The Horses: No.1

☆ March 27, 2010

houdini's eye

Houdini IS horse No.1; Boss, king, head honcho ~ it pulses from his very being.  This is the horse who, the first time I rode him, tried to decapitate me by running under the low end of a power pole guy-wire and, once I was off balance from leaning sideways to avoid the wire, started bucking wildly until I flew off.  Then he peed on me.

It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Houdini is in his late 20’s, very old for a horse but strong and capable and he had always been Mike’s working horse.  Sunshine, Houdini’s younger brother, is an angel but not fit for working ~ he refuses to go anywhere unless he’s following another horse.

Last summer, Houdini went blind in one eye.  He spooked too much to ride after that, so Mike got another horse, Kota.  Kota was cheap because nobody wanted him; he was young, green, and castrated late so he looks and acts very much like a stallion.  Around that time, I was given a young mare, Flicka, by a neighbor who could no longer keep her. 

Ranger, Kota, and Flicka became a tight little horse gang while Sunshine and Houdini remained a clique of two.  But horses have a hierarchy within their herds, whatever the size, and Houdini, though the toughest, was the oldest and the most disadvantaged and he was beat up, pushed to the edge, and starved out as Kota, Flicka, and Ranger kept him from the hay.

Within weeks, Houdini was skin and bones.  He was despondent and often stood alone, away from the others.  I took it upon myself to get him back.

I moved him over with Daisy and Sir Baby where he could get special treatment and plenty of food.  Horses have a natural air of superiority over cattle and Houdini immediately began bossing around Sir Baby, and nipping at him to keep him away from his food; Sir Baby idolized him in return.  This did wonders for Houdini’s ego and general morale, and he regained his status as King of the corrals and looks better than he has in years.  He has learned how to work with his blindness and is as comfortable when I’m on his blind side as the other.

Over in the other pasture, Sunshine became the one to be ostracised by The Younger Three.  So, I brought him over to join the corral bunch as well ~ he and Houdini have spent their lives together, and deserve to remain together.  They have the bulls to boss around and the best living conditions.  Ranger, Flicka, and Kota run in the other pasture….. more about them, later.


45 Responses to “The Horses: No.1”

  1. annbb
    March 27th, 2010 @ 10:54 am

    This post makes me happy! I’m so pleased for Houdini that the rest of his days are going to be good days. You are a kind and thoughtful steward of your four legged family.

  2. Frankie Forrey
    March 27th, 2010 @ 11:03 am

    It’s great that you realized what would work to make Houdini feel better. He deserves it!! But I wonder how do you have enough time to do all that you do? It would be nice to see a picure of King Ely sometime. rankie

  3. karyn
    March 27th, 2010 @ 11:09 am

    Everyone has a place, don’t they? Sometimes we just fail to see the right one. I’m so happy for Houdini and Sunshine AND Sir Baby!

  4. Darci
    March 27th, 2010 @ 11:14 am

    Sounds like the balancing of my 2 8th grade classrooms….

  5. Susan
    March 27th, 2010 @ 11:29 am

    Thank you so much for always teaching me…

  6. Martha Haas
    March 27th, 2010 @ 11:34 am

    I went through a similar thing with my old (30+) gelding last year. He was in a run-in situation with two younger horses and very much the bottom of the heap. I moved, returned the young green morgan I had been free-leasing and got a 14 year old awesome buckskin gelding, who is sweet and respectful of my old man. I took in a mare as a boarder with a certain amount of trepidation, but she was instantly smitten with my old guy, much to young Cody’s chagrin. That and being in a stall at night with plenty of time to eat his mushy grain, has made all the difference. He wintered very well, down a little weight right now – but is out working for every shred of emerging grass while the others munch hay. He, like Houdini, deserves the best. He was my wings for years. Check out my blog:

    March 27th, 2010 @ 11:59 am

    Time Well Spent……For The Good Of All

  8. Colleen
    March 27th, 2010 @ 12:06 pm

    I love a happy ending! I am still cracking up from your first paragraph : )

  9. PhotoCoyote
    March 27th, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

    This literally brought tears to my eyes. Thank you, Shreve, for your kindness.

  10. Leah
    March 27th, 2010 @ 12:18 pm

    So glad everyone’s content! Looking forward to hearing about the other 3, and Ranger’s origins. :)

  11. Lesley
    March 27th, 2010 @ 1:09 pm

    You are such a great story teller, Shreve. I am in love with Houdini and all the animals you share your life with and share with us.

    Rock on, Houdini.

  12. Jenny C
    March 27th, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

    Terrific narrative on these wonderful horses! You guys truly are a farmily. Wait… I think I hear Houdini apologizing for trying to off you (literally), then peeing on you. I also hear Sunshine whickering “yeah, right, Houds.”

  13. Liane
    March 27th, 2010 @ 1:37 pm

    Just when I think I couldn’t enjoy the next post more than the last, you never fail to enchant…thanks Shreve.

  14. SuzieQ
    March 27th, 2010 @ 2:54 pm

    We are kindred spirits for sure..very moved by this post..

  15. Angela Sego
    March 27th, 2010 @ 3:03 pm

    So funny and touching at the same time! <3

  16. Carolyn
    March 27th, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

    First horse I ever rode was named Houdini. He was very big. A couple of turns around the ring then out on the trail…through
    woods and OVER a log! Instinct had me grab his mane as he
    jumped. I stayed on, but got smashed in the face when Houdini landed and raised his neck and head. Never forgot him or that wonderful terrifying ride.

  17. Deborah
    March 27th, 2010 @ 3:32 pm

    God bless you for such sensitivity with these animals! I too feel very happy when I read about your work with them. You may be a bodhisattva for animals. Ever think of that???

  18. Penny
    March 27th, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

    awwwww!!!!! I am so happy for Houdini….

  19. Lynne Parker
    March 27th, 2010 @ 4:02 pm

    I first learned about blind horses here:

    It’s part of the teaching aspect by the devoted couple at Rolling Dog Ranch in Montana.

  20. Sandy
    March 27th, 2010 @ 5:04 pm

    What a great story and how happy I am for Houdini. I do believe that Kindred Spirits always cross paths at some point even if they never meet.I had to laugh that he peed on you. Recently while at a full gallop my horse stumbled and I bailed—-he came over to me and gave me that “what a dumb ass” look!

  21. Corinne Garcia
    March 27th, 2010 @ 7:14 pm

    What a beautiful story, thank you so much for sharing!

  22. Emily
    March 27th, 2010 @ 7:50 pm

    An awesome picture, and I love the story! Keep taking pictures of the horses: I love them!

  23. klb
    March 27th, 2010 @ 8:26 pm

    Horses can be such butts to each other. Like us I guess…

  24. Katie
    March 27th, 2010 @ 8:53 pm

    It’s interesting how that one blind eye has a beauty all of it’s own. Glad to hear the brothers are spending their time together.

  25. mlaiuppa
    March 27th, 2010 @ 9:22 pm

    I love a happy ending.

    It’s important for us to all become whisperers. To learn the language and rhythms of the animals we live with and try to make their lives as whole as possible.

    I’m so glad Houdini got his king back and Sunshine is back with his big bro.

    I’m sure your relationship with Houdini has grown from this too. Horses aren’t stupid. He knows what you’ve done for him. And he trusts you now longer wider deeper.

  26. Steph in Oregon
    March 27th, 2010 @ 10:01 pm

    I so enjoy hearing about the animals, and your life with the farmily and the land. It reminds me of the feeling of excited anticipation back in elementary school on Friday afternoons, when the teacher would read us the next chapter in a good book.

  27. Nancy
    March 27th, 2010 @ 10:24 pm

    I’ll second PhotoCoyote, made me tear up too. The closest I get to a horse is seeing a mounted cop. So glad you created this new site.

  28. Julie
    March 27th, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

    Well done! Bravo! clap clap clap. Your words combined with your photos are *just* what I needed. Kindred spirits, I do agree. When we recognize that in ourselves that meshes with the animals in our lives, we can accept the gift. It took me most of my adult life to realize this, but I’m there now. Looks like you are too!

  29. Chum
    March 27th, 2010 @ 11:53 pm

    I love how you make your little corner of the world a kind and humane place.

  30. Claudia
    March 28th, 2010 @ 3:51 am

    So beautiful. Thank you for your kindness and for sharing more about the farmily :)

  31. Maia
    March 28th, 2010 @ 9:18 am

    Shreve, you are one in a million. I know so many people who would have put Houdini down. But you not only did not do that. You gave him back his life. You never cease to amaze and impress me with your grace and your kindness.

  32. Jia En
    March 28th, 2010 @ 9:18 am

    Nice. I like how you’re so observant and sensitive to the animals. (:

  33. Maggie Y.
    March 28th, 2010 @ 10:46 am

    Love hearing about the horses :) Mine passed away last winter (over a year ago) while he was out to pasture on a friend’s farm.

  34. heather a.
    March 28th, 2010 @ 5:12 pm

    Oh joy!!!! I’m SO excited that you’re posting about the horses! I emailed you a few months ago asking to hear more about Ranger. Yaaaay!!!!!

    Old horses deserve a good life. Whether it’s with cattle or other old horses. Sometimes it’s so hard to find that little niche that they fit into, without getting bossed around or beaten up. Hooray for Houdini!

  35. Chris
    March 28th, 2010 @ 7:46 pm

    I rode only a few times as a kid and not for decades now. Still, I recognized early on that every horse is an individual who should be respected as such, if not liked. I still admire horses for their beauty and strength and respect those who work with them.

    The story of your horses and their hierarchy is fascinating. You have the ability to relate to animals as they are, not as you might want them to be. That’s a rare outlook to have with any living thing and I’m glad you’ve found a lifestyle that allows you to cultivate it.

  36. Danielle
    March 28th, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

    It’s always nice to hear a horse story and I’m so happy that Houdini is doing so well for such an old guy! I miss having my own horses to play with so I’ll live through you and your shared experiences for now. Thanks, Shreve!

  37. Cathy
    March 29th, 2010 @ 12:58 pm

    My oh my..If only humans could be as kind and understanding to each other as you are to your farmily and now extended farmily.

    May the Cosmos Bless you Shreve.

  38. Karen
    March 29th, 2010 @ 1:34 pm

    for some reason I am always moved and amazed at what my animals do. I don’t know why as we are all mammals, humans, horses, cows, sheep, silly llamas. Many think humans are ‘above’ the rest. When there is a connection, human to another animal, that connection is a working miracle. Doesn’t matter if it’s Ranger to Shreve, or Charlie to Shreve, or my Callie or Annie to me. We are all living, thinking, feeling beings. You know that. It’s why I keep coming back to you.

  39. PiterJankovich
    March 29th, 2010 @ 5:29 pm

    My name is Piter Jankovich. oOnly want to tell, that your blog is really cool
    And want to ask you: is this blog your hobby?
    P.S. Sorry for my bad english

  40. JayDee
    March 29th, 2010 @ 6:17 pm

    I got teary-eyed reading everyone’s comments!

    I echo Cathy: “If only humans could be as kind and understanding to each other as you are to your farmily and now extended farmily.”

  41. Deb
    March 29th, 2010 @ 10:42 pm

    Shreve, That was quite the initiation with Houdini – I guess he was aptly named. Your way of telling it makes me almost feel like I was there. It’s so heartening when someone’s love for an animal overcomes a start like that. If anyone’s interested, Carolyn Resnick has a way of working with horses that helps their confidence so much they often rise in rank in their herd. She also has a way of bonding that’s not round-pen training. I think she may be on edge of another break through in work with horses and the horse-human bond.
    Shreve has solved her situation, but I thought it might be of interest anyway.

  42. Kate
    May 28th, 2010 @ 4:40 pm

    Good for you, for knowing your animals like you do. My husband worked with horses all of his adult life and always had an affinity for these beautiful animals.

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