By the time my horse arrived I had sort of gravitated toward a few names. I figured that his true name would come to me once I spent some time with him and that he probably had an opinion on what that name should be. Just remembering him from our initial meeting, some of the more mystical names did not seem to fit him.
I felt he had an "earthiness" about him, like he was tied to the land in some way. Like he was rough cut lumber almost. Good and solid yet not polished around the edges.
My top choices became Takoda, Crichton, Keller, Briscoe and Sketch. All have meanings except Sketch, which was just fun and I thought sounded cool.
When he arrived I still could not put my finger on a name so I just told everyone he didn't have one yet. LOL. One way to confuse a bunch of horse women is to tell them your horse has no name. They all go into "name the baby" mode so our first night was spent with loads of suggestions but very few that fit. At various times I referred to him by each of the names just to see how it rolled off my tongue and whether he responded to one more than the other. That night he was mostly responding to all the treats he was getting though so I still could not wrap my head around which name it should be.
The next day it was sunny and a bit warm and I was able to walk him around outside a bit. I hitched him a post and groomed him and the sun brightened up his mane and you could fully see that he isn't only grey, but has a bit of blonde mixed in, almost a palomino color. It isn't solid anywhere, just the some of his hairs are varying shades of grey and some blonde. He has it mixed in his tail and a little in his mane as well.
"You look like a wild little mustang" I said to him. And it isn't only the coloring but the fact that right now he is filthy, making him even more reminiscent of a member of a little roaming bachelor band out west somewhere.
Takoda... It clicked in my head. Yes, his name was Takoda. And from that moment on it seemed like the only name that fit.
So, the universe finally thawed enough for my horse to arrive at his new home this past Thursday evening. It was close to dark when the trailer finally pulled in. All the other horses were in for the night, the resident geese were hissing and being the overall horribly nasty creatures that they are, basically blocking our path to the barn. He pretty much ignored their outbursts (thankfully) and we got him snug in his stall with a basket full of hay and all was well.
He spent the next couple of days away from the herd, the first one in his stall just getting used to the place. I took him out and we walked around the farm. He seemed really interested in the pigs. LOL. The next day he was both in his stall and out in a little paddock where he could see everyone but wasn't with him. Today was his "big day" and he got to go out with the other geldings.
Everyone else went out first and then we brought him on a lead into the field. Most of them had already made their way to the hay bales so he was able to walk in without much fuss. He trotted off to the right, stopping to graze just beyond the little rocky outpost that separates the bottom of the field from the hill. A bay gelding caught sight of him and went trotting over (gulp). You just never know how horses are going to react to each other...
The bay sniffed him and my horse tried to play it cool. He didn't turn tail and run or threaten he just sort of meandered further up the hill. The bay followed and they started to graze together.
After grazing together for a few minutes, some other horses started to make their way over. Some more quickly than others and (gulp again) I braced myself for the inevitable you are new here so know your place nip, kick, pushiness....
But the bay was not about to let his new friend get that kind of welcome! LOL. He laid back ears, chased each of them away and kept putting himself between the mini herd and my horse. It was something to watch.
He stayed with Koda (more on the name in a bit) all day, basically shadowing him and keeping him safe. Several people saw this, including one of my new barn mates who had stopped to visit family this afternoon and can see the field from their house.
I found out a bit of back story later. Apparently this bay (his name is Justice) was best friends with an old grey gelding who died last year. Maybe something in Koda's coloring reminded him of his friend? Whatever the reason, Justice got some carrots from me today too!
So, I am STILL waiting for my horse. No one's fault but old frakin' man Winter. Storm after storm has rolled through in the past couple of weeks and it just hasn't been safe to travel overall, plus both ends of his trip involve secondary, country roads without a great deal of snow removal service.
In the meantime, he is safe and I am still not having to do winter mucking. LOL.
His stall is now plush. I'm thinking about a stall toy, even though he won't be in there for extended periods of time. Sam got me a bunch of horse stuff for Valentine's Day. And in the true spirit of us both deeming the holiday a day for amateurs I got him a coffee pot for his studio. LOL we are practical people!
I'm thinking this week may be the lucky week. It is supposed to actually NOT snow for three days in a row!
OMG THE "SHORT" LIST for a horse name: And I'm still looking! Sooner or later this horse is going to need a name plate for his stall so I gotta make a decision LOL.
Keller – old German. Also Irish, Gaelic meaning dear friend.
Takoda - Sioux meaning "friend to everyone". Also Dakota and could use Koda for short.
MITHRA Persian Mythology Possibly derived from an Indo-Iranian root *mitra meaning "oath, alliance, friend". In Persian mythology he was a god of light and friendship.
BALIOS – Greek meaning “dappled” also one of the two immortal horses that drew Achilles chariot during the Trojan war.
Arion - the name of the magic horse born to Poseidon and Demete
Mithrin – Sindarin Elvish word for 'Grey'.
Nebari – sci fi geek Farscape reference.
Chiana – is a girl’s name but Chiana is Nebari and I like the name.
Aquilo – Roman, North wind
Tynan – Gealic meaning dusty/dark
Briscoe – Old Norse - a place name meaning "birch wood"
Catori – Hopi meaning "spirit" - also sometimes a girl name but I like it
Sketch – as in sketching, which is usually done in pencil (grey)
In starting my final list preparations for this horse decision I had some clear ideas about what I wanted and what I didn't want.
I don't have ribbons in my future nor do I want them. My horse does not need to be perfect. He or she only needs to be the right horse for me and me the right person in turn. I want a friend and a long term companion. I am of the age where this horse and I could very possibly grow old together depending on its age now. I want to love it, teach it, learn from it, be with it, laugh over it, care for it, shower it with affection, give it comfort and security. I want a trail buddy and a barn pal, someone who nickers when he or she hears my footsteps enter the barn (Patch used to do that as did my Dark Prince - the show horse I used to lease). I want to live with this horse. And far into the future, I plan to bury it. So, when the barn owner where I board graciously offered (because it was taking me so long to find a horse) to sell me a "fixer upper" little mare I could train and sell "just to have something to get me through" I, of course, declined. I'm just not at that point in my life anymore.
Trail and field riding are at the top of my list. Fun and cowboy games are up there as well. Things like making capes out of tarps, stomping on swim noodles, building "bridges" and steps to go up and over. These things encourage trust and give horses things to conquer and master. I think they make them feel good about themselves. Now, at this moment I am arena sour to the ultimate degree. I have spent the last several years in an arena, helping train a horse, working on my own riding, and it taught me a lot. But, I am tired of riding around in circles! With that said, I know I am not done with the arena for good because it can be a good way to get a short ride in and horse and rider benefit from the environment that it creates - one where your concentration is inside the ring and you are working on specific things.
I liken parts of riding to different types of personal training. I would never want to run exclusively. Or only lift weights. I'd eventually go mad out of repetition. It is the same with riding. You need to mix things up a bit to keep it fun.
Lastly, I need a horse who is kind. Nothing too hot and nothing really stubborn. I am in this purely for pleasure and enjoyment. I want the horse to enjoy it too. I am not expecting life with my horse to be without hiccups but I do not need or want constant battles of will.
That all said, the big Paint was out. We knew this when we left that very day. He was very mellow in a sense of being non-spooky but his cooperation meter was on low. He was also a bit herd-bound, not wanting at all to leave the other horses to even go a couple hundred feet through the field. I do not want to mount my horse wondering what the battle of the day will be.
The smaller Paint may have been a possibility but I just could not get a moment to myself with him amongst the chaos of that barn. And I was worried about how to back him off of the more intense cues he had been trained with. We did it with Max and although it took some time, it can be done. I just don't think I feel like doing it again. I think it was at this point that I realized I don't think I want another Paint. This is fine. People have preferences on horses all the time and I guess mine has changed.
The mare was kind but she was...a mare. LOL. I think I would have to know a mare for a long time before I could say - OK, she isn't one of those mares.... The owner was odd. He had not had her very long but it seemed he should have had more of an opinion even so. He was very hard to talk to - like pulling information from a mildly uncooperative person. Believe it or not this does matter. An owner can give a vibe that extends to the horse, or by not having/providing information the owner can make the visit seem only partial. I left the house feeling like there was no way I would truly know that mare by meeting her with that owner.
There were several other horses that I met that were not right for me and I not for them. Basically in the end it came down to two horses that I felt drawn to.
The first was Keifer, the Tennessee Walking horse that made me feel like a princess on his back. He had a wounded heart and when we went into his stall and Meredith started to tell his story my girlfriend and I looked at each other and in unison whispered the name of our Dark Prince. We were both taken with him. He was reserved at first but came out of his shell the more time we spent with him. Meredith was attached to him too and said he was one horse she would go beyond the grace period she allows to customers and say that if anything were to ever happen to hinder the ability of the future owner to keep him, she expected a call. He was special, she said. Something about him had called to her and so there he was and would stay until she found the right person. Keifer was 13 or 14, so older than I had originally planned. He was also very well trained in his former life and as Meredith put it - if you point him at something and put your leg on him, he is going. Meaning, watch your legs cause he is very responsive LOL.
The second was Jacob, the grey Quarter Horse. He was also kind and patient, had a good attitude in the field with the other horses and while riding was willing to leave his buddy, go over mud, slush and snow in the little field we walked through. He was also seven. A nice age that gives a horse some maturity but still room to explore new things so long as he or she is fairly well rounded, which Jake seemed to be.
These two were both lovely horses. I will admit that my little girl heart was immediately fiercely drawn to Keifer. My girlfriend said it best - I am a nurturer by nature with animals and he seemed to be drawn to that in me as well. Jake had caught my eye on-line. Something in his expression said "friend" to me and when I met him in person that expression was still present. He seemed good natured.
The selling price of both horses was almost the same so that was not an issue that even needed factored in.
I did walk through my two top choices with my girlfriend because I had questions for her regarding the fact that Keifer was so well trained and the future of arena work when I become UN-sick of it. I also had legitimate concerns (as opposed to my just being a worrier) as a first time horse owner. Adding a whole new repertoire of movements to everything else I will be learning might be more than I can successfully handle. Also, in terms of our nurturing instincts and wanting to "save" Keifer I commented that in reality, he has already been saved. Our conversation with Meredith made it pretty clear that he had a place in her heart and barn and that it was her mission to do well by him.
I reviewed my ride with Jacob and explained the differences in instruction, what I felt good about, what I wondered about. My girlfriend has a great feel for horses (and people) and the ability to get a sense of where a horse is through a detailed description of behavior and feelings. She agreed he seemed like a horse that was waiting to be provided with direction, but not a horse that constantly wanted to give his own opinion. We felt that I would have to remind myself that through leadership, friendship and love will grow. When I say "leadership" I don't mean bossing around, I mean assuring him what I'm asking of him is not only OK but also the appropriate thing. Horses are a little like kids in that way - they may not act like it if you aren't giving it to them consistently but they crave structure and discipline. You don't have to be a mean old harpy to provide those things either. You just have to be clear, kind and consistent. It seemed as if he was in a great place to learn and I am in a good place to grow.
I slept on it, because that is something I always try to do, and the following day still felt that Jacob would be the horse that fit me best and that I would also fit him and be able to give him what he needs at this point in his life and beyond.
I must have met upwards of 20 horses during my search. I did not ride them all but I definitely got my share of saddle time whilst meandering through my list of questions to humans present and accountable.
Upon returning home from my final appointment I was a bit melancholy and emotional. I had decisions to make and needed to ask some difficult questions of myself. I would love to tell everyone that choosing a horse is easy because you will just know, and granted sometimes that may be true. With Apache, he chose me eventually, not immediately. At first I was just another lesson to him I'm sure. The fact that I was completely enamored with his big blue eyes, ghostly coloring and his awesome name meant little to him in those first months of our life together. It was only through time and tenderness that he decided I was his person.
I tend to be a very logical person only because deep down I am a very emotional person. I have learned the hard way that my emotions cannot always be trusted and it is logic that swirls in my deepest realms. For me, a "gut" feeling is normally accompanied by the voice of Mr. Spock and then followed by a thousand little questions as I navigate from "I have this feeling" to the reason I have this feeling is logical and this is why...
I'm explaining all of this I guess because this whole search exhausted the hell out of me physically and emotionally and on one hand it sounds silly. I mean, I made some phone calls and spent a few days traveling and riding horses. LOL. But, there is SO much more to it than that. There is buyer's fear first off as you wonder where you are going really, what kind of people you will encounter, whether the horses you are looking at have been drugged (yes, this happens), whether the people you are meeting are not giving you the whole story or outright lying, whether you hear dueling banjos in the background as you make your way down a hollow LOL...
Plus I have already touched on the stress of a first time horse buyer (me) and feeling a bit like a fish out of water without my GF to turn to for additional questions, backup, opinion. Again, I know lots of people as first time buyers who do their research, put on their big girl pants and just go get a horse. People would be surprised to know, however, what a worrier I am. How many things I fear. I'm afraid all the time. I'm afraid of failing, afraid of failing someone (or something) else, afraid of doing the wrong thing, afraid of ruining an animal's life, afraid of missing something (like the horse I pick only has three legs or something - yes I had that dream one night during this search and woke up in a panic), afraid of being taken advantage of, afraid of....do you get my drift?
I hide it very well but there are times when I wonder how in the hell I cope. LOL. So what I'm saying is this wasn't only a BIG DEAL adventure to me it was more than a wee bit stressful.
There was quiet weeping. Very odd for a happy decision I know but thinking about all the horses I had known before, about the last decade of my life with them, about loss and how it transforms us. Then there was a mild panic attack. It happened in the laundry room while folding clothes. My throat got tight, I felt trapped, my skin was crawling and then there I was pacing back and forth with excess energy and unsettledness. What am I doing? What if I fuck up? What if the horse hates me? What if I forget to close the stall door and it walks out of the barn, up the road and onto the highway and.... Oh yeah, I can REALLY get some hefty worst case scenario type stuff when I'm worked up!
It took all of this processing for me to actually get to the point where I could think about individual horses. And upon dealing with myself, that is what I started to do.
I met a load of horses and donkeys on this day! Really nice farm and beautiful country. They specialize in trail horses, do lessons and have a small breeding program. We were able to talk about my wants/needs and then actually walk amongst the horses in the field, meet them and get a feel for how they acted with each other.
I had originally contacted this farm about Jacob (pictured), having seen him on-line. In the field I thought he was somewhere in the middle of the pecking order, smart enough to stay well away from the Alpha mare, nudging in to eat without making a ruckus, waiting patiently to drink and with only a couple chewy marks on his neck. Horses bite each other for various reasons, even if they have plenty of food and water and space. Sometimes it is during play, others it is sort of a "hey, move over would ya" nip, sometimes more serious... Jacob looked healthy and sound and we brought him into the arena to clean feet, tack up and ride.
His feet were solid and his legs seemed strong. He had no shoes. Score. I may have shoes put on my horse depending on the roughness of the trails at my new barn but I'd like to wait and see first if they are really needed.
We rode first inside the arena and then went outdoors, took to the country lane beside the farm and then up into a field across from the barn. I won't say it was my best ride. LOL. No fault of the horse and nothing to do with how he acted. Just a reminder to me that I am a novice rider and have a great deal to learn about actually owning a horse and being on my own with him or her. All horses "ride" differently. It takes a bit of time to get used to what each of them feels, prefers, etc. The communication usually isn't immediately crystal clear, especially to we novice horse people. These last few days of visits were particularly stressful as well because my girlfriend couldn't go due to her work schedule. I depend on her opinion and expertise quite a bit, but know that I am going to have to start trusting myself at some point.
Now, the thing that a novice can generally tell about a horse is what its overall attitude is about. The big Paint from day one for instance - knew immediately this was a horse you would have that little battle of wills going on with consistently. The TWH - absolutely apparent that horse knew what he was doing, what to do and that he wouldn't hesitate to work because that was what he did. Very well trained horse. The little Paint, gonna have to work on other ways to encourage him besides overuse of artificial aides. So, you get my drift. Novice horse riders like me can get a general feeling about a horse.
I really enjoyed this visit and related to this barn's approach to horses. Jacob has never eaten grain. He eats grass and hay. Dan, the farm owner, said "grain messes up their brains and their bellies" and I laughed out loud having never heard it put that way before. I don't like grain because I have been around horses that colic often and lots of times grain can be a contributing factor in that. Grain is just not a natural horse food.
Jake also doesn't wear a blanket. Blankets are a major argumentative issue with horse people. I'm not against blanketing but I think issues can occur, especially in our area where temperatures can change drastically between morning and mid-day. This ARTICLE has lots of good information on blanketing.
So, Mr. Jacob is a pretty natural horse in a pretty natural horse environment!
On day three I met a really nice mare! Some people believe that "nice mare" is an oxymoron and I tend to be one of them. LOL. But, this mare was sweet. She had kind eyes and I loved her four socks! The person I saw about her had not had her very long but she had done several trail rides with him and he was told that she was seasoned at Western and halter classes with her prior owner's kids. We weren't able to ride extensively due to the footing. As you can see the ground, trust that it was a mix of snow, ice and mud. I took her up the driveway, through the yard, circling and bending. She was good about everything and careful with the footing.
She was with a few other horses and was somewhere in the middle of the pecking order. She had one old scar on her chest area that could have been a puncture of some sort or maybe an incision to remove a lump? I couldn't really tell - the guy said he had no knowledge of it.
In Loving Memory
...of the first horse to hold my heart