Meet the Herd
Legend was a fiery red bay Arabian with a personality to match his looks and movement.
Dad had found him just a few months before Brandy passed away. My dad would always find another pet before the one he knew he was losing passed away. I understood. It was to help ease the loss and pain. But not this time. Nothing could take the place of my Brandy.
Legend was 8 years old when dad brought him home. I came to visit one weekend and there he was, lying down back-to-back in the winter sun with my horse Brandy.
I was both irritated and amused. For one, I wasn’t ready for dad to replace Brandy so quickly and second, I couldn’t believe this beautiful little horse was so close to Brandy – figuratively and emotionally.
Legend immediately bonded with Brandy and my parent’s menagerie of rescued animals. It was if he belonged with us and knew us his entire life. That was uncanny to me and the first sign that this horse was different, and I mean different.
It wasn’t long after he arrived that Brandy’s health worsened, and we had to put him to rest. I scheduled the vet and as I was gently asked Brandy to walk with me to his burial, Legend was there to help him along. The second uncanny thing he did that made me stop and think, “is this horse for real?”
Legend didn’t just help by walking with us, he literally got behind Brandy and nipped at his flank to guide and encourage him to move. He did this until we reached our destination and waited with us until the vet arrived.
The third uncanny behavior was how Legend stood with us and how he looked so forlorn and depressed. He went from playfully nipping at Brandy to standing motionless with his head hung low.
I was mesmerized by his human-like behavior. While I was used to Brandy acting like a person (he spent most of his life in our backyard and with his human family), Legend had just arrived a few months prior and not only settled in like he lived with us his entire life, but he also acted like a person.
Now, the next two things blew my mind at the time.
When the vet arrived, Legend went from stoic and forlorn to running and screaming. He left us and ran up and down the 3-acre pasture screaming before he ran to the other equines and livestock. He kept on screaming when and ran circles around them, as if to say “come on, why aren’t you upset or standing next to Brandy” but they never responded or moved.
He then ran back at full gallop to us before he dropped his head and stood perfectly still and sad again. At this time my vet had sedated Brandy and he was lying down as my parents, and I were saying our goodbyes.
Legend was standing at Brandy’s head while he was lying down and as my vet was euthanizing Brandy, Legend took his nose like Elephants do with their trunks when they mourn one of their dying and ran his nose from Brandy’s hind end to his head and just as Brandy was taking his last breath of life, Legend breathed into his nostril and took his last breath.
Very similar to these two photos of Legend saying goodbye to his beloved friend, Smokey.
Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw or what I felt. If you had told me this story, then, I wouldn’t have believed you. But now, after experiencing what I did, I believe.
I believe that horses are sentient beings who are capable of deep and meaningful relationships and feeling complex emotions. I believe horses are spiritual guides and telepathic. We talk all the time and they are my counselors.
After Legend took Brandy’s last breath, his life force, he ran up and down the pasture, screaming. His head held high, his tail high and in a full gallop. When my parents and I walked back to the gate, we stood there together crying with Legend. He had come to join us in our sorrow and grief.
So, this was the beginning of one helluva journey with this little Arab named Legend.
Legend was your typical Arab. He was super intelligent, people oriented, sweet, affectionate, hot and he came with a lot of vices. He was not abused like most, rather pushed hard, and rode hard, and I could tell that a lot of what he knew, what he experienced, confused him and didn’t make sense to him.
Examples would be tacking him up to ride. He refused the bridle, the bit, the saddle and would cow kick if you tightened the girth gently.
Once I did finally get him tacked, he didn’t want to leave the horses, the barn and feared everything out on the trail.
I remember trying to walk him through a very large body of water. It was only a few inches deep and many feet wide and he wanted nothing to do with it. I got off and tried walking him, leading him but he ran backwards. We spent hours working on getting his front feet in the water before he finally walked through it. He was still scared and after many encounters like that, I felt defeated and done.
I had spent 25 years with my late horse, and I was spoiled. Sure, Brandy I had some rough times there at the beginning, getting to know one another while we figured some things out, but all-in-all, it seemed easy compared to this and it was after all, a lifetime ago.
So, my fuse was short and so was my time. I lived in DC and came back to my parents farm every 3-5 weeks. It quickly became evident to me that taking Legend out for a leisure trail ride was not going to happen.
Fast forward two years and I’m ready to make a huge shift in my career and future occupation. It’s 2004 and I’m financially fit enough to make a lot of my dreams come true including starting a career with horses. I buy my first horse, Smokey and my first farm only 20 minutes away from my parents. My dreams are coming true!
Preparations to bring Smokey, Legend and my donkey Onasis to my farm have started and until they are complete, my herd of equines are living on my parents’ farm. I begin studying natural horsemanship and Smokey became my first pupil.
The ironies in buying Smokey were many. For one, I wanted to begin my learning with an older, easy horse so I by passed Legend and bought an unrideable, traumatized 4-year-old, Smokey. I would work with Smokey in the round pen and Legend would stand at the gate, asking to be included. He would nicker to me often, those quiet, intimate kinds of nickers that have different octaves and tell you so much about what they are thinking…if you are willing to listen.
Back then, I didn’t listen to anyone or anything but me. I was stubborn, often impulsive, and very determined. Heck, that’s how I got through life. I paved and paid my own way. I ran a successful business, and no one was going to get in my way, let alone show me a better way.
Now, that didn’t apply to my relationship with my pets including Brandy but Legend wasn’t mine and I wasn’t letting him in so he could replace Brandy.
So, here I am with two beautiful horses I can’t train or ride. Six months after I bought Smokey and began my natural horsemanship learning, he fell gravely ill with liver disease. I was on the fast track in my newfound education, and he was the horse I was taking to school in six months and now he’s fighting for his life.
After weeks spent hooked up to IV’s and temperatures that should have killed him, Smokey was released from New Bolton in PA. My new farm was ready for my herd of equines, so I moved both Legend and Onasis there and kept Smokey with my parents so they could help me administer his 24-hour care. He now needed months of recovery and rehabilitation.
At this point I knew I couldn’t take Smokey away with me to school and if I wanted to stay on track with my education and new business goals, I had to start working with Legend so he could go with me.
This is how my journey began, and where Legend’s legacy continues.
Someday I will write a book about the many life-changing experiences Legend blessed me with and for now, most everything you know about me as a horse person, including my Tao of Horsemanship methodology and teachings has been inspired by Legend, Smokey and Sundance, my Trinity.
So, when you watch a video of mine, please remember that it all started with Brandy, then my Trinity and Legend was the maestro who directed the show.
Legend was the most loving, intimate, intelligent, and wise horse I have ever known. His love guided me and showed me my way. I am forever grateful to have loved him and been loved by him.