Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse
KENTUCKY MOUNTAIN SADDLE HORSES In Northern Ontario
by Judy Hartford
Elk Lake, Ontario, Canada is a 12 hour drive north-east of the Detroit border crossing. Summers are short and winters are long! The nearest grocery store is 50 miles away. This is forest and lake country. Many people wait all year to come north for a week’s vacation of hunting or fishing.
April 1, 2011—Eight inches of snow remains on the ground. Out in front of our house, the ice is still three feet thick. To celebrate his first Friday of retirement after 32 years as a Conservation Officer, my husband, Ron, decides to take his horse for a ride out on the lake. There are snowdrifts along the edge but the spring sun has melted the snow down to a few inches on the ice and the footing is good. They gait a couple of miles up the lake. "Crockett" is full of energy and settles into an easy canter coming back and then continues on the same distance down the lake in his nice smooth gait. Both of them have obviously enjoyed getting out.
We have two Kentucky/Rocky Mountain Saddle horses which came from Classic Farm in Kentucky. "Crockett" (Dock’s Pic Pocket) is 6 years old and was sired by Dock. "McCoy" (Classic’s Real McCoy), sired by Nuncio’s Silver Fable was a champion conformation stallion as a 2 year old. He was my wonderful 25th wedding anniversary gift and has filled my time and my heart after three children left home.
McCoy’s friendly disposition wins everyone’s affection. Dave called him the "sports car" version of the mountain horse yet in Elk Lake’s 125th Anniversary parade he calmly watched a helicopter descend and land which brought Smokey Bear for a visit. Town sights, cars and logging truck never frighten him. However, when he first came, a creaking tree could cause a big jump sideways and the slap of a beaver’s tail nearby was pretty alarming. My seat has improved and now at 11 years old, he is a very steady horse.
We have done presentations together on "Life Lessons from a Horse" for our local Kids Club and at both "Bunny" and Senior Girls camps at Northland Bible Camp. McCoy posed, ears forward, for over half an hour while little girls had their photos taken kissing his cheek. Last summer we joined some young men from the Cross Canada Cruisers and their restored vintage cars in a presentation on "Riding in Style". Many people stayed despite rain just to see the horse with the special gait.
Northern Ontario has NO poisonous snakes, (hardly a snake ever seen), NO poisonous spiders, NO alligators and NO ticks. We do have black flies in June, which though gnat sized have a large bite. Mosquitoes follow in July (but NO West Nile), along with many deer flies in the bush and horseflies in the open until mid August. We protect our horses well with fly wipe and have shelters with 3 foot screen panels made of the same webbing that fly masks are made of (truck tarp webbing). These panels hang down covering the front of the shelters. Our pasture shelter is a round, tarp covered type which has both open ends covered with these screen panels. The horses will run to get in if the flies are bad. It is funny to sometimes see a black head peeking out one end and a chestnut tail swishing out the other end.
We ride mainly on old logging roads and trails. We see moose occasionally, deer rarely and black bears frequently in the spring when they like to come into our hay field to eat clover. Our son taught his quarter horse to sneak up on the bears and then gallop at them, which sends them running. The mountain horses have watched this little game with "amusement" and have never been bothered by the smell of bear.
Ron likes to hunt partridge (ruffed grouse) in the fall with Crockett and hopes to get him used to rifle fire so that they can go moose hunting together. During the spring, beaver activity often floods parts of these old roads and our horses always enjoy a good splash through knee to belly deep water. We appreciate their sure footedness and boldness to go into narrow bush trails. I always wear orange in the fall once hunting season begins and during the first 10 days of moose season, the horses stay home in the barnyard as there are SO many hunters around.
Our horses grow long, thick coats for winter. We go through quite a bit of hay and "hay burning" keeps them warm when temperatures dip to -30 to -40 degrees F. The cold here is dry and winter days, when very cold, are usually still and sunny. When temperatures drop below 0 degrees F, our horses go in the barn at night. They are always ready to go out in the morning once the sun is up. A blanket comes out only on a rare day of icy rain in the spring. We grow good quality hay with the long summer days and we feed an excellent vitamin/mineral supplement. Other horse owners from this area have noticed how early our horses shed their winter coats and how they gleam afterwards.
The nearest farrier to us must come over 70 miles. Ron took a course with the Oklahoma Horse Shoeing School which has been invaluable and now does all our shoeing. He enjoys handling horses as much as riding them and really appreciates their good attitudes.
I spent a couple of days riding with
Tracy Bush of Coffee Creek Farm working on collection in 2009. She was a
patient, encouraging teacher and we soon had McCoy gaiting well in a
light snaffle bit. Last summer I put our horses through some John Lyon’s
basic round pen exercises. McCoy was quite a sight as we did the "spook
in place" lesson, with a tarp around his head, billowing across his back
like Superman’s cape. His reaction was, "Ho Hum. What will she think of
I rode during my teen years and early 20’s, but set this aside while raising a family, even though we had 6 horses. It was wonderful to get back to riding in my late 40’s. The smooth gait of our Kentucky Mountain horses made riding easier and more enjoyable. Their kind, people oriented personality and gentle temperament helped me gain confidence. Both Ron and I are now in our mid 50’s and we are enjoying our horses tremendously. Life really does look brighter from the back of a horse! Anyone who comes north is welcome for a visit! .