So much can change in a week! A week ago we were feeling fairly hopeless about Jesse James’ ability to continue with us on the Journey. We had given up on being able to visit the hot springs. We were in a rough situation in terms of saddles which fit horses and riders in their current combinations and, in need of another horse to join our herd, we’d looked at a mare who was on the far edge of our price range and who we knew, as soon as we saw her, wasn’t going to work for us. I spoke with my Dad on the ‘phone as we were waiting for her to arrive and he asked me, “Do you have the guts to send her back if she’s not the right horse?
“Yes.” I replied, with more assurance than I felt. “I have to, or I sabotage the whole trip.” I was good to have that clear Before she showed up. At that point in time I was feeling fairly confident that she was going to work for us, but I was concerned that $700 was more than we had any business spending on a horse. When Lucy got out of the trailer she was thin and nervous, looked older than the advertised 12 years, not paying attention to Gryph or I (or even the other horses) – she just wanted to eat as much grass as she could graze. Her withers were high and sharp and I didn’t feel that it was fair to ask her to carry 150# of pack, no matter what her owners said.
It was hard to say to them that she wasn’t going to work for us. They were obviously desperate to get rid of her and badly in need of the money. Ten minutes after they drove away with her the ‘phone rang and I was roundly cursed out. I’ll spare you the profanity, but some of the nicer bits included: “I hope you have the very worst luck. I hope your horse is crippled forever. I hope he bucks you off and hurts you.” I thanked the man for letting me know how he felt and hung up, feeling cursed and shaken.
Two days later we rode up to a house with 6 horses in the back yard. The woman who answered the door was on oxygen and hadn’t ridden in 7 years due to a serious car accident. Her horses were for sale, but only one looked suitable and none were within our price range. We spent the night in an RV out back (her husband was in the house with a bad cold), the horses in a goat pen, she brought us tangerines and hot cocoa mix – and in the morning we reached an agreement about Shyan – the mare I had my eye on. We offered 1/2 down and the other 1/2 to be paid within a year and walked down the road. Gryph reminded me of our “”no debt” policy, but I was feeling desperate. Within 3 miles the mare was obviously foot sore. We called T and asked her to come retrieve her horse (part of the written contract if Shyan didn’t work for us). She did, but wasn’t happy.As we were struggling to load Shyan into the trailer a woman stopped her jeep on the side of the highway and asked how she could help. She offered to find a place for us to spend the night – and she had a mare named Lily who just might…
We spent the night in an RV in a vacant lot, our ponies tied to the outside of C’s trailer and Lily pacing inside the trailer. It was dark by the time she arrived so we decided not to bring her out until the morning. Good call as Mr. James got loose that night and Saint Finehorn woke me at 4:45a to let me know that I needed to go looking for him. After 20 minutes of searching in the cold and dark I found him grazing contentedly, returned him to the trailer, and gave up on sleep for the night.
Friday morning we had our first Newspaper interview (the Taft Midway Driller) and then took Lily out to see what she looked like. She was lovely, but at 16 years and completely untrained (she’d had a saddle on once when she was 18 months old) – and with a very long back – we decided that she was probably not going to work as a pack horse given our situation, and we sent her home. C was gracious, and carried our luggage for a second day, as we rode to the Maricopa PO to pick up boxes of Christmas cookies and a map we needed for the next stretch. Then she loaded us all in her trailer and brought us to the Diamond O Ranch – where we’ve been given a much needed rest – and a place to get clean and reorganized for the next stretch. But what to do about a horse?
That afternoon we got a call from the vet. Jesse’s blood work was back and in the range of normal. With enough rest and careful reconditioning (and a change in diet) he should be able to continue. Then we got a ‘phone message from a woman, who told us about a man she knew who had a horse that might work for us. She left his ‘phone number but not her own. We called A – he had a big Thoroughbred mare – 13 years old – and free. Two years ago three people were crossing the country and wound up with one of his horses and he was offering her to us if we wanted her. We were a bit skeptical, but arranged to meet him the next day and take a look.
She was Big. And strong and solid with clean legs and a calm eye. We waited for A to arrive. Her name was Africa, a black bay, over 16h and not getting ridden enough. He got on her to show me that she was fine to ride – she trotted the whole time he was on her. I got on for a test drive, and she was Intense. and Big! Powerful – and trotted the whole time. Free. So we agreed that I’d come and ride her home the next day. B&O agreed to follow me until I felt comfortable and show me a cross-country way back to their place so we didn’t have to ride along the highway.
The first hour of the ride home I was sitting on the limit of how much horse I can handle. I had no idea where I was going – so grateful for my lead car so that I could keep my attention focused on the mare. I started singing to try and calm us both down and the first song that worked was “daisy, daisy, give me your answer do – i’m half crazy, trying to ride on you… ” B&O stuck with me the whole 3 hours home, riding through the oil fields, and by the time we arrived I was exhausted, she was calmer, and we’d renamed her Daisy.