QUINCY'S STORY, or THE PERFECT MATCH by Marilyn Russell
A match made in heaven...or be careful what you wish for!
Three years ago, I joined the West Coast Rocky Mountain Horse Club (WCRMHC) in Arroyo Grande, California. I had met the group on a fabulous riding adventure in Monument Valley, Arizona, and enjoyed their members, the horses and their activities, although I did not have a gaited horse at that time. I grew up on a ranch in Northern California and at one time had a nice Tennessee Walking Horse. During my competitive trail riding days, I had two excellent Appaloosa geldings. I loved their color and one of my dreams was to one day ride the Chief Joseph Ride, a 1300 mile journey commemorating the flight of the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) people from their homeland in the Wallowa Valley of Oregon to Bear Paw Battleground in Montana (40 miles from the border from Canada and sanctuary) in 1877. To honor the Appaloosa horse developed by the Nez Perce and responsible for helping 900 people flee their homeland, the Appaloosa Horse Club has re-enacted this trail ride for the past 45 years. About 200 people ride a successive section of this trail every July, but the one requirement is that you must ride an Appaloosa. So the stage is set.....
In October of 2007, I was preparing to join the women of the WCRMHC on their annual women's retreat campout and ride at Montana de Oro State Park near Morro Bay. An email was sent out by Jeannie Keefe, one of their members, offering a seven year old Walkaloosa gelding, Ghostly Dancer, WHA 0001, also called "Quincy," for sale. He was represented as an excellent trail horse. That is both colorful (a leopard Appaloosa) and gaited (Tennessee Walking horse). A Walkaloosa! Whoever heard of such a cross--it makes me smile just to say it!!! A photo was included, and I was captivated! I immediately called Jeannie and asked to evaluate the horse. Well, she offered to take him to the ride and let me try him for three days on the trail. I could hardly wait, it was like my dreams come true--I would have a horse to ride with the gaited group and the qualification for the Chief Joseph ride, too. I arrived on a Wednesday, and Quincy had been left in a paddock near my campground. He was awesome, a magnificent 16.1hands tall, but out of control. He was whinnying, pawing, whirling, excited, worried, and frantic, far from his familiar owner and stable-mate. I wondered what I was thinking....and he had kept the other women in the camp on edge with his antics. I wasn't sure I could even go in his stall, or how I would manage him. But, I had driven 5 hours and had three days to ride and he was the only horse available, since I didn't bring my own horse! So I buckled up my courage and went in to meet this spotted dervish. He was responsive to most of the natural horsemanship techniques that I know to help settle down and get his mind on me. I saddled him up while he pawed nervously at the trailer and I hoped he wouldn't wreck my fairly new shiny rig. I managed to get on him and he was responsive to the aids, and could he ever move out! I was impressed but not convinced, he was so anxious. We had a restless night. I wasn't sure if I really wanted this project and he was very nervous about everything, keeping the camp awake with his calls and banging. The next day, we rode down the beach, a familiar place for him and he settled into the most marvelous ground-covering gait and a carousel-like canter. Then in the waves next to us, a pod of dolphins swam by and I knew my dreams were answered. I was taking this horse into my home, heart and life! Would you believe, he seemed to know and we bonded very quickly. You can ask several of the women in that camp and they will tell you his demeanor was totally changed. It was like he knew that we were destined to be together. He was quiet and calm. It is a topic that comes up every time we get together--Quincy knew he was coming home for good; we had chosen each other.
I have purchased a number of horses in my life, and usually there is a period of adjustment, but truly, not for Quincy. I don't know if it was destiny or his good nature based on the TWH/Appaloosa cross or a little of both, but he seemed to settle in immediately. He occasionally paws for food or attention but he seems at peace. He does have a habit of splashing all the water out of the trough on hot days and he enjoys baths and playing with the hose. He is very oriented toward people and will leave his food to follow whoever is walking across the pasture, or come to greet me, or visitors. When I drive up he watches my car from a mile away and then gallops across the field to escort me home. Everyone is attracted to his flashy looks, presence, friendliness, sense of fun, and willingness to please. He loves treats but is gentle about taking anything from melon rinds to carrots and horse cookies. Oh, he does like to snatch poison oak along the trail--but then he doesn't get any kisses from me! Sometimes I say he is my "clown in a horse suit"!
In the past two years we have logged about 300 hours on the trails (about 1000 miles) in the CSHA TRAP program, concurrently with the Appaloosa Saddle log program, and I have received nice year-end award plaques from CSHA and a brush and carry-all bag from the Appaloosa club. We have led rides, gone out alone, been part of large and small groups all of which Quincy can do in daylight or darkness. He camps well, tied to the trailer, eating hay from his slow feeder (actually, slurping up water from his bucket and playfully making a kind of hay soup). At our ranch in northern California he gets several periods of total freedom to explore several hundred acres with his companion, a buckskin gelding (Keen) and they entertain us by galloping at full speed past camp and through a creek on the way to and from their favorite meadow of knee high green grass. They are both easy to call back with a whistle. Here at home in Livermore, California, he lives in a paddock right next to my house with his good friend, Keen, and they play daily. In fact, they wake me up at sunrise every day with their galloping, rearing, and racing around the pasture, usually instigated by the playful Quincy. If I don't get up promptly, Quincy comes over to the side of the house with a low whicker to make sure I am up. I don't need any alarm clocks in this household!
This summer, we finally fulfilled our dream of riding 92 miles of the Chief Joseph Trail ride from Darby to Big Hole, Montana (July 20-25, 2009). I am hoping to complete all 1300 miles of the trail over the next 12 summers with this wonderful horse. He is a delight and part of the family here and has brought me countless hours of joy. I am looking forward to many adventures and miles of trail rides in our lifetime together. If you meet us on the trail, just follow the dots on "Mr. Spots," also known as Quincy!