Raven Remembrance is a 2001 certified Mountain Pleasure mare. The Mountain Pleasure Horse is a rare gaited breed. With only 3000 horses total and less than 300 active breeding mares, this breed is on the critical endangered list of the American Equus Survival Trust. These horses have been bred in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky for nearly 180 traceable years to be easy gaited, hard working, good dispositioned, and reliable . All of the American gaited horse breeds trace their bloodlines back to the MPH breed.
Raven is the last mare ever sired by Maples Squirrel, one of the four sons of Tobe, the Rocky Mountain Saddle Horse Associations foundation sire. Raven's dam ("Honey"--a palomino, btw) was by Goldfinger, a foundation sire of the Mountain Pleasure Association.
The story of how Raven came to be is kind of interesting. Back in 2000, a friend owned Honey and was super excited about the cross of Honey and Maples Squirrel. She shipped Honey back east to a trusted trainer, who then took Honey to meet Maples Squirrel. The trainer (and my friend!) were horrified to find out that Maples Squirrel was so old and decrepit that he had to be lifted up onto Honey and have his hips pumped manually to try to get the job done. I believe he passed away that same year. (Stable Boy says "What a way to go!"--sigh, must be a guy thing.)
The trainer didn't believe conception had occurred, so she and my friend picked out another stud, had Honey pay him a visit, and then sent Honey back home to Pocatello.
It was assumed that the pregnancy was a result of the replacement stud. It wasn't until Raven was born and the DNA results came back that everyone discovered that Maples Squirrel really did do the deed!
Raven had a pretty good life--lots of trail miles, even took reserve grand champion in the only horse show in which she ever competed. Then my friend sold her to a lady in Utah who is apparently scared of horses. Raven went to Utah as a "bomb-proof" laid-back mount and returned two years later wild-eyed, nervous and jumpy. When my friend learned of Raven's condition she promptly bought her back. That lady had taught Raven to be scared of her own shadow!
That was a couple years ago. Rumor has it that the lady purchased a "bomb-proof" quarter horse after Raven left, because she decided she liked trotting better than gaiting (weird, I know!). She then taught him to be scared and is now searching for a replacement for that one.
Raven came to me last spring for some training. She was super jumpy. She was really worried the first time I took her for a walk away from the other horses. I tried to take her over the bridge that crosses the canal near my house, but she was shaking like a leaf. There was no traffic, so I asked her to lunge around me just at a walk. To try to help her relax, I reached out to rub her with my stick. She was so tense and focused on the water that when I touched her, she jumped a mile, scrambled her feet on the pavement like a cartoon character and totally fell over flat on her side! She never even landed on her knees, just went from standing to horizontal. It was crazy!
Needless to say, I did a bunch more groundwork before I tried to ride her, but she was still jumpy. The first time I put my foot in the stirrup, she launched herself side-ways. I then spent about 15-20 minutes standing there, just raising up my foot and touching her sides with it until she could stand quietly.
I finally got her somewhat rideable, even though we were still working on some of the groundwork. Things were getting busy with lessons about that time, so I asked Kid 1 if she could put some rides on Raven. It wasn't long before true love bloomed! It was Kid 1's first time being really excited about a horse since her beloved Ella had to be put down. (Ella was old and had started stumbling and falling when being ridden.) We ended up buying Raven. Kid 1 even contributed toward the purchase price.
Raven settled quite a bit when Kid 1 started riding her, but she still can be jumpy. She settles right down, though, if you circle her when she starts getting worried. The lady in Utah encouraged her to trot instead of gait, so she is also prone to trot if she gets nervous. I've been working on smoothing that out and she is doing better about choosing to gait rather than trot. She has a nice gait when she is relaxed! (Kid 1 informs me that "Raven never trots for me anymore!")
She also has a tendency to run away from you if she thinks you want to catch her. I don't like that, so I've been working on fixing that this week. I go out with a halter in hand and do a lot of approach and retreat, but never try to put the halter on her. When she relaxes about me being close, I walk away. Reverse psychology. I think she is starting to relax more, but it is a work in progress.
I never got around to formally finishing all of Raven's groundwork once Kid 1 started riding her all the time, so I'm using this winter to keep picking away at it. I'd like to be able to use Raven for lessons this summer. We'll see how things go!