(Left: Ink and I in 2007.)
Back in the late spring of 2010, Reason came into my life. When I pulled down the drive-way, peering through Matt’s truck windshield, the rain drops disguising the very tall black figure up ahead, I was already decided that I was taking this horse home. It was on curtails of losing my big bay gelding Ink, who stole my heart and began my love affair with the Thoroughbred, less than a month before. I was unsure of what my ‘life with horses’ had in store for me. It seemed that the life I had known so clearly before was no longer recognizable. I was lost without Ink. For the last four years I spent my days, weeks and months focused on Ink’s care and training and then it was gone, feeling almost as quickly as it began. He was so much to me, a true ambassador for the Thoroughbreds to come in my life and he left a painful gap. I couldn’t have had a better teacher than Ink and that I am always thankful for.
When I was able to get close to Reason, then an unnamed, unknown, dark bay gelding who seemed to tower over us, his head high up in the air, I was taken by the same presence that had me so in awe when I saw Ink for the first time at Thoroughbred Friends. He saw me, but he didn’t. The tall, sleek, horse was grateful that I was there, looking on as I should have but he had no real interest in me. I wasn’t offended that he didn’t care for this human standing there; I almost sensed it was a rite of passage in a way. He was too grand, too cocky, to care for his handlers, and I knew this well. I liked this horse.
Ink was so proud and came strutting out from his paddock the first time I saw him on one very hot summer’s day. Tall and strong, he was kind to let me handle him, but had little care for me. When the handsome bay came home, he almost seemed disappointed. Disappointed he was no longer at the race track and running anymore, no longer the king of the shed-row it seemed. It was evident during those first few months, when he sulked around appearing a little embarrassed and depressed of where he ended up. – A boring barn, taken from a job he clearly loved. Ultimately it was my older Arabian mare who took Ink under her wing and helped him kindly move into his new life at a slower pace. He became her “man” and helped him return to the confident, proud horse that I knew was inside of him. Ink had a job again.
What Ink Spot did for me was more than I can write about at one sitting, but one thing that keeps repeating itself is how he helped me learn, to listen in. Just listening to what the horses need and what they want and tirelessly pursuing that. Ink needed someone to believe in him and bring that winner back, even if it meant never returning to the race track. I had to listen and I had to pull myself up to the challenge in order to make this difference and to bring the real Ink back.
Ink in all his big bodied, 16.2hh stature, threw his body around quite a bit and challenged my abilities as a handler. Often times I felt like I lacked enough knowledge or strength to truly do something positive for this horse, but he kept telling me in his own ways what I was doing wrong and what I was doing right – “keep at it kid, ” he always seemed to say. So I did. And when things were right, they were very right. He would lower his head to my feet, let me rest my head on his and let me stand there and hug him despite his macho steel exterior and his obvious disgust (but truly utter love, of affection that he tried to hide.) I helped him and he helped me. In the end I was able to stand under the golden shadow of one incredible horse that was more honest than anyone or anything I had ever known. He’d read anyone within eye-shot distance so well, that by the time you got to him, he’d have you completely figured out, whether you liked it or not. He’d know exactly who you were, what baggage you carried and what you thought of him. Some people didn’t like that much… I loved it.
Reason, in his unique way, has tested me quite a bit. Where Ink was a dependent horse under saddle, which graciously and happily would carry a rider, Reason was the opposite. Reason was a baby who not only had a streak of naughty in him at times, rather cheeky, but also was seeking love and wanted it despite his antics. He sought for attention, sometimes in the wrong ways. He would follow me around, but I’d have to watch my back. He was the kind of horse that would play with you like you were another colt and always seemed mischievous. I’d be lying if I didn’t wonder at times if he would ever give me all his brain all the time. He showed signs of great sense, but then great levity and wonder. He took a lot of work in different ways and creativity. The big baby horse always went to quite a degree of intensity in his reactions to things, where as other things he treated like he’d done and seen a million times. It was an unpredictable path for a while. I asked for help on multiple occasions to figure out what was going on and still wonder why certain things happened despite my real effort to question myself and dissect every aspect of him.
Despite some set-backs, Reason is now right where he needs to be. Living happy, comfortable and with the same mare that helped Ink transition back in 2006. Errika of course, has given Reason confidence he appeared to have lost or possibly always lacked. Not sure which. Now he moves around, no longer a bumbling colt ill-equipped to grasp the world around him, but growing into a mature gelding with the confidence and respect we all wish to see in our horses. He’s turning into a solid citizen I feel I could send out into the big world and not worry about. I couldn’t be happier for him and am thankful always to be learning, to have had the opportunity to own him and to be under his continuous tutelage.
During October and November we attended our second Dressage clinic (one of many more I hope), second play day simply for the purpose of schooling, and have gone on a handful of fun trail rides that Reason enjoys very much. Come January we will be back to arena work accompanied with the exploratory freedom of the trails, and then we will proceed to begin jump training (yippee!).
Inevitably, we may end up in the Dressage, jumper or 3 day ring because Reason just may have the talent to do one or all of those independently at some point. Who knows for sure yet, but it will be up to him to decide.