My plan for LuckyPup Ranch–whose logo, created by my artist husband Bernie, is a silhouette of Huckleberry–was to breed and raise and train horses to compete in the sport of endurance riding. Endurance rides are marathons on horseback, fifty or a hundred miles long, cross country: one horse, one rider, one day. Arabian horses–small, beautiful, seemingly delicate–excel. I wanted my own herd, and I wanted to board horses for others.
I ran an ad with a picture of a horse standing in front of our mountain. “Huge Pastures. Devoted Care,” the copy read. Business got good fast. I had single horses brought in to board, and herds of ten to twelve. I helped deliver the foals of pregnant mares for clients, and raised those foals. I rehabilitated hurt horses and returned them, healthy, to their owners. Horses arrived in funky trailers pulled by rusted, fenderless pick-ups that rattled down our washboard road as if the Joads approached. Some came in commercial haulers, massive trucks pulling air conditioned vans with huge box stalls. After dark, I drove out to the highway gas station, to move horses from a hauler’s van to my trailer. As I crept down the sandy road at midnight, Huck beside me on the bench seat, the Big Dipper dangled over our ranch.
In a few years we had twenty-one, twenty-nine, thirty-seven horses. I fed hay twice a day in the bottomland and watered in drinkers at the top of the hills.
The horses grew strong climbing and descending. Free to roam as they were meant to, they grew straight legs, big strong feet and deep chests.
We did the work ourselves, feeding, grooming, doctoring, herding–me, Bern, Huckleberry, Gilly and the pack.