The Journey Begins
Go back, go back
In all my grace
In all my greatness
My first real horse was a gray Arabian named CJ for the magical price of free. I had been riding the neighbors' horses for a couple years by this point and when my family heard about CJ, we were ready to own our own.
It was raining when we got him. He would not load in our friend's two horse trailer. Abandoned in a pasture, the little gelding had not been handled in years and it showed. When we got him home and I first started riding him, it was a challenge. The moment my foot was in the stirrup, he would bolt. Some days, I got on. Some days, I ended up on the ground. On a few occasions, trampled. Most of the time, my Dad would push CJ against the fence and hold him while I mounted. Our persistence paid off and after a few months, getting on was no longer a fun-filled adventure. By the time I was done with CJ, I could ride him with a rope around his neck.
He was the horse I first started gaming on – patterned speed racing. These events were like barrel racing. Courses in which the horse and rider had to navigate as fast as they possibly could in order to have the fastest score. And I fell in love with it. Soon, the little grey Arabian gelding was not fast enough for me. Arabians were not built to be competitive in these events. They didn't have the quickness needed to get to top speed within a few bounds. I needed a Quarter Horse with a dash of Thoroughbred.
I began searching for my next project.
My mom found Journey on the Internet. She requested a picture of her. As soon as I saw that printed photo of the black three-year-old filly, I fell in love. She was sleek and long legged and staring at me with energetic eyes that boasted the speed I saw in her build. The moment I laid my eager eyes on her, I knew that I wanted her. The moment I saw her, I dreamed of racing and never touching the ground again. Embodied in that photo was the spirit of a horse that would forever change my life.
A friend of mine drove me six hours to the small Eastern Washington town of Goldendale to see Journey for the first time. That day, I was dancing with excitement as I stepped from the air-conditioned car and into the heat. Somewhere within me, I knew I was going to buy this little filly I had not yet even seen.
I first had a glimpse of her standing in a wooden corral nibbling on a few flakes of grass hay. Her owner, Heather, let me go in and put the halter on her and we led her out, around, and then into the barn to brush her down and tack her up. Though she was not broke yet, Heather said she had put the saddle on several times and had cinched it up with no buck.
I listened to the filly's owner prattle on about how she came about buying her and what she had done with her so far, while I took in from ear tips to tail the black horse. Journey was thin, her mane lifeless, and her hooves in a bad need of a trim. She was better than she had looked before explained Heather, who had spotted her in a field amongst a herd of forty or so mares. Then, only a few months prior, she had been deathly thin, hardly the horse she was now. The weight was coming back, her mane and tail growing long and thick. However still, she needed more attention and tender loving care. These were the things I knew I could give her.
Although, as I said, she was not wild, fierce, crazy, or dangerous, something about her was untamed, and it called to me. A part of me that cried for freedom connected with her, as though perhaps we had a similar dream and a similar goal. We both wanted nothing more than to taste competition, nothing more than to feel air beneath our feet, to smell crisp morning gallops in the misted hills.
I looked into her soft eyes and nearly lost myself in them, in dreams, in her. She needed something she knew I could give her. There was some pain in her eyes I knew I could smooth away, distrust I knew I could win over. She was sensitive to touch, a person's soft hand, even the brush. She was flighty, but not skittish, or easily spooked. She was just afraid, as though someone in her brief past had treated her roughly. I saw that and wanted to make it better for her; I wanted to show her that she did not need to be timid around us.
I knew that I wanted her when I saw her picture, I knew I wanted her when I saw the adventure of her in her eyes, but when her owner turned her loose in the round pen, there was no doubt in my mind that I would walk away having left a down payment on this horse. Moving was effortless for the sleek, black filly. It was as though she was born set to the tune of nature around her, set to the very movement of the sky and ground. She breezed like the wind coming down the mountainside, swayed like golden prairie grasses stretching to the horizon, and she turned like a day changing from gorgeous to dreadful and back again. At that moment, watching her go around in the corral, rolling back when asked to do so by her owner, I knew she would be mine, and mine forever.
After watching her, our mouths agape at the agility Journey demonstrated, my friend and I observed as the woman took Journey into the large arena and turned her loose to run. And did she run. If I thought what I saw in the round pen was amazing, I was soon taken aback once again. She ran with more speed, more power, and more grace than I had ever seen, as if that too was effortless for her, as though she could run until the end of time and beyond, as though she could sprout wings and fly into the grace of the heavens above. I could imagine being upon her back, imagine that riding her would be freedom in itself. It would be a weightless, boundless, and unbridled freedom. I could imagine, watching her sink her hooves into the sand and spring forward faster and faster, that we would barrel race and be the best that there ever was. It was a dream I would drive toward for years to come.