Little grey horses.
I’ve never been a fan.
I’m a photographer. And mildly obsessive about my horses being clean. So, therefore, clean ponies are important. Keeping a grey clean is next to impossible. I have always said that I would never, ever own a grey.
Mostly, though, because I’m vain.
So, when J said she was regretfully putting her daughter’s little grey gelding, who had been watching us forlornly all summer come and go from the barn, I didn’t even give him a second thought. He was grey. And a gelding. Two strikes and you’re out, buddy. Sorry! Not to mention, I had heavily attached myself to J’s palomino mare, Acerca. I had tried to talk J into maybepossiblyOHGODPRETTYPLEASE selling Acerca to me when she made noises about wanting to cut her numbers down, but at the end of the day, J loves Acerca too. So, with J’s daughter off to college and wanting to move back to trotting horses, it made more sense to sell her horse, Benicio.
My heart was a little crushed at the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to pry Acerca out of J’s hands, so in an attempt to detach myself from the mare a bit, I decided to take the little grey for a spin. I had ridden him one other time, maybe a year ago, and I was much too heavy for him. It was okay for one quick little trail ride, but I couldn’t even remotely fathom riding him regularly at the weight I was at. Well, now that I’m nearing 90 pounds down (!), I figured that it’d be worth it to hop on him again to see how things felt. It also occurred to me that no one had worked with him for most of the summer, and as a “hey here’s something I can do that might be actually helpful!” type thing, I figured getting a few rides on him while he was on the market couldn’t hurt if someone decided to come look at him.
I wasn’t expecting to click with this horse. I wasn’t expecting to settle onto his back and feel “at home”. I had watched J’s daughter ride him more, and while they got along, A’s electric energy mixed with Benicio’s sensitivity didn’t always make for a great match. I was under the impression he was a bit of a bonehead, and I was prepared to ride a bit of a bonehead.
I was wrong. Sure, he wiggled and gleefully humped his back in a pathetic, playful buck, and he was all around kind of goofy, but once he got that out of his system, I was sincerely surprised by the horse underneath me. He boogied down the dirt roads like it was going out of style. He desperately asked over and over and over again to PLEASE be allowed to gallop, pell mell, up any hill that was in front of him, but after some discussion, patiently waited for me to say okay. I am quickly came to realize that the horse underneath me is a sensitive, smart, intuitive horse who very much wanted to do the right thing. He is just the right kind of crazy, with exactly zero of the dangerous kind of crazy…and when you get up out of the saddle and give him his head, this horse can fly.
I came back from that first ride breathless from laughter and exhilaration.
Then our second ride was equally as awesome, followed by a third and fourth.
I was not prepared for this to happen. Because he is grey and a gelding.
I spent the rest of the fourth weekend fumbling helplessly with the thoughts in my own head, trying to wrap my brain around how quickly my attention has shifted from Acerca, who I thought was perfect, to a horse I had barely looked at twice all summer. Acerca, bless her, is easy. She is point and shoot, and she doesn’t ask questions either way. She is sweet but doesn’t try to go above and beyond, and that was so perfect for me this summer. Little Grey is also easy, but he is constantly asking what he should be doing next. It is a two way discussion instead of a dictatorship, and I’m more interested in that sort of partnership. I thought I wanted an Acerca, where neither of us have to do much thinking or discussing. Then I got on Benicio and was reminded what it was like to have a horse that WANTS to discuss things with you, who tries his heart out no matter what you ask. Illusion shattered. Back to square one in my thinking, and back to wondering if the horse I need is directly in front of my face. What was holding me back?
In trying to figure it out, I had this conversation with my very best good friend Saturday after riding:
Me: also: oh my jesus I am the most indecisive motherfucker on the planet. because I can’t decide whether I like this horse enough to buy him. I think I do but I’m so gunshy after Simba that I’m second guessing everything.
Her: Well its a big decision. I’d be flip flopping too.
Me: we work well together. he makes me laugh. he is crazy in the safest way possible. he is sweet with just enough sass to be interesting. he wants to please. he likes to learn. he’s smart and picks things up crazy fast. he is bold and confident. he’s not spooky. he loves the trails. he’s athletic and has tons of potential. what is wrong with me?! hahaha!
The second I finished typing and hit enter, I realized what was wrong with me: he is grey. And a gelding. I had this stupid daydream about what I absolutely wanted my next horse to be. Everything fit except those two superficial details. I was mad at myself and my shallowness, but it was enough of a hang up to make me waffle.
So, I waffled.
Then J IM’ed me on Facebook and said “hey, someone wants to come look at Benicio, how interested are you?”
I typed back: “Very interested, but don’t hold him for me, because I’m still waffling.” while internally going “NOOOOOoooooOOOOooooo!!111!”
That’s when I had an idea that maybe my mind was already made up. However, the final decision came after I realized that maybe I should pop out alone on the little grey horse, just to see how he handled it. He hadn’t once said no to me during our short stint as riding partners, but going out alone is a whole other game. I flew up to NH after work one day last week, tossed my tack on him, and off we went.
Now, I didn’t realize this as I was getting on, but apparently it had been awhile since he was out alone, and what was more, he hadn’t been out by himself very often. It was also dinnertime, which is usually a recipe for a cranky pony. After our usual mounting block discussion (one of his few vices that we’ve already managed to work on a bit), I got on and off we went. I was prepared to have a lot more horse underneath me with a lot more tension.
The first minute or so he was a little confused. I pushed him forward. Once he realized that yes, we were going out and no, no one else was coming with us…he got over it. Completely. We had an amazing ride that included a gallop across the same dam as the previous video and the most beautiful consistent corto I’ve ever ridden down the road. He was attentive and constantly checking in. He spooked once at something totally legitimate, because whatever it was scared the bajeepers out of me too. I turned on music and sang along, and he seemed to match his pace to the beat of the song. It was a little bit magical.
I climbed off of him that evening with no more questions left. This was what it was supposed to feel like — exciting and electric and full of possibilities and maybe just a little bit terrifying because my heart with all its cracks and missing pieces was beating just a little stronger for this horse. I don’t let me heart get away from me often, but it has, without a doubt, grabbed onto this little grey gelding and is not letting go.
So, here we are. We make everything official this Saturday, after we parade around on our horses in costume (which may or may not include a unicorn horn for Little Grey). I will move him to a longtime house sitting client’s house the beginning of December. I don’t know what’s in store for us, but I hope there will be laughter and gallops, teaching moments and humbling moments, and a lot of hugs around the neck and kisses on the nose.
I do know we’ll figure it out along the way.
I can’t wait to get started.