Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My Prince Has Come

Tuesday March 19 2008


Finally, he arrived, last night just before dark.

Those of you who guessed - no, he's not an Arabian or an endurance horse, or just a guy.

It's my beloved horse, MY horse Stormy, 16-year-old Tia's Desert Storm, Thoroughbred ex-racehorse, grandson of the great Mr Prospector. Not such a great racehorse himself, Stormy - an average-Joe working racehorse, though he more than earned his keep - but he IS The Most Beautiful Horse On The Planet.

I was his groom at Emerald Downs racetrack in Washington in 1996 and 1997. My housemate kept saying, "You're going to end up with this horse," and I kept saying, "Oh no I'm not," (didn't want a horse, couldn't afford a horse, had no place to keep a horse), and I ended up with this horse in 1999.

Stormy followed me to Bridgeport California in 1999 where I worked for the Forest Service in the summers. He eventually did some work with the FS pack horses, leading strings into the Sierra Nevadas a few times. He was great in those wicked thunderstorms we got there - whereas I was terrified as we rode through them, he never flinched. He was also involved in a rescue of one of our pack horses that flipped with his load 40 feet down a mountain. The next few summers he worked as a wrangler's horse on a dude ranch - when his navicular didn't lame him up. In the winters Stormy would move to Ridgecrest California where he hung out with me and endurance horses.

Stormy loves me, but our post-racetrack relationship is built on a shaky foundation of misunderstanding. When I got Stormy, I told him he was "retired." I meant "retired from racing." He thought I meant, "retired from everything but eating." His work with the Forest Service pack string, and as a wrangler's horse certainly was not his idea, though he did flirt with and blink his big brown eyes at the girl wranglers, and they fought over riding him. When I ride him now in his later years (navicular permitting), that's certainly not his idea either. He'd rather just look pretty (which he does well) and eat (which he does very well).

Throughout the years, I've left Stormy for weeks, and months, at a time. I've had a few horses get upset and give me the cold shoulder after I have left them and returned, but not Stormy. Every time I return, he gives me a special nicker because he's happy to see me. It probably helps that I always come bearing gifts (treats), but he really does love me anyway.

When I started working for endurance.net last March, and travelled more than ever and became more homeless than ever, I left Stormy in Ridgecrest, with Woody - one of his former retired pack horse buddies, in Shirley's care. I saw him for half an hour in September - 6 months ago - and not at all 6 months before that. He knew my voice the second he heard it, and he nickered his special hi to me. Somehow, he always knows I'll be back.

When he got off the van here last night, it was as if he was expecting me at the end of this epic trip. I was here waiting for him, just as he knew I would be. I put him in a pen with Mac, and had to go out and see him every half hour. He interrupts his eating (his first grass blades in 2 years!) to walk up to me for hugs, and he stands there accepting his kisses (then goes back to eating).

It's still hard for me to believe I have a horse in the first place after all these years, and now it's really hard to believe I can once again look out my window and see him!

And it will be back to our business as usual: in a week, I'll be leaving him again for a month...

But he'll forgive me again as usual.

Stormy photo gallery

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