It was July, 2001. I had gone to Summerlane Farm's annual foal tour and was enjoying the foals and other horses on the property. As I was touring the barn, something I had done many times before, I stopped short at the stall on the end. Wow! That's all I could say. Inside was a stunning black Arabian. The only way to describe him was as a fire breathing dragon. Every vein in his neck stood out. His neck was arched in the way that only Arabians can do. His nostrils were wide, wide open. His black ears were pricked intently forward and his eyes were round and focused. He looked right at me. Not just at me, but into me. It was an eerie exchange. He looked nervous, but confidently ready for battle at the same time. He was a jaw dropper for sure.
Summerlane Farm's owner breeds some of her own horses and takes others in for training. I knew this had to be one of the training horses as I knew he wasn't one of her own horses. I quietly asked around and found out that he had been in training, but the owner had fallen ill some time ago and abandoned him with Summerlane Farm. A new home was being sought for him. The farm owner heard that I was looking at him and offered to show him to me that afternoon. I knew I couldn't afford him, and I certainly wasn't looking for a second horse, but the owner seemed eager to turn him out and the rest of the guests wanted to see him as well.
Everyone was asked to clear a large path away from the stall since he was very claustrophobic and was going to bolt through the stall once it opened. He did, but the farm owner safely kept hold of the lead and managed to get him into the large round pen safely. To call him halter broke would have been very generous.
A large group of people, maybe 20 strong, had gathered around the perimeter of the round pen, myself included. The farm owner turned the gelding loose and sent him around. I leaned against the fence and rested my forearms on the top rail with my chin in my hands. He was stunning. He started his turnout like all horses will. He bucked and farted and tossed his head and shook his mane. He galloped a few laps around the round pen and then stopped right in front of me.
The farm owner sent him on with a wave of the lead rope, but again, he stopped short, right in front of me. The crowd of people laughed while the farm owner sent him on with another wave of the lead. And again, the horse galloped around, but returned to stand right in front of me. This time he reached forward very delicately and puffed into my face. He looked me right in the eye and stood rock solid in front of me. At this point, the crowd knew that something very odd was happening.
Each time I tell this story, I get looks of skepticism with eyebrows cocked in disbelief. I swear that every word is the truth. Several friends were with me and even they find this story hard to believe, but they will tell you it is true.
The farm owner tried to send the horse around, but he was absolutely fixated on me. He never looked at anyone else. Not knowing what else to do, I climbed through the fence and stood in the middle of the round pen. I tried to send him away, but that horse just pinned himself to my shoulder and followed me. I've been around horses my whole life and had owned a half a dozen by this time, but I had never experienced a connection like this. I was secretly thrilled at the connection and equally frightened by it.
As the crowd began to disperse, I checked the horse over and asked the farm owner to tell me about him. I learned that the owner had cancer and had recently signed over the horse's registration papers to the farm owner as payment for owed board and training. His name was Mickey Dee. He was six years old and had just been gelded the month before. He was unbroke and wouldn't tolerate being touched anywhere below his back or chest. His feet had been trimmed while he was being gelded as it was impossible to touch his feet. He was sired by Desperado V, son of the legendary Huckleberry Bey. Many, many of today's Arabians have roots that go back to the Varian Arabians. Desperado V is still producing and is a sire of great repute. To have one of his get was a real honor.
As I looked the gelding over, I liked what I saw. His conformation was nearly perfect. His back was short and strong and he had a hind end that went on for days. He carried himself in a lovely uphill frame and looked incredibly solid. He was wild though, and as a recently gelded six-year old, he had developed stallion-like behaviors that would be with him always. I told the farm owner that I was interested in him and would call back later in the week.
I thought long and hard about that phone call. I talked it over with my husband. We both agreed that this was a dangerous project. Could I handle this horse? I hoped so, but I wasn't sure. I just knew that this horse had literally chosen me as his owner. He had looked into my heart and decided that I would do. How could I walk away? I called Summerlane Farm but hoped that the farm owner had changed her mind and couldn't fit me into her schedule. Nope. She was looking forward to my call and set up a time for me to come back out.
I did go see him, and we talked at length about how un-broke he really was. She shared what she had done with him in the time he'd been at her barn. He had arrived with a halter and lead hanging from his head as the owner couldn't get it on and off. She had worked with him enough that the halter could be put on and taken off. He could be led, but going in and out of the stall was still a struggle. He couldn't be tied as he pulled back, hard. This horse needed everything. In some ways he was worse than a mustang off the range since he had developed some serious fear issues.
Hubby insisted that Mickey Dee's registration papers list his name as owner. He wanted to be able to sell him if the horse hurt me and knew that once my name was on those papers, it would never happen. Summerlane Farm's owner gifted the horse to me with the understanding that he would not end up in an auction yard if he couldn't be broke. As long time acquaintances, she trusted me to do right by him. I brought the horse trailer over and after some coaxing, she was able to get him loaded. The unloading would be up to us. The drive home was a bit nerve-wracking as he wasn't accustomed to being in the trailer. It took three of us to unload him.
To be Continued ...