Sunday, December 2, 2012
My Heart Horse
As a horse person, I love all horses. I love the variety they come in – so many colors, from the palest palomino to the dark bay, from glimmering white to black as sin. I love the aristocratic stance of the Andalusian, with their flowing manes and tails, and I love the shaggy little Shetland pony in someone’s backyard. Each one has a story, from the most expensive to the one not worth the cost of their hay. And each one is priceless.
At some point in their life, every horse person comes across that one special horse. We know that horse is going to be important to us from the moment we first lock eyes on it. This is our heart horse. Let me tell you about mine.
I answered an ad for a horse I really couldn’t afford – but if I could, he was in my price range – and in my excitement I practically sold him to myself over the phone. The owner’s wife didn’t even have to say much. Her answer to “how big is he” was “Not too little but not real big.” My response was, “sounds perfect!” When I asked about his personality, like, was he sweet natured, she said, “He doesn’t bite or kick or anything.” “How wonderful!” I exclaimed.
I really, really wanted a horse, and I guess I wanted one right that day. I guess it could be said that I’m a bit of an impulse buyer. I loaded the kids and the husband in the van and drove the thirty miles to see him, right that very minute. I have to admit, my first sight of him was a let down. He was a plain ol’ red horse. Just…blah. I guess I expected bells and whistles or something. He wasn’t going to be my horse after all. My heart drooped.
But then, he heard our voices and he looked up, ears pricked forward. The blah exterior was gone and I all I saw was his glorious white blaze between two alert, attentive brown eyes. His neck arched and he shifted so that I saw his white stocking, a stocking so tall it ran past his hock on his left hind leg, ending in a jagged lightning strike.
The owner didn’t seem excited about me riding him. “He can be a handful,” he warned. I hadn’t ridden much in years, and as much as it shames me to admit it, I’d lost my nerve. I’d been thrown by a crazy horse and had a second crazy horse run over me. My faith in horses was shaken.
But looking at this one, dancing around, flashing the whites of his eyes, he didn’t make me nervous at all. He was upfront about being crazy, you know? Not trying to act like he was normal and then taking me by surprise. I liked that. I knew we’d be okay, this red horse and me. I climbed on his back, which was fun in itself, since he was turning in circles around the man holding the bridle.
“You can let him go,” I said.
“I dunno if I should…”
The horse was wound as tight as a bowstring, but I nodded. “We’re okay.” He let go and the horse spun, ready to go in all directions at once.
“Need a whip?” The man yelled. Uh, no thanks. I don’t think he needs any encouragement to go. Geez. We whirled our way around the yard, through rose bushes and pine trees and something else I sincerely hoped wasn’t poison ivy. When we got out of sight of my sobbing children and hand-wringing husband (who was on his cell phone making funeral arrangements), I whoa’d the horse. Foreign concept or not, he finally stopped…sort of…and we talked for a minute. Then we walked….sort of….back to the barn. Everyone breathed a big sigh of relief when they saw us come back into sight. Peter gave me a nod, and we made arrangements to pick the horse up asap.
“We call him Blaze,” the previous owner told me.
I smiled. “His name is Blitz.”
It’s been more than six years now since the day Blitz and I met, and I love him more every day. He’s getting a little bit older, and maybe I am too. His health isn’t doing so good, and only recently have I finally accepted the fact that he probably won’t live to be an old horse. Every winter he loses weight and we struggle to put it back on. He eats more than twice what the others do, but he stays underweight. He has dental problems, high metabolism, and would you believe he has seasonal allergies… to grass? He’s a horse, for crying out loud. So andeasy keeper he is not. I could not give him away if I wanted to, but that’s okay, because I have no desire to part with him. He’s my friend, my baby, and my therapist. I would say he’s cheaper than a licensed therapist, but I’m not so sure.
Just recently, we’ve started to suspect that he has heaves. This is horse speak for COPD. It will continue to get worse each year, especially in the winter. I’ve noticed his stamina is down, but he still loves to run. As long as he’s happy, I’m keeping my boy with me. When he suffers, though…
When Blitz’s life is filled with daily pain, and I know it won’t get better, I’ll let my sweet boy go. But until that day, I will enjoy my time with him and treasure the years I’ve had. I’m not going to try to prolong his life by keeping him in the pasture un-ridden. He wants to go, he wants to run, and I’m going to let him. The saying from the movie Steel Magnolias comes to mind: “I’d rather have thirty minutes of wonderful, than a lifetime of nothing special.”
He is my heart horse. I knew the day I met him that he would be special, and he is. When I open my door and call his name, and he looks up with those bright eyes and perky ears and whinnies his girly-horse whinny, my heart feels a tug. So the next time he tears down the fence to take a midnight jaunt down the highway or breaks his bridle in the middle of a 20 mile trail ride or bites my butt to get to the carrot in my pocket, feel free to remind me of how much I love my sweet boy.