Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dannyboy--Part 2

By Laura Crum

If you didn’t catch the first part of this story, see “Dannyboy” (March 09).
So, Danny, my quirky horse with the bucking issue, had finally overcome his bronco tendencies under the guidance of my cowboy friend who could ride a horse that bucked. He was ready to compete in the big time as a team roping horse. We were all proud of him. The horse was really talented. He could start hard, run as fast as any horse we knew, he would put a leg in the ground and check and pull a steer as well as any head horse. He was rock solid in the box. He was well broke, would spin and slide well enough that a reiner wouldn’t sneer. He was tough minded, and could make run after run without getting excited. He had every virtue a rope horse needs. And he was a pleasant, kind, cooperative horse to be around. One hundred per cent sound. Though plain-headed, he was well made. He still thought about bucking from time to time, but was easy to talk out of it. My friend had already been offered a lot of money for him. He was seven years old. And then, one morning, I got the call.

“Danny’s hurt. Bad.”

The story was a strange one. Danny was turned out in a large field, and my friend had driven in one evening after dark to feed. The horse was familiar with this, but for some reason, he had come running in and had run right straight at the truck. My friend came to a stop and thought the horse was going to come right through the windshield. But Danny buried up right as he got to the truck and slid half under the bumper, falling down as he tried to get up. He ran off on all four legs and my friend thought he was fine. But the next morning the horse was three legged. (Since then I have heard of other horses that did this; people tell me they are blinded by the headlights and try to run between them.)

We hauled the horse to the best vet I knew, who said that Danny had thoroughly torn up his stifle joint. If he was given sufficient rest (and the vet said the only other horse he knew of who had this injury and recovered, it had taken several years of pasture layoff) he might be ridable. Probably never sound enough to rope on, though.

My cowboy friend wasn’t interested in keeping the horse. It was up to me to decide what to do. I could put him down or keep him myself and give him a chance.

Logic dictated I should put the horse down. Even if he were sound, I wouldn’t have chosen him as my riding horse. I didn’t want one that might buck. And now he might never be sound again. But Danny looked at me with his big kind eyes and I just couldn’t do it. So I kept him

I gave the horse his several years of turnout. And he did become riding horse sound. He was still a touch off in his right hind, but the vet said it was just residual arthritis issues. Danny would, mostly, warm up out of this and look completely sound. I let another young cowboy friend of mine heel on him for a couple of summers. Danny did fine, though we had to keep him on Adequan, warm him up extra carefully, and he still had days where he was too sore to use. It was an off and on thing. He was still very fast, cowy, good-minded, a terrific rope horse. Everybody admired him. He was still the nicest horse to be around that you can imagine. He would have done fine as a horse for light riding, but how do you place a horse that can only be ridden lightly because of an injury, but also might buck you off? Because, oh yeah, Danny would still occasionally buck. Whatever form of cinchieness he had, it never really went away. Once in awhile, for no reason we could predict, he’d “catch himself” and start bucking. He didn’t buck that hard any more, and he’d stop if you yelled at him, you didn’t even have to spank him. He never bucked anyone else off, but I still wasn’t game to let inexperienced people ride him. Hell, I wasn’t game to ride him myself. I’m too old and out of shape to want to wonder if/when my horse is going to start bucking.

So, I retired him. He lives in my pasture, is plenty sound enough to run and buck and play, though he isn’t quite 100% sound. He loves attention, loves to be petted, is still a pleasure to be around. Kids walk out in the field and hug him. My little boy loves him. Easy to haul, easy to trim, cooperative about anything you want to do….that’s Danny. Everybody likes him. But every time I look at him I shake my head. What a great horse he could have been. But for bad luck…

Still, Danny had good luck in a way, as the photo below will show. That’s Danny and Gunner (my 29 year old horse) as they look today. Not such a bad life, don’t you think?

I modeled the colt called Danny that my protagonist, Gail McCarthy, starts, in my seventh book, Hayburner(reviewed last week by Janet on her mugwump chronicles blog---and by the way, I highly recommend a trip to that blog today), on the real Danny. So, if anyone wants to read a few more stories about Dannyboy, there’s your chance.

Laura Crum

PS—For those who are interested, I finished my 11th mystery this week. The ms is printed and will go off to the editor tomorrow. So, “cheers” is particularly appropriate.


Shanster said...

Congrats on getting the book out the door!! Way to go - I think I heard your sigh of relief over here!!!

Laura Crum said...

You're right, Shanster. Big sigh of relief here. Of course, there's still the editing process to get through, but the hardest part is done.

mugwump said...

Double Cheers - Or a double shot, whatever the day dictates! Dannyboy is a lucky, happy horse.

Laura Crum said...

Its funny, Janet. I swear Danny is a little morose, despite the good life he has. I may be imagining this, but I often think he is sad that he is never the horse chosen. Especially when he is in the corrals (when the pasture is too poor), and we come and catch the others and ride them, but never him. He stands by the gate and looks puzzled and depressed. I know this can't be true, but it feels to me as if he knows he could have done a lot as a rope horse and is frustrated that he never got his chance. Still, I am doing the best I can for him, and, as the photo shows, he has a decent life.

Shanster said...

oh - Laura - I got that same sort of feeling when I retired my gelding.

He had/has arthritis and Cushings and he was just uncomfortable when I rode. When I brought home my new ride, he'd come ambling over to be caught when I went out with a halter and always seemed disappointed it wasn't him I wanted....

Anthropomorphism? Dunno. But I absolutely get what you are saying!

mugwump said...

I told you about my yellow horse sticking her head between the arena rails while I rode her buddy, I don't try to explain it, but I understand what you're saying.

FD said...

Congratulations on the manuscript!

I don't think you're being anthropomorphic.

I won't faff with examples, but I've come across many horses over the years who despite the best of care, and buddies and being fairly regularly fussed over, still tried to come in and go to work.

We all know horses have fantastic memories, and they remember emotional experiences very strongly. My personal quasi scientific explanation, is that if a horse had a job that gave it an adrenaline rush in a positive way, I absolutely don't think it's unreasonable to say that they 'miss' working.

Laura Crum said...

Fd, Janet, and Shanster--Maybe I'm not imagining it then. Danny strikes me as wanting more to do, and in a perfect world, I'd find someone who could ride him occasionally. But though I did try, I never found anybody with the skill level needed to cope with his occasional bucking who wanted a horse that was just sound enough for not-too-strenuous trail rides. And since I've got so many other horses, I don't have time myself to fuss over Danny as much as he'd like. He is a horse that loves to be petted and will stand perfectly still as long as you will stroke him. I never knew another one like him. Won't bump you with his nose or lip you or anything. Just stand there quietly soaking it in while you stroke his muzzle or whatever. I wish I did have more time for him.

Joy said...

Cheers!! So glad you're next book is going to be coming out soon. I'm loving this series so much. Congratulations on publishing another.

The horse I ride but don't own (I should just call him my free horse I guess) is that way. He is a finished head horse and roped for years but has some mystery issue in his right shoulder and was retired from roping at his owner's decision.

He came up 'off' about a month ago and I haven't ridden him again until today. I still get him out every day (we don't have pasture at our stables) and he gets turn out, grooming, lots of attention, etc. But, he looks sad when he's not ridden. His appetite isn't good, leaves hay all around his stall and stands at his gate nodding his head looking sad.

I think some horses just really love to be ridden. My own horse couldn't care less. If he gets plenty of turn out and exercise, he seems to have a "whatever" attitude when I don't ride him and take out somebody else.

Seriously, Jimsey looks depressed at times. I don't think I'm making it up, but it could be that I am. I don't know.

Laura Crum said...

Joy, that's exactly what I feel about Danny. He looks depressed at times, despite living turned out on 60 acres with other horses as companions. You would think that would be a horse's ideal life. And some horses that I've turned out there have looked perfectly content--like your horse, they seem to care less if any human pays attention to them or rides them. It just seems to be an individual thing. Like people, horses are all different.