Posted by: highmountainmuse | February 17, 2009

A horse named Quattro


Quattro crossing the Rio Grande just below our ranch.

Quattro crossing the Rio Grande just below our ranch.


Meet Quattro. The bad boy of the barn. His story isn’t quite as glamorous as that of Flying Crow’s.  Nor his breeding, nor his back ground.  He’s just another unpapered Quarter Horse someone dropped off at auction.  Who and from where, we’ll never know. Why? Well, we can sort of guess…


Bob picked him up in hopes he’d make a good Dude horse.  When he brought him home, there he was, one more sorrel horse with a star. Number four? After Tres, of course we had to name him: Quattro.


Bob unloaded him easily, and rode him bareback down the lane to the old barn. I saw he was “good to go.”  The next morning, his first here at the ranch, I saddled him up and rode him on a drop camp into the Wilderness, about 18 miles of back country, high mountain trails, leading a pack string.  He did well.  But he was fast.  So fast that the other guide I rode with, Bob’s dad, and a friend of his who came along for the ride, had to agree to let me go on, leave the two of them in the dust.  I let Quattro go at this own pace, and it was a might fine pace at that. 


The only “issues” we had were the two times the lead rope for the pack string went under his tail.  As most horse folks will tell you, this isn’t a big deal – horses get used to it, or at worst, they’ll clamp down their tail and give a little buck or something to let you they don’t like it.  But Quattro really didn’t like it.  He clamped down, gave a little buck, then zipped around 180 degrees, and bolted up the mountain through the trees, with the pack string following behind since he was holding on so tightly with his tail, and me, holding on for dear life and dodging branches along the way.


Ah well, no horse is perfect. He’ll learn. As anyone who has ridden with me when I lead a pack string off Quattro knows, he still hasn’t learned.  I’ve just learned to hold on and be ready, though more often than not, I ride with my arm outstretched to the side to keep that rope a safe distance from his tail.  Ridiculous, I know. So I relax my arm, and then better get ready to hold on.


I can’t say Quattro worked so swell as a Dude Horse.  As any guest who drew the short straw and ended partnered up with Quattro on a ride will tell you, either they are a really solid, experienced rider who was forewarned about being tested by this horse and appreciated the challenge… or they had a miserable ride.


Quattro "greeting" Flying Crow, not very warm and fuzzy.

Quattro "greeting" Flying Crow, not very warm and fuzzy.


Another slight issue we had with Quattro was that he thought he was the stallion of my mares.  So when we brought little Flying Crow, a real stallion, into the picture, it was not pretty.  As you can see, Quattro figured his job was to kill the competition.  We’d have to separate the two of them by a full pasture in between for a buffer zone. Always something…


Eventually we got wise and decided it was time to bring this bad boy back to auction.  Someone got rid of him for a reason, and we’d do the same.  This is just not the industry for taking on problem horses. Back to auction we were intending on bringing him.


But then a funny thing happened.  It was the middle of our riding/guiding season, and the papered owner of the horse I’d been guiding on for the past four years suddenly decided to take him away from me to “retire” him early, across the fence. Yes, another unfortunate in-law story. But this one saved Quattro!


Short on horses as most folks have to be now a days, with feed prices so high and pasture so slim, I didn’t know which horse to adopt for my guide horse, which horse to take away from our Dude string to call on to be my partner. Bob’s great about guiding on green horses, the young and the troubled.  Not me.  I like a good solid mount who knows the trails, knows me, and knows his job so that I can focus on taking care of the guests or the packs. I like a “relationship” with my guide horse, sappy as this may sound, and I’m willing to work for it. I scanned across the pasture at our horse herd… and saw Quattro.  I knew he’d have to do. And yes, I’d have to work for it. He rather scared me, I knew he was a horse that would question my every move and I could never just sit back and enjoy the ride on. But maybe in time we’d work things out.


Of course, we have. At least, we’ve progressed quite a bit and continue to work “things” out together. Over the past three years that I have been able to have him as my partner, we’ve done alright, and better every year.  I’ve sure worked at it, and he’s sure had to put miles on with me to learn – he averages well over 500 high-mountain, back-country miles with me each year.


I worry about putting Quattro on the “back burner” now that Flying Crow is moving into a position where he can be a guide horse.  But I can’t see passing Quattro on to anyone else.  I think of how long it used to take for people to ‘catch” him, how many times he’s run away from camp, and now how he’s finally learned to ground tie on the trail and wait for me before moving on… most of the time.  He’s been a handful, but I have a feeling he feels the same way about people and how he’s been treated in the past.  Myself included. We’ll see what we can figure out together this summer.  We’ll work it out.



  1. Thanks for the comment. I’m new to this whole blogging thing and recognition is great :). I’m reading through your entries and loving them. I’m so happy that there are people out there who GET IT. The allure of the mountains and the open spaces and the ranches. Colorado mountain folk are a special breed and a wonderful one.


  3. Your words are enough to keep me going.
    thank you.

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