CQHA was pleased to sponsor a Quarter Horse division of the Canadian Horse Journal’s 2021 annual photo contest. Out of over One Hundred entries, the contest judges chose “Two More Heels” submitted by Mandy Panas of Elk Point, Alberta as the inaugural award winner.
The CQHA Media Team contacted Mandy and asked her to tell the Canadian Quarter Horse community about the photo, and her relationship with the horse featured in the photo. The following editorial was submitted:
Lenas Blue Bur aka "Rusty" a Horse With Many Friends and a Million Stories
The first time I saw Rusty I didn’t think much of him. He was unloaded off the trailer at a ranch I worked for as a un-halter broke coming two year old stud colt. I was 17 years old at the time, and preferred coloured flashy looking horses; a plain old chestnut with a star and a bad attitude did not catch my eye!
He did catch my friend Wayne’s eye a couple weeks later at the sale held by the ranch. The sale was held after, hours were spent trying to rope Rusty and get a halter on him. The hardest part of halter breaking Rusty occurred once they finally roped him, he was so big the pony horse they snubbed him too had trouble teaching him manners. My good friends Wayne and Karen took him home and turned him into a horse, a horse that I spent many many hours riding over the next decade.
The first time I rode Rusty was on a camping trip in Saskatchewan at Manitou Outfitters. I took my coloured flashy buckskin, but two days into the trip he needed a rest after prancing his way through the 35°C sun on our long rides. Wayne loaned me Rusty who had only been started under saddle the previous year and I actually enjoyed riding the big chestnut on our evening ride. I was glad I was not riding him when he laid down in the lake, which was the start of his nickname “The Duck Horse” – Most horses will stop, put their head down, paw a little bit and start to lay down when they get in the water. Rusty walked right in, got knee deep and dropped to the ground with no warning. It was like his legs collapsed and disappeared, he went straight to his belly in that water. To get around the cattle guard we had to go through the water, which was not that deep and that bugger was not going through there without a swim. I took his lead rope and pulled him through the water on my buckskin much to his disgust. The next trip through a much longer stretch of deeper water produced the same effect out of Rusty so once again my buckskin encouraged him through the water. For years to come Rusty would lay down, or try to, whenever his hooves touched water. From a puddle on a gravel road to a creek or a lake. Sometimes he was sweated up and you hit a patch of deep sand on the trail he would drop there too. He would rarely ever warn you, you would feel him slow down and then the ground would be rushing up towards you. Rivers seemed to be the exception, I don’t remember him ever trying to lay down in the current of a river.
I rode Rusty as often as I needed, when my horse was injured, or when I couldn’t haul or just anytime I wanted to ride him. I cattle penned and sorted on him, I rode at poker rallies and trail rides, chased cows at our friends pasture, caught calves to tag them, took him up to the mountains or anywhere else we went camping. After a couple of years under saddle Karen started riding him more than Wayne but she still shared him with me.
People we knew asked occasionally if he was for sale and Karen always used to say you have to ask Mandy. One year I was in Ponoka when my cousins called me to ask if I could ride in a ranch rodeo with them on their Ag society team. I told them if I could find a horse I could rope off to borrow I would. Of course Rusty was my first choice, so off we went on a two hour road trip to ride with my two teenage cousins and their mom on the team they had entered. Most of the events were your typical ranch rodeo events but the one event that concerned us was where we had to catch a yearling and tie it down. When our team rode in we had a game plan, throw loops in the dirt until we reached our rope limit. I wasn’t a very good roper to begin with so it shouldn’t have been a problem. Rusty was fast enough I could usually run the young calves down and fishing a loop over their heads when we would tag them. My cousin went first and missed the calf our team was called. I rode into the herd and moved two calves down the fence, threw my loop and by some miracle caught the right calf. I don’t know who was more surprised, me, my teammates or Rusty that I had caught the yearling. Thankfully the other members of the AG society jumped the fence and came to help my team lay the yearling down and tie her up.
Over the years Karen and Wayne would pack Rusty to pennings, and the mountains and trail rides for me. As their grandsons got older I shared Rusty with him as well when I was between horses or just wanted a nice easy ride. But riding Rusty was not always nice and easy. When they decided to sell him Rusty was offered to me first. At the time I couldn’t afford him, it was pretty sad to think that someone else might buy him and I wouldn’t get to ride him anymore. A couple
months later my husband Jeremy and I sold one of our ranch horses and needed another broke horse that could be saddled up and go to work, I convinced Jeremy to try him out. We drove two hours and picked up Rusty to add to the herd of geldings at Rafter HJ Ranch.
Eleven years after I watched that half wild Chestnut run around the pen and duck his head every time a loop flew his way he was mine- even if I was supposed to share him with my other half he is mostly my horse. Rusty always was a family mount and still is. When we head out with a trailer load it would be rare for Rusty not to be on it. As much as he is “my” horse I will share him when I need to.
Rusty’s biggest quirk besides being the “Duck Horse” is his spring time bucking! Every year when the green grass comes out he turns into a bit of a handful, sometimes he gets pretty serious about it – to this day he has never managed to buck me off; but he has tried a good number of times! It usually happens chasing a cow or calf across the pasture, but a couple of times its been at pennings; the most memorable was after we bought him, while I was helping to chase bucking horses out of the arena, while the rodeo club we help with was dummy bucking. I hadn’t ridden Rusty much that spring, and I knew there was a good chance he would try it that day. I warmed him up good but it did not surprise me when I asked him to step up after a bronc that he ducked his head and tried to unload me. I pulled him up, let him stand a few seconds and went back to the task at hand. The next horse out, Rusty tried it again; s soon as I asked him to run! I pulled him up and then off we went again across the arena. The third time Rusty ducked his head and started bucking I pulled him up, made him spin a couple circles and yelled at him to knock it off before going back to catch up with the others . . . he was good until the next spring!
When we first bought Rusty, I had acquired another gelding a couple months before, that had, had a rough hand dealt to him in his past. We were unsure of the gelding’s whole story as every previous owner I talked to told me something different about where he had come from that contradicted the last. His fear of people was his biggest problem, however Rusty was instrumental in helping him get over that! Rusty can be hard to catch on a good day, always has been but he isn’t scared of people in the least and a pocket of cookies is tough to turn down. I took the two geldings everywhere together, if the grey went Rusty went too. I spent countless hours ponying the gelding with Rusty to rehab him; circles, over trot poles, down the trails when we got into summer and then in the mountains and out to the pasture where Jeremy was working. I had planned on taking Rusty to the mountains and decided the week before I was taking the grey too. I was called crazy considering I had never rode him yet, but I made up my mind, the farrier put shoes on him (which was no easy task) and I packed them down to Ya Ha Tinda to meet with Rusty’s previous owners for a week of camping. Rusty ponied that grey horse up and down the mountains, through the rivers, around the camps for two days before an evening ride to Eagle Lake made me decide to ride the gelding back. I gave Wayne Rusty’s lead rope and stepped onto the grey horse for the first time in the nine months I had owned him. After that whenever I would take the grey horse it became a habit to saddle up both of them and ride out on Rusty first then switch part way and pony Rusty back. I never worried about ponying Rusty off a green horse because I knew he wouldn’t do anything if I ever had to let go of him and he wouldn’t do anything to get me into trouble either. I could turn him loose to cross rivers and catch him again on the other side. I could let go of him to get gates and he would follow me through and wait eating on the other side. I took the two of them into the mountains together the next year as well and the year after that I left the grey at home and took the two year old pups instead. Leading pups through a campground out to the trail is a
little more challenging than ponying another horse but he got that job done like any others I asked him to do.
This summer before we started out on a family trail ride one of the other horses our ten year old was supposed to ride started acting up. I shortened the stirrups on my saddle and he could just reach them when he climbed up on Rusty. He rode him around a little bit and then I climbed into the kids saddle, with stirrups that wouldn’t have gone long enough if I tried, to ride the other horse. Rusty was as solid as I knew he would be and after being ponied for the first bit we turned him loose to ride on his own.
I have done a little bit of everything on Rusty over the years, a Pony Express Relay Race at a local stampede where our team won, carrying a flag during O ‘Canada at another local rodeo, numerous mountain trips, penning, sorting, I even tried jumping him a couple times. This year we got to try something completely new to us. While we had done some obstacles like bridges, the horse ball and pool noodles at home we had never done many man made obstacles or cowboy challenges before. Some friends of ours not too far from home started the “Moose Hills Cowboy Challenges” and we had a lot of fun attending them. Rusty learned that stepping in a box of water was very different from crossing natural water! We jumped on and off big tires as well as walked across them, rang a bell, went through the noodle curtain and attempted the very narrow teeter bridge. In September, the second time we had attended the challenge, they added a Toonie jackpot class with new obstacles and I entered it. I think there were only six of us entered in the jackpot. The new obstacles had us hanging clothes on a clothesline, popping balloons with a nail on a stick, putting a football in a tipped over muck tub with a broom, roping a dummy being pulled by a quad, going up and down stairs and through a trench. Rusty was great and never blinked at a thing through the whole course. We ended up winning the Toonie jackpot but most of all we had fun with our friends and family!
Rusty has made me a lot of memories over the years, not just with him but with the family that owned him. I will be forever thankful to the plain chestnut gelding with a star, for making Wayne and Karen a bigger part of my life; and to them for allowing Rusty to be such a big part of my life!