The story of our horses here in Montana starts with Quixote, but I have to back up to tell you how I got him.
The Long Story of How I Ended Up with Quixote and Lusitanos (Part 1)
Years (and years) ago, I had Arabian horses. My father and one of his friends fell in love with the breed – from what I saw, Arabs were sort of a fad for North Dakota farmers in the ‘70s? So even though the first horse I had was a little buckskin pony-cross, I grew up riding Arabians and helping show them. From there I branched out to riding Competitive Trail Riding and I helped organize and host Endurance rides. Right about when I was getting up to speed with distance riding, I got pregnant, which sort of put the whole kibosh on that because leaving the baby in the house while I went out to put miles on a horse was not an option.
During my first pregnancy, I bred my best Arab mare, Belle, and after my son was born, she gave me a nice little bay filly who I still have (Breeze.) By the time I was ready to have another baby — human, that is — I was well into my 30s, starting to see the Arabian Association go in a direction I didn’t want to follow. After a few rough falls during training rides, I also began to wonder why I needed to keep dealing with such “hot” horses when there were plenty of other comparatively calm breeds to pick from?
As the internet started to boom in the ’90s, I enjoyed a lot of dreaming and breed research while my son was a baby/toddler and my bay filly was growing up.
At first I was drawn to Morgans, but after going to see a few at shows and local breeders, they didn’t seem to be the horses I remembered from my childhood. I revisited stock types: Quarters, Paints, and Appaloosas – even bought a nice little red roan filly to start under saddle for someone else — but although I continued to work with stock horses whenever I had outside training, they never really flipped my switch. The same was true with Fjords, Haflingers, and Welsh ponies – while I admired their beauty and their character, they weren’t what I wanted, either. I considered gaited horses until I tried riding one and found out how thoroughly my body was habituated to an Arab’s extended trot. I toyed with getting an off-track Thoroughbred or Standardbred, but I didn’t find an individual that interested me.
I don’t know when I saw my first Andalusian, but I do remember that immediately afterward, I started reading up on them and liked everything I learned. Except for one thing. Coming from an Arabian horse background in the ‘60s, I had totally had my fill of gray horses. Not that I don’t like gray horses – I completely agree that a good horse is never a bad color. But I had already lost one gray horse to cancer and what I didn’t want was a herd of gray horses.
At that time, there were no Andalusian horses for sale within a thousand miles of me, but I did find a woman two hours away who had a stud. I went to see him.
Gray he was, and very round, baroque, and not very tall. He looked an awful lot like a Lipizzaner, actually. His movement was awesome, there was no doubt about that, but what sold me on him was his temperament.
His owner had recently had hip surgery and was recovered enough to ride – but not fall off – and he completely took care of her. He didn’t spook, he didn’t shy, he didn’t even miss-step. She said he was the only horse she dared ride (a stud, no less) because if she started to lose her balance, he moved in under her. Imagine a horse purposefully keeping between yourself and the ground!
I think the pain from my last fall after an Arabian spin-out was fresh in my mind and I didn’t hesitate to book a breeding for Belle – this time during my second pregnancy.
Months passed – I had a baby girl and Belle had a deep red chestnut filly I named Valia. I was sure Valia was going to turn gray because she was born such a bright red, but she didn’t. Two years went by and I was impressed by the mind Valia had. She was calm, she was sweet, and she had good sense. Starting her under saddle was a piece of cake.
By the time Valia was four, I had been working with Arabs for thirty years and various breeds of rescue horses for ten. I knew from what I saw of Valia that I wanted Andalusians, so I went back online to search for a stud for her. Happily, there were a few more Andalusians in the Midwest, and I found one an hour away. I visited several times with his owner because he was away in training, and then got to know him when he came back. One day during this process, his owner asked me if I’d like to buy a purebred Andalusian mare because she knew of one related to him.
Long story short – I bought the mare.
Fannie was a very plain looking bay girl. I had learned that some of the best Spanish mares often are.
My father and his Arab-loving friend rolled their eyes at my purchase. My dad’s friend even called Fannie “ugly”. The joke at my place quickly became: how is this bay mare different from the other two bay mares?
But there was no comparison under saddle. Fannie’s gaits were smooth as butter.
I had no buyers’ remorse, but I did have a problem. Who could I breed her to? Fannie was fairly closely related to the few bay Andalusian stallions in the US at that time, and I really wanted to keep color and stay away from breeding to gray again. So – back on line for more research.