My Little Black Horse
By Rebecca Renaud, Cincinnati, OH
His head popped up when he heard his name called. He came running across the pasture, arriving at the gate with a dust-raising, sliding stop that would have shamed most reining horses. I fell in love before the dust had settled.
It was 1970, and I was twelve years old. I had been searching for a horse for months. Like many little girls of that time, I dreamed of a beautiful pinto like Little Joe’s (on the TV show, Bonanza). But this shiny little horse, black as coal, sporting a perfect blaze, was not my dream horse. As I led him to the barn for saddling, I heard my Dad ask, “Did you call him Satan?” I’ve often wondered what my poor Dad was thinking when the answer was yes.
I had saved every cent for as long as I could remember, and finally bought my first horse that day, and now had everything I needed for a total of $235.00, which included one little, black horse with a big attitude. I’ve often wondered how the man who sold him to me could sleep at night.
The first few months were rough. My little black horse was determined to live up to his name. I admit there were times I was so frustrated that I cried. The calm, controlled horse I tried out in the ring was gone. This horse was scary. He responded to a bit when it suited him. He would take off running as fast as he could, and nothing I could do would stop him. Then someone at the boarding barn suggested I try a hackamore. It worked like magic and he never ran away again.
His biggest problem was rearing. It was his favourite thing to do and he did it often. The first time he did it I was scared to death. Many people tried to “break” him of this bad habit, but with no luck. Honestly they just made it worse. After surviving a couple hundred hearty “High Ho Silvers,” I had actually got used to it, and was no longer afraid. I learned I could actually feel and anticipate when he was going to do it. So, I started telling him “up” each time I felt it. He figured it out in no time, and never reared again without being asked to do so.
He was quick to learn and anxious to please. I taught him to shake hands and bow on the same day. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body. Never once did he kick, bite, buck or throw me. There were a few things he flat-out refused to do, such as working on a longe line – he took off running every time, the line dragging behind him. I eventually gave up. He was a rolling fool – you couldn’t turn your back for even a minute or he’d be on the ground, saddled, rolling with glee. He’d roll anywhere. Tied to the horse trailer at a show, to a tree, to the hitching post, or just standing on a lead line, it made no difference to him. I learned early on to always tie him short. I had to cross creeks quickly, with heels digging in, to avoid a roll in the water. Vets and farriers were not high on his list either. They liked to use a twitch, but he was not a fan.
My little black horse had no fear, but he was fully loaded with common sense. He would go just about anywhere, and do just about anything. He seldom refused, but when he did, I knew he had a good reason.
If horses had odometers his would have turned over many times. My friends and I rode all over Cincinnati. We proudly rode in our local Harvest Home Parade every year, bearing the American Flag. One year, we all rode downtown to be in Cincinnati’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. There were times we rode so far from home we had to be picked up by a friend with a horse trailer. We rode on busy streets and raced our horses on a nearby highway which was being built. We rode to McDonald’s and our local creamy whip where our horses always got a cup of vanilla ice cream. Satan loved it, making a big deal out of licking every last bit from the cup. We knew the 1,400 acres of Mt. Airy Forest like the back of our hands. We covered as many miles bareback as we did saddled up.
We hit every horse show we could bum a ride to. Our favourite class was “trail” and we always placed. Horse shows were not Satan’s idea of fun, but he tolerated all the pleasure and equitation classes in order to get to the fun classes. We also joined the drill team at the boarding barn. We performed at horse shows and in parades. Our grand finale was Satan rearing with the American flag as the team raced around us. In my eyes he was the star of the show.
Throughout this time, I discovered something else about this extraordinary little horse. Not only did he love to jump, but he would jump anything. We made our own jumps in the forest and in the ring at the barn. We used buckets, traffic cones, and barrels. We jumped over two by fours, brooms, branches — whatever we could find. And yes, we jumped bareback. There were times we jumped without a bridle. We would stack five gallon buckets on top of the barrels and balance the board on top. Satan could clear them with room to spare. I honestly didn’t think much about just how high he could jump until I was much older. I know he could easily jump four and a half feet. Not bad for a little horse standing only 14.2 hands. I felt we’d hit the big time when a photo of us was published in a local paper. It showed a friend and I on our horses “jumping bareback in unison” at a local horse show. We would try just about anything. In our arena my friends and I rode backward, forward, and sideways. We rode standing up. We rode double, back to back, elbows locked together. We could pick each other up from the ground at a full gallop.
The best times though, were spent quietly tucked away with Satan in his stall. I spent hours laying on his back sharing my secrets and my dreams. Tears soaked his neck many times as I cried out my sorrows. He not only watched me grow up, he helped me grow up. He gifted me with determination, responsibility, confidence, patience, compassion, and love. He was bigger than any dream I could have imaged.
There is no end to Satan’s story but someday there will be a new beginning. Someday I will hear that high-pitched whinny calling to me once again, and I’ll know he’s waiting in our favourite place. New adventures await as we’ll soar over the gates of Heaven, with room to spare.
“I’ll meet you in the meadow.”