Alaska was in the group of lesson horses who taught me riding at my tender age of 47 years. I fell in love with her and likely paid top dollar because of my infatuation, but I didn't care. Madam Alaska spoke to my heart and I wanted her for my own.
For a green rider like me, Alaska possibly wasn't the best choice because she was inexperienced herself, except for being started and used as a lesson horse for a few months. She came without much background other than she was about five years old.
Madam is also a hefty girl as a Percheron cross and the top of my head doesn't make it to her wither. I can't get on her from the ground, yet off I go with this big bay mare on my new journey of self-discovery.
Alaska and l learnt everything together from grooming to first aid, from jumping to dressage - the ABCs of horsemanship, natural and otherwise. She went from being an arena horse frightened of leaves rustling to a confident trail horse. We have now started the adventure of driving.
Madam has taught me about humility and courage, and how quietness speaks volumes when communicating with a sensitive horse. Most important of all, though, Alaska taught me about forgiveness.
As a green horse owner, I didn't make wise choices about the counsel presented to me as good practice. I felt increasingly uncomfortable about it, but I thought it was due to my lack of knowledge. Lessons were getting worse from my point of view, and she transitioned into a horse who I didn't like to ride. Alaska was finally labeled as "too hot to handle" by our coach.
My choices with Alaska got narrower. No one would buy her at auction except the meat man. But, there still were times that my heart felt that pull to her. I was struggling in lots of ways personally and she was too. We were unhappy.
I moved to a new city and noticed the teachings of a particular coach. With the coach's gentle encouragement and her belief in us, I tried something completely new and scary - to me - for a lesson.
Toss away the martingale, the side reins, the "strong" bit with curb chain and double reins, and the crop. Perch on my massive Perch with only a side pull. I was trembling because I thought Alaska would take this opportunity to bolt and slam me against the wall.
Alaska shook herself and blew, then calmly walked on.
It took a few years to mend our relationship, but Alaska led the way. I learned patience, consistency and honesty for both of us. In the early stages of our "big change" it could take 45 minutes at the mounting block to get on because Alaska had choices to explore.
Madam is now the lead mare of a small, forever horse family and is a favourite of many visitors. She is a healer for other humans too, besides me, and seems to be drawn to comfort people carrying deep sadness.
Alaska and I are still on that journey of self-discovery. My heart hums with joy when we blow into each other's nostrils in greeting.