Today was the day; at 4:30 a.m. my alarm went off and I only hit snooze once. Trust me, that's a feat.
I poked my contacts into my eyeballs, slid into some clothes, woke Jay up and Facebooked Bill that it was time to go horse shopping.
I really didn't know what to expect. The instructions are kind of cryptic; even the directions to the facility are vague, "two miles east of Canon City on Hwy 50". That's it. I guess they figure that people will see the enormous prison complex and assume that's it.
We received some instructions on what we could and couldn't wear or take into the prison and we were careful to follow the instructions. Our other instruction was, "be there at 9:00 a.m.". Maybe I'm too Type A, but be where at 9:00 a.m.? Two miles east of Canon City on Hwy 50, of course! The where turned out to be the visitor's center parking lot, where the WHIP/BLM crew came to pick us up.
We filled out our paperwork and climbed aboard a D.O.C. van. For someone who always likes to have an escape, being locked in a prison van wasn't a lot of fun, but I quickly forgot about it as I gawked at everything we passed. I had no idea the prison was involved in so many things: office furniture-making, growing grapes for local wineries, greenhouses to supply flowers to flower shops, dairy farming, and the Wild Horse Inmate Program. It was incredible. We even saw "pet" Big Horn Sheep who moved to the prison after their home was destroyed in the Royal Gorge Fire last summer.
When we got to the corrals, we got to watch as a young horse was coaxed into a trailer. I loved being able to see how patient and kind the handlers were and that made me feel good about how the horses are handled.
Each "party" (group) was assigned a chaperone to show them the animals they were interested in. I wanted to look at 3 - 4 year olds, geldings and mares, so off we went. The first pen had lots of friendly critters, but none that stood out to me. The second pen had a little lop-eared fellow who lost the tip of his left ear to the cold. He was a definite maybe.
We went through a couple more pens, and I listed maybe two or three more possibilities, but while the horses were friendly, none spoke to me. There was a little black mare, #6864, with a star and a white anklet on her left hind who shot to the top of my list. She let me get my hands on her a bit, but wouldn't have anything to do with Jay or Bill. Still ... I like her. She reminded me a bit of Estes, attitude-wise. She wouldn't be easy to bond with, but once she bonded, it would be a forever thing.
We moved on to the next pen and I was saying "hi" to a couple of mares when this black face appeared. I didn't see her coming, but Bill and Jay said she crossed the pen to introduce herself. I laughed at her facial marking, because it reminded me of a squashed "happy sperm". You know, the cartoon sperm from sex ed in elementary school, except it looked like someone had squashed it like a bug.
She followed me a couple of steps and let me move her forelock so I could show Bill and Jay her unique mark, then wondered off to munch on the hay while I looked at a couple of other mares. In particular, there was a nice buckskin our guide wanted us to look at. The buckskin was not at all interested in me and meandered to the water, where the little black horse was, and she promptly drizzled water all over her. The little black mare came back to me and nuzzled me, practically wiping her face on my shirt. #7888, definitely a contender. I was still thinking about #6864, but #7888 was quickly over-taking her.
I ran my hands all over her face, both sides of her neck, down her back to her hip and touched her legs. Bill and Jay both put hands on her. She didn't mind in the least. I stepped back and looked her over. Feet look good, legs look good, and she's so sweet.
I turned to our guide and said, "I'm done. This is the one. #7888."
No sooner had he notified the office that I was done, when another group came in the pen and headed straight for my mare. "Nope. You're too late, she's mine."
The guide faltered for a second and looked at our guide, "seriously?".
And just like that, #7888 - Skeeter - was mine.
It turns out that she was slated to go into the halter-training program, but I managed to snag her first.
Skeeter is named after my favorite kick-ass character of all time from Tara Janzen's STEELE STREET series and is a 4 year old mare gathered on 10/11/10 from Piceance, near Meeker, Colorado. On her paperwork, she's listed as black with a star/snip, but I saw a lot of red in her coat. I think she's probably a very dark bay and we already know what I think her star/snip looks like. She's just lucky I'd already decided on the name Skeeter, because she might have been saddled with "sperm face" as a name.
I don't have any pictures, but Bill was kind enough to draw pictures of our trip today. Click over to It's A Horse Life for his take on the prison visit.
She'll be delivered sometime next week - probably Thursday and I'll give her a day or so to settle in before we start "working" on Saturday (which just so happens to be Jay's birthday, but he was kind enough to tell me I could spend it with Skeeter while he hung out with his family. I'm a lucky girl.).