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About Ginger Karns



The Bluff

The air felt thick enough to swim,
Temps on the higher side,
But here I stood prepared to catch
My mare for one more ride.

I found her in the tramp shed’s shade,
Trying to stay cool.
Her yellow coat stained damp with sweat
Made me feel like a fool.

“Hello old friend,” I greeted
And gave her neck a stroke.
“I promise to be easy,
And I’ll even let you poke.”

I tied her to the old hitch rail
Out in the hot barnyard,
And let the saddle sit its rack.
My mare was just too warm.

Instead I grabbed her bridle
And slipped it o’er her ears.
Then led her to the old tree stump
And swung up with no fears.

Her back felt sticky while I sat
And brushed hair from my shirt.
My shorts now smelled like sweaty horse,
My rear black from the dirt.

What did I care, the time had come,
To ride the forest path.
After all my clothes would wash,
And I could take a bath.

To my dismay the forest air
Never gave a breath.
My mare’s feet moved like leaden weights,
The woodland still as death.

What kind of brute would ride a horse
On such a humid day?
My mare was hot and damp with sweat,
No reason should we stay.

“All right,” I said. “I get the point.”
And turned the way we’d come.
To my surprise she walked the same
Going back as coming from.

Once more we stood behind the barn,
The field grass brown and dry.
I slipped the bridle off her head.
She let out one long sigh.

A final pat upon her neck,
She stepped not far away.
Just me and my old mare
As we took in another day.

And then she squealed and spun around
To kick out like a mule.
I stood in shock and watched her run
and felt like such a fool.

Her bluff had worked, I’d let her go,
She’d tricked me fair and square.
But even so you must admire
The smarts of that old mare.

© 2010, Ginger Karns
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Ginger comments: The very first horse I actually bought with my own money inspired this poem that took place when I was in my late teens. Wimpy spent the rest of her days with me and taught me many lessons along the way. This poem illustrates one of those lessons and what a very special horse she was.


Wintertime Romp

Pasture lay frozen in wind sculpted drifts,
Much like stilled waves on an ice crusted sea.
Snow glaring white from the sun stung my eyes,
While new adventure called out just for me.

I patted King, felt him move ‘neath my legs,
Riding him bareback to share body heat.
With temps past freezing it wouldn’t take long,
For cold to nip at my toes and my feet.

What fun to lope through those soft crusted drifts,
When a truck growled from the top of a hill.
Five hundred heifers now crowded to feed,
From concrete bunkers that John had to fill.

I glimpsed the truck near a steel cabled fence,
Strung across bunkers, some laden with feed.
Beasts from behind tried to push those in front,
Letting their hunger encourage their greed.

That’s when I saw something move to my left.
A single heifer that somehow got out.
How had she managed to slip through the fence?
“Whoa,” I told King after hearing John’s shout.

He waved both arms as to not let me miss,
His hearty gesture to see what was wrong.
“Ginger!” He bellowed with hands ‘round his mouth,
“Go put that heifer back where she belongs!”

I waved right back and put King in a walk,
Tried to act calm as I rode toward the stray.
She raised her head up to watch me draw near.
I held the semblance that I had all day.

She tensed her body the closer I came,
Posture proclaiming she might just take flight.
One good swift bolt took her over the drifts.
King stayed right with her. It sure was a sight.

My legs gripped King so I wouldn’t fall off,
Striving to help him and fulfill our task.
We hit the drifts a bit faster this time.
King lunged on through, and I hoped I could last.

We kept that heifer ‘tween us and the fence.
That led us back the same way we had come.
I felt King gather, reach deep in himself,
To turn her back. I prepared for his run.

She cocked an ear to hear King drawing close,
Then veered away with the fence left behind.
Not one to quit, King stayed close on her heels,
While icy wind stung my cheeks from the grind.

High on a rise where a barn crowned the top,
Harsh sunlight glared on an ice covered drive.
I hoped the heifer would not head that way.
Once on that ice rink, we might not survive.

Cold stung my face. It brought tears to my eyes.
I felt King’s curve lean away from the threat.
Soon I could see we had circled around.
Here came the lane, and I tried to get set.

I watched the heifer. She slid across first,
Scrambling for footing just not to be found.
Her rear hit ice, she sat down like a dog,
Then plowed a snow drift. She seemed safe and sound.

Not one to jeopardize King’s four good legs,
I tried to get him to give up the chase.
His heart surged forward. My cues he ignored.
Triumph was his. We would finish this race.

I felt a lump make its way to my throat,
And kept my seat as King skated across.
Prayer passed my lips once we’d reached the far side.
Chasing that heifer was still not a loss.

King started trotting then slowed to a walk.
She was now blown, to push more made no sense.
King blocked her futile attempts to break free,
And kept her fine between us and the fence.

I saw the gate, not much farther to go,
And knew I had one last problem to crack.
If I got off King to open the gate,
I’d lose the heifer. She would not come back.

Constant cold temps bit my fingers and toes.
Maybe I should leave the gate opened wide?
But chasing hundreds instead of just one,
I didn’t want to consider or try.

Slowly she walked toward the steel cabled fence,
No doubt attracted by smell of good feed.
Cables would stretch, let the cattle reach through,
To eat from bunkers and fulfill their need.

Open ground lay between heifer and herd,
Where she reached through when the cables gave way.
She let her chest stretch them out even more.
What happened next I recall to this day.

One foot she lifted. It caught on the wire,
But she kept pushing, which didn’t seem wise.
I felt her pain when her head smacked the ground,
Then watched her body flip up to the skies.

Forward momentum flung snow everywhere.
Three times the heifer’s legs flew past her head.
I gaped in shock when she rolled to a stop.
She glanced my way. What relief, she’s not dead!

I patted King, felt the cold grip my bones.
Time to thaw out and relax, our job done.
I saw John maybe a week later on.
She’d broken loose! My eyes reached for the sun.
© 2011, Ginger Karns
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Ginger comments: This story took place in my late teens when I didn't have a horse to ride and John let me ride and show his. King's Lad was a grade Quarter Horse that did it all. You could show him as a western pleasure horse and then change gear and game him. He was a top competitor and the first gaming horse I ever rode. He was a great teacher, and I'll never forget him. As you will see in this poem, he was one heck of a cowhorse of the best.

I probably should've worked it into the poem, but King's mane was kept roached (trimmed down to the neck with nothing to grasp). Try staying aboard a horse bareback with nothing to hold on to while chasing a cow. Quite a feat, if I do say so myself.


The Vow

I heard a voice beside me,
That stepped out from the past.
“Can I pet your horse today?”
And I said, “Not so fast.”
She weighed in ‘round sixty pounds,
Age nine or ten at best,
But I saw deep in her heart
A love that would not rest.
I knew that look way too well.
I’ve known it all my years.
She bit her lip, eyed my mare,
I knew she had no fears.
One good look revealed to me,
Her shorts and browned bare feet.
Two large eyes so filled with hope.
I knew when I was beat.
“You keep behind that hitch rail,
Those hooves from your bare toes.
Walk slow, don’t run, and if you’re good,
We’ll see just how it goes.”
I wondered how much longer,
And then the question came.
“Can I ride this horse today?”
“No.” It sounded lame.
“I can’t chance you getting hurt.
Your parents would blame me.
What my horse might do to you
Is dangerous, you see.”
Lines were drawn, the rules put down,
And everything went well.
Our camping trip soon ended,
The time to say farewell.
She came back one final time,
To ask when we’d return.
“We just do this once a year,”
I let her sadly learn.
Time passed by, we had to leave,
Another good time done.
But that young girl stayed with me,
And recalled times now gone.
Of when I stood in her place,
And horses trod our street.
Just a child, so eagerly,
The riders I would greet.
They would chat and ride on by,
Not worth their time of day.
So I vowed that if I could,
I’d never be that way.
That young girl may not know why,
I let her pet my mare,
Or the warmth it brought my heart.
It feels so good to care.

© 2011, Ginger Karns
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Ginger comments: "The Vow"
came about after a horse camping trip where the horse camp snuggled up next to a non-horse camp near the Salamonie Reservoir. Our campsite was separated from the other campground by a thin line of trees, and two horse-crazy little girls spent more time in our camp than theirs after Mom said it was okay to visit the horses. I could've turned them away but just didn't have the heart. After all, I once stood in their shoes once a long time ago and felt the need to write a poem about a little girl's dream to maybe one day have a horse of her own.


A Horsewoman's Christmas

Bert’s words hit hard, and I hung up the phone.
Time to get dressed for a drive to the farm.
My mare had colic, the vet on his way.
Ice slicked the roads, but the car would be warm.

Stars shone above in a crisp icy sky.
Everything quiet. It’s late Christmas Eve.
The drive took time, but I made it just fine,
My mare’s distress was so easy to see.

Bert said the vet should arrive anytime.
I gave my thanks, and she left for the house.
It wasn’t long when a truck came in view.
I’d spoiled their Christmas and felt like a louse.

Footsteps crunched softly on ice crusted snow,
Coat collar raised and Doc’s shoulders hunched high.
Eyes frowned at me from beneath his brimmed hat.
“Merry Christmas,” he said, and relief tinged my sigh.

My mare fought treatment, but we got it done,
Her strength surprised me for someone not well.
My watch said midnight when Doc took his leave,
Two hours to walk her, and I thought, “Oh swell!”

The night grew chill, my feet numb from the cold.
Pain stung my fingers. My cheeks felt like ice.
My mare survived, and I trudged for the house.
Bert served me cocoa that tasted so nice.

She gave me pj’s and showed me a couch,
Made up with blankets, a pillow and sheet.
All snug and comfy I lay in the dark,
Thankful for friends before falling asleep.

Bert’s little daughter awoke me at dawn,
Surprised to find out that I’d spent the night.
I told what happened and then had a thought,
To make this child’s Christmas shine with delight.

“While I walked Wimpy last night,” I explained,
“Bells chimed above from a clear winter’s sky.
I stared in shock at a miniature sleigh,
And came to realized that reindeer can fly.

“They brought the sleigh down to your snowy lawn,
The driver dressed in bright red and white trim.
He left the sleigh and then threw me a smile.
All I could think was, ‘Is that really him?’

“He grabbed a bag that he swung to his back,
‘Hi Ginger,’ he said, ‘Is Wendy inside?’
I felt my nod, watched him stride to the house,
Slip through the door with no need for a guide.

“His stay was short when he came back outside,
Strode to his sleigh before climbing aboard.
‘Merry Christmas,’ he said, then grinned with a wave.
Reindeer took flight, and then upward they soared.”

Wendy drank in every word that I said,
Not one to shake her belief it was true.
I saw the gratitude plain on Bert’s face,
She stepped beside me and whispered, “Thank you.”

I had planned nothing to spin out this tale.
Something to brighten a child’s Christmas day.
They saved my mare, gave me shelter and warmth.
My gift to them seemed so little to pay.

© 2011, Ginger Karns
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

Ginger comments:

This actually happened, and I felt so terrible about getting everyone up for an emergency on, of all nights, Christmas Eve. "Bert" is short for "Roberta," but if anyone called my friend and mentor by her given name, they better duck and run. Bert is a good friend, though I haven't seen her in years. Her daughter Wendy must be in her 40's by now, and she grew up to be quite a horsewoman herself. Bert was also matron of honor at my wedding.

This poem is a part of Christmas at the BAR-D, 2011

Second Thoughts

Night’s soft breeze caressed my cheek.
I sat that fence alone.
Happy sounds came from the camp,
Though sadness set the tone.
No one knew where I had gone.
The moon’s glow swathed my back.
Night’s stark shadows bathed the ground,
My silhouette lay black.
My aunt’s horse I’d rode that day,
Moved out just way too fast.
His jig spoiled the forest’s peace,
And tried me to the last.
Weeks ago I’d sold my mare.
We didn’t seem to click.
Now I’m having second thoughts.
My heart feels like it’s sick.
I reached up to brush away,
The tears that stained my cheek.
Yes I knew what must be done,
No later than next week.
I’d sold her to a horseman.
Did he have her? He said, “No.
I’ve already traded her,
And here’s where you should go.”
I arrived next morning at,
The indicated place.
No one seemed to be about,
Not one good-natured face.
It really didn’t matter.
I knew my way around,
And strode inside the bank barn,
Where horses can be found.
Stairs led me below the barn.
Would this end my quest?
Horse stalls lay just to my left.
A pen took up the rest.
A dozen nice bred horses,
Stood in the pen at ease.
Swishing tails the only sound,
To interrupt the breeze.
A sun bleached palomino,
Napped near the pen’s back side.
No other horse in that group,
Displayed a yellow hide.
I stooped down and caught a glimpse,
Of shoes still fastened tight.
She’d been shod not long ago.
Yes, the facts seemed right.
I called out to just make sure,
“Wimpy, is that you?”
My soft voice seemed loud to me.
May what I saw be true.
Head held high, ears pricked alert,
Her eyes mirrored disbelief.
Her whinny pierced the summer’s heat.
My fear became relief.
Her ears swept back. Horses cleared,
A path that let her come.
Her face shoved against my breasts.
I said, “We’re going home.”
From that day our bond grew strong.
I vowed we’d never part.
Since then she’s crossed the Rainbow Bridge,
But still lives in my heart.

© 2011, Ginger Karns
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Ginger comments:

It's not often we sell something only to find we should never have done it. It's even more rare when that mistake, once corrected, changes things for the better. Wimpy never trusted me until after I bought her back. I do believe no one had ever shown her affection like I did, and she didn't realize this until after I'd sold her. She passed through two horse traders before coming back to me, and I'm sure she got no special treatment or affection the entire time. She was a great companion for a horse crazy girl fresh out of high school and taught me many lessons over the 18 years she lived with me.

The Surprise

My first class came after lunch.
Odds I’d win were slim to none.
W.T. was new to this.
No one realized he could run.

Six stakes each made two long lines.
Horses raced it side-by-side,
Weave the pattern through the stakes,
Keep it tight and don’t go wide.

Nez Perce Stake Race it was called,
Run in pairs, no clock to beat.
Keep precise with pattern clean,
Might just help you win your heat.

Speakers blared two numbers out.
One was mine. Who did I run?
Jerri’s voice came from my side,
“Hey that’s us, let’s have some fun.”

My heart sank. I had no chance.
Jerri and her horse were pros.
I’d just keep my pattern clean.
Meet that goal. See how it goes.

We lined up. The whistle blew.
I raced down that line of stakes,
Braked my horse to start the weave.
Concentrate. Can’t have mistakes.

We lost ground, but that’s okay.
Jerri had the better horse.
Last stake reached, I weaved on back.
Three stakes late but still on course.

Jerri rounded her last stake,
Then raced for the finish line.
But instead of racing back,
She slowed down, which I found fine.

She thought W.T. was slow.
Pleasure horses do not run.
Her mistake would cost her now.
I could win. Time for some fun.

Jerri cantered easy like,
When I finished my last turn.
W.T. leaped in top gear.
He and I had dirt to churn.

Jerri’s mom stood at the fence,
Watching as we ran her way,
Saw the threat to daughter’s win,
Shouting words to not delay.

“Jerri!” She screamed, swung her arms.
“Look behind you! Go, girl go!”
Jerri looked. Shock claimed her face.
She now realized I’m not slow.

Her horse leapt to his top speed.
W.T. had closed the gap.
Jerri won, but not by much,
Grasping W.T.’s no sap.

I trailed Jerri out the ring,
With her question plain to see.
“Who taught him to run like that?”
I just shrugged and answered, “Me.”

In time we might race again,
But with one point made quite clear.
I had Jerri’s full respect.
We’d be equals, have no fear.

© 2011, Ginger Karns
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.


Ginger comments:

"Surprise!" takes place the first time I entered W.T. in the Appaloosa Horse Club's equivalent of pole bending. It's called the Nez Perce Stake Race and run without a time clock. Horses race against each other in paired heats. The horse that wins the heat stays in the competition. The one that loses is eliminated from the event.
Two sets of poles instead of one are placed in straight lines; six poles to a set just like pole bending. The two sets of poles are positioned side-by-side. There's a verbal countdown, and then a whistle blows. Neither horse can cross the starting line before that whistle blows or they lose the heat. The starting line and finish line are one and the same: a line laid out in chalk.
Up to this time, W.T. had been a pleasure horse but began deliberately blowing his classes. He was bored and wanted to do something different. "Surprise!" tells about the first show of the Appaloosa show season. I'd played around with gaming W.T. at the end of the last season, but he hadn't learned he could run... until now.


About Ginger Karns:

I was born in Wabash, Indiana and grew up with TV shows like Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Fury, and My Friend Flicka. How I dreamed of having a horse like Trigger, Topper, or Champion. Every Christmas and birthday a pony topped my wish list never dreaming it would come true when my step-mom brought a pony home for me and my brothers.

I’ve had horses ever since and cherish all those special moments I’ve shared with them including showing on regional and national levels, training all my own horses, and being a riding instructor for 7 or 8 years. Now I live with my non-riding husband just north of Huntington Indiana, our two Appaloosas Dove and Terra, and our dog Sal. As you can see, I didn’t travel far from my roots.

The show ring and giving riding lessons are behind me, and nowadays I horse camp and trail ride with friends who share my horse passion. I’m also blessed to have an understanding husband who supports my horse addiction and my love of nature. I truly don’t know what I’d do without him.



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