Bint Al Bahr Arabians

Preservation Breeders of Straight Babson Egyptians


The Friend 

              By Nathan Howard   © 2000

She was a small foal, too small some said.  Still it’s hard to tell when they are so young.  She might turn out just fine.  I started the bonding necessary for trust to develop.  Trust that would be needed later between horse and rider in the performance classes.  Only the horse and rider with the highest trust in each other can place in the serious competition, and it is hard to tell when they are so young

Robin Howard and a "Friend"  -  Nathan Howard Photo

Her head was not coming out of that awkward stage.  Not ugly but not outstanding either and she was still small but for the performance classes it might not matter.  I have had to spend more time with her halter work though than I expected.  I had hoped that she would be much further along by now.  The daily grooming and hoof cleanings have calmed her ticklish spots and she will stand with the halter now.  It is hard to tell with a yearling, she may yet get some size and a pretty head, and all young horses have good and bad days in their training.  I’ve noticed that when I talk to her she calms down.  Not when I talk at her like telling her what to do but when I talk to her.  Sort of like how you would talk to a friend.  Like telling her about when I am happy or about being sad and about the wonderful plans I have for the two of us.  Oh, and she has such deep eyes with a look that seems to say, ”I know.”

Robin Howard and a "Friend"  -  Nathan Howard Photo

She is not coming along very well.  She does not have that “presence” I’d like to see to catch the judge’s eye, her head is still plain and she is only 13.2 hands.  Really her best attribute is standing still for the daily grooming and of course our talks.  She will stand still for that even loose in the pasture.  Sometimes I get lazy and go out in the pasture to groom her.  Oh, I told her about Jim.  Still at 2 she has plenty of time to shape up and be someone.  She may be a performer yet.

I have just about accepted the fact that she will never compete but she may still be a good riding mare.  Her head and size..... well she could be a late bloomer.  We both enjoy the daily grooming and I tell her about the new ones that have such promise, their attitude, conformation every thing.  She will never be like them.  Good bloodlines don’t always produce.  I am so disappointed in her.  I also told her about my accident and losing Jim.  I cried then and she gave me a look that said, “I know.”  The deepest look I have ever seen.  At 3 though it is still too early to give up on her.

She has been under saddle for 2 months now and I am disappointed in her performance to this point.  I have stopped trying to make something out of her.  The only thing she does really well is listen.  She knows all about the progress of the more promising horses.  Their wins, their placing and training because I tell her every day.  She nuzzles my tummy as if instinct tells her about Jessie.  Jim did not make it this far and we talked about that too.  I hate wasting so much time with her but she so enjoys the daily grooming and talking always calms her.  I had such high hopes for her but now at 4 I am not even sure I should keep her.

She nuzzles my small tummy now and then looks at me with that special look.  I brought little Jessie out with me today.  She liked Jessie right away.  Too bad she would never amount to anything.  A time or two I thought of breeding her, maybe the bloodlines would come through.  I would hate to go through all that effort for nothing though.  She really does like Jessie.  I think she would have really liked Jim.  He would be three now.

She is such a chore to have around.  Not good for anything!  Today I had to walk out in the pasture to get her for her daily grooming.  I wasn’t feeling very good and was plenty tired.  She looked a little downcast too.  On a whim I got up on her bareback and she walked back to the barn for me.  I never did walk back to the barn after that.  Jessie was waiting for us at the barn.  She is not interested in the other horses or training or such but she likes this old nag and talks to her just like I do.

She is 10 now and Jessie is 7.  Today I sent Jessie out with a halter to lead her up from the pasture, but she came back riding bareback just holding the halter in her lap.  I scolded her for doing such a dangerous thing.  The mare seemed to understand who she was carrying because she was going real easy and when she got to the barn she gave me one of those looks that said I know.  Jessie had probably already talked her ear off but she was still ready to hear about my problems with the more promising young ones.  We talked about Jim too.  She is the only one I talk to about Jim any more.  I know she would have liked him just as much as she likes Jessie.  I think she would have been extra careful with him too.  I wish she would have amounted to something. 

She is 19 now and a man offered me a very good price for her.  Said he wanted a horse that was good with kids.  I should have sold her but, still, she is not too expensive to keep around and maybe I will find a use for her yet, watching the weanlings maybe.  I saw Jessie talking real quiet to her today, about boys I think.  I guess at 17 Jessie should be interested in boys and that Bill is a fine lad.  I don’t dare tell the mare that.  She would, no doubt, find a way to tell Jessie!  I told her that Jim would probably be talking about girls now.  I wonder what he would tell her about his girl problems?  Foolish thought.

She’s 23 now.  Jessie came over today and she nuzzled Jessie’s tummy just like she did mine so many years past.  Jessie got right up on her and I was petrified because I remembered the accident, and Jim.  But she was more careful than I had ever seen her.  She gave me one of those looks.  I had many more promising horses to train and take care of,  I should never have wasted so many years on her. Jim would be 22 now. When Jessie named her baby Jim I cried.  Later I took my new grandson to see her and told her that this was Jim.  She cried then also, and gave me one of her looks.

She’s 29 now and arthritis hurts her so badly, but she still insists on carrying Jessie's little Jim in from the pasture when we send him out to fetch her.  She hasn’t had a halter on for 12 years.  Maybe she never needed one in the first place.  You know she never really amounted to anything.  This past winter was really hard on her.  I told her about the new crop to be born soon.  Expecting 6 this year. 

I walked her by the foaling stalls today.  One of the foals is noticeably smaller than the others.  She seemed pleased to see it because she stopped there, and yes she gave me one of those looks she only uses at special times but deeper than ever before.

It was just yesterday that we looked at the foals.  I think she enjoyed it.  Jim is with that little foal now as Jessie and Bill stand vigil quietly next to me. It has been 2 hours since she passed away.  I’ve been crying for 4 hours.  Maybe they think I am crazy to hold her head in my lap but it seems I have so many things to tell her yet, things that never quite got said during her daily grooming.  I really should have gotten rid of her years ago you know.  She never did amount to anything and I wasted so much good time on her.  Time I could have spent on the more promising horses.  I do need to attend to other horses you know.  I bet she really likes Jim though.  I hope she is telling him all about me.

I don’t think they quite understand the look in my eyes.  I’ve never told them but as my family stands by I’m sure they know that I am saying good bye to my best friend.  I told her though.  Just a few hours ago before the end.  She gave me one last look that said,  “I know.”

Authors note

The inspiration for a story about talking to a horse and a horse as a friend came from spending many years with my lovely wife Robin. As my love for horses has matured I have learned from her the joy of talking to them. Robin has loved and owned horses since before I met her in high school back in 1974 and has been talking to them for as long as I can remember. Recently I have come to believe that, sometimes, she also whispers.  


This story was printed as a fictional work in Khamsat, Volume 15 - 4, a publication of Al Khamsa.  Although it is tough for me to choose a favorite of among Nathan's stories, I would have to say if I have a favorite, this is it.  Thank you Nathan for granting me permission to share this.  

Nathan and Robin Howard's Hi-Power Farm 


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