My Kingdom for a Horse

An excerpt from my upcoming memoir

When I turned thirty I figured I had better decide what I wanted to do with my life. At the time I was working in an art gallery and making art. My life was good, but I was not satisfied. I knew there was something missing, actually, there were many things missing but I knew what I really needed was that thing that Joseph Campbell calls “your Bliss”. In my heart, for years, I had known it was horses. It is embarrassing to admit that your greatest ambition in life is to have a horse. Other people’s goals and dreams seem loftier, less selfish, more terrific. At thirty I finally fully embraced my purpose, I just wanted a pony.

I’d had a horse when I was a little girl. My relationship with my pony Bobablu, was one of the most influential of my childhood. To mount bareback an 800 lb. animal and run at full speed into the wild makes a profound impact an eight year old girl. He made me strong and brave, he trusted me, and I trusted him. He forgave my errors and was comforting. I loved him, the love was real, it took me a long time to have love like that again. True love.

Owning a horse is not as simple as it may sound. Because of my earlier experience I knew that I could not keep a horse boarded, only to visit on weekends. This meant I would have to live in the country, own land and be able to make a living. I would need to own a car, commute, and have enough financial stability to commit to an animal and its needs. These factors contributed to my decision to go to Mexico, where I felt it would be easier to buy land and live simply.

Monty and Tasha came to us by way of a trade. We had several Holsteins from a failed cheese business that we did not want. A family friend had two horses his son had left behind when he went to the U.S.— a deal was made. The man was straight forward about Tasha, she was not able to bear, therefore was of little market value (the archaic attitude that a female without offspring is useless prevails), but he was not forthcoming about Monty.

We went to get our new horses in a field of well munched silage at 11:00 am, their watering time.Monty promptly bullied cows and Tasha out of his way, and had a long drink. He is a Colorado (bay) which was his name at the time. He was relatively easy to catch, his manner was nonchalant, he has a certain sangfroid. Tasha, a gorgeous strawberry blonde pinto with huge doe eyes and an excellent confirmation, whose name was Pinta, had to be tricked. We placed the lasso over the water then snatched it up over her head while she as drinking. Felipe’s friend asked if we wanted to ride them home.

It had been 27 years since I’d had a horse, and as thrilled as I was, I was also scared. They are big, strong, lightning-reflexed creatures, and I was out of practice handling and understanding them.

“Okay,” I said. It seems idiotic to me now, I was a macho for a moment. The horses had been roaming the country side for a year, and had not been handled during that time. We haltered Tasha and I asked Felipe to give me a leg up. I guess the point was to see if she was mountable. She promptly side-stepped and neatly placed me in the silage.

“Well, she’s not afraid of horses,” snorted the man.

I got up, heart racing and suggested we get some saddles first. We tacked them up and took a cursory ride as I did my best to maintain my macho face. Monty was calm and well-behaved, Tasha, was a little skittish.

I had a powerful scent memory our on trip home with them. I was wearing a shirt my grandmother had given me from her closet. It was over ninety degrees that day; I was drenched in sweat and smelled of Grandma, it was as if she was there with me. It was scent that I craved in my longing for horses, the aroma of horse, dirt and sweat–the perfume of freedom. I finally had it. To be near them was all I required, close enough to feel their breath, sense their power. It was not joy I felt that day but awe, for them and for myself for having the will to embrace my heart’s desire and make it happen.

We had fenced a pasture next to the house and put them away there to get used to their new surroundings. As it is grew dark, I could only hear them, the padding of hooves and their soft nickers to each other. I sat down in Felipe’s lap and wept. It was the most beautiful sound in the world. I thanked him for bringing me to them.

Later that week Felipe’s brother came to visit, I don’t remember the pretext, but his real purpose was to warn us about Monty. He was notorious for a dangerous behavior, you could not stop him. “Seriously, he assured us, that horse is no sirve (not servicable).” He then went into a story about a shocking ride he had witnessed in which Monty had run someone through a dense forest of thorn trees, and various other calamitous events involving my dream come true.

I was livid at the man who sold him to us, but was inured to such things, because, since our arrival in Mexico we had experienced many transactions I considered unscrupulous, and I was already in love with Monty. If he had a problem it was because of mishandling, and I must be careful and patient to repair the damage.

Felipe and I started riding, and it seemed there was nothing to do but wait until he took off with me to see how severe the problem was. I tried preempting him by taking him out for a good run early in our rides. I’d let him run until he was tired. It worked for a while, then the inevitable happened. It’s terrifying to have 1000 pounds of animal under you that you cannot control, running full-bore when you have no idea what their intentions are. Will he try to get me off, run me under or into something, stop dead? I held on and tried to feel what his next move would be, fortunately, it was a trot to a stop. Shaking, I stepped down to calm my nerves.

We then embarked on our retraining program. It took 2 years, complete with moments of horror, defeat and anguish. Hero Felipe came to my rescue as usual, at my lowest moment he traded his lovely Tasha for my diablo Monty. He continued to ride him thru the roughest times. Using the techniques of Monty Roberts, and a hackamore bridle, we now have a horse I trust and that trusts me, and I am so thankful that we are together. He likely would have been sold to the circus to feed the lions otherwise; this is the fate of disabled or remedial horses in this area. Pain and fear are often the way of “training” horses with problems. Monty is exceptionally strong-willed, it never would have worked. Of course it never really does, but I am sure Monty would have become so dangerous no one could have ridden him.Abby, Tasha, and River

He now has saddlebags, takes me to do my weekly shopping, and is so solid he never even cracks an egg. We are devoted to each other.

Incidentally, Tasha was pregnant when we bought her; she bore a beautiful, blue-eyed pinto six months after she came to live with us. I must admit I found it satisfying since they had devalued her, and a sold us a horse they knew to be dangerous without warning.

What have you longed for, and attained? How did it change your life? What does it mean to you to follow your bliss? I love hearing from you.

© 2013 Abby Smith, Writer

7 thoughts on “My Kingdom for a Horse

  1. I’m sending this to my sister, who has a similar lifelong love of horses, and variety of experiences with them – she will love your story as much as I did. While I am not a horse person myself, your story of focused attention, courage, and perserverance raises my awareness of how I have approached my own areas of interest or passion, and how I still struggle to find and stay with something I really care about…

    • As I watch my life unfold, this is what I have learned about myself in regard to attention, courage and preserverance. If I can create an image that is emotionally charged(myself running on an horse) and bring it to mind when I think of my goal, eventually the image is created in reality, though I have never tried it with say, levitation 🙂 I like to think of this as non-doing, but I suspect it also stems from my inherant laziness. What I have learned from attaining this goal is the differance between a joy and a passion. Horses are my joy, meaning, as much as I love them, I still have to make myself tack up and ride sometimes, out of laziness. The horses(my joy) in part brought me to my passion, writing, and horses also gave me courage, as I state in the story. A Passion is something you cannot keep yourself from doing, and therefore requires little effort, at least to sit down, I do work hard to write well. I my life there have only been two, writing and Felipe. So I guess, by embracing joy and channeling its power, I recieved courage, fortitude and passion. I really apprecaite your support Stan, paz, Abby

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