In 1987 my husband decided he wanted to learn how to ride a horse. He asked if he could ride mine, but she wasn’t a good choice for someone who’d never ridden before. Well, we’d been to Rydin’ High twice a few years prior, but those horses were city slicker broke and anyone could have ridden them blindfolded on a moonless night. I wasn’t about to let him up on my horse. He pestered and pestered until I finally suggested that he take riding lessons. There was a stable not too far from our (new) house where I knew he could take western lessons, something that’s kinda hard to find in these parts. We signed him up there.
My husband proved to be a natural rider. Not all that surprising given he was a state champion wrestler and the captain of his High School football team. To say the guy is athletic is a bit of an understatement. He’s gifted. Still is. He never once struggled to get his seat and hands where they needed to be. At the time I didn’t know if I wanted be happy for him or annoyed about this. Let’s just say there’s a certain degree of humility and a sense of caution that comes with getting tossed on your keester and bounced around a bit. But during his learning curve my husband didn’t experience any of that. He was a good rider coming right out of the gate.
He wanted to start looking for his own horse only a few months after he started to ride. I wasn’t for or against that, I was just a bit surprised. I really didn’t see his infatuation with riding lasting through the cold winter. But by early spring my husband was paying to take lessons twice a week. He just loved being around horses. So we started looking at newspaper ads and keeping an eye out for a suitable match. The stable where he rode had a very experienced, push button reining horse that they kept trying to get us to buy. High On Smoke. Nice horse, but he was already in his mid-teens and had done it all. I remember thinking the horse ought to be retired and allowed to finish out his days just relaxing. He was too expensive for that, and as much as we both rode and liked him, we didn’t think he was a contender.
One of our friends who lives in the northern part of our state shared her local penny saver paper with us every week. There seems to be more horses in the rural sections of this state and we could pick and choose from several equine ads. Eventually an ad caught our eye: “Four year-old bay Arabian gelding. Started under saddle.” Little did we know when we called and made an appointment to go see this prospect that he lived on a large breeding farm for racing Arabians.
We met the owners of the farm, then we were turned over to the farm manager who took us to look at the horse we came to see as well as ANY horse we wanted to check out. If we stopped at the front of any stall and asked about the occupant, sometimes just because it was pretty, that horse was immediately haltered and paraded out of it’s stall so we could view it as we were given the history on that horse. Needless to say, unlike the little gelding we’d come to see, many of these “pretty” horses were listed for upwards for $20,000.00 or more.
At noontime we were taken to lunch by the farm manager. We talked about the bay gelding as we warmed up with bowls of steaming soup and delicious sandwiches. As we ate, Vicki politely inquired about what we thought we wanted in a horse. Both my husband and I felt Vicki was being quite honest in her assessment of the young gelding and we didn’t feel any pressure to purchase this particular horse. He was very cute and personable, but he was also young and green and I had some concerns about mixing a green rider with a green horse. We asked for a bit more time to think about it. Vicki excused herself and returned to the farm, leaving us to talk more about the possibilities over desert.
I knew my husband was smitten. Years prior I had turned him on to the movie The Black Stallion and he’d been moved by the deep, binding relationship between Alec Ramsey and the Black. I knew he was already thinking that this young, green Arabian might be his “Black.” How could I deny him? We drove back to the farm and made Vicki and offer. She vanished into the owners office and returned minutes later with an ear-to-ear grin. The horse was ours!
I don’t know how much truth there was to the story, but we were told that Finale was the last get of the great Arabian stallion “Gamaar”.
When one thinks of the great Arabian horses of the past, One horse in particular comes to mind. “Gamaar” This beautiful stallion made his mark on the Arabian breed in an elegant, graceful and beautiful way.
The story begins in the many great generations before the birth of “Gamaar”. One of the most famous Sons of “Witez II” was “Nitez” out of the well known mare “Nafa”. Daniel C Gainey purchased two great stallions “Ferzon” and “Nitez” as yearlings in 1953 and promoted them together until he sold “Nitez” in 1963. “Nitez” was bred to “Galena” before she was sold and the resulting foal was a beautiful black colt named “Niga”. Bob Powers the manager of Gainey Arabian Ranch at the time was so impressed with “Niga” that he had Ed and Milt Strand of Minnesota go see the colt and suggested they purchase him. When Niga was four years old Mr. Gainey bred 3 mares to him and in 1962 he leased him and bred another 8 mares to him, one of those mares being “Gay Rose” the dam of “Gamaar”.
Niga was sold in 1962 to Butler Arabians and then in 1967 he was sold back to The Strands. And in 1969 the Strand Family moved to Iowa. “Gay Rose” produced 4 notable foals before her untimely death at the age of nine in 1966 among those foals were “Gamaar”, “Galizon” 1969 US National Champion stallion, “Gay Rouge” A Canadian top ten National Champion stallion, “Gai Gay Rose” a US National Top Ten Stallion. Gay Rose was Sired by the great “Ferzon” who has a story all his own to tell, a great stallion in his own right. He was most prized by Daniel C Gainey, in fact when he sold “Nitez” he was so impressed with “Ferzon” that he retained him.
In 1964 Bob Erdman decided to visit the Gainey Ranch in Minnesota, to see if he could find a nice stud colt to upgrade his own Arabian horse stock. He was shown the young stock at the Gainey Farm and was most impressed with a fine, typey, bay colt named “Gamaar”. He encouraged the Trainer at the Gainey Farm to telephone Mr. Gainey and ask for a price on the colt. After the telephone conversation Mr.Gainey decided that as long as he had one colt and one filly by his prized broodmare “Gay Rose” on the farm at one time he would sell the beautiful colt.
Mr. Bob Erdman purchased “Gamaar” on the spot. He lived with the Erdman’s until they decided to retire and they offered him for sale. In 1970 Arden and Patricia Forehand purchased him and he stayed with them until his death. During his lifetime he produced some of the finest Arabian horses in the United States. Gamaar son’s and Daughters are well known for their great beauty, and refinement which carries on for many generations. He is also known for being
a great broodmare sire. His daughters are among the most prized broodmares in the country.
The breeders who told us Finale’s history went on to say that the young colt, the last get of the great Gamaar, was named Gamaar’s Reflection, or “Finale” for short, as in Grand Finale! Regarding his registered name, he was indeed a carbon copy of his Pa! Unfortunately, a year or so after Finale was born another Gamaar baby appeared, usurping his status as the Grand Finale. That didn’t matter to us though and we ended up calling Finale “The Bean” (or Beanie) for the rest of his life.
The Bean and Aldo did indeed share a relationship and bond like Alec and the Black. They shared a friendship, love and deep respect for each other that nothing could ever eclipse. They covered thousands of miles and experienced many firsts as they grew together as horse and rider. Watching them together it was obvious they had a special bond that most horsemen and women can only dream of having. And while I sometimes rode Bean too, and I did the lions share of the daily upkeep, Bean’s heart always belonged to Aldo.
One afternoon in October when Aldo was away on his annual fall riding vacation with his (other) horse Bullet and his two best friends and their horses, I went out to give Dharla and Bean their afternoon hay and found the Bean wasn’t himself. I could tell he was having tummy issues, something he’s struggled with off and on all his life, especially when there are wild barometric pressure changes. A cold front was moving in and I wasn’t that surprised to find the Bean slightly camped out and not wanting his hay. I didn’t panic. We’ve been through many bouts of weather-related stomach aches in the past and they usually just get better on their own over the course of several hours. But because Bean’s a twenty-eight year-old senior, I kept an eye on him. You just never know.
When I went out to feed “last call” hay at 11 PM Bean was looking a bit perkier. He’d eaten some of his hay, had polished off his water and he had pooped enough to help lessen my worries about blockage. I didn’t think he was over the hump, but he was looking much better than he did at my last check two hours before. Normally, I won’t go to bed if a horse isn’t feeling right, but I was so certain that Bean was well on his way to mending that I went inside, fell asleep and didn’t wake up all night.
I next morning I let the dogs out and started my coffee. I kept glancing out the kitchen window that faced the barn, but I didn’t see hide nor hair of the Bean. Granted, he could have been over on the far side of the barn or in the run-in shed, but I felt the sudden prickle of alarm. I threw the dogs some food, pulled on my mud boots, grabbed a sweatshirt and headed for the barn. My heart sank when I looked inside Beanie’s stall.
It was quickly apparent that the Bean had had a rough night. He was laying down and his mane and forelock were peppered with shavings; the sign of a horse who’s been rolling. He was quiet, but when his eyes met mine they were dull and glazed with pain. I opened his stall door and approached, but the Bean didn’t get up. I stroked his face, picked the hay and shavings from his cheeks and then fighting panic I quickly got Dharla fed and ran back to the house.
I tried calling my husband’s “emergency” cell phone. My husband is not a cell phone user and only took an old cell phone with him on vacation for emergencies … like this. Trouble is, he isn’t accustomed to using a cell and checking voice mail isn’t something he would think to do. Also, he had turned his phone off to save on battery life. So my frantic calls were just going directly into his voice mail box where they would probably sit unnoticed until he got home. There was no other way for me to reach him or his buddies!
I called my vet and woke him up. We had a short discussion about what I could give the Bean for pain. I had a tube of Banamine paste from previous episodes of the same thing, so we decided to start with that. I ran back out to the barn and administered a dose of pain med, then ran back toward the house and tried (again) to raise Aldo on his cell phone. No such luck. As I waited to see if the pain med would help Beanie, I racked my brain to recall the name of a riding stable a few miles up the road from where my husband and his friends were camping. The week before as the guys were pulling out to leave I asked them for the name of this stable … just in case. It must have been a premonition because I’m usually not the worrying type.
Miraculously, I somehow remembered the name of the stable. I ran to my computer and googled the name. Again, miraculously, the stable had a webpage that listed a phone number. With shaking hands I dialed the number. The stable owner’s wife answered the phone and I quickly explained who I was and why I was calling. Did she know where my husband was camping and would she deliver a message to him asking him to call me? She said she knew where their camp was and she would get the message to him. Somewhat relieved, all I could do was wait.
About forty-five minutes passed before my phone rang. I explained to Aldo what had been going on since the night before and in his typical laid-back manner he wasn’t too worried. Whether he was in denial or simply not understanding the gravity of the situation I can’t say, but the end result was that he convinced me to wait and see if the pain meds helped. I should have insisted he come home, as complicated as I knew that would be. In my heart of hearts, I thought it was a stretch to think the meds were going to help; enough time had already passed and they didn’t seem to be working. But not wanting to cry wolf and ruin his vacation, I didn’t insist he come home … yet. I hesitanty agreed to wait another hour or so to give the pain med a little more time to work. He said he’d call back in about an hour to check in. I no sooner hung up and ran out to the barn (no cell signal in the barn) when I realized what a fool I’d been. Bean was down and very obviously in distress again.
I ran back to the house and immediately dialed my husband’s cell phone. The call went directly into voice mail. I wailed with frustration. I knew there was no way Aldo was going to think to keep checking his phone for messages and so it was futile to even bother leaving one. I opened the door and heard Bean scream. I bolted back to the barn and found Beanie cast in his stall, groaning. Thankfully, the Bean is a little guy and I was able to position myself to flip him over without getting pinned or hurt, but I could not get him back on his feet. I knew if I didn’t get him up he’d just cast himself again. I put Bean’s halter on and gently tried to coax him up, but he wouldn’t budge. His eyes were wide and bulging and his lips were pulled back in a tight grimace. I’m not even sure if he recognized me, and with that thought I started to panic.
I ran back to the house and frantically dialed the home of one of his other buddies. Although this friend isn’t a rider, his wife and daughter ride and I knew Kyle would do anything he could to help us. I got one of Kyle’s teenage daughters on the phone and calmly asked for her mother’s work number. I hung up, redialed and got through to Kimberly. Trying desperately not to sob, I explained my situation. She told me her husband was done with work in about thirty minutes and she would send him directly over. I was beginning to think my best bet at getting my husband home was going to be to send Kyle to go get him, especially since the guys were camping with just one truck, which pulled the goose neck stock trailer. How else could I get Aldo home without forcing all three men (and their horses) to come home? It was so complicated! And speaking of Aldo, where the hell was he? He was overdue to call back and I still hadn’t heard from him. Every minute that passed felt like an hour.
After that phone call my house phone died. The battery was shot. I get an iffy cell signal in my house and no cell signal in the barn, so I was becoming increasingly frustrated by this situation. I glanced out my kitchen window and saw Bean charging around his small muddy paddock. He looked totally panicked and was whinnying in a voice that sounded unnatural. Clearly, the pain meds were not working. I stepped outside and called the vet on my cell phone. He told me there was nothing more he could do. He’s predominately a holistic vet and his suggestion was to get in touch with another equine vet who could administer something stronger. Gee, ya think?
As I hung up I decided to call the lady at the stable down the road from the camping site again. I was still waiting to hear from Aldo and I couldn’t wait any longer. He needed to get on the road and come home NOW. I had no doubt in my mind that his horse was probably going to die. I got through to the lady and she immediately dropped what she was doing and jumped in her car to go find my husband. As I hung up from that call Kyle pulled in. I didn’t know what he could do to help me, but at least I wasn’t alone.
Kyle and I went out to access the situation. At this point Bean was again cast in his stall. We got him unstuck and back on his feet and I made an effort to walk him around the paddock. Bean either refused to move or sunk to the ground groaning. I was losing him and there was nothing I could do to ease his agony. I felt like throwing up and I was shaking with horror, fear and anger. This went on for about fifteen minutes and then Kyle’s phone rang. It was Aldo. He told Kyle he and one of the guys were on their way and they had called another vet who was also on route to the farm. He hoped they’d both arrive at about the same time, but he was a bit over an hour away and didn’t know if he was going to make it home in time. Kyle passed the phone to me and we talked for a few brief seconds. I don’t recall his exact words, but the general gist was “don’t wait for me!”
I won’t describe the next half hour except to say that every time that little gelding went down I thought it was the last, only to watch him will himself back up on his feet. It was almost unbearable to watch, but he was still on his feet when the vet pulled in. Aldo was still not home. The vet didn’t need to explain to me that Bean was dying and we needed to release him from his misery. I knew that, but I was deeply grieved that Aldo was so close to being there to say goodbye, but hadn’t arrived yet. I went inside to get something while the vet called Aldo to tell him the prognosis. Aldo was only about ten minutes from home, but not wanting to prolong the Bean’s suffering, he told her to go ahead without him. When I went back out to the barn the vet had gone back to her truck to draw up the meds.
At this point Bean had been lightly medicated and he lay on the cold muddy ground. All around him the paddock looked like a battlefield. Bean had fought so hard to hold on, but he needed to go. Having just lost my own mare nine months prior, my heart was torn knowing that Aldo wouldn’t have one last chance to say goodbye to his boy, his heart horse. The vet reappeared and waited for me to give the signal. When I couldn’t wait any longer, I turned to her and nodded. As she started to kneel down I heard the rumble of the pickup truck. “Wait!” I croaked. “I think he’s here!” I looked toward the house and saw Aldo running toward the barn. As Aldo jogged up to the small, silent circle of people surrounding his horse Bean lifted his head, looked at Aldo and nickered. He’d waited to say goodbye to his partner. He knew all along that he’d come. Bean passed over the bridge a minute or two later.
Many years ago Aldo was late coming home from work one Saturday. Not a little late, but very late. I was annoyed. I’d hoped to go riding that afternoon and he was a no-show. As he walked in the door he had his apology ready. He had a surprise. Intrigued, I held my tongue. He gently removed his shirt and there, on a meaty deltoid was a tattoo. It was a silhouette of The Black Stallion, the head shot taken from the front of the old worn-out VHS move box. (Minus the print)
A boy and his first horse are never parted.