Friday, February 19, 2010

The Beginning

I was seventeen, and had moved to South Africa from the Seychelles after the death of my father on 12th July, 1977. It was July, 1979, and my birthday was coming up on the 7th. I wanted a horse, more than anything in the world. I loved horses, although there are none in the Seychelles. Still, I had had a few riding lessons and loved it. I was searching the Farmer's Weekly eagerly each week, and saw the ad that would change my life forever a week before my birthday.

2-year-old palomino for sale, R300.00, breeding potential, Cato Ridge.

The 'breeding potential' part worried me a little, as I was not looking for a colt, but I had a feeling about this ad. It stirred something inside me. It conjured up visions of a golden horse. I had decided I wanted an exotic colour, black, piebald, skewbald, or a palomino. I phoned the number and made an appointment to view the horse the following weekend. A day passed, and I grew anxious. What if someone else bought him before I had a chance to see him? What if he was the horse for me, and I lost him because I didn't act quickly enough? I had to go and see him, quickly! A sense of urgency suffused me, but I didn't know much about horses, so I asked a lady friend of my mum's who knew much more about them, to go with me.

It was a week day, so I had to go after work, and the middle of winter, so it got dark just after 5pm. I didn't care. I had to get there before it was too late. He was my horse; I just knew it. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became. My mum drove Adore and I up to Cato Ridge. It was dark when we got there, but we met the family, a farmer, his wife and three kids, whose name, regretfully, I can't recall. He was good enough to take us to the shed where he kept his horses, with the benefit of a torch to light the scene. He had seven, mostly mares, but he showed us to a thin, pale horse who was busy eating his supper in a stall.

I couldn't see much in the weak torchlight, mostly a rolling eye, long legs and quarters higher than withers. He was two years, eleven months old, the farmer told me. 15.2hh, which was about the size I wanted. My knowledgeable friend could see no more than I could, and her only comment was 'good legs'. I told the farmer I'd take him, and collect him on the weekend. I had only saved up R150.00 though, but my mum said she would contribute the other R150.00 as a birthday present. I was ecstatic. At last, my very own horse. We returned on Saturday - looking back, I don't know what I was thinking. I had no horse box to transport him in, no bridle, no saddle... nothing.

I had R300.00 burning a hole in my pocket, though, and a conviction that this was my horse. He looked a good deal better in the daylight, although his neck was too long and his head too big, plus his coat was a pale fawn, since it was winter. He had good legs, though, and nice strong hooves. The farmer told me he'd bred him from his palomino mare, an Arab X American Saddler, and his sire was a chestnut Thoroughbred, which he described as 'gigantic'. Also, apparently, he had covered one of the mares before they had gelded him, so I have no idea why they advertised him as having 'breeding potential', since he was a gelding.

The farmer also told me that my horse's mother had drowned in a flooded river when he was a yearling. They showed me pictures of him as a foal, and a few of him growing up. His name was Star. Of course, I hated the name, being so common to horses with stars, and he did have a perfect, diamond-shaped one right between his eyes. They put a halter on him, and helped me climb on his back. The farmer's wife commented that I was the first heavy weight Star had carried. I wasn't that heavy, I thought, at 50kg. They led him around, and I fell in love. I paid the farmer, then came to the problem of how to transport him to the livery stable where I had booked a place for him, a place called Green Meadow Lane in Hillcrest.

Fortunately, the farmer had a truck large enough to carry him, although it was an open vehicle, and a far cry from a horse box. Nevertheless Star had no objection to being loaded onto it, and the farmer's eldest son and another man sat on the roof of the cab, holding Star's halter. I recall asking if they shouldn't tie Star's halter down, but they assured me it would be fine. I climbed into the cab with the farmer, and off we went. As soon as we left the farm, Star started neighing for his friends, but seemed otherwise unperturbed. The journey to the livery stable was about 50km, and about halfway there, on the freeway, Star reared up and put his front hooves on the roof of the cab, fortunately missing the farmer's son and his friend. They got him off it, and then tied his halter down. The rest of the journey was achieved without incident, and we arrived at Green Meadow Lane.

Of course, the truck didn't have a ramp, and the livery stable owners had to pile some bales of straw behind it for Star to step down onto. We got him off the truck without incident, and he was at his new home at last. So, I had an unbroken 2-year-old, and no tack. I saved up for a grooming kit and a halter, and Adore gave me an old bridle. I bought a rubber bar snaffle, and a friend loaned my a large, old saddle. First, I put the bridle on Star in the stable, so he could get used to the bit in his mouth. He chewed and chewed it, and tried to spit it out, but all to no avail. When he had accepted it, I added the reins and placed the saddle on his back. He looked around at it, tried to chew it, and shivered his skin a lot.

When he had accepted it, I fastened the girth, loosely. That didn't bother him much at all, so after walking him around in it for a couple of days, I tightened it and started to put my weight on his back. I put one foot in the stirrup and lay across his back, expecting fireworks. Nothing. Emboldened and excited, I plucked up the courage to sit properly and use both stirrups. Still, no fireworks. I took him into the lunging ring, and we had our first ride together. The first time I asked him to trot, he bucked, just once, and hardly enough to bounce me. That was it. After that, it was on to his schooling.

It was about that time that I decided to change his name. Not entirely, but to something better than 'Star', which I thought was a naff name. I opted to add 'Tybolt' to it, since I really liked that name. So, the skinny 2-year-old horse I had bought became Tybolt Starr. He also turned 3. That spring, he shed the pale winter coat, and his summer grew out deep gold. With his pure white mane and tail and silver socks, I realised that my horse was indeed beautiful, and not a yellow palomino, but a silver one, a far rarer colour.

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