Have you ever seen a poodle dressed up in a tutu? No, I didn’t think so. My girlfriend, Liz, has a toy poodle named Mitzi who she likes to dress up like a doll in all manner of strange little outfits. Liz came out to the ranch with Mitzi wearing a pink tutu, a bonnet and sun-glasses. Then Liz looked out at my horses and said, “Horses seem so dull and boring. They stand around like big blocks of ice with no personality. Why do you keep such costly animals who display such little emotion?” Yikes, this is coming from a grown woman who put sunglasses on her dog!
May I introduce you to Baxter? He is my oldest horse, a Texas-branded Quarter Horse that is about twenty-seven years old. He is a giant of a horse, well mannered and will do just about you ask him to do. Unless what are you asking him to do interferes with his plans to do something else. Actually, he is barn sour, buddy sour, agoraphobic, claustrophobic with occasional panic attacks. Other than that, he is easy-going.
Baxter loves children and is the perfect “kid horse.” He has carried four grandsons, three nieces and numerous neighbor children of all ages on his back. He likes little girls best of all and doesn’t mind if two (possibly three small ones) are riding at the same time. He can go bareback and is very safe and gentle with all kids.
Adults can ride him too. He has been the “family horse” for many years and any adult non-rider can get on him in the arena. He has more photos taken with people riding him than Roy Roger’s Trigger, with daughters, nieces, son-in-laws, neighbors, cousins and friends mounted happily on him as he trots them around in circles. The only family member who hasn’t ridden Baxter is my 94-year-old mother. (Still working on her).
Baxter also likes to be ridden on the trail. Unless he sees a leaf falling from a tree, or a squirrel running across his path, or a candy-wrapper blowing along the ground. Because then he will give you the ride of your life, so you better hold on. He does not walk fast, unless a mountain lion is stalking him (in his mind) and at times he won’t move at all. One time I rode him off the property and he didn’t want to go, so he started walking backwards back down the road. He is undertrained, under-ridden and over-indulged. He would be a great horse with a good rider, except now he has pretty bad arthritis.
Baxter has many talents. He can take a huge swig of water and hold it in his mouth for a very long time. Then, without warning, he can spit the water out like a stream coming from a water pistol! He has done this to a few neighbors and likes to walk up to folks and squirt them in the face! (Not very neighborly). He loves to stick his tongue out. I am not sure why but he hangs his tongue out like a slab of bacon. He has a habit of nipping (mostly other horses).
If you want to halter Baxter, he will put his head down. Unless he doesn’t want to. Then he will hold his head up so high that you almost need a stool to get to the top. He loves being groomed and bathed. Especially by little girls who dote on him. Once groomed, he loves to run to the nearest patch of dirt and will roll and roll till he is completely filthy. He stays in the barn during a rain storm, but once over he will find some mud and lie down in it until he is caked from head to tail.
When I got him he was twelve years old and had spent most of his time around other ranch horses. But then I paired him up with a pretty little filly and it was love at first sight. The petite chestnut mare, Sedona, with a thick black mane, became his dream-girl. For nine years, until Sedona became ill and passed away, he stayed in her orbit., happy to follow her around. Baxter was love-sick.
When Sedona died, Baxter was inconsolable. He kicked the barn and refused to eat. He got a bleeding ulcer. His hair on his forehead turned pure white in two months. He paced the arena back and forth like a horse gone mad. He suffered greatly.
Today he has a little palomino pony named Buttercup, who has helped him through the grief. He treats her like a little sister. Sometimes annoyed with her antics, other times ignoring her, but mostly tolerating her company. Baxter’s appetite is back and he loves his horse treats. He can eat as much as an elephant without gaining weight. He has felt the joy of love and the agony of loss. He has shown kindness to children and has the personality of Dennis the Menace and Mr. Ed combined.
I guess I could sell Baxter for about one-hundred dollars. But the buyer would bring him back because he would know he had paid too much. And the truth is, if someone offered me a million bucks for Baxter today, it wouldn’t be enough. So I guess, we are stuck with each other, “till death do us part.” Hope it’s not soon.
Blocks of ice? No personality? Dull? Absolutely wrong! Costly? More like priceless. But at least no tutu is required.
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