Meet the Horses
“Pirate had not been born with but one eye. It was put out when he was very young. He had not gone nameless, either. But of all the names which had been proffered (and there had been several) none would suit.
Like the west wind, with which he consorted, he cantered easily, just out-of-reach, with a warm, glad chuckle. The names just dried up and fell by his dust.
The Muslims make a big deal out of names. They speak of “mutilation” of the family name. I always thought that was a pretty strong term to apply to the topic of names. Perhaps there is more strength to a name than I know.”
Those are the beginning lines from my autobiographical novel, “A Consort to Zephyrus”. Pirate has inspired me in more ways than I know. His registered name is actually “Handsome Pirate”. (Having a one-eyed horse, I just had to name him Pirate, you know?)
Pirate is the last of my Curlies. I hadn’t intended to foxhunt him, thinking that having only the one eye might prove a handicap in jumping fences. Nevertheless, Pirate, out of all the horses in the herd, is the one who repeatedly jumps out of the pasture. Apparently it isn’t as much of a handicap as I imagine.
I had a lot of difficulty training him to canter under saddle. I surmised this could be because of his gaited blood (his sire was a foxtrotter Curly). Gaited horses aren’t really supposed to canter – they are just supposed to stay in their gait, and gait, faster and faster. However, Pirate doesn’t gait, he trots.
Or, I thought it could be because I started him under saddle when I was still so crooked from the paralysis, myself. Maybe he feared I would fall off? Or maybe it was only that he was lazy. As soon as I regained enough motor control to where I felt it was fair to wear spurs again (which took a full ten years), the cantering under saddle happened almost of its own accord.
I have a young friend who is encouraging me now to compete with him in the Extreme Cowboy Challenge Races. They are sort of like the “working equitation” class over in Europe - like a trail class “on steroids”. There are all these extremely challenging trail obstacles, and they are supposed to be done at speed – fastest time (and fewest faults) wins.
And some of the obstacles are extreme! For instance, it is not enough just to have a water box obstacle, the water box has a sheet of pegboard floating in it, so that when the horse steps in, little fountains of water spray up towards him all throughout the box as his hoof depresses the floating board. It is not enough to have a bridge obstacle to walk over, the bridge obstacle is only 12” wide. The first time I put Pirate at one of those, he turned sideways and offered to sidepass down it, instead. “I know what I am supposed to do with this kind of obstacle!” he was clearly thinking.
We’ll keep you posted.