Back on Track ‘Horse Therapy’: Dean, Rebekah & Cal

A plain brown wrapper proves to be more than a companion.

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“I had no idea that this is what it’s like to buy a horse!” stated Dean, my husband of three years, exasperated. And with good reason! It was nine o’clock in the morning, on Christmas Eve. We were due to leave town to visit family in less than an hour. And we were horse shopping.

A mere twenty-four hours earlier, this soon-to-be newest member of our little family wasn’t even on our radar. Knowing we were in desperate need of a companion for my retired mare, and having quite the eye for the OTTB, my trainer approached me at the barn that afternoon asking “What’s the highest price you’ll go? I think I’ve found a sane one on Facebook.” I reminded her I was simply looking for a companion: the asking price was too high. I didn’t give it another thought until ten o’clock that night when she called me. “The seller will come down in the price if you take him tomorrow.” Now we’re talking!

“But we’re leaving tomorrow!” complained Dean, exasperated for the first of many times.

“Well, he may not even work for us. We at least have to take a look,” I reasoned.

Needless to say, one chilly morning test ride on frozen nineteen-degrees-outside ground, and a couple of shoulder shrugs exchanged between the trainer and me later, we were loading a young, plain, dark bay gelding into the trailer.

“It’s quite an adrenaline rush, isn’t it?!” I squealed to my husband. We decided on his name on the drive back; he’d be our “Kentucky Blue” or “Cal” for short, in honor of my husband’s long-time obsession with the University of Kentucky Wildcats basketball team and their coach, John Calipari. He was the first horse we’d bought together so he wasn’t just mine, but ours.

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Meant only to be a pasture and barn companion for my mare, Cal has far “exceeded our expectations,” as my stoic husband put it last fall. My hope was to turn him into a trail horse for us, nothing more. His job was to keep my mare company. And then we got to know him. Being off-the-track, and pulled out of a field with a dozen other horses, he came with all the usual quirks. We spent a great deal of time teaching Cal ground manners and how to be a pet (of course!)

Little did we know that at the same time, he was bringing us closer together. Dean showed Cal that treats are a GOOD thing, and manners are a must. And Cal helped this non-horse person see how fulfilling it can be to see a horse learn from him. In the meantime, Cal brought me sheer joy with each new riding experience. Having spent the last five years training (and training, and training) an extremely high-maintenance, emotionally-and-financially draining Thoroughbred event prospect, Cal was a breath of fresh air. The first trail ride was such pleasure. In our lessons, each time we show him something new, he enjoys it and thirsts for more. We ended our first season together with a dressage show and a hunter pace under our belts, eager for what the future seasons will bring.

Cal does adore my mare, but more importantly, we adore him. He was our Christmas gift to ourselves last year and we’re proud of what we’ve done for and with him. He’s given me the confidence that I had lost on my other horse while at the same time, showing my husband that he too can help a horse in need. We gave him a home, but I often feel that Cal’s the one doing all the giving.

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Here at Horse Nation, we believe that the best therapists are our own horses. We love sharing the stories of special equines and the lessons horses have taught us — email yours to [email protected] to be featured in an upcoming edition of Back on Track “Horse Therapy.” Go Back on Track, and Go Riding!

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