I got Strider for an English saddle.
The same saddle would have gotten me maybe $60 at the auction. It was a really narrow close contact saddle and was the cause of a hip injury that gave me years of pain. It was also the first saddle I had ever owned. I bought it around the time I brought Pacem, my first horse, home.
Strider was a case of love at first sight. He was huge and shaggy, like a woolly mammoth, not a horse. He was so thin you could have hung horseshoes from his hip bones. His muscles were so deteriorated that he could barely move.
He was headed to slaughter the next day.
I fell in love with him. I had to have him. He was so special, so wonderful.
The broker let me have him for the price of a saddle. He assumed that Strider wouldn't survive the drive to the processor. Strider was, he said, about seventeen years old, and had spent the last several years penned in a tiny stall as the muck pile grew, never getting enough to eat.
He was so huge, he really didn't fit in our trailer, but he was so good and sweet that we got him home in one piece.
Strider was such a sweet boy. When the farrier came to pull his shoes and give him a trim, taking two vertical inches off each hoof, he was terrified. That huge horse buried his face in my chest and closed his eyes. He trusted that I wouldn't let anything happen to him.
Strider was the bottom of the pecking order. Even the tiny Shetland pony we had would boss him around. He was a ham. He would 'give up and die', lying on the ground with his tongue sticking out.
Getting muscle and fat at his age, with the way all his muscles had atrophied, was a huge task. Once he gobbled down his special vitamin and senior feed mix so quickly that he choked. I was frantic. I called twenty-three local vets that night. Not one would come out, not one bothered to tell me that horses won't choke to death. He was fine, eventually.
He improved. I would climb on a stack of hay bales to get into his saddle. I would just wander around with him. We trusted each other. I'm barely 5'2", he was 19hh of fuzzy Belgian... we must have seemed an odd pair, but we understood each other.
Eventually Strider was adopted by someone who fell in love with him as hard as I did. He took one look at my boy and whispered, "Who is THAT?"
It was meant to be.
Months later I got a call. Strider had a stroke. He was paralyzed. They had to euthanize him.
On the phone, this stranger and I wept together, me a twenty year old girl, him a man in his forties. Both of us had just loved this horse.
Sometimes I wonder if I will see him after I die. I was only part of his life for a few months. I hope I will get to see him healthy and happy.
He will bury his face in my chest and I will scratch under that thick golden mane. It will feel like home.