My love for horses started with the pony rides at the county fair, and later in Lexington, having my friend Susie Farmer share her passion with them as she taught me to draw horses. She also had horses at her dad’s house in London, Kentucky.
It was a wonderful experience to travel with her from Lexington to her dad’s and stay the weekend. Being around horses to me was like breathing oxygen. To take in their beauty, their smell, and the excitement I felt when standing next to them – it was just in my blood.
It wasn’t until I was ten that I rode horseback with friends. As a teenager, I got to ride my sister’s horse and no matter what she says, I believe it was not broken. It took off with me and I had no control and fell off. I was made to get back on, and the same thing happened, but I still wanted one day, to have a horse of my own.
That day happened after I married Jason and moved back to Kentucky.
There is just something about Kentucky and horse fever (though, it was when I was living in Tennessee that I met the horse of my dreams – Smokey). A Tennessee Walking Horse, who saved my life.
He was a friend of mine’s horse, and at the time she was busy with her son’s athletics and couldn’t give Smokey the time she wanted him to have, so she told me I could go to the ranch where he was boarded and I could ‘make him my horse’ by riding him, loving him and grooming him anytime I wanted. That year, I was going through something painful and I spent all my time out at Hidden Hills to see Smokey. He knew. He saw my tears and he knew my heart like no one else.
Smokey was a huge part of my healing during that time. He helped me gain back my courage, and I moved to New York and began my writing career. When I came back to Tennessee, my friend Sherry was spending more time with Smokey. She used to say that she may give him to me one day because her health wasn’t very good.
Little did I know until later, that she was not teasing. But after I married Jason and moved to Kentucky, I really didn’t believe I would ever see Smokey again. So, Jason and I began looking for me a horse of my own. We talked of getting a colt and raising him. Now, horses were in my blood and I had ridden with friends many times, but had never had a horse all my own. Smokey was as close as I had gotten, so I was still pretty green.
I later learned that ‘green on green’ was not a good idea – a horse who needed training paired with someone who still had a lot to learn. I found a website hosting beautiful, splashy horses that were Tennessee Walkers! Could I find another Smokey? I saw this beautiful, Tobiano (paint color) colt with two blue eyes. He was Legendary!
I had to go see him! Jason admitted he was beautiful (and I think he hoped to find a little filly for himself). When we went to see him, it was as if that little colt and a sooty buckskin filly picked us as their new mom and dad. They followed us everywhere. Jason tried to look at a palomino filly after seeing the buckskin, but that little buckskin would not let him leave her sight. So we became parents… of Legend and Suede.
There were comical moments, and sweet moments and lots of book reading! But no matter how many books I read, I still had a lot to experience. A colt was much different than a full grown horse. Legend had a playful attitude and was as curious as little boys are! We played hide and seek by the big oak tree. I didn’t realize what I was doing with this colt who was smaller than me.
He grew up.
He passed me in height quickly and by the time he was a year old… he began challenging me as if I were another horse. He thought I was his playmate!
I hoped he somehow would ‘unlearn’ that. I did my best to train him, using poles for groundwork, and plastic bags to bomb-proof him, and he did great! He would trailer up well, he would let me harness him, he did ‘eh’ okay when I led him around with the rope, but I still had to watch my feet so he would not get sloppy in his step.
He did well with the farrier, and our equine vet when she gelded him, and he seemed like the perfect little guy. But he wouldn’t be ready to ride for quite a while. Sherry and I still texted and messaged each other keeping in touch, and she would still tell me she may give Smokey to me. And it was still in my heart to have Smokey. No matter how perfect Legend seemed, he still wasn’t Smokey. Smokey had my heart, my tears, and my special moments of achievement. He taught me so much. It was such a special bond.
It would take some years after training and bonding with Legend before he could be that way. Since we bought him and Suede together, needless to say they were ‘buddy sour’ and it was with difficulty that I was able to do anything as they whinnied for each other or got the other riled up.
And, I lost my confidence.
When Sherry’s husband texted me and asked if I still wanted Smokey, he said I should call her – that things weren’t looking too good for her. While I was saddened to hear of her failing health, I definitely wanted Smokey. We made arrangements to go get him and bring him to his forever home in Kentucky.
He loved it! He rolled several times when he was put out in the pasture. And he remembered me. That bond was still there. But now, both our needs had changed. I was whole again and was a completely different person than I was 11 years ago, and he was older and slowing down. He needed to retire and to just be loved and pampered. I would save his life now by keeping him as long as he lives.
Sherry passed away a few months after she came to visit Smokey. I was so glad that I insisted she try to ride him one last time even though she didn’t feel good. While she was on his back she didn’t look sick at all. She needed that. When I was asked if I would be willing to spread her ashes in the pasture, I of course obliged. I later met Sherry’s daughter Laycica, who came to visit Smokey a few years ago and we now have a special bond. We both lost our mothers within months of each other that year. Smokey made Kentucky his home.
When our babies turned five, we met Rachel Oakley, who would be our trainer. She was still in college, but had the know-how, the courage and the finesse I was lacking. Where I thought I had to be commanding to get Legend to respect me, I watched this tiny gal use simple gestures and a soft voice while training Legend and Suede. It also helped my confidence being around them.
After a couple of season’s training, they were broke, but still could use more experience. We would continue after winter.
Winter was hard. We had a lot of rain – a lot of rain. The pastures would be soaked and with freezing temps, it meant the horses came in the barn – which meant a lot of hard work mucking stalls. Day after day. Week after week. It was hard for one woman over 50 to take care of. I failed to mention for length purposes, that Jason and I had eventually acquired eight horses on our ranch, but each winter I would be overwhelmed with ranch work and caring for so many horses. It was hard to give them proper attention they each needed, so I sold and donated our horses as the need arose, except for Smokey, Legend and Suede.
But even three horses tipped the scale of burden a bit much for me. I really just needed two horses. I loved them all though! Of course I will never part with Smokey, and Suede was Jason’s horse, so my thoughts were to sell Legend. He was the one that I had most trouble with when he would not use manners. But this was before Rachel trained him. He was a completely different horse after that. And he is so loving!
But it was still hard trying to get one of the babies out of the pasture without the other trying to follow. I knew I needed to give one up. I had Legend on the market on Facebook, but then would take my posts down. I really didn’t want to sell him and anyone who inquired about him just didn’t give me a good vibe. But after this last winter, I found a place to post for people looking for splashy horses. The first woman to inquire was named Tanya and I felt such a good vibe with her, I took the post down. I decided either Legend would go with her or I wouldn’t sell him.
Tanya came to the ranch and as soon as we met, I felt like we were friends. She had a personality I liked and Legend seemed to like her too. Tanya was recently widowed and wanted to get back into horses. I knew without her saying anything, where she was in her emotional needs. She needed a “Smokey” and for her it would be Legend. She loved paint horses and she fell in love with Legend right away. Tanya was looking for an older, more laid back horse though, but she seemed to really be falling for Legend.
She made up her mind to have him, and she and I became good friends. Her plan was to send him on for more training – a horse boot camp, and then to have Rachel follow up training at her place until she and Legend were both comfortable.
Legend got through his boot camp, and Tanya invited me to come visit him at his new home. I loved where he was and saw how wonderful he was with her. I made a good decision. A decision out of love. I was glad that Legend would be Tanya’s special horse, and the older he gets, the better he will get. I am glad she has him.
Legend will always be special to me and I am glad that Tanya and I are friends. It is sweet to get to see him grow and become everything I know he is. He is a legendary horse. Legendary Blue.