26 March, 2010

extra-O-rdinary

"Best guess Ralph, is that the trailer will be at your place somewhere between 5 and 10. My guys are dropping off another horse in Delaware and then, you're the next stop. If they run earlier or later than that, they'll give you a call" said Mike, offering his best guess on an "ETA". My mind drifted, far from where I stood, talking with the hauler I had hired for Maarena's delivery. More than several months had passed since purchasing Maarena and yet, it was still hard to believe that soon, she would become a part of my daily life. It had been a long hard road, from when I last met her and much had happened. In some ways, looking back, it was unbelievable that I had made it this far. At different points, when life had become unbearable, a moment like this was not even fathomable in my mind. Surely, adversity had made me tougher and I was not the same person anymore. “Would she even remember me?” I wondered out loud. “Excuse me?” Mike asked. “Oh, sorry Mike, just thinking about something else” my cheeks turning a crimson red as I made one more request, “will you have the driver call me on my cell, when he gets off the interstate? That would be a big help and a good heads-up for me, so that I have enough time to get over to the farm to meet them. I live 5 miles away.” I explained. “Sure, no problem buddy. Glad to do it” he responded. “Thanks Mike, for all of your help with this and talk to you soon.” as I finished the call and hung up the phone. “Gosh, let me think this out for a minute” I said to no one in particular. “It’s been so long now, I am having difficulty remembering.” I went over the timeline in my mind and soon realized that I met Maarena one late-winter day in 1991, maybe in February or March. Maarena was foaled in April of 1990; she would have been around 10 months old at the time. Prior to meeting Maarena, it had been 7 years since I had last been at Los Alamos. Much had changed since then, the most significant change being the absence of Hector, who was no longer alive. He had been a special man in my life and had been very kind to me, even though I was only a beginning rider, hungry for dressage training and Arabian Horses. As luck and coincidence often have it, I was in the area for business and happened to attend a meeting which was less than 5 minutes from where Los Alamos was located. I looked for a pay phone, found one in a strip mall and called Gail to ask if she had time to see me. I will be forever grateful for Gail’s graciousness in this moment, as unexpected as my visit had to have been for her. It was an opportunity to see Serr Maariner once more, as well as the lovely black mare, Black Satin. Both horses were still alive. I had been a student at Los Alamos, riding regularly at the farm, taking lessons and abruptly, had stopped when I met my wife and had gotten married. Horses had sadly disappeared from my life. While initially, the challenge of career, marriage and family kept me busy, eventually, the yearning for a horse of my own came back, somewhat stronger than ever before. All these years later, I realized that you can’t change who you are and what you love. It’s there forever.
"I was all right for a while, I could smile for a while
But I saw you last night you held my hand so tight
As you stopped to say hello
Oh, you wished me well, you couldn't tell
That I've been crying over you, crying over you"-from the song, Crying, by Roy Orbison
Little did I know then that I would be soon meeting the horse who would hold a significant position in my much later life. Little did I expect that one day, in the far-off future, I would not only own one horse, I would own two very special mares. This is important, as in these years, I was losing hope that I would ever be able to own a horse. Life is strange, miraculous and amazing, all at the same time. Here I am now, doubly blessed.

When I arrived and after some big hugs, Gail was anxious to show me a particular horse. She told me that this filly was the best horse she had bred in a long, long time. As we walked over from the barn, to the paddock where all the Arabian mares had been turned out, along comes a chestnut filly with the most extreme head that I had ever seen. Her head was so exotic, that it took me a few minutes to process and really understand what I was seeing. "This is the one Ralph. This is the filly that I was telling you about. This is Princeton Maarena. She is Gamila's daughter by Serr Maariner." Gail smiled as she told me. She rubbed her hands all over the filly's head and neck. This filly, so trusting and loving, could not get enough of Gail. They already enjoyed a great relationship. From the look on Gail's face, I immediately recognized how special this filly was and what an integral role she would play for Gail, when she matured. "WOW, her head Gail. What an exotic head. WOW” as I struggled to say something significant. I was at a loss for words. “What are you going to do with her Gail?" I asked. "Oh, she is a keeper for sure. I really love her. Even though I am cutting back a bit on the Arabians, Maarena will be part of a smaller, special program for me" she replied. The filly had walked over to where I was standing and was nuzzling me, earnestly searching for a gesture of affection, as she searched inside of my winter coat, for a warm place to hang out. “WOW, what a beautiful filly,” I thought, “she is really gorgeous and she is so sweet Gail.” I really admired this filly, as I stroked her neck. Soon, she relaxed and as I felt the increasing weight of her body against my chest, I realized that she was dozing, with her head still inside my coat. I was falling in love with a filly that I knew would never be mine and wishing for this moment to never end. It was not even remotely possible. Try as I may to think of other things, I considered briefly what it might feel like to own a horse like Maarena but the unpleasant image of a very unhappy wife, soon quickly pushed this thought out of my head, as I did not have the resources to realistically pursue this dream. “Where is Gamila now?” I asked, as I tried to change the subject. “She is with Mari Silveus and…”as Gail’s voice trailed off, my mind wandered to the reality of my present situation. I had just started a new job; my wife at the time had given birth to our second child and was a stay-at-home Mom. Arabian Horses, as much as I loved them and wanted so desperately to have a life with them, just did not fit within the budget constraints of a family struggling to make ends meet on one income. So, having met a horse like Princeton Maarena, as well as so many other wonderful horses such as her half-brother, Princeton Mariner; at the end of the day, it was all over and I went back to my horse-less life, recharged and inspired over the possibilities that were somewhere out there for me, beyond the horizon.

You may not understand the significance of Princeton Maarena returning to New Jersey and in particular, to me. Maarena was born in New Jersey, bred by Gail Hoff-Carmona of Los Alamos Dressage Center and Princeton Arabians. Her sire is Serr Maariner and her dam is Princeton Gamila. She left New Jersey and lived with Mari Silveus for a while, where she was bred to her stallion, Princeton Faaris twice. She produced a bay mare named Sunnyru Maarena in 1996 and a bay stallion named Sunnyru Marine in 1997. She left Sunnyru Arabians in Indiana, traveling to California, where she lived with Laura Mancilla, Gail's step-daughter, until I purchased her around Thanksgiving, 2008. She left California in January and was relocated to Texas, where she lived with Marilyn Lang of Fantasia Arabians until August 2009. Marilyn planned to breed Maarena to her stallion, Fa Halii Halim, in the hope of producing a double tail-female line Sirhabba foal. Unfortunately, this miracle never happened, although both Marilyn and I dreamed of the exquisite foal that would have resulted from this match. At the end of the breeding season, when the veterinarian confirmed that she was not pregnant, Maarena boarded a trailer and came home. Maarena’s journey was certainly long, returning her to the land from where she had started. Someone could say the same for me. I had gone to school in Charlotte, lived in Baltimore and worked in New York City. I had evolved from a student, to a young professional to a husband, a father and now, a divorced man. A long time spent running and chasing, and yet, here I was, not much different than the person I was in childhood, still madly in love with horses. I too had returned home, back to this person I had been, before I set out on my own journey.

Princeton Maarena + (Ralph)2008 + 9 months(2009 - 1991) = my Maarena.

When the partition inside the trailer was pushed away, to reveal the beautiful mare standing on the other side, it was as if a tidal wave had been released, rolling over me, threatening to drown me in a powerful sea of emotion. "This is the one Ralph. This is the filly that I was telling you about. This is Princeton Maarena.” I heard once again in my mind. I was overwhelmed. I could not believe my eyes.
“Would you tell me that you'd missed me too and that you'd been so lonely, And you waited for the day that I return...”-from the song, I Told You So, written by Randy Travis
The chestnut filly from long ago was here and had not changed all that much and I was transported back to the day when I first met her. It was surreal. Was this really happening? The early morning breeze, filled with droplets of rain, pelted my face, as if the sky recognized this bittersweet moment and shed the tears that were already falling within my heart. With every step I took, the ground felt different, alive, as it pulsed with the intensity of the moment. I could feel each grain of gravel, as they made contact with the sole of boot. It was everything I could do, to keep my wits about me and not make a fool out of myself, in front of the real, live, Texas cowboys who delivered her to me. Maarena is really here! I was overwhelmed and profoundly grateful. This event was a real miracle and I spent the rest of the day with a lump in my throat, a tear in my eye and a head full of prayers of thanksgiving.
"If I told you that I realized you're all I ever wanted...”-from the song, I Told You So, written by Randy Travis
One morning, not so long ago, the realization that struck me, was like an electrically-charged lightning bolt, threatening to split me in half and to subsequently, turn each half, inside out, leaving me unrecognizable. It seems like my life is defined by these moments, always appearing, to help usher me into the next phase, the next part of this journey.

DANGER: EXTREME MAKEOVER IN PROGRESS

I was suddenly aware that Maarena is everything that I have ever wanted and searched for in a horse. She is the horse I have dreamed about, possessing a great deal of quality. While she is of a small size and I wish that she were taller, she seems to possess something which is rare, from another period of time and which I have not seen in other horses. I think of Dr. Nagel and the origin philosophy of the Arabian Horse he published in his Hanan book concerning the "horse of the south" or "the horse of the Nejd".
“Their characteristics are fine skin, hard sinews, compact and light bones of great structural density, dry muscles, tough and long, no excess weight of any kind. A physical size located at the lower end of the scale of the species and typical characteristics that allow survival in a dry, hot climate; strong pigmentation as protection for the sun, few or no white markings, a short coat for better transpiration and a deposit of fat in the back or tail area for times of hunger. No fat within or among the muscles, but rather directly beneath the skin. Hard hooves that could stand up to the mostly rocky ground, and a calm temperament to preserve energy. Those are some of the conditions of nature these animals had to fulfill…in addition, there are a few special characteristics that mark him apart from all other horse breeds and make him instantly recognizable: the concave line of the profile, the uniquely high tail carriage even at the slightest animation, the dark skin and the dark hooves. The more pronounced these characteristics are, the more typey the horse appears…”-taken from Hanan: The Story of an Arabian Mare and of the Arabian Breed, by Hans Joachim Nagel
Maarena is this Nejdi horse which he described in the book. Her coat is exceedingly fine in texture. Her mane and tail hairs are not too long or too short; they are straight and fine, with a silky lightness that moves gracefully even in the lightest breeze. Her head still remains her most distinctive feature with a very prominent, bulging jibbah. One can say that her head is extreme in shape. Her eyes are large and lustrous, set wide apart on a shorter-length head with longer, distinct eyelashes. Her cheekbones are chiseled and well-defined; as if every bone, every indent, every facial detail, every vein competed against each other for attention, in the hopes of being prominently displayed. Imagine Maarena's black skin, thrown in the washing machine, shrinking and in its reduced size, stretched over her skeletal structure, accentuating every bump in her contour. Her large jowls and large elastic nostrils, add dramatic highlights to her features and help to balance the shortness and the width of her head. She has a roomy throatlatch, set on a longer neck. Her back is short and she is harmonious, with a beautiful, round hindquarter. When she gets excited and moves out in a trot, she takes my breath away. “What good have I done in my life to deserve a horse like this?” I often ask myself. Because, I do not feel worthy enough of this prize.

I had hoped to breed her one more time, in the hope of producing another filly, bred a little differently than her bay colored daughter and son. I had hoped to breed her to a line-bred *Ansata Ibn Halima horse, a horse who has blended so well with the *Bint Bint Sabbah line of Babson horses. Who knows the blessings that are yet to come, should this miracle occur? Hopefully, this foal will help to continue the legacy of this family and the belief one man can have for an old mare.

Maarena will turn 20-years old this April 5th and remains as one of the last, living Serr Maariner daughters. She continues to be a great gift and a powerful example that it is never too late for a miracle. Don’t give up your hope. Let my life, within the context of this story, be an inspiration for you. Keep going. It hasn't been perfect and I have made alot of mistakes. When circumstances appear gloomiest and bleak, life always has a way of suddenly changing, becoming very different in a positive way. On the other side of the dark valley, emerges a new person, stronger and more grateful than ever, with a refreshing new perspective.

Keep living, keep wishing, keep dreaming, and keep hoping,
Ralph

3 comments:

Anne-Louise said...

Congratulations, Ralph, and welcome home, Maarena. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful - the world as it should be. Bless you both.
Anne-Louise

Hugh Fillmore said...

Where are the Photos of this beautifull Mare ???

- - - Hugh

Carolyn Jacobson said...

Wonderful, Ralph that your Princess has come home to you! I was at Gail's in 1990 & unfortunately could not afford to purchase Princeton Mariner, Serr Maariner's only SBE son. Happily, he resides in Wales now with Sue & Laura Pyke who adore him.

Carolyn