In the days that led up to the our first meeting, I bounced back and forth between excitement and fear. I wanted to like this little black horse more than anything, but at the same time…well, what if I DID like him? What then? I felt guilty, as if I was moving on too quickly. It wasn’t until someone said to me “You know, GP is the one who died, and you’re the one who is absolutely miserable…don’t you think that’s a bit backwards?” that I realized that being without a horse in my life was the worst possible thing I could do to myself. So, I told my brain to shut up, and went with it.
Our introduction to one another was brief, but it told me a lot. He stood in his stall, and allowed me to touch him all over. He wasn’t unfriendly, but there was a guarded air about him. He had a wide, kind eye and there were small flashes of just what kind of horse he really was — smart, willing to please, and looking for someone he could truly trust. His current mama, B, is the kind of horsewoman that obviously puts her heart and soul into her animals. Puff was shiny, healthy, happy and wanting for nothing in every aspect…except, maybe, his very own horse crazy pretend adult woman.
It wasn’t until I was able to work with him a little on the lunge line that it became apparent that someone in his past had been extremely unkind to him. A worried, unsettled expression came over his face as B asked him to move around her in a circle. He scooted out like a bullet, and did not settle down. He would lap her a few times, and then spin in, his ears rotating like antenna, his eyes wide. My heart ached. You could see that he wanted to do the right thing, but past trauma got in his way. B had forewarned me that he had some issues that were from a heavy hand, so this didn’t come as a surprise. Still, it hurt my heart to see his struggles.
B worked with him for a few more minutes, before handing me the lunge line. I did not ask anything of him, outside of walking him around and having him stop and back. Without fail, he did as I asked, his mouth softening and expression becoming calmer. I could hear the click of my camera, held by my dear friend K, as I circled the paddock. When we reached everyone else, I stopped to chat and share my observations with B.
I knew I was sold on the critter the second I saw him, but as we were all standing together, he lifted his muzzle and snuffled my cheek. It was all I could do to keep from crying. GP was never the demonstrative type, and he used to do the exact same thing. It was small, but it was all I needed to know that he was it.
I went back and saw him a few more time, just for good measure. I rode him, and theorized that someone had gotten on him and been extremely heavy on his mouth. He would crow up out of fear, and then spend the rest of the ride waiting for the proverbial “other shoe” to fall. Our third ride had him relaxing just a little. However, through all of his “flaws” (which I put in quotes because they are man made flaws that should have never been there in the first place), the horse oozed with potential. He was kind, he wanted to do right, and he thought. He did not just react when something was thrown his way — you could practically see the wheels turn in his head.
I got off of his back after our second successful ride, and could not stop smiling. My heart felt lighter than it had in months. I nearly stuffed him in the back of my Toyota Corolla then and there. It was crazy, but only two months after losing GP, I had found another horse that made me excited to go to the barn again.
Of course, it wouldn’t be my life if there weren’t speed bumps. A few major changes happened in my life in very quick succession, and I faced an extremely hard decision. I wanted nothing more than to bring this horse into my life, but with so much stacked against me, I felt utterly defeated. I threw in the towel before I could become any more shattered over the whole situation. Many tears were shed as I wrote the email to B, detailing just how much I adored him, but now just wasn’t the right time for me to take on the responsibility of a horse. I was heartbroken all over again.
So, that was that. I spent the next eight months trying to fill my life with anything I could. I had other horses to ride, including a wonderful love of a draft gelding who was more teddy bear than horse…but something was missing. I knew what it was, but I wasn’t willing to admit it to myself…not when I felt like I had no way to repair the horse shaped hole in my life.