Thursday, January 29, 2009


I just got off the phone with the APHA and it looks like I can register Kachina! All I need is the signature of the person who owned the sire and the dam at the time of breeding -- which The Son already agreed to do last night -- and then I can send in my application and payment (that's the other tricky part, seeing as I have no money) and then she's good to go!

Later today I'll call The Son, get his address, and send off the form along with a pre-addressed envelope. Then I just try to scrape together the fee while I anxiously await the paperwork's return. Then it's off to the registry, and then Kachina will be a registered Paint.

Hopefully I can register her with the AQHA through the APHA. The APtH won't be a problem, or so their rep told me. I guess they're a pretty loose registry.

Why is it so important to me to get Kachina registered? I don't plan on ever selling Kachina, but the fact is we can't predict the future. If something unexpected happens to me, she'll have a much better chance at finding a good home if she has papers. Also, if she's ever lost or stolen (not a big concern around here, but..), I can prove she's mine with her paperwork. And if I ever want to compete in the big shows, she'll have to be registered.

It's my obligation to make sure she has a good life -- with or without me -- and lives up to her full potential. The more she's registered, the more likely that will be.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Progress On The Paperwork

So, I called "The Son" who owned the ranch where Kachina was born, and he was actually very nice! He sorta-kinda remembered Kachina, but unfortunately the only copies of the paperwork he had were the ones he sold her with, which are now missing.

He suggested calling the APHA and finding out what needs to be done, and he said if I needed any signatures to just mail them to him and he'd sign them.

Just goes to show that you can't judge people based solely on what other people say.

Red Blanket

It's freezing cold here! Well, "freezing cold" for the Bay Area at least. I'm glad Kachina's blanket came; she'll get a lot of use out of it this week. She was still perfectly fine with me putting it on and wearing it around the paddock, and I've gotten to the point where I can let it hang over her face and she won't get nervous.

It's been so wet that I haven't done much work with her, other than basic handling and working on her ears. Hopefully today will stay dry enough that I can safely take her on another walk through the park.

Donna told me last week that she thought Kachina would be a good competitor in Ranch Trail Competition (you can see video of it here and here). I've been looking at videos and reading up on it, and it looks like a lot of fun. I have to agree, if Kachina shows this same level of confidence and willingness as she gets older, I think she'd do really well in it. So today, I'm going to work on setting up some scary things and, if we go for a walk, finding tricky things on the trail to desensitize her to. Donna, who used to compete in Trail Competitions herself, said she'd help me design some real monsters for Kachina.

I love having such a young horse, but sometimes I can't wait to be able to ride her. I just know she's going to be an amazing horse; she has so much potential, and it's really exciting to work with her. Now I just have to find some cows for her to meet...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

On Names

I took my friend, The Cat, out to see Kachina yesterday. It was more of the same -- rain, mud and lots of brushing. But on our way back, he asked about her name, what it meant and why I chose it. I was surprised when I realized that, for some people, "Kachina" is not a well-known term. So, of course, I felt I had to explain (and for the record, this is what I was taught, and by no means do I boast to know every aspect of the Kachina or the Hopi):

Kachinas -- or Katsina -- are sacred religious figures for the Hopi and Zuni religion. They were physical forms of everything from a Force of Nature to an Animal to an Idea or Emotion. They acted as messengers of The Creator, bringing prophecies and instructions down to Man and taking Man's wishes up to The Creator. The Kachina would appear for religious ceremonies and dance sacred dances for the people. A Kachina would never, ever remove its mask during a ceremony (in fact, it's said that the End of This World will occur when The Blue Star Kachina removes his mask during a dance).

The Kachina dolls were carved meticulously from weeds, and given to young girls by their uncles. They sacred, and taught the children of the Kachina (of which there are literally hundreds) and their history.

The original word -- qatsina -- literally translates into "Life Bringer."

So why did I choose that name? Like I mentioned before, I didn't consciously name Kachina. I knew immediately that that would be her name. There was just no question, or need to mull it over and, once it had come to me, I never once doubted or second-guessed it.

The same happened when I renamed Maverick. When I decided to buy him, I just instantly knew what his name would be. It was almost like Maverick and Kachina chose their own names, and just informed me somehow.

I added "Lucky" because of her sire's name, and because she was very lucky that, thanks to a few amazing people, she was given a chance to live and grow. The "dancer" came after I watched her move -- she was the lightest, most balanced and graceful horse I'd ever seen, and she would throw her little tail up in absolute happiness when she pranced. To me, this truly looked like she was dancing a sacred dance.

So that's how Lucky Kachina Dancer got her name.

As for me? Why do I refer to myself as "The Girl"? Well, using my real name would be boring, and this blog isn't really about me, so I tried to think of how my horses would refer to me.

They would know me by smell, but I can't convey that in words.

They would know me by sound, but I wasn't about to call myself "psst-psst-psst~".

So, I thought, how would Maverick know me? "The Girl that feeds me" or "The Girl who brushes me" or "The Girl who drags me away from my breakfast, puts that rope thing about my face, climbs on my back and makes me move around when I'd really rather be eating."

So that's how I was named "The Girl."

Friday, January 23, 2009


My time with Kachina was a little rushed today, and most of it was spent picking up manure in the rain. But her blanket did come in the mail today, and I had the chance to try it on.

She was completely tolorant of me running the bright red blanket over her head and back, and rubbing it along her body, although she was obviously nervous; she pooped when I tossed it over her head, but she stayed perfectly still and kept her eye on me. She even stood still while I adjusted it to fit her. When I let her go to see if she'd kick out at the straps or buck, she just wandered back to her feeder and started eating. Donna told me that she has yet to find anything about Kachina she doesn't like, and I have to agree -- she's pretty perfect so far.

The rain made the lighting so bad that it wasn't even worth pulling out my little camera, I promise I'll get a picture up of her wearing her blanket. The huge logo on the side kinda makes her look like a NASCAR entry.

Rainy Day

Yesterday was the first rainy day we've had since I got Kachina. And, of course, her blanket hasn't arrived yet, so when I came out to see her she was damp and dirty from the dusty gravel, which meant I spent the entire visit grooming her. Fancy, was being a bit of a hovering "mother", so I groomed her as well.

I worked with Kachina on letting me touch her ears. I got to the point where I could rub a finger along each ear without her flinching away, so we left it at that. I don't think it's going to take very long at all for her to accept having her ears handled.

Tony and Donna's place is amazing in the rain. Everything is so green, and the redwoods look extremely red. I tried to take pictures, but my camera couldn't do the colors justice.

When I left, Kachina and Fancy were standing under the shelter, pressed against each other, keeping one another warm.

Investigation pt. 3!

I received a reply from the (extremely nice) woman who runs Hooves of Hope, and originally took Kachina from the PMU farm:

"I am happy to know you now have her...I can only tell you that the PMU breeder [the son] is not a nice man. He inherited the horses when his father died last year and positively hated them. He wanted to send them to the kill buyer and we had a hard time making him wait until weather wise I could get my hauler there to pick them up..."

This guy just sounds better and better the more I hear about him. I did get his contact information, but now I'm wondering if it's even worth it to call him and ask him if he has pictures or copies of the parents' papers.

How does someone hate horses -- or any animal for that matter? You can not like them, you can even be afraid of them, but hate? Hate is such a strong word to use, but everyone I've talked to has repeated it. He "hates" horses. It's just beyond my ability to comprehend.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I've finally managed to track down a picture of Kachina's mother (It isn't a very good picture, but it's something)! Here's what I know about her parents so far:

Sire: Lady's Lucky Mister (1990)
Breed: Paint
Color: Bay Tobiano
Height: 15.2 hh.
Weight: 1250 lbs.
Pedigree: Lady's Lucky Mister

Dam: Miss Patch Pilot (the mare, obviously)
Breed: Paint
Color: Perlino Overo
Height: ???
Weight: ???
Pedigree: Miss Patch Pilot

Other than this, I know nothing. I'm hoping a few of the rescues I've e-mailed can give me more information. I did get the number of the son of the man who owned the farm where Kachina was born, and I'm planning on calling him today. Hopefully I'll catch him in the right mood.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Investigation pt. 2!

Got another reply, this one from a woman who rescued Kachina's half-sister:

"This guy [the son] and his dad have a closed pmu farm. His dad is (was) real nice, but [the son] on the other hand is temperamental and not real compassionate and will take horses to sale if he needs to. I have gotten some horses from him in the past and my last one went to South Dakota.... your horse's half sister."

So it was a PMU! Although apparently this guy bred selectively, in order to place the PMU foals(?). That's the impression I get from the rescue that has two of Kachina's siblings. I'm still waiting for them to contact me back.


I received a reply from the woman Holly got Kachina from. This is what she had to say in her e-mail regarding Kachina's past:

"I am glad that she got a good home. I got her from a friend who has Hooves for Hope in Lompoc, California a year ago...She came from a farm in South Dakota and the man who owned these horses passed away. As his son inherited 50 pregnant mares with foals already at their side, he hated horses. He was going to sell all the horses to a slaughter house in Canada, as this plant was only a few miles from the farm. Lisa got 6 babies and tried to get more, but just did not have the funds. I am not sure what happened to the rest, but I know most went to rescue places. I know her dam is Miss Patch Pilot and her sire is Ladys Lucky Mister. I have tried to locate that reg paper and have not yet come across it. She is registered as an overo..."

This seems to confirm the story I'd heard from Holly, as well as a bit of my own research. One of the PMU Rescues that had two of Kachina's siblings said that they were from a place called "B Ranch" in North Dakota. This rescue takes over PMU farms that have lost their contracts, in order to find homes for the horses. I've already e-mailed them, so hopefully they'll reply with a few more pieces of the puzzle. I'll try locating this Hooves for Hope place to see if they have anything.

However, with fifty pregnant mares, all with sucklings already, it's even more likely that this place actually was a PMU farm.

I've contacted the APHA and the AQHA to see if there were any options to register her without a breeding certificate, but apparently there's not. If I don't get her paperwork, I may have to settle with just registering her with the PtHA.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I went to see Kachina today, but since we'd walked so long yesterday, and I had family obligations, I kept the visit brief. I mostly spent the time brushing her, taking my time and working on her aversion to having her ears touched. I also gave her a paste de-wormer, which she took without problem (seriously, this horse is perfect).

It's amazing how attached to Kachina Fancy is. She kept a very close eye on me the entire time I handled Kachina, and even put her head protectively over Kachina's back. I had to use the training stick to back her away a few times, but overall she complied. It was fun to spend time with the both of them and watch them interact with us without too much pressure. Donna says Fancy and Kachina are slowly getting better about being separated.

It was a little too dark to take pictures, but I really want to get some of Fancy the next time. She's such a beautiful horse, and what a survivor; she's had such a hard life, but she's still so sweet and social.

I should mention that the red halter I'm using for Kachina was Maverick's first halter; it came with him when I bought him (it was too small for him then). Just the thought makes me smile.

Monday, January 19, 2009

First Walk In The Redwoods

Today P and I took Kachina for her first walk of many through Redwood Park.

Fancy was reluctant to let her go; they'd become so close that Donna tells me they threw a fit earlier in the day when she went to take Fancy for her walk. Fancy, she said, even struck out and reared. I'd hoped they would become close, but I'm amazed at how quickly Fancy's adopted Kachina as her foal! I'm sure they'll both settle down as the walks become more of a routine.

As for Kachina, she was wide-eyed and antsy for a minute or two, but she lead without a problem and settled down pretty quickly. At one point we came across another horse on the trail and she became unsettled again, calling out and wanting to forge ahead to catch up to it. But it only took me stopping once or twice and letting her calm down before she was relaxed again.

Further up we came to her first stream (ok, it was actually more of a mud puddle)! She was reluctant to cross it, and it took me showing her twice before she'd follow me through it. After that we saw plenty of people, dogs and bicycles. Kachina did very well with every new encounter, although she did grunt at dog who seemed a little too interested. Once everything calmed down, and we'd reached a good spot, we rested and admired the view for a few minutes and I took the opportunity to rub her down and desensitize her to the leadrope (which she was terrific with).

Eventually we had to turn around and make our way back toward the park entrance. We'd gone up some pretty steep hills, so going down was a challenge for all of us. There were many places that looked like the drop of a cliff, and she hesitated to follow a few times, but she never really put up a big fight. After a while she just learned to trust me, and all three of us slowly and carefully made our way back down.

I was surprised to see that it had turned dark by the time we left the cover of the trees. The "short walk" I'd planned and ended up lasting almost an hour and a half!

Fancy was waiting for us when we got back to Donna's, but she'd visibly calmed down (Donna told us later that she'd been calling for Kachina and digging a hole to China). The first thing Kachina did was take a long drink from the waterers, and then she headed for the hay. P and I went inside to visit with Donna, and she presented me with a gorgeous leather-adorned journal she'd made for me to use to keep Kachina's papers (when I get them) and records of her growth! And yes, that's an actual lock of Kachina's mane, plus a piece of turquoise from Montana.

I've started researching Kachina's past, starting with information about her sire. All I know is that her sire is Ladys Lucky Mister, and her dam is Miss Patch Pilot -- both registered Paints. So far I've found nothing on her mother but her pedigree, but I did find a picture of her father and a few of his offspring (one in particular looks a lot like Kachina). I've noticed that all of his offspring that I've found are in rescues, or have been adopted from rescues -- many of them PMU rescues. I have this unsettling suspicion that the "breeding ranch" Kachina was supposedly born on may have actually been a PMU farm, but I can't confirm anything until I actually get ahold of some information. I've sent out some e-mails, so we'll see what comes back.

For now, I'm just as exhausted as Kachina. These walks are going to be good for both of us, but I really need to invest in some hiking shoes if I'm going to be climbing up such steep hills. Cowboy boots are not the best on slippery slopes.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Moving Day

Today was the day we moved Kachina to Tony and Donna's, and introduced her to Fancy, who would be her "herd" for the next couple of years.

My grandfather drove out to the stables this morning to load her up, then came and picked me up from my house at nine o'clock and, together, we headed to Donna's, where we met up with P. As expected, Kachina loaded and rode in the trailer like a dream; she really is perfect.

Once we were there, Donna came down to help us unload Kachina, then we took her to meet Fancy. I didn't hear it, but Donna told me later that Fancy nickered to Kachina when she saw her coming. Although Kachina was a little wide-eyed at first, she took everything in stride and soon made herself at home. Fancy seemed to take well to Kachina, and it only took a short grunt from her to establish their two-horse hierarchy -- Fancy is definitely lead mare!

We let the horses get to know each other while we unloaded the four bales of oat hay I brought with me onto the old wooden bridge beside the horse paddock. After a little grunting and maneuvering, we stacked the bales on top of Donna's stack of Timothy bales, and went to check on Fancy and Kachina.

By that time, Kachina had learned to drink out of the automatic waterer, and feed from Donna's specialized feeder. This ingenious feeder is set up at a slant, with a grate in front. It's designed so that when you put a bale in, the hay slides down the slope and sticks out in sprigs through the grate, allowing the horses to mimic grazing by pulling a few sprigs through the opening at a time. Donna was a little concerned that Fancy, who had almost starved to death at one point in her life, would be possessive of the food and keep Kachina out of the shelter. But in no time the two were feeding side-by-side, sticking to their own separate feeders.

Donna called me later to tell me that Kachina and Fancy were doing fine, and that she'd caught them grooming each other. "I think Fancy thinks she's got her baby back," she told me. I hope their relationship lasts as Kachina grows older.

Donna's house is truly amazing. It's set atop a hill, right in the middle of the redwoods; just being there gives you a sense of awe. Sometimes you can hear deer walking around higher up on the mountain, and you can see mockingbirds and cardinals flit past. One small tree in particular was covered in the most amazing gathering of ladybugs. They were literally everywhere.

Tomorrow I'll go visit Kachina after work. If I'm lucky, I'll get the chance to take her for her first walk through Redwood Park.

I just realized that I referred to Kachina's halter as her "collar" in an earlier post. Er..dogs, horses, all the same right?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Cast of Characters

Lucky Kachina Dancer: Or Kachina, an 18-month-old Paint (dun lineback tovero) filly that was rescued from slaughter. The Girl, who'd met her by chance and fell in love with her, bought her in January of 2009 for $500 - what she would have been sold for at slaughter. She's a natural athlete, incredibly intelligent and willing. Together, Kachina and her girl will train to compete in Team-Penning - a first for both of them.

The Girl: Kachina and Maverick's 24-year-old owner (and Rico's co-owner, and Gypsy's servant). She's currently a dog trainer, and learning to train horses. She's been riding horses all of her life - being literally born into it. She dreams of turning Kachina into a
top-notch competition horse. She currently lives in Oakland, California.

Zans H. Maverick: A 10-year-old chestnut Quarter Horse gelding. Maverick is The Girl's first horse, leader of the herd and something of an older brother to Kachina. When The Girl first bought him, he was skin and bones, a week away from starvation, and badly neglected; now, after four years, he's healthy and happy. Even though he can be stubborn and bratty, he's a good, reliable, smart horse with a lot of personality; there isn't a person who's met him that doesn't instantly love him. He took an immediate liking to Kachina the first time he met her. Despite his prestigious lineage (he's the grandson of both Two-Eyed Jack and Zan Parr Bar) and his natural athletic ability and talent, Maverick is extremely lazy and would much rather spend the rest of his days bossing around the other horses and munching on grass. He knows that he's the favorite son, and makes sure everyone else knows it too.

Rico (El Pequeño Pistolero): A 22-year-old bay Paso Fino gelding. Previous to joining The Girl's herd, Rico was savagely abused and forced to run illegal races. The Girl rehabilitated him, and now he follows her around like a puppy. He's completely infatuated with Gypsy and, lucky for him, the feeling is mutual.

Gypsy: A six-year-old chestnut Peruvian Paso mare. Gypsy was bought to be The Girl's grandmother's horse, but somehow became The Girl's charge. She spent most of her life on pasture, so she has very little experience being ridden. That said, she is very sweet - although a bit finicky. She absolutely loves Rico, and the two of them can often be seen grooming each other.

P: The Girl's friend. If The Girl is the captain (which she is), then P is the pilot (which he is). She often drags him places because he's good company, and because she doesn't like to drive if can avoid it. He's also a singer/songwriter; his number-one song is about Maverick. (and yes, that is an actual picture of him)

Tony & Donna: The Girl's friends, and long-time horse people. Kachina lives with them in Redwood Park, along with their rescued mare, Fancy. Donna makes beautiful handmade leather clothing and accessories (check them out at Oat Couture-USA!).

Satin's Fancy: A bay Tennessee Walking Horse mare. Fancy lived a hard life of abuse and neglect before she was rescued by Tony and Donna - the effects of which she's still recovering from. Her foal, S'Prize, was just recently weaned. Hopefully, Kachina will help ease her loneliness.

Odin: Tony and Donna's twelve-year-old German Shepherd. He's an ex-schutzen dog, although you'd never know if for all of his goofiness. He and Kachina have constant issues over who is the herder and who is the herdee. Unfortunately, because of Kachina's size, Odin more often than not ends up acting as her "fuzzy cow." He does, however, get in a few good nips now and then. Despite their disagreements, they do get along very well (most of the time), and it's not uncommon to see Odin egging Kachina into a chase. Odin's favorite job is accompanying P and The Girl to the manure pile during cleaning time.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lucky Kachina Dancer

The Story So Far:

I first saw Kachina late December (2008), in a trailer bound for Redding, CA. The woman who owned the trailer had just picked her up from Southern California and was breezing through my stable, where she was picking up a horse she'd just bought from one of the boarders.

The woman casually mentioned that she had a paint for sale, in case we knew anyone who was interested. I was not interested. Paints have never really floated my boat; I've always found their flashiness overrated. But, being curious about any horse, I strolled over to the trailer to take a look. I only saw her face, but I was breathless, instantly in love.

When I asked for more information about the horse, trying (and probably failing) to seem nonchalant, the woman had nothing to provide. "Well," I asked, "what's her name at least?" The woman shrugged, gave my an apologetic half-smile and replied "I dunno. I don't remember." Then she loaded her new horse into the trailer and left me there, with only her card and an unsettling sense of longing. I'd already named the horse before the trailer disappeared from view.

I was not looking for a horse. I owned one, I shared the cost of another, and I worked with one more. I was responsible for three horses already, and I did not have the time or the money to throw another into the mix. I didn't even have the spare $500 the woman was willing to sell the horse for, and I could see no way of raising it with money being as ellusive as it was. But I couldn't get the filly off my mind. I dreamt about her that night (and almost every night since then), and it only took one more day before I e-mailed the woman about going up to Redding -- a four-hour drive -- to see the horse.

I figured there was no harm in just looking. I'd always wanted to go on a road trip, and I'd heard that Redding was very beautiful. I'd drag my friend P along, and we'd make a day of it, get up there and realize that the horse was bratty, or fearful, or pushy, or there was just no connection, and then I'd forget the whole thing.

I told no one but P about my plans; about wanting the horse or going up to see it. I claimed I had to work that Saturday, filled up my pickup truck, and my co-pilot and I headed out, not entirely sure of where we were going or what would happen.

The drive was beautiful. Redding looks a lot like how I'd imagine Colorado to look; with mountains, snow-topped mountains, in the background and long, flat land dotted with cows, crops and the occasional old red barn. The day was chilly, but bright, and we sang along to Bob Dylan almost the entire way.

When we reached the ranch, the first thing we noticed was pastures and pastures of Haflinger horses (which was the owner, Holly's, specialty). The second thing we noticed was a camel in one of the paddocks. The third was my filly, out in the roundpen. We pulled into the drive, by the barn, where Holly and a Pudel Pointer named Dee-Dee came out to meet us ("You're the first person to know what she was!" Holly exclaimed when I'd asked her if Dee-Dee was a Pudel. "Well," I'd replied, "I am a dog trainer").

Holly brought the filly in -- who's name, she told me, was "Sheila" (yeah, I cringed too) -- and let me brush her down. Then she rounded off her hooves, which I were relieved to see were barefoot and in good shape, and gave me the leadrope to do whatever I wanted.

I brought the filly back to the roundpen. I'd never actively sought out a horse to buy; my other horses had all been rescues who had found me, or been dropped in my lap. I had a basic idea of what I should be looking for -- conformation, hooves, movement -- but really, I just wanted to get a sense of her personality and temperament. In the first few minutes she tried to establish a bond with me, and with my pilot. I rubbed my hands all over her, and she sniffed me curiously but did not protest or move away. Then I walked away and she followed. So then I asked her to trot, and she complied (she had the most beautiful and graceful movements I'd ever seen in a young horse). I instantly knew that my plan had failed; the horse was perfect.

Holly took us inside and told us she'd gotten information on the filly's parents. We looked them up on the All-Breed Registry and, I should have known, her pedigree was amazing. Seven hall-of-fame horses that I knew of on her sire's side alone. All racing or cow horses, with a few halter horses thrown in. Not only was she beautiful, graceful, willing and smart, but she was also genetically setup for what I'd always wanted to do: compete in cutting and team-penning.

Holly told us that Sheila was born on a breeding ranch, owned by an elderly horseman. When the man died, his son inherited the property. The son only wanted the land, and hated horses, so he shipped them all -- Sheila included -- off to slaughter. A woman saved as many as she could, and dispersed them to different horse people she knew in order to find them homes. Holly, who raised Haflingers, wasn't interested in Paints; she told us that she liked Sheila's mind, and wanted to help her. Hence the $500 buying price -- not much more than what one would get for her at the slaughter house.

I thanked Holly, told her I'd be in touch, and P and I drove off. I asked what his opinion was, and he told me that he thought she was an extremely special, extremely sweet horse. I didn't need his varification; I already knew, before we left the ranch, that I'd have to find a way to buy her.

The next person I told about the horse was my mother. Most of what I know about horses, I've learned from her. When my mother was seven-months pregnant with me, she was attacked by a loose stallion while going to get her mare out of the arena, and kicked in the stomach. My mom's mare, Sage, fought the attacker off long enough for my mom to be pulled out of the arena and taken to the hospital. As a result, I was born premature, almost in the arena. My mom and I have shared a special love of horses ever since. All I had to do was tell my mom about the filly -- tell her how I felt when I first saw her, and how she acted around me -- and my mom knew that I'd found my "diamond in the rough" like she had, once upon a time, with Sage. But she warned me, I had better ask my grandfather first, or I'd have trouble in the long run.

My grandfather has been a cowboy all of his life. I'm not talking the drugstore vairety. I'm talking in the mud, breaking colts, moving cattle, mending fences cowboy. In his younger days, he was one of the best known Team-Penners in the country; he competed nationally, all over the country, and has a room full of trophy saddles and buckles. He's certainly one of the best known Black horsemen in California. It's rare to see him without his dirty straw cowboy hat, his cigar, or his beaten old boots (I don't think he's ever bought a new hat or pair of boots). He's broke, trained and competed on countless horses, and even the people who don't like him have to admire his skill. He's also gruff, critical, blunt and onery. So of course, I wanted his opinion, but I was also worried that he wouldn't approve of the filly. My mom and I both knew that, if he didn't like her, it was for a good reason, and neither of us wanted to think about the prospect of me not getting her. But the hard fact was that I just didn't have the money to invest in a horse that wasn't worth investing in, no matter how much I liked her.

So, that weekend, I printed out her parents' pedigree, researched and highlighted all of the notable horses and their accomplishments, worked up a convincing argument ("Look at all of these hall-of-famers! And she's a very unique color, and a mare! And look at that conformation! At the very least, we could resell her for twice what we paid.") -- but I didn't need any of them. Granpa took a look at her background, almost bored, folded the paper back up and handed to me, lit his cigar and said "You can't go wrong with any horse for $500." Then he told me to send $250 as a downpayment, and if I didn't have the rest of the money by the time the horse arrived, to let him know. My mom cried while we cleaned stalls. I just couldn't stop grinning.

I sent the downpayment off the next day, but I was still worried about how I'd get the rest. Ontop of the additional $250, it would cost $90 to bring her down. I knew Granpa would help if I needed it, but I hated borrowing money and this was something I wanted to do on my own. I just couldn't see a way to cut back, especially with Christmas only a week away. But Mom told me not to worry, that it'd work out. Man, did it.

I work at a Dog Daycare. I love my job, and the people I work for, and our clients. Before joining this business, I worked at another daycare that could care less about me, about the dogs or about the clients. It was all about making money. I truly believe that some of the best people in the world bring their dogs to where I work now, and they proved it. I needed $340 for Sheila. In gifts from clients, and from my boss, I received $345 -- enough for my horse, and to buy lunch that day (which I was going to skip). I will never doubt the cosmos again.

The filly was scheduled to be delivered on January 10th. By now, there were more people involved: P and Mom, of course, but also my friends Donna and Tony. The filly would be spending two years at their beautiful home in Redwood Park, keeping their mare Fancy company. Fancy's foal, S'Prize, had just been weaned and the mare was feeling lonely. We all thought it'd be a perfect fit, and now Donna and Tony were just as excited to see the filly arrive.

January 9th came. I'd been all week planning a Welcoming Party at the stables, and inviting everyone (it's extremely rare that I attend parties, much less throw them). All that was left was to call Holly to confirm the time of delivery. Unfortunately, when I called, Holly told me that she'd had trouble with a hay delivery, so she wouldn't be able to bring the filly down until Tuesday. Disappointed, I had to inform everyone that the party was off, and prepare myself for four more days of anxious waiting.

When Tuesday came, I took off from work half an hour early and P and I zipped out to the stables. The first thing we saw as we pulled up was Holly's huge five-horse trailer. Then we caught sight of Holly, sitting on the ground next to the hitching post, and my filly tied up and munching on Timothy. I jumped out of the car (I think it was still moving), thanked Holly and gave her the other half of the payment. We chatted for a bit, but it was mostly due to politeness; I couldn't wait to put my halter on the filly and walk her around. As we watched Holly drive off, I gave the filly her new name -- Kachina.

I spent the rest of the day brushing her, walking her around the stable and introducing her to her new herd. Maverick, the leader of our little three-horse (now four-horse) herd, took an instant liking to her, making Kachina's assimilation into the herd seamless. In a few seconds they were all running around together, her little hacked off tail held high in pure bliss.

The next day my boss insisted that I only work a half-day ("If I'd just bought a horse," she said over a text message, "you wouldn't even see me!"). I left work around 11:30, which gave me enough time to drive out to the Thoroughbred racetrack nearby and buy her a bale of Timothy hay to help her transition. When I made it out to the stables, the first thing I did was put all of the horses out in the arena again to see what would happen. Like the day before, they raced around the arena and played, Kachina now an official member of the herd. I took some video of her to show my boss, then took her out to start working with her.

The only problem she seemed to have was her tendency to shy away when you tried to touch her ears, so I spent a good amount of time rubbing her neck and face, working my way up around her ears. When I could touch an ear without her flinching away, I praised her and moved on to desensitizing her to my training stick and string. She stood there as I tried everything I could think of to spook her, completely trusting and willing to do everything I asked. "Whoever the old man was that bred her must have really loved her," I marveled. After a few minutes of working with her and the stick, I put her away for the night.

Because of family obligations, I couldn't visit her the next day (something I bemoaned about the entire day), so I didn't see her again until that Friday. That same day I had received her own, personal training stick, training lead, and grown-up rope halter (she was already almost too big for the yearling size I'd bought) -- all in red, her designated color.

We put her out with the other horses, and I had intended on desensitizing her to my leather chinks, but I spent the whole time marveling at how she interacted with the other horses. Maverick, Gypsy and Rico were all out there, and one of the other boarders put her horse Vinnie out with them. It was amazing to watch how closely she had bonded with Maverick. When Maverick began herding the other horses into a huddle, she broke from the group and began mimicking him.

Saturday was her last day with Maverick and the others before we moved her to Tony and Donna's, which made it a little bittersweet. I left her out in the arena with them while I cleaned stalls, and snapped a few pictures. The stable, which is pretty empty during the week, becomes active on the weekends, so this was my one day to really show Kachina off.

While the herd was in the arena , Brian -- one of the boarders -- saddled up his giant Belguim mare, Lily, and took her in to ride. Lily is very athletic for a giant draft horse, but isn't entirely trained under saddle yet. The mare took off, headed straight for the herd and, while the other horses deftly raced away, Kachina figured the best escape route was over the arena's five-foot wall. I turned around just in time to watch her clear the barrier completely, and land on the other side without so much as a bit of soreness. Even more amazing, after she'd settled her nerves, she stood still and allowed me to come up to her and grab her collar without trying to run away from me.

I've never worked with a horse that's so intelligent, willing and athletic. I'm both excited and afraid; she came to me as a blank slate, so any problems she develops will be entirely my fault. It's equal parts a rare gift, and a daunting responsibility.

That's Kachina's story so far. Tomorrow she will move into her new home, right in the middle of Redwood Park, and meet her caretakers, Tony and Donna, and her new companion, Fancy, for the first time. Based on what I've seen so far, I don't anticipate any problems between Kachina and Fancy.

I'm going to miss watching her run and interact with the herd -- especially with Maverick -- but Tony and Donna's place will be the perfect place for her to spend her young years. And, eventually, she'll get the chance to rejoin Maverick's herd.