Feb 14 2011
I was about to turn 27. I had grown up riding my entire life, but I had never had a horse of my own. I was in college. In fact, I had just been accepted into the competitive nursing program at Chico State University. The news of the acceptance was both exciting and terrifying. It was a time in my life when I was making many adjustments and changes. The previous Christmas had been a difficult one and I was currently suffering from anxiety. I never would have thought I could afford a horse. I wasn’t even looking for a horse. I just wanted to ride.
I had gone an entire month without riding. I stopped taking lessons at a hunter jumper barn when the mare I had been riding was about to foal. A couple leases later that didn’t work out left me without a horse to ride. That’s when I emailed Jen. I had been holding on to her email address for over a month after a friend told me Jen needed help exercising her horses. I received a reply to my email within 20 minutes, something I was not expecting.
When I first met Jen and her horses, I was taken aback. She had two small mares, each one about 15 hands. Their manes were long, their coats had grown out for the winter, and their hooves were barefoot. I was used to 17 hand warmbloods, with sleek coats and managed manes and tails, living in tailored stalls with shoes on their hooves that made that distinct clip-clop sound in the aisle of the barn.
I don’t remember riding one of her mares the first day I went out to Jen’s. I remember driving home feeling apprehensive, wondering if this was going to be another horse situation that just didn’t work out.
However, I began studying Parelli Natural Horsemanship at Jen’s request (luckily, I had some Parelli videos and books my mother had given me as Christmas gifts). I returned to Jen’s to ride and for the first time, I rode out on the trail, bareback and bitless. I could not believe I had been riding for more than twenty years and I had never ridden bareback. I had always had a bit.
At first I preferred to ride Zephyr. She was the horse who had more training, who was more trustworthy, who didn’t have bad habits. But every time I went out to the paddock to catch Zephyr, she put her ears back and walked away from me. Asali, however, would come up to me in the paddock, as if she wanted to go out. As if she wanted to be with me.
It was not long before I fell in love with Asali. Sure, she was difficult to handle sometimes. She would head toss. She ran away with me once. She could be herd bound and barn sour. But somehow, we were just stuck with each other and we worked it out.
I began riding Asali several times a week and after a couple months, I asked Jen if she would ever consider selling Asali. I knew at the time that I was not in a position to afford a horse, but I thought it was safe to ask because I knew Asali wasn’t for sale.
I can’t tell you exactly what happened, but on March 19, 2009, I gave Jen a $40 deposit for Asali. This was towards a purchase price of $500, a fraction of what Jen had paid for Asali as a four-year-old, five years previous. And since I had nowhere to keep a horse, Asali stayed at Jen’s. I paid for all of Asali’s expenses, plus I gave Jen $50 a month for board, a steal of a deal. When Jen signed the agreement of sale, I remember her saying, “Every horse deserves to have someone love her.”
Asali is the first horse I have ever bonded with – maybe because she is the first horse I have ever spent enough time with to get to know. Or maybe it is just simply because I have found a new way to ride. I have recognized that Asali has her own language, and when I listen, it takes me on a path of self discovery.