Mr.Martin seemed to have all the bases covered and our little homozygous paint stallion Pistol Packin Frekles (a.k.a.”Pete”) was on his way to Painted River Ranch. It was during one of the worst storms in Saskatchewan history. Trains stopped dead in their tracks due to the blowing wind and snow. Our 2000 lb bulls had been walking over 8’high slab fences due to the hard packed drifts in their pens. Thru a series of determined haulers, our stallion made his way to us.
We waited for our road to get opened before we could meet the hauler in North Battleford. We had no where to put him since everything was under snow, including all the gates to our corral system. It was a crazy time. Pete seemed to adapt and adjust well to his new environment, despite the bad weather.
The spring of 2014 is a bit of blur to me, but I managed to get all the mares foaled and 80 head of cattle calved pretty much on my own. Bruce had been diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach cancer in the spring of 2014. I had began running him to ultrasound, biopsy and diagnostic appointments to determine how bad the cancer was in his body. It would be May by the time we met with oncologists.
When Bruce had settled in palliative care, talks of finance and Pistol Packin Frekles began. We had a lot of conversations in Bruce’s final days and every conversation brought a new series of tears and fears.
Bruce admitted he knew he was sick back in 2013, he just didn’t know how sick he was. I learned that he had taken a loan out for the stallion using the cattle as collateral. The day the loan was approved, was the day we set flight for Colorado. Bruce suggested I sell the cows and pay the stallion off. But the fact was, Pete had paid for himself with the sale of his first foal crop.
Bruce told me that if we had a good stallion he could rest assured that I would keep breeding, raising and training horses and doing what I love. The stallion was Bruce’s guarantee that I would be Ok long after he was gone. How could I argue with that? The stallion and his offspring would look after me financially and he wouldn’t have to worry about that.
Bruce had a couple of requests of me. All of which I have fulfilled. He told me to be sure to show the Pistol Packin Frekles and “he would do me right”. In 2016, with the help of my friend and mentor, Kathy Donnelly – we showed the stallion for Bruce. I was so impressed with the little horses abilities and attitude. He taught me so much and isn’t done teaching me yet. Pete was one of the best grief counselors I had ever met. Very intuitive to emotion. I cried a ton of tears in that boys mane. I love working with his foals and starting them under saddle and have a 2 year old gelding I will swing a leg over this fall.
As I showed Pistol Packin Frekles, I knew Bruce was watching the whole performance. It was a really emotional year showing that horse; knowing that Bruce had bought him for me to help me financially long after he was gone. How much foresight that must’ve taken. I had a few rides around the show pen that summer, knowing Ol Rancher was doubling right behind me. Many times a had to swallow back the tears as the announcer mentioned our name. Pete will always be that special horse that keeps me connected to Rancher.
That little horse will always be my gift from heaven. My wallow in self pity was short lived when I stopped to realize just how lucky I really was.
There is crazy story behind our acquisition of Pistol Packin Frekles, 3X World Champion APHA Stallion, . I had always dreamed of owning a homozygous western pleasure stallion, but they were as rare as hens’ teeth in Canada. Every chance I had, i was searching the internet for our next stallion prospect. Guess I was always dreaming and there shouldn’t be any harm in dreaming right?
I knew Bruce had not been feeling good for some time. I was constantly nagging him to get to the doctor. By the time he got there the cancer was everywhere in his body. There were a lot of things to be discussed once he got moved to palliative care. The 3X World Champion stallion was only one of them.
In January 2013, I saw an ad in the Paint Horse of a stallion for sale. He had earned 2 APHA Superior titles in Trail and Western Pleasure and he was homozygous to boot. (homozygous meaning, he would always produce a colored foal – not matter what kind of mare he bred). The ad did not have a price listed. I shown the ad to Bruce, He knew how much time and effort I put into dreaming and believing. He did not say anything, and the stallion was never mentioned again.
However, the subject came up a week or 2 later. Bruce woke one morning to tell me to talk to those people about that horse. Find out all you can about him and what a World Champion stallion would cast. I made the call only to find out what I already knew. We could not afford to buy Pistol Packin Frekles and that was the end of it.
Until a few weeks later, prior to calving season. Bruce said we need to go see that stallion, but he was in Colorado. Soon we were on a flight to go see him even though I knew we could never afford to buy him. A trip to Colorado before calving season suited me fine. When we first saw him, he seemed small in stature. He was in great shape and very personable and disciplined. I had talked myself out of liking him because I knew he was not in our budget. Then I rode him. Wow, never in my life had a ridden a horse who just loved to change leads. This stallion was a little Cadillac to say the least. I had fallen in love. Bruce wanted that stallion that day and had already given Kevin Hood the “we’ll take him” handshake. Bruce obviously knew something I did not.
The flight home was a long one. I told Bruce even if we could afford him, he’d need to pass a purchase and fertility exam. But he had already arranged it. I was shocked but skeptical thinking the little stallion would never pass his exams. A week later, I was eating my words. The little champion stallion had passed everything with flying colors. Now what the hell I thought. We did not have any financing in place, even if we did, we’d have to find a way to get him up to Saskatchewan in the middle of a blizzard now. Bruce had informed me a hauler was lined up and he would be on his way to standing on Saskatchewan soil soon. The little 3X World Champion APHA Stallion, Pistol Packin Frekles would call Painted River Ranch home. For the first time in my life I was speechless.
Life is a trail challenge because everyday a new course of challenges is set for us. We can face new obstacles in life just like those in a trail challenge. Challenge can be time consuming, tricky, and scary. But all challenges can be navigated with mindfulness and the right attitude. You learn to acknowledge your response and take control of it. Mind over matter is the mantra and mastering the obstacle is all we focus on in the moment, nothing more, nothing less.
Horses are perceptive to emotion; therefore, riders learn to control their emotion because we know a frightened or nervous horse does not score well. Just like a nervous or frightened person does not make good decisions when challenges arise either. They need more exposure and more successes with challenges.
Early experiences and exposure form our reactions and responses to challenges – just like a horse. Being mindful of our attitudes and reactions can helps us practice improving them. This theory applies to trail challenges and life challenges. We improve our responses not for us, but also so we can be of more help to our equine partners when a challenge arises. The more confident we become, the more confident our horses become.
Over the next few weeks and months, I would like to share the challenges I have faced on and off the trail challenge course. These challenges have helped me grow, learn, and become a better person. I never in a million years would have guessed a trail challenge course could help me with other life challenges. Life really is like a trail challenge.
Dream Believe Achieve. To some it’s a sign in the doorway reminding you to apply it everyday. Some have used to gain their fame and fortune. It has a different meaning for everyone and that’s what makes us human. Doesn’t matter what “Achieve: may mean for you, What’s important is that you know what it is and that it can be done. The words sound simple enough and are easy to understand so it shouldn’t be that difficult should it?
It’s pretty easy to dream and we all need them, whether you sleep well at night or not. As a kid, I was always accused of being a dreamer. But when you’re a kid dreams do seem big. I’m not going to tell you what I dreamed about, but I do have a couple of cousins who can vouch for me when we played house. When you’re a kid is hard to believe and even harder to achieve your dreams. Every human should be a proud owner of a good dream or 2. Are these dreams realistic or just a fantasy? ( I think Aldo Nova sang that song). Or could it actually happen? How could you make that happen? As a kid there were a ton of questions that needed a ton of answers. We couldn’t wait to head out in the world to fast enough to find those dreams. Hang out with me for awhile and found out where we are going with these 3 words. Dream, Believe, Achieve, I am hoping those cousins don’t spoil the surprise.
The battle they call cancer. This single 6 letter word instills fear or fight in any human. Many knew my late husband, Bruce Martin. He lost his battle to stomach cancer on December 23, 2014, he was just 56 years old. I have a page on the website dedicated to his life and his memory .
This blog series about his life and his battle with cancer and is something I have been needing to do for a long time. It’s a sunny day in May 6, 2020 and I should be riding but his story is important to me. so the ride can wait. My goal is to help others understand this 6 letter word should not instill fear even when loss is inevitable.
I had no experience with cancer until Bruce’s diagnosis and I had no idea what to expect. His family and I found coping skills we didn’t know we had. I was scared as hell but was always brave in the face of the disease because that is what Bruce expected from me.
Bruce was my best friend, my husband, my business partner and my mentor and were told he would have 6 short months to live. How do you prepare to loose your whole world? I had not done enough living or learned enough about life to prepare me for what lied ahead. I didn’t think I could deal with the loss and manage the ranch alone. It was the first time in my life I was afraid and full of fear. My pen met paper the first day they wheeled him into palliative care. It was the beginning of the end and so I began to write. I will share my experience in hope that it may help others and give them hope in sorrowful times. Canadian Cancer Society