Nube: How We Met

one year later…

I was forty- nine years old, and my upcoming birthday was hanging in the air like a pair of stretched-out waist-high cotton underwear. My Grandfather Horse was on stall rest with a career-ending injury, never to be rideable again. At least my other horse, Dodger, was sound and fifteen. I didn’t know I’d lose him in two years, but it wouldn’t have changed anything. As much as we plan the future with our horses, it is always a risk. The risk isn’t riding them; the risk is all that will happen to have them in your life. They change you in ways you cannot imagine until they are gone. We don’t find out the full scope of a horse until all we have is hindsight.

If we do it right and are lucky, horses don’t outlive us. I thought I had one more full horse life in me for sure. Maybe more but best to be conservative. If I found a youngster now, I could start him in four years, and about a decade or so beyond that, I’d have my next dressage horse. I had time, but more than that, I wanted to pay a debt forward. For my Grandfather Horse, and all the others, I owed so much and one of the best actions of gratitude I know is to bring the next horse along with all you’ve learned. This youngster would benefit from the ones who came before. In that way, I was their legacy. Horses live on inside the rider to the next horse. It isn’t mystical. Some of it is muscle memory and focus. Serious riders climb on as many horses as they can. We keep part of them with us, not just in our hearts but in our whole bodies. Our bodies carry them on long after they stop carrying us.

Most nights, I was up late by the light of my computer, looking at videos and considering a few different breeds, but mostly really enjoying our barn door being open, knowing that my herd of two horses and two donkeys would grow soon. I told a vet I knew I was looking, and she stopped on the spot. “I know the horse,” she said. It was an Andalusian x Appendix colt she’d seen recently. She gave me the breeder’s number and told me to go see him. She told the breeder about me as well and in a few days, I got a sale flyer and a DVD in the mail. The video included a stunning Grand Prix test with the tall lanky stallion as well as a clip of the colt trotting off ahead of his dam, slowing to a perfect passage, and then bounding on again. I might have watched it more than once.

I brought a friend with me to meet him because I’m not stupid. The breeders were kind, and we had a good conversation, but I don’t remember anything said by anyone. I’m sure I blathered some. We went to see the stallion first. Entering a door of an outbuilding, I thought it would be a barn aisle, but we were immediately inside his pen. I took a couple of steps to get to some open space and stopped. The stallion walked across the pen to me, his neck arched, and dropped his head lower to the height of my face. I can still see him there, I remember his shoulders and legs, I was dwarfed by him. His quizzical brow is alive with interest. The intelligence in his face was undeniable. He inhaled deeply, releasing his breath back out with slow deliberation. He had a calmness about him that wasn’t stoicism, his face was open and authentic. The stallion did not pander to me, nor did we share breath as I’d known. This was as if I was stripped and known by his breath. As if he took the measure of me more than the reverse.

I didn’t know that two years later, I would get one illuminated ride on him. I’m more fluent in calming signals now than I was those years ago, but my memory of the stallion has stayed clear. I’d never known a horse like him, and I haven’t since. He was a different caliber of creature with more presence and strength and something I can only call a kind of virtue.

We walked to another barn where the colt and his dam were. The stall was large and dark, but light streamed in through the half-door in a cozy way. I stepped inside, leaned against the wall opposite them, and paused. The colt was on the far side of his dam and looking shy. He was a blackish-brownish color that would shed to gray soon. I saw little more than small curious ears, and very questioning eyes as he peered at me over his mother’s back.

I do remember I had a thought standing there. It was a simple statement, but I didn’t mutter it aloud. Almost as a greeting you’d say to a stranger getting your bearings, I thought a picture that asked is that your mom? The colt rubbed his muzzle on his mother’s rump. It came back as quick as an answer but most likely a coincidence? We eyed each other and I thought another question to him. Can you say hello? He considered it, this thoughtful two-month-old colt, then stood tall and square over his hooves, bravely arched his tiny neck, and marched over to me just as the stallion had. I saw the same eyes.

After a few moments, I seem to recall the breeder led the mare to the arena and the colt trotted along, his hooves barely reaching the ground. I am sure there was kind conversation, the breeders were good people who loved their horses more than the business. I don’t remember what was said but I hope I thanked them. I said I’d think about my decision, but my mind was made up back in the stall. I wanted to be cool enough to wait to call when I got home, and I did have other things to consider. I hope I thanked them again.

My friend and I walked to our cars together and shared some thoughts. Then I pulled up my granny pants, got into my truck, and miraculously found my way home. Still in a bit of a daze an hour later, I called back offering full price and asking about time payments. He was the only horse I looked at.

I had no doubts about him. All the questions were about me. Could I rise to meet this horse? Would I be able to train him in such a way that he could shine his best? Would every horse I’d ever known meet me in this one beautiful chance?


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Anna Blake, Relaxed & Forward

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49 thoughts on “Nube: How We Met”

  1. “We don’t find out the full scope of a horse until all we have is hindsight.” I remember using terms like bipolar, schizophrenic to describe my horse. Then I watched those many videos I took of our rides and discovered, with new eyes, the love and patience that was really there. Those new eyes of mine saw pain from a long ago injury that would flare up at times. Now I take all those arm-chair isights and use them on my pony. We are fast becoming very good friends. I realize now that this friendship (sisterhood) is all that I ever really wanted and now my beloved Buttercup has shown me the way forward. Why is hindsight so much clearer than the present? Perhaps the emotion of mourning scrubs the mind and opens the heart. ❤️

  2. Wonderful! Just one little comment on:
    “They change you in ways you cannot imagine until they are gone.”
    I would add: and also after they are gone, maybe even more so.

  3. Humility. Thinking of others first. Understanding a new acquaintance. Horse or otherwise.
    Peggy fully agrees that we look so forward to your writing. Thanks for being who you are.

  4. What a cliff-hanger! That photo of the yearling colt is magnificent. I somehow anticipate a journey of mixed emotions, which, actually, describes any journey with horses.

  5. True connection or knowing.. not the anthropomorphized kind but the inexplicable one from the deepest bottom of the barrel of our soul. The one you cannot escape.
    Thank you for this Anna.

  6. Oh, my. I sure hope this is only the first installment, with more to come. Will be waiting patiently here til next we meet. Mind-Meld communication, love it!

  7. That is, I would not hesitate to say, the best looking horse I have seen in a very, very long time. Conformation, movement, expression, attitude. All of it. And your description of him and his parents fit perfectly. And the mind images. Love that. I have found over the years, and with many things, that one can indeed “know” immediately. I’m surprised you could wait until you got home! I hope we all have one more horse in us. Thanks very much for sharing.

    • Well, Kathy, thank you. Feel I have to say I for one don’t have another horse in me, not in the way I want. I met this horse 20 years ago. Horses don’t mean the same thing to all of us. I HOPE you have more horses in you.

      • I knew that thought might not be the best… I meant it more spiritually, as in, we will always have one more horse IN us, kind of thing. Not very well said! Anyway, I have checked out BLINK. Look forward to reading it. I have always been concerned that I make decisions often too quickly and wonder about that. Also, just as an aside, horses can think, and then act (or not), but when they react it happens in a blink! Looking forward to the read. Thank you for the suggestion.

  8. “They change you in ways you cannot imagine until they are gone. We don’t find out the full scope of a horse until all we have is hindsight.” Deep in it right now. Thank you for this.

    • Thank you, Sarah. I had to dig to find this first competition photo, the rest of the time he is muddy and rolling around with donkeys.

  9. “I had no doubts about him” absolutely describes my first horse. He had a magnificent mind. He was so evolved (much more than me) that he cared for every living creature he encountered. Your amazing writing brought my first horse to mind with such gratitude. Then things turned ugly. I was fraught with terrible guilt. It occurred to me that I have barely interacted or even observed my horses of late. Extra familial, health, and weather demands have confined my horse time to insuring they don’t starve or freeze to death, and to chipping enough manure out of the way so they have clear paths. I feel like I don’t even know them anymore! Oh for a moment to contemplate their mystery again.
    Anna, I’m grateful that I stole the time to read your piece this morning, it was a joy, and I’d like to read the rest of the story.

  10. I know exactly what you mean. Except I was 56 when the 4 y.o. Andalusian /Q horse X gelding crossed my path, looked at me with those same eyes you speak of and said “get me out of here. Can you?” A bad situation he was in here in south central TX, and I agreed. Told him to give me a minute, since I already had a fine mare, but after following him place to place, leasing him at one point, providing him w/ medical care , several times, the last was a shattered skull, broken jaw & teeth & a few thousand $ later, he was mine. Healed up, healthy, responsive instead of reactive after some years of trust, & a great horse & best friend. After hundreds of miles we are of one mind. Most of the time.. I hope we go down close to together in time, he first so I know I’ll have a ride when I get there & don’t have to leave him to no one I trust, then I’ll follow. That’s the plan & I’m hoping it holds true. Thanks for writing this, ride on ~ Gina O.

      • Thank you from the East Coast for your wonderful shared experience ! Honestly I burst into tears when my dressage trainer suggested I retire my 24 year old dressage Lipizzaner ! Thanks you for making this transition easier ( although he will be coming home to my farm , the idea of ending anything was traumatic ) I now believe your exquisitely expressed thoughts on continuance ! Thank you for sharing!

        • I am sorry for you, but so glad to hear you’re working with the right trainer. It isn’t something easy for us to say, and it speaks so well of her to be looking out for both of you. Retirement is a reward for a job well done. Thanks for sharing, Isabel.


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