Monday, February 13, 2012

Heart to heart!

When I was sixteen, I was working at the barn a few afternoons each week in exchange for riding privileges and a weekly riding lesson. I rode a good variety of horses and one day I was told that I could ride one that I hadn’t ridden before. She was a cute little chestnut mare called Miss Take (Tah-Kay). She had been at the barn for a few years already, but not everyone could ride her. I was excited that my BO/trainer thought I was good enough to sit on her. I tacked Miss Take up and we went out to the infield of the racetrack. I found a fairly flat area without many rocks and rode her around. The next time I had a lesson, I rode Miss Take. I remember that I couldn’t steer her in a straight line or turn her when I wanted to. I had gotten used to riding the other horses. But she wasn’t like them. We could only canter on a large circle about forty meters in diameter. If I tried to go straight, she fell out of the canter. We never got the right lead canter on the first try. I was pleased if we got it on the third try. And she spooked at everything!

By this time in my life, I had loved and lost my favorite horses. I had surrendered myself to the fact that I would not be a horse owner until I was “grown-up” financially stable on my own. I knew that would take a number of years. I figured I’d be in my mid-twenties by the time I would finally be able to purchase my own horse. I didn’t like that idea, but I lived with it. Miss Take quickly became my favorite horse to ride and was the horse that I rode most often. I told myself time and time again to not let myself bond with her. I didn’t want the heartbreak I knew I’d feel once she left, too. So I kept my distance the best I could. Which would have been fine and dandy had that worked. It didn’t. I was falling head over heels for that mare.

A year later, when I was seventeen, my BO pulled me aside after a rewarding lesson on Miss Take. She regretfully informed me that she was going to be putting Miss Take up for sale. The economy was down and feed was up. Miss Take was only being ridden by me and one other woman. Both of us worked at the barn in exchange for lessons. Miss Take was not earning her keep. “But…” my BO said. She wanted me to buy Miss Take and she would offer her to me for much less than her market value. The other woman had already said that she couldn’t afford Miss Take at this time. I was Miss Take’s last chance at staying at the barn. I went home that afternoon and spoke to my parents. I sat on their bed and explained the situation to them and I did something that I never ever do. I cried. I didn’t have enough money to buy her. I had half. My parents said that they would match my half. I said that I would work off most of the board and pay for vet bills with my own money.

I thought about all that Miss Take had experienced in her life. I thought about the many hands and barns she had passed through, always being a mistake for them. I didn’t want that to happen to her anymore. She had done so much for me and my riding confidence that I felt she didn’t deserve that. I wanted to tell her that it would all be okay and that she would be able to life out the rest of her life in security. I couldn’t stand being there when my mom went to the barn with me a couple days later and sat down for a talk with my BO. I scurried around the barn, holding back tears as I busied myself with chores. I caught a few words and partial sentences here and there. They called me over to the dusty picnic table and told me that they had reached an agreement. The next day I was signing a paper that stated that I was a horse owner. At age seventeen I had my first horse! I felt like I was dreaming the best dream of my life. The funny thing was that she was almost the exact opposite of the horse I had prayed for every single night when I was younger. I wanted a dark bay gelding, some sort of Morgan/QH/TB/Arabian/best of all breeds about eight years old. Instead I got a chestnut mare that was in her late teens and to top it all off, she had a pink nose! That was something I generally didn’t like.

It took a while for us to bond. I think we were both so used to going from human to human and horse to horse that we had a hard time opening up again. After six months, people at the barn began to comment on how Miss Take seemed to have “blossomed” now that she was a one-person horse. My horse. I entered her in the next dressage show and wrote down her new show name without hesitation. Accidentally In Love. It described out relationship perfectly. Oh and there’s also this:

I had been riding Miss Take for a few months when a girl around eight or nine years old pointed to the spot on her belly and said that it was in the shape of an upside down heart. Until that moment, I hadn’t noticed the shape of her spot at all. What with the heart, the meaning behind her barn name, and our accidental road to becoming horse and owner, I thought the show name was fitting.

As I turned Miss Take out into the pasture she lived in with the herd, I watched her walk over to the water trough and drink her fill. I swung her halter and lead rope over my shoulder. She let a few droplets of water dribble down her chin and pointed an ear towards me. “You’re going to be my forever horse,” I told her. “You won’t ever have to bounce from home to home again. You deserve it because of what you have been for me. I’m going to take care of you until the very end. I promise. And I always keep my promises.”

Since I celebrate February 14th as Miss Take’s birthday, I thought a post about how we ended up together would be perfect. Miss T will be either eighteen or nineteen this time around, according to our guesstimation, As another fun fact, the woman who used to ride Miss Take, but couldn’t afford to buy her is now one of the lovely ladies who is leasing Miss Take while I am away doing this internship! I love seeing how things like that fall into place. Speaking of which, Miss Take is the first horse that her two leasees have shown. Last Saturday they had much success and brought home many blue ribbons and great scores. Oh and remember how I said that I didn’t used to be able to steer Miss Take? By the time that I had to leave for this internship, Miss Take and I were schooling 2nd Level movements and had debuted at that level at a horse show! I could gush on and on and brag all night long, but I won’t because I know I am extremely biased. I don’t claim that Miss Take is the best horse in the world, but she is the best horse in the world for me.

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