Gwen may have gotten a job!

Well, it never occurred to me to have one of the horses get a job… but Gwen may have done just that!

(Gwen is Mama Tess’ first foal.  She was trained by me when I had very few horses – so she got a lot of attention!  I rode her as my second horse to Aladdin.  After Aladdin passed, she was my first horse who was then replaced by Finn when Gwen turned 18.)

OK, back to the story… as you all know, we are moving… and I feel very worried that my 10 horses will not like Paso Robles because our new grounds are very different than the horsey paradise that we have here.  In Grass Valley, the ground is rich, we have lots of topography, seasonal creeks, grass, hills and lots and lots of trees.  In Paso, we have open space with no trees.  And, it is hot.

So, I’ve been contemplating figuring out a way for some of the horses to stay in Grass Valley — or something like that.   But, I hadn’t really come up with any plan and I’ve been so busy, I figured I wouldn’t come up with any plan before it was time to move everyone.

But then… an email came across my desk from our local trail riding club.  A well-established kids horse camp (in a good area)  was looking for older, well trained horses.

This is Gwen (Mama Tess' first foal) when she was showing. I have kept her all these years. She is 20 now.

This is Gwen (Mama Tess’ first foal) when she was showing. I have kept her all these years. For a while, she was my back up rider, then she was my only.  She is 20 now.


Without even thinking, I replied to the email.  I said that Gwen was an older (20 years), well trained mare.  She loves kids and actually does better with kids than adults.  Gwen is in great shape, she loves the arena and has excellent ground work skills and she is very well mannered.

Hmmmmm.  Gwen could do this.

Gwendolyn is the type of mare who gets bored easily.  She always demands to be let out or fed or entertained.  Having a bunch of kids around would really keep her on her toes.  She wouldn’t be in the extreme heat, she’d have a lot of attention and she’d be let down during winter in a lovely part of Northern CA.  The camp is well established and has counselors from UC Davis as well as many other horsey colleges.  The photos on the website looked promising.  It all sounded good.

I was starting to like the idea.  So, I added a few photos to my return email and pressed SEND.

Gwen is actually the best training riding horse and best with groundwork on the entire ranch. She was my first foal and I spent ooooodles of time with her.

Gwen is actually the best training riding horse and best with groundwork on the entire ranch. She was my first foal and I spent ooooodles of time with her.


I really didn’t think about it again until the phone rang as I was driving down to Paso last week.  I was stuck in some traffic glut around Carmel, so I was able to chat.

The woman on the phone asked all the right questions about Gwen and I was very candid with her.  I told her that Gwen hadn’t been ridden in 3 years, but that Gwen was actually the best trained saddle horse on the ranch.  Most of all, Gwen had excellent ground manners.

I asked that if Gwen went into this program, I’d like her back when it was time for retirement.  I didn’t want her to be an elderly, non-working horse with no place to go.  They thought that was a wonderful idea and said it could be arranged.  I to see the contract.   I also asked to have regular visits or photos sent so that I knew she was OK.  And I asked for vet references, etc.  All was fine with them.

They asked to see videos of Gwen before they made the trip out to see her.

Yikes!  I didn’t have any…

Gwen is too smart... here she is, looking through the windows at the apples in a bowl on the dining room table.

Gwen is too smart… here she is, looking through the windows at the apples in a bowl on the dining room table.


Making videos is a pain when you are alone.

First you have to set up the camera on something at the right height and visual circumference.  Then, you have to make sure you are doing your work quickly (not too quickly) and within the sights of the camera.

I decided to make it simpler and create the video in phases.

Phase 1 was in the barn with her tied.  I brushed her, flysprayed her, messed with her mane and tail and picked up her feet.

Phase 2 was after I had totally groomed Gwen, I walked her up to the trailer (she was very calm) and tied her to the trailer easily and she just stood there.

Phase 3 was her in the arena, saddled, doing basic ground work with me.  (This was difficult because I had the camera on my mounting block and had to make sure I was always within camera sight.)

Phase 4 was me riding at a walk trot.  (I had to mount using the mounting block so the camera didn’t see us at first, they only heard me mounting.  Funny!)    This was very interesting because I didn’t ‘pre-ride’ her and Gwen hadn’t been ridden in 3 years!  I wasn’t sure how she would be or if she was sore in places I couldn’t test.  But, she was fine.  Gwen sneezed about 30 times, getting the cobwebs out of her riding bones!

Phase 5 was Gwen, naked again, trotting around the arena after our tiny workout.  She is a very pretty mare.  Mama Tess would be proud.

Photos from the camp website...

Photos from the camp website…

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 8.47.03 PM Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 8.48.12 PM


I think I put so much thought into it, I exhausted myself!  ;)

Anyway, then I had to download all the videos from my camera and then upload them to You Tube and sent all five links off to the Camp so the Director of the Camp could see Gwen.

Shortly thereafter, I received an email from the Camp saying they think Gwen would be perfect but just need one more sign off.

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 8.45.12 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-10 at 8.43.52 PM


I wish my fences/shelter at the new place happened this fast!

Anyway, I’m waiting to see the contract and hear from their vets.  I want it to be really, really clear that Gwen always has a home here and that the Director (who has been there for 43 years) guarantees me that Gwen will never get lost in the shuffle.

If it all works out, the good news is that Gwen will have a fun job, with a lovely barn, kids, great weather and lots to do while I am figuring everything out in Paso Robles.

And, I think this is very, very good.

To be honest, my heart feels sad to part with her.  But that is probably how every Mom thinks when the kids leave home… Bittersweet.

Gwen raiding the apple tree. She is a very silly girl!

Gwen raiding the apple tree. She is a very silly girl!

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3 comments have been posted...

  1. dawndi Post author

    Hi and thank you for your comment.
    I just wanted to reassure you that after receiving so many emails and comments,
    I have learned that many people have had bad experiences with Kids Camps.
    Truly, I just wanted to give Gwen something to do. Gwen is a very intelligent mare
    and she seems bored in retirement. That’s all. My intention was never to give her
    away…. But, I now realize that leasing her for the summer to a Kids Camp isn’t
    very reliable – or so it would seem.

    I am now hoping that something comes up for her in our new area where I can keep
    tabs on her. Or, maybe she will just be bored at my place, but I think there might
    be something for her to do in Paso. Perhaps a therapeutic riding school. Not sure.

    Thanks for your concern!

  2. Alexis

    OMG. Don’t do it. Most of those kid camps? OMG.

    Just some of the things you maybe have not considered: let’s say the camp isn’t good about paying its bills to vendors, or the tax man, or whomever. What do you think would happen? If the issue goes far enough what happens (esp. in unpaid income tax situations) is your horse gets seized by the authorities right along with all the other “assets” of the camp. Guess what happens to seized horses when this occurs? Right. They are liquidated at the closest livestock auction and guess who would be the first to buy all that poundage on the hoof. Think about it! Or: what have the camp people done with out-of-season horses? I can tell you what some of the kid camp people around my area have done and it ain’t pretty. How do you know that the instructors are competent horsemen/horsewomen and won’t allow stupid or cruel actions by the kids? I can tell you that what I have seen even at horse shows, “high school equestrian team” activities, and other supposedly supervised and “approved” programs – horses hauled around by bad tempered little brats, tender horse mouths ripped apart by bad bits and even worse hands, horses kicked in the belly, etc. Use your imagination! Or what about a location where some of the horses end up in the back pasture and that back pasture is fenced with barbed wire. And a squabble between horses arises (that never happens- right? Sure. Right). And the only thing between teeth/hooves and escape from the attacker is right through the barbed wire.

    Honestly? In my opinion a kid camp no matter how many so-called “references” it might have, is a very, very bad idea. You have a lovely, well-trained mare that has been a part of your life for her entire life. And you are going to do THIS to her? Please – please do not.

  3. Marie

    Please make sure you follow up on her – after years many places forget and horse winds up in bad place. Places change hands and contracts get forgotten. I volunteer at horse rescue and have seen many horses whom people wanted after they were retired been sold or given to slaughter. You need to follow up with these places to assure she has safe place to go.

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