My Horses – Diablo

Ahhh, Diablo. My 26-year-old Standardbred/ Quarter Horse gelding who has been with me for 20 years. I can’t even believe that either one of us is old enough to say those words, but they are true. And every year I tell Diablo that he just has to live 15 more years. That’s all I want. Just 15 more. Every year.

How did I stumble across this smart little gem of a horse? Well, this is how the story goes: Back when I was a poor marketing Account Coordinator living in South Boston on a shoestring budget, I really needed to find a way to get some riding into my life. So I found a hack stable just outside the city where they needed experienced riders to be trail guides. Basically you did the job for free, but you got to ride all day Saturday and/or Sunday, depending on how long your seat bones held out. And on how much you had to drink on Saturday night (I was in my early 20’s, after all). Most weekends found me out at the ranch showing novices how to mount up and “control” (I use this term lightly) a horse. Being a trail guide meant you rode either the new horse that just came in from auction (“Take that Thoroughbred out on the trail and see what it does!”) or the stubborn, pluggy horse with the mouth as hard as a rock and sides like boards. We were supposed to save the “good” horses for the customers. But one of the guides had it made. She had a hot little mahogany bay horse of her own, on whom she would canter up and down the line of riders, shouting orders and helping put horses back in line. He had a blue synthetic bridle, a gleaming eye, and a temperament like a rocket. Everyone wanted to ride him. Diablo.

One lucky long weekend, Diablo’s owner pulled me aside. She was going away for the weekend and thought I was the only one who could ride Diablo. Would I mind taking him out on the trail a few times? Would I MIND?! “My own” horse to guide on for the weekend, who was actually responsive and fun? Um, yeah, I’ll see what I can do. And so my love affair with this little pistol of a horse was born. He was everything I thought he would be – nimble, responsive, and completely explosive. But again, I was in my early 20’s, and totally invincible! Riding the horse that looked like he was about to buck you off was cool! I had a blast riding him all weekend long.

Then wonder of wonders, Diablo’s owner decided she wanted a mare and went out and bought one when she really couldn’t afford to have two horses. So once again she pulled me aside and told me that she wanted me to buy Diablo and, oh, if I didn’t, she would be sending him to auction NEXT WEEK! I had no extra money. I lived in the city and had no place to keep him. I was living paycheck to paycheck and absolutely could not afford to have a horse. So, of course, I bought him on the spot.

Everyone said, “You’re crazy. That horse is going to kill you.” But there was something about him. An intelligence in his eye and an athleticism to his body that made me think that with the right focus and training he could really be an amazing horse. So I took him away from the hack stable and started re-training him. Over the years we have competed in barrel racing, competitive and distance trail riding, won numerous ribbons and championships in Hunter Under Saddle classes, and spent hours riding on the beach and local trails. He is still a hot horse, but he is SO smart and LOVES to work. Even at 26, he meets me at the pasture gait and begins pawing as soon as I start brushing him – he just can’t wait to get out on the trail and go! And of course he tries to buck me off about every other ride, just for fun. But so far, after 20 years, he hasn’t killed me. And I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe, he won’t.  Meanwhile, I’ll just keep enjoying the ride.



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  1. What a beautiful horse and love story, Michelle!

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