IT WAS AUGUST 1997 when Snow entered my family’s lives. We’d all left our separate houses to move to up to Sequim from California.
My parents, Robert and Deonne Hanson, sister Laraine Claire with her four children, Brianna (Breezy), Brooke, Wesley and Keaton, went to live on the 5-acre property with the “big house on the hill.”
Naturally, I went, too, champing at the bit, so to speak, for the opportunity to have my own horse again and to explore riding trails through forests and mountains.
First thing I did was to completely fence in the pasture for horses. Along the front of the property was a beautiful split-rail fence, four rows high and made of cedar. So I purchased more cedar rail to line the pasture up our 450-foot drive.
That was Mistake No. 1 because the rails were from new cedar and not old-growth cedar.
New cedar apparently holds water, whereas old growth is tighter so the rain doesn’t soak in as readily. Thus, less than 10 years later, I was replacing the fence.
With the fence done, my mother and I traveled to the horse auction in Yelm to see about getting a horse.
Naive? Yes, but I was determined to buy a horse before the summer was over.
At the auction, I fell in love with the pure-white Shetland pony, Snow, then 4. He was still in his stall, and the owner was holding her toddler on his back.
Snow was so calm and cute — perfect for the already horse-crazy little Brooke, then 5. We bought him on the spot for $400.
Then, an almost pure-black, 17-hand thoroughbred entered the auction arena with his owner, a woman about my age, riding him. Just 9 years old, he was stunning to look at, responsive and light on his feet.
Perfect, I thought, for my brother’s horse-loving daughter, Ashley. When she wasn’t visiting from California, he’d be mine to ride.
Not many people bid on him, so we got him for the surprisingly-low price of $600.
The owner said he’d previously been on the race track, and his name was Wiley Coyote. She was selling him because she didn’t have the time to ride him.
After purchasing the two animals, how were we going to get them from Yelm to Sequim? We’d driven a sedan and didn’t own a horse trailer.
The announcer asked if anyone was there from Sequim with a horse trailer. Fortunately, a good-looking cowboy with a dark-blue goose-neck trailer was taking an empty trailer back to Port Angeles. He was very kind and didn’t charge much, but I can’t recall his name, only that he “saved the day.”
We arrived home in the dead of night. When Coyote and Snow got out of the trailer and were placed into 3 acres of knee-high lush grass, they looked stunned, as if to say, “Are we really in paradise?”
For horses, yes!
Can you spot all the mistakes I’d made so far?
First: Fencing not suitable for horses unless it had “hot wire” or an electric fence to keep them from pushing against the wood.
Second: Going to a horse auction without having the knowledge needed to test and try a horse (or pony) to the point I knew they were kid-friendly and safe.
Third: Buying without the transportation to take them the 2½-hour drive to Sequim.
Fourth: Releasing horses new to a pasture, which may have had hazards, in the dark night and into a lush pasture they could have easily gotten laminitis (they didn’t).
The next morning, I put Brooke on a bareback Snow and led them around. He did wonderful.
I quickly purchased a pony bridle and saddle. At first, I still led them around. Snow was so calm I decided to let Brooke take a spin around the chain-link-fenced backyard.
That’s when Snow’s true personality came out.
My lack of foresight became apparent, and Snow earned the name Snowball Express.
In all ways, he is the perfect pony, except when he scoots out lightning-quick and leaves his innocent rider on the ground.
That’s how he earned his true name Snowball Express.
Just when I thought he was safe to ride, he’d do it again and again, even to much older and more experienced young riders.
Later, Snow became the fearless Wesley’s pony, proving himself a wonderful trail horse who could easily keep up with the long-strided Coyote.
Thankfully, 19 years later, Snow’s much calmer, but I’ll be leading Isaac, Brooke’s son, on him for a long time.
As for Coyote, he didn’t know to stand still for mounting, and turns out, he’d never been on a trail so had no idea how to walk a straight line.
He also had an old bowed tendon from his days on the track, but it healed over and so was never a problem.
I explored every inch of the Department of Natural Resources trails and beyond with the eager and willing Coyote, who turned out to be the best trail horse ever.
By the time Brooke was 9, she was barrel-racing on our seasoned horse, April, and we were up to three ponies and four horses for all my nieces, nephews and their friends to ride.
It was a wild, crazy and hectic time, and I loved every minute of it.
Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears every other Sunday.If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at email@example.com at least two weeks in advance. You can also write Griffiths at PDN, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.