Monday, March 11, 2013

Back to The Shed ~ A Visit with Mineshaft and a Look Back with Lindsay

Guest Blogger Lindsay Hunter delivers a mare to Mineshaft and recalls how she developed "horse fever"

Lanes End Lately & Bitten by the Bug 3/ 4/13

Athough the breeding season is yet young, most of the busier sheds have been holding evening breeding sessions, and Lanes End is no exception. But tonight there are just two mares to be bred, and I thought if I arrived just a little earlier that the 7 pm appointment, my chances of being first in line and getting the mare bred early were greatly increased.. I knew I was in luck when the night security opened the Stallion Entrance gate from his golf cart, and I cruised along the curving road and into the deserted parking area. Backed the Featherlite into my favorite spot by the ramp, and set off to find out what was happening in the shed.
David, suited up in his khaki coveralls and protective veterinary sterile gloves, met me in the aisle way, as John was off for the evening, and said I could bring in the mare.
The mare in question was returning for a rebreed, having not ovulated her follicle that she was bred on a few days earlier. At this time of year, with fluctuating temperatures and erratic teasing cycles, it’s not unusual to have a mare that you thought was just right for breeding, and the vet doesn’t want to delay any longer based on what he’s feeling on her ovaries, to hold the follicle and not ovulate as expected. As busy as the popular stallions are, sometimes you can get her back to the stallion, sometimes not.
But today she was lucky and Mineshaft was available.
The buckskin teaser reaching his head through the hatch to ‘talk’ to her caught her unawares, and she snorted in surprise, flaring her big nostrils and tossing her head. But she soon came around to his way of thinking, and David had me bring her to the wash stocks.
Tail wrapped and squeaky clean, Asa came to take her to the breeding area. Lanes End’s breeding crew now wears green protective vests and safety approved helmets, just like riders do, in case of a glancing blow from a hoof or a sudden swing of a head. Two plunging horses can be hazardous to life and limb, and working the breeding sheds, dealing with unfamiliar mares that might not respond as predicted, is every bit as challenging as being on the back of a racehorse.
Mineshaft minced along the red rubber brick pathway from the stallion barn, well in hand but eager to breed his evening mare. Neck arching, dark coat gleaming from much grooming and polishing, he was quite a sight to see. The crew set the mare up quickly, protective leather pad on her neck to afford the stallion a place to grab onto while straddling the mare, puffy leather boots on her hind feet , to protect him in the event of a well aimed kick from a cantankerous mare.
But she was ready for breeding and well behaved, and within no time I was headed out the doors and walking the crushed brick path back to the loading ramp.
On the drive home from Midway, I reflected on how I, a suburban -raised girl, from Cape Town, South Africa, could have a job with advantages that many horse crazy kids only dream about - visiting these world class stallions at some of the worlds’ most prestigious Thoroughbred breeding farms in the Horse Capital of the World.

Bitten by the Bug
I did not come from a ’horsey ’ family. I have photos of both my parents riding horses, but they were by no stretch of the imagination ’horse people “.
I think I must have gotten bit by the ’horse bug ’ on a visit to friends whose daughter, Carol, had a horse . I was quite little, but from then on, I was fascinated by horses. I drew pictures, I read horse stories and books about horses. I hung out at the beach with the beach ponies, offering to lead or brush or whatever I could, in the hope that maybe the old man in charge would let me crawl up in the saddle and see the world from a different perspective, salty mane blowing in my face.
For both my eighth and ninth birthdays, I spent two glorious weeks visiting family friends who had a riding stable, who fox hunted , played polo, and had grown children that evented. I was assigned a pony for my stay and given the opportunity to indulge all my horse related dreams, taking part in lessons, trail rides through the country, tagging along at horse shows, and burying my nose deep in the horse’s neck, inhaling that unique aroma peculiar to horses. If I was bitten by a bug, it had now become a full blown case of horse addictiveness. I’ve never recovered.
Riding lessons, Pony Club, riding Thoroughbreds in bush track races, learning to show at area shows, jumping, dressage, moving on to saddle seat and Five Gaited Saddlebreds. I couldn’t get enough.
My parents were supportive, but not involved, and I jumped at the opportunity to ride other peoples horses, since I couldn’t have my own. I rode a lot of horses, from school ponies to high priced show horses, and I learned a great deal from them all.
For many years I rode a wonderful palomino Arabian stallion, and competed as a Hunter, and as an Arabian, with my favorite class being the Farm Horse Class. Gaeton Gold, brilliant golden coat with pure white mane and tail, was frequently called for the red ribbon (for first place in SA ) after demonstrating his ability to stand ground tied while I walked a circle around him cracking a stock whip, weaved him through poles at the canter, cracking the whip on each side, and stopping to gather up a lamb, riding one handed and manouvering through obstacles. It was fun, and we were good at it !
I set my sights on getting a job in the States and working for a top Saddlebred trainer that would take me on. Along the way, I earned my British Horse Society Instructors Certificate in England at the Moat House Academy in Kent, where Princess Anne had been a pupil also.
Stepping off the plane in Kentucky on the first day of the State Fair and the World Championship Horse Show (for Saddlebreds ) a suitcase in either hand , I knew this was where I was meant to be, although it was a little scary at the time.
Although I just planned to stay for one year, a series of events soon changed that, and now forty years later, I’m still here. But that’s a story for another day.

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