Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Favorite Horses . . .

by Kit Ehrman

During my last post, “Favorites . . .” (September 23, 2008) I talked about how writers feel about their books and how difficult it can be to answer: “Which is your favorite?”

It’s even more difficult to pick a favorite when friends want to know: “Of the horses you’ve owned, which was your favorite?”

How can I answer that? Each horse that I’ve had the honor of owning was special in his or her own way, and they were all so different, with varied and unique personalities, quirks . . . moods. Lots of non-horse people don’t really get that, either--the idea that a horse even has a personality! But, boy, do they.

My first horse, Stoney, was a 15.2hh, flea-bitten gray Quarter horse/Arab gelding. To read more about our adventures together, check out the post “Riding Adventures . . .” (March 25, 2008).

Stoney was such a hoot! He was personable and ornery and a veritable bulldozer on trail rides (Quarter horse attribute), but he’d spin me right out of the saddle if he spooked . . . at the sight of a deer, no less! Like he’d never seen them before.

He was my “Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde” horse. When he was good, he was very good, and when he was bad, well . . . let’s just say, he was a challenge.

I remember the day I purchased him and took him home to the hunter/jumper farm where I worked at the time. He looked so out of place: at least five-hundred pounds overweight with a roached mane that was growing out and stuck straight up in the air; his Arabian blood hadn’t done anything to refine his head or thick throatlatch; his back was a little too long, or his legs were too short, depending on how you look at it; and to say he had solid legs would be putting it tactfully. But he was mine, and I was thrilled.

And boy; was he an alpha horse. In short order, he moved to second in command in a field of twenty-five to thirty geldings. Second only to Orion, a Thoroughbred/Percheron cross.

Stoney’s rather sheltered life, before I purchased him at age six, made for an interesting transition. Training-wise, he’d gone Western and had just stepped over a few baby fences. I doubt he’d ever been in an indoor arena. There was much he had to learn about his new world. In fact, I don’t even think he’d seen something as commonplace as a chair.

After he settled into his new stall that first day, I took him out to get him acclimated to the farm’s sights and sounds. We happened to approach a black, plastic chair located in the cut-through to the indoor arena. He lowered his head to take a sniff, and as he exhaled, his breath caused a puff of dust to mushroom off the seat. He flew backwards as if he’d been shot from a cannon.

Despite the fact that he wasn’t the best beginner’s horse, and he may have damaged my confidence at times, I loved him very much, and I swear; he knew it. After months of training and lots of work, he began to fit in and even looked the hunter part, albeit still a little chubby.

If Stoney wasn’t hyper on the trail, with some pretend spooks or healthy bucks thrown in--a barn-sour tactic he liked to employ with the hope that we’d go home early (and when he did manage to dump me, he got his wish)--he was just downright lazy. Normally, I worked for everything I got out of him by using my seat and lots of leg, especially when we worked in the ring on the flat. But one ride stands out from the rest. I went on a trail ride with my boss’s daughter. She was riding an adorable gray pony. A mare. Well, apparently, Stoney thought she was adorable, too, because he followed that pony down the trail in the most collected, elevated trot imaginable. Soft mouth, rounded back, no leg needed on my part. A ride made in heaven . . . but most likely born of hormones.

He was a great guy, faults and all.

Rather surprisingly, keeping his barn sour "afraid to be in the woods alone" attitude in mind, he did very well when I took him to some cross country events. He had lots of GO out in the open. I was the one holding us back. Here's an old picture from 1983.

I find myself thinking of him frequently this time of year, because autumn a few years back was his last. He’d grown arthritic to the point that I could no longer keep him comfortable. Even standing for the farrier was an ordeal, and I made the decision to put him down at the age of 31. But he lives on in my heart and in cherished memories, and he shows up in my writing from time to time.

Next time, I’ll tell you about my first rescue horse, Koby.

Happy reading and writing,


Laura Crum said...

Wow, Kit! What a photo. The idea of jumping anything that big and solid brings my heart to my throat. I haven't jumped anything on a horse since I was a teenager--and I still remember the cross country courses I did back then. In my mind, that takes the most courage of any horsey discipline. I admire your guts. Stoney looks like a great guy.

Mary Paine said...

Hi Kit,

I love the photo of you and Stony! I'm with Laura, you and Stony hae lots of heart to do fences that size. My hat's off to you and Stony!

Anonymous said...

Having to pick your favorite horse would be like picking your favorite child.

Kit Ehrman said...

Thanks, guys. Sorry for the late response. I've been out of town and away from a computer connection. (I'm going through withdrawl.) The fence looks a lot bigger than it was, and the neat thing about riding cross country is that the horses have a lot more desire to run and jump. He was a totally different horse out in the open. :-)