In summer 2005, Travis and I lived in our recently- purchased house in a Boise neighbor- hood. Gardening was at the top of my hobby (obsession?) agenda, while distant plans to buy acreage and a pair of horses simmered on the back burner. Then, along about August, Fate turned up the heat.
My mother put us in touch with a business contact of hers, saying he owned some rare horses called Barbs. “Oh, Spanish Barbs?” I said in a knowledgeable tone not unlike that which I've heard from a great many people since.
“He says they aren’t Spanish Barbs. Just Barbs. They’re supposed to be really good mountain horses. He's going to race them in endurance.”
My attention was riveted, and Travis' wasn’t far behind as we drove to meet the gentleman and his little herd. He told us tales that, in retrospect, were rather taller than absolutely necessary. Nevertheless, we wasted no time in making our way from his place to meet Robert and Louise Painter at Quien Sabe Ranch, where this apparently pure strain of Barbs was bred.
Because I’m writing a blog here, not a novel, I’ll condense this story to its bare essentials. Travis and I spent hundreds of hours at Quien Sabe, learning from the Painters and doing our best to help with the physical maintenance of the ranch. We sold our house and lived at Quien Sabe for two months in the fall of 2006 before returning to the Treasure Valley with five Barbs and a great longing to assist with the preservation and promotion of the breed.
After several months of renting an inadequate facility, we settled in on our little farm near the Idaho-Oregon border just two months before the birth of our first Barb foal. Her half-brother, Crackerjack, was born two days later. The pair of them are pictured here at two weeks of age, with Ripple in front.
Never having worked with untouched adult horses before, Travis and I agreed to purchase an Arabian gelding, Aaruba Sunsette, from Martin Arabians in Mountain Home so I could hone my horsemanship skills before starting in on the higher-stakes Barbs. Aaruba arrived with a few rides on him but a lot of holes in his training. Two years later, I can safely report that he has been an excellent trainer for me…and more difficult than any of his Barb companions.
These days, I spend every hour I can conditioning Aaruba for his first year of endurance racing and working toward getting the Barbs under saddle. But that's just about enough of the past. Henceforth, my posts will concern the present. Mostly.