Here is "Red Warrior," my official "first horse." I love this horse more than any other horse I have ever had or known... with a few close seconds, of course.
He was the offspring of my brother Eli's first horse, Cookie, that he purchased in October 1986 when he was in 4-H. I was only 6 years old, but I was in love. June 14 of the following year she had Red. Cookie passed away in 2001 after a long and terrible fight against crippling arthritis. Though she was healthy in every other way, she was in so much pain she simply lost her will to live. My heart was broken over the experience of having her put down, and to this day, the memories and photos of her bring tears to my eyes as all those feelings come back. After all this time, I still cannot bring myself to watch videos of her, and my sister hid them away for another time.
Red was an "obnoxious" foal, but laid back, easy going, and bursting with personality. He was a show-off, and loved it when he has an audience to watch his antics. He is extremely photogenic, and seems to know what a camera is, and it seems as if he poses, and holds perfectly still for shots. Red is a sneaky horse, playful, and calculated. He plays tricks on you if your back is turned, like grabbing a bucket of brushes or the vet's caddy of vaccination shots and coggin's test blood sample tubes and dumping them out, then running off as if he did nothing wrong. Or, playing with our farrier's apron or jeans pocket when his hooves are being done.
Red was sold as a youngster to a family friend, but we bought him back after a few short years, and though he had been sold, he never left the farm we leased.
He became mine when I was 12, and I had a time with him for a few years as he misbehaved and liked to buck me off. Eventually I conquered his wild heart and we became best buds. I trail rode him all over the place as a teenager. I was taking lessons and showing on Thoroughbreds, but always liked hitting the trails with my Big Red.
We have been through so much together, it is unbelievable. I know that seems very teen-novel like, but it is true. Most traumatic experiences in my life were experienced along with my Big Red Buddy.
When I was 15, I decided I wanted to train Red for pulling a cart. I saved up and bought a lovely harness, and began working him in it; teaching him ground driving, etc.
One day, my parents found and bought me a small two wheeled breaking cart. The man delivered it in his truck, and admired Red a lot. He suggested that we go ahead and hitch Red up and try out the cart. I agreed. I made two huge mistakes that day, besides trusting a stranger who didn't know how much training my horse had: It was the first time Red had worn the driving bridle with blinders, and it was the first time her had had breeching used on him. (Breeching goes around the horse's hindquarters and is like "brakes" for the cart. )
We went along for a few minutes, then I asked Red to turn and he freaked out and bolted. My sister who was with me in the cart jumped out and screamed as she fell; I thought I had just killed my sister and blacked out still sitting in the cart. When I came to, I was lying on the ground in the woods with my Dad's terrified face hovering over me asking if I was ok. No, I wasn't ok - I had been thrown into a large tree and had a concussion, broken ribs, and couldn't see straight. My sister was fine, but shaken up quite a bit.
Red was terrified, and had almost been impaled on the shaft of the cart when it broke off the body of the cart. I recovered in a few weeks, but Red took months of training to overcome his fears. With the help of our farrier who also is a very wise horse trainer, Red was soon back to normal. He has never been hooked to a cart again, and I have never driven a cart again.
Years passed and Red became a school horse and a show horse in my lesson program, winning many classes and just being adorable.
Then, in 2004, one nasty, bleak, March afternoon, I was helping the farm owner (we were boarding at their farm and I was running a lesson and training program) feed the herd of 16 horses their hay ration for the evening. I was standing next to the 100 gallon water tank, which was positioned next to a gate adjoining two fields as the horses filed through. As Red came through, I reached over to slap his rump affectionately, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up in the ER with my mother. My wonderful, gentle, friendly Red had kicked me in the mouth, sent me flying backwards and onto the back of my head. My face was a smashed, bloody mess, my teeth broken, I was completely out of it mentally, and they had no idea what extent of head injury I had. An ambulance and two hospitals later, after MRIs and CAT scans, reconstructive surgery, and lots of drugs, the verdict was that I had a nasty concussion, four broken front teeth, and lacerations inside and outside my mouth. It took me a few days to fully absorb what had happened and to regain full mental ability. It was a miracle that I lived and came through it with only the injuries that I had. It took many long weeks of eating through a straw and a infant spoon, but my face is normal, with just a few scars, and my teeth miraculously healed and the x-rays I got later showed they were suddenly not broken - except for one, which I will have to get a root canal on, eventually.
Red must have thought I was another horse, or something - he never kicked before, and has not kicked since. It was a very strange incident that changed my life in some ways; and I like to think that God used the horse I loved to set me back on the right track. People asked me after - "Are you going to keep him?" "Are you afraid of him?" Of COURSE I kept him; and NO I am not in the least afraid of the horse now.
Right now, Red is living away from me for the first time ever. But he is getting use and being lavished with attention at a friend's farm where he is being used for lessons.
Red will return to me when his time at our friend's farm is complete, and will live out his retirement in a lush green pasture close at hand where we will no doubt have many more wonderful experiences together.