BEauty, on the hoof

Recently, when I was starting across the meadow to the barn, I had the feeling that something was lacking. I looked around. Trees, sky, sun, shade, hills, mountains, all seemed as usual. Across a pasture two horses and the burro, Domingo, were grazing on the dry yellow grass of summer. I watched them awhile before I recognized the reason for my dim feeling that something could be better.

I was down to only two horses. Paco and Chulo are excellent animals, but suddenly they didn't seem to be enough. My imagination went into action so fast that I knew exactly the sort of horse I wanted. I didn't want one to be much over 14 hands high, because a small horse is handy to jump on in a hurry if need be. I didn't visualize color or build; I knew only that the one about which I was dreaming would be pretty enough to satisfy me.

Back in the house I picked up our local small-town newpaper and started reading the livestock-for-sales ads. My attention landed on a notice about a half thoroughbred for sale at what seemed a reasonable price. Around here these days any horse that can stand up and be riden is worth well over $500. I reached for the telephone.

IN less than two minutes I knew I'd found what I wanted. The mare was only 14-2 hands, of the right age; as well as being half thoroughbred, she was part Welsh pony, part hackney, lively to ride, sweet and gentle as to disposition. She wasn't far from here as a bird flies, just over the hill, by car about 45 minutes away. There was my problem. The little car I'd driven for years had acquired unrepairable ailments and until I could find a replacement I had no wheels. I'd been saving up to buy another small car, now it seemed wiser to buy a small mare.

I reached my neighbor, Tom, by phone. He was eager. "I'll be over first thing after work and we'll go take a look."

We found the mare grazing on a backyard lawn. She wore a halter and lead rope. The end of the rope was in the hands of a two-year-old girl who dropped the rope, got under the mare, and tried climbing a foreleg to get on top. She was lifted up and the mare went on eating.

The mare was black and seemed to have that extra sweet fragrance I've noticed about some black horses. her big shining eyes made me want her at once.

while the child protested, Tom and I took turns riding her, and we liked her way of moving. She had been named Misty, a name usually given to gray horses, but she had been foaled on a misty morning, her owner explained. The owner could scarcely bear to sell Misty, and she had to be sure that her horse went to a good home. Because of the two-year-old child and another on the way there would be no time for riding, and Misty needed larger living quarters and someone to give her the affection to which she was accustomed.

Tom and I felt like the meanest of horse thieves when we returned with a horse trailer. But the mare loaded as if trailer riding was her favorite sport. And the small girl was pacified with promises that she could come see Misty often and ride her.

I hoped that Misty wouldn't be homesick at first, as are some horses in a strange place. And she wasn't. She had acres of pasture to explore and plenty of room for running, and started enjoying herself at once. She whinnied to Paco and Chulo, whom she saw across a fence, and they answered cheerfully. My big pet pig, Little Brother, terrified her until she made his acquaintance, and then she liked him. When I rode her she was entranced by every rabbit, ground squirrel, deer and coyote we saw. Traveling in wide open country became high adventure for her, and following me around at chore time, as if to make sure that I did everything correctly, was entertainment.

I'm not concerned about my next need, a car. I feel that it will happen to me when the time comes, and that its moving wheels will be beautiful in another way.

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