Photo and Poem: Black Bay


She was for sale: a black bay Arabian mare and
I was looking for a beginner lesson horse. Tacked
up when I arrived, I led her to the mounting block,
held the reins a bit too tight, poked her with my toe

as I stepped into the stirrup and then dragged my
leg over the cantle, sitting heavy as a test. Would she
tolerate my students? In the chaotic arena, a gelding
with his head tied around, barking dogs chased a

frantic horse on a lunge line. I clucked and clamped
my thighs as if I feared her; the western saddle massive
on her back. She marched on; my spine resisted the
sway of her walk, as my mind resisted her invitation.

Then her flank lifted my calves and she blew out from
deep in her lungs, clearing her windpipe and I did
the same, reflexively taking her cue. I hadn’t fooled
her, she gave her poll small shake and I shrugged. The

mare went on to tell me about her canter, her mouth,
her training. I wondered about some dancing dressage
steps and she followed my lead. Thanking her with
a dismount, I loosened the girth, but the seller was

concerned. “Off so quick,” he said. “Is there a problem
with the mare?” His words sharp in the dusty air, the
mare’s eyes went still. Returning that big exhale to
her, I said, “No, she told me what I need to know.”

for Embrace the Moment, my good mare, Grace.


Anna Blake at Infinity Farm

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44 thoughts on “Photo and Poem: Black Bay”

    • The reason to continue to improve is that they try so hard. This mare read me as I pretended to be a beginner… gotta love that. Thanks, Debra.

  1. Jeez, Anna, when I read this I notice so many feelings! The horse that drew me in to this world of real horses, instead of fantasy and someday horses, is a dark bay Arabian mare. Your connection with this horse that you didn’t even know leads me to two related feelings: How I wish I could develop a connection like that, and how I doubt my ability to “do” it. (I know, it’s not something you “do”, but realizing that leaves me on shaky self-love ground!). And another feeling is profound respect for you and what you share with those of us who see how exceptional it is. Do you ever have concept clinics or writing workshops at Infinity Farm? I want to learn more from you!

    • Thanks, I’m glad you’re drawn to her and learning more. And there is always more to learn. (I do sometimes teach here.)Thanks, Susan

  2. I read this twice and both times it left me wanting to know more…did you buy her? Did she tell you she wanted to go home with you? My guess is yes.

    • Arabians will always have my heart and even though I resist being colorblind, black bays are my favorite. They are such people horses and try so hard. The Bedouins kept them in their tents as they were family. I do so love your posts and poems.

  3. 17 years ago, I brought home a rescued Paso Fino mare, black bay. She was so tense and terrified of being touched, I don’t ever want to know her pre-history. After 2 years, we began competing in Competitive Trail. We were leaving the vet check at one ride to do our longe circles for the soundness check and I overheard the well respected vet judge comment to the horsemanship judge, “She is very good for that mare.” My heart swelled with pride, more for Rose than for myself, for all her heart and soul, all her trying and giving, for all that she contributes to my life. Still riding the long trails, still sharing our lives together, still my go-to gal!

  4. So beautiful it brings tears to my eyes.

    The mare I get to ride sometimes is a black bay Arabian. She has taught me so much! I am so grateful for her patience and willingness to communicate with me.

    I don’t even want to know who I’d be without horses as my teachers and friends.

    • Shelley, sometimes the horse god simply gives the best to the best. It might be hard to come to terms with, but I believe that many horses, good or distressed, sound or lame, land exactly where they need to be, maybe for a hard lesson, or maybe for joy.

      • You re so right Louise! I “met” the equine love of my life when I was 11. She was 6. It’s tough to describe, but it was honestly a spiritual experience seeing her. Everything surrounding her blurred and receded. 16 years later I finally was blessed to have the opportunity to buy her. I still count the day she became mine in the top 3 experiences of my life. I was finally ready for a horse of her caliber, and she taught me so much in the 8 years we had together. To this day I remind my current herd that they should thank her.

  5. Made my eyes leaky, but it is because of the beauty of it. Silly you, thinking you could fool her – that part made me smile. Thank you.

  6. My grandmother (deceased) always said that dogs and children are the best judge of character and I think horses fit in there also. She loved horses as well. We cannot pretend to horses. I have done the same thing as in the poem when helping out friends . Thankyou for simply articulating a gut feeling. This poem continues to deeply resonate with me 🙂 Thankyou.

  7. I want to make amends to all the horses I rode unskillfully in my life. They tolerate so much from us. I’m amazed how forgiving they are. I wonder why they don’t buck and kick and bite their way to freedom. I’m relieved each time I see someone treating a horse with skill and kindness.

  8. Beautiful eulogy. Glad you found her and I’m sure she was WAY happier once you did. I’m grateful to have discovered your writings. Inspiring. Thank you.

  9. Lovely eulogy. You cannot fool a horse, she knew you, read you even as you tried to lie to her, as you were reading her, begged you to remove her from chaos. Made sure you would. Well read, she could just as easily have taken offence (plus the gate and the whole arena) and dumped you! Touching and moving post Anna. I love this mare.

    Little Champ was 15 yo and I wasn’t buying horses, I was with a friend who purchased 4 green youngsters (topping up on stock horses, hers were old) from a farmer. Champ came to me, knew me, pleaded “Buy me?” I asked her story, jumped on barebacked, brilliant, bought her for my 6 yo daughter. All 10.3 hands of her. The young man who’d started the youngsters had learned to ride on her. Years later my daughter rode her progeny. She gave us about 7.

    • I have to say this, not so much for you but to clarify for so many of these comments. Grace didn’t beg, she never would. Her’s is not a rescue story, and I do appreciate that’s how you read your mare. Thanks, Louise.

      • Maybe they were both simply saying “I like you.” I do feel that they are psychic. Champ was in a big pen with all that was for sale that day, no rescues, my friend knew these people, chose hers without a ride!
        Sweet Grace knew immediately, as you led her to the mounting block. Read “Traveller” it is about Robert E Lee’s grey, from the horse’s viewpoint. Same beginning.

  10. I once met a mare that was half Arabian and half Saddlebred. She was tall, gracefully built, and the color of merlot with black mane and tail. A friend of mine who knew the horse insisted I consider her as my riding horse. Being an unskilled rider, and against my better judgement; I went to meet her. She didn’t strike me as the young , hot-blooded mount I had expected. She exuded intelligence and fairness. She was being sold because her owner and she were not connecting. In spite of my lack of skill I climbed on after spending some time with her on the ground first. She took me for an extraordinary ride with her grace, skill, and kindness. What mattered to her was honesty; and that’s all I had to offer. You can’t fool a horse.

    • And the reason that we need to evolve how we train horses is just this. She gave every person a different answer. So well told, thank you for sharing her with us, Laurie


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