Your Turn: ‘A Show Horse in the Colorado Mountains,’ a mostly true story

A dressage horse gets more than she bargained for when she ventures outside the arena, as chronicled by Irene Queen.

Top: Freedom Dancer, owned by Jill Solbach of Loma, Colorado, more at home in an arena. Photo by Inka Spatafora.

From Irene:

An adventure was planned to a mountain abode.
Four ladies tacked up the four horses they rode.
Fifteen miles they’d ride on the wilderness trail,
and that’s just the start of this here tall tale.

One experienced mare had been there before.
Two others were trail horses, sturdy and strong;
But the Bay was a show horse; arenas were where
she’d practiced dressage; had been “Horse of the Year.”

The trailhead at South Fork is where they got started.
Saddled and packed, for the lodge they departed.
Things started out fine as they went on their way;
aspen and pine and a fine pretty day.

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The trail turned quite rocky, but they moved right along,
bravely climbing rock stairs without looking down!
They kept right on moving, and as all recall,
all four horses seemed steady when they got to the Wall.

They climbed over the top without too much delay.
Through the boulders and rocks carefully made their way.
The sights were so pretty riding there on their ponies;
chatting and riding were these four new old cronies.

Then the trail got rougher and rockier still,
but their mounts carried on over every hill.
From there on the top on the beauty they gazed,
and the horses so far seemed to be still unfazed.

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But one horse in the group had been building a balk.
No one suspected; there’d been no backtalk.
But build up it had and now at the creek,
the big bay mare’s balk built up to a peak.

She planted her feet. She could not be convinced.
The whip and the spurs were of no influence.
She was sure that death waited and soon would be there
in the mud of that creek, and to ask was unfair.

They asked and they pleaded; they beat and they swore,
but that mare was not moving, not one bit, no sir!
Their stomachs were growling, the lodge was still far,
but that big bay mare stood there, ready to spar.

The four of them waited an hour or so,
then two got too restless, went ahead on their own.
The other two stayed to talk with the mare;
too far to go back and too wet to stay there.

Dark clouds gathered over; the lightening flashed brightest;
standing there in the creek; maybe not all the smartest.
Whips, spurs and twirls were no good at all.
That mare was just stubbornly thwarting them all.

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Exhausted and rained on, the Bay needed a drink,
so she dropped her head down and sipped on the creek.
“Well that’s not so bad,” she thought to herself,
and placed one foot in, then the other as well.

With a tug on the reins she was over the brook,
but one more lay ahead, just a hop skip and jump.
She went right through that one, now assured of survival,
but by now these two gals were hours late in arrival.

The two traveled on over rock, hill and dale.
Some spots they got off and led over the trail.
The sun dropped below the mountains behind
and darkness fell, making those nags disinclined

to keep moving forward through horse-eating trees
and scary moonshadows and ghosts on the breeze.
If one more owl hooted that mare would unwind,
with her rider to find a new seat reassigned.

The two ladies ahead who arrived at the lodge,
all panicked and worried, told Larry, the boss,
“Our friends are left out and it’s getting so dark.
We’d say this is scary; no longer a lark!”

The wranglers packed up all the goods that they could;
some matches and clothes and some blankets and food.
They packed for a rescue; didn’t know what they’d find.
It was late, getting cold; ladies seemed in a bind.

But out on the trail, the other two kept right on.
They hoped they’d arrive there sometime before dawn.
The moon had come out and it spooked the two steeds,
those ponies now SURE those were horse-eating trees.

No watch to tell time and no fire to stay warm,
they just plugged along heading on towards the barn.
They knew it was soon, or they thought that it was,
but the night just grew longer; seems their plan had some flaws.

“Just an hour or so more,” they said to themselves.
“Just beyond that next hill the lodge sure must be there.”
Putting on some dry socks made things somewhat more bearable,
when a loud sudden “Crash!’ made their fate seem quite terrible.

It was dark. It was loud. There was something out there.
They stopped, stood and listened. Maybe it was a bear!
Well all they could say when they heard that “kaboom,”
whatever that was, it warn’t no darn raccoon.

They stood for a minute to see where it went,
but all became silent with darkness’ descent.
They kept right on moving; could not turn away,
even though right nearby there might be hell to pay.

Then up ahead, they heard a bright jingle;
some spur-clanging cowboys! A ring a ting tingle!
“Howdy there,” called out those cowboys in glee;
and there in the trail was the Budges Lodge cavalry.

A sight for sore eyes were those cowboys and nags;
like Christmas or New Year’s or Fourth of July flags.
They gathered those gals like some runaway steers
and headed on home to a fire and some beers.

Well the Rob cowboy led and Stretch fell behind.
They radioed on that the ladies were found.
Rob ordered his boss to rustle some brews
and in 45 minutes the lodge was in view.

After hours on the trail the lodge was a sight,
sure welcome to ladies who’d had quite a fright.
“Lions and tigers and bears oh my,”
they now could relax and they let out a sigh.

The horses got settled; the girls had some food;
got warmed by the fire and shared trail ride news.
Cowboys wanted to know what the trouble had been.
Well this is what they figure had happened:

That big bay tall mare was quite an event.
Fancy bloodlines and all and some dollars’d been spent.
She’d competed in shows; even “Horse of the Year”
in beginner dressage training shows she’d appeared.

So the way that they figure is that what they missed,
when they packed up their stuff on that trailriding list;
what they needed to pack with their boots and their sweaters,
were some of those A,B,C, D and E dang dressage letters.

If they’d placed those darn letters alongside the brook,
that horse would have known when to stop, start and look.
And after she’d crossed, then she’d stand proud and tall,
and wait for her rider’s salute to them all.

So the heroes that day were those men, Rob and Stretch;
western gentlemen both, saved those gals from sure death!
Whatever that creature that had crashed through the brush,
be it moose, bear or elk; it gave quite a rush.

Next time that the ladies set on out to Budges,
they’ll choose horses with care and avoid their misjudges.
Or take dressage letters for crossing the way
and the next trip on out will be child’s play.

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