The first time I saw Riley was on the internet. He was half-way down a page of photos of horses on a feedlot scheduled for slaughter. He was one of two horses that had caught my eye. When I heard from Gail that the first horse had been safely rescued, we began to discuss the concept of rescue as opposed to purchasing. I have owned several horses and some very expensive ones as well, but that was when I was younger and much more of a "rider" than a horsewoman. Although I knew exactly where my last three horses had ended up, great homes and then retirement, I had a vague sense of unease about my first horse. He was an ex racehorse that never really got the hang of being a pleasure horse, I don't know what happened to him after I traded him for a more suitable mount for a 12 year old girl.
Here is the bottom line, I felt it was time to do something unselfish. I was going to rescue this bay horse.
1/27/2019 - Baba's Story
He had colic. It was very sudden. He was a little off in the morning but I thought maybe the Santa Ana winds had spooked him. He didn’t mug me for his grain, but he took a carrot, didn’t seem that out of the ordinary. I came back down in the afternoon to check on him and he was not himself. He was standing under a tree that he rarely stands by. I checked for gut sounds and it wasn’t good. We called the vet, but I didn’t have high hopes. Baba was never sick. Not ever. He looked so miserable, so I was scared. The vet tubed him and determined it was a blockage. At 26 years, and being as apprehensive as he was about new and scary things (besides, I’ve put Baba on barn rest before and he and the barn both barely survived the process), I didn’t think surgery was a viable option. I had to make the tough call. I still think about the ‘what if’s’ but I think I did what was best... I hope.
Baba’s story is a good one - I don’t know if you ever looked at his thoroughbred record, but he was once ridden (to his only win) by Triple Crown-winning jockey, Victor Espinoza (http://www.equibase.com/premium/eqbPDFChartPlus.cfm?RACE=5&BorP=P&TID=FPX&CTRY=USA&DT=09/28/1996&DAY=D&STYLE=EQB). I am not a fan of horse racing, but it is interesting to know that he was once ridden by racing royalty. Judging from his pin-firing scars, we are guessing he sustained an injury to his front legs during his career. They must have thought he had further racing potential because they went through the trouble of trying to pin-fire instead of immediately sending him to the feed lot, but... that’s where TIER found him, so it apparently didn’t work out.
You are familiar with the next chapter, so I will skip it and go right to the next one.
After being rescued, and back up to fighting weight, I looked for something to burn off his ample energy. (I guess that’s what happens when you feed a race horse alfalfa and rice bran!) While he was never comfortable trail riding, or maybe he was too comfortable with a wide open stretch and going VERY fast, he was a natural at going over fences in hunt seat. He was giddy when we would jump rails. He and I worked our way up to 3’ crossed rails. I hadn’t ever ridden English let alone jumped, but we took lessons and learned together. We had a trust and knew what each other was capable of. There were more than a couple of times where I knew for a fact that he was trying hard to keep me on his back despite my flailing around up there. I could feel him shift to stay under my center of gravity. I never did fall off of him, not for lack of trying!
I bought a couple of acres in Norco because I couldn’t stand to be apart from him all week while I worked and only see him on the weekends. That was a great decision, because he was happier than ever to just hang around with me and be goofy. I have never met another animal with as much charisma as Baba had. He was like the biggest puppy you ever saw. He would follow me around while I mucked and pulled weeds to pester, harass, and be generally goofy. He wanted belly rubs, he wanted cookies, he wanted 100% of my attention. And he was like that with everyone.
He retired from riding at age 20, mostly because my time to ride had dropped due to work but he got plenty of exercise all by himself, no riding needed. He always loved to run. There was no place worth going if you couldn’t gallup there. He also loved to get hosed down, roll in the sand, then get up and give a giant - heels over his head - buck and an equally big fart! It never failed to make me laugh. He would see me come to the fence in the morning and come flying across about 100 yards to greet me (sometimes scarily fast with a quick turn at the last moment). Then it was nuzzles and hugs. So many fond memories...
He was an immense part of our lives and it’s been very tough to adjust to life without him in it. At any rate, here are some of our favorite photos of him. (Baba flying just above the ground; him with rice bran crusted on his nose and trying to sniff the camera; summer hose down; posing under the tree; and kisses from his mom, Elena, while he tries to check her for cookies)
Brandon & Elena
1/26/2019 - RILEY-Baba Ruhl Pedigree
1/25/2019 - Riley has crossed the Rainbow Bridge
My name is Brandon and for the past 16 years I’ve been the proud owner of one of your alumni, Riley (née Baba Ruhl) (http://www.tierrescue.org/Riley.htm). Regrettably, just a month and change short of his 26th birthday, Baba left us. He was happy and healthy, and dearly loved, until the day he colicked and was laid to rest.
It chokes me up to write this, but I had just ordered a shipment of alfalfa blend, rice bran, and senior just under a week before he passed. I don’t know if your organization has a need, but I would love you to have it if it would be of use.
TIER is the reason we had those 16 wonderful years with Baba Ruhl, instead of him being dog food or worse. When I got him from Old English stable in Chino Hills, he was about 200lbs under weight. He looked like a cardboard cutout of a horse. The lady who bought him from TIER had fallen on hard times and needed to get him a new home. He wasn’t the horse I was looking for, but he was the one. I immediately put him on alfalfa and rice bran and put him to work. We eventually got him doing hunt seat and he and I were clearing 3’ fences for fun. He loved it. He muscled up nicely and looked like such an athlete. We ended up buying a house in Norco so we could keep him in the backyard and spend time with him every day.
He was such a lovely soul, sweet, curious, energetic, and still thought he was a ladies man when the mares were around. He retired from riding about three years ago, mostly because of my time constraint and not his ability. He became the world’s biggest yard dog. He would pester the entire time when I was mucking or doing chores. It was wonderful.
Please know that he was loved and we are grateful to TIER for rescuing him and giving us a chance to love him.
Thank you very much,
Brandon & Elena
Gail pulled some strings and got me an appointment to buy this horse. Not an appointment to try him or to negotiate, as this horses' value was already determined by a per pound price, but to put the cash down, period. Gail informed me that any wavering or renigging on my part could hinder her work in the future and endanger horses from getting new homes. With butterflies in my stomach and 800 in my pocket, I headed for the feedlot.
Rescuing a feedlot horse flies in the face of everything we are taught. The list of never do this, never do that, is long and well-advised. But then this was not a purchase, it was a rescue.
When I arrived, by luck the feed lot man had to go to the doctors and I was left alone to wander the pens. The Bay gelding I was rescuing was in a back pen with an old Thoroughbred mare. It seems he was too dominant to be left with the other horses. I walked into the pen, no halter, just me. He turned and looked at me. I stopped about 12 feet away and showed him my side (an invitation to say hello) He walked right up to me, kissed me on the forehead, rested his muzzle on my shoulder and heaved a huge sigh. Then he wrapped his whole neck around me a gave me a horse hug, and begged to be scratched. I felt this little tap on my shoulder from the hand of a loving and merciful God and felt a warm flow of peace enter my heart. That was it, he was mine. I peeled off the cash (they wrote me a bill of sale on a scrap of lined paper!) Now to get him out of there and home!
After spending two weeks on a private ranch to be sure he did not get strangles or some other disease, I was able to get Riley to his new home in San Juan Capistrano. It was a a real big day for both of us. He got here dirty, cut up from the trailer ride (his feet were so bad, he injured himself jumping in the trailer) and very scared.  When you rescue a horse, you find out real quick who your friends are! All of my "serious" riding friends thought I was nuts. Some even turned up their noses at us! But I also found a new group of friends, you know them, you see them at every stable. The people who love their horses and sometimes even give up many of life's niceties to keep their horses safe, healthy and happy (these folks are usually found around the pipe corrals).
As Rileys new stall was not yet ready, I had to put him temporarily in one next to another dominant gelding. Well my new horse, proceeded to rear and strike at his new neighbor. The barn aisle now sounded like a a hollywood movie featuring fighting stallions. After two hours, the screaming stopped, after 5 hours they were best friends.
I really took my time getting to know my horse. He had been through a lot, including an auction and complete trust was going to take time and effort on my part. I decided not to even think about riding until I had gotten his attention and co-operation. He was sound, but I felt he had gotten some muscular damage in the past few months. We started out with, working on ground manners, leading manners and whoa. Lots and lots of hand walking. I was real nervous for his vet check-up. Usually these things were performed BEFORE purchase (but remember this was a rescue).  He passed with flying colors, the vet, not an over-emotional type was surprised that he came from the feed lot. He was going to need some chiropractic, and my saddle didn't fit him, so that would have to be replaced.
We were able to read his tattoo and this is what I found out about him from the jockey club. Riley (aka Baba Ruhl) is a six year old registered Thoroughbred who raced successfully for two years earning over 20,000. He is the great grandson of Native Dancer and Bold Ruler as well as Nasrullah on the sires side.
Time and patience are your tools with a untrusting horse, but I had to be sure he knew I was the top of the herd dynamic, the alpha mare so to speak. Using a combination of Marv Walkers round pen techniques (very similar to Monty Roberts) and Linda Tellingtons TTouch and Labrinth work I saw tremendous changes in relaxation and attitude. Horses are very much lead, follow, or get out of my way types of beings. Riley continues to challenge me everyday, but the signs are subtle and you must be listening. I require him to stand stock still for grooming, ground tied. Period. When he is deciding to test me, he shifts his weight, them moves. If I look straight in his eye until he drops his head or chews, he will stand still for several more minutes. If I pretend he has not challenged, or even if I over-react and scold, in a few moments he will be walking away with an "I don't have to listen to you" attitude. If I take this approach in grooming it carries over to all other training.
The first time I rode him was an un-eventful happy experience for both of us. He still thinks he is a race horse and I figure that is our next re-training phase. Lots of quiet walks and slow trotting circles. No canter work for a while.
This is and continues to be so much more that horse ownership. Every little improvement brings with it so much joy and happiness. As it turns out I got a very nice horse and maybe even someday I will be able to show him. But that just isn't the important thing. The important thing is that by challenging myself way past the comfort zone, I am making a difference in the life of one of God's noble creatures. The end of the story just doesn't matter, it's the daily journey with it's risks and rewards that counts.