Years ago I participated in an annual historical ride near Thermopolis Wyoming. I had my mare, Belle, who was about five years old at the time.
Each night we camped at a different location along the trail, fed and watered our horses, set up our tents and had dinner. At several spots we had entertainment which included a dance, demonstrations and even historians making presentations on the local history.
One Native American fellow caught my attention. Tall, gaunt and with a long ponytail. He rode his paint horse bareback. He wasn’t using a bridle or halter, simply a length of soft rope with a small loop at one end. I wouldn’t swear by it, but I’m not sure in the two days he was with us that he ever got off of that horse. Curiosity got the best of me and I wandered over and had a chat with this fellow. He told me that he has had the horse since a foal, and the horse was now 18 years old. Life with a horse.
There are many whose riding is more like a poetic dance – it’s impressive to watch. But this fellow had something going on that was much more than just ‘partnership in motion’. The dance didn’t stop when the ride was over. It was as if he and the horse shared a mental connection – not only while riding – but all the time. When this fellow took a nap, he would stretch out on the horse and sleep. The horse slept then too.
As I watched them, I got to thinking about where the future would take my mare and me. She was young and I’d only owned her for a few months. She can be a complete cow to other horses and to other people, but my relationship with her is special. There is something there that is more than just trust. I know what she’s thinking and what she is going to do before she does it, and I’ll put money down that she has me figured out just as well, and probably even better. I have put many miles on that horse in the mountains now. We’ve traveled, camped, and explored together. Our relationship is very comfortable.
In 2010, Belle had the better part of the summer off to spend with her foal. I rode my other horses, in particular my paint horse, who was new to me then. I enjoy all the time I spend with him – working, playing or sleeping. However with him I have to focus on the little things. I have to be sharper and be aware on a different level. With Belle I don’t. When I weaned the foal, I took Belle for a solo ride in the mountains. I swear she had a smile on her face the whole time. I sure did. I didn’t have to do any work and she just enjoyed herself.
Some horses come, some horse go, but some horses stay. So what does the future hold? How long will my equine friends live? How long will my relationship last with them? Who knows?Those same thoughts ran though my mind when I first gazed upon my little foal.? As I knelt down and stroked the golden mane of this newborn horse, I wondered what the future would bring for us.? Where will we be in ten years? Twenty?
Life with a horse.
So I got to thinking about the age of a horse.? The Department of Agriculture states that the average age of a horse is 28+/-5 years. There are many factors of course: breed, health, etc. The Guinness Book of World Records cites the oldest reliably recorded horse as 62 years old. That is extreme, no argument there.? But if you even search on the internet for what owners feel is an old horse, you’ll find many horses in the mid 30’s and in good health.
I can’t find the reference, but a couple years ago I read an article about a female endurance rider in her seventies that had won a competition with her horse, which I believe was 35. Just imagine the kind of relationship you can have with a horse after 35 years.
Several months later I stood with my colt and I thought, If this horse lives to be 35…….Well I don’t need to give away my age but let’s say I will be in my seventies as well.
Nearly half of my lifespan partnered with a horse.
Life with a horse.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.