Pirate is about to be five years old, and she happens to be one of my personal riding horses, an Arabian mare of CMK bloodlines. She is “sabino” in color, which is quite unusual. She is steel grey with white legs, a white blaze on her face, and a splotch of white on her tummy. Being sabino means that if I were to breed her, she would have paint foals. This is Pirate, looking up from her delicious alfalfa hay to pose for the camera:
Unlike most of the Arabians we own, Pirate’s life did not begin at Bitterroot Ranch. She was born in British Columbia and registered with the name ” Aul Angelica”, with Angelica as a stable name. I first met her in October 2009 when Mel and I took a road trip to Canada to pick up a new stallion and two new mares for her Arabian breeding program. After seeing the mares and stallion Mel had already chosen to bring back to the ranch, David Ward, the breeder and proprietor, took us on a walk through his property to see his other Arabian stock. After walking through a paddock of older brood mares, we entered a field of three year old colts. Most of them were quite nervous and flighty, as they had been handled very little in their lives. Angelica caught my eye, and I walked toward her to take a closer look. As I approached her, she kept her eye on me, blowing loudly through her nostrils. She then made a dramatic spin before high-stepping away from me with her tail in the air. Mel and I chuckled at the mare’s dramatic reaction, and Mel made a comment about what a wild one Angelica seemed to be. I agreed but said I felt particularly drawn to her. After seeing another fifty horses, we loaded up Mystique, the stallion, and Glimmer and Melody, our new mares, and we began the long drive back to Wyoming.
Time passed and Angelica did not cross my mind. To be honest, I did not dream I would ever see her again. Richard and I went to North Carolina to see my family for Thanksgiving and New Years, and we returned to Wyoming in early January. We went up to the ranch to see Mel and Bayard soon after our return. We not only wanted to see them, I also needed to learn the chores, as they were about to leave for a 2.5 week trip to Egypt, and I was to care-take the ranch.
As soon as we arrived, Mel thrust an envelope in my hand and a large package in Richard’s hand. She said we needed to deal with Christmas presents immediately (keep in mind, we are standing in her driveway after not seeing her for 6 weeks in our full winter regalia….Carhaart overalls, wool socks, hats, scarves, the works…), otherwise the presents would be spoiled by the chores we were about to perform. Richard and I were both confused, but we opened our gifts. Richard received a beautiful saddle blanket made of Navajo Churro wool…the surprise here was that Mel had bought a small herd of Navajo Churro sheep, and the blanket had been woven from their wool. She wanted him to receive the blanket before he saw our new sheep. He was pretty shocked. But his shock paled in comparison to my speechlessness. I opened the envelope to find a photograph of what appeared to be a grey Arabian in the pasture by the arena, where the colts live during both summer and winter. I was very confused and said, “But this looks like Angelica….But it looks like our place…..”. I just could not align it all in my mind! Finally, Mel ended my confusion and explained that she had purchased Angelica for me for Christmas and had shipped Angelica and another mare, Taj Mahali, down from Canada. I simply did not know what to say– I was too touched. I think I muttered a thank-you of sorts. I know that tears sprang to my eyes, we all smiled, and we went about the chores.
While we were doing chores, Mel told me about Angelica’s arrival. The woman who brought her was accustomed to paint horses– she sold them and shipped them all over the country. When she pulled up, she told Mel that “the grey horse” (mine) was “as wild as a deer” and that “nobody should handle her”. Mel started to wonder what on earth she had gotten me into! She did not want to kill me with a Christmas gift that was as wild as a deer! It turned out that Angelica was actually a typical young horse who had rarely been handled– nervous at first, but quick to warm to positive attention. Here she is again, eating hay this time:
As spring came, I became excited about taking her through our Young Horse Clinic and getting to know her better. When our wranglers arrived, we started to discuss her name. We all found “Angelica” to be quite problematic. First of all, it did not suit her at all. She is a fairly sassy, opinionated and confident horse, nothing like a dainty Angelica. Secondly, I struggled to say the word “Angelica”. It was so many syllables! And I could not find a way to shorten it to make it work.
The brainstorming began. What should we call her? We went through LOADS of names….names from Greek mythology, names from history, names from pop culture, African names, Southern names, family names. I’m telling you– we ran the gamut. She has a habit of putting her ears out to the side, like airplane wings, and looking at you warily out of the corner of her eye. Whenever she gave us her trademark look, we commented that she looked like a pirate. A Pirate! We capitalized on this theme, going through all of the pirate possibilities….Blackbeard, Captain Jack Sparrow, Lady Killigrew. We explored every pirate-option out there!
At last, we just started calling her Pirate as a joke, and we talked to her in a Pirate voice whenever she gave us her trademark look. As it frequently happens, the joke turned into reality. “Pirate” stuck, and I now have my own, personal, very beautiful riding-Pirate. Here she is looking somewhat Pirate-y:
Part of what makes Pirate so special for me is that she is the first horse of mine I have had the opportunity to start completely from the beginning. I worked with her on the ground for many weeks, and I then mounted her— at this point, I have probably ridden her a dozen times. I am learning her quirks, and as I get to know her better, I will be the one teaching her. If she develops bad habits, I will be the one to answer…if she is absolutely perfect and amazing, don’t worry….I will give her all the credit! Either way, I am very grateful to have the opportunity to take this horse, to whom I was so attracted in a strange and seemingly random field in Canada, through life with me.
May everybody find their own Pirate one day!