Monday, June 13, 2011

Mouthy Monday

Rebekah was worried her story was a "same old, same old," about her love for her first horse. As far as I'm concerned, I love these stories and am grateful for your willingness to share with us. This blog is made so much more powerful when we see how much we have in common.

My First Horse

When my parents sent me to boarding school in Sedona, Arizona, I thought it was the end of the world. I begged them not to send me three time zones away from my home in Georgia, far from my friends and everything familiar. I clung to my mother as she tried to leave the school campus after helping me carry in my things, and tears shone on both of our faces as we embraced. Then she was gone, and I was alone in this new world that would be my home for seven months. I was only eleven years old, and I was scared out of my wits.

These were the circumstances that led me to meet Midnite, the horse who would change my life forever. I was an emaciated, emotionally scarred kid, and he was a black Morgan gelding. He was also twenty one years old, but he had the look and bearing of a much younger horse. His mouth was hard from the years of abuse suffered from inexperienced riders, and I would be no exception. He stood 14.2hh and was quite well built, with no obvious conformation flaws. His back was slightly swayed, and grey hairs flecked his thin dark face. His dark eyes had a jaded look to them, and his teeth were often bared slightly when he rested or worked, though he didn’t outwardly show irritation.

I would tack him up and swing aboard for my P.E. classes, and melt into the easy rhythm of his long strides. He was a forward-going horse, and when we trotted, he had a tendency to accelerate into a lope if I didn’t hold tight to his face. He neck reined with a cowhorse’s sensitivity, and I didn’t even need to touch his sides to encourage him faster – a short chirrup was more than enough to make him increase speed. To me, who was used to slower school horses, Midnite was a high-powered Ferrari, and his energy was overwhelming. Out on the trail, he was a tireless, sure-footed mount that rarely broke a sweat. Often when the other horses began to canter, he would grab the bit and race ahead, ignoring any attempts I made to slow him down. He was extremely competitive, and took any opportunity to increase speed.

After our rides, I would feed out the evening hay to the horses, and I would save Midnite’s stall for last. I used to lean against the slatted bars of his little pen, and listen to him contentedly munch his hay. I talked to him, and I just said whatever came into my head. In the background, rap music would blare from the nearest boys’ dorm, but I ignored that. I lavished my love and adoration upon this little horse who was too cantankerous to love me back, but it was enough. I began to put on weight, and I lost my scrawny look. I cantered around campus like a horse, running up hills and sliding down rails, pretending to be Midnite. My confidence blossomed, and for the first time since I could remember, I began to make straight A’s in class. I remember the pride I felt when my name was announced on the honor roll.

Midnite remained my trusty partner throughout the year. When his saddle broke, it was him that taught me to ride bareback. I had my first jump on him, experienced my first canter, and learned the joys of riding. I remember when we had a Ribbon Day, and I became frustrated with Midnite when we were doing the Trail Course. He didn’t understand what I wanted when we came to the gate, and I jerked on his mouth shamefully until the curb chain caused his chin to bleed. I cried so hard afterwards when I saw what I’d done. People thought I was upset because I was out of the ribbons, but I was genuinely grieved to see the pain I’d put my baby boy through.

As Midnite’s chin healed, I rode the other horses, but I was heartsick; I so badly wanted my own mount back. I spent time with him every day, patting him and picking grass for him. When the farrier came to put new shoes on him, I begged one of Midnite’s old shoes from him, and hung it on my wall. Every night, I prayed that my “Nite Nite” would feel better soon. He was my pride and joy, and the sooner he healed, the less pain he would go through. The guilt would not leave me alone, and even to this day, I have remembered my lesson when handling horses.

I can go on and on about my big-hearted little guy. The way he would race head-to-head with our OTTB on the trail, giving everything he had. I would lean forward and chirrup to him in the way we both knew best, and he would shift into another gear, just like in the books, and pull away from the bigger Thoroughbred. I remember exploring the vast Arizona desert from his back, pretending that we were travelers in uncharted territory. That horse was my one inspiration, my lifeline. I’d been contemplating suicide before I met him – yes, at eleven years old – but this horse made me want to live. He was my sun and sky and everything good in my life, and it nearly killed me to part with him forever at the end of the school year.

I wonder what became of him, and if he’s still with the school. He would be twenty nine now, and probably either dead or sold on. One great fear of mine is that he might have gone to slaughter. The idea of him being killed in pain and fear always fills me with an indescribable horror. Horses have come and gone in my life, and though I now own several, I have never felt the same connection with them that I did with my little black Morgan, no matter how fiery or well trained they are. One day, I’m going to go back to the Oak Creek Ranch School. One day, I’m going to visit, and find out what became of my childhood horse. For now, I can only dream, and imagine the sight of him galloping through the green pastures of heaven, as wild and unfettered by age as he was when I knew him.


DarcC said...

Rebekah, I hope you get back to the school and find that your old pal is still doing the work he was born to do, helping save kids. Horses like Midnite are worth their weight in gold.

Anonymous said...

My lovely Oscar was given to me when I was 11 and he was 11. I hated school, and would sit in class dreaming of his canter. I'd look out of the window and ride a dressage test on the football field, and jump the boundary hedges. He was my shoulder to cry on, my way to feel good about myself when everything around me was telling me I was unloveable.
He died when I was 22, and still with the people I sold him to when I was 18. Noone could understand why I was so devastated, afer all, I hadn't seen him for four years. But he was everything that was good about my childhood, and he cancelled out everything that was bad, so when I think about being 12, 13 14, I don't think about being ostracised and bullied. I think about getting up before school to ride on the beach, dissapearing for hours and letting him find his way home, winning the 3'6'' jumpers for the first time, and learning to ride a half pass on my pony of a lifetime.
Totally identify x

Jen said...

What a great story; I often wonder if the horses at my old lesson barn finished out their lives there or not. I like to think they did. Thanks for sharing that with us :o)
I enjoyed the previous post as well; I am an Arab owner and absolutely love the breed for their intelligence and fierce loyalty (we have nine horses and five are Arabians). I had to laugh at the "Polish" comment though, as our purebred Polish mare (Bask granddaughter) is the least sensible one in the herd: to the degree that she has earned nicknames like Nervous Nellie and Spaz Queen *laugh*.

Whywudyabreedit said...

Great story. The theme may be a common one around here, but I love reading how each story develops and unfolds. Thanks for sharing yours here.

Although it is not any of my business I feel compelled to urge you to go and visit that school sooner rather than later. The sooner you go the more likely it is that someone there will remember him. And if he is still there it would be a shame to miss him, plus he may be looking for a retirement home.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

I love first horse stories...always sends me back to my teenage first horse, and my current midlife first horses.


Anonymous said...


Half Dozen Farm said...


Anonymous said...

Excellent story! I submitted my own today, would love to see it shared with others.

I have a training question. I have a very high-strung Thoroughbred mare who is very reactive to her environment. If something spooks her she will either rear (not little baby rears, think black stallion) or bolt for three strides, sit down on her haunches and launch herself like a Lipizanner. I try to remind myself to let go of her mouth as much as possible, and usually we can go around on a soft rein but on her 'up' days this is obviously a challenge. She rears big on the lunge line as well when she spooks, so I know it's not solely a reaction to contact on her mouth. She has flipped over in the past, once when she reared on a hill and once when I was handwalking her after coming off of stall rest. I'd like her to learn that there are other, far more appropriate means of letting me know she's scared, without immediately reverting to rearing straight up. Do you have any suggestions on how to go about doing this, or things I can train her to do and then ask her for when I can feel she's about to spook, to get her mind off of the 'scary'?

Anonymous said...

Also thought I'd add, almost everyone I've run into have told me to just keep her moving forward. I know,how can a horse rear if they're constantly moving? Well this mare can, and I've got video proof. We can be going along at a good working trot but if something spooks her, within half a stride she can go up into a rear. Most athletic horse I've met haha.

RussianRoulette said...

I think that finding a trainer to help you is the best thing at this point.

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