Stormy came to Trailhead Youth Ranch about three or four years ago; she’s a beautiful purebred Arabian mare around twenty years old. Her owner, Katie, has been loaning her to us each spring to use in our riding program during the summer. Dozens of kids each year have a chance to work with her and ride her. And of course, fall in love with her.
Two years ago Stormy showed up at the Ranch with a big surprise, a three-month old filly named Angel. Angel is half Arabian and half Haflinger. Needless to say, all of a sudden Stormy’s popularity quadrupled. We put mother and daughter in a holding pen next to the barn each time we worked with a group. This way everyone could get up close and personal with them. There’s nothing that makes your day brighter, when you’re ten years old, than being able to talk to and pet a newborn foal. Angel was indeed an angel.
This April Stormy showed up at the Ranch with a new foal, another filly. She’s a full sister to Angel, looks like Angel but she isn’t any angel. Right off the bat we realized she was bigger and much more full of it than Angel at the same age. The Wranglers have learned the hard way that when you’re around her you’d better be careful or get kicked. Seems like she doesn’t want anyone around her mom, especially when she’s hungry and wants to nurse. What do you name a filly that looks like an angel but isn’t an angel?
After some deliberation everyone settled on Peaches. She’s sort of colored like a peach. With time the sweetness may develop like a peach. But for the time being she’s sort of like a supermarket peach you buy in the early summer. She looks good, feels nice and fuzzy, maybe even smells good but when you bit into it there’s no sweetness there.
Every time the Wranglers are at the Ranch they put Stormy and Peaches into the small holding pen next to the barn and feed them a senior horse supplement. When Stormy sees a car or truck driving toward the barn she’ll be standing at the compound gate with Peaches waiting to be let in. A couple of weeks ago I noticed that Peaches was eating the supplement, too. A week later I noticed that when we fed them Peaches was biting Stormy trying to drive her away from the feed bucket so there’d be more for her. Seemed like unusual behavior for a four-month-old filly?
This past Thursday when I drove up to the compound gate Stormy was standing there by herself. I didn’t think much of it at first, Peaches would show up in a minute. After about ten minutes and no Peaches I started to get concerned. Stormy wasn’t concerned at all, she went right into the pen and started eating the supplement. Fifteen or so minutes later Bennett and I were getting ready to start searching the 350 acre pasture for a dead filly. About then a half dozen horses came loping down from the mesa and sure enough, Peaches was trailing along behind them. She came right to the compound gate then hollered and fussed until we let he into the holding pen with her mother. This is one smart, independent, four-month old filly. She’s nothing like Angel. Angel would hardly leave her mother’s side until she was about eight or nine months old.
Saturday morning it was the same thing over again. However, this time it seemed like a half hour before Peaches showed up ready for breakfast. Evidently, she’s become friends with the General and followed him off the mesa down to the barn. General’s the alpha male in our horse herd. Anyway, when Peaches is ready for breakfast she’s cranky. You’d better not get between her and her Mom. Bennett was the first Wrangler to learn this lesson. Luckily for him, he was behind a gate when she let loose.
After a hardy meal Peaches is a different horse. Interesting how your disposition changes when you have a full stomach. After her breakfast, when she’s finished nursing, we generally take Stormy out of the holding pen and use her in the program. Of course, Peaches doesn’t like it when we take Mom out of the pen and leave her in. She makes a lot noise, prances around for a while and makes sure everyone knows she’s unhappy. Luckily her attention span isn’t long and she’s easily distracted. Once the kids start petting and scratching her she forgets all about Mom. She especially likes to be scratched on her backside. If the kids are a little slow to catch on she’ll turn around and rub her backside on the pen rails. And of course, there’s always a line of anxious youngsters who’ve figured it out and are ready to oblige. Amazing how quickly she taught us to do that.
I wonder what she’ll be teaching us next?
Tom is one of the founders of Trailhead Youth Ranch. He has been involved in Christian ranch and horse ministries since the early 1980s. Trailhead Youth Ranch is the culmination of 35 years of experience at various related Christian ministries.