Horsing Around at the Pokagon Saddle Barn

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No, no politics, no social commentary--just horses. My theory is that sometimes you just need to relax and enjoy a little. And what's more relaxing than these gentle, beautiful, thousand pound animals that can crush your foot with an impatient stomp of their hooves?


My wife sometimes comes home with bruises, but they're usually from throwing around saddles or running herself into a fence post. Mostly she pushes those things around like they're little puppies.


Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to take a few photos while Emily and other employees were opening up the Pokagon State Park saddle barn for the morning. I hung out and opened the gate for them as they retrieved the horses, which unfortunately meant I was shooting into the sun. But at least that way I was on the not-getting-stomped-on side of the fence.


When the gate is opened in the morning, some of the horses come running.


Some of them kind of just ... hang out.


In fact, if you look at this photo carefully you can see Emily way off toward the back of the pasture, where she had to go chase a few of the horses down to the gate.


And here Emily has caught up with one. Don't let the size difference fool you: The horse knows who's really in charge.



Emily's boss was also there that morning, wrestling the horses into submission. And no, I'm not exaggerating.



opher goodwin Added Sep 19, 2018 - 5:34am
I love animals Mark. They are real. You know where you are with an animal. If you set up a relationship they give so much.
Mark Hunter Added Sep 19, 2018 - 6:15am
My feelings exactly, opher--that's why I love dogs, and I know my wife prefers hanging around with horses rather than people. I get a kick out of her reactions whenever she sees a horse on a movie or TV show: She'll tell me at a glance if it's happy or pissed off. No hiding their feelings or trying to play people against each other. (Which doesn't mean they don't sometimes mess with people!)
opher goodwin Added Sep 19, 2018 - 11:33am
I miss my dog greatly. I will get another one soon!
Tubularsock Added Sep 19, 2018 - 6:51pm
Mark, great post.
Tubularsock’s sisters both had horses and rode all the time so as a child which was a bit of time ago Tubularsock would get to ride.
We lived on the edge of our town so when it came time for the city to put in sidewalks my father had them install pipe sleeves in the sidewalk so we could have removable hitching posts for the horses.
Can’t imagine a city today being that accommodating. Times have changed.
Jeff Michka Added Sep 19, 2018 - 6:55pm
Hmm, Mark... the wife situation sounds familiar.  When I was in school, I had a job building pole .  Horse owners would insisted extreme caution be used on the job site by cleaning up any dropped nails or screws so THE HORSES WOULDN'T EAT THEM.  during the few months on that job, I watched one horse eat most of a sheet of 1/2" plywood, another horse eat most of a wooden fence post, and caught a horse swallowing a piece of barbed wire.  That owner immediately called a vet and the horse was saved from a very bad, painful death.  But horses are sooo smart?  Not in my mind.  They remain fencepost and wire eaters to me.
Lindsay Wheeler Added Sep 19, 2018 - 6:55pm
nice relaxing story. The Pics added to the story.
Flying Junior Added Sep 20, 2018 - 4:11am
I'm happy that your Emily is able to work with horses.  That will keep the two of you strong and happy.
The first horse with the bawsn't face and the long blonde mane must be a real honey.
Lately I have become accustomed to watching the old westerns from the 1950s and 1960s on the TV.  The horses are the most important visuals without any doubt.  That horse that Emily is leading looks just as pretty as Little Joe Cartwright's Pinto, Cochise.
Dino Manalis Added Sep 20, 2018 - 11:37am
 Horsing around with horses!
Anti-Limey Added Sep 20, 2018 - 2:07pm
I've developed an understanding with horses over the years; I don't ride them, and they don't ride me.
John Minehan Added Sep 20, 2018 - 2:58pm
My office is by (of all things) a dude ranch (in up-state NY of all places).  Everyday, I pass the horse on the way to work (as they are on their way to work).
They look like any other crowd of commuters, except that having hooves precludes using a smartphone, they have no place to carry their copy of the NY Post  and they have their coffee in the troughs instead of one of those travel mugs.
I'm always tempted to ask, "Why the long face?" 
John Minehan Added Sep 20, 2018 - 3:05pm
I was in 1st Cavalry Division from 1990-1994; the unit that, per Apocalypse Now, "traded their horses for helicopters and went tare-assing around the 'Nam looking for the sh-t."
By 1990, they had traded most of the helicopters for M-1s and Brads and where about to go "tare-assing" around the KSA and Iraq.
However. they kept some horses for ceremonies, which made things like Changes of Command potentially messy propositions..    
Mark Hunter Added Sep 20, 2018 - 7:06pm
Send pictures when you get your new dog, opher!
Mark Hunter Added Sep 20, 2018 - 7:09pm
No, I can't imagine a city today being that accommodating these days, Tubularsock! But I love the concept--I told my wife, and she does, too.
There are a couple of places around my town today where you can still see what seems to be just a concrete block near the edge of the roadway: Most people don't know they're mounting blocks. The next county north of here has a heavy Amish population, so they'd recognize them instantly.
Mark Hunter Added Sep 20, 2018 - 7:20pm
I stand by horses being smart, Jeff ... relatively. No, wait, let me rephrase: I stand by horses being smart on a sliding scale with humans. After all, most humans are constantly consuming things that are terrible for them! It's just that most of the stuff we eat and drink kills us slowly, instead of as quickly as a nail.
In any case, while I've never heard of a horse eating wire, they'll gnaw wood to pieces, no doubt about it. If you want a really smart animal, go to a pig, or a dolphin. I'd imagine saddling either of those is a bitch, though.
John Minehan Added Sep 20, 2018 - 7:20pm
I passed through Carlisle, PA back in 1982 and was amazed to see an Amish couple come through a McDonald's drive through in a horse & buggy.
Seems like something out of Kingpin . . . but that would not be made for 15 years.
Mark Hunter Added Sep 20, 2018 - 7:21pm
Thanks, Lindsay ... most of us, including me, aren't all that good at relaxing these days.
John Minehan Added Sep 20, 2018 - 7:24pm
In WWI, the Belgians had dogs pulling carts used to transport heavy machine guns.  So you cn put the dog before the cart.
Mark Hunter Added Sep 20, 2018 - 7:24pm
I'll have to look up Cochise, Junior -- I used to watch that show all the time, but not for some years. My grandmother is 93, and constantly watches a TV channel that shows nothing but westerns, so she'd recognize it.
Okay, I went away and looked up Cochise ... a definite similarity!
Mark Hunter Added Sep 20, 2018 - 7:25pm
There are worse ways to spend your time, Dino!
Mark Hunter Added Sep 20, 2018 - 7:25pm
That's a fair bargain, Michael B. My mother has the same understanding: She got thrown off a horse as a teenager, and that was her last time trying.
Mark Hunter Added Sep 20, 2018 - 7:30pm
They have dude ranches in upstate NY? I guess I shouldn't be  surprised: It's a big state. "Why the long face?" is one of my wife's standard jokes to tell when she wants to get one of the writers over their nervousness. (She speaks to the horse, of course, not the rider.)
John, most people don't believe me when I try to explain the US military still has horses in the service. I think they expect a cavalry charge. But if you can't find horse droppings around an officer, where can you find it?
Mark Hunter Added Sep 20, 2018 - 7:36pm
PA and Indiana are two major concentrations of Amish, John. You should see it up in LaGrange County: buggy lanes, hitching posts, dung all over, and everywhere you pass a pasture full of them. I'm a little jealous ... well, of the horses, not the whole no-electricity thing.
I didn't know about the dogs, but I have seen photos of horses drawing artillery during the second world war. It's hard to imagine that even then many armies, including Germany's, weren't completely mechanized.
John Minehan Added Sep 20, 2018 - 7:42pm
My home town (Troy, NY) still had horse troughs when I was growing up in the 1960s, although they were still around since they were part of other structures. 
Flying Junior Added Sep 21, 2018 - 3:46am
There was a bridle path near my elementary school in La Jolla 1964-1967 on La Jolla Scenic Drive North.  I used to see horses riding my bike to school or out riding in the car.  Horse properties were always grandfathered in until they were sold.   But even back then, if people wanted to keep horses they kept them in Sorrento Valley.  The riding school and stables on La Jolla Farms Road were torn down around 1972.
Mark Hunter Added Sep 22, 2018 - 1:48am
John, when it's part of the infrastructure it's amazing how long some stuff will last. My garage was a carriage house at one time; when you look closely, you realize its attic was designed to store hay for the horses, which is why the building is so oddly designed by car standards. When town officials did a street project around our courthouse square a few years ago, they found two water cisterns, which were designed to hold water for firefighting--over a century ago. Basically if it doesn't get in someone's way, it often just sits there.
Mark Hunter Added Sep 22, 2018 - 1:53am
I hate to see stables torn down, Junior, but it's not surprising in a growing community. Emily and I have been looking for property where we can live and have horses, and some of the better ones are just too close to incorporated areas. We want to be safely out in the country!
A lot of horse facilities around here were removed in the middle part of the 20th Century, after horses weren't needed for practical purposes anymore. Over the last twenty years it's reversed, and you can't drive a mile without seeing a horse barn and a pasture. Unfortunately, some of those people buy horses without realizing how much it costs to keep them ....
John Minehan Added Sep 22, 2018 - 5:07pm
The Hospital that was right by where I grew up had a garage to store the Ambulances that had an odd upper story Which was designed to store hay for the horses when the ambulances were horse drawn. 
Mark Hunter Added Sep 23, 2018 - 12:57am
The good old days! I have a photo of a horse drawn ambulance in my local history book. A one-horsepower engine that never ran out of gas, as long as there was grass along the side of the road.