Every Picture Tells a Story
Sometimes I wonder if Ty has read his breed history, and this accounts for his very mellow “just happy to (still) be here” attitude.
He was raised in the Netherlands, a Friesian from Friesland. While that might sound like something from a Tolkien novel, it is the Dutch province where Friesians originated and are still bred. Muscular, majestic horses, they are known for their physical strength and gentle demeanor. They were used in battle, their strength no doubt helpful when carrying all that armor, and later to pull carriages and wagons and work on the farm. But as technology supplanted horses on the farm, by the early 20th century Friesians were nearlyh extinct. Thankfully some dedicated horse lovers launched a campaign to save the breed and after decades of careful breeding have successfully restored their numbers and their popularity.
Raised to be a show horse, Ty was accustomed to traveling from competition to competition, with all the people and noise and activity buzzing around him, as he won ribbons and undoubtedly hearts. Then one day, he made the long flight across the ocean, leaving all he knew behind, to come to California to be with me. Life as he knew it, was changing.
The Netherlands is a bit cooler than California. It has actual seasons and plenty of rain. He grew up sinking his large hooves into the green, soft grass while he grazed, something he can’t really do here. But even so, he’s adjusted easily to the dry heat and sunshine, just as he’s settled into his new home and has learned to tolerate his new awkward owner. All in his typical, happy to be here, way.
On my best days, I’m like Ty and calmly take most everything as it comes.
Trudy, a Tennessee Walking Horse, is a horse of a literally different color. Gray and lean, she is also happy to be here, though she might not be as happy about you being here.
But anyone who spends time around Trudy and gets to know her, can’t help but love her strong presence, feisty personality, and sense of humor. She has opinions, so many opinions, that she readily shares. She is a little slower to trust and is adept at reading a person’s energy, able to spot a jerk from a mile away.
Bred in Tennessee but raised in Southern California, Trudy is accustomed to the heat and thrives in it. The breed originated on plantations in the American South and were popular due to their smooth gait and calm disposition (something Trudy periodically forgets). She is built athletically but has a lean elegance about her. The fine features of the Tennessee Walking Horse are so apparent in Trudy and in my unbiased opinion, she has one of the most beautiful faces I’ve ever seen.
While Trudy has a fine lineage, she was not raised to be a flashy show horse. Her path has been different, and not as privileged, as Ty. She had a home after leaving her breeder but was returned for reasons that had little to do with her. But she wouldn’t understand that.
When she first came to me, she was lacking some confidence and I felt such empathy for her. Perhaps I was projecting my own feelings of self-worth, or lack thereof, onto Trudy. But nonetheless she was a horse who had lost her owner and I was a person in search of a horse to love. Somehow, we found each other.
Trudy finds the most joy on the trails that ring the ranch property, happily jogging up and down the hills, perhaps channeling her ancestors as they traversed those large estates. Other horses have trouble matching her fast pace. She will, if asked, slow down to allow them to keep up. Not that she won’t give the equivalent of a teenager’s eye roll and a foot stomp. I mean, she’ll go along but she’ll let you know her opinion on it.
Most days, I’m a lot more like Trudy. I’ll deal with what comes but there is likely to be some grumbling.
Where do I come from? Well…
My birth family blends mostly Scottish, English, and French heritage into your basic vanilla white people who settled in the Midwest. Raised as a Navy brat, then enlisting in the Air Force myself, I didn’t really settle anywhere until I was an adult and landed in New York City, where I fell in love. With the city. I suppose I thought I’d be there forever and when work brought me to the West Coast, I fully expected to return home before long. But life didn’t work out that way and what I thought would be a temporary relocation has turned into decades.
I still miss New York but I’ve built a life here in California and I don’t expect I’ll move back any time soon, if ever. After all, it’s really hard to keep horses in a pre-war walk up on the Upper East Side.
Everything I’ve experienced, everywhere I’ve traveled, has brought me here to this moment and to the person I am now. I’m generous, loyal, generally good hearted and I strive to always be kind but like Trudy, I am wary of strangers and impatient with fools. In fact, I am impatient in general. You really don’t want to hear what comes out of my mouth when I’m dealing with traffic in Los Angeles. God, I miss being able to just hail a cab!
The point is, we each took a journey to be where we are now and to be who we are now.
We all have a story. And every story matters.
Writing this blog has made me keenly aware of the importance of stories. The way each story is unique and yet how telling our stories connects us to each other. Recently I was thinking specifically of stories written by my late father that he had given to me years ago. We had talked about editing them and perhaps getting them published, something I thought maybe I could help him do. But I didn’t. They’ve been sitting in my files, unread by anyone but me. And that isn’t how it should be. I need to correct this.
More to come….
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