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Monday, December 14, 2015
When Riding Nick

I created the painting "When Riding Nick" over 12 years ago. Oh Nick. My sweet dumb boy.

My farrier came out one day to trim my horses and mentioned that the big fancy ranch he mostly worked at was liquidating a bunch of horses for about $500 each and had to go ASAP. Immediately I perked up because a ranch of hundreds of horses and really? Come on! I could easily be a horse hoarder if my finances allowed it. So I arranged to go with my farrier a few days later to meet these horses and finally see this ranch that I had heard too much about not only from Mike, my farrier, but from many other people.

The facilities were amazing and I learned a few things that day. One, the fancy mares don't actually carry out pregnancies, but rather they have "junk mares" that are inseminated with the quality mare's fertilized embryo. Two, that there is a special stallion whose job it is simply to excite and prepare the mares in season for breeding, and "he was very good at his job" but he was not used for the actual breeding. It made me kind of sad that these horses were getting screwed without actually getting screwed.

After my tour it turned out there were 3 geldings to pick from.

The first horse I met was this big LONG guy that obviously was not used to being in a stall. Was he chestnut, Sorrel, palomino? His color was so ambiguous! He kept popping his big head out into the isle without any regard to us humans that were in his space. He had zero sense of being in anybody's bubble. I requested we take him out of the stall to get a better look at him. Again, this guy was clueless to me leading him around and kept yanking me around with his ginormous head and neck, but yet leaning into me for safety by being as close as possible, as if I could protect this 1200 lb animal. I've never met a horse with worse ground manners, but I also knew he didn't have a mean bone in his body. Obviously to me he was just very nervous not being in a herd environment- and I'm not sure why he was in such a hurry to get back to the herd because I said to Mike, "Well, he certainly lives up to his name". The horse had more herd-inflicted scratches, bites, and cuts on him than I have ever seen on any horse. His tail looked like it was mostly rubbed and bitten off. Yep. This would be Nick.

The next horse was the most beautiful Quarter Horse I have ever seen. He looked like an Arabian with a pretty little dishy face and long mane and tail. He was a glowing shiny bay with all the chrome and a registered name so long that it capitalized on every famous horse he was bred to, including the ranch's name. Although Nick had a very nice foundation AQHA pedigree, Fancy Pant's horse was money. He was also one of those horses bred and raised on the ranch and no outgoing personality to show towards humans. He had a job to do and he took it seriously. He was a horse with no obvious drama and very, very nice to look at.

The third guy was a large gentle thoroughbred in an open pasture with many other horses that took some time warming up to Mike, but quickly came to me. I liked him, but at this point I still couldn't get the other 2 horses off my mind and time was running out as the horses were shipping to auction the next day. After a few hours it came down to riding the horses and seeing them under saddle to know which one I was going to take home. Nick was first. He was big, goofy and lumbering with a terrible canter. Nothing special about him under saddle other than he was afraid of the robotic cow they had for roping. Even though he was scared, I never felt unsafe. The other fancy pants gelding was a dream to ride with the smoothest gaits. He did everything he was told to and rode like a dream horse.

Needless to say, I picked Nick.

I know that Mike and the trainer thought I was crazy when I chose Nick especially when he ended up costing not even close to $500 but by then it was too late. I was smitten and the heart wants what it wants.

I knew that Fancy Pants gelding would never come running because I had treats, or because he wanted to be brushed. I also knew that I would have to seriously work on ground manners with Nick if I didn't want to have my feet trampled or pushed into walls. Honestly, Nick never really got the ground manners thing, but he did get better. He never became fully aware of his size and length and big old neck that with one head turn could send me flying in the direction that he wanted to look. But trail riding with him was so easy, fun, and relaxing. I rode him by himself bareback everywhere despite his wicked withers which were impossibly high. He very rarely spooked but when he did he would turn and spin so fast that I never saw or felt it coming. I would simply be facing a different direction in half a second flat. He never bucked, bolted, snorted, reared or anything dangerous or stupid. I would take my son then 4 year-old on many riding adventures with a little saddle that attached to the back of mine.

The painting I created was a of a typical ride on Nick. We went into the neighbor's field where I would canter a bit and just walk around and enjoy nature where we would see deer and hawks. Nick was a bit VERY on the lazy side and wanted to eat far more than do anything else. In fact it became annoying how often I would have to jerk up that big head of his out of the grass. When Nick wanted to eat, he would eat, and that was a lot. Many times I would just give in and let him eat while I would lay on his back and look at the clouds and daydream. His nicks and cuts went away and it turned out he was born with the sparse "appaloosa" tail as it never grew any thicker or longer. I never figured out his color as it changed with the seasons, but I believe he ended up being a sorrel. Bright and shiny in the summer with the gold/red color with a light mane and tail. Winter he became a dirty blonde.

I ended up selling Nick many years later at a sizable profit to a beginner rider who I thought Nick would be perfect for. I often wonder how Nick is doing but at the same time I don't want to know. He was one of those guys that will always be in my heart.