Today is the 1-year anniversary of the first time I met Tonka (then Kelly). I clearly remember listening to this horrific story on the radio as I drove out to the barn. David had given me $300 for riding lessons on my birthday, but after falling in love with a picture of Tonka online I decided that it would be better spent on a 1-month trial lease*.
When I arrived Tonka was in a panic because Star (his companion of the previous seven years) was screaming for him from the pasture. He had ditched his handler after being tacked up, and he made a break through the barn where he got trapped by the sliding door at the far end. It is only time I have seen him truly undone by a situation. When they caught him I asked the girls in the barn to untack him -- I had no intention of taking a first ride on a horse in that state of distress. Instead I took him out in-hand and quickly learned that he had impeccable ground manners, even through fear. He turned gingerly on the forehand and the quarters in both directions. He reversed for 20 steps with agility and attention. No one knew that he had been a race horse, but I now assume this level of cooperation came from his early training. I fell for him completely on that first day and the founder diagnoses three weeks later was just a bump along the road of inevitability.
In the meantime my friend Sheena was having her dog Briggs laid to rest after a long, hard battle. January 12th 2008 was a sad day in many ways, but it was also the start of my life's longest dream coming true.
*In case it's not clear to FFF readers, David is my very best friend, my partner and my lover -- not always the easiest role to play in the life of a woman who is independent to a fault. The indirect conversion of a $300 cheque into a 1200 lb horse was something that he accepted with more humour and grace than I deserved. I do promise that this year's cheque will be spent on nothing more than vet bills.