Many, many years ago in a far away land, I had just finished doing some basic real-estate photography for some new condominiums, a sort of photography 101 type of job, and thought I’d head out to our (my wife’s and mine) horses, and saddle up my red gelding Freedom, for a ride along the Platte River. We had only owned horses for a few weeks and I was happy to find enough bravery in my “inner man” to saddle, bridle and ride Freedom on my own, as my wife was at work. We named him Freedom because of his blinding speed. He was not as excited as I was to go for a ride, but he accepted his job like a gentleman just the same.
To this day, he remains the fastest horse off of a race track, I have ever seen. We were told, that he was once a roping horse in rodeos. Now, horse traders use more BS than used cars salespeople so I know not the truth about rodeos, I only know that he was faster than any horse I knew personally.
We headed south along the Platte on a leisurely walk. Freedom could become crazy with speed if you asked him to run, and I mean you really just needed to relax your posture to send him the message to go, but if your message was “let’s just walk“, he was happy to oblige.
We weaved our way around a couple of fences to walk along the river and I decided to cross the river. Now crossing a river of unknown depth on horse back, is a pretty dicey proposition, but my wife and I (and her horse Kiva) had found a good spot a week earlier. Of course horses can swim, so you always have that to fall back on. We crossed the shallows with no issue but I decided it would be fun to find a new spot to return. You guessed it, the new spot was of an unknown depth. Freedom swam nicely with me on his back. There was only a couple of feet where he needed to swim, but that was enough for me to have acquired a new story to tell for appears to be, a long, long time.
We were back on the safe side of the river again, and both of us found it interesting to watch several beavers which were busy dam building in a series of ponds on our left.
Finally we were getting closer to home so I decided my adventure would not be complete without letting Freedom run a little bit. Now the wisdom (or lack of) to ask this speed demon to run on the way back to the corral/paddock rather than the way out, is lacking in every sense of the word. I guess that’s why I never became a rocket scientist. I have driven cars well over 100 mph in my life but surely Freedom was doing 200. Well, maybe not, but I was as frightened as I ever have been in my life. My previous runs with Freedom were nothing like this. Every time I thought he had hit his highest gear, he found a new one to shift to. He knew what he was doing, and he got both of us home safely. When I dismounted at the corral, he looked at me as if to say, “well you’re the one who wanted to run“!
I love learning lessons, and the number of lessons that I have been taught from furry friends, is impressive.
Horses are not like dogs or cats, they cost a fortune to keep and if you feel compelled to move on with your edification about horses with a new one, sometimes you have to sell them like a used car. It broke my heart but it had to be done and thankfully I found a young boy (and his father) who was experienced with horses, and fell head over heels in love with my great red friend.
My final seconds with Freedom came when the father asked me if we were going to have trouble getting him into the horse trailer. I said, “watch this”. We opened the back of the trailer, and I dropped the lead rope and let him walk the 15 feet to the rear of the trailer, and step up and go in. Almost as if he had been a roping horse in rodeos and getting into trailers was old hat. Maybe that old horse trader spoke the truth.
As the man and boy drove off with my mentor and friend, I looked over at my American Saddlebred mare Chicago, who now would have to live in these remote 14 acres all by herself. She not only did well, but she and I remained together for 20 years which was the rest of her life.
I have always wondered how the boy and Freedom got along. I hoped they bonded and had a long friendship. I hoped Freedom taught the youngster as much as he taught this grown man. You never know where we will find our teachers. Our animal friends can teach teamwork and trust just as well as humans.
The only thing I have ever treasured more than teaching, is learning.