I could have hope for Scout's future, perhaps, but not expectation. You can't have expectation when it comes to horses themselves. They are separate beings, living their own lives. As much as they must adapt to us, who possess them, so must we adapt to them. I'd adapted to not riding Scout and she'd adapted to not being ridden. There was a balance, but not a very useful one, with waste on both sides.
I get so busy in the summers, five months are wiped right out of my year. I told Special K she could ride Scout anytime she wanted and left it at that. It's not that I was indifferent, it's that my future with Scout only meant keeping her with me so she'd have the good, safe life she deserved. I remember how I'd get an email here and there from Special K in which she detailed some ride she'd had with Scout. She rode her out alone, in groups, for hours on trails. One day she told me she'd been putting all those miles on Scout just for me, so I'd feel less intimidated about riding her. Such a good, good friend. I shook my head no. Scout wasn't that for me, was never going to be that. There was a diamond in the rough in her, but I wasn't going to be the one to find it.
In July of 2010, I returned Dar to the jousters, and in September Saxony fell out of the sky and I bought her. I remember having a window of time there where I had just one horse. I thought hard about keeping it that way. But... I had Scout, yet I didn't have her. I needed a horse I could have in all three dimensions, one I could manage and grow with. That fall, our vet let Special K knew that her aging Arab needed to move to semi-retirement. No more four-hour rides for little Gambler. After her shock wore off, Special K proposed taking a half-lease on Scout. Of course I said yes, and together they rode out into the coming winter.
Then we went through a horrible year. The climate at our little-bit-of-paradise barn changed and the standard of care dropped rapidly. In May we moved our horses to another place, just before I was grabbed away by the festival. I brought Saxony over from her barn to make us complete. The way I saw it, even if the summer claimed all my time, our horses would finally be together in one place, we'd have left barn drama behind, and we could start clean in the fall. It was not to be. The new place was a joke. Special K had to go there every day to care for our horses.
I worked and worried, but for Special K it was different. Her Arab had reached retirement; he was fit for light riding only. She was at the barn every day and I was gone, so she turned herself loose on Scout as though she were her own. I'd get these dispatches about where they'd trailered, which shooting range they'd ridden by, what group ride Scout had aced. Sometimes I'd get a quick call right in the middle of a show day at the festival. Amidst the churning crowds, I'd press the phone tight to my ear to Special K. Breathless, she'd squeal, "Scout is the bomb! She was perfect." Then, in a hushed tone, she'd say,"She's a trail goddess." The joy in her voice made my heart lift, just had to. It was like the C.W. Anderson novels I read as a kid, that simple, that magical.
We left the second place in August and moved everybody to the steady, reliable barn where I'd bought Saxony. What a hard, stressful summer it had been. But I remember following behind on Saxony, watching Special K handling Scout on a loose rein during our ride to the new barn, and feeling the first sense of calm I'd experienced in months. The ease, the rapport, the familiarity of each with the other, their confident sense of purpose. They were lovely together.
I don't know the precise moment when it happened. It might have been the moment when Scout bucked her off and made her so mad, or it might have been the moment when Special K realized she had the one horse on a long group ride who wasn't going to wig out. It doesn't matter for me to know; it really is between them. What matters is that at some point, Special K fell in love with Scout. And then she fought it, thinking there might be one last chance left in me for Scout. And then she quit fighting it. When she called me, asking could she buy her, I said yes, yes of course, because all I'd wanted was for Scout to find her true home. Now she has. They both have. How lucky am I?
Merry Christmas, with all my heart, to my two favorite redheads.