Everything about Rey raised my hopes sky-high. He’s lived up to his royal lineage. I wanted him as soon as I read about him. He’s by far the most magnificent horse I’ve ever owned and one of the best I’ve ever ridden. I purchased him as a yearling, from a retirement sale. In Peruvian Horses, the rarest and most desirable way of moving is called gateado or catlike. Rey moves like a panther.
His aristocratic head and arched neck flow gracefully from his strong shoulders. His exquisitely defined muscles are accentuated by his fine coat and thin skin that gleams metallic copper in the sun. This breed is intended to be beautifully balanced. Rey is half leg and half body in height, and his forequarters and hindquarters show remarkable symmetry. In this respect, too, he is close to perfect.
By the time Rey was four years old, I was riding him regularly and was thrilled with his progress. On his back, I felt like I was on a magic carpet. My trainer, Manuel, was as eager to unveil him to the other trainers as I was to show him to the breeders at the upcoming shows.
The grand unveiling did not go as expected.
One day, a lovely training ride in the round pen at home turned into terror when Rey dropped his head, kicked his heels high into the air and tossed me into the sand. He bucked about eight or ten times, then stood and trembled while I struggled to my feet, spitting sand and trying to recover my breath.
Manuel heard the kerfuffle and rushed out of the barn to help me up. “What happened?” he asked.
“I don’t know what set him off. He was working beautifully, then he just came unstuck. If he gave me any warning, I missed it.” I was shaking, more scared than hurt. I longed to know what I had done to cause the incident.
The next time Rey bucked, Manuel was in the saddle in a class at the Canadian National Championship Peruvian Horse Show. Like before, there was no warning. The crowd that had gathered to watch Rey’s gateado gait were treated to an entirely different demonstration.
It took several minutes for a whole group of experienced trainers to catch Rey up after he launched Manuel and began to buck furiously around and around the arena, while the other horses and riders huddled in the centre, trying to avoid him. Fortunately, the only casualties were Manuel’s pride and Rey’s reputation.
Manuel worked with Rey a few more times, but the bucking only intensified. We reluctantly quit riding him, accepting that he would hurt someone if we kept trying. Whatever possessed this horse to buck like that?
For ten years, Rey’s been charging around in his paddock in perfect gait, tossing his head and reminding me daily of what could be, and isn’t. He eagerly approaches me in the paddock, begging me for scratches on his neck and chest. One of my life’s biggest mysteries is why he doesn’t want me to ride him.
I never used Rey for breeding because I was always afraid that he would pass on the tendency to buck. I don’t believe my beloved horse intended to hurt me. My theory is he bucked me off to eliminate some discomfort he felt. His brilliance is a joy to behold but safely, from a distance. Some horses are just too dangerous to be ridden.
Experience has taught me that romance, too, can be dangerous.
Even so, I still believe in love.
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