This is a digital photo of a paper photo - Ginger when she was two years old, the first year she came to Spirit Creek Farm.
I do not know how Ginger, my American Quarter Horse mare, would stack up in a herd of other horses but I do know she would not give up her crown as Empress of Spirit Creek Farm without a tremendous battle of will. She is not a mean horse, but a willful one and I recognize that determination.
I do not know a lot about her early life. She was foaled on a farm somewhere by Lawrence, Kansas. The owners were allowing their horses to freely breed, so Ginger was sold away from her mother and her herd due to overcrowding. At her second home, she was a bit flighty and "buddy sour" and so she was sold again, the second time she was not wanted. The day she was moved to my house, Ginger trustingly loaded for her second owner, not realizing she would never see Mac again, her beloved stablemate. I only had an eighty foot pen with a three sided run-in for shade when she first arrived. Before spring was gone, there was a nice open-sided barn for her to shelter in. It took another season to get the full pasture fenced so she had space to roam.
When Ginger lived in the corral, she was fed twice a day, groomed, petted, loved and fed carrots or apples. She eventually seemed to bond with me. It was a lot of work when she was in the pen, keeping manure out of the stall and out of the pen itself. I spread a mountain of horse manure around my pasture from the back of my pickup. The last big mountain of horse manure became so large that there was enough to spread over the entire pasture. I hired one of my neighbors who owns all the correct farming equipment to spread an enormous pile of horse manure. Whenever I looked at that huge mound, of which I had personally scooped every steaming ounce by hand, I became mighty self righteous. Ginger should love me unequivocally, I thought. She should appreciate how much I work and sacrifice for her, I thought.
In the deep of winter, when the temperature does not rise above freezing for days, eventually the water tank freezes solid. I have to haul water buckets up hill for Ginger, and I am old... and overweight... and my knees hurt. She should love me and appreciate me, I always think sorrowfully to myself. But horses, especially bossy horses, do not think in these terms. They seem to know they are descendants of the great horse nations that predate human beings on this planet by thousands of years. They apparently have genetic memories of the time when humans were slow, miserable beings, huddled in caves, banging rocks together for amusement. In the considered opinion of modern horses, human beings have not evolved much. In Ginger's opinion, we have not evolved at all.
She came to me knowing most of the things she needed to know - how to lead on a halter, pick up her feet and stand for a farrier. She has never liked having a bit in her mouth, but willingly allows one to be placed there. I can saddle her, flap towels around her, and place a fly mask over her eyes, but I had to work really hard to teach her fly spray would not hurt. She hated the sound of it.
No one had ever ridden her, so I sent her off to be trained for riding the summer she was four. I regretted leaving her at those stables, though I could clearly see she would be well cared for. She would have many horse friends, too. I thought she would enjoy that time away at horse school.
When she came home, I was thinking I had a finished horse to ride. As I was picking myself up from the ground, I realized that Ginger held the same opinion of hauling me around as she held for fly spray: NO WAY. She held as much respect for me in the saddle as she has for me scooping out her stall. Not only was it embarrassing to fall off a horse (for the first time in my entire life) but it hurt my feelings. I was so bummed out that I considered selling Ginger to someone who could still ride, someone with good knees.
So, sadly I advertised "Pretty little Quarter Horse mare for sale." I was selling her very cheaply, and not even factoring in all the labor for hauling water and scooping manure! A young cowboy came to look at her. I had never personally sold a horse before, so I had no idea what I was doing. Not to mention, my heart was broken at the idea of Ginger going to yet another home.
I saddled her up and snapped a long line on her. I told the young cowboy that anything Ginger did not know was my fault. As I tried to long line her, for the first and only time ever, she reared up like Roy Roger's Trigger- right in front of the young cowboy and his girlfriend! I was appalled! He said she was a nice looking little mare but too much horse for him. As he walked away, I looked at Ginger and she was looking back at me. Devil horse!
When I told my kids what happened, they each had the same separate response: "She doesn't want to be sold, Mom!" Well, duh! She would have to work and behave herself if a cowboy owned her.
Eventually, I had a replanted tall grass pasture, and a good fence around about 22 acres, so I was able to let Ginger out of the dry lot where she had lived since she came to Spirit Creek Farm. My friend Kathyrne helped lead Ginger all the way around the perimeter of the pasture, along the fence, as a safety precaution. When we took the halter off and turned Ginger loose, she began to trot, then run and then full-out gallop in ecstatic freedom. Her hoof beats were literally booming on the soft ground as she picked up speed, and tears welled in my eyes at her joy.
Since that time, Annie has come to Spirit Creek Farm, another post for another day. And that brings us right up to today, a cold Kansas morning when my knees were really aching and my face was freezing in the arctic conditions. It snowed and it was a bitterly cold and windy night, so the horses were eagerly awaiting breakfast. First, Ginger did not think she had to back up so I could get in the gate. Then she was immensely put out when I picked up her feed tub and tried to knock the snow and ice out of it before I poured the feed in. She kept crowding me, tossing her head, and letting me know that as a servant I was truly lacking in all ways. She worked herself into such a snit, that when I insisted she back up, she actually turned her hind end toward me and bucked up with both rear hooves pointed in my direction! She did not actually kick at me. If she had, I would probably be dead or in the hospital right now. If she had kicked and missed, SHE would be in a horse hospital right now.
So, Gingeris Khan, the Horse Empress of Spirit Creek Farm and I are going to come to a little understanding: I will not ride her, she will not threaten to kick me. I will bring the feed, she will not crowd me at the gate or the tub. She will get room, board and free medical, I get to take care of her. She gets to boss Annie around, I get to look out my window any time to see two horses contentedly grazing in my restored pasture. Somehow I think these negotiations will require all of my evolutionary gifts.