She was tall and black, with legs that went on forever. In the summer her coat shimmered and her flanks faded to the richest chocolate brown I’d ever seen on a horse and have ever seen since. She was grade, had travelled halfway across the country before we’d met, and her history was unknown. The first time I got on her after I brought her home resulted in a mini-rodeo. It didn’t matter. We rode everywhere together and on tough days I buried my head in her neck. She was aloof, but tolerant and everything I didn’t know I needed until I had it and wouldn’t know how much it meant until I let it go. Her halter hangs on the wall above my desk.
We had an accident. I don’t remember how it happened now, but it did. It wasn’t much worse than the one that first time, so many rides before when I’d first mounted up, brushed her with the tip of my boot and gone for a ride, strung out over the saddle as she bucked and kicked and carried on. I got back on this time just as I had before, but was, for whatever reason, apprehensive. We had another. And another. And another. Each time I lost confidence in our relationship under saddle and each time I mounted up she felt my legs shake like leaves in the fall breeze. I ended up on the ground.
I remember the last one. We were only a quarter mile from the barn. The whole ride had been a struggle and as I brought her into a figure eight a turkey flew out of the weeds at the edge of the field. She spooked, dropped tail like only a Tennessee Walking Horse can and started for the barn. A few steps in, she decided I wasn’t going with her and when she got something in her head, she usually got her way. My head hit the field first, and my body crashed down behind it. Hard and dry, I tasted dirt and blood as I watched her hooves head for home. I walked back while The Man took after her on his gelding. My pelvis was all twisted and my head ached, but there were no lasting injuries. I was young and my body healed quickly, but this time I didn’t get back on. I was getting older and, it seems, my mind didn’t bounce back in quite the same way.
I sold her that winter.
She was followed by a dead-broke gelding who did everything I asked of him. He taught me how to ride again and I grew to trust him more than I’d ever trusted another horse, but it was never the same, he was never in my heart.
People often ask me why our farm is called Olive Hill. We live in Michigan and there are no olives growing here, after all. Pigs are our thing. Now you know.
There once was a mare and her name was Olive.