One of my cousins recently posted this picture on Facebook. I hadn’t thought about those couple years when Dad had an Appaloosa horse in a long time, but my first thought was I can’t believe we put little kids on that horse! But maybe he wasn’t as crazy as I remember him. Or, more likely, Dad made us run the 6 miles to the river bridge and back before we did the pony ride thing. Nothing like running in wet sand to take the fire out of a horse, but man I remember this one having a lot of fire.
Actually, I think good old Rio could be fodder for a lot of blog posts. But just as an introduction, here’s a short story while I make a note to dig up some more photos of the famous spotted horse.
We hadn’t had him for long when it was time to get my pony’s feet trimmed and new shoes, so Dad decided to just do them both. It was summertime, and I think I was about 14 or 15. Dad was at work, so it was my job to get the horses caught, haltered, and tied up at the hitching post for the farrier. We had used this guy several times before, and he was quite the master with the horses. Even my bay Carmel, who was blind in one eye and did NOT like his blind side messed with, didn’t give him any trouble. And again, my 14-year old memory could have exaggerated it, but I remember the guy being built like a block of muscle, having one eye, and about 3 missing fingers and being seriously scary.
So I had done my thing, caught both horses, and had Dad’s silly Appaloosa tied up and ready to go first. The guy shows up and takes one look at Rio and asks,
- “Did ya buy that horse there from a lawyer over at Elk?”
- “Uh, yeah, I think so…”
He just nodded and got out his gear, and an extra toolbox I hadn’t seen before. Out of it came a needle that looked about the size of my arm, and he began filling it up with what looked like enough tranquilizer to sedate a whole barn full of horses.
- “I swore I’d never work on this crazy horse again, but I guess as long as I’m here we might give him a try…”
Oh boy. “Give him a try??” All he needed was shoes, not open-heart surgery. He was ok with giving you his feet, I knew that much, but this was not sounding good at all. Remember, this is the guy who doesn't even sedate the BLIND horse. I’d never known a horse whose reputation preceded him, but I had also never heard this guy say more than 2 words at a time. At this point, I still hoped maybe he was exaggerating. After all, how bad could it be?
The answer is, REALLY bad. Rio was tranquilized, that was for sure, but that didn’t stop him from putting on a show demonstrating equine calisthenics with a hitching post. The first time the file hit his foot, he rared up, fell over backwards, and twisted his neck around until his eyes rolled back in his head, all in about 10 seconds. I really cannot imagine the un-sedated version, and it went downhill from there. I do think he got new shoes that day, but I also think that was the only pair he ever wore. If that horse had a motto, I think it was ‘Does NOT learn from experience’. He never did learn that filing his hoof was not akin to instant death and torture. Actually, it kind of was torture for everyone else involved, so maybe he was on to something there.