This post (and this whole blog) is dedicated to my fat-n-happy, chunker, tank, trouble-maker, cuts-herself-up-all-the-time, can’t-get-along-too-well-with-others, orange sorrel mare Amber – a.k.a. Jellybean. She is 88.85% Foundation Quarter Horse with lineage to Paddys Irish Whiskey and Peptoboonsmal (yes I was a weirdo and calculated it).
Registered name: Beans Paddy Lena
Nicknames: Amber and Jellybean for every day; Stupid, Mare and Missy when she’s being stubborn; Baby girl, Honey, Sweet Pea when I’m feeling particularly happy; Hankie’s Tankie (dam’s name is Mylanta’s Hankie) and Hippopotamus and Hippopotamoose’s Caboose when she’s very muscled (ie fat lol)
Breed: Quarter Horse
Born: April 2010
Favorite things: Scratches (with legit anything), apples/apple treats, alfalfa/Bermuda mix hay, jumping, trails, being with people, being out riding (she really does love work), going on long hacks, bagpipes, mangoes and attention
Dislikes: Dusk (not joking), applause (no seriously, she hates it), grippy neoprene (will crow hop if saddle pad or girth is made of such material), and me riding other horses (seriously, she pins her ears at them)
As for our story, this may be a little long of an explanation for a lot of people, but it’s such a crazy and amazing story of how I got her that I feel I have to tell it in its entirety.
Just a teensy bit of back-story – as part of the Equine Science degree at Colorado State, there is a colt training class you can take. It involves many ranches – including ones such as Singleton Ranch, Burnett Ranches, Purina and others – consigning a horse(s), be they two or three-year-olds, to CSU for a student to train. That student halter breaks, rides for the first time, and trains this horse over the course of two semesters until the horse is sold in the Legends of Ranching Sale in late April.
So in my junior year I was finally able to take the class. The teacher assigned us our horses, and I get Beans Paddy Lena. Odd name, but those of us that had horses went to go see them. The rest of the horses would come a little later in the year. Well, I get in there, and look at her, and I remember thinking – she’s a pony! And immediately, I noticed she was scabby and just plain sorrel. Cue the sigh here. She definitely did not look like much. She honestly looked a bit homeless. And she was so tiny! I was sure I would be way too big on her.
Well, she was familiar with people, and haltered fairly easily (that went downhill when she realized me getting her meant work work work). But I also noticed she wanted nothing to do with me. She wanted her gorgeous red roan friend that came from the same ranch. She would call and call and call and I’d be desperately trying to get her attention and it was just a huge fail fest. Of course, I didn’t know anything, but with our teacher there and TAs to help we were always able to ask if we couldn’t get anything. But, it’s safe to say that I did not like her, and she wasn’t very fond of me for at least the first semester of the class.
When I came back from Christmas break and drove out to see her I was shocked. She’d lost her gangly self and had filled out. Granted, she wasn’t quite two yet, so she had a lot of growing to do, but still. And oddly enough she actually seemed happy to see me after break. It had done her good, and she felt a little more mature. Me being the fraidy-cat though, got help from the teacher and a few TAs to ride again after break (by that point I’d ridden her about 3-4 times), and after that we were on our way. It was a learning curve for both of us. I came back determined and she felt that but then she tested me in other ways and we had to get through that.
Then it was time for the student competition before the sale a week later. We did our speech first, and of course being the curious thing she is, she had to see if the microphone was edible.
After that we entered the riding phase, and she was so good and tried so hard. I was extremely proud of her. Turns out, that day was also her two-year-old birthday. It also turns out that while my speech was terrible, our ride was awesome – we won third against 30+ other horses, most of which were three-year-olds. She was the only two-year-old in the top ten. We ended up seventh overall, which was just fantastic.
By that point, I’d begun to really love her. She was super chill, relaxed, but she was always ready to go when you asked and would try her heart out. I loved that about her, and she started looking for me when I walked in. I knew after that competition that if I didn’t try to buy her, I would regret it for the rest of my life. My parents were coming for the sale, so in the remaining week, I contacted people, got pricing, and realized I could feasibly keep her if she didn’t cost too much. I had a little account that my parents had set up for me a while back, so I figured I could use that to purchase her. Since I was the one taking her through the sale ring, I couldn’t bid. But my dad could.
Amber was amazing in the preview before the sale, and I knew I had to do everything I could for this horse. I told my dad what my price point for her was, because I didn’t have much money in my little account, so if the bidding went over that, I knew I wasn’t getting her, and I knew that someone really wanted her and would take care of her.
I was a blithering bundle of nerves and she kept looking at me like “what’s your problem, ma?”. It didn’t help that sale day she kept nickering for me whenever I’d walk by. She’d never done that before; she’s not a talker unless grain is involved, and even then it’s only occasionally. But it also broke my heart because what if I didn’t get her? I tried to showcase her as best as I could, because maybe this little girl had a great owner in the future, better than me, and I didn’t want to short her on that. She meant too much to me for me to show at anything less than her potential. So I walked in there and the price climbed, and then it went over my threshold. I still don’t know how I managed to keep it together. But my heart broke when the price was over, and I desperately hoped whoever had gotten her was going to love her and do her justice. So I exited and my parents came over and told me they tried, but the bid had gone to someone else. Turns out that my dad, who is not a horse guy at all, was going to surprise me by going over my price point to try to make sure I got her.
Somehow I managed to keep it together for the rest of the day, and the new owners came by to see her. She was put off by all the attention, but we ended up talking for a bit and they found out my dad had been trying to bid on her for me. They seemed apologetic, but they had bought her fair and square, so we left on good terms and parted ways.
She shipped out the next day, and someone managed to get to me that the people who had taken her had left me a message at the office. I rushed over, hoping she hadn’t torn herself to bits or broken a leg or something like that and found a sticky with a few numbers. After calling all of them, only one worked, and when I asked if everything had gone okay with her pick up and if she was fine, they told me it had gone golden and they were going back to their ranch. So, we hung up, and I thought it was odd, but maybe random that they had left the numbers. Either way, I put it from my mind, and went back home to study for my next tests and finals.
It really hit me about a week and half later that I didn’t have her, and I wouldn’t ever. I had never been this attached to a horse before, but of course accepted that she wouldn’t be mine and kept going through finals.
A few days later, on a Saturday morning when I had nothing to do, I answered the phone thinking it was my mom. It was my dad. We chatted about how I was doing, then he said, “So, I made a call.” And I immediately broke into tears. I knew exactly who he had called and what he had called about when he told me that. I really don’t remember the rest of the conversation, just that there had been a lot of confusion. When I had called those numbers left for me, they were going to ask me if I still wanted her. But either the guy that picked up hadn’t known about it or whatnot, and I lost the sticky with the numbers. They had tried to get in touch with me in the following two weeks, to no avail. So my dad, knowing how much I had loved that little mare, called them up asking if they would possibly reconsider and sell her to us. They immediately told him they’d been trying to get a hold of me to sell her back, and my dad was calling to tell me that.
Of course, I had to call them and make sure they weren’t just feeling bad for buying a horse from a girl who had wanted to bid on her. But the more I talked to them, the more they stressed they really just felt it was the right thing to do to sell her back to me. So of course I’m balling saying “of course I still want her!!” and off my parents and I go to grab her. I go see her in the stable, and she sees me walking towards her, and she moves around in her stall a lot, looking at me like “Where have you been the past two weeks?!!” I was so teary eyed, and every time I moved she tried to follow me in that stall.
We got her all loaded after a tour of the ranch and headed home. I didn’t go home to Las Vegas that summer; I of course stayed and had her in one of the pastures in back of the house, and that was wonderful. I also learned she was a wonderfully injury-prone horse. She’d just walk under trees, and even if a sharp branch split the skin, she didn’t care. She’s still got scars in random places that I have no idea how she got them. But she was only two, and I would probably never do this with any other two-year-old, but I just hopped on her bareback and we went swimming. I’d never been on her bareback before that. Yes, I know stupid. Not to mention I only had on shorts and flip flops. Again, double stupid. So don’t do that. But there were irrigation ponds near the house, so one of my roommates and I took our horses down there to swim. It was so funny because the five-year-old Thoroughbred who’d been on those trails a lot was jigging more than the two-year-old Quarter Horse who’d never been on a trail ride in her life. But that’s Amber, really. She takes everything in stride.
Then in August, she got out of her pen around 10:30 pm. I still cannot figure out how she did it. I checked that fence dozens of time. Nothing was broken, just a few loose strands of wire. And the loose strands are all I can think of is how she got out. And I theorize she somehow got underneath the wires, which is weird because they faced a road. But she had these wire cuts all along her back, none on her belly. It’s still a mystery to this day. Well, she got onto not a main road but still a popular one, and almost got run over by two cars. A nice gentleman had blocked our driveway with his car and come to grab someone who was awake in the house to let them know the horse got out. I ran out to see, and sure enough it was Amber. And she was three-legged-lame.
My mom immediately called Smartpak and ordered some for Amber. She was actually on that for a week before vets actually figured out what was wrong with her. It turned out that she’d gotten near a dozen bone chips in the back of her knee. I also hadn’t realized that she’d damaged a good chunk of her suspensory ligament as well, but it’d shown signs of healing already. The CSU vet clinic was awesome and took amazing care of her, and I am forever grateful to them. Unfortunately, their prognosis wasn’t good. They told me she would only be a pasture pet and wouldn’t be truly sound again.
I was not accepting that answer. My dad and mom drove up to Colorado again and built her a stall. I had four months before the vets checked her to make it happen. About three months in, I had her walking around me on a long lead rope when she just exploded. She took off running and was galloping around and around and around me and I was desperately trying to get her to stop. Poor thing hadn’t done more than walk for three months so I understood but she was pretty much giving me a heart attack at that point. But miracle of miracles, when she finally came back to a trot, I checked her and watched her and there was no heat and no lameness on that leg. I checked obsessively the next day – no heat and no lameness. So, I stuck her on a regimen of mostly walking and timed trotting. By the time we got to our four month check up, the vets were smiling and laughing and telling me they hadn’t ever seen a horse recover from this type of injury like Amber had.
Graduation came, and I got a job, and she went home for a year with my mom while I worked in Texas. Yet even when I was able to bring her with me I couldn’t have as much time with her as I wanted. I was just so exhausted. But she and I learned a lot there, especially when I took her to a good lameness vet there just to check out her hocks because something just felt a little…off about her. After x-rays, he surmised that she’d injured her hocks at the same time she’d injured her right knee, but because the knee was the prominent issue, that got fixed and we never looked at her hocks. Which is completely true. So that squashed my reining dreams with her, but that was alright. It was nice to know why she felt not-quite-right when I’d ask her to slide. And despite the reining dreams being gone, there were some wonderful people that really helped us get better as a pair before we left for home.
Since then we’ve been in Vegas, showing in local shows as all around and now beginning to focus a lot more on eventing – transferring her reining knowledge to dressage and introducing jumps. She’s my little miracle pony. She was not supposed to be sound enough for even flat riding, yet here she is – not only sound but able to event. So far, she really seems to enjoy jumping, and the reining has actually helped her transition to dressage pretty well. She’s really enjoying this new stage of getting out and getting trained (both of us) to work towards something. It’s going to be a great journey.