12 February, 2011

Gentle on my mind...

My riding teacher was a natural horseman, long before the philosophy became widely popular. He told me to get down on my knees and ask the horse for permission, before putting the bit in his mouth. After doing this a few times, my teacher promised me that I would be a better rider, fully aware of the responsibility and the gratitude that I owed to this kind and sensitive creature, who was extremely generous, by letting me sit upon his back.

How much is a good disposition worth to you?

For those of us who work closely with our horses, we have learned to appreciate this quality in a horse. A willing and kind disposition is vital, especially in these times of natural horsemanship, when we understand more about the nature of the horse and expect this beautiful animal to function more as our companion, ready to try anything asked of him. In Tom Groneberg's book, ONE GOOD HORSE, we meet an old, tough cowboy by the name of Forrest Davis. When asked what his favorite color of horse is, he says,
"You can trim overgrown hooves and you can put weight on a thin horse but you can't change a horse's disposition....my favorite color is gentle."
"Gentle" makes me thing of *Ansata Ibn Halima, whose name means "son of the kind and gentle mare". Do you know that soon, it will be thirty years since *Ansata Ibn Halima died?

30 years....that's a long time

and yet, we still think about him, we still talk about him and we still adore him.
"For you see, each day I love you more. Today, more than yesterday and less than tomorrow."-Rosemonde Gerard
It's more than just remembering him as an important sire or even as a name, far back in the pedigree of a present day mare or stallion. And it's more than just remembering how he made a significant impact on the breed, single-handily redefining the term "classic" and establishing it as a standard, against which, all other horses are judged. *Ansata Ibn Halima is enduring the test of time...he remains to this day, significant, influential...and highly relevant. He is timeless.
"Love is a symbol of eternity. It wipes out all sense of time, destroying all memory of a beginning and all fear of an end."
He was gentle, a kind horse, a sweet horse, a horse who was always willing and generous; always trying what was asked of him, always with a good nature.  I remember a horse that you could let your guard down, relax and enjoy his company.
"There is no fear in love."-John 4:18
You didn't have to worry that *Ansata Ibn Halima was going to bite you, kick you or cause some other kind of pain to your body...directly or indirectly. Judi Forbis, his owner, said in the August 1982 issue of Arabian Horse World,
"...his gentleness was evident, even as a yearling-a time when most colts are rambunctious and sometimes a little difficult to love."
He had every reason to be uptight, anxious, high-strung, as his world dramatically changed, leaving Egypt for America as a yearling. A different climate, a different landscape, different smells and people who used words that sounded dramatically different from the words that he knew and understood. His world was turned upside down but he dealt with it. As a show horse, the pattern of change continued and he was exposed to new sights and sounds, all the while, maintaining his sweet nature. He was stable and sound, in mind, body and spirit. He was adaptable, flexible and lived to please his human, his mistress. Judi. He loved her..I mean, he really loved her.
"Wanting to matter to someone,
Maybe be a reason why,
Be the apple of an eye,
Before my life is done."-lyrics and music by Benjamin Cooper and Gordon Kennedy, from their song, Mosaic
If *Ansata Ibn Halima were a person, he would be the person most of us would seek, when life becomes too crazy, stress-filled and overwhelming. In these moments, you need a person who will say, "don't worry, everythings gonna be alright."

THAT

was *Ansata Ibn Halima. His beautiful color was not flea-bitten grey....his color was gentleness, in all of its radiant glory.
"All the real (intangible) qualities we admire in the Arabian horse today are a result of a long heritage established through companionship and mutual respect."-Judith Forbis
The Bedouins bred a horse of stable heart and mind. The Bedouin horse had to be flexible and adaptable. He just had to...if he wanted to survive. When Lady Anne Blunt wrote about the Nedji mare, Sherifa, she made it a point to say that the mare possessed
"...the sweetest of tempers."
Lady Anne Blunt is considered to be one of the preeminent authorities on the purebred Arabian Horse. The fact that she noticed and appeciated a sweet disposition and felt strongly enough about it, to write it down, tells us how significant this attribute really is. This quality was so important, that the Bedouin bred specifically for it. Out of necessity, for whatever reason, the Bedouin horse had to be tractable, so he could occupy a tent, in the company of his master and escape the challenging desert environment.
"But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment."-John 4:18 
Bedouin life was lived in harmony with the horse, side-by-side, without the horse knocking the tent down, breaking pots, pans or bones.

H-A-R-M-O-N-Y

Thousands of years later, when we meet a horse like *Ansata Ibn Halima, who possessed this intangible quality of sweetness in abundance...well, I can't think of any better way to honor the Bedouin and his infinite wisdom, than with a horse like this.
"Carve my name upon a tree,
A knife into the bark,
Trying to make a mark,
So they'd remember me."-lyrics and music by Benjamin Cooper and Gordon Kennedy, from their song, Mosaic
I can't think of a better way to observe a special day like Valentine's Day than well, thinking about gentle. My favorite color is gentle...no need to carve that in any tree to remember, as that was and will always be *Ansata Ibn Halima...forever.

Happy Valentines Day,
Ralph

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