Friday, November 7, 2014

The Inevitable

I knew it from the beginning.  I did.  I knew it by the steady stream of horse books coming home from the library.  I knew it by looking around my daughter's bedroom.  I knew it when I scanned the empty back pastures and the generous hay supply in the barn.  I knew it as my husband's stoic resolve crumbled month by month.  Heck, I even knew it while my son's eyes welled up into an allergic sneezing fit whenever he got within ten feet of a horse.  This day was destined to arrive at the Homestead.

We have a horse.  Her name is Misty.

About two weeks ago, my husband, Hank, came home from work, excited about his latest discovery on craigslist (which he scrolls through over most lunch hours).  I could hear the trepidation in his voice when he said, "So I happened to come across a horse today..."  I laughed.  "Happened to?  Like it popped up in your search under horses?"  As the conversation progressed, it became clear that Hank had already done some preliminary research, contacting both the seller and his sister who is the family Horse Lover.  His ducks were in a nice, neat little row before presenting this very convincing case to me.  The horse is older, but healthy, on the smaller side and dead broke, likes children and presumably sheep, and very inexpensive.  The following Sunday afternoon the family piled into the car and took a drive.  It was inevitable.

Our daughter has been interested, no, in love with, horses since the age of four when we took her to the petting zoo.  I never loved horses as a child and have zero experience with them as an adult.  Hank never loved horses as a child, but has some experience and a lot of pluck as an adult.  And our son, I'm not exaggerating when I say he is horribly allergic to them.  But our daughter, the Rancher as we call her now, is calm, quiet, disciplined and persistent.  This experience is just what she needs to build her self-confidence and take her responsibility to the next level (she was in charge of the chicks all summer).  I imagine that coming out the other side of this, we'll find a mature young lady in our house.

Over the past years of horse-getting discussions, Hank and I had impressed upon our little Rancher the amount of responsibility required by a horse.  We'd talked at length about the before and after school chores, the worry of making enough hay and having enough pasture, the potential health problems, the overall costs and the simple fact that we didn't know much about owning a horse.   In fact, we'd done such an effective job of drilling this, that when the Inevitable came, our Rancher was almost afraid to be excited, the thoughts of all those forthcoming responsibilities weighing heavy on her small shoulders.  It took a couple of days before Reality really sunk in, and our daughter realized that Misty was hers, not only her responsibility, but also her joy. 

Each morning the little Rancher is out of bed before Hank and I.  She straps on the headlamp, hauls water buckets and tosses hay.  As soon as she's off the bus, she's back into her mud boots.  Toting her brushes out to the pasture, Misty gets a grooming, more hay, water and a pan of grain.  I'm typically in the kitchen making supper when the Rancher returns, and I get the evening Farm Report.  I'm informed that we need more bedding under the barn eaves because the runoff is making too much mud or that we're running low on sugar cubes.  I hear details about Misty's hooves or how her coat is growing thicker with the cold weather (she's part Curly).  But every day, my heart is warmed by the glow in my daughter's face and the sparkle in her eye.  Okay, it's only been two weeks and we're not experiencing that polar vortex yet, but I know this is a good thing. 

Hank has taken the reins (harhar!) on this inevitable Homestead Experiment.  He's put in the time, done the reading and sets his own To Do list aside when the little Rancher comes struggling around the corner with the saddle.  He knows how much this means to her, and their relationship grows stronger every day as together they work with Misty.  It reminds me how blessed I am to have such a husband, such a family, such a Life that can afford these simple joys.  Simple joys that took us on a family trip to the new Tractor Supply store where we ogled over the pretty halters and matching ropes.  Simple joys that led to an entrepreneurial discussion on how to market Misty's manure as the "world's best compost" (while we were shoveling it).  Simple joys that will involve the sewing of saddle pads and quilted blankets.  As with any new undertaking, Misty seems to have momentarily permeated all aspects on the Homestead.

Right now our goal is to fatten Misty up a little before Winter and, of course, learn the ins and outs of the equine species.  At the Homestead, our animals well-being is our topmost priority.  We aren't in the business of winning ribbons or breeding for perfection or even making money.  We raise animals for our own enjoyment and our own sustainability.  We strive to ensure that they have the best lives they can, with minimal stress and maximum affection.  So it appears that this Fall the sheep have a little more competition for hay and pasture, but as with most deals made over the fence line, I think the Shepherdess and the Rancher can work out something mutually beneficial.  I'll be sure to post updates on Misty, and I would love to hear your advice for a confessed Newbie!


  1. Hi Sarah. My name is Christine Tedder, aka Tina. I am cousins with Catherine Davis. She pointed me in your direction because your daughter got her first horse. Congrats!! I have 2 of my own. My parents always told me when I was younger, "you can have a horse when you can pay for it yourself". I was 30 years old when I got my first horse. If you ever have questions/concerns, or if your daughter has questions, feel free to point her in my direction. Please tell your daughter that I recently got a new horse. He's an appy, 17 hands, 1200 pounds and he's 9 years old. His name is Junior. He's a wonderful horse (and I found him on craigslist). I will tell you this Sarah, your daughter will bloom before your eyes. Once bitten by the "horse" bug, you just never recover. I'm sure your pasture will support your "herd". I have a great friend who has sheep as well. His name is Ted Sartell. You can see his place on facebook. I get my hay from him and he knows so much about pasture management. See, you are very well connected already. I look forward to reading your blog and seeing Misty doing her job. Tell your daughter with her riding to straighten her back a bit more, and to have a nice straight line from her shoulder, to hip, to heel. Heels down all the time... even now, I have to remind myself of that when I ride :-) Take care !!! Tina

  2. Oh I remember these days - now my girls are married - horses still here - but, I wouldn't have had it/have it ANY other way. I look forward to reading about your horse stories and Misty. You are right, herdmanship teaches children so much responsibility and helps them appreciate what they have.

  3. i know absolutely nothing about horses...but i will say i am jealous of the rancher. what a special girl she must be and what lovely parents she has! Thank you for sharing. give misty a hug for me!

    -dani e

  4. Well, that just positively warms my heart! Misty will keep her busy and out of trouble for sure-I like your parenting style. ;)

  5. I'm so excited for all of you, Misty seems like a lovely girl!

    I've been around horses my whole life and I'm lucky enough to have 4 rescues out in my pasture (along with a few other critters, including a hilarious Dorset wether) and my best advice for putting a bit of weight on the girl for the winter would be to add a cup of alfalfa pellets (not cubes) and some soaked beet pulp (it has to be soaked overnight, it can't be fed dry.) The alfalfa pellets will fill out her topline (the hollowed area near her withers) and the beet pulp will help her to bulk up. I only feed beet pulp through the winter, but the little bit of alfalfa year 'round.

    Good luck!!!

  6. wonderful! lovely!
    misty and your sweet daughter look like a good team already! i only like horses from far - to big - but hubby is a horse lover and was exited to read this :-)
    looking forward for more daughter&horse news!!!


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