My friend Stayner Haller is something of a legend in the Morgan horse world. With his eventing gelding, LGM Challenger, he competed in 104 USEA events, including one when Chally was 27 and Stayner 73. “Chally” lived into his mid-thirties, remaining active and fit, and even still jumping before succumbing to colic in 2015.
This loss, besides being one equivalent to the loss of any beloved family member, has left Stayner temporarily without a mount…. Sort of. Not surprisingly, he has a host of friends suddenly pushing horses at him. Heck, who wouldn’t want to place a horse with someone of Stayner’s caliber?
Luckily for me, he had a hankering for a trail ride and thought we should take Clifford and the baby (Kerry 7th Gen) to Waterloo State Game Area. Not only that, he offered to ride the baby. Not only THAT, but he offered to hook up his deluxe, made-for-Morgans trailer and come and pick us up!
Kerry 7th Gen is now six years old and has only been ridden with a bit in his mouth a handful of times. Although he ran loose on Drummond Island for 4 months in 2016, he didn’t carry a rider in all that time. He knows nothing about leg yields, cues from the seat or the reins, or the cursing of an irate rider.
Okay, well maybe he knows about the cursing.
The date Stayner chose for our ride, Saturday April 22, just happened to fall on Clifford’s 26th birthday. The horses had all been celebrating with a mud bath. I tied Clifford and his doppelganger, the baby Morgan known as Kerry 7th Gen, to the rusty trailer Wheelzebub, now flushed a hot pink with embarrassment as the sleek silver bullet of Stayner’s trailer backed down the driveway.
We spent a good twenty minutes brushing and scraping the mud off the horses as big clumps of soft winter hair floated to the ground.
Clifford the Birthday Boy was all too happy to walk right into Stayner’s wide, welcoming vehicle with its padded butt bar. What a switch from the rattle trap where he leans against the wall, bracing himself, probably with his eyes squeezed shut.
After Kerry Seventh Gen, or JR as we call him for short, was reluctantly loaded with a few coaxing taps from the Leather Negotiator, we drove a good hour down to Waterloo Rec Area. The roadsides were bursting with clumps of bright yellow daffodils and sunny forsythia. Stayner knew the way to a small staging area where we unloaded the horses. JR was pretty excited to be there and thought he’d better show off a few dance steps while Stayner put the saddle on.
What followed was the clench, when Stayner tried to put the bit in his mouth.
Stayner finally won the tack battle. But then he spent about half of the trail ride moving in reverse. Clifford was in his element, happy to forge ahead, although he agreed to stop so I could snap a couple of photos.
There was so much backing up that we finally decided since we had no beeper, we should just call it a day. Upon our return, Jr posed next to the trailer, showing that when all else fails, it’s important to at least look good.
Clifford, on the other hand, had a magnificent time. I didn’t mind so much that the first trip to Waterloo involved a short ride. But before we loaded up again, in a wistful moment, I saw him look back toward the lake.