Horses


Among other things, Hank loves his herd. He always needs to know where they are.

And Hank loves his mamma. He always wants to be with her.

And Hank’s mamma loves Hank. Dearly.

♥ ♥ ♥

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Washington’s Birthday is a federal holiday in America, celebrated on the third Monday of February in honor of George Washington, the first President of the United States. It is also commonly known as Presidents Day.

In 1783, George Washington retired to Mount Vernon, his 8,000-acre country estate 16 miles south of Washington, D.C., on the banks of the Potomac River. According to his adopted son and early biographer, George Washington Parke Custis, the former general “became convinced of the defective nature of the working animals employed in the agriculture of the southern States, and set about remedying the evil by the introduction of mules instead of horses, the mule being found to live longer, be less liable to disease, require less food, and in every respect to be more serviceable and economical than the horse in the agricultural labor of the southern States.”

To this end, Washington vowed to buy large jacks abroad to bring to Virginia to sire better mules. Instead, he was given two jacks – Royal Gift (an Andalusian jack) and Knight of Malta (a Maltese ass) – by foreign dignitaries King Charles III of Spain and Washington’s friend the Marquis de Lafayette. In less than 15 years Washington had 58 mules working at Mount Vernon.

A later biographer, Paul Leland Haworth, expounded on these remarkable gifts:

Washington, according to his own account, was the first American to attempt the raising of mules. Soon after the Revolution he asked our representative in Spain to ascertain whether it would be possible ‘to procure permission to extract a Jack ass of the best breed.’ At that time the exportation of these animals from Spain was forbidden by law, but Florida Blanca, the Spanish minister of state, brought the matter to the attention of the king, who in a fit of generosity proceeded to send the American hero two jacks and two jennets. One of the jacks died on the way over, but the other animals…arrived on the fifth of December, 1785.

According to careful measurements…[Royal Gift] was fifteen hands high, and his body and limbs were very large in proportion to his height; his ears were fourteen inches long, and his vocal cords were good. He was, however, a sluggish beast, and the sea voyage had affected him so unfavorably that for some time he was of little use. Ultimately, however, ‘Royal Gift’ recovered his strength and ambition and proved a valuable piece of property.

[Royal Gift] was presently sent on a tour of the South…No doubt the beast aroused great curiosity along the way among people who had never before set eyes upon such a creature. We can well believe that the cry, ‘General Washington’s jackass is coming!’ was always sufficient to attract a gaping crowd. And many would be the sage comments upon the animal’s voice and appearance.

In 1786 Lafayette sent Washington from the island of Malta another jack and two jennets…The new jack, the ‘Knight of Malta,’ as he was called, was a smaller beast than ‘Royal Gift,’ and his ears measured only twelve inches, but he was well formed and had the ferocity of a tiger. By crossing the two strains Washington ultimately obtained a jack called ‘Compound,’ who united in his person the size and strength of the ‘Gift’ with the courage and activity of the ‘Knight.’ The General also raised many mules, which he found to be good workers and more cheaply kept in condition than horses.

Henceforward the peaceful quiet of Mount Vernon was broken many times a day by sounds which, if not musical or mellifluous, were at least jubilant and joyous.

Excerpted from Sue Weaver, The Donkey Companion (Storey Publishing, 2008).

 

I think yesterday was one of the best days of young Bernard’s life. While his brothers were contentedly eating breakfast, Bernard wanted a part of whatever was going on as soon as Don started backing up the trailer.

It was a perfect New Mexico day as we drove to The 7MSN Ranch.

As soon as we arrived, Bernard expressed his excitement by letting out a big, loud bray. George and Alan were so excited, they floated on air.

I simply loved seeing Bernard in this environment.

After a delicious lunch on the porch – while watching the burro brothers and Bernard gallop past in single file – we all took a walk in the pasture. Bernard made himself completely at home and led the way.

George, Alan, Carson and Hank were right behind us.

And when it was time to head back to the barn, Bernard led the way once again.

At the end of the afternoon, parting was such sweet sorrow. By the time we arrived home, the sun was beginning to set as we crossed the Rio Grande, and the only thing Bernard could talk about was the next time he visits The 7MSN, Ellsworth will be along for the ride. ♥

This cinch buckle is pretty significant for me this week.

I took my first riding lesson – EVER in my whole life! – yesterday. SO amazing. I felt like I really and truly rode a horse for the first time.

It wasn’t at all like my previous experiences, which for the most part, have been on horses that simply followed the rear end of the horse in front of them. Even if I had fun pretending I was,  I know I was never the one in control on any of those horses.

My horse yesterday was Miracle Foxy Czar, a.k.a. Foxy; an Egyptian Arabian. Gorgeous. Gentle. Smart. Responsive. Who knew? Foxy responded to my legs, my posture, my balance. I hardly had to use the reins. Who knew a horse could respond to every single – even minute – change in me and what I was doing?

Linda, my instructor, must have thought I was maniacal. She kept showing me things, and I think I kept saying, “This is so cool!”  And, “Oh my gosh!”  And, “This is amazing!”  I mean, seriously? How cool was it that all I had to do was lean forward a bit and Foxy’s pace picked up in response? How cool was it that all I had to do was push one leg or the other into him and he’d move for me? How cool was it that my balance determined whether he went left or right?

I told Don I felt as if I had been plugged into Foxy. A whole new world opened up for me… I never knew horses could read a person like Foxy read me.  And it felt so good. So amazing! So real!

Here’s Foxy. Did I mention he’s gorgeous?

I can barely wait for our next lesson. ♥