It was a beautiful morning - the sky was lit from below by the rising sun:
This morning as I was turning horses out, I took his picture in the barn - he's saying: "How come I have to wait around - let's hurry things up!":
But then it's a special day - today is Noble's 29th birthday! I bought him in 1997 when he was already 17 - he was owned by a woman at the barn where my daughters had started taking lessons - they were 7 and 9 at the time. After riding from my early childhood through college, I had stopped riding and had barely been near a horse, much less ridden one, in almost 20 years (how in the world did that happen?). The woman who owned Noble at the time was a little afraid of him - he is a somewhat nervous horse and was very forward to ride - but I thought he was a dream. He had some training as lower level dressage horse, and was alert, responsive, sound and delightful to ride and handle. I rode him a few times and bought him on the spot - he barely cost anything because the woman threw in all his tack, including a very nice dressage saddle. I didn't even have him vet-checked.
When he came to me, the only potential soundness issues he had were high ringbone on one front foot and a permanently puffy front knee. Neither has ever caused him a moment of unsoundness. He also was a serious cribber and was extremely head-shy and terrified of all crops and whips - I expect due to mishandling in the past. He would shy backwards if you even raised a hand to touch his face. Today, after all these years, he still really doesn't want me to touch his ears. He no longer cribs, except occasionally when waiting to come in from the dry lot in the winter. He also showed signs of having been ridden in drawreins - he always tended to want to fall behind the bit - almost to the point of putting his nose to his chest - and his softness in the bridle was false - there was no relaxation of his top line behind the withers. I was able to remedy this a bit by working on forward so he would move his head and neck ahead to accept some contact.
Noble is a Quarter Horse, and his top line goes back to Leo through Croton Oil, and also includes Sugar Bars and Jaguar (through Coy's Bonanza). On the bottom side he goes back to Three Bars - in fact he has Three Bars three times in his pedigree and I calculated that he is almost 35% Thoroughbred.
Noble is one of those wonderful horses who will do anything you ask them to - sometimes even if they've never been trained to do it. I never really taught him to ground tie - once he figured out what I wanted (which took about 2 minutes - he's really smart) that was it - he ground ties and that is that. He also is a horse with great body awareness - he knows where he is and where his feet are at all times - I had a shareboarder once who slipped and fell and slid under him while grooming him in the barn aisle, and he put a foot down where her leg was - but he didn't step on her - as soon as he knew her leg was there he lifted his foot and put it elsewhere.
When my daughters were little, they rode him double bareback - sometimes with the front girl facing to the front and the back girl facing backwards - with the one in the back yelling "don't trot!". As they got older, he finally told them (by bumping his butt into the air - not really bucking) that they were too heavy to ride together. Once when my daughters were younger, they had him cross-tied in the outside wash stall, giving him a bath, and my younger daughter was sitting on the highest point of his butt. A gust of wind blew a wheelbarrow over with a huge clatter - Noble was very alarmed, but as always, he didn't do anything bad - he just trotted in place, looking horrified!
When he came to our current barn in 2001, where he had pastures to run in, he was amazingly fast, even in his early 20s. He's slowed down a little, but still gallops from the pasture gate at turnout - one day this week he gave Scout (who is 6) a run for his money! Other than a little arthritis (he gets Aspirease every day), he is very sound and has never had any health problems other than the mysterious nosebleed this spring and an episode of gas colic last fall (remedied by my hand walking him from the barn up on the lawn of my house, which made him nervous enough that the colic remedied itself immediately!). He's only lost one tooth, although he does get supplemental senior feed and beet pulp to maintain his weight.
He's still a lady's man - he gets all studly with the mares, nickering and arching his neck. At some point a few years ago, when our herds were unbalanced with many geldings and very few mares, we decided that Noble, since he was so well-behaved, should go out with mares. Well, one day, I surprised him actually mounting Charisma - who seemed to be enjoying the experience immensely! That was the end of Noble's turnout with the mares!
I no longer ride him - he made it clear to me, in his usual polite way, that he would prefer it if I didn't. But we do other things - he's the only one of my horses that I allow to rub his head on me - he loves to rub his face on my shoulder or back, and always stops whenever I ask him to. If I scratch his withers, he will bend his neck around and gently groom my shoulder. He adores being groomed - he leans into the curry and arches his neck.
He has a white streak in his tail - it's always been there and I suspect an old injury - if you feel his tail bone there is a noticeable distortion:
Here he is, waiting patiently, as I get Blackjack ready to go out - I can leave him anywhere - no matter how far away, and he will ground tie where I put him:
Here he is grazing in the pasture - he's almost in his beautiful red summer coat:
He now has a lot of white on his face, as well as white sprinkled all through his coat. Here is one of my favorite pictures of Noble, taken last winter, which shows his personality and his wonderful, small, curved ears: