Jo Ann J. Lovelace

I hastily flipped through the pages of the newspaper finding the classified ads. I ran my finger down the column Horses for Sale. Half way down the page I found a paint horse listed. Reading on disappointment flooded over me. I wanted a ten year old, well marked, tabiano paint gelding with a war bonnet. The horse listed was a four-year-old tabiano mare.
My husband Roy, suggested that I at least go look at her and I agreed even though my heart was set on buying an older horse, a gelding not a mare. Almost sure I would never find the horse of my dreams; I dialed the number in the ad.
"Are you the one who has the paint horse for sale?" I asked when the cheerful voice of a middle age woman answered the phone.
"It's my son's horse," she answered. "He's been transferred to another state. We're just taking care of his horses for him."
"Does he have more than one horse for sale?" I asked hope racing through my mind. Maybe he had the horse I wanted after all.
"He did have a three year old paint gelding," she said. "We've already sold him. He has two more mares but he plans on coming after them once he's settled."
I asked all the usual questions and she told me what she could explaining she really didn't know that much about horses. She asked if I would like to come and see the mare.
I wrote down the directions and arranged to see the mare that evening. Visions of a high spirited spotted horse ran through my head galloping off across the pasture field not even letting us close enough to check her out.
I glanced out the truck window at the slushed filled road. It was still a little slick from a recent snow. Roy drove with ease around the crooked turns and I tried to keep my attention on the mud-splattered mailboxes, that were barely visible through the half naked trees.
"This is it," Roy said, spotting the number on the box that I had completely missed seeing. As he pulled up the long narrow driveway the truck wheels began to spin then like a shot went to the top.
In front of the huge well-kept barn stood a chestnut colored horse, two paints and a little bay filly. They raised their heads and looked at us then continued munching on the bale of hay that lie in front of them.
"Are you here to see the paint?" The owner's father smiled. "She's the one standing next to the barn. We'll have to walk down the driveway to go through the gap to the barnyard."
Slipping and sliding and holding tight to Roy's arm I finally made it through the gap and up the slick muddy hill to where the horses were.
Standing next to the barn the mud covered mare stared curiously. She didn't offer to run away when we approached as I had imagined. She stood without halter or rope while Roy checked her feet with no problems from her at all. I could see she had a shoe on one foot and her feet were in dire need of being shod. This was cause for concern especially the one foot that had a bulge on the side.
"I think her feet will straighten up with proper care," Roy said." She's very well behaved. If you want her I'll have the vet come out to check her over."
"What's the horses name?" I asked the man. "Such a beautiful horse must have a pretty name."
"She has an apache name," the man grinned. "It's very difficult to pronounce. Let's go to the house and I'll show you her registration papers."
With every step I took it seemed like I was sliding back two. Roy was holding on to my arm to keep me from falling. We finally made it back to the house and I looked at the horse's papers. I decided not even Geronimo himself could have pronounced her name.
"If we buy this horse," I whispered to Roy. "I'm calling her Brandi but I'm still not sure. Her feet have been extremely neglected."
"We'll think about it," I said to the man. "We'll let you know one way or the other tonight."
"I would buy her right now," I said to Roy, on the way home. "I can't help being concerned about her feet though."
Sitting at the table, sipping strong black coffee I finally arrived at the decision to buy the paint. If the man had no objections to our having her checked over and getting her feet ex-rayed.
Roy dialed the number, and then waited patiently for the man's wife to get him to the phone. He didn't mind our getting the vet to check the horse but wanted a deposit to hold her. Roy called the vet and made arrangements for him to check the mare the next morning. Then he delivered the deposit that the man had asked for.
I sat on pins and needles the next day waiting for the vets call. The phone rang around noon and I grabbed it on the first ring. The vet told me the mare was in fine shape and the feet would straighten out in time. We arranged to pick her up that evening.
"I hurried out the door when I heard Roy's truck pull into the driveway that evening. "Has she been fed?" I asked, as Roy unloaded her from the trailer. "I'm getting ready to feed the other horses."      
"He was getting ready to feed," Roy answered. "But he waited for us to leave."
"Good," I said. "She'll feel more at home being fed here tonight."
Horses usually take a few days getting settled in but not this horse. She waltzed into the barn unconcerned and made herself right at home. She greedily ate the oats that I gave her then immediately snatched a mouth full of hay chewing vigorously and looking very content.
The next morning after the horses had been fed, we turned Brandi out in the paddock with Roy's quarter horse Kid and our little hackney pony Amanda. Brandi and Kid were friends soon as they met but Amanda showed a nasty side that we had never seen before. She pinned her ears back tight against her neck with her nostrils flaring she squealed insults and threatened to kick when Brandi trotted over to get acquainted.
Brandi wasn't the least bit concerned with Amanda's obnoxious behavior. She pushed Amanda hard with her nose and then nipped her on the legs as she herded her around the barnyard.
Later in the day the farrier came to shoe Brandi. She stood politely, like a perfect lady until he was finished.
"It'll just take time to get her feet back in shape," Bob said, as he was leaving. "See you again in about eight weeks."
Eight weeks turned out to be more like eight days. Brandi lost a front shoe. A week or so later she lost another shoe. We couldn't understand why she was losing so many shoes until one day I looked out the window and saw Brandi with her shoe caught in the page wire fence. A friend noticed her about the same time and rushed to the fence with his wire cutters. I had planned to go shopping but was afraid she'd get her foot caught again. So I stayed home and checked every few minutes to make sure she was all right.
That evening when Roy got home from work. He raised the fence far enough above the ground where she couldn't get her shoes caught. We ate sandwiches that night. It was too late to fix anything else.
The next morning I went to the supermarket not noticing the dirt down the back of my vest until I got home. Brandi had swiped her mouth across my back when I let them out in the barnyard. I wonder how many people saw my dirt-streaked vest I thought embarrassed as I threw the soiled vest into the washer.
I rushed to the barn without putting the groceries away. It was time to feed. I forgot all about changing my boots. When I had finished feeding my brand new beige boots with silver toe guards were mud covered. I worked for hours that evening getting the mud and yuck off of those boots.
I'll have to say Brandi's the most unusual horse that either of us have ever encountered. She's extremely gentle, very affectionate and we could defiantly tell she had been trained with the gentle approach. Anyone would be able to ride her just like the man had told us.
It wasn't long until we discovered she was also mischievous. Her nose worked as well as fingers opening stall doors. She had every stall door in the barn standing open. A screen door hook installed inside the stall door put a stop to that mischief.
Sometimes it appears that Brandi doesn't realize she's a horse. In fact there's times I'm almost positive she thinks she's a person. Every time I clean the stalls, she always there to give her assistance.
The first day she dragged the broom up the hallway of the barn picking up a few shattered shavings on her way. When she tired from the sweeping chore she flipped the broom over focusing her attention to the other end of the broom. With one loud crunch a good portion of the broom disappeared. Oh well, I thought, we needed a new broom anyway.
When I started putting the broom out of her reach she would trot down the hall and try to push the wheelbarrow. With her teeth clinched down tight on one handle she would turn it over leaving an enormous mess for me to clean up. One evening it took me so long to clean up her mess that I was two hours late getting supper ready. Although that little troublemaker ate right on time as usual.
She's always getting into some kind of mischief. It's usually something different every day. A few days ago she had no sooner gotten outside when she spied our cat Charley lying under a tree fast asleep. She didn't waste any time going over to annoy the cat. A twenty-pound nose shoving her rudely awakened poor Charley that was unaware Brandi was hovering over her.
Charley bowed up in her back she hissed and showed her claws making it perfectly clear that she didn't want to be bothered. Brandi ignored Charley's objections to playing with her and chased the cat into the barn. Charley jumped through the first stall window that she came to and crouched down almost on her belly then slithered across the stall.
Nikki and Dee Dee our Dobermans stay well out of Brandi's reach since the day she courageously chased them through the barn nipping at their heels. Fluff our little dog being somewhat braver crawled under the fence creeping low on the ground intending to sneak up on Brandi.
The horse continued picking grass as she watched eagerly until Fluff was close enough. Then chased the dog all around the paddock. Finally, Fluff managed to escape under the fence exhausted.
Brandi feeling chipper from her victory ran over to a huge mud hole. She stirred it well with her foot so it would be extra messy then laid down right in the middle of it and rolled. I think she has an over whamming desire to be a black horse.
"All right, Miss," I said. "It's time you got a good bath." I led her by the mane into the wash stall where I labored endlessly washing the muddy grime from her body.
I had intended to go shopping for some birthday gifts but by the time I was finished bathing her, Kid, and Amanda it was feeding time. I put off shopping until the next day.
A day or so later I noticed she had her foot in between the fence wire and the cable that ran through the post.
"She's managed to get her foot caught," I said to Roy, as I rushed out the door to her rescue. "She's going to hurt herself yet."
Roy and I had barely reached the fence when Brandi politely lifted her foot out and set it down on the ground.
After owning the mischievous imp for nearly two years I'm getting use to Roy coming in and saying, "Guess what that horse of yours did today?"
One incident in particular, "she charged up the ramp behind me, going to the manure wagon," Roy said. "I made her leave of course. When I went back inside the barn I heard this pounding noise and figured I'd better investigate. Brandy was on the ramp beating the daylights out of the manure wagon with her foot. I'll probably have to put a gate up to keep her away from it."
Then another time, "she knocked the bar down that we keep across the front of the barn. No other horse has ever managed to do that." Roy said. "It's a good thing we keep the oats under lock and key. She'd probably figure out how to open the feed box too."
"That horse of yours sneaked in and turned the wheelbarrow over," Roy said, yesterday. "The only reason she didn't eat the broom I had it where she couldn't get to it."
"Did she flutter her long brown eyelashes at you when you corrected her?" I asked. "I don't know where she learned that cute little trick."
"She sure did," he laughed. "That mare knows every trick in the book on how to keep out of trouble."
As I sit at the desk jotting this story down on the computer. I think about all the extra trips the farrier has made. The time we had to get the vet because she pulled a tendon in her back leg. She slid as she was cutting a corner chasing the pony around the barnyard.
Then there was the time we had to get her a tetanus booster because she managed to cut her leg on something. We still haven't found anything that she could have cut herself on.
I've spent enough money getting shoes replaced to had two horses shod not to mention the vet bills but I've broke her from all the bad habits she had when we bought her. Every once in awhile she tends to forget or comes up with some new kind of mischief.
I sometimes think about my life with her over the next twenty years or so. I wonder how many trips I'll postpone, meals I'll eat late and how many times I'll wear a streak of mud to some public place because of her affections.
I love the mischievous imp although she certainly isn't anything like the horse I visualized buying. She's perfect!

Copyright © 1998  Jo Ann Lovelace. All Rights Reserved.