He had been sold a few times before. An old Quarter Horse named Sam. He was respectful but knew who he was and wasn't impressed with anyone, anymore. I could put a halter on him; tie the lead rope in a circle and any small child could control him like he had the best custom bridle and reins. Sam would never take one false step with a child on his back, or a quick step or any step that might frighten a child. Twenty years old, Sam was a big stocky and still powerful old style Quarter Horse
. The flash of white down his nose and his collected movement could bring him some attention on the trail or at a show. He was usually calm and mostly disinterested like he had seen and experienced it all before. Sam was not in love with his owners though they were kind now he remembered that could change. Bought and sold too many times to completely trust a human again and that fact would make it hard for the human to completely trust the horse. Without trust there can be no love but we did share respect and that was enough for a long time.
I bought Sam for my daughter, who for a time in Middle School was horse crazy. I paid a thousand dollars to an old man with a bad back that prevented him from doing anything more than walking Sam around. The old mans memory was filled with charging around on the back of intense and powerful cow horses. He didn't feel that he could properly exercise Sam so he thought it would be better for Sam to be sold. My daughter would go with my wife to the horse stable and bathe and groom Sam most days of the week. She learned to saddle Sam and to canter in the arena. Her friends at the Stable were very serious about their horses and told anyone who would listen how much they paid for the big Warmbloods they used for jumping
and showing. That was part of that kind of competition, it was the major leagues of horse showing, traveling all over the country and winning was about large financial prizes. Winning horses were bought and losing horses were sold, nothing personal. "It takes money to make money" is how the saying goes but Sam's mind didn't grasp that concept. My daughter just liked horses and she liked Sam but in Middle School you want everyone to like you and you want them to like your horse and if your horse just cost a thousand dollars, well, how good a horse could that be?
Sam was a gelding but he was in charge wherever there were other horses around. He was the kind of horse that was alone even in a group. He didn't look for trouble but he was not tolerant of another horse that wanted to change the order of things. Sam didn't know the other horses cost thirty to fifty times more than he did. He only knew he would only move when he wanted to move or eat when he was hungry and if Sam was grazing here it would be better if you were a big Warmblood to graze over there. Sam had no desire for trouble but if you were a young and powerful jumping show horse the lessons could be painful and might even mark your coat up. So Sam wasn't allowed to be out with the other horses at the Stable anymore.
The other Middle School girls at the Stable liked to show my daughter the trophies they would win and ask her when her Dad, when I, would buy her a horse like theirs so she could travel with them and win trophies too. That sounded pretty good after awhile to my daughter, she just wanted to be accepted as part of the group. I told her she had a very nice Western show horse and maybe it would be better to gain some experience at a local show. In fact we were only a couple weeks from an open horse show a few miles from where we lived. She agreed but with the understanding that if she liked being in horse shows we would begin the process of selling the losing horses and buying the winners.
With some help from her Mother and some advice from a Trainer my daughter went to work in a corner of the Horse Stable that the real Show Horses didn't need. I bought her the western show outfit, black pants, red shirt, black hat and boots, with her dark hair she looked like a picture on Sam's back. Sam was cleaned; the muzzle hair trimmed, his hooves polished and his blaze showed bright white in the sun on show day. The silver tack was polished up the leather cleaned and polished. We arrived at the show and entered my daughter and Sam into their classes. This was just a local open show at a very old show ground in a very small town. To my daughter it was like The Grand Nationals and she was nervous. I was a little surprised to see other people from our horse stable at the show, with their very expensive and semi-famous Trainer. I wondered how this could be fun for them since most people here had brought horses in the same price range as ours. I was sure they would win but what was the point, it was as if a professional football team had decided to play in a city league. I wondered how many trophies are really needed in the Stable Trophy room. Still they were kind to us at first and for awhile she seemed to belong to their group. They told her not to be nervous and their trainer gave some advice on the course she would follow around the arena, about stopping and starting and what the judges would look for. Very kind.
My Daughter's Class was called. When Sam entered the arena there was a transformation. This horse had been in the show arena before. He commanded the crowds and the judge's attention as he went flawlessly through the class, muscles glistening in the sunlight, head held at the perfect angle, the dust causing small puffy explosions to bring attention to his perfectly executed gate. The Trainer, that had been friendly to my daughter a moment before, seemed to be getting concerned with the site before him. Two of his students were in this class and one of the expensive horses sold by him were about to lose to Sam and my inexperienced daughter. Sam the old thousand dollar Quarter Horse easily won that class and my daughter was happy. The Show People from our stable congratulated her but afterwards they stayed to themselves, embarrassed by the beginner's luck they went on to win just about everything after that.
My daughter was too nervous to enter anything else so she just watched and cheered on the others. They were friendly again after they had won a few classes and decided that there is such a thing as beginner's luck. If they could have asked Sam what he thought he would have let them know that in the pasture or in the show arena, value is about what you think of yourself and not about how valuable others think you are. Sam was a horse who understood who he was and he taught anyone that paid attention about life and about personal self worth.