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A Christmas Horse

Every year I put it at the top of my Christmas Wish List:

A HORSE.

Every year, Santa failed to deliver.

I was barely toddling when I first fell in love with horses. I turned ten thinking I could still grow up to be a horse. By the time I was 13, Wild Horse Annie was my biggest heroine. By the time I was 17, I was resigned to the fact that I probably was never going to find a horse hidden in the garage on the morning of December 25th.

I married, had children, and moved to the city. And I still wrote it on the top of my Christmas Wish List: A HORSE.

My husband just smiled.

1990. We joined a small church congregation in 1988, one of those “name-it-and-claim-it” congregations coming out of the 1980’s. One of my church friends told me how she had “prayed in” a free horse: a 28-year old Thoroughbred retiree with an attitude. The horse was so old, she was beyond riding. But she was a horse and she was free.

I’m not always known for being tactful. I told another friend that, “If I prayed in a horse, she’d be 2 years old, a strawberry roan, and gentle. She’d be a free Arab.”

Bragging is a sin, but apparently God didn’t take it that way. The next thing I knew, the second friend placed one of those grocery store bulletin board ads into my hand:

FREE HORSE. 2 YEARS OLD. GREEN BROKE. ARAB. KIDS WON’T TAKE CARE OF HER SO I SAID I’M GIVING HER AWAY.

I showed it to my husband. To my surprise, he said I should inquire. We were moving out to a rural location where we could keep a horse.

With shaking hands, I dialed the number.

With shaking heart, we went out to see the horse.

It was love at first sight on both ends.006

Her name was Shandar’s Whisper. She was half-Arab and half-Appaloosa, a descendant of Hallany Mistanny.

She wasn’t worth any money because the man who gave her away didn’t have her dam anymore, and her dam carried the pedigree. She should have been a papered Appaloosa, but the owner of the sire refused to sign off on the paperwork. So she was a Mutt of a horse, an unregistered half-Arab/Appy mare with no future. The teenagers loved her, but they kept forgetting to feed her and the man was making good on a father’s promise:

“If you don’t feed that horse, I am giving her away.”

Christmas, 1990. Whisper came into my life. We had many good years together.

She taught me to overcome my fear of horses. She reminded me why I feared horses. She kicked me. I taught her not to even lay her ears back at me. With the help of friends, she even got some basics in reining down.

My son rode her. My daughter showed her in 4-H (they didn’t win much for ribbons: Whisper hated 4-H and Arwen was not a fan of Whisper’s). As we aged, Whisper and I learned to take solitary rides in the woods.

That was a huge step for me: to ride a horse where there was no one to help me if I got into trouble. But I found Whisper to be a reliable horse, a great bush-whacking horse, and a willing horse, even if she picked up her pace when we headed back to the pasture.

She had a sense of humor.

Last night, I dreamed about her. I dreamed that we rode along a long stretch of river with wolves howling after us and danger all around. I dreamed we rode into a town. I dreamed someone else took her from me and rode her and declared her a wonderful mount.

In reality, we gave her away to a family with grandchildren. They rode her for a few years before they gave her away. She would be 24 years old now.

I don’t know where she is now, but I sure do miss her some days. My Christmas horse.

The Christmas horse God gave me. She was 2 years old, technically was a varnish roan, and gentle. She was a free Arabian.

Never give up on your dreams. You never know how they will be fulfilled.

(read the Wiki article to find “varnish roan”)

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