I remember the moment I first saw Shakespeare.
Tall, dark, and handsome, he was standing quietly amidst a flurry of activity whilst being readied for our meeting.
The first thing I noticed was how much he seemed to love the attention.
I liked him immediately, but guardedly.
Buying a horse just because it tugs at your heart strings is never a good idea. Think with your head; go with your gut, but leave the heart out of it. At least at the beginning of the purchase process. Horse shopping requires due diligence.
As this was my first horse shopping experience, I was doubly cautious about keeping an emotional distance.
By the time I’d met Shakespeare I’d already looked at three horses. All disappointing in one way or another. Misrepresented mostly. That wasn’t their fault, of course.
Finding Shakespeare happened out-of-the-blue.
A fellow member of my dressage club, whom I’d never met, overheard at the club’s AGM that I was in the market for a horse. She entered the conversation and kindly suggested that I not look at anything else until I’d checked out this “beautiful boy” she and her daughter had just seen while on their own expedition in search of a brood mare.
She excitedly went on to describe him — dark bay, four-year-old, German-bred Hanoverian gelding by Shakespeare in Love. She emphasized that he was one of the sweetest horses she’d ever met, and gave me the contact information for the farm.
Three days later, after setting up at appointment, I made the two-hour drive to see Shakespeare.
I was cautiously optimistic. He sounded so lovely and he was named after one of my favourite writers. I’m a writer. Surely that was a sign!
Neverthless, the caution button was switched on. I was still dealing with the notion of horse ownership — something never to be taken lightly — and wanted to make a good decision based on facts, not fantasy. A horse to call my own had been a dream for so long tucked away that the dust of doubt had layered on pretty thick.
Was I really ready for such a commitment? For my dream to come true?
And why now?
One day, not long after the death of the horse I’d been part-boarding and while I was struggling with what to do next Lloyd, my loving partner, broached the subject with this statement:
“Perhaps it’s time you had your own horse.”
I was sort of dumbstruck, at first. A horse to call my own? Was it possible that a dream I’d held since childhood could come true this far along the road (I was in my early 40s) of my life journey?
Six weeks later, I was standing next to that cute and chunky four-year-old, his big soft eyes and enormously expressive, floppy ears a sure sign that he was, overall, a happy horse. Did I dare to think this gorgeous creature might be “the one?”
I watched intently as he was put through his paces in the arena, warm breath streaming from his relaxed nostrils with every breath. His movement was sublime.
Worth noting is that he’d been trained by one of Canada’s top Grand Prix dressage riders. I thought of my own training and the fact that I was nowhere near Grand Prix level. Shakespeare was being sold as a good amateur prospect. Even so, would this talented horse prove too much for me? And, worst of all, deep down inside me a niggling voice taunted … “Are you even worthy?”
When it was my turn to climb into the saddle I did my best to push that negativity aside. I would never know until I tried Shakespeare on for size.
Walk … trot … canter — forward and laterally he felt so powerful, fluid, engaged. So solid. I’d never ridden a horse like him. It already felt like a fit, so much so I didn’t want to get off!
It was while Shakespeare was being put away that my then coach mentioned a slight hitch in his stride coming from his left hind leg. My gleeful, yet still guarded, heart sank just a little as we lingered outside Shakespeare’s stall. He hung his head over the half door, pulling faces and looking for attention, as if he was part of the conversation. So calm and engaging. Yes, so sweet.
I secretly hoped there was nothing wrong with that leg.
At home, our barn manager, an excellent horse man and my current coach, studied the video of my ride. Something was going on with that left hind leg but nothing, he thought, too serious. I was to make another appointment to see the horse in 10 days, after he’d been rested. Maybe whatever it was ( he could have pulled a muscle tripping in the icy paddock) would be cleared up by then.
Ten days later, we returned. Shakespeare had been rested so the first order of business — to check his movement and get rid of some of that extra energy … was some free jumping.
This was fun to watch. Shakespeare floated about that arena with unfettered joy, guided through a chute of three or four small jumps made gradually bigger by one of the trainers as the exercise progressed.
He was clearly enjoying himself and such a show-off! … And, he was obviously sound.
After watching him go under saddle again, it was my turn to pop on. The time passed too quickly. … Oh, he was lovely.
So, with the soundness issue cleared up, it was time for a big decision. Was I interested enough in this horse to go to the expense of a full veterinary examination?
What do you think?
The appointment was arranged for a week later. Since I was eager to see Shakespeare again and how he was under the stress of a close inspection, I went too.
For almost two hours he was poked and prodded, yet he couldn’t have cared less. No fuss. No muss. He actually seemed to enjoy the attention. Legs and feet x-rayed. Blood taken. Teeth checked. Eyes examined. Heart and breathing monitored. It was no big deal.
I could feel my heart beginning to open up, but I was still one “yay” or “nay” away from the “all clear.”
At home the wait was excruciating. I walked around numb inside for several days just waiting for the test results to come in.
It was while I was at the barn, one day, that the phone rang. I paid no attention until my then coach sought me out, threw her arms around me in a big hug and whispered in my ear:
For a moment my head swam in disbelief. Could it be true? Was that beautiful horse really to be mine?
It took 24 hours for the wonderful news to find its rightful place in my heart. After that, it was all systems go as we prepared to bring Shakespeare home on the luckiest day of the year … St. Patrick’s Day!
Our very first photo together, taken just before Bear was put on the trailer to come home. … What do you think? Do we look happy?
And here we are, seven years later, still learning, growing and having fun together.
As we mark St. Patrick’s Day, I’m reminded of the luck that brought Bear and I together — a chance conversation with someone I’d never met and have seen only a couple of times since.
Perhaps that’s what luck is … a simple opening of the heart and mind and the ability to welcome the manifestation of the longed-for dream no matter how unusual the timing or unexpected the circumstances.
When it’s meant to be, it will be.
Believe in your dreams, no matter how far away they seem, and keep your heart and mind open.
But first of all … have a dream.
Happy Anniversary, Bear!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Nurture what you love …
Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013