Friday, April 18, 2003

09.23.02 I found the perfect horse!
But I didn't realize it right away.

The first time I went out to look at the horse, it was raining. It had been raining all day and was quite dreary. By the time I arrived at their residence, conveniently located only a couple of country blocks from my boarding barn, it had tapered off to a light drizzle. The man met me at the house and we walked out to the pasture.

He pointed out the three soggy horses standing in the muck. Hmm. Nothing remarkable about any of them. One was a brown appy with a nice butt blanket; there was a young sorrel filly who reminded me of Cheerios, and a bedraggled-looking bay mare. He collected the bay mare and brought her through the barn and gave her a brushing. The poor thing looked miserable, she was so muddy and soggy. I guess I would be too if I'd been caught in a downpour.

He saddled her up for me and I took her for a spin. Well, I thought, she may not win the beauty pageant but she sure handles nicely. She responded politely to my cues and within a few minutes I felt comfortable enough to canter her. Even her trot was graceful. Nice personality. Not real outgoing or flamboyant like Cheerios, but a nice solid friendly horse.

The next day, I took my Dad out to look at her and give me his horseman's opinion. Again it was a soggy day. Again I was faced with a bedraggled non-descript horse. Dad approved of her right away, though—said she's a nice little horse. (His first opinion of Cheerios was that he had a big head.) I was beginning to resign myself to the idea of having a nice but not necessarily attractive horse. Brains before beauty.

In the meantime, I'd found out that Nicole had snagged a rider's position in Bruce's Level Two clinic. She said I should at least go and audit it, maybe even take Cheerios over for a private session and she'd trailer him if I wanted to. I politely declined taking Cheerios because the private session was pretty pricey for an unemployed person who had never seen a PNH event live before but decided to go and watch. Maybe. Nic had several privates lined up so it would mean going for six days and I wasn't sure I wanted to hang around a whole week and watch. I was on the waiting list for Bruce's Level One even though I knew it was a lost cause, but it was now only about 10 days away and I had given up hope long ago.

My Dad and I discussed it, and decided Wildflower would be a good horse for me and set a price with the man. A couple of days later, I set up a vet check. I asked Nicole to come along and play with Wildflower afterwards and assess her mindset for me. She agreed to come along. Finally, the sun was shining. I was not prepared for what I saw.

In the pasture was this gorgeous bay mare with a flowing black mane and tail. All the mud was gone, she was all dry and shiny. She was beautiful! I was aghast. Here I thought I was getting a solid yet plain-looking dependable mount and well, it was like the Ugly Duckling story. I had no idea she was such a pretty horse until that day. There is a lesson to be learned from that about face value and quality over looks...

She passed the vet check with flying colors and she proved herself to be smart, willing, and cooperative. Very tolerant. Nicole even mounted her bareback and rode her around on a casual lead line, then dismounted by sliding off her butt. Wildflower took it all in stride and that's when I knew without a doubt that this was the horse for me.

Nicole trailered her home for me after we closed the deal a few days later. The first night was tough because Wildflower whinnied all night. She was looking for her herd. I couldn't sleep because I felt so bad for her and worried about her jumping the fence and heading for home. But she didn't. She'd calmed down by the next day and I set about getting to know her. We went on a trail ride immediately and she further proved her value when she slowed down instead of speeding up when I got scared.

Excerpt from the mass email I sent all my friends after buying Wildflower:

No photos just yet, but I wanted to tell all of you about my new arrival! She's 10 years old, stands 15 hands, bay with the map of Texas and a white blaze on her face. Some of you may have realized I'm talking about a horse. We brought her home to the barn yesterday.

That's right, the proof of equine addiction is evident with the purchase of my second horse, Wildflower. I've been looking for a nice trail horse for some time; she fits the bill perfectly. Cheerios is available for full lease if you know the right person for him (email me for details). Unfortunately, finances may not permit me to keep him which is why he's also listed as being for sale--but I'd hate to give him up. (Send me a miracle!)

We'll be hitting the trails in a week or two, after the initial adjustment period, so to my fellow riders, see you at the barn!

The very next day after bringing her home, Nicole called me all excited and said a Level One position had just opened up and if I wanted it, it was mine and she'd trailer my horses for me. I was floored. Of course I jumped on it.

So a couple days after bringing home my new horse, I loaded her into a trailer and headed for six days in Cleveland. Only two of the days were my clinic but I figured I could hang out with her and get to know her while Nic did her private sessions and clinic. Poor Wildflower! Moves once, then moves again!

Why I bought Wildflower: after thinking it through, I'd realized that Cheerios won't help me meet my immediate goals as a horseman. (I'm always horse-shopping just in case I come across the right one.) My immediate goals are to be able to trail ride safely and to pass my PNH Level 1 assessment so I can begin working on Level 2. My ultimate goal is to complete Level 3 and possibly move onto Instructor training.

But Cheerios is deathly afraid of the carrot stick, which limits what I'm capable of doing with him at this stage because I don't know enough to counteract his reactions and get past it. The carrot stick was designed by Pat Parelli and it's similar in appearance to a longe whip BUT it is not stiff like that—it's made of fiberglass so although the string part makes a convincingly whip-like sound, the stick part has enough give that a good whap on the horse's body is annoying but NOT painful or damaging. It's way less than what another horse could inflict—or an angry human with a much firmer longe whip or crop. It gets the point across if need be without severely traumatizing the horse whereas being whipped with a stiff lunge whip WILL. And in Cheerios' case, probably that's already happened.

Until I can get him to trust me and my toys, which at Level 1 with a difficult horse is kind of hard to know how to do, we can't progress past the first three of the Seven Games so I'm nowhere near riding him. An easier horse was a necessity.

I found her. Then the world of PNH miraculously opened up to me and all the pieces started falling into place. One day I had a Level Three horse with issues; no horse transportation; and no rider spots in the clinic. The next day, I had a perfect Level One beginning horse, a friend offering me a ride, and a rider spot in a Level One clinic. Like magic.

I can only believe that it's preordained Fate that led me to Wildflower—and PNH. Why? Well, let's examine the facts.

Fact #1: the first person I met at the barn when I brought Cheerios home was Nicole, who brought PNH to the barn.

Fact #2: within an hour of bringing home Cheerios, I was inside watching a PNH video. I mean the ink on the check wasn't even dry before I was introduced to PNH.

Fact #3: The day my PNH Level One kit arrived on my doorstep was the day I got laid off—giving me plenty of time to work on horsemanship.

Fact #4: If I had bought a horse like Wildflower first time out, I'd never have needed "help", and would never have sought out the answers that I've found in PNH—so Cheerios' issues are a blessing in a way.

Not only have I found a great way to communicate with my horses and improve my riding abilities, but I've also found my future. This is my calling. Everytime I have a PNH event, something happens to make the universal energies shift to accomodate my needs. I'm signing up for a Level Two clinic in August. I know I'll be ready. I'll be Official Level One before then. And I know I'll have a ride for Wildflower to the Advancing to Harmony clinic next month in Cleveland, even though the truck Nic usually uses to pull her gooseneck slant-load is unavailable that weekend. It'll all just fall into place. In fact, I might even be the proud owner of my own rig by then.

It's Fate. I can feel it.

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