This month, our Bucket Fund is dedicated to the horses left behind in the mudslide of Oso, Washington.
Summer Raffo, known and loved by everyone in the town, was swept away in that tragic landslide.
Summer left behind 19 horses…
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to Summer’s brother Dayn.
Today, we have a letter from Summer’s heartbroken mother, Rae.
*IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DONATE TO SUMMER’S FAMILY, CLICK HERE and thank you!
He is Rae’s letter:
I’m Rae Smith, Summer’s mother. Dayn said you may like a few personal stories or just some personal information about Summer. Somehow it was almost always the horse that was the underdog that caught Summer’s eye. The one no one else wanted. Or the one that had a little flaw. She had the ability to see through those things. But her main horse was Shera. Named after the show ‘He Man” on TV in the early ’80’s because it was her favorite show.
Shera was foaled in 1982 and when she stood up in the stall for the first time she walked right over to Summer and I instead of her mother and she was a people horse her entire life. She ‘owned’ Summer for 32 long years. We had her put down just before this past winter when she was having too difficult of a time getting up and down any longer. While it was a really difficult decision Summer was fine with it because she remember the young filly racing across the pasture while we held our breath as she neared the fence thinking she’d got right through it but always put on her brakes just in time to skid to a stop right at the fence. Not the old mare that was having a difficult time walking across the pasture and was always the last one back to the barn.
I insisted that Summer do all of Shera’s training herself even though she was only about 7 years old and remember how my heart jumped out of my chest one day when Summer and her friend asked if they could ride one of the horses and I told them sure. When I looked out the window I saw Summer and her little friend on that ‘untrained’ three year old filly’s back walking out across the pasture with nothing on her but a halter, lead and two little girls.
We’ve had a lot of horses over the years. Many we bred on our farm. Some we purchased and my ‘famous’ phrase to her was ‘get up there, it’s just a horse’. And she always would. A few years ago she was starting a three year old gelding and did his ground work, rode him for about 10 minutes in the round pen and then told me he was ready for a trail ride. I rode a mare that we hadn’t had long but she’d started rearing under saddle.
We were half way up the mountain behind our house and my mare came up and over backwards pinning me under her. My back was sprained and I had several compression fractures. I didn’t know how I was going to get out of the woods and off the mountain. Summer dismounted and put that green gelding in a ditch so he was lower and told me to get on him, he’d bring me down, she said. I was scared knowing if he spooked and I came off again I’d be in so much trouble. But I had to remember ‘it’s just a horse’ :).
She helped me up on him and that young horse took such care with every step he took carefully placing his feet so as to not jar me on his back. And like she said, he brought me down. She could read horses like that. She truly had a gift. Not just for looking into their eyes and seeing into their being but she could look at a horse that was ‘off’ and tell what was wrong. She’d run her hands over it’s neck, back and legs and could said she could ‘feel’ hot spots where they needed adjustments. I tried. Many times and never felt anything. She’d push or pull and adjust them and they’d run off sound as can be. Usually kicking up their heels as if to thank her for relieving their pain. She was such a hard worker from the time she was just a little girl. No one ever had to tell her twice to do her chores. She’d usually be done before any of the rest of us got out of the house.
She’d tell me she was going to the farm to check the horses and be gone all day. I’d call to see where she was and she’d tell me the fence was down and she’d been fixing it all day. Or she’d just go down and spend the day sitting on the ground with the horses, talking to them. Sitting on all of their backs as they lay on the ground. Petting each and every one. Feeding them treats.
We had so many rides together starting young horses. We loved to make our own trails through the thick underbrush in the woods here in Washington. So many times little things happened that made us laugh until we cried. One time we were both on young horses. She was behind me and I kicked my filly into a good gallop wind blowing through our hair making our eyes tear. It felt so good until my horse came to a puddle that was across the entire trail and abruptly put on her brakes. I managed to stay on but the back of my saddle came straight up and when it came back down I was more on her neck then her back. Summer laughed so hard she nearly fell off of her horse. Some days we’d ride so long we had to get off and walk for a while. So we decided we’d just throw the reins over the saddle horns and teach the horses to just follow us. We’d weave on foot in front of them back and forth across the trail and they’d dutifully follow our every step.
At the end of that summer I decided to sell that gelding I’d been riding. Some folks came to look at him. They rode him and played with him but I could tell they weren’t sure he was the ‘one’ they’d been looking for. So I unsaddled him and threw his lead over his neck and he dutifully followed me step for step right back to the pasture gate. They bought him on the spot. Summer and I got the biggest kick out of that for years. I know I’m rambling and I have so many wonderful memories of my wonderful daughter. She was my horse partner, my constant companion and my best friend. I lost a daughter. The whole world lost a truly gifted, loving, caring young woman who had a profound love for horses.
Addendum (added a day later):
One thing I think I forgot to tell you. We took a lock of Gavi’s (Summer’s Paso gelding) mane and had it cremated with Summer. Rae
Seven Cedars Arabians
AKC Yorkshire Terriers
Rae L. Smith
PO Box 826
Darrington, WA 98241
HERE IS WHERE YOU CAN DONATE IF YOU’D LIKE TO HELP SUMMER’S FAMILY