Horse Color

My first real horse, Freedom, was a registered appaloosa. He was a yearling when I got him at 15. While I would never recommend a young horse for a relatively inexperienced young rider, he turned out to be a great horse for me.

He wasn’t the horse we had gone to see when we found him. I had my heart set on a quarter horse that was advertised in the paper. When I got there, the bay quarter horse had a cough. Even if he hadn’t though, I had eyes only for the black appaloosa with the snowflake blanket was in the pen across from him.  I ended up with the appy.

The appy came with papers and a large cut on his nose from a bolt in the stock trailer he arrived east in from Montana. He was sold to us as a gelding but 6 months latter his testicles dropped and we realized we had a stallion. Easily corrected but it was an embarrassing mistake for a first time owner.

For the next few years, Freedom and I did everything together. The first year consisted of long walks along the road and trails. He followed me around the yard always curious what I was doing.

After he came back from the trainers, we traveled the same roads and trails.  I’ve never been a great athlete, but we had fun. We tried and competed in all the local shows, never getting a ribbon. My 4 H club leader felt bad for us and made up good sports awards every year so I didn’t feel left out.

But when it came time for college, my family insisted I sell him. This is my one, true regret in life. I still shed tears over it. I lost my best friend.

I tried to keep tabs on him, but his new owner ended up selling him at auction, even though verbally she had committed to give me first refusal rights. I tried to find him but never could. To this day, the ApHC lists me as his owner.

So 30 some odd years later, I bought another appaloosa- Pepper- a beautiful sorrel who reminded me of Freedom.  It didn’t turn out quite as well, but I learned much from him, and I like to think he found some peace with me. He never had papers but he was so well put together, I know they must have been lost as he made his way through the auction circuit.

After Pepper passed, I had all intentions of finding a nice little registered gelding- probably a quarter horse because I wanted something sane and well trained- not as old and full of baggage as Pepper, but not as young as Freedom

I’ve never been a big fan of sorrels or chestnuts, but when a fellow boarder suggested I check out a quarter pony that was for sale one town over, I did not want to hurt her feeling. I had no intention of buying him. I wanted a larger horse with papers, if possible and a different color. He was also $500 more than I had to spend. This was about 6 months before the recession, but he was still expensive for a green-broke, unpapered quarter pony.

As I pulled behind the barn where he was stabled, I was running a script through my mind-  ‘nice horse, but not what I’m looking for. “

The first thing I saw was a  shaggy red horse tied to the fence.

He was definitely a sorrel, but plain is does not describe Jigs. He’s not flashy, but from a distance I could see  humor in his eyes. He had a jagged lightning bolts that ran 3/4 down his nose and his face was roaning. He was too big to be registered as a quarter pony.  His body and legs were compact like a pony, but the muscles in his rump were defined under his shaggy coat, definitely some foundation quarter horse in his blood. He was he’s a muscular as any quarter horse I’ve ever seen.

He greeted me with outstretched nose. I ignored him, as coached by my trainer, and my lack of response caused him to set his nosed deeper into my winter jacket.

“This is Jigsy,” a voice said from behind a horse trailer. “His name was Chase when we got him, but the family who owns him thought he was more a Jigsy. It fits. “

“He’s been here a few years, since he was three and he’s not finished. His owner is going through a divorce and he hasn’t been worked much. Here, why don’t you walk him?”

She handed me the lead. I tried backing him up with the rope and my body. He stood still.

“Oh, we don’t do that natural horsemanship here. We’re a traditional barn. I’m sure he’ll pick it up though.”

I walked him a bit and then rode him. The phrase ‘just a sorrel’ rang in my head. He was so in my pocket. Not really pushy, but interested in me and what I was doing. I really liked him.

“Why don’t you take him on trail for a month? If you don’t like him, you can return him.”

So I did.

Over the next few weeks he learned about personal space, standing still, and listening. I learned that he wasn’t going bite me if I got too close, the way Pepper did.

He seemed to enjoy attention and being brushed. Pepper hated it. Jigs approached new tasks curiously and his enthusiasm was infectious.  He actually greeted me with a whinny when he saw me coming and was glad to see me. He only nipped at me once and that was in play. My reaction showed him it wasn’t acceptable and he didn’t do it again.

By week four I realized that his plain color wasn’t important. Later that year I discovered he turns a spectacular metallic copper in the Summer  and literally glows. But by then, it didn’t matter.

And did I need papers? We were just going to trail ride, maybe collect miles or do the occasional hunter pace. No, I didn’t’ need them.

Jigs  was what I needed. Over the past few years he and I have become partners.  If someone offered me the finest, blackest , papered horse of any breed, I wouldn’t trade Jigs for it. To me he is priceless – the most beautiful little unpapered gelding in the world. Color really means nothing.

There is a larger lesson there too…….

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