Thursday, August 11, 2005


My First Horse

I wanted a horse ever since I could remember, but I was well into middle age before I got one. And of course I did exactly what all the horse books, trainers, and long time equine owners tell you not to do. They say don't start with a young, untrained horse, no matter how cute and inexpensive they are. It is much better to get one that is older, gentle, and above all, well trained. The additional expense is worth it. And I totally agree. But who is practical when buying their first horse. I fell in love with a yearling, sorrel filly with a star on her forehead that was being offered by a man who bought and sold horses. She was a lot smaller than the others he had but something about her caught my eye. Part of it might have been that she was a lot cheaper, but I think most of it was that I thought I saw something special in the gentle, brown eyes that gazed at me and pleaded that I take her home. It turned out that he had purchased the filly at an auction near the town of Gallup, NM. It was thought that she had come from one of the Indian reservations near there. The seller was quick to inform me that she had never been handled and didn't know how to even be lead. He emphasized that basically I would be buying a wild horse. Determined to do all the wrong things that so many first time horse buyers do I bought that wild, untamed, baby horse.
Actually everything went better than could have been expected. The seller helped my son and I get her into a trailer and to her new home where we already had Dusty’s yearling Quarter Horse, Goldy. Dusty had bought Goldy just a few months before. We were both doing the brand-new, first-horse ownership thing and were proud of it. Thrilled, delighted and ecstatic would describe it even better. It didn’t take Dusty and I long to teach her that good behavior resulted in food. In just a few days we were able to take her halter off and put it back on, lead her around, and brush her, except for her tail. It took me a long month to get all the burrs, brambles, snags, and snarls combed out of her ratty little tail. Being still a baby it really wasn’t much of a tail yet. She quickly learned her name – Star. I thought and though and tried dozens of names but kept coming back to Star even though it is such a common name for horses and it stuck.
I always want to name my animals something unusual and unique but invariably seem to finally settle on something common and simple.
It soon became apparent that Star wasn’t the gentle, easy-to-train horse that I would have preferred. She was to smart for that. She was quick to try her darn’est to get out of doing anything she didn’t want to do. That is typical horse mindset. But Star seemed better at it than the average horse. Maybe it had a lot to do with the fact that she was a wild horse, and had never been around humans for the first year of her life. She had apparently learned the wild horse way of life well from her mama. We have even suspected that she might have a lot of true mustang blood in her. And of course she was a lot better for Dusty - a big, strong, young man, who could man-handle her if need be, rather than me – a middle-aged, not-so-big and strong woman.
Time passed, and Star and I fell into a semblance of a way of life. She would lead really well most of the time but when she didn’t want to there was no way I could get her to go in the direction I wanted her to. She would plant her feet and not move or run off dragging me behind her. Of course food was usually the main objective. She was sure to stop at the first clump of grass or weeds that was with in her sight. Eventfully she was taught to wear a bridle, sort-of; and to carry a saddle, sort-of, and to let me ride her, sort-of. But I don’t ever expect her to be a really great riding horse.
For one thing Star never got very big. In fact she really isn’t a horse. She is what is considered a large pony. Equine critters are measured in what are called hands. Many, many, many moons ago, somewhere over in Europe, when not everyone carried a tape measure or ruler in their pocket, horses were measured by the width of a man’s hand. A hand is now considered equal to four inches. The different in a horse and a pony is height. A pony is an equine animal up to 14 and a half hands. A horse is an equine animal over 14 and a half hands. Star is only 13 and a half hands, which makes her officially a pony.
But then you have to consider the fact that I am bad, really bad about calling all my horses ponies. It is just a slang way I have of referring to my equines. And remember Equine is the Latin term for all single-hoofed animals – horses, ponies, zebras, donkeys, mules, ect.
Star is now about seven years old, and is no longer a filly but a mare. (I will add this information as I have so many people who ask. A baby horse is a foal, then called a weanling from about six months to a year old. At a year they become a yearling. Males are called colts (sometimes ‘colt’ can refer to either sex) and a female is called a filly. At about three years of age a filly becomes a mare, and a colt becomes either a stallion or a gelding. A gelding is a male horse that has been castrated.
Star is a stubborn, pony mare. But she is still much loved, petted, feed, pampered and spoiled. She is just one of three in my small stable. Join me for more about Star and her friends at this blog.

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