We met one cool spring morning, both eyeing each other up. My life trainwrecked, I had all but moved to the barn, considering handing the keys of the house I mostly own to my wife or the bank, everything I truly wanted, actually needed, fitting in a rented truck, this house I once loved, so fucking haunted.
I’d seen him around, noticed him, how could you not? Tall and dark brown (we call it bay), that glint of bad boy, retired rockstar in his walk, retired eventer, dressage star, jumper, notorious for generally being an asshole.
It was love at first sight, because when I looked in his eyes, I saw all those things that the people who couldn’t ride him or deal with his moodiness couldn’t see. I saw his vulnerability, his need for attention, his need for love.
And he looked into mine and saw my scars, my flaws, my cracked, almost broken self, his long forelock that I never allow anyone but me to pull, flipped, he widened his eyes and opened his mouth to my fingers on his muzzle, which he held between his teeth, knowing he could bite me, I let him. It’s the closest thing we have to holding hands.
I bought him that day, for not much, my move to the barn 6 days a week for lessons or hacking and my haunted eyes seen and acknowledged without comment, something I appreciated greatly, my failure at marriage a topic I was already tired of discussing. And he saved me. Over and over and over.
Riding him was never easy, but it was never hard either. At some point I was able to give up the three and a half inch dressage whip, and just hold a crop, sailing over jumps as I improvised a course on the fly, singing Fred Astaire and Jack White loudly to calm his nerves and even his pace as I asked him to go faster, turn quicker, change leads, trot, walk. I rewarded him with excessive treats, long luxurious grooming sessions with only those brushes he liked, hikes in the woods that fascinated him, smelling things like a dog. He rewarded me with his eyes, with his teeth holding my fingers lightly, with our kissing game, with affection that halted the barn owner, the head trainer, and his former rider, the three who knew him for the secret good guy he is. He was not the only one who needed constant and consistent affection and after spending 36 years looking, I found someone other than my Nana willing to give it.
I retired him, at 17, so young for a horse, on the advice of the vet and the gentle, kind, understanding guidance of my head trainer who let me look away so I wouldn’t cry. Retiring Motown caused me infinite pain. I drove those many miles to the barn on cold nights, nights I’m not even riding, to walk him around the farm, braid his mane, wash his tail and vacuum and groom his coat. Give him treats, kiss his nose, and let him hold his fingers lightly between his teeth.
Some people still think he’s an asshole, but for me he will always be pony, Prince Charming, MoMo, keeper of my heart, and the one who saved me, continues to save me from breaking. Most now understand him for what he is, a weird but scary talented, brave horse who just needed an equally weird girl to love him more than anything in the world.
Which is why when we walk in the woods, and no one is listening, I sing one day my prince will come softly in his ear, as he rubs his muzzle against my chest.