Two weeks after my pasture flooded, I still have standing water, two pools about 20-30 feet across and couple inches deep. The twice-daily slog to the barn is trying, as the mud sucks at my boots and plays with my balance. The biggest concern of all, though, once I realized I wasn’t losing $3,000 worth of hay to rising water, was the health of the horses. They needed to get out of the mud.
I have picked their hooves and rotated them through the higher and dryer back yard every day, but the problem at night remained: I have two dry stalls and one flooded one, lots of gooey mud — and three horses. One of the horses had to be re-homed, so that meant: Which one was most sellable? Which one did I like riding? Which ones had other options?
All answers pointed to Patrick, my 9-year-old Spotted Saddle Horse, as the horse who was going to leave. He’s the best horse I have, well-trained, smart, good-looking and with great feet, conformation and health. But he’s too much horse for me under saddle, and our relationship as horse and rider had become more strained as I became less and less able to earn and maintain his respect. He was never dangerous or unkind — he’s bright, friendly and playful — but his energy, intelligence and boldness meant I could never relax on the trail.
The quieter, shorter and frankly more boring Rebel was a much better ride for anxious older rider I had, at almost 55, suddenly become. And the third horse, my trashed ex-racer Haggin? Total sweetie, but more of a pet than a ride because of track injuries. And even when sound, he’s also too much horse for me as a rider, although my friend Ann rides him when she can.
As I prepared to sell Patrick to the best possible home, my friend and trainer Alana Henley of Sunfire Equestrian mentioned that she thought the Sacramento Police Department’s mounted unit was looking for a very special horse, and that mine might be perfect. She knows what it takes: She used to be a Sacramento PD mounted police officer. She called, and last Friday, two officers came over to look informally, and two days ago, the unit did, in uniform. The next day Patrick passed the veterinary check at Loomis Basin, and he officially went to the police barn as an officer in training. It will be 60 days before I know if he’ll “stick” or come back, but there’s no downside for me or for him: Two months of great care, dry footing and good training. Being a police horse is a great life for on outgoing, confidant horse, with constant attention from the officers, volunteers and public. If he doesn’t make the grade, he’ll be even more appealing to potential new owners.
It’s the second time I’ve tried to find a new career for him (although it’s the first time the career has meant his leaving me for good) and I think this time, if he passes, he’ll be great at the work. Arena work as a hunter-jumper didn’t suit him (although he loves jumping!) but being out all day seeing the world? It’s perfect for him. The police officers think so, too, and they’re very picky about the horses they try in their program. Today I visited him after his first full day in training, and got a glowing report, very promising.
He’s also had a head start! The place where I boarded him when he first arrived was adjacent to trails that wound through a wooded area notorious for quick sex. The men turn up in cars at the park that caps the trail system, and hook up with each other, or, occasionally, hookers, and head into the brush. Some of them apparently bring in reading material, to judge by what we found on the trail one day. The same area has homeless folks, some of whom behave in very unpredictable ways. We saw a lot of very strange behavior on those trails, and Patrick handled it all with grace and tolerance.
I just couldn’t be happier with this turn of events, and I’ll be holding my breath and keeping my fingers crossed that he gets through the training — it’s high bar! — and becomes Officer Patrick of the Sacramento Police Department. He’s also be a trend-setter, a horse of a different color for the force entirely: All the other police horses are solid-color horses. With his natural bling, he’ll really stand out!
Meanwhile, back at RBF, I have two dry stalls and two horses, plus the help of a young woman who lives around the corner and works as a veterinary technician. She’s 29 and a good horse-trainer, and she helps me a few hours a week with all the heavy lifting and stall cleaning. Winter? We’ll get through it. As long as the levee doesn’t break, that is.
Top image: Patrick, clean, last spring at RBF. Middle image: Patrick at the Sac PD barn, first day in training. Learning to wait is an important part of police horse work: There’s a lot of standing around for these equine officers. Lower image: Leftover porn stash on the trail, ho-hum.
So who’s here? Three dogs: McKenzie (still fighting cancer but running out of time), Faith and NED the puppy. Two cats, Ilario and Mariposa. Two horses, Haggin and Rebel. Two Nigerian dwarf dairy goats, Bayberry (mine) and Blossom (loaner). Two ducks, Bernadette and ABBA. And 13 chickens, none named.
I haven’t written about the goats yet (that’s Bayberry on the left, with my friend Susan Fox, a noted artist) since I wrote about the goat I ended up not getting. The reason? Sugar Maple would have needed milking all winter, twice a day, and I’m just learning. I figured learning to care for goats was enough of a Step 1.
But not long after, Joyful Hearts had a goat I thought would be a perfect fit: Bayberry. She’s older, more experienced at being handled and is easy to milk when the time arrives. She was also being sold as potentially pregnant, due in the spring. Perfect.
Because goats need companions, I asked my friend Xan of Flyway Farm to loan me one of hers for the winter, and she agreed. Which is how I came to have one goat and one loaner goat here at RBF.