Thursday, October 29, 2015

Your Golden Opportunity

I’m sure that many of you have been wondering, “What has happened to River?”  I 

don’t blame you for asking that question.  It has been a long time since I have 

posted here on River’s blog, and a lot has changed over the last months.  Don’t 

worry - River is healthy and happy.  I know the next path that River’s journey was to 

have taken last time I wrote was for her to go into training for a month or more at 

Pine Creek Ranch, to see what may have caused us to part ways on my last ride with 

her, but that never happened.  Tina and Dan were happy to take her, but there 

happened to be a few weeks before they  would have room for her at their ranch.  

During that time I did some soul searching, and also gave myself a reality check, 

with the result that things have taken a drastic re-routing (again) from my original

plan with River.

During my thinking  time, I had to face the fact that I simply can’t afford to send 

River anywhere for training.  When I wrote last I said that we had moved my mother 

into an assisted living facility after she broke her leg.  She is in a wonderful facility 

and they take great care of her, but it is very expensive, and none of it is covered by 

any insurance.  On top of that, I have essentially lost a room mate, because she and 

shared expenses here at the house while she was living here.  In other words, 

things are tight in the finances department, and I can no longer afford to carry on 

with River’s Journey.  So…….what to do with River?

To put it succinctly, River needs to find a new home.  This was the original plan, that 

I would foster her, train her and find a forever home for her at  the Cowboy 

Dressage Finals next month.  However, I find that I can not follow through with that 

plan, so I’m having to change course in some ways - I will not be offering a 

“finished" horse to a new owner, but if you look back at where she came from last 

February, “She’s come a long way, baby!"

River could stay here at Blue Fountain Farm and continue to live in the pasture with 

other horses, and that would be great for some horses.  However, anyone who 

knows River knows that she thrives on human interaction, and she still has so much 

to give.  I no longer have that  time - my two businesses of running the ranch and 

my photography, plus taking care of all my mother’s needs - keep me hopping.  In 

August River participated in an open house here at the ranch which was held for our 

new program for veterans, Heroes Astride, which is under the auspices of The 

Wounded Warrior Project.  She and I did round pen demos, and she was a great 

tutor for several people who wanted to see what it was like to interact with a horse 

(most of these people had never been around a horse).  She was fabulous at that, 

and she also walked through  crowds of people (some in wheel chairs), and waded 

through all the tents and color and noise that day without missing a beat.

Photo by Melanie North

I had an equine body worker look at her at the beginning of this month, because I 

was concerned that there might have been something wrong that caused her to buck 

that day back in July.  She needed some minor adjustments, but was deemed fit to 

go.  This means that River is still able to be a riding horse.  She will need someone 

who really knows what they are doing, or someone who can afford to send her to a 

good trainer, such as Tina and Dan at Pine Creek Ranch.  I truly believe that the 

incident I had with her this summer was a one time thing, but I’m too old to find out 

that I might be wrong.


I had a long conversation with Cori at Safe Haven Horse Rescue about all of this, 

and this is our plan:  They have entrusted me with finding River her happy-ever-after 

home.  We have decided that there will be a $1500 adoption fee (which is way less 

than I have put into her in medical expenses, shoes, trims, etc etc), and ALL of that 

money will go back to Safe Haven to benefit their other horses.  I have designed a 

simple Application for Adoption Form which, when filled out and sent to my email, 

can get the ball rolling for anyone who is interested in taking River into their heart 

and home.  Trust me, she will steal your heart!

So, here is your chance to let River become a part of your life!  It is very hard for me 

to let her go - I will miss her, because she is so easy to love, but she deserves more 

than I can give her at this juncture in my life.  River is not the only one whose life 

has changed course recently, and I feel badly that she has been affected by what is 

going on in my life.  My hope is that she can find someone who loves her as much, 

or more than I do, and carry on with a long and happy life.

I just ask that, before you fill out an Application for Adoption Form you do some 

soul searching yourself,  and be sure that you can take on the responsibility of 

an equine life as special as River.  You can contact me at the email on the 

application with any questions you might have.

Thank you all for going on this journey with River and myself - and let’s hope that it 

continues on a long and happy path for River!         


If you click on the below images, you can right-click to download them and then print to fill them out.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Trailer

True to her normal form, River aced Trailer Training 101 yesterday!!  My gut knew that she would be fine, (she so trusts us now), but I wanted to be ready just in case she had any second thoughts.   We have a natural alleyway off one side of the barn (where we can back the trailer to) that I have used in the past for young or difficult horses, so I elected to set this area up for River's first attempt at loading into the trailer since arriving here in February.  She also has a liking for somewhat tight spaces - it comforts her - so this was on my mind as well.  When she was at Safe Haven Horse Rescue they were able to get a halter on her by squeezing her between some panels, and when we were teaching her to let us work with her hooves, she liked it if we put her against a wall rather than being out in the open.

River followed me down the alley and towards the trailer without a worry - and I kept a soft lead line on her as she saw the trailer so she wouldn't worry.

She took a little look left.......

....then she took a little look right..........


Can you tell I'm happy?  River got grain and carrots as a reward.

She calmly walked out...........

.... and got more rewards - lots of loving!

To make sure it wasn't a fluke, we walked out the aisle, turned around, and came back.  Same thing - she just walked in!

And stayed calm on the way out again.

Camo thought it was all very boring.

That was it for her session - I couldn't have been happier with how things went.  If you remember, when Jessi and I picked River up in February, it took us over 2 hours to get her in the trailer.  I couldn't blame her at the time - she didn't know us at all, she was barely able to lead (especially with people she didn't want to follow), and she was easily overwhelmed.   This is the River we know and love - the willing, trusting mare.  Now I feel good about her impending trip to Chico soon - she will be fine!


Sunday, July 19, 2015

To Catch Everyone Up on River's Events

Wow.  A spare moment, and the energy to get back to all of you with more of River’s journey.   Those two things haven’t always coincided lately.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been here on River’s blog - I apologize for the lengthy delay in getting back to you,and for the length of this upcoming post.

As you remember, in April my mother fell and broke her leg here at the house.  She underwent surgery to have a plate put in the whole length of her femur, then went to a rehab facility for physical therapy.  She had many ups and downs there,  including a bout with pneumonia (which is usually a death sentence for people her age and in her condition), but, tough bird that she is, she overcame most of those downs.  Unfortunately, she couldnt progress any further in her PT, so she was discharged from the rehab facility.    Due to her many medical issues, I can’t take care of her here at home, so we (my sisters and I) placed her in a facility that we thought was appropriate.  We shortly realized (after a trip to the ER) that it wasn’t.  So, we recently moved her to a wonderful assisted living memory care facility, where she will get the care that she needs in a happy and safe environment.

Im sure many of you have gone through or are going through the same thing with parents - it can be all consuming, to say the least.  One day you are ready for your parent to be in hospice, and the next day they pop up from a seeming death bed and seem fine.  It has been, and continues to be, a real roller coaster, both emotionally and physically, for her, and for us, her children, as well.   

Now, on to River, and what has been happening in her world.   As with all journeys, there is a time when you come to a fork in the road, or a path you didn’t expect to be on, and that is where we are now.   Don’t worry, everything will be fine, but things have taken a different turn since I was last here on this blog.  Let me step back, and fill you in a little.

I am going to give a shortened version (for now) of the last 3 months, then I will go back in upcoming posts to fill in the details.  In April (that sure seems like a LONG time ago) Jessi and I were still doing a lot of ground work with River.  Shortly after my mom’s fall on the 8th, we saddled River, and rode her (with her friend Charlotte’s help, of course).  We rode her in the round pen for awhile, then ventured out to the big arena.  Walk, trot, stop, turn, back up - she never ceased to amaze me with how much she took everything in stride.  Everything was “no big deal”.  She learned to trot over a tarp, and to wear it while walking.  She even gave Dean a “pony” ride.  Both Jessi and I were riding her, and she was great for us both.  I even rode her in the covered arena (no railings) and sat on her while I was giving lessons, demonstrating things like moving off the leg, etc.  

Wearing a Western Saddle for the first time in April

Jessi and River for their first time up in the saddle.  You can see how upset River is - not!

Charlotte and Lauren helping River on her first walk under saddle.

Introduction to the tarp - again, no big deal.

Ta Da!  River and me in the big arena in May.

Trotting in the big arena - a nice listening ear and a soft rein.

Dean and River looking happy and relaxed.

Now for the part where we venture on to a different path.  About 3+ weeks ago, 
I decided to work River early one hot morning before giving lessons and riding other horses who are in training.  I started her out on the ground in the round pen with some unlocking work and moving the different parts of her body.  I got on her in the big arena for a little bit, then went down to the covered arena (as I said it was early, but the heat was already setting in).  I continued to do a lot of work at the walk - unlocking the hind end, serpentining and doing one rein softening techniques.  Some soft stops and backing up, some soft leg yields, etc etc.  She is so incredibly light and smart to ride.  We did a little stretch of trot, some walk, then another bit of trot.   She started to slow down to walk, but I wanted to trot some more.  I gave a little cluck, and a light touch with my calves, and…….. I know what happened, but I wish I could tell you why - the next thing I knew, I was on the ground.  She bucked me off - hard!  I haven’t come off a horse in 14 years - I typically know all the signs that lead up to any problem - but I must have missed this one.  I hit the ground hard on my back, and without going into much detail about the dogs licking my face to help their mom who is unexpectedly on the ground, or about me almost passing out, or the fact the I was alone and my sister was out dragging pastures……..let me tell you - it hurt.  I took my time assessing my owies, and poor River stood in the arena with the bridle off one ear, the bit out of her mouth, and the reins hanging to the ground.  She was afraid to move, and when I pulled myself back together (after getting on my hands and knees and facing Mecca with my head down to the ground so I would’t pass out!), I called her name and she turned towards me, but was still afraid to move.  I eventually got up, put the bridle back on her, and limped up to the barn.  I didn’t go to the Dr, but I’m 99.9% sure I cracked my sacrum, and I’m finally not hurting between my shoulder blades. Ladies like me in their 60s shouldn’t hit the ground like that anymore, so here is where the next chapter of River’s journey is going…………..

After doing some soul searching, I decided that maybe I missed something in River’s training - I don’t know what - but she’s such a sweet and willing being that I can’t believe that she would buck like that for no reason.  So, I’ve decided to send her to another trainer for awhile to see what they can do.   And, nothing but the best for River, she is going to go to Tina Cornish and Dan Gunter at Pine Creek Ranch.  If you don’t know them, they have been responsible for years for putting on Buck Brannaman clinics in the Chico area, and have been following him and his techniques for quite awhile.  They specialize in starting horses and in working with troubled horses.  They will take her and re-start her to see what is going on - what I might have missed.  I have seen them at work, and they are wonderful.  

This next week Jessi and I need to bump up the timing on something we’ve known we needed to do - get River back into a trailer.  I’m not looking at that being a big problem, because River knows and trusts us so much, compared to when we first picked her up at Safe Haven Horse Rescue in February. We will take her up to Chico in about a week and a half, and she will start her stint at “boarding school”.  It’s hard to let go of her, but I feel it is best for her and for us. I’m not afraid to swallow my pride and ask for help when needed, and I feel confident that Tina and Dan can offer that help.  I hope to get up there (it’s about 2 or so hours from here) to see and photograph her progress.

There is so much more to tell -  but this post has already been way too long.  One important event that I want to write about soon is meeting River’s mother - Mama G - at All About Equine.  Yes!  I met her mother - she is as sweet as River, and looking for her forever home as well.  

Does she look like River, or what?

Dean and Mama G

I will not be such a stranger to this blog.  I hope to write 2 - 3 times a week now to catch everyone up on the details, and to write about things to come as well.  Know that I will do whatever it takes to make RIver’s story have a happy ending, because that is what she deserves.   The saga continues!   

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Short respite

I need to take a short respite from writing this blog due to an in-home accident sustained by my 86 yr old mother, who lives with me here at the ranch.  She fell in her room yesterday,  sustaining a spiral fracture to her femur, and is having surgery this morning in a hospital that is 1 1/2 hours away.  River will continue to get schooling, love and attention, but I will not have time for writing this blog for a bit, as I will be doing some daily traveling.  I'll be back with more stories and photos as soon as I can!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

There is more than one way to "save" a horse............

This past Saturday Dean and I took the voyage up to the Cottonwood area to go to the Safe Haven Horse Rescue "Whinny and Roses" fundraiser banquet.  The event was a huge success, and very well run and attended - kudos go out to all the volunteers who did such fabulous job organizing the evening.  It was very heartwarming to see so many people there to support the horses, (and the people who care for them) - I would guess there were about 400 people in attendance.  The community supported the cause with many donated auction and raffle items, and the crowd rose to the occasion and bid on everything.    It  was obvious that the founder of Safe Haven - Linda Richards - holds a big place in everyone's hearts for all her work and dedication to the cause of horses in need.  Linda started this all volunteer organization 20 years ago, and relies on this fundraiser, and other donations, to help the horses entrusted to her care.  This video was shown at the event - it's very touching and uplifting ..........   

People like Linda Richards of Safe Haven Horse Rescue, Marlene Dodge of Valley View Ranch and Shirley Puga of National Equine Resource Network (among many others nation and world-wide) have dedicated their lives to protecting and saving our equine friends who, through no fault of their own, have ended up drawing the short stick in life.  Did you know that the USDA documented that over 92.3% of horses sent to slaughter are in good condition and are able to live out a productive life, yet kill buyers outbid legitimate horse owners and rescues at auctions, robbing horses of ever having a second chance at life.  Slaughter houses are not the only place where equine rescues find their  victims - often it is in the backyard of someone who is  either willfully neglectful (in other words, a heartless, evil person), or someone who is ill, old or poor, and unable to recognize that they can no longer care for the horses in their charge.  

No matter where they came from, these horses have been given a second chance at life through these rescue organizations, and it is the rest of us who can take the next step in saving an equine life.  Yes, not everyone is able to take a horse like River into their lives - which is one reason Jessi and I chose to do so.  We have the capabilities and the facilities to take a green and formerly troubled horse like River, and turn her into a "contributing member" of equine society.  She will eventually find a home where she can reciprocate the love and energy of someone who will never let her down, unlike whoever it was who sent her to slaughter in the first place.  Horses have given so much to me in the long time that I have been involved with them, and this is my little way of paying that back.

There are more ways to help save these horses if you can't take one into your life.  You can donate to the rescue of your choice - either money or time.  These organizations all run on a shoestring, and they need our help to keep going.  If you don't have the time to get involved, then donate to the cause.  Some rescues will take donations of items as well as money, so look on their web sites and see what they might have on their wish lists.  Maybe you have something sitting in your back yard that you are not using that is sorely needed by our equine friends.  In this day of $22 a bale hay every little bit helps.

Besides the above form of rescuing horses, I believe there is another way as well - we can save them by how we ride them.  There are more forms of abuse than starvation or beating - there is the cruel way in which many horses are ridden.  Have you ever seen the vacant look in the eye of a horse who has been ridden day after day with their heads tied down so that they can only see the dirt under their feet, or with cruel, harsh hands bloodying their mouths, or sored terribly so that they will pick their feet up higher and higher for our human pleasure?  It's a terrible, haunted look - one which the owners either don't notice, or don't care about.  They think that because they are feeding and housing the horses well, that is all these horses need.  Wrong.

If we are to ask our horses to "work" for us, then we need to honor them and their willingness to do so by being kind to them through softness and harmony while riding them.  Which brings me again to Cowboy Dressage.  The founding principle is just that - being kind to our horses as well as to those around us.   

I would much rather see this  at a horse show (all of these images I took at Cowboy Dressage Shows)........................



Than this - and I'm only including a very small sampling of what I garnered off the web.............

It is important to me that we save our horses from this kind of fate - each one of us can do something in our own way to stop this.  We can save horses from terrible fates of starvation, abuse or slaughter, but we can also save them from the abuse that happens in the show ring and beyond.  We can choose to set an example and care for our horses properly, help those who can't, and always, always be kind to our horses.

River had a tough start to her life, and, as her foster mother, I make it my responsibility to see that she is ready for a future life where she will be taken care of with love and respect by someone who will realize that she is a special horse, and who will never let her return to the state of starvation and deprivation that got her to Safe Haven in the first place.  What can you do to "save" a  horse?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Body Work

The last two days have been busy for River because she had a lot of "Body Work" done - she got a dental, and she got a good "rubbing"!   First, the dental.

Dr Mike McRae of Sierra Equine performed River's dental work today - she needed some work done to get her mouth ready for the bit.  She was an exemplary patient the whole time - I didn't expect anything else from her.  She accepted the needle with the sedation without complaint, she let all the work be done by Dr Mike and Lori Gould, then walked dunkenly, (with her lips hanging down) back to her house.  River is now ready to wear her bridle as well as her hackamore when we get to that point.  

Oh, and Dory helped a lot.  She got hot and needed to cool herself off in the water tub.   No one has told her she really doesn't fit in there any more!

River also had a visit from Diane Pingrey, who knew River when she was at Safe Haven.  Diane drives from the Sacramento area up to Cottonwood every Saturday (as a volunteer) and devotes her time to rubbing on the horses.   I can tell you from watching her with River yesterday that they LOVE IT!  She has a great touch with the horses, from a light, feathery touch, to a "let's get in to those muscles", body leaning rub.  You can see from River's face that she was in ecstasy from Diane's ministrations.  

Even Charlotte reaped the benefits of Diane's visit, and loved it just as much as River did.

I'm sure River was grateful to see her old friend again, and get such loving and wonderful attention from her.  River and I both thank you, Diane.

This weekend is Safe Haven's "Whinny and Roses" fundraiser, which Dean and I will be going to, so I won't be back for a couple of days to do another post.  I'm really looking forward to meeting as many people as I can who knew River when she was at Safe Haven, so I can find out more of what has happened in her life before Blue Fountain Farm.  So many people have done so many selfless things to help the horses in this world, and I look forward to meeting just a few of them.  I'll be reporting on this event when I return.  Until then, Happy Easter!