Al’s Well

You gotta stop.
And eat the dried flowers.
You gotta count your manely breaths most everyday.
You’re gonna find your way to leading from behind
a rough and rocky road.
If you don’t stop and eat the flowers along the way.

My mad passionate love. This little red Arabian. I don’t know why. I wasn’t looking for another horse and I certainly wasn’t looking for an Arabian, but when you have a friend with a ranch full of Arabians who notices how you melt every time you encounter her plain little chestnut gelding, well, things happen.

Sweet Alsek. Line bred from royalty, an Al-Marah Arabian, a boy with an interesting history. My hometown boy, born here in Tucson. My friend bought him through an auction when Al-Marah liquated their Tucson herd after Bazy Tankersley died and her son decided to move operations to Florida. The story goes he was the last horse to be sold. No one wanted him, except my friend, who got him for a song. He was three. His front end was twisted. He still stands with his left leg under, right forward, partly due to his short neck. He went to a specialist. They found nothing wrong. Running through my friend’s desert ranch with his people, fellow Arabians, helped straighten and strengthen his front end. He has a funny cowlick behind his left elbow. He may become arthritic. He still toes in. But you know what? So do I.

He came to live with me a little over a year ago, as an eight year old. I rode him right away, even though he hadn’t been ridden for…. years? I had a trial period and practical me wanted to put him to the test, even though my heart was completely sold. The vet was concerned about his sesamoid bones when she came for his vet check. They didn’t move. She said they usually move a little. He was a bit off, maybe from the trailer ride, maybe from his rough feet. I don’t know. I bought him anyway.

His sesamoid bones seem to have some movement now. I honestly don’t even know if this matters, but he’s sound and happy. I haven’t ridden him much during his first year as mine. I kneed him hard in the hip accidentally while mounting because of my stiff hip and a saddle with a high cantle early on. He bolted and I rode him, hanging off the side in the hopes of steering him away from the electric fence. Once he was clear, I bailed. We were both okay, but a more experienced friend offered to lease him and ride him and I agreed.

That friend has moved on to another barn. A young woman who is quite an accomplished dressage rider has been riding him. I ride him occasionally. Partly because of my trepidation, partly my awe of the breed, partly my needy mare who insists on “Ladies First”.

Our new, expensive, fitted dressage saddle arrived yesterday. It’s been a dream for many years, since my sobbing soliloquies, TV tuned to the Olympics. Lippizanner stallions on tour. A trip to Vienna! Morning exercises and front row seats for an evening show. Practically bit my lip bloody to keep myself from sobbing out loud and overwhelming my indulgent husband. I felt less embarrassed when I noticed the woman sitting behind me seemed to be having the same problem.

So, this morning I had a friend stand at Al’s head while I mounted, just to bolster my confidence, and I sat myself upon his spine, cushioned by buttersoft leather. We rode flat figure eights on the property, a little trot, and damn, if only I could keep my feet in the irons! I was marginally better once upon a time when I was taking dressage lessons on a school horse, but my mare is gaited and trot is not something I’ve been doing a lot of lately. Canter? Not so much. Al was resistant to the left. Was I holding my right rein too tight? He seemed grumpy and didn’t want to move out. Maybe my excitement was in need of a counter. He softened as we progressed. Maybe we both softened.

He lives during the day with two mares, my Rocky Mountain mare, La Roca and a Spanish Barb mare, Julietta. The mares have been rambunctious lately. Maybe they are coming into their hard fall season. The squealing and posturing ebbs and flows, but Al’s a gelding. I kept him out with me for hours this morning. After our little ride I took him on a walk, a mostly lead from behind walk, though I admit I inserted direction since I wasn’t inclined to trek through vagrant rattlesnakes seeking their final satisfying meals before winter. Al steps forward with no hesitation when I ask him to now. It’s a beautiful thing to see. A team of shiny black draft horses in ornamented harness went by. The woman who was driving them was kind enough to ask if we were okay. I said, “I think so.” Al stood at attention, but he was, indeed, fine, and returned to his grazing once the team passed.

We are, indeed, well on the road to fine.Al eating dried grass

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