A Horse Named Fire
By April D. Ray
The thing about letting go of a dream is that it never truly goes away. Looking back on that day in September, 2015, I was a total bundle of nerves and for good reason. I had just traveled across my home province of BC to “see a man about a horse.”
Actually, it was to see a woman about a filly – a filly I had dreamed about long before she even existed. The filly was out of a mare I was lucky enough to ride nearly ten years ago, a Hanoverian mare, bought at The Verden Auction in Germany by the family I worked for at the time. Dondula and I had a fantastic first year of horse showing and figuring each other out. I remember when I would pick up a trot in the ring people would stop and stare, she was just that impressive. Dondula jumped a perfect 10 and had more heart than any horse I have ever ridden. Unfortunately, her riding career was cut short due to an injury and my heart was irreparably broken. No matter how much time passed since I sat on that horse, I always joked that I would “give my first born for her first born.”
Fast forward a few years, add idle hands and an internet connection, and there I was trying to track her down to see where she had ended up. I was thrilled to find her and even more excited when I saw that she had just had a filly. Because I have little to no self-control, I typed out an inquiry about the filly and asked if she was for sale, and thus began the dance that lasted for about two years. At that time she was not for sale, and to be honest I was relieved. I was certainly in no position to be buying a horse, so this made it that much easier for me.
When she did come up for sale I was still not really in a position to be buying a horse, but through persistence, patience (on mine and the breeder’s part), and some support from friends and family, I eventually decided that no matter how, I had to make this happen. I scheduled a pre-purchase exam, took a few days off work, and dragged my best friend to Kamloops with me. Honestly, I could barely sleep the night before. The next morning my friend Seanna said to me, “You look more nervous than you did on your wedding day.” And I was.
Dondula and April competing at Southlands in Vancouver, BC, 2007.
We arrived at the farm after, of course, getting hopelessly lost and having to call for directions. After a quick introduction and greeting I was directed to the field adjacent to the parking lot where I found my heart. There was Dondula after all those years; just seeing her made my heart swell, and a few tears escape my eyes. Once we caught up, had a cuddle and made a promise to come back for more, it was into the barn to meet her filly, “Fire Foot MR5,” affectionately known as “Fire.” I had a lot of expectations and emotions tied up in this filly that was just over two years old at the time. And she met every single one of them. It was love at first sight and that love only progressed over the four hours it took to complete a very extensive pre-purchase exam. She literally never put a foot wrong while we poked and prodded her; she handled it all with grace and calmness much past her age and experience.
Leaving the farm that day was hard. Nothing that I would consider a deal breaker had shown up on the pre-purchase, but of course I still needed time to think and figure out how the heck I was going to actually pay for this horse. As soon as we returned to civilization and cell service, I sent a photo of me and Fire to my husband. He replied something along the lines of: “Uh oh – looks like there’s some serious bonding going on there.” At this time I wasn’t actually riding due to a car accident and the need to rest and rehab my shoulder. Buying a young horse who still needed time to grow up would give me the time I needed to heal and also fulfill a lifelong dream of mine.
My dream was to start my very own horse the way I wanted to do it. I have started countless horses for people over the years and have always succumbed to their preferences, desires, and whims of what they wanted that horse to do. But to have one that I could do what and how I liked with was a very exciting prospect. Not to mention the fact that because of who her mother was, Fire was already so incredibly special to me.
A Horse Named Fire
It took me a while to finalize the purchase, which in hindsight was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It’s been just about a year and a half since I could proudly call her my own, and a year since she’s been home with me, and I still pinch myself nearly every time I see her. I truly look forward to our journey together, wherever it happens to take us.
“Believe in your dreams. They were given to you for a reason.”
Main photo: Hannah Riach