Now you are probably wondering, “Why am I telling you all of this?” Because several remarks were made to me about how terrible Honor looked when we arrived in Minnesota. All I could think was she looked amazingly well for all she went through – 1300 miles we traveled. All I could think was that it was a blankety blank miracle we made it at all. Yes she was thin – we all were. I had to remind myself that it was ignorance because those that criticized have no idea what we’d gone through. From central Montana all through the Dakotas into Minnesota we had 6 weeks of 90 degree heat and up – unbearable heat. There were problems with her withers, problems with just riding on an unseasoned, not very strong, nervous horse, Claire’s terrible barbwire cut, my feet and again the heat.
We had to be up at 4 am to ride until 11 am, then off until 5-6 pm, then riding again until dark. We had a time restriction with weddings in Minnesota. I think I wanted to quit every day. So must have Claire and Honor. I walked many mornings with bundles of cut grass from beautiful wide ditches we walked along and I’d hold it so Honor could eat as we walked. I picked young field corn and did the same just to get more food into her. Each night, I bathed her back and massaged her. But one could not keep enough water in her, not with heat like that.
Our one month off while at my sister’s and brother-in-law’s home was a much needed time to rest and recoup. Another worming, corn, oats, a high protein feed, grass hay, alfalfa hay, grass and oil was fed in ample supplies. She’s filled out more than I’ve ever seen her. She looks strong. Her shoulders and back have muscled in and there’s a set of hind quarters on this horse to show any horse off. We rest today – this afternoon in Lake Park, Iowa off the side of the road, yards and homes (dogs) on one side – a farm implement business on the other. It is cool here under huge old oak trees and the breeze has just a hint of fall. Waconia to Lark Park, a little less than 200 miles, took us 10 easy days along the nicest riding roads – straight soft gravel roads with bountiful, luscious, smooth ditches full of alfalfa, clover and corn fields from which I now pick maturing corn twice a day. When we stop to ask for water, which is often three to four times per day, we rarely leave without our bags full of garden produce from these park like farms of white old farm houses, neatly mowed lawns and red barns. I would recommend Minnesota to anyone for a long ride – safe, nice traveling and very friendly, curious people the entire ride.
Last year’s ride, already so very different from this one (as I’m sure all rides will vary greatly) reminds me once again how little I know about the horse, how great the understanding can be. My brother-in-law has hunting dogs – bird dogs – way fast, never still dogs. I said to him I thought that perhaps these dogs would make good traveling dogs; they’d keep up so well. Of course, they would have to be trained not to hunt. His reply: “It would break their spirits.”
And I thought many would think the same about my taking a horse bred to race, whose spirit is meant to run, loading her with heavy weight and asking her to walk – quietly – thousands of miles. But I beg to differ. Come, follow along as we share between the three of us apples, carrots, bananas, crackers, plums, peaches. We share grass beds as she lies next to Claire and I. She stands quietly waiting for saddle and packs with a morning feed bag of oats and salt. She walks easily, looks around with interest and truly shows affection for both Claire and I with soft knickers and her desire to stand close to us. Perhaps I do know why I chose this horse. Because I knew without a doubt what I saw in this animal’s eyes was willingness. That is why I said, “OK, let’s try.”
Long Rider, Bernice Ende
Lake Park, Iowa