Monday, January 16, 2012

Mouthy Monday

Here's an interesting tale about a girl's first horse. Talk about a diamond in the rough!

My first horse was a Polish bred Arabian gelding named Lorien Fire Flash. He came into my life when I was 12 and he was 14, and he was my best friend. He’d be 27 now, and I’m not sure if he is still alive. This picture was taken the day my parents bought him for me. I was 13.
I grew up in a small beachy suburb in Southern California; not exactly horse country, but there were five barns within fifteen minutes of my front door, and I consider myself lucky to have had horses that were accessible to me throughout my childhood.
When I was twelve, one of my friends who showed quarter horses bought herself a shiny new show horse, and cast her Arabian gelding to the side. He was 14, underweight, dull coated, and had a recurring colic problem but I loved him immediately. Because we were kids, my friend agreed to let me lease him for $25 a month as long as I promised to ride him at least 3 days a week. That moment was the moment I officially became a barn rat, and I was in absolute heaven.
Flash was the hardest horse I had ever tried to ride. He was ring sour, dead sided, hard mouthed, and had a bolting problem. He would throw his head up so hard and high, that he would often knock me in the face and give me a bloody nose, or knock me off balance and I would inevitably fall off. Since he was such a brat, my trainer would make me ride him in this awful gag bit, and because of that, because of me, he was impossible to bridle. He hated me so much those first few months, that he would run to the back of his stall and strike out at me so I couldn’t catch him. I think I went home crying almost every day.
The summer before my freshman year of high school, my friend put Flash up for sale and I was devastated. I told my parents of my plight, and pleaded with them to buy him, but they refused. Eventually they told me that someone else had bought him, and brought me to the barn to say goodbye. When we got there, I walked up to his stall already crying and threw my arms around his scrawny shoulders in despair, completely ignoring the huge poster that read “CONGRATULATIONS ERYN, HAPPY 8TH GRADE GRADUATION. FLASH IS YOURS.” One of my friends had to point it out to me, and of course I dissolved into a crying mess. so happy to finally have my own horse. That day is forever burned into my memory – one of the best days of my life.
Something between us changed after that. I’m not sure if it was because I felt like he was mine, or if it was because I had started high school and was lonely and consequently spent a lot of time at the barn, but I considered him my project and spent 99% of my time at the barn. The first two weeks I had him, I discarded the gag bit, and chose a nice, fat D-ring snaffle. I didn’t know how to slow him down or break him of his bolting problem, but I thought it would be a good idea if I wrapped his legs, and rode him down in the creek bed where the sand was deep. If I fell, I wouldn’t hurt myself and he could run right back up the hill to his stall.
I got up early on a Saturday and took the bus to the barn. No one was around, so I saddled up my boy, put on his medicine boots, threw the snaffle in his mouth, and we jigged all the way out to the wash. There are a lot of creek beds in California, and this one was similar to many that I have seen – a tiny trickling creek in the Summer, huge roaring river in the Winter, a sprinkling of eucalyptus and cicada, small scrubby brush, tumbleweeds, and various patches of deep, gritty sand. I found a spot big enough to lope a circle, pushed him up into a fast canter and waited for him to relax. It took two weeks of loping in the wash before I felt comfortable enough to ride him in the arena, but I have never seen a bigger change in a horse than I saw in Flash that summer.
He started to put weight on, and with the grain and supplements I was giving him, turned a fiery red in the sun. He had more energy, and his once dull eyes began to glisten. I started to see that he had a need to please personality, and that he was sometimes too smart for his own good.
To be honest, he was the smartest horse I’ve ever met and I taught him every trick I could think of. He could bow, hug, take carrots from pockets, kiss, smile, dance with me, do tempi changes (I didn’t ride dressage and I called it skipping haha), spin a circle all by himself if I said “circle” and wiggled my finger, and I could ride him bareback and bridleless. We did everything from Western Pleasure to 3′ oxers to reining patterns to team penning to gaming. He hated cows, and would pin his ears at them and snake his neck out to bite them, but his cow sense was awesome and he could cut just as good or better than any of the cutting horses at our barn. Everyone thought he was a really refined quarter horse, and when I told them he was an Arabian, they would laugh and wait for the punch line. Naturally, when it didn’t come, they would stare in disbelief saying, “Really? An Arab? REALLY?” And walk away shaking their heads and chuckling. My favorite thing to do was practice our reining pattern; I loved to go fast, and I think he did too. When it came time for the run-down, he would switch leads like a race horse, drop his head, and drive into the bit. I didn’t even have to pick up my reins to stop him, he would just sit his butt down on a low-pitched whoa, and slide through the dirt forever.
These are the things I dream about now – finding him somewhere, wherever he is, and bringing him home with me. I’ve had two other horses since then, and I have never met another with his courage and heart. Some have come close, but you know what they say – in your life you will have one horse that you know was made for you, and I know, deep down in my heart, that he will always be my one.


  1. Beautiful story! I hope you find him. I sold my first horse in '06 and finally found her and got her back Feb. of '11. She's got arthritis in her shoulder from an old injury. Was limping really bad when I got her but now she's sound most of the time thanks to the supplements, hand walking, and stretching I give her. I can't ride her on long trails like we used to but I'm in heaven and she has her forever home. She is the only horse I've ever had that connection with that you're talking about. :)

  2. Good story. You might want to try posting an add on your local craigslist. I lost track of an arab mare I sold, but her new owners saw my craigslist add and now send me regular updates.

  3. Love it!! It's amazing the changes that can come about in a horse with just the smallest changes (=

  4. What a lovely story - I hope you find him!

  5. I love first-horse stories! I got my first two days after I turned 11 after begging for years. He was a stubborn fat 16 year old quarter horse back then & now he's a stubborn shaggy 27 year old that looks pretty dang good. I still have him, even though I'm 6 hours from home while in grad school in Iowa. He's taught me so much int he past 11.5 years & still does to this day. I miss him so much right now & can't imagine ever selling him. There's just something between a girl & her horse...

  6. That was a terrific story, I eat this stuff up! Thank you for sharing! Very well written too.

  7. I agree, well written! My first horse was an arabian too, so I can especially relate to the challenges, such smart little horses though and it sounds like you cracked that arabian sense that so many struggle with. great read!

  8. What a lovely story!

    I wish my first horse story was such a 'fairy tale' meaning that although I am sure you two had your troubles, you and your horse came to a happy understanding in the end. How awesome is that!

    My first horse was an arabian who had an intense flight instinct and could be extremely scary in his attempts to get out of work. All sense of self preservation went out the window when something scared him. He would hurt himself and/or me attempting to run from whatever imaginary thing spooked him. He would do dangerous things to get out of work too culminating with him rearing with me, losing his balance, and falling. Our relationship was never repaired after this. He had zero try for me, spooked at anything, and did not like to work. In hindsight I never should have gotten him. Wish I had had a crystal ball...

    My current horse actually likes me, trusts me, and tries for me. What a wonderful difference it is.

  9. Oh my gosh, I never even realized I'd been Mouthy Monday-ed. :)

    I never did find him, and have been trying for a long while to do so. Such is life. I'm blogging about my current horse if anyone is interested in reading about a western pleasure horse turned eventer. :)

    Thanks for your encouraging words, everyone.