“This Adventure” Shared by Patrick Sullivan with Paul Kostial
“An Arabian will take care of its owner as no other horse will, for it has not only been raised to physical perfection, bust has been instilled with a spirit of loyalty unparalleled by that of any other breed.” – Alfred Grey, 1845-1926
The Arabian horse meant so much to the Bedouin people. They would fearlessly take care of the men during battle, help raise the children with love and kindness, and sleep in the tents at night just as a dog would do. They were not just tools or commodities of society, they were family.
It is this idea of family and loyalty that led me to embark on a journey of a lifetime with my mare, Gamilah (10 year old Arabian mare). Gamilah is one of my best friends, partners, and my family.
We have accomplished so much together as a team; from performing countless demos in some of the country’s largest venues, to riding from California to Kentucky bridle-less giving back to non-profits. When people look at our story they see all of the accomplishments that we’ve had together and publicity we’ve received; but I want to share a story that started it all for us. A story that makes the relationship real and raw. And one that personifies the spirit and loyalty of the Arabian horse.
To put this story into context we have to go back to the beginning. Gami was the first horse that I ever started under saddle. When we began, I was 6 months into my horsemanship journey and knew very little about horses in general; much less, about riding and training them. So it was really Gami, who was teaching me.
It was a very cold and snowy December day in North Texas, during the winter of 2016. I decided to take Gami on a short and easy ride out in the back field for my first ever ride in the snow. I wanted the day to turn out just like the movies. Cantering through the snowy field, with a big grin on my face, without a worry in the world. Yet, things didn’t really turn out as I envisioned.
As we began cantering out in the open field, I soon realized that I did not have the skill or knowledge to help Gami slow down in this wide open space. So we just kept getting faster and faster until pretty soon we were galloping around the field like a race horse going around a snow covered track.
With every lap, my frustration grew. With that frustration, grew tension in my body and mind. I was too prideful to use a one rein stop and get her to stop, I wanted that beautiful canter like the movies and would not stop until I got one. After seemingly thirty long and exhausting minutes for both of us, Gami finally had enough.
Rounding the bottom corner of the field, she picked her head up and darted straight towards a low hanging branch in a cluster of trees in the field. No matter how hard I tried to turn her, there was nothing I could do to avoid the branch. I flipped over and landed face first on the snowy ground. Not hurt, but incredibly embarrassed, I starting yelling into the ground and using language not suitable for children.
To make it worse, when I finally looked up, Gami was there standing quietly looking at me like a Mom telling her son, “told you so.” Probably the most embarrassing part of all of it, was my sister, Nettie; was standing in the distance, curled over laughing at what Gami had just done. Just as I was about to get up from the snow, she walked over, grabbed Gami and told me I was done for the day. Even though I was in my mid twenties at the time, once a big sister, always a big sister.
Later that evening after some time to decompress, Nettie sat me down and gave me some advice that changed my horsemanship journey forever. It was very simple, but powerful. We cannot build relationships through pride and ego, but through love and respect for our differences. In order to truly understand Gami, I must first put an effort into understanding her wants, needs, and feelings; just as I would with my human relationships. So to start the healing, I must first think about giving her flowers for forgiveness.
After tossing and turning all night, the next morning when I went to go see Gami and ask for her forgiveness, I brought her the flowers from our dining room table. Not only did Gami not understand the gesture, Nettie was once again there to laugh at my ignorance for ACTUALLY bringing her flowers.
The message was supposed to be a metaphor for how to treat Gami, not a physical action. Still, the message to me was crystal clear, I had to first earn her respect and treat her as a member of my family, before I could expect the same in return.
That day was the turning point in our relationship that has allowed us to truly become family. We have accomplished more together than I could have ever dreamed of and have a book full of stories together.
Yet, it is a relationship that I still do not take for granted. I still put work in everyday to strengthen the bond that we have developed. Just as the legend has it, the Arabian horse will be loyal, spirited, and a member of your family forever; but we must first show them the same courtesy.
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