The moment when you knew that you had to be your horse's owner? I know I'm not alone in this, because I've read about it on other blogs too. It's a special moment of sharp mental clarity, almost like an electrical impulse, when you know with every fiber of your being that it's what you have to do. For a second there, all the practical concerns (Are we suited for each other? Can this horse do the job I want him to do? Do I have a place to keep him? Can I afford this?) are silenced. There is just you and this horse, the rest of the planet falls away, and you know that you belong together, and you'll figure the rest out from there. (From what I understand, this happens occasionally between humans as well, but I wouldn't really know about that one. It appears to happen to Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks with surprising frequency.)
It could be a special way they look at us, as though they've chosen us, or that we see something particularly special in them that calls out to us, or maybe it's just our own need to replicate some feeling they've just sparked in us over and over into the future. I remember exactly the moment it happened for me with Tucker, like it was yesterday.
We were in Connecticut, a few weeks after we came back from Florida for the winter, and it was still chilly in the morning. It had been decided that Tucker, now that he was weaned, needed to be sold (yearlings really have no place in a show barn, and he was taking up time and energy, and a stall, that could be much better served elsewhere, from a business perspective). I had been working with Tucker quite a bit on the ground and he was becoming more and more well behaved -- though the reports were that he wasn't exactly easy to catch while I was away over the winter. Since we were going to need to make a video or something to get this gangly thing sold, the trainer and I decided Tucker was first on our to do list for the day, and we were going to free jump him in the indoor over a little cross rail and see what he thought of that.
So, we turn him loose in the indoor, and he bucks and plays for about 30 seconds and then turns around and trots toward me, stops and bumps me in the stomach with his big old head. I laugh, send him back out to the rail, and we repeat the play/trot/head bump routine. He then stood in the corner, watching curiously as we built a little jump chute, absent-mindedly chewing on a roll top. Once we were all set, we got him going at a trot on the rail and the first time through he sort of tripped over everything (just ground poles to start), then stopped at the other end and turned to look at me for help. I led him back down to the other end, we got his trot going again and this time he was slightly less disorganized and managed not to actually step on any of the poles. Again, he stopped at the end of the ring and turned to face me, and I led him down again. This time, we made the last ground pole a cross-rail, no bigger than 2 feet. I got him going toward the chute at the trot, and then his ears went forward, he picked up his canter, rocked back, swung his shoulder and jumped it like it was 4 feet tall, his knees tucked up under his chin. Then he landed and bronced and shook his head all the way around the end of the ring, clearly just delighted with himself.
I stood there with my hands shoved deep into my pockets, a smile creeping over my face behind my scarf. I turned to the trainer and said, "I want him." I've never been more definite about anything in my life. I remember she turned slowly to look at me and said, "Really?" and I told her yes, and told her to talk to his owner and figure out what it would take, told her how much I had saved and what I could afford. I ended up working my last four weeks there for free to make up the last payment. I can't even remember how I came up with the extra cash to ship him down to New Jersey.
Best decision I've ever made.