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My Trail Horse 

By Julie Dushenski Yost 

I fell in love with horses in the 4th grade.  As any horse-crazy little girl, I asked for a horse every Christmas.  As I grew older, I realized the dream of owning a horse may be just that, a dream.  For many, many years I rode a friend’s horses, all the while dreaming of the day I would have my very own.  Like many of us do, I dreamed of my ideal horse.  Would it be my favorite color - a deep, dark velvety bay?  What about a classic type? A Morgan?  Maybe a loudly colored Appaloosa? 

 

Fast forward many years - I am married to a wonderful man, but still, feel like something is missing.  A horse.  I started talking to a friend of my brother-in-law that had horses and had one for sale.  He bought a little paint gelding for his son several years earlier.  His son took an interest in jumping, and while the little gelding could do the jumps, his son was growing and needed a bigger horse.   

 

I talked to this man off-and-on for that entire winter about that little gelding, asking every question I could think of.  Finally, in May 2013 my best friend and I went to look at the little gelding.  While it was not love at first sight, I was in love within an hour. 

The son tacked up the little blue-eyed, bald-faced sorrel paint gelding, and then rode him around to show me how he rode.  Even with a little rough handling, that little gelding was calm and quiet.  Then it was my turn.  The son tacked up his new horse, and the two of us took a short ride around the property.  That little horse did not take a wrong step.  Then my friend rode him to give me a more experienced opinion.  She came back and told me that I better buy that little gelding because he was awesome.  That is the day I agreed to purchase The Indian Outlaw, affectionately known as Benny.  I had just turned 49 and considered Benny my early 50th birthday present to myself.  

 

This little 14.1 hand gelding has been the absolute BEST first horse for me.  He is safe and sound with just enough sass to teach me things.  And he has taught me so much.  He has taught me the subtleties of communicating.  He has taught me how to care for his needs when we camp (I board so do not get to do the day-to-day cares).  He stands quietly while I try to mount from odd places: rocks, logs, the side of the trail.  He gives me “the look” any time I do something goofy.  He has made me laugh.  He has taught me to breathe and be in the moment. 

Our relationship has grown over the years, and so has the trust.  I can ride him in the pitch black at night and know he will keep us both safe.  I can drop the reins on the trail, knowing he will respond to my leg signals.  He has stood between me and his lot mates at the barn as they have pushed each other around the hay bale.  He let me cry in his scraggly mane after helping my almost 14-year-old dog cross to the Rainbow Bridge.  He loves little children and walks ever so carefully with his little charges. He is gentle and kind and loves all humans. 

 

In July 2016, my sweet Benny helped me fulfill my dream of riding my horse in the mountains.  We spent two weeks riding through the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming.  My little gelding was an awesome little mountain trail horse, he never took a bad step.  He did let me know his opinion of the first trail we were on by turning his head and giving me the serious stink eye though! 

 

My Benny will be 24 at the end of April.  He has arthritis in a knee and both hocks.  His days of carrying me through the mountains are over.  I do what I can to keep him as comfortable as possible.  The only regret I have from the past 8 years is not finding him sooner to go down the trails together longer.   

As we move into the stage of life where the riding is easier for him, I still relish my time with him.  There is something about grooming and fussing over him that makes everything right in the world for me.  His bald face and blue eyes need extra care, but I gladly fuss over them. Those beautiful Spirit Eyes no longer make my eyes water when I gaze into them, and I cannot imagine him with any other color eyes.  

 

He will tell me when he wants his blanket or fly mask and makes it obvious when he does not.  He loves a soupy hay cube mash and takes great delight in sharing it with me by touching me in as many places as possible with his mash mustache.  He loves to nuzzle my hair.  He waits for a hug before he walks away after returning to his lot.  He fills my heart with love and pride, knowing that he has forgiven me all my errors and missteps over the years.  I truly cannot express in words how much I love this little paint horse. 

 

With God’s blessings, he will be with me until it is his time to cross the Rainbow Bridge.  I owe him that much. 

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