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Copyright 2013 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Let’s Party

 Story & Photos by Sam Yetter, Dillon, MT

 

June 2013 issue  

 

Let's Party by Sam Yetter, Dillon, MT

 

      The ad didn’t say a whole lot about her, just that she was a coming three-year-old Arabian, and the price seemed pretty low. The location was only a couple hundred miles from home which, in Montana , is practically next door. I talked with my husband, Jerry, and called to get directions and make arrangements for a look.

      We went to see her the next day and found a slim, athletic-looking free spirit wandering around a small field. She had a headstall on, with a broken rein and the other one dragging the dirt. There was a story here, but the owner wasn’t sharing any details. The simplified version was that she had been tied to the hitch rail and must have been scared by the storm that had just passed through. We didn’t think it had been that much of a storm.

      We carefully looked her over and could find nothing wrong. She carried herself with grace, elegance, pride, and her movement was fluid and effortless. She seemed lighter than air and the look in her eye told you she was absolutely alive.

      The weather turned for the worse again and we were being pelted with rain. The owner said something about supposing the headstall needed to be off her, but made no movement in the horse’s direction. We slipped it off. She stayed with us for a moment, relishing a little more attention, feeling some invisible tie, and then in an instant she seemed to evaporate into the mist and was gone.

      We went inside and looked at the papers. To our amazement there were names that even I recognized. Her sire was a national champion race horse, her dam a national champion endurance mare, and the registered name for their offspring was Let’s Party.

      There were too many horses and not enough time, according to the owner. They were Quarter Horse folks, and this little Arab just didn’t fit in. The price today was even less than had been advertised and they would deliver her at no extra charge.

      These folks really want to be rid of her, we thought. That sent up all kinds of warning flags. Logic said to avoid this horse, but there was something about this little girl that had touched our hearts. We made the deal and so began our life with Party.

 

      From the very beginning she was a prankster, mischief in horse hide. Tremendously intelligent and curious, we found we had to keep her mind occupied or she would find something “creative” to do on her own which usually required repairs. Working around Party always took two people, one to do the work and one to fetch the tools Party packed off. If you had put it down, she figured you must be done with it! She had to be in the thick of everything, always watching and learning, and always as close as possible to her people.

      Saddling Party the first time was not at all difficult. She simply looked at it and accepted it. She’d been saddled before. In fact, she had been mounted before but, as we learned later, she had made sure that being mounted was as far as it had ever gone. Party rapidly took care of the dismounts in her own way.

      Party had been through three different trainers before we got her and the results had always been the same. There would be a call for her owners to come get their horse. She was un-trainable, unmanageable, and dangerous; she would never make a saddle horse they had said. Trainers didn’t have the time to understand and gave up on her. So it came to be that she had been sold to us on a rainy afternoon.  

 

      We have always enjoyed working with young horses and turning them into upstanding and willing partners, but Party brought more into our relationship. She had more baggage than Chicago ’s O’Hare Airport. She had been pushed, bullied and tormented to try and force her into submission. These tactics had only served to make her wary and resentful. Party was cunning and shrewd and had an incredible memory. Humans had inflicted much misery in her short life and, at first, she was bent on getting even.

      It took long sessions to convince her that we respected her. We weren’t going to force her into things or punish her for not understanding. Instead we would give her opportunities. When she realized that, she was finally able to start respecting us.

      She was bought to be my horse, but she developed a special bond with Jerry. I rode her, but Jerry was in her heart, so I relinquished my claim and they were both happier for it. Party and Jerry shared an indomitable sense of adventure and love for breakneck speed. Her pranks became practical jokes and she never imagined anyone could possibly get hurt by them. Often she would throw a joyful buck into the mix just to make sure she had his full attention. She led countless back country trail rides and floated around other horses as Jerry checked that all was well. Then she would return to her rightful place at the head of the string.

      She had heart and grit, and kept a cool head when things got dicey. More than anything she loved to show off with her incredible speed, agility and style.

      No matter the distance, she would quickly out-stride anything that dared to test her speed and act as though she wasn’t even trying. “Oh! I’m sorry! Was that as fast as you can run?” Then she’d curl the corners of her mouth in a smile that said, “See, Boss, I told you we could do it. Now that’s what I call a party!”

      Party taught us justice from a horse’s point of view. We were educated in horse humor and learned to play the games at which she excelled. She drank the wind as she danced to mountain heights. She broadened our horizons with her effortless stride, taught us how truly capable a horse can be, and carried us to places we would have never discovered without her.

 

      Without her... How could we have known our time with her would be so short? We were on a mountain camping trip that was like so many others. Normally she looked forward to the marshmallow Jerry brought along for her lunch time dessert. It became their routine and without that marshmallow, Party would guarantee it was going to be a bad afternoon. She would make her stride so bone-jarring, it could hardly be endured.

      Jerry gave her the customary treat, but this day she took the marshmallow and promptly spit it out. Something was wrong. The fire was gone from her. She still carried Jerry back to the trailhead, but hadn’t fussed when my horse was in the lead. Back at the trailer she wasn’t interested in the grass or her grain. Was she simply tired?

      The week that followed brought questions and no real answers. We took her to our veterinarian, Joe, who watched her unload from the trailer and asked, “This is a sick horse?” as though we’d lost our minds. “What are her symptoms?”

      How could we explain that she didn’t eat her marshmallow and not sound like fools? But we knew her intimately and something was wrong.

      To humor us, he took some blood samples and sent them to the lab. The results weren’t terribly out of line, but they weren’t quite right, either.

      Joe questioned other vets and brought her in for transfusions and more blood work. She was off her feed and couldn’t be tempted with fresh sprigs of green grass, not with alfalfa, not with marshmallows. Party became cold to the touch. The vet had her come in again for more fluids. She continued to slip away from us. Joe said this was beyond him and made an emergency appointment for her with equine specialists at Belgrade . We were to have her there first thing the following morning.

      It was a restless night as we made a list of exactly what had happened in the last few days, anything that might give the vets a clue.

      At first light Jerry went to the barn and found her condition dire. We loaded her into the trailer where I rode beside her. Jerry and I had two-way radios for progress reports. I told him how she was standing the trip and he told me how far we had yet to go.

      Through it all she was stoic. She understood we were making a last-ditch effort and she was determined to see it through. Party was unsteady on her feet, yet she backed up on her side of the divider where she could see me through the partition.

      She looked me square in the eye with a look that said, “You know I’m not going to make it, don’t you?” and softly nickered to me, “Are you going to be okay?”

      When we opened the trailer doors, the vets couldn’t believe she was still on her feet. They drew blood that looked like rusty sludge and transfused massive quantities of liquids into her. With every drop that entered her veins she became worse.

      She was right. There was nothing that could be done. She gave up her footing and then she was gone.

 

      There have been other young horses since then and each has benefited from the knowledge we gained working with this remarkable horse and through learning to play her games. Every time we start a new horse, the lessons we learned from Party come flooding back and she is with us saying, “Yes, it’s time to see if you were paying attention! Let’s Party!”

 

 

 

Editor’s Note: I contacted the author and asked if they had ever determined what Let’s Party had died of. Here is our correspondence:

 

Sam Yetter: We did not have her necropsied, however, a vet from Australia (or someplace in that general corner of the world as I remember) that we spoke with thought chances were real good it was a liver problem. I remember him saying that this commonly is the culpret when a horse just wakes up dead one morning (or at least that’s the way it seems to the owner). A lot of these owners chalk it up to being a heart attack because the horses seem to die so suddenly. In fact, heart attacks in horses are rare and there are definite indicators well in advance of death. Party had none of those indicators.

      The fact that we are as close with our horses as we are gives a little more insight. Her being off her feed as well as refusing water, the way she became so terribly cold to the touch, and the quality of the blood all point to liver problems. Additionally, the fact that mosquitoes found her so irresistable all her life points to there being something different with her blood.

      We’ll never know for sure, but that’s the best guess anyone has come up with as far as we are concerned.

 

RMR Editor: The mare sounds like a she was a good soul. The liver theory is an interesting one. Here in the Bitterroot Valley , we sometimes see horses that have eaten houndstongue or another noxious weed which can cause liver damage. My horseshoer had a horse that he loved who had liver problems. He wasn’t sure what had caused the bad liver, but he nursed that horse along for several years before the horse had to be put down.

 

Sam Yetter: Yes, Party was a treasure. She was bought to be my horse, but she liked my husband, Jerry, best. He would let her fly!

      We thought about weeds being the cause, too. We keep all of our horses under close tabs for their diets. We don’t have any weeds where we live, but, of course, we run into some in the hills.

      We were always extremely careful where we would make any stops for lunch, or whatever, because we didn’t want them eating weeds for their health, as well as we didn’t want them bringing weed seeds home! I know tansy is one that can be nasty and has the possibility of causing liver damage. We know she didn’t get messed up with that.

      Houndstongue is one that we’d get into on some different trails and we would spend the time to pick the seeds, put them into a bag, and burn them in the fire back at camp.

      Your shoer is exactly right, though. If liver problems are suspected and the horse is tested and found to have them, it can become a long, drawn out process of treatment and the result is always the same. The horse loses that battle.

      Part of what was so striking in Party’s case is that she went so quickly after showing the very first signs of anything being wrong. Our vet, Joe, thought we were crazy because we asked him to examine her when we did. Everything tested out to be fine on his exam. He drew blood and it wasn’t even bad on the results of the blood tests when he got them back from the lab. Two days later she was dead.

     

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Copyright 2013 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

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