I am not writing about boyfriends, I am referring to our horsey friends and partners. Having had some absolutely wonderful horses in my journey with them I can reflect that I haven’t always appreciated the ones I had at the time I had them until they were gone from my life, starting with my very first horse that I purchased as a very green rider in Wyoming, Jewel.
Growing up in Los Angeles is not conducive to owning or even being near horses. I grew up within a few miles of downtown L.A. and even though I begged for the pony with saddle listed in the Sears catalog, somehow my parents, and aunts and uncles, just did not get the clue that I wanted to learn to ride. I mean, how clueless could they be? I had to wait until I was 22 before I was able to move to an area where I could finally purchase and keep a horse, and that place was: The Middle of Nowhere, Wyoming.
Jewel was a green 4 year old 14.3 hand quarter horse/mustang mare that I purchased from a local indiscriminate breeder in the area. She was one of a herd and I was told to pick out my horse without even trying her out. I picked out this “beautiful” chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail and he delivered her the next day in the back of a pickup truck with a stock rack. He guaranteed that she was broke to ride and it never occurred to me to disbelieve him. I was very lucky because although she was green, she was broke, and together we set out on our journey to learn about each other. I did not even own a saddle so I rode her in a hackamore on the range across the river from the property we were renting which just happened to be Indian Reservation land. I probably broke many laws riding out there, but I never saw anyone else, so I guess it didn’t matter.
Jewel was the kind of horse that would try to do whatever I asked of her, even crossing a bridge with 2 inch gaps between the wooden planks. She would just look down at her feet and tiptoe across the bridge. I thought all horses were like her. It was a very big eye opener for me when during the many years I have owned horses so many of them had objections to some of the things that I expected them to comply with. I could also put any one of my friends or relatives on her and she would just stand there waiting for the next request from her rider. She never bucked, reared or bolted with me or anyone else except for the first time I rode her in a horse trials and we were heading home to the finish. I did not even realize that she was running away with me until several of the volunteers started yelling at me to circle her to get her back under control. I guess we just got caught up in the moment. I did circle her and she came back, so we finished the course in record time and under control.
Even though I had her for many years and loved her dearly, I did end up selling her as my education with horses taught me that at 14.3 she was a bit small for my 5’8” long legged frame and even though she tried very hard, she had her limitations as I transitioned to dressage.
Throughout the many years since I owned Jewel (and she owned me,) I have had many horses both good and not so good. They have all taught me something, even if it was to move on to a different type or disposition. Some I loved and some I had a love/hate relationship with, several of them just had to buck me off at least once a year. From Thoroughbreds to Appaloosas to warmbloods, I don’t think I have ever appreciated them all for what they taught me at the time I owned them. Until Max. Unlike Jewel, he did not do everything I asked the moment I asked him, mostly because he was so above my level of riding that I did not properly know how to ask him. It took me a good solid year of lessons from various trainers until we found one that worked for both of us. It was a frustrating year and I often wondered if I had made a huge mistake. But finally, our 3 times a week lessons started to pay off and we were ready to show.
For two solid years we showed, first at Fourth level, and then the most exciting time of all, a good solid year of showing at PSG. At our first show at PSG, I can remember that he was a bit hot and I was a lot nervous. I know that I was very conservative that first time out at that level, and I don’t remember breathing until that last halt. But as we came to that final halt in that first PSG test I do remember letting out a very big breath, and a huge smile broke out onto my face. I also know that Maxwell was very proud of himself that he was finally able to show off and carry me safely through the test. I could almost hear him saying, “See, I told you to just trust me and it will be all right.”
I don’t think that I truly appreciated Max until that very moment. From that point on I appreciated every day that we were together until that final moment when I had to say goodbye to him. The moral of this story is that we all need to love and appreciate the horse we have at that moment because they all have something to teach us, and we don’t know when they might leave us with a big hole in our heart.