It was the early summer of 2001 when I first met her. I had gone with a couple of friends north to a horsey B&B of sorts. We had a quest house to ourselves and trails nearby to ride our horses. Smokey was there with me along with his BFF Nails.
The guest house was located at an operating ranch with several horses and cattle. On our first day there we noticed the “babies”. Two mares with foals by their sides. We all went to meet them. It never occured to me that this meeting would change my life.
She was beautiful and full of a presence that seemed much too grand for a mere three months old. I felt an instant connection to her but didn’t understand why. Over the next two days I went back to the barn to see her several times. Finally, on the last day she clearly said to me, “You know we are supposed to be together”. “You need to find her and talk to her about buying me”. What? Although I had been communicating for a year or so consciously at this point, this conversation took me by surprise.
My rational mind played it out like this. I had no desire for a second horse…sure I knew I would need another horse in a few years to keep Smokey company but I NEVER considered getting a baby and certainly not a mare ;-)). I didn’t even know if she was for sale. She was a black Appaloosa and Tennesse Walker cross, although without any color, not registerable. Her sire was a very, very tall spotted TWH. It was a crap shoot as to whether she would gait or not. Nothing about any of this made any logical sense. And yet, I could not stop thinking about her. I felt her in my heart, not my head.
When I approached the woman who owned the ranch to see if she was for sale she told me her name was Mariah, she had been born on a full moon, on a very windy night. She came sooner than they expected so she was born outside with no humans around. She might consider selling her. She would need to figure out what she had invested in order to determine her price. We exchanged contact information.
The next week the phone call came. The owner had considered her investment and determined a price. Let me tell you it was not reasonable. This little filly was “grade” and not yet a weanling but she was asking close to what I paid for Smokey. I told her I would think about it and get back to her. Actually, the money wasn’t an issue. Even though it wasn’t market value, it was something I could easily afford.
For the next week my logical mind was in a battle with my heart. Back and forth I went. I don’t remember such a struggle over a decision. Finally, a good friend of mine who had listened to me go back and forth with this for a week said to me, “BUY HER”. Why, I asked? “Because everytime you talk about her your entire being lights up. To me that means you need to do this…set your logic aside and listen to your heart”. I knew she was right. And just so I didn’t back out she followed me to my office while I made the call to tell the owner that I would accept her price.
Apparently I called the owners bluff. She purposely set the price high because she wasn’t sure she wanted to part with her. She too felt her presence and knew there was something special about this filly. But she agreed to the sale and in about another two months, Mariah would be with me.
Now you might be expecting me to tell you that she is most wonderful horse I’ve ever known and we ride off onto the trails until sunset. Not the case. She has been the most challenging horse I have ever known. And one of the greatest blessings in my life.
When she arrived at the stables where I was boarding Smokey, she first needed to be quarantined in a stall for two weeks. She kicked a friend who was feeding her the first day she arrived. The owner explained that she had come out of her mother kicking. She kicked out at many people, but never, ever me. Difficult as she was, we had a heart connection that was amazingly strong and I knew she trusted me.
During the day I would take her out to give her some outside time in the stallion pen. I remember sitting there one day waiting for a friend to come join me. When my friend arrived she told me we needed to listen to the news on the radio. Something had happened in New York. A plane had crashed into a building. That was September 11th. My friend and I listened to the radio and both decided we needed to get back to our homes and our families. I’m sure all of you know exactly where you were that day as well.
After her quarantine she was moved to the pasture with a group of other weanlings. Mariah continued to be a challenge and was quickly gaining a bad reputation so I moved her to Tracy Porter’s place near Janesville. I knew that she would be handled daily and would live outside in a mixed herd. There she was allowed to be a horse and I was able to work with her with guidance from Tracy.
As difficult as she was, I was never afraid of her. One day, while working with her in the round pen, she reared strait up directly in front of me. She could have come down and killed me I suppose, but I knew she wouldn’t. I understood because of our connection that she thought she and I should play the rearing game like Smokey and Nails did. I had to laugh. And then of course I sent her out to let her know that wasn’t what I was looking for from her.
Her first experience with the farrier was a scene from the farrier’s course of “how to be patient with a young horse”. She started kicking towards him before he even got close. Shortly after that I began learning how to do a natural trim myself. With guidance from my teacher, I trimmed her hooves. It wasn’t easy to trim a moving target but she never kicked at me and eventually she stood still.
Mariah has taught me more about horsemanship than the many clinics, books and videos I have learned from. More importantly, she has taught me the importance of having clear boundaries and how to be in my power while remaining quiet. She demands, that I stay in the present moment whenever I am with her…and that all attention is on her. And even when she is in one of her “moods” I can feel that strong heart connection. Just because she may not want to do what I want to do that day, I feel her love.
Our journey continues and I have many more lessons to learn with her. My greatest wish for all of you is that you too are blessed with a teacher like Mariah.