Bittersweet is the moment when you perceive that the boy has become a man, the girl a woman, for then you see passageways that are closed forever. Those days of softness and pliability are gone. Ahead, there appears toil and disciplined hours that hopefully will insure security and comfort in all seasons, so that life can go on with moments, perhaps hours, of rest and sociability with family and friends. As a caretaker for the young, be they human or not, the letting-go as they walk away or as you drive away from the curb extracts a pain within that circulates around the thoughts: Have I done well enough by them? Do they have what it takes to survive? What could I have done different?
I trained Shiney (Shiners Fannin Pepto) in ground manners as much as I could while working and traveling at a full-time job. My life with horses began only eight-years ago when my parents died and I inherited two paint horses. I began to change when I worked horses. I gradually became more patient with my life in west Texas that had turned out quite different than I thought it would. I added another horse. I bought a fine-blooded mare (Sweet Hija) from King Ranch and from her issued two foals, Fanny and Shiney. The time came about three months ago to send Shiney to a professional horse trainer to fit for sale. When I sent Shiney to Jimmie Hardin’s in Aubrey, Texas, I had carried the colt as far as I could. Since I had only worked with mares or geldings since 2002, he was more than I could handle — or so I thought.
Jimmie Hardin and her crew, especially Peppy, her right-hand trainer, worked with Shiney to fit him for sale: standing, tying, leading, and running with the handler. Good manners. Midway in his training, I went up to see Shiney’s progress. I saw his development in many areas, but one behavior held my attention: when Shiney ran with Peppy in the corral, he held his head high and the two of them trotted in unison, turning this way and that way, Shiney showing his form and muscle and even excitement to run with a person. As I first saw them running, I wanted to run with my horse, my colt, that young thing I had blown my breath into his nostrils on his first day, a year ago, May 15, 2009.
Four days ago, Brenda and I picked up Shiney from the trainer. His mane was braided, coat sleek, and hair trimmed. All fit for sale in Shawnee, Oklahoma.
We unloaded Shiney after a four-hour trip and I walked him around the sale grounds. Then, I began to walk briskly, faster, and then broke into a trot. I held the stud chain close under his chin, neither tight nor loose, and Shiney picked up his pace and we both ran together. I turned and he turned with me. I stopped, he stopped. We ran again. There, it happened, a powerful creature, joining with a person.
As I walked back to Brenda, she was smiling so broadly: He is so beautiful. He holds his head so erect. He is gorgeous. You two looked so good together.
On sale day, I ran with Shiney three times. I didn’t have to. Once for buyers from Laredo and once for Steve Phipps of Springfield, Missouri, who purchased him. We did not even lead him through the sale ring. The price was right and Phipps was the one for Shiney.
The third time I ran with Shiney it was for me and him, alongside the barn and trailers, outside in the morning sun of Oklahoma. I never grew tired or weary with our runs. I was holding on to him for as long as I could and then I had to let him go.
I’ll never forget as long as I live that I once ran with a colt that was becoming a stallion. Bittersweet, to see him grow.
9 responses to “Running With Shiney”
Beautiful, even transcendent. I had been waiting to hear. Steve Phipps is blessed. We are all blessed to have known Shiney through your words and pictures. The B&W are a perfect transition. “In the morning sun of Oklahoma…” Thank you, for sharing how your journey with horses began. And, such a short time ago ! Yes, life often turns out quite different than we thought it would. With each transition there is so much good to be found.
Teresa: Thank you. I think Phipps is fortunate. He could have run Shiney through the ring after he bought him from me in the morning and may have made more money, but he didn’t. Yes, a short time ago horses came into my life big time. Been round cattle all my life, worked them on foot and developed their habit patterns to come to the stock pens, but never possessed horses till 2002. Ridden since four, but not been a caretaker. I’ll be over to see you soon. Can’t wait to catch up on your blog.
Ohhhh, Jack, I’ve got tears in my eyes, tears of joy that you and Shiney bonded like father and son, and tears of sadness that your son has left you. What a proud papa you were, the two of you running as one. I don’t think the deep bond between man and animal has a word, just examples, and you gave one today. Teresa Evangeline’s right, Steve Phipps is blessed. As we all are, actually, to have watched Shiney develop. He will always do you proud!
Kittie: I’m pleased you were touched by the story. Darn it, as I was composing the post, I had a few tears (dust in my eyes, I’m sure). I like your association of father and son. I can’t think of a unique, special word either for the bond. I’m glad you were able to stay with the story of Shiney on the blog. I’ll be getting over to your blog soon. Yesterday, it was farrier day here on the ranch and it was 90 deg. F. and humid as we worked.
Jack what a wonderful story. It must have been tuff for you to go through all this being there when Shiney was born then all the growing up getting bigger and now the sale of this beautiful horse “Shiney”. I believe you paths will cross again one day you may even run with him again one day.
Funny… but I believe if you had to sell Shiney, June 5th was a good day for Shiney’s sale as it also was my B-Day. So all will be well. I am sure you have found a good new home for Shiney now.
Jacqueline: Yes, a good day to sell, on your birthday. I know the luck will be with him. I do want our paths to cross again. The new owner will send pictures that I can post. All will be well.
I can’t tell if my tears are caused by the thought of you growing together and now parting, or perhaps just the sheer overwhelming beauty of that magnificent horse. Either/Or, I am touched deeply and hope for the best for Shiney throughout his tenure here on Earth. What a great animal. Thanks Jack.
Kristy: Knowing you as I do, I was wondering if you would be able to read this post. Your life has been so close to animals, I know, that I believed you could appreciate what happened with Shiney and me. I have read your archives and know that companions, winged-ones and the four-legged-ones (cousins to us all), are often too close for your comfort, but that you persist in care taking and stewardship.
One of the behaviors of Shiney running with me was that Jimmie Hardin and Peppy had trained him so well that only slight pressure or none at all would cause him to run, stop or turn. After re-reading my post and reflecting on Shiney and me, I suddenly realized that I was not, in essence, controlling Shiney to run, stop or turn, but rather he was joining up with me to run and, I think, play. He could have jerked the stud chain and lead rope out of my hand and gone galloping off into the parking lot, but he did not. It was a joining up, as Monty Roberts would put it.
What was going on with me and Shiney is the same union that men and women have had since horses and humans have become companions. I’m afraid that not all of it has been pleasant, but the plow horse and war horse, carriage horse and pack horse have entered into a relationship with humans and shared toil, fortune and misfortune. Equus is worthy of respect — a powerful animal –, but also of as deep a friendship as a person can make with other species.
I was hoping this would end with you deciding not to sell, but take him home. But then I think that with every animal who is fostered or found. I always hope theyget to stay.