A.K.A.: Cranky Franky, Frankenfurter
Breed: Possibly Appendix QH
Color: Black with a little "chrome"
Age: Somewhere's between 14 and 19, he ain't tellin'
Boarded at KEC: since about May 2017
Owner: Kris Oyler, 50
This quirky pair can be found most evenings working out in one of KEC's arenas, or standing in some out-of-the-way corner while Kris chats on the phone (a crucial piece of equine equipment, as any horsewoman knows). They are barn regulars, and Kris is a founding member of KEC's (in)famous Cowgirl Bitches, and was recently "deppitized" by the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office to assist with the evacuation of horses from fire-threatened ranches in Northern California.
Kris never had horses growing up, and a couple of unpleasant experiences could have soured her on horses permanently; thrown from a pony at 12, and at 17 was chased through a pasture by a homicidal geriatric mare named Queenie (or "effing Queenie" as Kris called her). Queenie's malicious attempt was thwarted, but in hurdling a split rail fence to escape, Kris caught her leg on the top rail and flipped right over. Her thigh dragged that wooden rail, leaving splinters (which Kris swears she still has) and road rash in its wake. Not a good introduction, perhaps, but fate clearly had other plans
When her oldest son bought his first horse several years ago, Kris had an idea. "I'm gonna ride that horse," she said, Her concerned son cautioned, "Mom, you're gonna break a hip!" "No, I'm not," said Kris. She climbed aboard and immediately thought, "Good God...I'm gonna break a hip!" But she didn't. She did, however, get bit by the pony bug.
She was hooked, and went in search of a horse of her own. She found her match in Franky, a stubborn, black, Appendix-looking gelding with an unknown history who was being sold by a local "horse trader". His exact age and breed were not known, but it was believed that he was worked on a ranch in his younger days, then as a trail horse for Diamond Lake Stables. That he worked on a ranch seems credible, Kris says, since he seems right at home dragging cows to the branding fire. She leased him for eight months before sealing the deal, and bought him in August, 2016. "There was something about riding around the ranch, talking with the girls, having absolutely no control of the animal was great," said Kris.
The early days of their partnership was a battle of wills, but Kris had the edge. Frank thought cantering provided the perfect opportunity to buck, and did just that at every opportunity. Kris stuck with him, though. He was also a little difficult to "steer", and had a naughty disregard for the "personal space" of other horses in the arena, bumping a few butts in the process of his education. She started taking lessons from local trainer, Michael Wakefield, a few months later, and says that he helped her "an amazing amount". Kris probably doesn't realize it, but she inspired more than a few of us at the barn as she consistently demonstrated remarkable boldness, persistence, and patience, and she and Frank began to form a formidable and fun team.
These days, Kris and Cranky Franky enjoy trail rides, working cows, branding, and hanging out with the barn gang. "Even just sitting and talking with friends...anything on horseback is enjoyable." says Kris. She also spends a lot of time reading and watching training videos, absorbing information on everything from equine massage and The Masterson Method, to nutrition and ground work.
About boarding at KEC, Kris says, "KEC is a great place. I appreciate the care and knowledge they give!"
RAINMAKERS GENERAL LEE
Color/Sex: Palomino Gelding
Date foaled: May 19, 2008, in Dear Park, WA
Boarded at KEC since June 1, 2017
Owner: Diana M. Nisbet
Occupation: Territory Manager for Syngenta
responsible for the Ornamental business in California.
Our featured horse this month is a yankee doodle dandy, and flashy as fireworks! This copper Casanova is a head-turning standout in any crowd, and he and owner, Diana, have been wonderful additions to the KEC family.
Diana’s love for farming and ranching led to an ideal career as a licensed Pest Control Advisor since 1975. Her current field of expertise is the production of commercial ornamental flowers, bulbs, and trees throughout the West. She is a fourth generation California farmer and has represented agriculture throughout the USA. It has been her honor and privilege to have been interviewed by and delivered speeches for audiences as large as 1200, testifying on behalf of agriculture and the USFS, as well as numerous television shows. Diana is passionate about agriculture, our heritage, and providing the most abundant and nutritious food supply in the world.
Her love for horses truly was inherited; her entire family has a multi-generational history with horses. Her grandfather put her on a horse when she was 2 years old, and the rest, as they say, is history. In his day, her grandfather was known for the fine horses that he rode and used in the farming operation. Diana’s love for all things horse grew through 4-H and years of competition. Her first horse was an American Saddlebred, and she has had the privilege of having many outstanding equine partners throughout her riding career.
As anyone who loves and works with horses knows, the journey can be hazardous. The joy and sense of accomplishment is often punctuated with adversity, and Diana’s story is no different. A few years prior to getting Trigger, she was transitioning from showing Working Hunters competitively to seeking a pleasure horse. While “test-driving” a horse, Diana was launched 15’ in the air, ending up with both wrists shattered along with her confidence
It took about a year to physically heal and Diana resumed her search for another horse, when she found a nice quarter horse named Mo. Someone suggested to Diana that she participate in a Buck Brannaman clinic to help with the residual fear she was harboring from her accident, so off she went to Red Bluff to ride in her first clinic with this famous horseman. Right out of the box, Mo was quite a handful. Buck suggested that his helper work with Mo, and thus began her journey with Horsemanship and this wonderful community of like-minded people. Her quest was to learn how to give the horse the “good deal”, as Buck calls it, and learn as a human how to support and partner with your horse. Diana and Mo worked very hard that year, and enjoyed a reunion with Buck in Red Bluff the following year.
Two weeks after Buck’s Red Bluff clinic, Diana and Mo were all set to ride with Buck again in Reno, NV. Tragically, during a turnout the night before they were to leave, Mo hit his head and had to be put down. Once again, Diana had to steel herself up and continue her journey. She went to the clinic without Mo, where Buck wisely reminded her that she now had this wonderful community of horsemen and women to help her. And they did.
Diana looked all over the West for a new mount. The search took her through Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, Oregon, Washington and California. It was an unforgettable journey where Diana was grateful for the daily help of Dana Gilman, Tina Cornish and many others as she sought just the right equine partner. Eventually, that search led to Trigger, and Diana knew instantly that she had finally found "The One."
Trigger is a special one indeed, and he came into Diana’s life at the perfect time. She found him in Nicasio, CA, under the tutelage of Shamrock Gregory. He had been foaled in Washington and made his way to this wonderful family in the Bay Area. He was young, and Shamrock took him to as many quality Horsemanship events she could find. As a result, Trigger has experience in Cowboy Dressage, Cow Working Clinics, Mountain Trail, pleasure riding and has even been used in real estate ads.
Diana and Trigger continue to ride with Buck Brannaman, seeking to learn the Vaquero style of horsemanship fostered originally by Ray Hunt and Tom and Bill Dorrance from the early years. Though Buck remains Diana’s most admired trainer, her riding has also been influenced by George Morris, Gabe Belluomini, and Foxfield, among others, including KEC’s own Samantha Hollinger.
“My daily rock of support continues to be Samantha Hollinger for my Trigger and me. I couldn’t do all I do without her! My dream is to be able to make Trigger into a bridle horse and be an asset when gathering, doctoring and just enjoying the landscape of a cattle operation.”
Diana and Trigger can be found working in one of KECs arenas most any day Diana is not traveling for her job. Many boarders and visitors to KEC are inspired by Diana's courage and dedication to overcoming obstacles, and honing their skills in pursuit of closer partnership. We can't wait to see what's next for this pair....
This month we pay homage to our feline friends at KEC. Some like Tux, the fluffy tuxedo'd charmer, and Tigger, the cautious and diligent tabby, arrived with modest ceremony in a plastic bin after being rescued and rehabilitated from a life of debauchery which no doubt included the trafficking of drugs (catnip, mostly) and unwary humans across state lines for seedy purposes.
They were recently joined by "Garfield" (not his real name--kitness protection) and the ease of his integration to the gang would indicate prior criminal involvement with these two. We can only hope he does not influence T 'n' T to return to their prior life of crime. It appears, however, that all are content to earn their keep in more legitimate endeavors.
These current occupants were preceded by other cool cats with equally mysterious pasts who found a home and redemption at KEC. Most recently was O'Malley, another sassy yellow tabby, who appeared seemingly out of nowhere, though his propensity for getting trapped in enclosed spaces suggests that he escaped from some unknown situation where it was necessary to maintain a low profile. He disappeared just as suddenly, and after searching every cranny, came to the conclusion that he's off to greener pastures and another life.
Before O'Malley, was little Mama Kitty, who lived out her days patrolling the grounds and enjoying the occasional scratch and rub well into what is assumed to be relatively old age.
These members of the KEC family take their work seriously (well... Tux is a bit of a slacker...) and provide companionship to all the four- and two-legged critters who live and play at the barn.
For more on barn kitties, check out this article by clicking here.
a.k.a. Sophie Major
a.k.a. Her Fluffiness
a.k.a. You Horse You
a.k.a. Gassy McFartsky
Registered Name: Sewell's Princess Sophie
Breed: Rocky Mountain Horse
Color: Chocolate Palomino
Foaled: March 1, 2000
Owner: Debra Lindland, 63
Occupation: Semi-retired graphic/web designer and cleaner of tack and stuff...
Sophie was foaled at Hickory Ridge Farms in the rolling hills of Limestone, TN, on March 1, 2000. The breeders, Sue and Jack Fleenor, loved breeding Rockies because of their gentle, easy-going natures and versatility, but were ready to retire from the business.
Sophie was sold at a young age, but for reasons I don't quite recall--though I think it had something to do with her being one of the last offspring of a favorite mare--Sophie wound up back on the farm with Sue and Jack. With little, if any, training, she was turned out to pasture where she spend her days leisurely grazing and cavorting with her pasture mates. She was never bred.
Fast forward to spring, 2015.... Meanwhile, in Portland, Oregon, my own life was finally on the upswing after experiencing four of the darkest years of my life. As my lot improved, I decided that by gawd I was going to have a horse before I got to old and frail to enjoy one. Now keep in mind that that I was living in the city and about to short-sell my home to avoid foreclosure. I had no idea where I was going to be living, much less what I would do with a horse. Nevertheless, I logged onto my computer and began to search the internet.
And thus enter Sophie.
What struck me first about her was that she was the spitting image of my first horse, Cindy! They were identical; from her color and markings, right down to the shape of her head and her "kind eye". My father, who once said that if I ever busted my head open, all that would come out was little tiny horses, bought Cindy for me after my mother died when I was eleven. It was one of my mom's last wishes that I have a horse, and my dad was true to his word. Having Cindy, who had been a working ranch horse in her former life had helped me immeasurably in coping with the loss of my mother.
I had never even heard of Rocky Mountain Horses, so began to research the breed. Often referred to as the "Labrador Retriever of the horse world", they are widely known for their calm, gentle natures, and an ambling four-beat gait. These traits make them great mounts for older riders and those with limited physical abilities. Every new detail learned simply solidified for me that this was "my" horse, and the fact that she had the same name as my beloved Sophie-dog, who recently passed on to the next realm, was clearly a sign. A lovely conversation with breeder Sue Fleenor sealed the deal.
Even details for transporting Sophie from Tennessee easily fell into place. On June 9, 2015, she arrived at R&R New Options Equine Rescue & Rehab in Sandy, OR, where I had been volunteering, and where we both would begin our training with "Aunt Les". She was pushy and disrespectful (Sophie, not Aunt Les), and paid little attention to her handlers. After a few months at R&R, I moved her to a stable a little closer to my house where we continued to get acquainted with generous assistance from other boarders like Tacy Brotherton and the owner owner, Joyce Montgomery, who raised and trained Missouri Fox Trotters. We stayed there through the fall, and then we both moved to Klamath in December, 2015. Early the following year, we began lessons with the lovely Michael Wakefield.
We've come a long way, Sophie and I. Our progress has been deliberately slow and steady...no rush. We've spent the past couple of years getting to know each other and building our skills into a solid partnership. We've been on a few trail rides and a camping trip, and are looking forward to longer and more challenging ones in the future.
What some may call a "dumb idea" has turned into one of the smartest decisions I've ever made. This horse has helped to heal me, body and soul, and restore the hope and confidence I'd lost. Her best gift, though, has been the parade of incredible people--and great friends--she continues to bring into my life. We always seem to land in exactly the right place with just the right people, and at KEC we found more than a great boarding stable, we've found family.
Confession: I have never actually called Sophie "Gassy McFartsky", but now that I've thought of it I'm going to use it all the time. So there.
Triple Threat Again and Again
Tennessee Walking Horse
It's appropriate that our February valentine is a stately old charmer named KC. In his previous "employment", he was a stud on a Georgia TWH farm. His stud career ended when he was proud cut at the age of 10, and soon after was shipped west on a train to a new home.
For some reason, KC and his first west coast owner were not a good fit, and he was sold to his current owner, Yvette Wenzel, then an Emergency Room Nurse. This soon proved to be a much better match. Yvette had worked with horses since she was eleven years old, and put KC to work on biannual cattle roundups and rode him in a competitive rodeo drill team for five years.
KC has always been curious and "all up in your business", according to Yvette. While he lived at home, he often made his way onto their porch to look in the windows, probably hoping for a bottle of Coors beer...his favorite treat.
In their twenty years together, KC and Yvette have packed over the Sierra Nevada mountains on a toll trail established by her family in the 1800s. The pair have camped and rode trails over the mountains and beaches of California. Both are retired now, and getting a well-deserved respite from their very busy life.
When asked what she likes most about boarding at KEC, Yvette quickly replies that it's owner, Maria Meister. "She is so connected to the horses in her care. I really admire the way she always has their best interest at heart. She has given my boy so much care and attention in my absence, and that means the world to me."
Formerly known as Stormy
Make: Quarter Horse, Foxtrotter, and Arabian?
Body: Cremello gelding
Owner: Joanie Browning
KEC boarder since 2016
Sky came to Joanie Browning, and ultimately to Klamath Equestrian Center, almost by accident. After a visit to the hospital in 2016, and on prednisone, Joanie was approached by fellow KEC boarder, Bobbijo Wheelock. Bobbijo told her that they were going to pick up three horses from Blue Sky Rescue for the Pegasus Project, and asked Joanie whether she’d like to tag along. A medicated Joan agreed. One of the horses was a cute little white gelding who was being called Stormy at the time. One look into those big blue eyes, and Joan was hooked. The rest, as they say, is history.
After considerable ground driving and training, and a few rides by some adventurous volunteers including KEC boarder, Bobbijo Wheelock, Joan was confident enough to climb aboard. Though she had worked and trained race horses for a number of years when she was younger, taking on an energetic, green horse at 66 required a little more caution and preparation, especially when mobility is an issue as it is with Joan. But over 100 successful rides demonstrate that Joanie was up to the task. She has been the sole rider/trainer since that time.
Visitors to KEC may often witness the unique relationship between these two, when Joanie can be seen sitting on a chair in the middle of the round pen as Sky canters around the perimeter. You might also catch a glimpse of Joan riding her bike around the outside of the round pen while Sky obediently trots beside her in the pen. Joanie loves training and learning from him, or just hanging out with him in the outdoor arena.
She admires a number of professional trainers like RFD-TV’s Chris Cox, and Clinton Anderson, and gets lots of tips from KEC rider/trainers like Bobbijo and Samantha. About being a member of the KEC family, Joanie remarks, “KEC is simply GREAT! Everyone is so helpful, and you can count on them to look out for you and your horse.”
Sports R Awesome Dude
(a.k.a. That Spotted Son of a Bitch)
16-year-old Appaloosa Gelding
Owner: Maria Meister
KEC boarder since 2007
Dude is one of more colorful fixtures at KEC in many respects, and not just because of his spotty butt and bald face. Owner Maria Meister, owner/manager of KEC and also CFO at The Carriage Works, describes Dude as a fun-loving pest. “If there is something to get into, he’ll get into it”, Maria says.
Foaled in Morgan Hill, California, in 2001, Dude popped into the world with an impressive pedigree, having been sired by Zippo’s Pine Chip whose line includes such notable stallions as Three Bars, Leo, and Poco Bueno. His dam, Maria’s mare, the late, great Mare Bear, did not initially take to motherhood, and tried to kill her foal when he was three days old. Maria’s attempts to find a local mare to graft him onto were unsuccessful, and not wanting to bottle-raise him, they stayed in the stall with Mare and Dude for three days to protect him and hold Mare so he could nurse. Mare finally accepted him, and turned into a great mother.
Dude was started with a trainer between two and three years old. About ten days into his training, the trainer called Maria to report that Dude was “not ready” for training, “but boy that sum-bitch can buck!” He was restarted a few years later at a more mature seven or eight, and though still green broke, became a natural on the trails.
His progress was interrupted again in 2013 when he somehow broke his right front leg, and was put back out to pasture to mend. Once completely recovered, nearly four years later, his training resumed with the help of Bobbijo Wheelock, another boarder at KEC, and owner of last month’s featured horse and Dude look-alike, Olaf. Dude continues to learn, and is currently being ridden by Samantha Hollinger, who is doing some beautiful work with him according to Maria. He is also helping Bobbijo’s daughter, Temperance, build confidence.
Eventually, Maria would like to be able to ride him without a bridle as she did with his mother, Mare. He’s not quite there yet, but is turning into a quiet, soft, and willing horse thanks to Bobbijo and Samantha according to Maria.
Having loved working with horses “forever”, Maria feeds her passion being a stable owner, and enjoying the simple pleasures of grooming them and going for a nice ride. She admires a number of famous trainers, and freely shares her knowledge and experience, but has particular admiration for local trainer, Michael Wakefield, for his intelligence and experience with horses, and Bobbijo Wheelock, for her perseverance, courage, and abilities on a horse.
As owner of KEC, Maria has enjoyed watching KEC evolve into the facility it is to day, and still has many plans for the future. She and husband Les Hathorn have built a wonderful community here. As Maria says, “I love everyone here, and think we have the best group of boarders anyone could ask for.”
14-year-old Appy/Arab Gelding
Owner: Bobijo Wheelock
KEC boarder since 2014
Olaf is that striking, athletic fella you may see as you first pull into the KEC facility, often with his tiny black mini pal. He had the good fortune to land in the capable hands of nurse Bobijo Wheelock three years ago as a rescue from Blue Sky Horse Rescue in Klamath Falls.
As a rescue, little is known about Olaf's history. He had been at the rescue for over a year, and was not trained. Originally, Bobi had thought he'd eventually be a good horse for her daughter, Tempy, who was very afraid of horses, especially a spirited, untrained one like Olaf. When Bobijo's original event horse, Christmas, became lame and ultimately had to be put down, Olaf stepped up and became her event horse, and quickly proved himself to be a talented eventing partner.
A horse lover since before the age of ten, Bobijo now enjoys competing with Olaf in eventing shows, and has been influenced by a numerous riders and trainers... "Too many to mention", she says. The two are frequently seen in the KEC arena practicing dressage or jumping. Daughter Tempy appears to have been "bitten by the bug", and often accompanies her mom to KEC where she's building her skills and confidence on Dude--another KEC resident and Olaf look-alike.
As a member of the KEC herd, Olaf is writing new and happier history for himself, and owner Bobijo has found "a second family" at KEC.
Registered name: Gunna Rock On
12-year-old Registered Paint Gelding
Owner: Andrea Cox
KEC boarder since 2008
Andrea bought Jaxon as a 2-year-old from Danette Hartman in 2007. She originally intended for him to be a show horse in english events, but discovered early on that, though he looked like an English horse, he much preferred to go slow. A former all around horse, including working with cows, they specialized in western pleasure but he is now a dressage horse and an eventer.
The two have spent a many years showing at local open shows and regional paint horse shows. Jaxon has points in western pleasure, horsemanship and trail. During his show career, they diversified a bit and Jaxon team penned, dabbled in cow horse stuff and even carried the American flag for a local rodeo series. In recent years Andrea and Jaxon have added jumping and dressage to Jaxon's resume.
Andrea, Administrative Program Rep at Oregon Institute of Technology, has been interested in horses her whole life, but didn't start riding "officially" until she was 11, and then got her first horse at 12. The rest is history. Though influenced by many trainers through the years, Andrea holds particular respect and admiration for Denny Emerson of Tamarack Hills Farm in Vermont because he is a life long horseman, having ridden for the United States Equestrian Team, and has a no nonsense approach to horses and training.
When asked what she most enjoys doing with Jaxon, her enthusiastic reply is, "Everything! I love just being around him. He has such an outgoing personality and fun to be around." Jaxon is known to pack around the grand kids and go on the occasional trail ride. He also has a fondness for black licorice and belly-scratching (see video) where he cannot contain his glee, and must loudly vocalize his pleasure
Regarding her lengthy history at KEC, Andrea had this to say:
"Jaxon and I have been at KEC for many years. He is happy and well taken care of. I love the diversity and the different types of horses there. We are all family and look out for one another and each other's horses. It's a great place to be."
- by Debra Lindland, sassy old broad and KEC boarder.
A couple of months ago I attended a clinic at Klamath Equestrian Center. As I scanned the group assembled for the lecture portion of the class, I couldn't help but notice that we constituted a very specific demographic. Every one of us was over 45 years old, and most of us were north of 60; a bunch of tough, funny, audacious "old broads"--a term of endearing praise I use, and proudly wear, as a badge of hard-won honor--still in love with horses.
Now this was not a new observation for me. When I stubbornly decided two years ago that by gawd I was getting another horse, I did a lot of research (I tend to research things ad nauseam) into resuming a passion I'd had as a kid, but hadn't owned a horse or ridden much since my late teens. The prospect was a little daunting, but I was determined, and wanted to see how other older folks had managed.
In my reading I happily discovered that not only are there a lot of older women returning to riding, but we represent the largest and fastest growing group of horse enthusiasts! A 2014 article by Midori Morgan in COWGIRL magazine reported that:
"According to surveys like the 2012 Equine Industry Survey conducted by the American Horse Publications (AHP) and prepared by Jill Stowe, PhD Dept. of Agricultural Economics (University of Kentucky), the 45+ age demographic represents 61.2% of people actively participating with horses. Another tidbit gleaned from these surveys: 90.8% of those 45+ horsemen are actually horsewomen."
I even found--and of course bought--a book specifically written for women returning to life with horses appropriately titled Midlife Horses by Melinda Folse
We are a large and diverse group of women in multiple disciplines of all levels of skill and interest. Best of all, there will always be a bunch of sassy old broads to play ponies with.
There are a lot of articles and blogs for older riders in general, and older women riders in particular. If you're interested in reading more, below are a links to a few articles you may enjoy.
Meantime, Giddyup, y'all!