Saying Good Bye to Jakes

The problem with raising horses is that you cannot keep them all.
Normally we try to sell our babies when they are ready to be weaned from their mother, at about 7 to 8 months old. You don’t get as much money for them, but then again – you don’t really put a lot of work into them either.
And, you don’t get attached.
Jakes was different. Is different.
He was our first boy from The Golden Stallion – a chunky, beautiful baby colt. He wasn’t as trusting as his older brother in the beginning and actually gave us hell in the beginning. But, he changed. We started working with him in the time that I was still a waitress so I had quite a lot of time to put into him.
I worked with him, I saw his potential and I liked him. At that stage of course, I knew that we would sell him so I managed to keep my distance emotionally. But, time passed and it began clear that people weren’t really interested. I started hatching a plan, an idea.
I’d keep Jakes for myself. I’d only be able to ride him properly in four years, roughly in the time that I would have to start thinking of retiring Basjan.
The timing was perfect and it felt like fate because we couldn’t find an owner for him.
But then one crawled out of the woodwork and my riding companion (and the actual owner of the horse) insisted that we sell him.
I argued. And pleaded. And begged but it was to be as she had her heart set on selling him. And, it was a good sale. The truth is that I’m quite proud of Jakes. Perhaps because of all the time that we had put into him, he had become an amazing horse. We have a quiet way of working with our animals. We insist on obedience naturally. But, we never shout, never hit. Never pull on them or do anything hard.
I like to think of the ones that we rear as pure. The one that we trained last year was so tame that we literally just put a saddle on him and started riding him (with work naturally). He never protested. Never reared or bucked or showed any signs of fear.
He was unspoiled, just as Jakes is.
They came to load him today and bitterness of it is that we didn’t even have trouble boxing him. He trusted us so much that he did this without protest, even though he had never done it before. He trusted us, and we let him go and that hurts.
His new owner is great. And, she has a lot of time and a lot of money to invest into him. More than we do.
But, it still hurts, because in my heart I had already seen him as mine.

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Being Basjan – Part 3

And quite suddenly, a year had passed.

Exactly a year.

365 days ago, I had left my home early in the morning to go and collect my horse. The scruffy horse who had cowered away in a corner whenever anybody tried to get near him. The horse who would not let me catch him and used to run away from me for hours. The horse whose coat was dry and his skin flaky. The horse whose feet were in a mess.

The horse, who became mine and changed my life.

A lot has changed in the past year. It had been an interesting time for me, adjusting from a life abroad where I worked as a professional in my profession to a life here, in this country with all its politics, where I worked as a waitress for twelve months. It had had its ups and its incredible downs but one thing had remained in place, had settled me and anchored my soul.

Basjan.

My horse had changed as much as my life has in the past few weeks. Gone was the frightened animal that I had gone to collect from his previous owner and in its place was a steady horse, with a quick grasp on matters, a strange sense of humour and a gentleness that was so fragile, yet so precious. He wasn’t scared of me anymore, didn’t shy away when I went to him. When I got Basjan, he was tired and thin, with a series of bad habits I thought I would never get out of him. I made my mistakes and he made his and at some point, when I had shattered his comfort zone by accident, I found myself wondering if I had made the right decision to buy him, whether I was doing more harm than good.

But, we learned together and I believe that we triumphed at the end.

Basjan was now an energetic, stocky horse who was incredibly quick on his feet and absolutely loved running. I had discovered that both he and I liked using voice commands a lot more than we did the physical aids of hands and heels. I trained him to stand on command (and stand he will until I ‘unstood’ him). It had proved invaluable when I had to go and catch him in the field, where one (or sometimes two) clear ‘stand’ commands would get him to patiently wait for me to mount. I could ride him without a saddle and a bridle, guiding him with my voice and touch alone.

He had learned that I won’t hurt him and in turn I had learned that his fear would always be something to consider. Whatever had been done to him in the past would never leave him and that sometimes, we will have bad days but that they were no reflection of his trust in me, only of his trust in people. And I had learned that I could trust him, that he would never do something intentionally to hurt me.

He wasn’t the horse which I had seen myself buying, but he was the horse that I needed. When my Other Half met him, it was remarked that I couldn’t have found a horse that was more like me if I had put out an add. As it turned out, Basjan and I were very much alike, our moods, our emotions, our perception of other people and I think that in the end, that was what had made me willing to work with him and able to for that matter. I treated him as I wanted to be treated. I respected him as I wanted to be respected.

You see, when I was younger, I mused that horse riding was build on three corners. Trust, Love and Respect. I’ve seen a lot of things in the 15 years that I have been riding and I have realized that very few people realize that, that you cannot be a good horsewoman or man if you didn’t respect the animals that you worked with. In turn then, they wouldn’t trust you and if they could not trust you, they could not love you and, that – that defeated the whole object of the exercise.

I have never seen myself as a horse’s master, but his equal and his other part. These strong beasts allow us to ride them, to work with them and they put their trust in us to ride them in places where they won’t be in danger. In turn they ask a tiny bit of our soul, which is why for those who truly understand what I’m talking of, it is so hard to be apart from them, why you’ll always find a bit of yourself yearning to be where they are.

Basjan holds my soul. Not all of it of course, but a tiny part, a precious part which I cannot live without and in a strange way, he’s not mine – but I am his.