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January 2, 2014: Lifre

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride . . . .

This adage has, in my case, been apt. Many years ago, shortly after we arrived in Alaska, I determined that I very much wished to ride a horse, own one of my own, and to be a part of the Alaska Icelandic horse community. I then made inroads in this area, first taking a horse course at a local college, then taking a job cleaning horse stalls at nearby Moose Creek Ranch.

I then hit an impasse. I remember being a stable hand, and as I was one day shoveling manure into a bucket, I watched as yet another wealthy lesson taker lead her horse into the arena. Like

a custodian, I appeared (and continued to appear) invisible to her and to the other lesson takers. I’d sometimes bolster my courage and go into the arena at lunch time, where I’d sit on a bench and eat my lunch. I remained green with envy.

The day came when I finally got a horse of my own. I first boarded her at Moose Creek Ranch, and then at Alaskastadir Farm. We eventually built a home facility and brought her and Mr. Siggi home. After, we purchased and brought Mr. Tinni and Signy home. In May, 2011, Signy gave birth to Hrimfara.

Now I ride nearly every day. This winter has been particularly nice because we put in a trail system. Today (for instance), I first took Mr. Tinni and the dogs out on the trail. After I returned, Pete and I took Signy, Raudi, and Hrimmi out, as well as the three dogs. (Jenna decided to return home as soon as we got on the trail.) As, at one point, I watched Rainbow instruct Ryder on how to herd Hrimmi, I realized that the young dog and the young horse are a part of the next generation. Both are very young. But someday I’ll do a long trip with them. So it does not appear as though I’ll be wanting for horses to ride.

As for wanting to be a part of the horse community – I did, once I acquired Raudi, Mr. Siggi, and Tinni become a part of the horse community. Virginia Crawford, who was Raudi’s breeder, introduced me via teleconference to the Alaska Icelandic Horse Club members. I eventually went from being the club census taker, to being a board member, to being vice president, to being president. I most liked being the census taker because it enabled me to determine the whereabouts of most of the Icelandic horses in the state, and to meet many of their owners.

I’m not as connected as I once was because I’m no longer actively involved in club activities. (The reason for this is a long, sad story, and not one worth telling because it really bears no relevance to my present state of being.) But I know enough people still, so that when called upon, I can impart horse-related advice. My favorite thing of all (of course) is finding new homes for Icelandic horses.

Early on, I got to know Palmer resident Nick Cassara. He and I, along with Tony Kavalok, were founding members of the local Backcountry Horsemen of Alaska. And we went on a couple of trail rides together. In fact, I went on my first overnight trail ride with this group – I was riding Tinni, and I was at the time terrified. Nick then rode Lifre, his chestnut pinto gelding. A few years back, he contacted me and said the he was wanting to part company with his red chestnut horse, Rauder. The reason was that he and Rauder just hadn’t seemed to be able to hit it off. I told him that I’d contact former AIHA club president Susan Tilly and see if she had any ideas. She contacted other people, and Raudier ended up getting a good home on the Kenai Peninsula.

I recently got word that Nick was now wanting to find a good home for his other horse Lifre. The reason was that Nick was having back problems, and he could no longer ride. I got wind of this, and told a handful of people about Lifre, of course extolling his virtues. I added that we’d take him on if we had the space, time, and money. (We did not.)

After giving the matter more thought, it occurred to me that Terri Meilke, who took Tinni on this past summer, might be interested in taking on Lifre. I proposed this idea to her a few months ago. And she said that yes, she’d like to find out more about him. So I put Nick and Terri in touch with one another.

Nick parted company with LIfre a few days before Christmas, giving him to Terri. It was, at least in my estimation, the perfect placement. He has a good sized paddock (which is cleaned daily), and access to a shelter, food, and water. He also has a companion, Joe, a Tennessee Walker. Terri is an astute horseperson and will take excellent care of the horse whose name means brother.

There’s just one small problem. LIfre has a hole in his umbilical area. Nick says that he’s always had it. Terri has had a veterinarian take a look at it, and if need be, will in the future have an ultra sound done on it. Otherwise, the Icelandic is in good health.

Today, Pete and I went to visit Terri and Lifre. I did just a smidgeon of groundwork with Lifre. Terri said that he was extremely pushy when she got him, so the school disciplinarian took him in hand, and in a very firm fashion let him know that being bargy was unacceptable. She did this in part by putting a chain on his nose. This is not the way I would have done things, but it worked well for the two, who what from I can tell are now buddies.

We did a saddle fit session, using our saddles and the one’s that Terri had on hand. Between us all (and the saddles that Lifre came with), we had nearly a dozen saddles on hand. Pete’s become very knowledgeable about saddle fit; in fact, he’s way more knowledgeable than I am. So he checked out each one and made an assessment. Not a single one fit perfectly. So Terri’s plan is to (maybe) sell one of her western saddles and perhaps order a Synergist saddle. She said that she’d like to get a semi-custom saddle that will fit Joe and Lifre.

I also lent Terri some of my Icelandic horse books. All this made me feel like I am still a part of the local Icelandic horse community. And, I got to thinking, that as such, that if I can open doors for others, I will.

Indeed, if wishes were horses, Alys would ride.

Next: 3. 1/3/14: The Year of the Horse