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Happy Tails: A welcome Annual Visitor, Michelle Ruiz

A happy, highly awaited time of the year is when Michelle Garcia Ruiz, whose aunt teaches at Lindsey Wilson, comes to Sugarfoot for visits. This year was no exception. Peg Schaeffer delights in observing a constant in the bright maturing young woman: Michelle's love of animals. On a sad note, she lost a wonderful neighbor yesterday and writes: Condolences to the family of Jimmy Reliford. Jimmy has land across the street from us and has always been a good neighbor. I've never heard a bad word about him. RIP Jimmy.. Click on headline for story with photo(s).
The next earlier Peg Schaeffer column Lady and Sami Posted July 29, 2013

By Peg Schaeffer
News from Sugarfoot Farm Rescue, 270-378-4521 or 270-634-4675

We've had a visitor at the farm for the last two weeks. Michelle Garcia Ruiz who lives in Minnesota comes to visit us every year at this time. Her first visit was three years ago when she was 15. Her aunt, who is a teacher at LWC, had contacted me about giving her riding lessons.

So the first year she came a few days a week for a few hours at a time. Last year she came every day during the week and spent the weekends with her aunt and uncle. This year she spent every day with us.

Since I only see Michelle for two weeks every year you can see the changes. But one thing that remains constant - her love for the animals. The dogs are eager to greet her when she comes. The dogs who were here from last year remembered her and the new dogs were happy to make a new friend. Lil Bit, the JRT, would see Michelle and jump into her arms. Sami, the puppy, would just hang out with her, sleeping under her chair and following her everywhere. It was a big help having Michelle with us. She helped care for dogs - gave them baths and assisted with the daily feeding.

Michelle also enjoys working with the horses. We would go horseback riding every day. Some days we would take the horses and dogs on a trail ride. Other days we would ride in the field and I would give her riding tips and was teaching her how to jump. Having a young girl, eager to learn, and listening to my every word is a great ego boost. I am proud to share the knowledge I've learned about the horses and remember when I was her age - soaking up every word and dreaming of expanding my horizons.

We have a cranky Quarter Horse mare, Banjo, who is a great horse to learn on. That is once you get on her. Banjo loves to be brushed but first you have to catch her. She pins her ears and evades you as you try to get a rope around her. Once you catch her she tolerates being brushed and sometimes will even show some enjoyment. Saddling her up is a challenge. She tries to bite you and will cow kick at you as you tighten the girth. Putting the bridle on is a piece of cake. She drops her head and takes the bit without a problem. You have to mount her fast so that she doesn't reach around and bite you or kick you as you put your foot in the stirrup. Once you're on her back she's the best horse in the world. She'll go trail riding all day - crossing streams and navigating narrow trails. She's a great teacher too. Once you can get past the crankiness and on her back she's the best.

Michelle and Banjo make a great team. Michelle is very patient with her and understands the importance of being aware of her as you're getting ready to ride. She brings Banjo apples which are a useful way to her good side. Banjo actually perks her ears when she sees the treats and is a little more tolerant with the saddling and mounting process.

When Michelle got on Banjo for the first time this year it was as if she had just ridden the day before. She retained everything I had taught her. She told me how she had gone to a local riding stable and talked to the owner about going there for lessons during the winter.

For a girl who lives in the city - just a mile from the world's largest shopping center - she it right at home in the country. When we go trail riding she enjoys the scenery - the fields and the woods, the deer who leap across the trail and the rabbits who run across the field.

As her visit was approaching an end we made it worth remembering. The animals seemed to sense she was going soon and were on their best behavior. On Sunday we went for a final trail ride. Banjo actually let Michelle catch her without a hitch and barely threw a fit. I rode Whitney, my black Quarter Horse mare, and she refrained from her usual kick and squeal routine. The weather was beautiful and we had a good time. We went through deep streams where the dogs could swim and the horses splashed each other and us too.

Her last day was spent saying good bye to the dogs and then the horses. She brought extra treats and brushed each horse. Banjo was her last good bye. She spent extra time shining her up and combing her mane and tail. Once she had saddled up she asked if I'd help her with two last things. First she wanted me to take a video of her cantering on Banjo. She cantered around the field, practicing keeping her heels down and sitting up straight. She was so proud and had the biggest grin on her face.

During the two weeks she'd been here she was trying so hard to jump Banjo over the low fences we have set up in the field. Banjo would trot over the ground poles but as soon as the rail was six inches high she'd go around or just stop. She sensed that Michelle wasn't quite ready to jump and knew she could get away without going over the fence. So on her last ride Michelle was determined to jump.

Although she was riding Western she trotted Banjo over the ground poles and pointed her at the fence. She did everything right - looked straight ahead and not down on the ground. But Banjo stopped. Time and time again Michelle repeated the performance with the same results. But she didn't quit and after several attempts Banjo bounced over the jump - not with very good form - and almost catapulted Michelle out of the saddle. Michelle did it again and again. She promised Banjo this will be the last time more than once. Finally she decided to end the jumping but....we hadn't taken a video. So Michelle jumped Banjo again and I recorded it on her cell phone. She had the biggest grin on her face so proud of herself and her accomplishment. She helped me feed the horses one last time saying good bye to each one. She told me how every year she looked forward to coming to visit and it seemed liked forever before she'd be back. Then it was time and now it was over again. She's already counting down the days and making plans for next year.

Michelle is a very smart student and has her future etched out. When she graduates high school, this is her senior year; she is going to college to become a veterinarian. I have watched her over the past three years and I know with her dedication and determination she will reach her goal. And I'm counting the days until her next year's visit.

Condolences to the family of Jimmy Reliford. Jimmy has land across the street from us and has always been a good neighbor. I've never heard a bad word about him. RIP Jimmy.

- Peg Schaeffer

Contact us if you would like to help.

Peg Schaeffer, Sugarfoot Farm Rescue,
860 Sparksville Road
Columbia, KY 42728
Home telephone: 270-378-4521
Cell phone: 270-634-4675

This story was posted on 2013-08-11 04:54:53
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Happy Tails: A welcome annual visitor

2013-08-11 - Sugarfoot Farm Rescue, 860 Sparksville Road, Columbia, KY - Photo by Peg Schaeffer. Michelle Garcia Ruiz riding our Quarter Horse mare, Banjo, with Bambi standing by. Banjo is available for adoption at Sugarfoot Farm Rescue. Call 270-378-4521 or 270-634-4675 Peg Schaeffer
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