Today my mare Laredo turns eleven. She was a three-year-old when I first saw her, untrained, brassy and bold. I said "Oh, I don't know...I don't really need another horse. My horse just has a little spook to him."
Indeed he did. Three days later I crash landed in reality: yet another fall from the seemingly endless string of frightened geldings I'd owned/trained/worked/exercised throughout my life. OK, I'll admit it. I welcomed them as challenges, that combination of twitchy and reluctant. Sometimes I bought them though I always claimed I wanted a tough mare instead. The snotty mare appeal goes back to Flicka, the unfinished dream-horse I was yanked away from at thirteen by the bone disease osteomyelitis.
My personal mounts from 1984 to 2004 were geldings, with the MO of spook & spin & dash. All spirited enough to run and jump; neurotic enough to satisfy my need to Ride the Hard Ones. Try as I had, I couldn't always instill the confidence they needed. And hell, suddenly I was forty-two, still trying to prove something. For some reason, falling off wasn't as much fun as it used to be.
I made up my mind airborne, mid-fall--Hell yeah buy that filly with the attitude!--but I had plenty of time afterward to be sure. I sat with my back against the sapling I'd hit and nursed my useless leg and my sore right shoulder. I was lucky the folks working at the greenhouses next door figured out my echoey voice bouncing off the trees was an emergency, not just a woman shouting for a lost dog.
The ambulance crew took me out on a backboard. At the hospital they thought I had a broken pelvis, but it turned out to be a dislocated hip. I requested general anesthesia when they put it back. Thirty-six hours after my wreck I walked out of the hospital on one crutch: I was nursing a separated shoulder and cracked vertebra. Still limping on the crutch, I got a horsey friend to drive me to see the red filly with the white oak leaves on her hips. Friendly. A little pushy. Sweet. Brave. Not big enough for the woman's husband, whose mount she was supposed to be. Ready to start. They'd had her since she was a baby.
She was a rescue case.Like the kid I'd been, except I wasn't rescued. I could start her right. She'd be the horse I rode into the question-mark of my future. Would my leg give out? Would I keep my limb? The decision was on the horizon.
At the end of the rope, the filly sighed. Licked and chewed, reluctantly. Tough. But willing.
I bought her. Damn straight. I started her right. I'd learned: don't skimp. The horse doesn't get it until the horse says so. Maybe all the riding, training, falling, getting back on and persevering had taught me how to train this mare I named Laredo.
She was solid when I rode her in the local parade the next summer, mannerly for the farrier and vet, polite loading on a trailer. We dragged tarps and Little Tyke cars. She loves trails and chasing other animals; she hates riding in circles inside a ring.
But she wants to be with me. I'm the boss of this most bossy of mares. When my leg was amputated, I wasn't sure I'd ride much more. Wished I'd "finished" her (like I know what that really means). But Laredo is happy with me. We understand each other. She's due north on my internal compass. I need her. We've got this herd thing going. It's special. Happy birthday, lady. Love you, mare.