Flash Back Fridays

HORSES

Maria McLeish on Reecy

Maria McLeish on Reecy

My horse called Reecy, ‘My Recompense’, was a former race horse given to me by Maggie Rogers when she went off to McGill University. Jim had a big, rather opinionated horse called Stewball who looked something like the horses that the Mounties rode. Jim could shoot a gun off Stewball, and did during a short period when he worked at the Lodge as a Class A hunting guide.

We bought Empress, a Welsh pony, in 1968 for Liz. When Liz was about eight, she remembers riding Empress up the mountain with her father. The saddle kept slipping and Jim would have to get off and tighten the girth. It was almost too steep for the pony.

Some years later when we got our own place on McPhedran Road in Campbell River, Jim Denis, a local contractor, built us a barn for the horses. Jamie would often feed the horses because he was younger than his two sisters and they were too busy getting ready for school. Liz had Duchess, a somewhat spooky Anglo/ Arab and Annie had Sym- phony, an Arabian, who was later sold to Barb Phipps in Campbell River.

When we stopped teaching and moved to the Lodge in ‘73, we moved our barn(in pieces) from town to the playing field at the Lodge. We fenced the front yard at the Lodge with a snake fence (long split cedar rails put together in a zigzag fashion, some of the fence is still in front of the Lodge). We also made a big corral across the highway on the upper side of the road.

There were lots of trails and old logging roads that were perfect for trail rides. I spent many happy hours exploring the backcountry. Our horses were high maintenance. They had to be kept clipped and blanketed in the winter since they were often wet. Dampness caused their hair to fall out in patches. Also, these delicate creatures had hooves that would rot if they stood on muddy ground for too long. Another problem was that they were costly to feed because there was almost nothing growing at the Lodge that they could eat. We fed them a mixture of alfalfa and timothy hay, and also oats and bran. We experimented with pellets, but they did not offer enough chewing time and caused the horses to chew (crib) on the wooden barn supports. We spread hay seed around in an effort to get small patches of green but later we were sorry because it is now a weed at a time when we are trying to restore the grounds to a more natural state.

Misty, a Welsh pony

Misty, a Welsh pony

When I look back I can see that we should have had Conamara ponies (or something similar) like they have in Ireland. My daughter Elizabeth says these large, tough ponies can practically live on seaweed. Liz and her daughter Emma have twice been to Ireland to go on extended rides on these ponies. The Irish outfitter was once given an Arabian horse only to have trou- ble with its feet and with the hair falling out. The Conamara have a coat with natural oil, somewhat like lanolin, making them water resistant, and they also have tough feet. Empress unexpectedly had a colt (called Misty) one winter, in late 1970. We were living on McPhedran Road in Camp- bell River, and Empress sud- denly appeared through the bushes with a newborn palo- mino foal. Empress was always so fat that we had no idea that she was expecting. The whole family was delighted. W e moved Empress and the foal into the basement of our house until the weather warmed up. She had become in foal during the winter that we spent in England (1969/70). We had left Empress with our teacher friend David Stapley in Campbell River, and by then we also had a yearling Welsh pony that the Stapley family looked after as well. It did not occur to anyone that the yearling was old enough to impregnate Empress.

A couple of years later we decided that breeding Reecy to Misty would give us a perfect pony for our growing children. With difficulty, and the help of a ditch, Reecy became in foal. When it came time for her to give birth, we invited a horse person out from town to help because we had no experi- ence with such matters. He suggested that she be put outside in a corral be- cause she was a thoroughbred and might panic if she got stuck in an awkward position in relation to the box stall wall as she was giving birth. We stayed with Reecy until about midnight. In the morning she had obviously given birth but the new foal was nowhere in sight. Apparently wild animals can smell an impending birth. We did find the afterbirth in the woods, not too far away. We were heartbroken.

We purchased another Welsh pony that was already in foal when we got her. A few months later I took her to Courtenay to see the vet because she was considerably overdue. Just five minutes from the centre of Cour- tenay, heading south, I smelt smoke and the pony was jumping around. I pulled over and the whole truck was on fire. The pony died, and, of course, her foal. I phoned my uncle, Tom Shaw, and he came with his truck and took the dead pony, along with myself, to his farm. He removed the beautiful dead foal, and buried it with the pony. It turned out that the truck, which was from a used car dealer, had been in an accident and had a tail pipe too close to the bottom of the truck. I still have nightmares about that accident and remember how helpless I was to do anything.

Occasionally the horses would get out and head down the highway toward Campbell River. A good friend, Frances Witt, was returning from Campbell River to Gold River when she, heavily pregnant, came upon Sym- phony, Annie’s horse, in the middle of the road. Frances’ husband, Brian, man- aged to brake just in time, with Symphony’s head staring in the windshield of their VW Bus. They took the time to let us know about the loose horse and with pounding hearts, went on to Gold River. But on arrival, Frances’ waters broke and they had to rush back to the hospital in Campbell River. She gave birth to Aaron an hour later, three weeks early, on March 4, 1974.

I loved horses and naively thought that horses and the Lodge would be a good match. We had horses that we rented for a short period. We leased four horses and a pony from the K-Bar-X Ranch at Oyster River, south of Campbell River. We allowed only guided excursions. Horse rentals were difficult to do safely and not profitable, so we got out of the horse business. Some time later Liz’s horse reared up one night and hit her head and died. Probably a wild animal had frightened her. By now we had only one very lonely horse, Annie’s horse Symphony, so we sold her to Barbara Phipps, a friend in Campbell River.

Maggie Rogers and Reezy

Maggie Rogers and Reezy