Monday, February 10, 2014

Venom Retires - Joanopolis

Veneno, in younger days

This past weekend we were at our rented country house. We have access, through the owners of the ranch, to a number of very good riding horses. Some have been there since they bought the farm (not in the dead sense) 12 years ago and some are newer additions. The horse I have most ridden during our rental years is named Veneno or Venom, which is not the most auspicious name though he turns out to be a pretty good horse. And he has just retired--out to pasture with the other un-rideable horses--Zeus, Quartzo, Whiskey...

I have both scary and fond memories of Veneno. He was a wonderful horse to canter and gallop, and pretty much always up for a ride. On the downside, he was easily spooked and quite large.  He was a horse that needed at least an intermediate rider to control him. And I am firmly intermediate, having had numerous riding classes as a pre-teen, but none since then.

The view of the trail from behind Veneno's ear

One of the many stories I have of my friend Veneno is the day he nearly cut my head off.  Well, not him. One of the things that most spooked him was tree boughs down on the trail. And the ranch is a eucalyptus tree farm and frequently has trees down and across the trails. One day we were going down a much overgrown path through some bamboo when Veneno got spooked and ran through the bamboo and one of the limbs grabbed at my neck and left a bamboo burn that I did not soon forget. Yes, I do wear a helmet. No, that did not save me.

On another visit a few years back, I had just tied up the horse at the rail and was walking back to get my 2 year old twin boys from the woman who was helping with them that day. The kids had come down the road from the house and were near the barn, across the concrete saddling area near some trees. As I was walking towards them, I heard a noise of wood breaking and turned to see Veneno yanking his head up and ripping the tie-rail from the supports. Something had spooked him and now he was running towards me and the kids with a three foot long eucalyptus rail see-sawing in front of him from his reins. 

I was so shocked that I froze. BH yelled at me "RUN!" and so I did. I grabbed a kid and ran behind a tree, and the caretaker grabbed the other and hid behind another. Veneno thundered by, the pole barely missing us, his eyes rolled back in fear. We were lucky that day, and so was Veneno. He easily could have tripped and broken a leg.

The last funny story I have of Veneno took place a couple of years ago at the ranch. We were there with our kids, and there were about eight other kids around waiting for their parents to unsaddle.  I was holding the reins of Veneno who was behind me, as we waited for some room to open up on the tie-up rail (what do you call that thing, anyway?). The rail had been repaired and the supports sunk farther into the concrete since the last horse spooking.

Then Kefir freaked out. Kefir is a horse I have never ridden and never want to ride. He is an Arabian with an attitude. He is really controllable only by his owner, who was, at this time living in England. That day  BH had taken Kefir because we were in need of an extra horse. He has since been forbidden by me to ride that lunatic--his life insurance payout is just not that good.

Kefir ripped the rail out by yanking his reins and started bucking and freaking out much like Veneno had two years before. Several things happened at once: quick-thinking non-riding parents got the kids out of the way and inside a Land Rover.  The horse manager started trying to talk to Kefir and calm him down. BH moved to a safe place.Then Kefir turns and heads my way.

So there I am holding the reins of Veneno, not the world's most zen horse, and I look back at him then drop the reins and run like heck down the hill and jump over the corral fence. It is not an easy run down, you have to jump the small concrete rise and then down a few feet of hillside. After I jump over, I turn back---to stare straight in the face of Veneno. He has chased me down the hill as if to say: help! take me with you! That Kefir is a NUTBALL.

Kefir was finally calmed down and everything was fine. I only rode Veneno once after that--about six months ago. He is now over 22 years old, and while we didn't even trot on our outing, he was panting so hard, I asked the owner to retire him. I admit that his retirement has caused mine. I no longer ride at the farm--though I may do so in the future. Without Veneno, the adrenaline just isn't there.

The corral fence I jumped over and got followed by Veneno

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