Her life energy is the other side of the spectrum to that of Flying Crow. Will that make their off spring a perfect balance? She is calm, gentle, round and soft. She is the big mother with presence like a heavy, warm blanket. She is the one Crow runs to when I let him back out on pasture after a ride. The big red mare and the little bay stallion put their heads together, arch their necks (is that where the symbol of the heart for love came from?). She is his favorite mare. She is the Boss Mare of the heard, yet without being bossy. She can lead without kicking, biting, chasing. She leads with kindness and fairness, very subtle, but that is all this herd needs. They listen, and follow and obey her, but without fuss or a big to-do. She just floats through her heard as they make way for her respectfully, like a parting of the sea they clear the way as she walks through to get to the hay, get to the water, get to me. At the worst, she will pin back her ears and give whichever horse has not followed her heed the “evil eye.” I’m amazed at the calmness and ease with which she can lead. I see from her how little it takes to get the job done, and how tender a leader can be. A fair lady.
I did not mean to buy her. Me, with my supposed frugal ways! We went there to buy the 2 year old paint horse, thought the flash and dash of the paint would go over well with our guests. We were right there – Carlos is not only the “pretty boy” of the barn, he’s a good, solid horse, both in body and mind, and the guests love him.
But her, the little red mare, we didn’t need.
What can you say when a 17 year old tries to sell you her horse that she trained in order to raise money for college? No?
I couldn’t either.
So we took the little mare home and hopefully helped put a girl through school.
She was three when we purchased her, and the girl who suckered me actually did a swell job training the little mare. She got a good test from the get go. As it was late in the season, we were not able to get the horse trailer into the ranch. Bob dropped me off with the little mare and that flashy paint horse, and I rode in.
For the 6 ½ miles into the ranch, in completely unknown territory, with the huge Rio Grande Reservoir on one side of the narrow dirt road, the cliff face of Finger Mesa on the other, and ice patches sporadically placed along the road, she walked on a loose rein, with the paint ponying behind her.
It took us two hours to ride into the ranch at a steady walk. We arrived in the pitch dark. It was ten degrees. Suddenly these two horses found themselves, like we live, in the middle of no where, alone on this mountain with the three of us.
Her name was Star. Like with altogether too many horse operations, we already had two with the same name. Big Star and Little Star. So this Star became the third Star, or number three. Tres.
Over the past 7 years, Tres, the little red mare, grew up quite a bit. Her nick name now is BFM. Forrest named her that. Short for Big Fat Mama. Said, of course, most lovingly.
From her first summer working with us, I found she was the sweetest horse we had. Just plain nice. Good to people, you know? Patient, kind, soft, gentle. She would take care of the rider, and also listen to the rider. We could watch riders confidence grow when on her back because they would feel safe and strong, and know when they were doing things right, but not be scolded by her for doing things wrong. She’d gently smile at the guests, and I think they could tell.
On one of her first fishing day trips, we made the mistake of pairing her with a very tall, strong man. I take a great deal of interest in trying to learning my riders well enough (and certainly knowing my horses well enough) that I can make a good match. I want both horse and rider to get along. Every once in a while, I don’t pay attention to the match, and I pay the price. This time, I could have paid… but Tres put up with the miss match very politely. The day went well, fishing was a success, and we were mounting up to make the two hour ride back from the lake to the ranch. When this man attempted to get on Tres, he must have misjudged his size, or hers, but he ended up lifting himself completely over her, onto the other side, and in a split second, flat on the ground underneath her. Tres stood there, didn’t move a foot but looked down at the man with such sympathy in her eyes as if to say, “Oh, poor man!”
Besides doing the finest job at caring for our guests, her side job was training me. Everything I wanted to teach Flying Crow, I would first try on her. Really. The equine guinea pig. She’d sigh, kind of roll her eyes at me when I’d do it all wrong. And then sort of smile and pick up her pace when I was right on. As a result of all my testing on her, she became wiser, softer, more sensitive and more in tune with me. We learned to communicate well together. And what a pleasure to ride, not only because of her disposition, but her size and movement, so soft and feminine and smooth… I sit on her big round back, trot up the trail even bareback, and feel like I’m riding a Cadillac.
And then the pleasure I take in guiding on her, watching her perk up at the head of the string. She knows when she has the place of honor, and takes her job seriously. It’s amazing to see the difference. The slow, gentle, mild demeanor picks up as if a bright light is turned on within her. She walks faster, arches her neck, looks around with bright attentive eyes, ears up and forward. She’s suddenly capable of such quick movements when her “job” requires her to keep an eye out for scary objects ahead on the trail. So quick, in fact, and so unexpected from this usually mild and mellow mare, that I believe I’ve been left in the dirt on the trail more than once by this horse. I always tell my guests, “Pay attention! Be riding all the time!” Practice what you preach, Gin…
But more often than not, we do not ride her during our main summer season. She’s had a more important role than that of great trail horse. She’s Mama. Now, even Grandma. Many of her herd are her offspring now. The others, she treats as fairly and as lovingly.
I have had the honor of assisting her at birth. Her first time, she was scared. She should be – it is scary! I was checking on her every couple of hours. I still believe she was waiting for me to be there when her water finally broke and she pushed her way through a successful birth, with me doing my best to soothe her, pet her, try to help her be as comfortable as possible. There was no doubt , the moment the birth was completed, even in her exhausted state, she slowly bent her neck around, and nickered at this new beautiful life. I think she smiled a most peaceful smile.
Tres is now full with her fourth foal. She will birth early this year. I’m concerned, as there will be snow, mud, frigid temperatures, and a closed road, therefore no veterinarian help if need be. Flying Crow got to her last spring before I could stop him. (It only takes once.) We will see. We will do all we can for her and her baby. We will have to believe.
She had no papers, no fancy bloodlines to follow or to give us hope of what she would bring us and do for us. Just a lovely face and a kind eye. Isn’t that far more valuable anyway? And a compassion that goes deep to her very core, harmonizing the higher frenzied energies of the herd, and of me. A balanced and equal partner for the feminine energy. She feels like a sister to me.