If you’ve ever encountered a one-of-a-kind horse in your life, then you’ll understand and appreciate my story. I’ve had one such horse like that, and from time to time I think back on that special little mare. Unfortunately, I was unable to keep her; she was the horse that got away, so to speak. Her name was Barbie.
Barbie’s story begins during my time at Oklahoma State University. I was working on my animal science degree when I had a opportunity to take a breaking and training class. I knew very little about breaking a young horse, but I was incredibly excited and eager to learn. Each student was paired with a filly or colt based on his or her prior experience and knowledge. I was paired with a cute little quarter horse filly named Barbie. This course was unlike any other in that it was entirely outside the classroom and hands-on. We learned how to lead our young horses, pick up their feet, go through showmanship patterns, lunge, saddle, and drive. At the very end of the semester some lucky students got to ride their colts if the professor deemed them ready.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I struggled. Up until this point I had only experienced my broke older gelding, Rusty, who made things very easy for a beginner like me. Barbie was different. Though she had an amiable personality and was fairly forgiving most of the time, like most young fillies she resisted me. She took advantage of my ignorance and challenged me. I got frustrated, but with the help of the teaching assistant, now a lifelong friend, I felt empowered to accept the challenge.
At this same time in my life, I happened to be dating a young man who also attended OSU. He was much more experienced and skilled with horse training then I was. In fact, to this day I still believe he’s one of the best trainers I’ve met. Young romance has it’s ups and downs, not unlike my filly’s fickle temperament. One day he asked me, if I were able to choose, would I rather have a ring or a horse to signify an engagement? Silly question. Of course I chose the horse, and of course I chose Barbie. How many times I regret my answer I will not know or care to count. He, too, liked Barbie, so it was easy for him to make arrangements to purchase her. His eyes twinkled at the thought of a new, solid rope horse he could finish himself. At the end of the semester, Barbie and I completed our course. The papers were signed, and we set a date to pick her up.
Unfortunately things did not go so smoothly for me and my beau. As I looked to the future I could see our plans crumbling: the romance was not meant to continue. Nothing hurt me more than knowing he would take my Barbie with him. She was an innocent bystander, and I felt awful about her leaving in his trailer, not mine. After he picked her up, he showed me the courtesy of letting me tell her good bye. I was eating Sunday lunch at my parents’ house as the gooseneck trailer drove down our residential road. I petted her nose and told her I’d be looking for her and I’d get her back one day. As they drove away I had such an odd feeling, knowing that a chapter of my life was driving away in a red Dodge dually. I haven’t seen the horse since, nor have I received any word of her whereabouts. I think of her often and hope she’s in good health, being used on a ranch as she should be. With all the experience I have now, I’m even more disappointed not to have her because I know with certainty what a great team we would have made.
Have you, too, experienced that once-in-a-lifetime horse? I sure hope so, and I hope he or she is grazing happily in your own pasture. From one horse lover to another, next time you see a beautiful bay roan mare, ask for me, Is her name Barbie?