My Marquise

This is one of the stories from my book that tells how my journey with Marquise began. Enjoy!

As soon as I was old enough to say the word horse, that was all I ever asked for. Every birthday, Christmas, and even Easter was filled with a little girl’s dream of waking up and finding that special pony happily munching grass in our suburban front yard. Years passed, and I learned to be content with Barbie horses, horse sleeping bags, horse pictures and horse birthday parties. I rolled coins from my allowance and after saving enough, my parents would take me to the toy store to pick out a new Breyer to add to the collection already filling my room. So, it’s safe to say I dreamt about my first real horse for a very long time and knew when the time was right, everything would be perfect and go just as planned.

Six years ago, armed with a well-planned budget, I presented my childhood dream to Jeff. Surprisingly, he agreed that it was finally time for me to have a horse of my very own! As the self-proclaimed Family Pet Namer, he had only one stipulation—he wanted to name the next member of our animal family.

Let me remind you, our pets’ names are Sam, Jake, Hootie, Tully, Arn, Ole, and Biscuit. I wasn’t excited at all about giving him this privilege, especially since the name he picked out was Huckleberry! My mind flashed to pictures of Doc Holiday in Tombstone, but I was smart enough to leave this discussion for another day. I had the answer I needed and was absolutely euphoric.

In an instant, I regressed to my childhood and began rolling all the coins I could find around the house. My dear friends Maria and Theresa enthusiastically joined the search for the horse of my dreams, and my inbox was never without pictures of a new possibility one of them had found.

When searching for the perfect partner to share life’s miles with, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and buy a horse that may not be your best match. That’s why I deliberately created two pre-purchase lists. One list was the Have-to-Have and the other was the Hope-to-Have. On my Have-to-Have  list, was an 8–10 year old, been there-done that, Arabian gelding. I wanted him to have enough spirit that we could have fun for years to come, but enough experience that he would be a patient and willing teacher. Though they would be nice, good looks weren’t a requirement, so they got bumped to the Hope-to-Have side.

Closing my eyes and smiling, I pictured myself astride my new friend. His coat glistened and his great hooves pounded the earth as we galloped across fields of blazon red poppies. Silhouetting us against the majestic sunset, we rode until the South Carolina sun dipped beneath the horizon and night enveloped us in its quiet splendor. . . Ugh—shaking sense into my head, I remembered a promise I made to myself. Pretty is as pretty does, and I knew good looks weren’t going to get me down the trail and back in one piece.

Weeks into the search, I spent countless hours emailing sellers, looking at pictures, and traveling to three nearby states. Early in the search, it became evident that I leaned heavily towards tall, muscular bays but the three I had gone to see didn’t work out so well. The first cribbed, the second reared, and the third had a glimmer in his eye that told me he was not one to be trusted. I didn’t want to settle but the more I looked and came up empty-handed, the more anxious I became to find my horse! I just knew he had to be out there somewhere! Frustration began to get the best of me.

One night while I was up late tediously searching the internet, again, I clicked on the picture of a chestnut with a flaxen mane. He was quite a looker, flashy in all accounts and something about his attitude in the photo caught my eye. Always supportive, Jeff poked his head in the room to offer encouragement and see what kind of progress I was making. Leaning in over my shoulder, it only took a minute for him to notice the pedigree of the little red horse. An equine scholar he is not, so he certainly didn’t realize the weight of his statement when he said, “That’s your horse. Make the call and go get him.” All he knew was the little red horse’s grandsire was Huckleberry Bey!

Within the week, Theresa and I rolled into the city limits of Bristol, TN. As we approached the farm, we couldn’t help blinking hard and staring at each other in amazement. The winding road we followed meandered through the woods for a mile or so until it opened up and released us into the arms of a country estate with gently sloping hills and miles of pristine white fencing.

Ponds, with banks of lush green grass, were dotted with snow white swans gliding gracefully across their clear, glassy surfaces. With protective eyes fixed on us, freshly groomed Great Pyrenees patrolled the yard while they watched their herds for any sign of unrest. We neared the barn, and I anxiously leaned forward in my seat, hoping to steal an early peek of my horse.

Directly ahead of us was a large pasture boasting horses of every size, shape, and color. They playfully tossed their heads and excitedly ran the fence-line in anticipation of the new visitors. I caught sight of a few chestnuts basking in the sun but based on their small size, they were much too young. Continuing to scan my surroundings, I noticed a small pasture on my left with, what I thought, was the homeliest bunch of horses I have ever seen.

In contrast to the animated equines in the other pasture, this bunch lazily wandered around picking at the grass or simply dozing beneath the canopy shade trees. One chestnut in particular caught my eye. He stood alone, away from the group, and was obviously less than interested in the unfamiliar rig making its way up the driveway. His eyes were half-closed and his ears flopped in different directions, indicative of his extreme state of not caring what was going on. With one leg cocking up his back end, his rather large waistline and lack of condition were awkwardly accentuated in a way that made cantering down the trail more than an improbability—it looked like an impossibility!

Reflecting reds and golds, a chestnut’s coat has a way of shining in the sun that will make you blink against its brilliance, but sadly, the coat this little guy before me wore was so caked in mud and rain rot that it reflected nothing more than the need for a bath and some serious TLC. Where the striking flaxen mane was supposed to hang was nothing more than a mass of tangled knots poking erratically in every direction. Gone were the white socks and in place of them were grass stains and burs. This horse was certainly the poster child for some serious grooming products.

With a gasp, I sucked all the air out of the truck as Theresa shot a worried look my way, “I sure hope that’s not him.” The comment slipped from my lips as a whisper, but in my heart it was a prayer.

Her eyes followed mine, and she quickly realized the cause of my concern, “There’s no way Mr. Homely over there is Huckleberry Bey’s grandson. I’m sure he’s up in the barn already.”

Sometimes prayers aren’t answered the way we think they should be, and my fears became a reality when, after meeting the trainer at the barn, we began making our way down the path to the homely horse pasture.

With a bucket of grain in hand, the trainer began telling us Mr. Homely’s story. As the product of fine breeding, the little red horse was supposed to make it big in the show circuit. In his younger years, he had been shown in halter, English Pleasure and Native Costume but unfortunately, due to the owner’s financial difficulties, what began as a promising career had come to an abrupt halt. Now, months later, Mr. Homely’s value had dropped to whatever he could be sold for.

By this time, I was pretty depressed. Eyes downcast and studying the rocks at my feet, I lamented over the time we wasted driving to see another dud—however, the scene drastically changed when that bucket of grain came out. Mr Homely’s eyes lit up! With a piercing call and thundering hooves, he raced past all of the other horses coming our way. The little, red, gelding’s tail flew proudly behind him as he approached at a full gallop that lasted only seconds and ended with a dramatic sliding stop. My heart leapt as he then began to prance in tight circles and toss his head with impatience. There’s my horse.

“We call him Marquise…” the trainer grinned as he noticed me taking a second look at the now Not-So-Mr. Homely who somehow seemed to know he was going home with me that day. He was certainly a mess, but I soon came to the realization that his name “Marquise” fit him perfectly. He was my diamond in the rough.