Saturday, May 15, 2010


I have been schooling my horses mostly at the Frontier Park in Graham since things went south with my former associate. The way the facility is laid out the arena is right across from the play area designated for small children.

Many times those kids are intrigued by seeing horses working in the arena. Sometimes they are even able to get their adult companions to bring them over to view the horses from a closer perspective.

Whenever I see that happening, I try to make my Arabian horses accessible to any children interested in getting up close and personal with them. It doesn't really matter which horse I might be working. All are appropriate ambassadors for the breed.

Since our weather has turned from the spring-like days of winter to our current winter-like days of spring, I haven't been able to work as many horses each day. Mostly I find myself working in between cloud bursts and even thunder storms to get the job done so many times I have had to focus just on Legs. Getting the horse finished is my top priority.

That means that Legs is left to carry the banner of ambassador alone. Not that he minds, the horse loves small children and even the attention of any adults who might wish to shower him with affection. He is a ham as well and sometimes shares a bit of his horsey brand of humor with them.

Mostly people come over when I am riding the horse. When I see they are determined to get close, I usually will take the horse over to the rail closed to the approaching people and invite them to come closer. I think Legs appreciates the brief respite from work as he stands soaking up all the attention he can get.

One day during the last week of April I noticed a woman and small child standing up on the small hill that overlooks the arena. I was untacking Legs after our workout. The woman was pointing in the direction of my horse trailer. Then I saw her lift the small child to get a better view.

The sky looked promising for a brief reprieve from the coming rain so I decided I would lead Legs over to our usual position inside the arena on the rail. As I approached with the horse, the woman and little boy moved closer down the hill. When I got right in front of them, I told her it was OK to come closer if the child would like to pet my horse.

The pair quickly responded by coming the rest of the way down the hill and joined us on the rail. It was obvious from the start this particular pair was familiar with horses. I learned the woman had been raised with them and her brother is a farrier.

The little boy,Jacob, stroked Legs in a manner that suggested he was familiar with what horses likes and don't likes too. By his size I think the child was somewhere close to 4 years old, yet he moved slowly and stroked only the muzzle, jowls or the side of the horse's neck. Legs was attentive to both the woman and the child standing quietly like the good ambassador he usually is.

During our visit, another older couple approached with two small children in tow asking if they could pet the horse too. The first pair excused themselves making room for the others to get closer. The man and 2 1/2 year old boy named Jake and maybe 4 year old girl, Alicia (I think), came up to the rail while the woman stood off to the side on the small bank of stairs that come down to the arena.

The little girl held a stuffed animal in her hands. It was made of that long scruffy looking fake fur that seems to be the trend. Legs was intrigued by what that thing could be trying examine it closely with his muzzle.

The little girl wasn't quite sure what to think of Legs trying to get close to her stuffed companion. She wasn't frightened of Legs but she didn't want her sniffing her prized toy either. She tried moving it away and Legs still pursued it with his nose. Finally I suggested she give it to the woman who wasn't standing close enough for Legs to reach it anymore.

While the little girl took the stuffed critter over to the woman, the little boy climbed up onto the fence and reached over and grabbed Legs by the head. He leaned into the horse's face with both arms stretched out around the horse's jowls laying his chest and head onto the front of Legs' face and squeezed a big bear hug. As he continued to lay on the stallion's face in that manner, he began kissing Legs on the bony part above his eye.

The stallion didn't move a muscle. He stood there quietly with his head down low and a soft look in his eye as this child continued to hug him in a way most horses never would have tolerated. Even when the child relinquished his hold, the horse did not try to pull away. He continued to stand with his head dropped to the child's level while this little boy explored with his little fingers every crevice of the stallion's face.

Now I know from personal experience how painful the exploration of my face can be by the probing fingers of a two year old. I know they don't mean to........but the little suckers pinch.........and the way I watched Jake's fingers work, I knew he was pinching Legs, yet Legs stood there quietly throughout the inspection.

The child explored every part of the stallion's face. He explored inside and outside the horse's ears and nostrils and more than once I saw stretched skin in those sensitive locations. Legs never flinched nor did his expression change. He was content to stand there for as long as the child wanted to be that close.

Legs and I stood there for a while visiting with these strangers. Eventually the woman came closer and spoke to me about her dream of owning a horse someday. In the course of our conversation she asked me why it was that I had chosen the Arabian horse as my breed of preference.

It seemed to me the fact she'd asked me this question at all suggested she didn't know much about horses. I'm pretty sure any "real" horse person would have understood the display she just witnessed with Legs and the two year old was indeed the answer to that question.

Instead I answered in terms I thought she might get. I told her how the Bedouins raised the Arabian horse in their tents right along with their families. How their selection process hadn't just included the characteristics of a great war horse but an individual that could be trust to live amongst the family. Over the years this selection created a horse with an affinity for a relationship with humans unlike any other horse breed on the planet.

I told her how some Arabian horses who have been raised with a particularly close bond with humans have been known to wither up and die if that bond was lost. It is this desire by the Arabian horse for a close personal connection with their human companions that speaks to me.

I don't know if Jake will remember this moment in the park but I know that I will never forget. Watching Legs with that small boy hugging on his face I knew I was witnessing the best of Bedouin breeding, a glimpse into the soul of a horse relinquishing himself to the will of a child. I was not surprised by the behavior of my stallion on that day only frustrated I didn't have a camera to capture the precious moment.

I've heard tales of the examination in a similar manner of the top ten halter stallions by a blind woman one year at the US Nationals although the woman was not said to have hugged any of the horses' heads. I've always known these horses are capable of such tenderness with humans and I've experienced some private moments with Arabian horses as emotional for me. I just never expected to witness such an event with a strange child in such a public place. What better ambassador for the breed could there be?


  1. Ok I am sold!! My next horse will be an Arabian! I still get a little pissy about the whole Ash situation. I know u hear from lots of folks and I don't expect u to remember. I came within a breath of buying a gray Arab named Ashton. (before Maggie) I had been riding Ash for almost a year and had come to love her.The only time she was ridden was by me . Her owner stayed busy w her warmbloods and never rode Ash. She had agreed to sell her to me, we agreed on a price and the nite before she backed out of the deal. Claimed she knew she should sell her but.......she thought she might have time to work w her later on.
    I bought Maggie instead and have enjoyed every moment w her. Still, I read about your Arabians and I catch myself thinking, what if............

  2. What an absolutely awesome moment!

    Karren from Australia

  3. What a wonderful horse and a wonderful moment. You have captured it in the telling far better than any picture could! Thanks you for sharing . I am so glad to read that you take time to visit with the children. I speaks volumes of what a kind person you are

  4. And that is why those horses are keepers....because we trust them with our most prized...our children.

  5. I've seen some of the hottest horses I've known treat small children like they were delicate glass. Put an adult on their back, and they'd be up to their own tricks. A child? It's "I'm just a dumb pony, as quiet as quiet can be!" It's amazing.

  6. YES!
    What an awesome account of why I will love this breed till I die.

    I grew up on Quarter Horses, my grandfather had a cattle ranch not too far from you in Kelso. He also raised saddlebreds to show.

    It wasn't till I leased a QH at a barn where I was living in NC about 7 years ago, that I realized the teenaged girls who showed all had arabs... went to a show and was hooked.

    And then there was the day a coworker showed up at a horse show to watch us go and brought his 3 year old granddaughter... my horse backed up and dropped his head to be level with that child and was so gentle and willing... he was fascinated.

    I've seen my handful of horse immediately turn into babysitter and steady-eddy with a 7 year old on his back.

    They KNOW. They are smart, they are capable, and they are amazing.

    (I too, always try to take time when folks approach our riding arena, even if in cars - to stop and answer questions and offer a petting opportunity...)

    Its people like you that will continue to keep our breed active and spreading among the people. Yay!!!!

  7. I just loved this story. I am a senior adult who has loved horses ever since I can remember. Don't own any and don't ride but I sure do enjoy how you share your experiences. It's almost as good as being there. Legs is a special boy.

  8. What a wonderful story. I just love that Legs - he really has a fan in me :).

  9. yah for Legs! Arabs are so personable, it really is amazing. They really need their people.