I can clearly remember the first day that I saw Rustler. He was standing apart and alone from his twenty other odd herd mates, a bored and indifferent expression in his big gold eyes. The hot Wyoming desert sun had faded his gold buckskin coat and his black mane and tail were knotted and tangled. “There he is,” said the gruff tall cowboy that towered alongside me. “Used to be my best ropin’ horse and used to run barrels for my girls. He’s pushin’ twenty and I just use him for easy work now. Enjoy him for the summer, little missy.”
I was just thirteen then; staying in Worland, Wyoming visiting dear friends for the long hot month of July. After our first introduction, Rustler and I began to take long rides everyday. I showed him the overflowing love of a horse crazy girl, and he showed me the desert. He carried me safely through treacherous terrain filled with poisonous snakes and invisible badger holes that could easily break a horse’s leg. He taught me how to barrel race and leave fear behind as we galloped furiously through poles. When the end of that happy month arrived, Rustler and I had bonded incredibly. His heart was beginning to open up again as he experienced the love and care that he had since forgotten about.
After several persuasive phone calls to my mother and father back in New York and after I had convinced them that buying an older horse was the right thing to do, Rustler’s papers were suddenly handed to me, written in my name in bold black ink. The happiness I felt knowing that I was giving this old grumpy coot a new home was enough to make me cry. When I did cry, it was into his tangled long black mane with my arms around his solid neck.
That was two years ago this July, and everyday Rustler’s heart continues to grow bigger. His coat is glossy and his mane and tail is shiny. He is the first one to come when I call and the last one left standing at the gate when I pull out of the driveway. He and I have outrun all the hyper thoroughbreds at long distance cross country events and hunter jumper shows. Rustler has taught me the meaning of giving back unconditionally. I gave him love and a home, and he continues to give me more than that every day we are together. Rustler has taught me compassion, and it is this that I believe in strongest. I believe that compassion is the key that can unlock any broken heart and restore it back to its original vigor. As my two year anniversary of owning Rustler approaches, I begin to journey back on all that we have been through. I smile as I think about all the times I have laughed and cried with him at my side, his head on my shoulder, and my arms wrapped tightly around his neck.
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