12 August 2010

Oreo -- Part Two

The Forest Lakes Incident, summer 2000

I have family in the Forest Lakes area I rarely get to see. I thought sending Oreo to Forest Lakes the summer of 2000 would be a good idea. I wanted him out of the excessive valley heat. I might also get to see this part of the family a little more often, too. They live about a mile from the summer stables.

I arranged for Oreo to be used as a wrangler horse. The guy or gal who was staying with the horses at the stables would use him to lead the rides they took. I made the trip every weekend to spend time with Oreo, collect the cash receipts for the owner, and take the wrangler gal to the store for groceries. It was how Oreo's feed and board would be paid while he was there. I would enjoy getting out of the excessive heat for a few hours, too.

A group of us decided to take off Fourth of July weekend and spend the weekend in Forest Lakes camping. Our camp area was about a mile or so east of the stables where the horses were kept. It's a secluded area nestled among the ponderosa pines with a small pond and an area where we could bring the horses if we wanted to.

The day after we arrived a friend and I decided to take a short ride to my cousins home for a visit. The horses made the trip in short order and we visited for about an hour. It was on the way back to the stables we were in for what would become the story of the weekend.

We were about half way back to the stables and coming at us was a small miniature horse drawn cart. Oreo balked, spun around and bolted in the direction we'd just come from. I had to keep telling myself not to panic as I sawed on the reins trying to get him to stop. I watched as the end of the road got closer and closer. Just beyond the end of the road was a big wide ditch. I knew Oreo wouldn't make the jump across it. If I couldn't get him stopped, I might be able to get him turned, but in any case we'd be in serious trouble really soon. I could hear my friend calling from down the road. He was having an issue with his horse, too.

I fnally did get Oreo stopped. We were less than a hundred feet from the ditch and a neighbor had run down his driveway to see if he could help in any way. I was shaking so bad I got off Oreo, and walked on wobbly legs toward the man. He asked if we were all right, and I told him we were fine except for the case of nerves. He chuckled and I did too as he held Oreo for me so I could mount again. Oreo hesitated as we moved forward again.

The little cart had disappeared from sight, but I could feel Oreo's nervousness under me. He knew it was somewhere close by. I could see my friend had control of his horse, again and was waiting for me. He was with the man who had been driving the little cart. They were talking together when I joined them.

The man looked at Oreo's bridle and suggested I find another bit for him, perhaps something with sweet iron in it. I had to agree. I'd already planned to address the situation when we got back home to Phoenix.

I later found out, big horses are sometimes terrified of little horses. I guess Oreo was one of those big horses. When my friend and I got back to camp we told the story and everyone had a good laugh. No one believed Oreo could have that much stamina. In truth, Oreo always seemed to be one of those lazy laid back type of horse that never balked, jumped sideways, or spooked at anything. He had this Eyore attitude most of the time.

Needless to say, when the weekend came to a close, Oreo came home to Phoenix with us. I was afraid if he'd balked with me he'd do it with someone else, and I didn't want anyone hurt, especially since I was more than a hundred miles away.

That year and the next Oreo and I went on three other trips. Two trips to Wickenburg, and another camping trip to Forest Lakes. The two trips to Wickenburg, Oreo dumped his rider into the sand of the Hassayampa River bed. Fortunately no one was hurt and everyone laughed at his antics. Oreo wasn't the only horse on either of those rides who decided to have a roll in the sand rider, saddle, and all. On the last trip to Forest Lakes, Oreo's rider took him into the water to let him drink after a particularly long fast ride. Oreo did drink, then began to paw the water, a sure sign he was going to splash himself. None of us said anything to warn the rider and we waited....sure enough he did splash himself and his rider right into the cold water. Poor rider...he swore he'd never get on another horse after that. He walked back to camp instead of riding Oreo back.

Oreo had his moments when he surprised all of us. I'm so glad to have had him in my life. I'm so glad he came into my Mum's life, too. I sold Oreo to a friend in 2002, who has given him a good home and good life. At nearly 25 years old, he's 'King of the Barn and Pastures' where he lives with his mule friends and is retired.

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