This was my second horse, Zephyr, circa 1996. I’m about 16 years old, and so was he. Zephyr had been abandoned at the boarding stable where I had kept my first horse, Nimbus. When she passed away following colic surgery, I was devastated. The kind barn owner allowed me to “adopt” Zephyr over the course of a year, and during that time I learned a lot of lessons about damaged horses. Zephyr was 15 and had some serious baggage. He had a lip tattoo from the Jockey Club, so we knew he was a thoroughbred who had raced at least once. His old owner who had left him at the boarding facility had used him as a jumper I had heard, but beyond that we knew nothing about him. He was extremely claustrophobic… he was frightened to be tied up or have his head restrained in any way. Even leading him or tacking him up he could have a sudden panic attack and when he did, he would rear and throw himself over backwards. When riding him you had to be extremely careful to keep the reins loose and keep him going forward or he could do the same thing. He was so nervous that he had an odd skip in his trot for about the first six months that I rode him, like one step of canter for every two steps of trot. He only did it while being ridden; on the lungeline he was perfectly steady. Many of my experiences learning to help Zephyr primed me to understand and have an affinity for Natural Horsemanship principles years later.
Despite all these demons, Zephyr loved people, as long as they weren’t putting any scary demands on him. Looking back I suspect that he was an especially sensitive horse that had never been educated to understand pressure and had learned to escape it however he could. I learned some of my most formative lessons about trust, timing, and the nature of horses from this horse. Many of those lessons were very expensive. The last one cost Zephyr his life in a trailering accident. I am forever grateful for this horse, the good times we shared and the knowledge I acquired doing my very best to love and protect him. I would not be the horsewoman I am today without my three years with this amazing horse.