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Much work before the sunset gallop

September 18, 2011
By JANICE R. KIASKI - Community editor , The Herald-Star

Horse ownership in no way guarantees an immediate ride off into the sunset.

This I have discovered as a newbie in the equine department.

Now I'm a practical person, one who realizes that nothing is quite as wonderful as it seems, that everything has pros and cons, we don't live in a perfect world, yadda, yadda, yadda.

But I was reminded that there's an element of work even in these things we consider "hobbies" or "relaxing pursuits," horseback riding included.

All the pre-riding preparations are what you never see in the movies. Those westerns I watched as a horse-crazed kid, for example, never once showed Roy Rogers pulling burrs from Trigger's matted mane and tail or picking hooves heavy with, you know, stuff.

Trigger was always perfectly groomed. Saddled. Ready to go. Yee-haw.

My horse Coffee isn't, especially not one day this past week when I decided to go alone to the barn for the first time without a family entourage. I wanted to see how I'd do all on my own. I'm a cowgirl when I'm not newspaper woman, you know.

Well, first things first, which means capturing and putting into two separate stalls two horses that would otherwise probably misbehave around my horse.

This is challenge No. 1 - getting their attention wherever on the property they happen to be, sometimes close, sometimes not.

I rattle a bag of carrots to lure them to me, but it doesn't always work. And guess what? Just because you summon a horse by its name in no way means it will respond the way a dog does and come rushing toward you.

If it does, I highly recommend getting out of the way.

When I manage to get these two horses in and settled, more "leisure time" than I care to calculate has passed. I hoof it as fast as I can to a far-off field to catch Coffee, who ignores me as I call her name. Funny, I've had kids do the exact same thing.

Coffee seems quite content grazing on the grass, but does lift her head briefly my way if only to acknowledge "the human" is on the premises again, with a lead line in hand and probably a desire to throw a saddle on and ride. Darn.

So nice to feel welcomed.

The thing about having a mare, I've also discovered, is that mares have cycles and moods. Great news here, having two females grumpy at the same time. We can either console each other or be at each other's throats, I suppose.

It's amazing how dirty a horse can get, especially one you just gave a bath. They don't seem to have much personal pride either, I've noticed.

Brushing away caked-on dirt is one fun facet of horse ownership, followed up with burr removal. There's just no fast way to remove burrs, so I spend this time talking to Coffee as I make progress.

I figure if nothing else, maybe she'll stay away from burrs from now on if only to avoid having these one-sided conversations.

A little hoof cleaning and on goes the tack. Nothing like hoisting a 25-pound saddle on an animal taller than you are.

Now it's actually time to giddy up and go.

I would have ridden off into the sunset that evening but there was barely any left, no thanks to the days growing shorter and horses getting dirtier and more elusive.

But that's why God made tomorrow.

I'll be happy to give it another shot.

I'm a cowgirl when I'm not newspaper woman, you know.

Happy trails!

(Kiaski, a resident of Steubenville, is a staff columnist for the Herald-Star and Weirton Daily Times and community editor for the Herald-Star. She can be contacted at

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