Home > Trip > Dispatches > Daily Dispatches > Daily Dispatch #206

July 2, 2012: An Improbable Friendship

My good friend Heather Ashe and I met in September, 2003. Ours is an improbable friendship, for I’m twenty years older than she is. Odd, that we’ve put age issues aside. But then again, maybe not. Horses then and now remain an ongoing interest.

Pete and I had been in Palmer for just a month. I’d recently signed up for a horsemanship course that was being offered by the local college. As I now recall, we had a mock-scenario in which we imitated horses and their trainers sometime during the first class. I selected Heather to be my partner because she was friendlier than the other students.

I was older, so they’d all given me the brush off. I played the role of a willful and very disobedient horse. And Heather played the role of a very patient trainer. Afterwards, we talked a bit about our horse aspirations. Neither of us then owned any horses, though we both hoped that someday this might come to be.

I soon became smitten with one of the instructor’s horses and Heather became smitten with one of her other ones. We both hoped to someday own these animals. We figured we’d pay their board by continuing to do what we were doing – pen cleaning these horses’ and the other eight horses’ stalls. Heather’s

Heather crossing a creek on Signy

Hrimmi in creek. Heather on Signy

owning Elan and my owning Delilah was not to be. I ended up buying an Icelandic, and a year later Heather purchased an Arabian Quarter Horse.

We both continued to take the courses in the horsemanship sequence. And later, we took courses in the veterinary assistance sequence. Over the years we’ve kept in touch. For Heather, there have been many horse-related ups and downs. Rio was allowed to do as he pleased before she purchased him, so she wound up with a handful. He was also a wee bit spoiled. So there was hardship. He was difficult early on, and Heather came off his back a few times. Horses in Alaska are expensive, and Rio was no exception. Heather also had two boys to support, so money was an object. At one point she was working two jobs and going to school – one of the jobs was delivering newspapers.

Rio was boarded in several differing places, the best being central to where she was living at the time.

I’m not sure if I told Heather what I often thought, which was that she should sell Rio. The years went on, and she continued to do groundwork with him, but didn’t ride him. I wondered, what good is that? My private belief was that she should get an older, well trained horse.

A few months ago Heather moved Rio from her parents’ yard to a boarding stable located between Palmer and Anchorage. After, she emailed me and asked if I’d give her a hand. She wanted to ride Rio, but was stuck. She was, she said, feeling anxious about this. I agreed to give her an assist. Tonight, for the third time, I went to her barn in Birchwood. The other two times it was just us. This time, her Aunt Sandy accompanied us. And her parents met us there.

For the third time, Heather exercised, lunged, and rode Rio. And I stood on the sidelines and offered her advice. I often made jokes, and sometimes she even laughed. The first time I went out there, I figured that I’d maintain a safe distance from her highly energetic horse, and this way remain safe. I quickly deduced that Rio is not the same horse he was when I first met him, many years ago. He’s since had some good training, and has mellowed considerably. This made working with him and Heather fun.

In fact, it’s been a joy working with the pair. Heather does as I ask, and the horse follows suit. I’m not a big one for riding non-Icelandics, but I like Rio. He’s physically flawless, and is very smart.

I’m happy to report that Heather’s confidence level has risen since we began working together. Tonight she rode him bareback, and even trotted. He did quite well, and made no dangerous moves. This is to his credit because there were a numerous distractions, this including the other horses whose pens are adjacent to the small pasture arena.

Heather is planning on doing the competitive trail ride. Rio doesn’t yet have the miles on him for this, so she’s going to use the barn owner’s horse. Her name is Maggie, and she is a wily 20-year old. I watched tonight, as Heather took this mare a ways down road and back. I must say, she’s far more courageous than I will ever be.

If someone had told me after that first horsemanship class that the above would transpire, I would have been incredulous. Our common bond was and remains horses. It don’t get no better than this.

Next: 207. 07/3/12: Raudi, Front and Center