Today’s photo is of me! Being the photographer of the business I’m hardly ever in the picture. Although you can’t see my face I’m still working hard with the GoPro stuck to my head. The two ears belong to Paige’s Appaloosa mare, Risa. You might have seen our young outfitter on our Facebook video as Risa bounds into the Rio Grande River.
Zena in some language or culture has to translate as Queen, because that is exactly what this silvered chrome Appaloosa mare is, the queen of the heard. When we first encountered her at the rescue ranch, Zena had the attitude to match a spoiled and haughty monarch. She refused to listen to those she believed beneath her, which equated to any human with in biting range, and ran over those who didn’t move out of her regal path. Yet, when you were on her back she made you feel like royalty yourself. Her walk is noble and proud, striding out with purpose and intensity. This is what Mel fell in love with. Now we all tend to favor a certain breed or type of horse, Mel tends to gravitate to big, solid, dark sport horses. Zena is smaller, stocky, light and spotted with pink rimmed eyes that gives her a wild looking disposition. Although she was not Mel’s first choice of the herd, there was something about her imperious nature that presented a challenge.
At this point Mel and I were volunteering on the rescue ranches training team. My mother had a knack for working with difficult horses and starting them on a new path toward adoption. Mel’s fully intended to do the same with the appy mare but I’ll never forget the day that changed her mind. While out trail riding, being a bit of an adventure, she turned Zena down a ruddy path that I hesitated to follow. The two crashed through brush and weeds as if it were a pasture of tall green grass. Cash and I picked our way through the rubbish left behind in their wake until we came upon them standing in the middle of the most beautiful meadow, Mel patting on Zena’s neck. “I don’t know Juss,” she said, “I’m really starting to like this horse, she will go any where I point her.”
Now Zena had never been abused or mistreated, she didn’t have any traumatic wounds to heal. Her problem was she had always been the boss and it showed in her ground manners. She rushed through gates, walked over the top of anyone on the other end of a lead rope, she would bite and kick when she didn’t get her way. However, for the first time in her life Zena met a human who was the boss, demanding obedience. It took Mel almost a year and hours of ground work to mold Zena into the intelligent and respectful horse we all love today. Every once in a while Zena will get in a mood and challenge my mother for her regency, like the white queen and the red queen battling over a spot on a chess board. So they return to the basics and Mel reminds her who is ultimately heard leader.
It is this matriarch quality that I love in both my mother and in Zena. This Appaloosa takes her jobs very seriously. As a trail horse she takes care of her rider, listening for dangers ahead, placing her feet carefully on precarious paths. As the herd manager she futs and fusses over each horse, protecting them from unseen predators, and guiding our youngest horse Rain to some day take her place. Yet there will never be another like her, stubborn, regal, bossy, and nurturing. We are so very proud to have her as our core horse, our boss mare, our Queen.