The first few months of my employment flew by. I learned all I could about each individual horse. And, while I loved all of them I definitely had my favorites. It wasn’t too long before I decided it was time to begin my search for my own personal horse. I had gained a lot of knowledge in a short amount of time and the reality of horse ownership had begun to sink in. Still, I wanted a partner to cover those trails with me.
So, I formed a list of what I wanted in my potential horse. This list was very different than the ones I had made as a small child. I no longer wanted a 17 hand Hanoverian mare. I now leaned more toward shorter geldings. Breed had become completely unimportant as I was surrounded by all types and builds of horses who fell into the “grade” melting pot.
There was a constant flow of horses in and out of the stable. Some were only there a few weeks, while others were there long after I left. I knew I didn’t really need to actively search for a horse. It was just a matter of time before one came to me.
One evening the local horse trader dropped off a new horse for us to try out in the string. I waited until the day worked it’s way to an end and headed out back to check out the new guy.
He was a wild eyed buckskin with a thick, punk rocker mane and tail. He had a road map of brands on his left side. In my short time at the stable I had learned to recognize some of the more common brands. It helped quite a bit in figuring out what a horse was going to be personality-wise. This one had a – N on his left shoulder. He had come from the Navajo reservation via the Holbrook livestock auction. Well, that told me a story. Chances were he’d be snorty on the ground. Under saddle he’d either be really good or really bad.
I climbed into his pen, sat down and leaned against the rail, watching. He stayed on the other side of his pen, eating his hay and glaring at me from under his thick forelock. I felt the first tinglings of being smitten.
The following morning I pulled the new guy out and tied him up. He seemed gentle enough but I was wary. I brushed him down. He pretended to ignore me. I went about my morning chores and then returned to him with a manure fork. I very carefully eased the fork behind him to scoop a pile. Instead of taking a cheap shot at me with a hind foot, he looked back, moved over, rolled his eyes and sighed at me. And, just like that, I fell deeply and completely in love.
I wasn’t brave enough to step on him first but that was okay. Louie would arrive shortly. He could be the guinea pig. I had the gelding saddled and ready when Louie got there. I was hopping up and down with excitement. The horse was underwhelmed. So was Louie.
The horse and Louie eyed each other suspiciously.
“You know Chrissy, these Indian horses can be kind of funny.”
“Yes, I know Louie.”
Seeing that that didn’t make the impact on me he had hoped, Louie stepped on the horse. He spun it lightly in both directions and then trotted it in a circle around me. By that point it was all I could do not to cry, “Gimme, gimme, gimme!”
He stepped off and handed me the reins.
“I think this is too much horse for you. Please be careful.”
Before the words were out of his mouth I was on the horse and walking it around. Louie stepped on another horse and we headed out on the trail for a test ride. I had fallen in love with the adrenalin rush a good canter would provide, so that was the main focus of that first ride. Could the new guy run? Louie stayed in front, going out of his way to block any of my attempts at a good sprint. I managed to get a few canter strides in, but mostly we rode at a rough, washing machine trot.
By the time we got home I was beaming. I had found my equine partner! He was everything I wanted and then some. He was fun and darty to ride. He seemed pretty decent on the ground. And, he had just as much hair as me! He was flat out indifferent, if not outright contemptuous of me. I decided I would win him over eventually. He’d grow to love me. He’d figure out I was his human and he was my horse. In fact, I tried on several different names for him at first, but I always ended up back at Horse. So Horse, he stayed.
I soon found out he was incredibly smart. It didn’t take a week before he knew all of our trails. He also knew the spots where I would stop to tell stories. He even knew the average time I took to tell a story and if I went over he would sigh, start to turn and give me a pretty clear signal to wrap things up.
While he made a pretty steady mount for me, he didn’t particularly like things being dropped off of him. This limited who else I could put on him. For some reason at least once every ride someone would have to drop something. If that someone happened to drop something off of Horse, well, they’d usually find themselves on the ground, right where they had just been sitting astride a horse. Said horse would be standing just a few feet off, glaring at them from under his fabulous locks, and mocking their bad decision making.
He packed me day in and day out for years. He put up with my whims, ribbons, braids, and glitter hoof polish. He would even go out of his way to dumb himself down for me when I needed it.
In some ways I am incredibly thankful he was my first horse. I always had to be on my toes and prove myself to him. He knew when I got cocky and always had a way of “grounding” me when I got too big for my britches. Still, I wonder how far we could go, if I had him now. I am a lot further along in my horsemanship journey and I think I could do a lot better by him.
I still keep an eye out for another good, stout – N and I will always have a special place in my heart for Navajos. I have yet to find one who could fill Horse’s shoes though.