Curly ~ Part 3
Curly taught me other things, too. Being very strong-willed and sometimes stubborn, Curly gave me my best lessons on exerting authority. We had many a battle of wills, not a few of those battles ending with me in the dust. Curly would always let me back on after bucking me off, if only so he could unseat me again. These trials taught me how to ride through a healthy bucking storm, until I figured out how to nip it in the bud before it even started. I’m grateful for those dusty and bruising lessons now because I know exactly when to anticipate such rebellion and how to prevent it. I also learned firsthand how not to take any crap from a horse, no matter how trivial it seems at the time.
Curly’s winter curls started to come in nice and thick when autumn came ‘round, and he looked just like a fluffy poodle. Little blond ringlets covered his body, and he was a joy to pet! My hand would sink satisfyingly into his coat, and one of my favorite things to do was to ride him bareback that winter so I could nestle into his curls and soak up his body heat. He was my fuzzy teddy-bear, and I loved being with him.
Despite the busyness of high school, I tried to get down to the barn each day to see Curly. I would call his name down the long row of stalls to let him know I was there, and he would always greet me back the same way. His adorable curly head would pop out of his stall, his big brown eyes would light up, and a loud, happy nicker would emanate from under his mustache. Curly was like a dog in this way, overjoyed to see his owner and so happy for human companionship.
He was brave, too. We loved trail riding together, and one of these joys was deer-trailing. Off the main horse trails were lots of little, narrow offshoots made by the many deer of the Griffith Park mountains. These intriguing, semi-dangerous trails were irresistible to the teenage rider, and Curly seemed to love taking the deer trails as much as I did. I would point him toward an offshoot and a new pep would appear in his step as he eagerly climbed them. I ducked branches and watched the trail carefully for anything that might cause danger to Curly, but I didn’t need too worry much. Curly was very sure-footed, and had “mustang” hooves so hard that he didn’t even need shoes. The key components to happy deer trailing were there: a smart, courageous horse and a dedication between horse and rider to look out for each other. We were perfect together.
One night Curly didn’t seem to be his usual perky self. He kept whipping around to nip at his belly, and I grew worried. I knew this was a sign of colic, which can sometimes be fatal to horses. I pressed my ear against his fuzzy belly to listen for the loud gurgles that would tell me everything was moving along properly. Silence. Shakily, I checked the other side, praying for some squirt or rumble. Nada. Curly had colic, and I had to call the vet. It was late and dark before the vet arrived. I was frantically walking Curly up and down the long barn hallway as I had been taught to do to try to get things moving in his tummy. My own stomach was in knots, and I was tense and fearful but trying to comfort Curly at the same time. Finally the vet truck pulled up and I felt a twinge of relief. A tube was put down my brave Curly’s throat to administer the mineral oil that we hoped would slide things along. After a few minutes we heard some very loud gurgles issuing from that fuzzy belly. The mineral oil was working, and my tears of fear turned to tears of happiness. Curly would live to play another day.
Curly's story to be continued tomorrow . . .