Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dream Horse

In late August 2012 this picture appeared on my phone.  The text accompanying it said, "Are you still looking for a horse?"  I had told so many people that I was looking for a horse to join Bob who was living alone at home that I had no idea who was texting me.

I replied with a "Yes.  Who is this?"  Response was, "Your Vet".

That started a conversation that led my family and I on a road trip to meet Rock on Hunter (Elvis) and his family.  Elvis, a five year old registered Appaloosa, had grown up in a Western Pleasure show barn.  However, his rider had decided he'd like to pursue Dressage and Elvis was relocated to the beautiful facility where we met him.

Dressage and Elvis didn't along.  The young horse had been trained to be slow not forward.  Poor Elvis had become sore from being asked to go forward and he flat out wasn't happy.  The Vet had been called due to his being sore and had recommended either time off or another "job" for Elvis.  As a result his family was considering all the options for Elvis, including finding him a new home.

When I'd first spotted Elvis in the cross ties I had walked straight up to him and put my arms around his neck in a hug.  This isn't something I usually do when I first meet a horse and to this day I can't explain what prompted me to take such action.  While I hugged him I felt him sigh and relax.  I found myself immediately in love.

We discussed Elvis's future with his owner.  I could see how much they loved him.  I could also tell how unsure they were about us.  Initially the conversation with a bit cumbersome, feeling like an interview.  But after a short period the walls came down and we were speaking to each other as friends.

The conversation ended with them telling us they weren't sure what they were going to do with Elvis and would get back to us.  But the young Appaloosa had impacted this family; he was all we talked about on the way home.

A week passed and I received an email from Elvis's owner.  The decision had been made, Elvis would be given time off in hopes he'd be able to return to Dressage.  We were disappointed.  As the days, weeks and months passed Elvis's name still came up in conversation at home.

In November 2012 we brought a rescue horse into our lives.  Prince, beat up and starving joined us as a pasture pal for Bob.  Life moved on with a new focus of getting Prince back to good health.

But I still had no sound horse to ride and found myself missing my barn pals and the world I loved.  I recall looking out the bedroom window late one January night.  It was a cold, clear starry night. Suddenly a shooting star streaked across the crystal sky.  I made a wish that someday I'd have a horse like the one I'd met in September 2012.

A few weeks later I received an email from Elvis's owner.  Elvis was back to work but Dressage was not for him.  He needed a new job and family to love him.  Would we still be interested in adding him to our family?  Would we!  And a few days later we were on our way to pick up Elvis.

Early spring moved to summer and summer now to fall.  And as you can tell I don't post as much as I used to because I spend my time with my boy.  Time has allowed us to get to know each other, inside and out.  Both of us are happy campers, we've already bonded to that intuitive level where we both know what we're thinking.  What a joy!

If I was to sit down and make a list of everything I ever wanted in a horse it couldn't come any closer to what I've got in Elvis.  As I tell friends and admirers, Elvis is my dream come true (or maybe that shooting start come true)?  Either way, Elvis is my Dream Horse.

Friday, October 4, 2013

First Horse

After days and days of rain, the skies finally cleared this morning.  I looked outside to see Bob and Prince grazing with content in the warm sun.  I know that Elvis, who is now boarded for the winter at the barn, is currently turned out in his huge pasture.  I bet he's spread out on the ground in the sun and that the clean rain sheet I left him in yesterday will be (happily) covered in mud when I go up in a few hours to ride him.

It's early October, the time of year when, many years ago now, our lives changed significantly.

It all started this coming Saturday, sixteen years ago on a day just like the one pictured above.  A day warm with a last touch of summer and cool with a new touch of winter.  A friend who lives at the cabin had acquired a couple of horses.  I'd watched with envy that summer as he and friends passed our cabin on rides.

On that October Saturday years ago, he'd offered to let a friend and I take a ride on his horses.  We'd saddled up and gone way up into the mountains, riding logging roads of years gone by, now overgrown with brush.  I'd gone on trail rides before but on that day something was dramatically different.  The reds and yellows of the changing leaves and scent of damp ground jumped out and enticed me.   It was the most beautiful, glorious ride I'd ever had.

After we finished our ride I returned to the cabin to find my husband sitting on the couch reading a book.  That moment is still vivid in my mind.  I'd sat on the arm of the couch next to him and delivered the news that would change our lives.

My husband knew I was horse crazy when he'd married me.  He'd always given me space to join friends (who owned horses) on rides or to just hang out.  He'd tolerated our first stop as the horse barn each year we went to the county fair and he'd sweated and cheered with me at rodeos.

I think he thought all those things would keep my interest sated.  So when I sat on the arm of the couch that fall day and announced the time had come - I was going to buy a horse, he groaned and bluntly told me all the (reasonable) reasons why I could not/should not own a horse.

I told him I was forty and felt the clock ticking - I couldn't wait any longer.  I had just sold my used car after replacing it with a new one.  I had a big, whopping $500 for a horse and it was burning a hole in my pocket.  We debated, sometimes passionately (on my behalf), and the subject was dropped with a silence of two not agreeing.

By that following Wednesday I had a lead on a horse, owned by a friend of my sister.  An older horse, daughter was no longer interested and they didn't want much for her.  By Friday, on another sunny day such as above, my sister and I were on our way to "look" at the horse.

The mare was exactly the price I had in the pocket of my jeans.  I liked her - she was pretty.  Within minutes of seeing her I agreed to purchase her.  We would return the following morning to have the owners haul her to my sister's farm.

I returned home as my husband was leaving for his annual weekend deer hunt.  I told him I'd found a horse and I was going to buy her.  To say he didn't agree with my plan was an understatement.  His last words as he left for hunting were, "Don't you dare buy that horse."

But that's exactly what I did.  On a now windy and rainy day, Sunshine was delivered to my sister's barn the following day.  A neighbor came over to check her out. In retrospect I think the neighbor was concerned about exactly what I'd purchased, knowing I didn't know squat about buying a horse let alone owning one.

But he said nice things about her and offered to sell me a saddle, bridle and pad since I had no tack. That night I returned home to sleep with all that tack next to my bed, reaching out to touch it numerous times during the night.  I didn't get much sleep that night but I sure did touch that saddle a lot.

Sunday dawned with cold, wind and rain.  I returned to my sister's house to check on Sunshine.  On this day I didn't stay long.  I was not looking forward to my husband's return from hunting.  I knew I'd stepped over the line with what I'd done but I couldn't help myself.

My husband returned from hunting to find the house spotless and a turkey dinner with all the trimmings waiting for him.  I met him at the door.  He took a look around the house, at the table set for dinner and at me.  I couldn't help it; I looked back at him beaming with joy.  He said four words..."you bought a horse" before he silently walked away from me.  Those were the last words he said to me for almost seven days.

We lived in dead silence at home.  That following weekend I arrived at my sister's house to see my husband coming out of the barn.  I will never forget the words he said to me as he walked towards me..."she's very sweet and pretty".

I will also never forget the generosity in his heart to forgive me for an action I swear I could not avoid.  His acceptance of Sunshine made my world complete.

Sunshine and the tack I slept with on that first night.

She was sweet and she was pretty.  We moved Sunshine next door to our neighbor's place with acreage and a barn.  Now we could walk through a path in the woods of our back yard to be with her.

Sunshine hosted our daughter's birthday party.

Soon we had two horses.  Sunshine and Barnie, the horse I'd ridden on that trail ride at the cabin!

Sixteen years later.  Sunshine did change our lives.  For the better.

Sunshine.  First Horse.