Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In Memory 1976 - 2010

Chinook, my studio namesake and old friend of 20 years has passed away. He was 34 years old and living the good life, happy and exuberant until an episode of colic combined with some problems due to his advanced age necessitated he be humanely euthanized.

He was a very small horse with a very big heart, and a jokester attitude to match. He taught me to ride with care and patience and tested me as my skills improved. I've never known a more trustworthy or capable horse and he certainly got me out of many a situation, from finding the way home after I got thoroughly lost to calmly extricating both of us from places of great tightness and even a little peril.

Chinook in his "youth". I always thought of his teenage years as his youth because that's when I got him and he started his career anew. I am told that before I got him, he was a "champion" barrel racer. I don't know about that, but he definitely was an athletic little guy. We would go on eight hour trail rides full of galloping and fooling around, and the next day he would be fresh and ready to go again. We did a little gaming. I started teaching him to jump when he was about 16. He didn't much care for his dressage days, but when he was pointed at a jump he was in heaven despite my getting left behind and jumping ahead. :-P This is us before lessons (and me in rubber boots!!).

I do actually have a lovely picture of us jumping after I got a trainer but thus far I do not have permission from the photographer to use it. Hopefully I can include it soon.

During his retirement, I taught him tricks to keep his crafty Mustang mind occupied. The towel trick unfortunately enabled him to figure out how to unhook the wire fence leading to his pasture. He was always an escape artist, but at least that was something he hadn't figured out! A new method of hooking the wire up and things were Chinook-proof once more.

Any trick that involved holding or waving something he thought was great fun, and he would happily retrieve his feed bowl. But most of all he loved giving kisses and he especially loved pushing. Once he trotted up behind me and gave me such a push! I wound up running on the air for over 6 feet! Even when he was feeling so crummy on his last day, he was still pushing me here and there with an impish little glint in his eye.

He was silly, and I also did many silly things to him. For a few years I clipped extremely nerdy patterns onto his hindquarters. Top, pi. Middle, h-bar/Planck's Constant. Bottom, the companion cube and slice of cake from Portal.

I also dyed him black and used him as my Ringwraith horse for Halloween. I made the tack myself, and the long-suffering Chinny had to put up with me tracing patterns with giant pieces of paper on his face. (The treats had him convinced it was quite alright though.)

In addition to silly things, I also did incredibly stupid things with him. Things I would not recommend anyone do no matter what. Do as I say, not as I do! I took this photo myself while he was loose on the trail and I ran back and forth between him and the tripod. Speaking of loose on the trail...

Chinook gained my trust enough that I allowed him to roam a little. Every day while I prepared his food he would wander the barns and the grassy driveway area, exploring and looking for tasty tidbits. This was very exciting for him because he was confined to a paddock for half of the year due to being at risk for founder. He was so enthusiastic that he frequently cantered out of his stall in short frantic steps (what became known as "busting"), and sometimes even squealed and kicked up his heels a bit as soon as he was clear of the barn. He had a favorite grass spot on the Sammamish Slough, and I would take him out there and let him eat to his heart's content. He had a lot of fans on the trail who would stop and pet him on his days out.

Eating as much as possible was pretty much his primary goal in life. It took a while to devise an escape proof paddock. His hay cube treat dispenser was a great diversion, and it teamed up very well with his aforementioned love of pushing things.

He enjoyed napping in the sun and sticking his tongue out...

...and playing with his girlfriend, Lucy.

He also had great fun at a nearby arena snorting and trotting...

...and rolling...

...and generally being a goofball.

As he got older his sooty coat got darker and darker, until he was nearly black during the spring and summer (even darker than the top photo shows). Over the past year he started getting Pergolide and I had hoped that he would regain some of his pretty dappled coat, but I never expected this! This photo was taken just a month ago, and I'll always be thankful I have it.

RIP Chinny, you were a rare treasure.