Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tribute to Zap

Zapped+/ May 18,1983- Nov 8, 2012

Flashback to November 1989:

The phone conversation went something like this:

Man: “I understand you folks buy problem horses.”

Me: “Well yes sometimes we do. It depends on the problem.”

He gave me a long drawn out “Well” and he took a deep breath, “he bucks.”

Thinking that can’t be all, I questioned. “And?”

“He is also hard to catch. My girlfriend can catch him but I can’t get near him.”

“Alright” I answered, “What type of horse is he?”

“Oh he’s six years old, grey A-rab. I don’t want to sell him to the meat plant but he is a handful and you folks were recommended to me.”

After a few more details bounced back and forth I said I'd come have a look. The next day I was headed to LaPine to look at what was probably going to be our next winter project. at that time we often bought these horses, put a lot of riding on them and made a good horse out of them again. We resold them in the spring or summer, whenever the horse was ready. We were thankful to be able to rescue these horses from what could be a terrible fate.

The hopeful seller came out and pointed me to the corral. Standing there was one shaggy, a bit thin, ewe necked and sickle hocked gelding. I scowled inwardly and pitched a little rock in his direction so he’d trot. I grinned inwardly at the result, it was actually a “wow” at a very floaty smooth efficient movement. We entered the corral as we chatted and the horse eyed us warily and took off.
As I watched the horse I was told “His name is Zapped, but I call him Bolt.”

“Really” I said. “And does he?”

“Does he what?”

“Bolt.” I replied looking from the horse to him.

“Uh, well,” he paused scratching his head. “Yes he has ran off a time or too.”

I continued to ask him questions and Bolt worked his way up to me. I rubbed him and he seemed responsive but the ears were definitely off limits. I played around with the horse a little and finally got around to the real question of “How much?”
“Horses are selling for 38 cents a pound”, he said, so I’d take $350 for him.

“Hmmmmm, well let me discuss it with Al and I’ll call you tonight OK?" I told him.

Bolt was our dinner conversation that night, and cussing and discussing, Al said buy him, but only for $300. Of course the guy took it! So it was on a late November day of 1989 that Zapped came into our lives and he was never called Bolt again. Although he was called a few worse names than that at times.

His being hard-to-catch was the easiest problem to overcome. But Zap came with a surprise. Also in his arsenal of tricks was pulling back, which he wasted no time in doing while being saddled. The snap broke and he took off down the fenceline on the jeep trail through the junipers. Al hopped on another horse and brought him back. This time we were prepared for him to pull back. He was tied solid with two good ropes and a good halter and he wasn’t going anywhere. When he pulled back I smacked him from behind. He jumped up, looked around at me and you could see the wheels turning in that grey head. When Al went to bridle him he started to pull back, but a little light bulb came on and he stopped, looked at me, and stepped up. Nope he wasn’t going to try that one again.

We found out that Zap really was quite smart, even though he did some dumb things. He is a big coward, shied at everything, and one day he shied right off the edge of the trail. It was slick and muddy and down he went. Al was a nimble quick rider, he just stepped off the horse as we watched him slide down the hill on his side. About 50 feet or so later Zap got to his feet, unharmed but confused. And while he stood there trying to figure out what the heck had just happened, Al stepped back on him. I recall at the time saying, “Stupid horse. I don’t want to ride him.”

Every year we'd sell some geldings that we'd ridden all winter but Zap never sold. I rode him all winter and was complaining “I sure wished we could sell him so I could buy a good horse.” I’d retired my old endurance gelding and it was time to start a new horse. Everyone told me to just keep Zap and ride him. “No way, he’s too fruity. I want another half Arabian not a purebred.”

Well you know what they say. God gives us what we need, not what we want. Ride season was starting and the only thing I had to ride was Zapped. Sigh……

Then in May of 1992 I had Zap out marking trail for our upcoming endurance ride. I'd trailered out to the vetting area and had all my rolls of ribbon in my pack on my saddle. We’d marked about 3 miles of trail when I heard a distant rumble in the sky. It was faint and far away so I just kept trotting, stopping every so often to tie a long ribbon to a tree branch. As I continued the rumbling grew louder. I sized up the storm and told Zap, “Darn storm! We’ll just mark on up here to the next corner and we’ll head back to the trailer.” That was only ¾ of a mile but the wind started to blow and the storm advanced quickly. I quit tying ribbon and thought of just heading for home, over the hills to the North about 12 miles. But the storm was coming fast, better to make a run for the trailer 4 miles away to the south. My heart was in my throat. I knew this horse was capable of freaking out, dumping me, and being gone in a split second. That would be typical Zapped.

“Suck it up and be tough”, I told myself. About that time I saw a bolt of lightening strike the nearby ridge, and I was thankful as we entered the low-ground of the washed out gully. “We’ll be safe in the gully,” I told Zap. “Lightening will hit the ridge tops.” The thunder blasted over us and echoed in my ears. With each flash of lightening I could feel Zap’s muscles tighten. He really wanted out of there! But so far he was keeping his cool and listening to me. “Please be a good horse.” I begged him.

Zapped moved along at a nice extended trot and he was keeping his cool and responding well. “OK Zappy, we got only three and a half miles left. Piece of cake.” We’d ridden this trail many times, and he knew it well. This was one of his favorite trails. He zipped through the sage and juniper with ease, hopping over rocks and jumping little washes. Then I saw a lightening flash and heard a deafening crash of thunder at the same instant. Smoke came from a tree hit by lightening not twenty feet away. I just knew that in days to come, someone would find our charred remains out there on that trail. I was scared stiff. I just kept saying little prayers and talking to Zap.

“Riding a horse named Zapped in an electrical storm can not be a good omen.” I told him. I’d breathe a little prayer between earsplitting booms of thunder and blinding flashes of lightening. I’d been in storms before but never anything like this. It flashed and roared simultaneously all around us! I cringed inwardly. Zap was cantering now, yet amazingly under control. We still had a couple miles left. The heavens opened and the rain poured hard.

KABOOM! The clap of thunder was overpowering! Then lightening hit another tree! I had now gone from merely frightened to completely terrified! “People die in storms like this.” I thought. With each thunderous explosion and flash I would jump, and I felt Zap take a bigger stride. “I sure hope you are good at dodging lightening bolts buddy!” I said to Zap, as he zigged and zagged through the rocks and sagebrush. The hard rain turned into what we called a “gullywasher”. The water ran off the hillside and into the gully, making it a creek. “Great!” I told Zap, “Now we have to worry about a flash flood!” The lightening was still flashing and I was not about to leave the refuge of that gully for higher ground and risk getting hit by lightening.

I kept talking to Zap as he splashed through several inches of rapidly deepening water, while listening to the incredible storm raging all around us. Talking to him kept both of us sort of calm and distracted me from the sight of smoke rising from nearby junipers that had been hit by lightening. “At least the rain will quell any wild fires.” I said to Zap.

We still had about a mile left to go, the thunder and lightening began to decrease. I could count a second or two between the bolt of lightening and the thunderclap, so I knew it was getting farther away. Then as suddenly as the rain had started, it stopped. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and gave Zap a thankful rub on his wet neck. ‘What a horse! You’re the man Zappy! ” I really laid on the praise. He hadn’t dumped me!

About a half mile from the trailer the sun came out. By the time we reached the road, the sky was blue. The danger was gone! Yet there we were, completely drenched and looking like hurricane refugees. The whole thing seemed totally unreal, like a really horrible nightmare.

We’d made it! It was amazing to have ridden through that wild storm untouched. We were safe. I was so proud of Zapped. He had understood and cooperated with me for the first time ever. That was the day I decided he was a good horse, a keeper. During that extraordinary storm, we had blended together and become a team, true partners, and Zapped would never be for sale again.

From that day forward Zap and I were a team like no other, we had overcome any obstacles that were in our way.
In the years to come we finished many endurance rides and won numerous national and regional awards. With Zap still bucking for joy along the trail. Ruthie Waltenspiel told me once, "If you ever get that horse broke I'll buy him!" I think he was about 17 then and I told her, "Sorry this horse is never for sale!"

Zapped+/ completed 6480 AERC miles, 102 starts - 100 completion, 19 - 100 mile rides, and two XP multi-days. He is the only horse I paid up i the Arabian Horse Registry so he could earn his Legion of Merit and Supreme Legion of Merit, the + and / behind his name. In 1993 he was AERC Reserve Mileage Champion, 1280 miles, beaten by the horse we had sold to Les Carr, Surrablue.

Spring Fling 2003 was the final ride for Zapped+/, a 55 miler we finished in 6 hrs. I had planned to take him to Canyonlands later that year but he and I both fell on the trail when a gopher run gave way underneath his feet. He had a puffy leg and I had a couple broken ribs. He was 20 that year.

He was always the King of the place and he deserved every minute of his retirement. I have many Zap memories and stories. The one of the storm I wrote a long time ago for a short story compilation that may get published one day.

I have been so incredibly blessed to have more than one amazing horse. And Zap was the best. November 8 I had to say goodbye to this great horse. Now he runs free and I will always say we had a great run Zap!!