Merlin and I were a pair. Both of us a little old fashioned, doughy, and out of shape. We dressed and looked like shepherds, not Olympians. I was going to be tacking him up with a borrowed saddle and girth, an array of tag-sale horse grooming supplies I bought for a dollar a piece, and it would not look very professional in its little red bucket with a bumpersticker slapped on it that says "Ride a Draft, your butt looks smaller..." But a spring of teamwork will find us both in a better place, a transformed one. I know this because I have no doubt in my mind this pony is magic. Not white rabbits and top hats magic, but that old magic still running through the dreamer's heart and out past the forests in clear streams. You find a way to tap into it and anything is possible and this horse, this Merlin, might be a magician of that old sort after all...
When I talk about the magic of Merlin, this is what I am talking about: When I saw the ad in the Albany Craigslist, I posted it on Facebook. I posted it more as a joke than anything else. There was a picture of Merlin and then the huge sticker price and I said something along the lines of "Anyone have 8 grand I could borrow?!" and left it at that. And then a reader told me, "It's a long shot but email them with a lower counter offer. The horse market isn't what it used to be..." And when I saw that comment some sprocket in my heart clicked into place...
So I emailed this impossible horse's owner and told her about me, my Fell Pony dreams, my farm, my plans to ride and drive him. I told her everything and asked if we could work something out? A lower price maybe? A payment plan? A free lease? And she wrote back with charm and grace, introducing herself that the right home was more important than anything. That she loved that pony too, he was her dream pony... And I think she saw a little of her starry-eyed self in me and told me to come see him and we could talk terms. This is when I told you all about him, and when people started the whole conversation that caused such a ruckus.
I saw him. I fell in love with him like I always do, hard and fast and certain - but only when it is dead right. Then as I drove home with Patty, I told her it could maybe happen and after hearing my Big Plans she smiled like a fox and said. "Hell. You only live once..." and if there was a way to sew up my certainty, that was it.
So up to this point all I did was look for the horse, ask for the horse, then went and saw the horse. That night I prayed and thought, and prayed more, and then I decided in my heart and out loud that if I was the right woman for him, and he the right horse for me, then we'd become a team. The next morning I sent his owner a heartfelt and honest letter. I told her what I could afford. I told her I wanted to try a three-month free lease. And I told her if the vet, farrier, trainers, and myself felt he was right I would buy him with a down payment June first and then make small payments for two years till he was legally mine.
And she agreed to all of my terms. Now that's magic...
So we wrote up a contract and set a pickup date and today was it. Patty and I had hitched up her trailer the night before and her Highlander (how appropriate) was ready to haul him to the stables. Two new friends, Elizabeth and Weez, drove up from the Berkshires to meet him and enjoy the frenzy.
He needed some shots first, though. We were already running late for our appointment, but the vet said it was okay when I called (more magic) and So the vet let us pull right up for drive through service and drew blood, gave him his rabies, five-way, and West Nile shots. He didn't even charge for a visit, just the cheap rate of the syringes. I was shocked at the low price (more magic). Then we unloaded him at Hollie McNeil's Riding Right Farm and Andrea, second in command of the grand dressage barn met us at the door. We unloaded him and took him right to his stall (number two, like my lucky crows!) and went through the paperwork. It was like dropping off your kid at his first day of school, the questions and forms. Any allergies? What should we not feed him? How does he get along with others? Any vices? etc. And I wrote the check with a grin because (and here is some more magic) it was unexpected income covering his first month of training and boarding. We got a small surprise bonus at work and it was enough to cover his first month. Which means up to this point I had not spent any of my own planned money but the small vet bill. Earlier this week I found out my royalty check for my three books would cover the second month of boarding! It was all falling into place, almost to the point where none of us thought anything could possibly go wrong. I think Patty was certain if she pushed him off a cliff he's sprout wings and shit rainbows by this point.
When all the paperwork and conversations about training, boarding rules (I can ride him whenever I want in their indoor arena!), and such we turned him out into his own little pasture by the main road. I drove off talking to him through a rolled down window. I told him I would be back soon. I was on his back a few hours later, as promised...
It was magic, this whole thing has literally brought me to my knees crying with awe, luck and grattitude. A few weeks ago he was an ad online, a pipe dream. Now his name is below mine on a stall 2. I just spent an hour brushing, hoof picking, and petting his head. I will hang two wooden crows by his name. No one will know they mean magic, his magic, but I will.
And why is a homesteading blog about a small farmer going into all this pony dream business? Well, because the point I want to get across is this magic is not just mine and Merlin's. It is all of ours. It lives in our prayers, in our churches, in our hopes and secret dreams. You find a way to let it out through hard work and positive thoughts and it doesn't matter if you're a Baptist or a Buddhist, it will manifest for you. Magic isn't about religion at all. It is about hope. It's alive in my grandmother's rosary, a Tibetan Sand Mandala and the Amish benches being unloaded for Sunday Service. It is real. For the taking. Blessed as the day.
Magic is kind desire, without any baneful intentions, coming true. I want those of you reading about a girl and horse to know that whatever your Merlin is, be it a vintage tractor, a mortgage, a new baby, anything, it is possible when you believe it is possible. You follow what you love with all you have to offer it and the world makes a road for you.
I believe in Magic because it is good for my soul. It gave me a horse I only knew in storybooks. It gave me a farm. It gave me you. Someday it'll give me strong arms and a heartbeat to fall asleep against. I'm certain of that, as much as the black mane I brushed and kissed tonight. I'll keep the faith and I'll wait for the man—but I'm riding that pony tomorrow morning in the stall with two black crows and thank the ground we walk on for the gift. No one in that barn will savor it like I will.
Hot dang. Life's one beautiful ride, innit?
photos by pw