Six days ago, one of my barn friends invited the entire Kenlyn group to participate in a horse photo Facebook challenge. My initial thought was, "Why?" As a group, we already post a lot of horse pictures on Facebook. Challenging any of us to post seven photos in seven days seemed sort of pointless.
Boy, was I wrong! Instead of posting cell phone pictures of current mounts, everyone has dug deep into their old photo albums and shared pictures and stories from their equestrian pasts. I have really enjoyed reading these and have learned so much about the people with whom I ride. It's been wonderful!
For my own challenge, I decided to post photos of the most important horses in my life. Longtime readers will recognize most of the names: Love N Stuff, Cinnamon, Snickers and Rev.
There is, however, one horse on my list who's never once been mentioned on this blog. I don't know why that is. In some ways, he was the most important of them all. His name was Chico, and this is his story.
I spent the summer of 1990 working as a wrangler at Lake Mancos Ranch in Mancos, Colorado.
The owner of the ranch, Lloyd, was decidedly old fashioned in his ideas about women and horses. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, he was convinced that men were better and more capable riders. From the moment I stepped foot on the ranch, I was assigned one quiet horse after another.
This was particularly obvious the day the wrangler staff was sent out to ride and learn both the half day ride and the all day rides. All the boys were given prancy, snorty, fun horses and I got stuck with Chico.
Chico was a small, sleepy looking, bay gelding with a short neck, a big head and floppy ears. He looked like a plodder, and I was not the least bit excited about the prospect of spending an entire day on his back.
Fortunately, looks can be deceiving. Chico turned out to be a surprisingly bright, willing and sensitive mount. He had no trouble keeping pace with the bigger, hotter horses, and by the end of that eight hour ride, Chico and I had fallen deeply, passionately in love with one another.
I'm not kidding about that. I have never felt such a strong and immediate connection with a horse. It was like we'd known each other our entire lives. We moved together, we thought together, we were one. It was magic.
I would have happily ridden Chico and only Chico for the rest of the summer, but sadly, he was too good a guest horse to be assigned to a wrangler. He spent most of his time packing kids up and down the mountain.
In this capacity, he was safe, reliable and utterly unremarkable.
Sometimes when I hadn't ridden him for a while, I'd look at his big head and floppy ears and wonder if I was maybe I was kidding myself about our magical connection.
Then I'd ride him again, and all my doubts would disappear. What we had was real and unlike anything I've had before or since. I hope to find that again someday. If I do, I will move heaven and earth to make that horse my own... short neck, big head and floppy ears and all!