We’d given up on finding someone who was serious about buying Smoke. We were considering taking him to the auction (without letting June in on our plans), when we got a phone call from “Jack”. He’d seen our ads and was Smoke still available?
Jack was polite. He said please and thankyou and may I come out to look at him? Obviously he was our age, if not a little older.
He and his wife “Helen” were there the next day. They had an old but still in good shape stock trailer. Jack wore a cowboy hat that had seen a lot of rain and snow. His boots were old and broken in. His legs were bowed and his jeans worn in the crotch. His wife’s clothes were just a little less worn. Both were obviously horsemen.
They went over Smoke with a fine toothed comb. We told them about the foot, and Jack said, Yeah, I know. Appy’s have horrible feet if you don’t care for them right. You done right here, he’s got a good enough foot now.
They had several other Appaloosas. In fact, they preferred them. They rode in the backcountry. He had run cattle for years. She had been a cook at a drop camp in Alaska. Together, they were gentle, soft spoken, respectful people. I liked them immediately.
Jack wanted a big horse, as he was a tall man. He insisted on handling Smoke himself. He got aboard the unfamiliar Aussie saddle, but it wouldn’t have mattered if it had been Podhajsky’s dressage saddle…Jack could ride. Smoke was on his best behaviour. Jack’s hand was soft on the bit, and he rode with a back as straight as a rod. He melted into that horse’s back and it was like seeing a centaur. You had to look hard to see where man ended and horse began.
They liked him a lot, so much so that they wanted to take him home. But…..only conditionally.
They’d been burned the last time they’d purchased a horse. That one was calm and seemingly well trained. He allowed them to ride him without complaint. They took him home, and the next evening, tried saddling him. The horse exploded. He was so girthy they couldn’t touch his belly. The owner’s had been so desperate to be rid of him that they’d drugged him to his ears, believing that Jack and Helen wouldn’t try riding him so soon after getting him to their barn. They’d returned him immediately and counted themselves lucky for having found out so soon.
They apologized for not being as trusting this time. But that was okay. We understood. Smoke was clean. We’d never drugged him. He was as they saw him, altogether, with no cheating.
They left us with a cash deposit of 600 dollars, and wrote a check for 1000. They would take Smoke home, have their vet look at him, and see how he settled in. If he didn’t work out, they would bring him back in a week.
Smoke was wary, as usual, and whinnied as he boarded the trailer. As I wrote in an earlier post, it hurt me, but I was still glad to be rid of him.
A week went by. We heard nothing. Then Jack called and said, “Go ahead and cash the check…we’re keeping Smoke.”
About six months later, actually, at Christmas, we got a card from them. It had three pictures of Smoke, in with three other Appaloosas. He looked like a different horse. His face was …happy. I had never seen any emotion on his face before. The letter said “Thank you for selling Smoke to us. He is everything you said he was. He fits right in with our other horses. Last week we took him on a trail ride, he crossed a river that wetted his cinch, and he didn’t even flinch. He’s great on trails, and we’re working on slowing down his trot. Thank you again for him, and if you’re ever in the area, look us up.”
I was glad that Smoke found a happy home. I don’t know what it was about the atmosphere at the Gorsky’s barn that made him crazy. I don’t know why Smoke was so insane, whether he was battered by June’s hatred, and the ex’s malignant personality. Maybe it was something else, I don’t know. Perhaps we’d trained him out of his scary habits: running away, breaking loose, rolling over. Nevertheless, he frightened me, and yet, I felt there was something desperate in him, something that said, please, give me a chance. What that was, though, I never learned. He was the most self aware gelding I’ve ever met in my life. He was highly intelligent, and cunning. But he was never loving, or giving, or accepting. At least, not to us.
Maybe it was the combination of Jack’s firm hand and kindness, and having a bunch of other horses that looked like him. I don’t know. I will never know.
I do know that I learned a lot from him. And that I don’t ever want a horse like that, ever again.