(Helyn found me)
I rub the back of his head with my nose. I like this area where his hairs are long gone. He touched my nose gently thinking, why do you need to remind me that I lost my hairs? You know, I am so glad that you are with us but the truth is; it is Helyn who found you. That statement piques my interest. As you know by now I can read his mind. His very first thought about me, the one that made me realize that I had this ability, was quite puzzling, “Oh shit, he is really good”. I remember that I wondered, for a while, why it was perplexing for him to think that I was a good horse. Tonight, his mind is on the events that brought us together and I listen carefully; I might finally understand the meaning of his strange first thought.
As you know, he sometimes comes in the evening, pulls a chair in front of my stall door and we spend time together. Sometimes he comes with his laptop and a few carrots, other times just the carrots. Once I tried to eat his computer and he told me, well, if it tastes good, you can have it. This thing never works. I would do a better job if I were typing my studies on a carrot. His mind was now on the event preceding our first encounter and I was deeply interested. Helyn lost a horse that she really liked. The horse came to the training center to be retrained and sold. Helyn hoped to keep him. We offered to buy him but the owner asked for a ridiculous price. In fact I refused to present it for sale at the price the owner asked because it was largely overpriced and the horse left shortly after. Helyn was very depressed. For months she stayed away from the barn, avoiding all discussions about horses.
One night, I arrived home from a clinic and found her looking at videos of thoroughbreds for sale. I was happy to see her renewed interest and we watched a few videos together. It was quite depressing; either the horses were very small without much athletic ability, or they were lame. Helyn did not give up. Month after month she watched thousands of videos. One evening she was on the porch of the house waiting for me. She simply said, “I found my horse”. It was you. The video was incredibly bad. The camera work was jumpy and the footing was terrible. The deep mud and large puddles disturbed the few steps that you took when you were not walking on your two rear legs. The girl holding the lunge line was terrified. You looked frightened too. I told Helyn that you appeared to be athletic and charismatic but the video barely displayed one or two strides of trot. The next day, Helyn had put together the few strides of trot that she picked up at different sequences of the video, she looped them over and over and I was able to see a sample of your trot. Your canter was breathtaking but your trot was average. However, you looked relatively sound.
More because I was happy to see Helyn coming back to the horse world than because I was positively impressed by the video, I suggested that maybe we should go to see you. I was thinking that you were stabled at Ocala, which is two driving hours away, or Tampa, which was even closer. Helyn told me, “He is at Seattle, when do we go”? We were living in Florida and you were at the exact diagonal opposite of North America. My first thought was no way. However, I looked at my frequent flyers program and I had enough miles to pay for two tickets. I looked at it as a nice weekend together. I was convinced that we will see a nice horse but not really better than a horse that we could find next door. So we flew across America to see you.
The first impression was not that great. You were spinning in your double stall and two men tried to catch you. You were wearing a halter with a small rope hanging and one man was at each door of the stall trying to grab the rope as you cantered by. After several attempts, one of the two men grabbed the rope and promptly attached a lunge line. You started then to rear furiously. They did not want me to enter the stall telling me that you were too unpredictable. I did anyway. I looked at your physique, your athleticism and one thought crossed my mind, “Oh shit, he is really good”. In my mind it was a weekend to be together with Helyn. I was thinking that we will see an OK horse and I will say to Helyn, “Darling, he is OK but we can find the same horse at Tampa or Ocala”. I realized then that she had been right all along; you were not just an ok horse, you were and are a special horse.
They walked you out of the stall and it was immediate chaos. You reared, you bucked, you jumped, your handler yelled at you yanking the lunge line. Helyn was delighted. You could not do anything wrong. She applauded each one of your moves. You reared hitting your head in the rafters and Helyn commented, “great balance”. You jumped and kicked with both hind legs knocking down one extinguisher and two water buckets and Helen noted, “nice coordination”. You reared again spinning and the lunge line was now wrapped around your hind legs. You literally jumped out of the trap taking off in a superb capriole and Helyn commented on your jumping abilities. When you grabbed the lunge line with your teeth pulling it out of the trainer’s hands, she said, “creative, rapid and accurate”. I have to say, the moves were impressive. There was no question that you had outstanding athletic abilities. I was a little concerned by your anger, your violence and the despair of your eyes and facial expression. It was clear then that rearing was your escape. It was obvious that everybody around you was afraid of you. Your relationship with humans was marred by constant punishments and yet you had survived all the mishandling and found refuge in revolt and anger. In so doing you also became quite conscience of your physical power and used it to protect yourself from humans. The question that I had in mind, however, was could you come back to sound behavior. Are you still capable to think or had they already completely fried your brain.
I asked the trainer if he could jog you in hand and he looked at me as if I was asking for the moon. He threw the lunge line in my hands saying, “you do it”. So, now I was handling you and you reared immediately. You landed expecting a punishment and reared again boxing with the front legs while walking toward me on your rear legs. You landed with your nose almost touching me. Your regard was very intense, you were surprised because I did not react and you became instantly interested. You explored me with your nose touching my chest, my arms, my hairs, my hands. You rubbed your forehead against my arm and you let me scratch your brow with my fingers. I was seduced by your intelligence. Almost instantly you responded to my confidence. We jogged several times back and for in the alleyway. You were mischievous but careful.
I was now as enthusiastic as Helyn but tried to keep a poker face. I did not want them to believe that I was interested before we negotiated your price. The trainer commented that the horse was great with me and I responded with a small untruth and told him that I thought that your trot was quite common. You were basically unsellable but the sellers will, of course, try to get as much money as possible. I asked how much they wanted for you. They gave their price and I quickly responded, “no way, that is far above his value”. I thanked them for showing us their horse, that it was nice to meet them and I walked toward the door. Helyn was literally frozen. Her face was in total despair. Large drops fell from her eyes. She looked at me totally amazed. I realized then that she was not aware of the tactical game that is part of negotiations. I walked toward her, gave her a kiss on the corner of her eye whispering, “don’t worry, they will come back to us”. Helyn was not convinced. I passed my hand under her arm pulling quite firmly. If you think that Michael Jackson invented the moon walk, you did not see Helyn walking out of the barn that day. Her feet were making minuscule steps forward but her body was moving backward. Her face was livid. She truly believed that it was all over and that she would never see you again.
As we walked out of the barn I told her that you were an amazing horse and that it was all about dropping the price. Helyn was still not convinced. Each second she looked over her shoulder saying, “they are not coming”. As we opened the car I could see them coming out of the barn and they were asking me to wait. They played the game quite well. They waited until I started the car to come and offer a better price. I was ready to negotiate further but Helyn had left the car. She was already with you letting you know that hell was over, that you were now her horse and that she will take good care of you. The price that they now offered was reasonable and we started to discuss the modalities of finishing the sale and transporting you home. As we returned to the barn now ready to talk with the barn owner, we found that all was arranged. Helyn and Rosie, the barn’s owner, had already scheduled your turn out as well as your feeding and carrots program. Now all we had to do was organize the transportation across the country.
The scene was the calm after the storm. Rosie was obviously happy that you had changed hands. Helyn was talking to you and you were a gentle and playing with her hands. Twenty minutes ago, it was chaos, violence anger, frustration screams and gestures. Now it was two women and a horse enjoying quality time together. I wanted to keep the former owner and trainer away. They did not belong to the world you inhabited at that instant. They were quite obviously “behavior” types of people. For them horses don’t think, they just act. Horses need to be dominated and punished if they don’t submit. I guess they were happy to have their money so they left the barn, waving goodbye. As we left Helyn commented on the fact that they did not even come over to say goodbye to the horse. I told her, that to do so, they would have had to walk over your dead body. The way you looked at them was unequivocal. She smiled and just said, “yep”.
We drove away back to the airport and Helyn was silent. I looked at her and she was gently crying. This time it was happiness.
We considered first the thought that we could transport you through Fedex. They don’t have envelopes large enough for you, but they are also in the business of transporting horses by air. The price would have been a little more expensive than ground transportation as long as we could find two other horses that could share the cost. The second concern was your size. The stalls in the airplane are quite small. After two weeks, as Helyn continued to explore the best options of either air or ground transportation, Rosie sent us pictures of you. You were better than when we first saw you but observing your facial expressions we both decided that air or ground you needed to move very soon. Helyn found a transporter. You were to have a van all to yourself with a rest for 6 hours each night at which time they would shut off the engine to allow sleep without having to deal with the vibrations of travel. However, the negative side of such a considerate form of transport required you to stay on the truck for eight days. I was worried about that but the transporter was in touch with Helyn during the whole trip and the news about your heath was good. You arrived having lost some weight, tired, but in good shape and spirit considering the stress of the transport.
You arrived late at night and once you were drinking and eating well, I went to bed. Helyn stayed with you. At sunrise I brought her coffee and breakfast. Helyn described every single move that you made during the night. I knew how many times you popped, how many bums you dropped, along with their color and moisture level. I knew how many times you drank, how you place your lips in the water bucket. I knew about your hay eating technique, which is interesting. You created an almost perfect circle, spreading the hay with your nose and then you started eating the hay first in the middle of the circle and gradually around. You still do this today. Your vitamin program as well as hoof and other supplements were in the making.
Obviously you liked her babysitting as you greeted her with a discreet whinny as she returned to the barn after a short absence. This has been your greeting each day since; a gentle whinny that you blow through your nose. It is very discreet and very kind. Everyone that looks at you and watches your movement is seduced by your charisma but also taken aback by your power, high spirit and impressive violence. Living with you does bring a different perspective. Under your protective shell, there is sensitivity, intelligence, willingness, opinion but also kindness. Helyn saw this angle of your personality immediately.