The King and I

Up until I was 35, I was afraid of horses. I had only bad experiences on horses that were too much for me to handle.

Story originally posted by Staff

My oldest daughter, from the age of 2 could think of nothing but horses. And they loved her. She has a special magic and from the first time she was put into a saddle, you could tell she was a natural.

By the time she was 5, it was clear we were going to have to get her into some lessons because she was always hanging round our neighbor’s pasture and I was afraid if we didn’t do something soon to learn about horse safety, she’d get hurt. Of course, the horses have always been extremely gentle with her.

She started lessons and when she’d been riding for about 6 months, her teacher asked if I’d like to go along on a trail ride with them. I told her how fearful I was but she said she had just the horse for me. She brought out a great big, husky chestnut quarter horse with a star. His name was King. She told me he was gentle and set me to grooming him.

When he was tacked up, we went off on a trail ride. He was a total gentleman the entire trip and other than when he slipped once going down hill, I never had a moment’s fear.

As time went by, I’d be in the barn and see King and always had a pat or treat for him. Soon I started going out to the field to look for him for a pat and a treat if he wasn’t in the barn. By the end of that first year, I was working at the farm mucking out stalls and tacking up horses for trail rides. King was always my special favorite and I always made sure when horses were being assigned, I got him.

Over the next year, he and I got closer and closer. My youngest daughter, pictured with King when she was 3, could hang out right under his legs w/o my worrying. The dogs would wrestle and whack into him and he’d just turn and look at them. Nothing ever spooked him in the least. He was patient and tolerant and affectionate.

Other people would say that he’d bite on the trail or misbehave. They said he was a nightmare to get into a trailer and that he hated a bath. They put a muzzle on him when he went out on trails. He’d get to a certain point in the trail and try to come back… this got worse if he knew I was in the barn… he’d rather hang out with me than take a customer out for a ride.

He was never anything but gentle and loving and sweet around me. I never saw him bother another horse that wasn’t getting in his space. He definitely did not like other horses getting close enough to bite or kick him but he never went out of his way to be nasty.

He’d do anything I asked of him. He loved a good neck rub and a bath was pure pleasure to him. I learned about horse massage just for him. He’d lift his feet for cleaning the moment I touched the leg. He’d walk on and off a trailer 20 times if I asked him to. He’d stand like a rock for any indignity I put him through. I adored him.

One of the highlights of my life was that after a time, he’d whicker to me whenever he saw me. He’d come to me in the field when I called him. He adored my children and would always put his head down and snuggle them. In the photo I sent along, you can see my 3 yr old bringing him in out of the field w/o halter or leadline. He’d follow her anywhere.

King was 26 when I met him. I learned everything I know about horses from King. I learned how to speak to them, how to pick their feet and clean their sheaths, to braid manes and tails and how wonderful a horse smells, how beautiful big green stains on all your shirts can be and what a pleasure and honor it is to have one special horse who loves you.

King never belonged to me. If he had, I’d have put him down much sooner than it actually happened. He was in so much pain it was breaking my heart. He had lower ring bone and very bad knees by the end. He was 30 when I finally did enough begging to have them do something for him. In the end, he went to a vet who was doing research on the sorts of problems King had. She had promised that if she could not significantly relieve his pain, she’d put him down. I don’t know how much longer he lived… I hope he did not suffer any further.

King was the center of my heart. He taught me so very much. I miss him desperately even now, 2 years later. I never rode him after that first time. I think he loved me because all I ever did was groom him, take care of him, feed him and love him. I never caused his poor feet and legs any pain.

His gentle and loving spirit is echoed in my present horse, Rambo, who is also a retired guy just 19 now with blown knees and navicular disease. He went down over a fence when he was 12. He’s been with me 4 years. He belongs completely to me and will never have to live in serious pain now that I’ve got him comfortable and moving well. He’s the reincarnation of Elvis and has more personality than any 2 horses should have. I adore him and he fills up most of that empty space left by my first horse love but there will always be a hole there, left by the King of my heart.

Deb Shaw
Maryland, USA