I’m going to start off with a great link to one of my favorite blogs (yeah for drafts!). While this article has been circulating around for awhile and you might have already read it, it is so true. I find myself moved by other people’s own 5 and so I’m finally doing my own.
1. The Intro Horse
We each came into horses in our own way, but it was always with a horse leading us. This might have been a friend’s first pony, or perhaps it was a draft horse on a farm you once visited It might have been a real-life meeting, or an imaginary one.
The first horse I ever got up-close and personal with was kept at my dad’s farm 4 miles down the road from our house. Her name was Luna and she was a flea-bitten Arabin mare. I don’t think anyone ever truly knew her age but I believe she lived till she was about 38-40 years old (in true Arabian fashion). Luna was unrideable. That last image in my mind of her being ridden was her taking off with my father on her back and dumping him in the middle of the state highway. I think I was 5-6 at the time. Whenever I went to the farm (at least once a week), I would spend time with Luna brushing her, feeding her, walking her on her lead-line and day-dreaming about riding her. I would sometimes get brave and put a burlap bag on her back simulating tacking her up. When I was really brave I would try to slide on her back from her feeding station which was a few feet off the ground, she was always too quick in shying away though. When I was probably about 10 my grandmother called me to tell me they had sold her. I immediately was emotionally distraught that nobody told me they were even considering selling her AND I never got to say good-bye! I cried for hours over this and moped around for days. In most instances you never see the horse again, especially one that hadn’t been ridden for almost a decade. Luckily, a local horse trainer had bought her and she was living only 15 minutes from the farm. Jim changed Luna’s name to Lady (“as she wasn’t a lunatic”) and soon had her riding like she had been doing it all her life. I was even more astounded when I got to take my very first horse-riding lessons on HER! I can’t even begin to describe the feeling I had of living in a fairy-tale and seeing my dreams come true.
p.s. My first horse I ever got was actually Chrissy, a quarterhorse mare. She was alot of horse for me at the time so I only had her for a small trial period before she was returned to her previous stable. It was a good lesson in how important it is to find the right fit for both human and horse. She was great to ride in the ring but she was very green on the trails which is where I did 95% of my riding.
2. The Experimental Horse
Once you had crossed the line between “Darn, they’re big!” and “Wow! Can I try that?” you found yourself face-to-face with the horse that would suffer through your early attempts at figuring out the whole horse experience … wherever this horse came from, he/she probably didn’t benefit from the encounter as much as you did…
Needless to say my story with Lady/Luna continues here. Not only was she my first horse that I loved and rode but also the first horse that I owned for years. The trainer that owned her had lost his lease on the farm where he was keeping his horses. He GAVE me Lady as he believed we belonged together and I am forever grateful to him for that. I was 14 when we brought her home. I look back now and feel so grateful for her patience and willingness to live through my first horse experience. Even in her old age she still was able to ride like she hadn’t aged at all. I rode her up until the day I came out one morning to feed her and she was turning in small, tight circles over and over again. I couldn’t get her to stop and when the vet came he told us she had probably had had an aneurism. My fairy-tale with her came to an end that morning as I held her head and she slowly laid down and went to sleep. My father buried her in the corner of the alfalfa field (where she often escaped to) across from the barn where I still leave bouquets of alfalfa to this day. I love to tell Lady’s story. It has been one of my most powerful lessons in life about dreams and seeing them come true.
3. The Connected Horse
The first horses we meet don’t really connect with us, nor do we with them. Those are experiences in survival and tests of endurance. The Connected Horse is the first horse you truly bond with. This is the horse that sounds a chord that lives so deep in you that you might never have heard it otherwise…
Joey came into my life in my sophomore year of undergrad. I had sold my 2 horses, Midnight and Tobby, before I went to college. This was a mistake. (My advice to high school seniors, if you are still horse-crazy and not traveling more than 2 hours from school and have parents that will take care of your animals then keep them. Or else you will always wonder what happened to them and if their lives ended up okay). Regardless, because of this mistake one of my most beloved horses came into my life. I don’t know what bit me and gave me the draft bug but that’s all I looked at. I found Joey at a farm that housed mainly retired thoroughbreds. He was a 10 year old Belgian gelding. Joey was alittle rusty in riding but had some spunk to him and the price was right for a girl in college. He’s quite the load to haul by the way on slippery, icy winter hill roads at 1300 lbs. Joey was like riding a big couch that could easily sit three if needed and was a complete gentlemen with little kids. I also learned how to mount when your stirrup is at your shoulder level from the ground. He was the first horse I owned in which he was the only one (although I believe every animal should be kept in pairs) so I think I truly bonded with him because of that aspect. He and I had some great times going everywhere together and we even went into the woods one year and dragged out the christmas tree. There is no real magical, miraculous story with him. Just a simple story of a girl and the horse that stole her heart. <3
Joey’s beautiful head shot.
4. The Challenger
Into each horse-person’s life, a little challenge must fall. You’ll have read that one final training book, bought yourself a clicker and heading rope, and there you’ll stand, arms crossed, assessing the situation as if you actually knew what the situation was. It might be difficult to believe, as you are flying down the aisleway on the losing end of a braided cotton line, but you actually need this horse in your life…
My horse life is still young and I haven’t met #4 yet, but something tells me my next horse will be this one.
5. Your Deepest Heart
There will come a time when you will look at yourself with a cold, appraising eye, and you’ll have to be honest about your continued ability to deal with The Challenger and other difficult horses. At that point, you’ll seek out the horse that will be your soul mate forever… You’ll have bought him the most comfortable, best fitting equipment… Maybe you’ll still go to shows and ride – brilliantly or barely – in the Alzheimer’s class. Maybe you’ll just stay home. Whatever you do, one day you’ll realize that after all the money you spent on animal communicators and trainers, you only had to stop and listen and you would have clearly heard your horse’s thoughts and desires…
From the first day I brought Joey home I had always promised I would never sell him. Yet after 7 years of owning him, I graduated chiropractic school and found myself moving across the country. I knew my options were little. The cost of horse while starting a career in a small city doesn’t mix. I ended up finding a great family only a few hours away that were interested in riding every once in awhile but mainly he would be a big, spoiled pet. I failed in trying to hold back my tears the day they came and offered to buy him (and even as I write this tears are streaming down my face). I knew it was best for him deep down as he would be with other horses and a miniature donkey (named Donkey of course). I kept up with owners quite regularly until last March 2011 when I got a letter in the mail saying he had been put down. Joey had gotten sick one weekend and failed to respond to antibiotics. When the vet did a blood test it was found that he was in severe liver failure. He was put down shortly after. It will almost be a year since I learned of his death and I still think of him often. I’m glad he had the best treatment possible in his last 4 months with his new family. I know things happen but he should have had 10 more years of being a spoiled pasture pet. I mainly feel bad I didn’t catch his sickness myself.
I don’t know what it was about him exactly that made him so special in comparison with the others but he was there for me in some of my most difficult years. My town essentially adopted him as their own while I was gone during the week for school and I loved hearing from people about how they went and fed Joey carrots and to pet his nose. Even the kids up the street and my friends would go and ride him. Everyone loved him (even though my brothers nicknamed him ‘Glue’). Despite his size, few were afraid of him when they saw how gentle he was. Maybe it was the fact he was a draft. After owning one of them, you will never be the same. Their dispositions are unbeatable. I know I will own more horses in the future that I will have great connections with. He was my big teddy bear. He was the type of horse that you want around regardless of whether he earned his keep or not. Maybe he was so great just because he was the only horse that ever bought me flowers :-)
Joey and I watching a ‘mud-bog’. I always loved his long double mane.
My other two horses I owned while in high school were Midnight (ungaited Tennsese Walker) and Tobby (a gaited quarterhorse-lol). Even though they don’t fit into my ‘5’, they were great horses that provided me with many fond memories for my friends and I!!!
My senior picture with Midnight and our mini dachshund Sandy