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.