This is a story about how NOT to bring an animal into your life. Never, never, NEVER, get an animal based on how cute it is, or how cheap it is.
So, okay, I’m 15 and have been horse crazy my entire life. My family moved about 30 miles south of where I spent my early childhood, because of my dad’s job. As a teenager, this didn’t sit real well with me because all of my friends, everything I knew, was in Milwaukee, and we were moving to this little burg to the south called Kenosha, to a 17-acre farm with a farmhouse older than all of our combined ages and a barn probably older than that, with a wicked lean that put the Tower of Pisa to shame. At 15, those things were pretty uncool.
However, to sweeten the deal my parents said we could get a horse or two – we had the space, and we had the barn (albeit a leaning barn. The Leaning Barn of Paris Township.) And of course, being 15, I was impatient. Once we got all moved in, we had to straighten the barn and put in some stalls. My dad did this. My dad could fix just about anything, and with block and tackle and probably a lot of sweat, he got that barn straightened up, and the built a couple of stalls. Of course, none of it was fast enough for me. I wanted those horses!
We knew NOTHING about horses. Being 15 and having ridden (stable horses) since I was 10, I thought I knew everything, but trust me on this – as first time horse owners, we had no idea what we were getting into. So of course we dove right in and hooked ourselves up with a (on reflection) kind of creepy horse trader, who said Rainbow, a 4-year old paint gelding, would be perfect for us. He had his little grandson yahoo around on Rainbow in a riding arena, and then put me on the horse’s back. I stayed on. He seemed okay. He was really pretty, a bay with white splashes over his body, mane and tail. None of us noticed the calculating look in his eye. The price was in our budget. We bought him.
Next, we found a pregnant mare from another person that we had known up in Milwaukee, another horse trader but nicer. She was chestnut, a little plain, but sweet on the ground, and presented as rideable, but we couldn’t ride her because according to the guy she was going to pop that offspring out in the next week or two. The price was right – a two for one deal, wow! We bought her. We named her Faleen, after Bambi’s mom.
Both of these horses came with a few ….. personality quirks. And because we were such doofus’s about what it takes to have a relationship with a horse, they quickly learned to take advantage of it, especially Rainbow, who was super smart. With the right person he would have been an awesome horse. With us, he just got sneaky. He would slowly sidle over while you were grooming him until he had you between the fence and him, and then he’d kick. You. He knew how to spin on a dime and could dump just about anybody – he thought that was real funny, especially if he and said person were in the middle of a field where Rainbow could run away and the rider had to limp back to the barn. We provided this horse with hours of entertainment. Oh, and he didn’t like to turn right, either. So we were only able to turn him left. That was a ton of fun.
Faleen, on the other hand, turned out be very sensitive and afraid of just about everything. It was almost three months before she had the foal, a lovely colt my mom named Marty (because he was born on the feast of St. Martin). Faleen was a good mom, and eventually we figured out how to wean Marty and were able to put a saddle on Faleen. The bridle was another matter. She was incredibly head shy, and on reflection, she may have been ridden a time or two, but she was as close to being dumb about what it meant to be a riding horse as we were about what it took to ride a horse. Green on green, as they say – how we all lived through it is a miracle. The fact that Faleen was such a sweet horse and really wanted to please (even though everything scared her) was probably what saved us.
And Marty! Remember, we know nada about horses. Prey animal? Predator? This meant nothing to us. We had dogs and cats. My mom loved working with the dogs. She treated Marty just like she treated the dogs, and taught him a trick or two. The one that sticks in my mind is “put your front legs on my shoulders”, which was cute when he was a week old, but by the time he’d had a few months growth it was getting downright dangerous. We didn’t know how to handle a baby, and he was spoiled rotten. When he was about 8 months old, we sold him to a fellow down the road, and I have no idea what happened to him. He was there for a short time, and then gone. I imagine whoever ended up with him was pretty surprised when he’d come over and try to say hello by hugging with his front legs!
Eventually, we learned enough for life to be a little less dangerous. One of the nuns at the school across the street had ridden most of her life and was a huge help to us. Seeing all 5 foot zero of her taking on Rainbow was pretty humbling. And we discovered these really weren’t the horses for beginners, so they all ended up finding new homes. I think we sold Rainbow back to the guy we bought him from. Faleen went to a friend, and from there, disappeared. We got a couple of other horses who were much better suited to our novice abilities, and slowly, slowly, I began to realize I knew nothing about horses and maybe it was time to learn.
These days, if you ask me how much I know about horses (or other animals for that matter), I’ll reply that what I know may fit into a couple of fingers, and being with them is always a source of wonder and amazement. It’s a constant learning experience, and they are always teaching me. Listening, being Open to what’s being presented, Valuing what they’re saying and doing, and then being willing to Expand myself to make the relationship better, is where it’s at. I wish I had known this when I was 15, and I am formally apologizing to Rainbow, Faleen and Marty, who tried to teach me, and were, I know, really good horses in the wrong situation.
Listen, Open, Value, Expand – It’s all about L-O-V-E(tm). To get your FREE L-O-V-E pamphlet, click HERE.