Dexter is a horse trainer, a bachelor, and Jamal's favorite client. Their regular Tuesday sessions have been going on for years and things are great, so when Dexter has to go out of town to show his friend's Gypsy Vanner, he invites Jamal along for the weekend as his boyfriend.
This is a re-release.
The mare fought me for her head from the first step we took together. She was green and hardly touched, the product of a family who wanted to breed their mare to a champion, to produce a champion, of their own, with no real idea of the consequences of their actions. I was used to their types. More money than sense as they decided to bring a new life into the world with no real thought to the training a thousand-pound animal would need when she'd been loved on but otherwise largely ignored for the first four years of her life.
And now Aspire was at the age where her owners wanted to start competing with her. She certainly had the conformation for it. As a well-bred Arabian, she was dainty and light, with a fine head and long, graceful strides. But her attitude left a lot to be desired, and some things could not be worked out with even months of training.
Like most Arabians in the world and all the ones I had ever met, Aspire was hot-tempered and quick to react. A firm hand would be needed to train her. A mean one would have broken her in the half the time, but I didn't want to break her spirit. I was only interested in taming her down to make her a pleasure to be around and ride, instead of the skittish brat she was being currently.
I settled my hands across her shoulders and kept the reins firm between my fingers. She pulled on my hands and fought the bit, and I hadn't even asked her to do anything yet. I gave her some slight pressure of my heels against her sides and she jerked forward like a jackrabbit, sending up a cloud of dust around us from the arena that no one had thought to spray down in the middle of the summer.
"Easy girl, easy," I told her. She didn't settle down fully under me. Instead, she tossed her head and flattered her ears back at me. My guess was that she was just as upset about this situation as I was. I had the sinking suspicion that this was going to be long few months of training her if this first ride was anything to go on. At least she hadn't tried to buck me off yet. I was sure that was going to change, though. It seemed like every untrained horse that I worked with tried to throw me off at least once before we were done. Most never succeeded, but I had scars and the reminders of the many nastily broken bones from the ones who had when it became exceptionally cold outside, which, in Montana, happened fairly frequently in the winter.
Aspire eventually did settle down enough for me to get her to pay attention to me, and not her own aggravation. And after a while, I managed to get her to walk in a straight line halfway around the arena. Wanting to end my first session on her on a positive note, I pulled her to a gentle stop before she could do something to ruin the session and the progress we'd made. This early in training, a setback could take weeks to correct.
When I was done putting her back into her stall in the immaculate barn she only shared with one other horse, I gave her a sugar cube. Then it was onto my next session with yet another client. At least this horse was one that I knew and absolutely adored. I'd produced his dam, and her colt was absolutely stunning.
Manhattan's Shining Destiny, Manny for when he wasn't trying to impress anyone, was a stunning Gypsy Vanner colt that had a nearly perfect ratio of black to white in his coat and even though he was only two years old, his shoulders were already the same height as mine. I saw him in the pasture, his long mane and tail braided to keep his long hair from getting tangled, and his legs wrapped from his ankles to just below his knees to keep the feathering he was getting there nice as well. He'd be going to his first qualifying show in two weeks, the one that would judge him as a two-year-old and put him on the path to being one of the top stallions in America in a few years.
Unlike Aspire, there was nothing dainty about a Gypsy Vanner. They were built for work and carried the elegance of a working draft horse with them. I parked my Jeep in front of the arena and a few minutes later I was slipping his royal blue halter over his face. It was his barn halter. The one I'd be showing him in on the first was a fine black leather that was well oiled and complemented his head with its simpleness, really letting his big eyes and graceful features stand out. I pulled a few bits of hay from between his lips and gave him a scratch on his forehead. And, unlike with Aspire, Manny's owner had been working with him since the day he was born. I had no doubt that when Ty let me start training Manny to carry a rider that he'd be a delight, just as his mom had been for me. Firefly Kiss in Spring was the best horse I'd ever owned, though she hadn't been worked in years. Now, at twenty, Firefly enjoyed retirement in the acre that was my backyard, and I got to work with the last foal she would ever produce.