In spite of the best efforts of scientists, it is still a mystery why we fall in love with one individual over another. We know the chemicals and brain centers that are involved in how we feel, but not what actually triggers them. I certainly had no idea that I would fall as hard as I have for a small, scrubby looking Mustang.
I wrote about how Chase came to us last year on my other blog. (I think you will find it an entertaining read, if you haven’t read it already.) However, for the sake of this post I will recap the basic points:
- I purchased a “15.3 hand, 10 year old Quarter Horse/Draft cross” who was “a family-friendly experienced working ranch horse”; but ended up with a 15.1 hand, 8 year old Spanish Mustang who clearly was not trained in any noticeable way
- Instead of a seasoned campaigner ready to do some trail riding, I ended up with a shutdown horse with physical and mental scars; another “project” – quite the opposite of what I was looking for
- In addition, and perhaps part of my human conceit, what walked off the trailer bore no resemblance to the horse I’d seen in photo and video (I would not recommend buying a horse you have not met … desperation was my driver)
It took a while to get over my disappointment. He seemed so small when he arrived, that I wasn’t sure there would be a future for us, at all. When I was 14 I’d been told I’d outgrown a horse just one inch shorter than Chase – so how could he possibly be the right size?
As I began to work with Chase, the challenge of gaining his trust became clear. He had so many triggers from obviously rough work – I was back in the exact type of balancing act I’d been trying to avoid by buying a seasoned campaigner. I was deeply frustrated by what seemed a very expensive mistake. If anyone had told me then how I would feel about this horse now, I would have laughed!
It is hard to pin down the moment it happened. It certainly was not “love at first sight” for either of us – we were both too skeptical for that. There were those little moments along the way – the first time he whinnied a greeting, the first time he actually walked across his paddock to meet me, the first time he trusted enough to actually interact rather than just react. Watching a horse come out of his shell, especially after a traumatic past, is always touching. I have done it many times (a post is pending for my other blog on this subject) and those horses are always special. But just as no one can really explain why you fall in love with a specific person, it seems just as intangible why we fall in love with that “heart horse”. By last Summer I’d grown very fond of Chase, and by the Fall I realized I had not felt like this about any horse other than Ben.
What I’ve discovered about Chase, on this journey is that he is smart. He learns quickly, and once he discovered that it was a dialogue and not a demand he became very interested in engaging. He really likes to jump, taking the initiative even when loose to purposefully take a jump just for fun. He’s an adventurous soul who loves to take walks through the neighborhood to see what’s going on. He is always alert, but has very rarely spooked – and even then, it’s a brief startle then stopping to look at the cause. There is a peace in being around him, yet he is also a joyful and expressive horse.
We have a long way to go, Chase and I. He still bears the scars of a past in which he had no voice. The partnership and trust is there on the ground, now we have to build it under saddle. Much of last year was lost to two injuries for him, and one for me. Perhaps that was just as well as it gave us that excuse to spend more time just being together. The few rides I had last year were filled with tension – this year it’s like riding and easy going baby horse for the first time. So, like any newly started baby he will get time and patience.
I am finally hopeful about a future with the kind of partnership I’ve been missing. But, quite honestly, just having Chase around has brought back a joy I haven’t felt since I was a horse crazy girl. He never fails to bring a smile to my face, and my heart just melts when I catch him watching me with his soft eyes. I look forward to future adventures, but could be content just having him roam the barnyard while I do chores. I might have paid more than market value for the horse who stepped off the transport – but what I got is priceless!
Be good to your horses!