Have you ever you been on a trail ride and longingly looked at someone else’s horse, wishing it was yours?
In the old days, if Verne Upmier wasn’t busy driving a team in the fields, he was most likely on horseback–leading trail rides, breaking colts, or re-schooling the horses that were brought to his farm with bad habits.
He once bought a pretty thoroughbred mare, intending to use her for his livery service. He rode her around the barnyard for a while, and she was so well mannered that he decided to take her out on a trail.
“We’d gone a mile or so, then suddenly she took off at a dead run,” Verne recalls. “We flew up and down the hills, crossed one gravel road and then another, passed a few farms and sped around a bend before she finally slowed down. I turned her around and headed for home, expecting that she would run away again, but she worked beautifully the rest of the way.”
Verne figured that something must have spooked her, since she had been so well-mannered both before and after her headlong flight across the Iowa countryside. The next day, he took her out again, tested her for a while in the barnyard, and found her to be gentle and willing. So, he took her down the trail once again.
She ran away again, and went just as far before slowing down. If anything, she even went faster this time.
“It finally dawned on me,” Verne says ruefully. “She’d been a racehorse, and she viewed that ride around the barnyard as her warm up. Once she was warmed up, she was set to go, and she was going to run her race no matter what race track she was on! She would always run for about a mile, just as she had during her racing career. And afterward that she would be fine.”
Verne tried hemming her in with a group of other horses and riders to teach her to slow down, but he never did trust her to behave well enough to use for his livery.
One night, he was riding her on one of stable’s moonlight trailrides, accompanied by a friend who was also an experienced horseman. The friend complained endlessly about how boring it was to be riding a dumb colt on the long trail ride, and asked if he could ride Verne’s horse for a while.
Verne refused, saying that the thoroughbred might run off with him, but the friend kept asking until Verne finally agreed.
“We switched, and things went okay for a while,” Verne says. “But then we came up to her favorite starting post along the trail. She was off to the races at a dead run and nothing could stop her once she got going.
“It was pretty dark, but we saw that guy’s white shirt flash over one hill, and then another, fly around a bend and then disappear over the horizon. I wasn’t too worried, though. I knew he was a good enough rider to stay on, and I knew the horse would stop once she had run her mile race.” Verne’s eyes twinkle as he recalls the chastened rider’s return. “Do you still want to ride her?” he asked.
The fellow was only too glad to get off. “She’s nice, but I guess I’ll take my dumb colt back and be glad about it!”
And he didn’t offer another complaint about his colt for the rest of the ride, either.