Reader Submission: Darcy Girl
Written by by Jess Rannachan
Monday, 17 September 2018 17:18

by Jess Rannachan

Riding Darcy last week was like giving birth; Agony while it happened, but soon forgotten and ready to have another one.

“Anyone got a safe horse I can ride?” said my ad.  My husband has given up riding, we have sold our horses, but I still had that itch….like clearing your throat, it never completely goes away.  My ad is answered and thus begins my relationship with Darcy Girl, a piebald undiscovered 18 yr old mare. Sherry, Darcy’s owner, a petite old school wild west lady, is an animal lover.  She fosters kittens from the cat protection league, and is carer of two happy, entertained dogs.  Sherry gestures towards the reluctant Darcy, a black and white spotted paint quarter horse.

“Well that’s her…she’s very stubborn”

“Aaah, but what a beauty!”

“I’m sure you have a lot of other responses (to the ad) and completely understand if you’re not interested and want a”

“What’s that?” I point to Darcy. “She looks perfect to me!

Darcy did not seem to want to leave her field, and then, she did not seem to want to walk down the path by the house.

“She just needs LOTS of encouragement!  OK come on DARCY!!  What a CLEVER GIRL!!”  Go Darcy girl!  Wake up Darcy! We are going to start to live!  All this hanging around the field is not life in it’s fullest!

She’s afraid!  She is afraid to go out on her own, she is not used to it after all, horses are herd animals. Next time we ride I sequester my faithful husband to be ‘the friend’.  He knows his role is on foot and also to give treats to the old mare, Kayla, who shares the field.  She is why Darcy is there; as a companion.   Most of the time Sherry comes along too for the first couple of months.  This has an impact on the reluctant Darcy.  She is bolstered.  She sees that predators are not going to attack (mountain lions, pack of coyotes, mystical horse boogie men) with the herd coming along the trail with her.  The herd also sometimes includes Sanji, Sherry’s award winning dog.

Before I mount Darcy I pray.   

“God please to protect my life and give Darcy Shalom, thank you”.   

Finding a new horse, however lovely it all seems, you never know what can be ahead and Sherry had shared that Darcy had been rocking (bucking) coming home with the last trainer.   I am kept safe despite my own mistakes on our rides.   Darcy is really beginning to shine, I see progress and I am in love!  Sherry got her shod.  Did I imagine it but is Darcy walking taller, with some self-esteem?  Sherry says, “Darcy just sat in a field forgotten for the last 18 years.  She was at a breeding facility and didn’t make the grade, so she was ignored…”  I notice Darcy had a slight deforment in her posterior region that I asked Sherry about.  She said Darcy had had a foal but it was a hard labor….my appreciation of this mare that had experienced a hard labor grows.

Darcy has scabs on her hind leg cannon bones and the hair is peeling off.  

“Sherry can I put coconut oil on the scabs, Ian’s horse was cured of something like that under her chin using coconut oil” Next time I visit I bring the coconut oil and scoop a handful up that I rub deep into the scabs and all over the leg bones where the hair is coming off.  There are some lesions also under the saddle that I liberally rub the oil into.

After Darcy gets her shoes we take her further down the path, up the steep bit and across the grassy wooded area.  At first I was leading her and she suddenly had a tantrum, swung round and kicked out her hind leg in a perfect imitation of the Cancan high into the air!  I look at Ian and have misgivings about this Darcy girl…. after all I’m not getting any younger…

Darcy puts down her head and works hard climbing the hill back home.  I am encouraging her by opening the reins as I try and position my body to be lighter on her back.  My heart goes out to her, she is trying so hard.  “Sherry she really is a good horse.  Darcy you are really a GOOD HORSE!!’  She gets lots and lots of pats and gentle scratches on her neck.  She is so relieved to be homeward and could take off, but all the same decides to just be the good girl we told her she was.  This is a lot better than the bucking she did with the last trainer!  The ‘licking and chewing’ she has started to do is very reassuring!!

On trail ride number 10 my heart swells with happiness in the horse.  Her legs look better, but still not cured.  Now we have bought some ‘Equiderm’ to put on the flaking cannon bone crud…. She is still ‘strong’ wanting to barrel home.  Sherry mentions that her back can cause her not to ride Darcy, she remembers another time that she was thrown off a horse.   It comes to me in a flash; “Sherry, lets put a different bit on her.  She is too strong with this snaffle in her mouth and if she really does decide to take off neither you nor I want to be on the couch for a week recovering from trying to hold her!  A kimberwick bit is found pretty much immediately from Sherry’s copious tack room/kitten playroom/garage.  Sherry’s ex husband had lots of horsey stuff and the bit in my mind, is hanging on a hook ready to appropriate for Darcy.  We slowly introduce it to her and after a while Darcy pretty much has EXCELLENT BRAKES.  We heave a sigh of relief!

Darcy is now going out nicely with very few stops or ‘napping’.  We are aiming for her to think hitting the trail is a pleasure!  It has come to me that taking Darcy out is like coming to take your aged Aunt out for a coffee from her nursing home.  We are hoping she will be looking forward to our walks once the aching from unused muscles disperses, and the bit in her mouth becomes normal and the headpiece and noseband start to mould to Darcy’s cute wide eyed open face, with it’s little wisp of a black forelock.

Sherry is riding her down the path “Actually I did not get Darcy to ride, just as a companion for Kayla” (the 30 yr old Arab in the same pasture).  Darcy reacts to the new path she is on, and her head goes up, her body electric and she has a look like she may bolt.   Sherry turns Darcy in a circle to get her to think of what she is doing with her legs instead…. there is an element of the unknown with Darcy.  Sherry says quietly “Shall I get off”  
“Yes Sherry if you are worried”.  Darcy has settled “I think its ok” she says and rides her valiantly for the first time down the slippery dead golden grass that marks July in California.  Darcy does not like the abundant rodent holes but every time she looks worried we simply halt her until she seems ready to go again.

I say to Sherry the circular route from the house is a mistake. This includes the steep slippery slope of wooded pasture where the wild grass is baked during the summer and has become slippery. Poor Darcy was just trying to keep her balance with her four legs, let alone trying to carry a human on her back.  Also this place has many treacherous holes as the gopher moles had made it their habitat.  You do not know where the next hole is.  We take Darcy this way for a while, but she end up with a swollen back fetlock…perhaps a sprain from the trail we did not notice.  We decide she need not go down this trail again until the terrain improves.

Darcy has a shiny coat and even her ‘top line’ is not as hollow as it once was. My heart continues to go out to this sweet mare.  She stands quietly for you to put on the bridle and puts her head down for you to remove it.  She has never once turned to nip or show any concern when tightening the synch under the saddle.  She wants to please.  It is a joy having the visits to see Darcy!

Darcy crosses another hurdle of not napping and needing to be badgered to lead out of the pasture.  She has started to move out of the field without stopping!  Perhaps because it is the summer and we are bringing her the tall corn plants to feed on as a treat…  We are also careful to share with Kayla, the old mare.  What a joy to see Darcy’s legs better and her ‘top line’ building with every ride.  We still have only walked her as I feel she has so many mental and physical things to surmount before real riding and fitness.  I change her from a Western saddle to an English dressage saddle for my back with no ill effects at all from her and thankfully she is not a spooky horse.

My life with Darcy and Sherry has become the highpoint of my week.  Sherry is pleased to have a rider for her pasture horse, who used to terrorize the old mare in her boredom.  But nothing stays the same in life and one day Kayla, the old mare, passes away.

Darcy is not the same.  She is more sensitized on our rides, whinnying.  She wants a friend and is communicating with any horse that will listen.  We visit a neighbor’s arena, and she is reluctant to leave the neighbors horses when we are homeward bound.  The rides are not so fun; I can see she is suffering.  I take her on a long ride to another arena, she stops repeatedly, we have regressed back to square one so it seems.  Sherry and I need to talk.

So Sherry shares with me that now Kayla has gone, and she has had some bad news regarding her back from the Doctor, she thinks she will sell or give Darcy away.  Sherry and I take pride in Darcy.   We admire her shining coat, sweet mellow character and good manners.  Darcy takes me on a last wonderful ride to the arena far away.  She has adjusted to her loss of the old mare Kayla.  What a blessing!  At the arena she trots willingly around and apart from needing some rests going up the steep hill home has certainly made Sherry and myself proud!  She will be a great horse for a beginner rider.  They will learn together.  Darcy will not run off with the new rider and the new rider will have to learn how to get a horse moving.  The new rider will be Darcy’s next phase in getting fit!

Shortly thereafter a long legged svelte young woman called Heather arrives at Sherry’s barn to look at Darcy.  Her face is soft and sensitive.  I like her already.  She is a beginner rider.  I notice she is a little apprehensive.  She rides Darcy with her friend who comes with.  We are excited to learn after Heather has given Darcy two days serious thought, that she wants to take Darcy!  Sherry generously gives Heather a month’s trial and we are set!  Darcy will go to a barn with lots of horse friends.  I feel in my heart that Darcy will be a credit to Sherry, Ian, Sanji and myself.  I am thrilled to have played a part in the making of the mare!  Thank you Jesus!