Monday, April 9, 2012

The One

This is the story of how I came to be Coro's:

Before I knew him...a baby picture of Coro that his seller gave me.

In the spring of 1992, when I was 15, we lost our "young" horse: 22 year old Kishta Amira Lau (“cream-colored-princess in Arabic). Kishta had been my grandfather’s favorite, and she was the daughter of my mom’s palomino Arab/Quarter mare, Taffy. Kishta was the baby, and the brat. Beautiful though – big boned, for being ¾ Arabian, buttery yellow with big expressive eyes and long white lashes. Papa went out to feed one morning to find Kishta lying dead in a pool of blood. She’d had a pulmonary aneurysm in the night. Just weeks before her death, I’d finally been given the long-coveted privilege of riding her. My mom, knowing that I was outgrowing my pony Tinkerbell, thought I was up to the challenge of Kishta’s spunky, spooky, hot-headed antics. I still think about the night before she died with regret. I had ridden Tinker and was feeding her grain through the barn door. Kishta was sticking her head in the barn begging for treats, and I teasingly told her “you don’t need any goodies – you didn’t do any work!” I’m still sorry I didn’t give her that last handful of sweet feed.

I had been begging for a new horse for years, but losing Kishta prompted me to shift my efforts into full gear. She had been my last hope for a spirited mount. With summer approaching, I’d been saving money for our annual Vegas vacation, and in a desperate teenage moment, I went wailing melodramatically to my mother:

“Is there any chance of me getting another horse? Because I have all this money, and I want to put it towards a horse if it’s at all possible….” She must have known, at that point, that I was terminally afflicted with horsecraziness, and she might as well relent. I started perusing the classifieds that day. My mother’s only stipulation was “NO GELDINGS!” The first horse we looked at was a young Quarter Horse with a colt at her side. While the prospect of having two new horses was an exciting one, there just wasn’t any connection with the plain chestnut mare. I wanted fancy, I wanted flash.

Next we found ourselves at the Greer Ranch – breeders of fine Tennessee Walking Horses. After growing up around delicate-faced Arabians, the big, unrefined heads of the Walkers were less than appealing. Still…there was one chestnut yearling with a flaxen mane and tail that caught our eye. She was a little spitfire and I loved her instantly. My mom reminded me that it would be at least two years before I’d have a riding horse, and I found myself trying out a well-broke black mare called Joanie. The rolling amble of the running walk was fun – I pictured myself riding the county roads on my tall, coal-black horse. I wasn’t the only one, though, whose heart was still set on the feisty filly. My mom made Mr. Greer a 2-for-1 offer on Joanie and the yearling. We arranged to have them delivered the following week. When we got home I called all my friends to tell them about my new horse. I was just about to burst with pride. Once Papa got home from work we took an evening drive out the ranch to show him our purchases. The horses were turned out – the sunlight was slanting across the green pasture, and there she was – My black horse! I walked toward her…and she turned her butt to me and started ambling away across the pasture.    I called to her, thinking she was going to come cantering loyally up to greet me.  She was mine now, after all!  We were going to be inseparable, unstoppable!  She ignored me, swished her tail, and ambled even farther away.   We stood there as the sun set, and my heart sank.  I was quiet in the car on the way home, but kept up the pretense of being excited. The truth was, I was crushed. I thought I was getting a partner, and she didn’t even seem to like me. Cleaning the corrals the next day, my mom said “You’s not a done deal yet…we can keep looking…” and I burst into tears. Joanie was not the one.

We took a few weeks off from horse shopping to give my delicate adolescent emotions time to assimilate. On a whim, I called up a Paso Fino breeder that I found in the phone book. Years before I had ridden a buckskin Paso mare named Duende, and fell hopelessly in love with their Spanish regality, and fancy footwork. Duende’s price tag was $8,000 and I promptly filed that particular dream under “not in a million years.” Sue, with Mesa View Ranch, told me that they were liquidating their herd, but they did have one unbroke 3-year-old gelding left. My heart sank. Mama would never go for a boy horse. “What color is he?” I asked. Sue told me that he was almost black, but would be gray. "How much are you asking?" I said with trepidation. The asking price was $800. I just about fell on the floor. I could pay a quarter of that with my own money! I relayed the information to my mother, and much to my surprise, she said we might as well go and look at him.

Coro's sire, Azoras

I had my learner’s permit that summer, and so I drove the fifteen miles to the ranch, babbling excitedly all the way about what I would name him. I wanted him to have a Spanish dancing name – and liked the sound of La Bamba or Bolero.  When we pulled up the drive, Sue had him standing in front of the barn. He was a dark pewter color, gleaming in the sun, ears pricked, nostrils flared, with a haughty gleam in his eye. It was hopeless from the moment we saw him. She told us his name was El Corazon – and he had already stolen mine. I led him up and down the driveway a few times – he nudged me with his nose and jumped three feet sideways when the copy of his papers that Sue had given me rustled. “We’ll take him!” my mom announced without needing to consult me - I was obviously enamored.  Never mind that he was only halter broke. My heart leapt. He was delivered just a few hours later. (giving us barely enough time to stop at IFA and buy him a burgundy halter with brass fittings which he still wears today) I proudly pored over his papers while we waited, using a Spanish dictionary to translate his lineage. His father’s name meant “Trouble from Spain” – his mother’s “Rascal”...uh oh.  He was a grandson of Hilachas, three-time Sire of the Year and ten-time Top Ten Stallion. Further back he had another foundation sire, Mar de Plata, or “sea of silver” and Zaraza “chintz”. A registered Paso Fino! To this day I hear Spanish trumpets heralding as I remember him being backed out of the trailer into our driveway. Sue handed me the rope. “He’s all yours.”

The day I got Coro, July 1992

He was wildly handsome. I stood in the corral admiring him for hours as he paced back and forth, snorting and looking to the west. His skin quivered with excitement. I couldn’t stand to leave him. I thought he might disappear, like a dream. I tangled my fingers in his silver mane. I ran my hands over the sleek arc of his neck muscles. I gazed in wonder at the colors of his coat – born a bay, the dark steely gray was sprinkled evenly with lighter dove gray and cinnamon hairs. Although he seemed to like my company, his eyes were alight with arrogance, and perhaps a little fear. I saw in him all that we might be – I vowed to earn his trust, his love. He was so stunningly beautiful, that I can honestly say that I couldn’t even imagine riding him at that point – it was enough to be near him.

I called him Coro, which also means “chorus”. I was taking Spanish at the time, and I would sing him the songs we learned in class. I called him “mi carino” – my darling. We played. I would hide in the sagebrush with a treat and call his name – he would trot and prance toward me and ruffle my hair with his muzzle. He would chase me in the pasture – follow my leaps over the ditches and mirror my every turn. I walked him like a dog around and around our circular road. My cowboy neighbors made fun of me “When are you gonna ride that horse?” – they teased. I read every training book I could get my hands on. I spent every minute I had with him that summer, getting to know him, falling deeper under his princely spell every day. I didn’t even think about riding him yet, but I began to imagine. I had dreams that we were cantering effortlessly through yellow and purple fields. The idea of riding him began to take on a mythological reverence.

 Handsome boy

To be continued...

No comments:

Post a Comment