in a direction which he would inadvertently pick up.
Once I the fillies that I wanted to keep from him were born (I kept five fillies and one colt), I had Quixote gelded. That changed his stud behavior, of course, but it never changed his watchfulness. To this day, he is the chief protector of the herd with his youngest offspring, Dante, constantly by his side.
Quixote’s life didn’t change a whole lot after I moved the herd to the western hills of Nebraska and then South Dakota. He found out that antelope weren’t that different from deer. He learned to drink from a spring instead of a slough. He learned to winter in the lee of a cliff instead of a barn. His relationship with me was pretty much the same, too. But one thing I had problems with him after we made the move West was that although he was tolerant about leaving the herd and walking down the road, he did not like to be gone too far. If I was riding him, he would side pass back in the direction of the herd. If I were leading him, he’d block me with his chest and guide me around in the other direction. He was never panicked or aggressive about it – just firmly insistent that he had to get back to the herd.
Some people call a horse like that herd-bound or herd-sour and they spend a great deal of time fighting it. I didn’t worry about it because I knew where it was coming from. Over the weeks and months the herd was on the range, they had become a tight unit and Quixote and another mare, Senorita. Senorita, being the lead mare, is ok with walking away from the group but Quixote, being the protector, isn’t.
Turns out, if you’re riding trail in the mountains, you want your horses to be “herd-bound” so that they stick together.
Now that Quixote and his herd have settled into our home in Montana, I still have trouble taking him down the road (it’s something I’ll be working on this year) but I discovered that I have no problem loading him in a trailer and riding him someplace new. And with his shadow, Dante, ponying with him, he’s more than happy to hit the trail. (As long as we trailer him there, first.)
So Quixote – and Dante — you flat-landers — this is your year to discover mountains!
Just a little to share about Quixote’s grandsire Umbaba, from his farm’s website:
“Umbaba is very strong-minded, but combined with an honest and solid character. Good luck gave him mares with equal attributes and therefore they produce foals (who are) straight-minded. We are very happy about this fact as in 10 years none of our clients have had complaints. (The past) four years, Umbaba has stayed with his family throughout the year and assists his mares in educating their foals, and also in this job he is giving his very being.”