Finding an Old Horse

An owner recounts fond memories of an Arabian foal growing into a beautiful mare, selling her, and finding her once again.

In 1984 I attended a herd dispersal Arabian Horse auction for Misty Creek Arabians. The horses were beautiful although not top of the line. I was soon caught up in the sale excitement and knew I wanted one. I raced through the barn to see which horses were left, picking one thin chestnut mare and her month old filly.

The mare was registered half Arabian, she was 15/16 of Arabian blood, her filly being 31/32. No matter how close to being purebred the Arabian registry will never allow them to be considered full blooded Arabs. The mare was named Tina’s Buffy, a striking chestnut of pony size. She was halter broke but that was all, and thin from having a foal so young.

Tia and Niska, at about 3 months of age. 

Before bringing them home to Edmonton, 3 hours north, I kept them for a month at an area farm allowing them both to gain weight and body condition. 

I named the filly Niska B Khemosiam. For those who know anything about Arabians they will recognize that Khemosiam is a reference to her great grandsire, Khemosabi, one of the earliest American bred Arabians to gain fame. Niska was born chestnut, the same color as her dam, but was slowly turning gray, one of my most favorite colors for Arabian horses.

Niska on a walk through the trails.

We called the mare Tia for short and soon had the task of getting her to be friendly. I doubt she was abused but as a horse left to pasture she was not particularly fond of being caught. My sisters and I made some progress with her when we moved her to a stable near my parents home. We spent the summer halter breaking Niska (the foal) and she proved to be very willing to do anything we asked her.

Whenever we set them loose back into their pasture, both would fling their tails up over their back and raise their heads high and perform a dance only Arabian horses can do as they made their way back to the freedom of their pen. I always wished I had a photo of them with their tails in the air, they looked so happy.

My sisters spent a lot of time with her over the fall as I went back to college. At weaning we took her to another farm so she could grow up with other foals, and not have to worry about learning more stuff, she could just be a horse. Back from college, I set about training Tia, the mom, she soon became a favorite for some of the local barn kids to ride as they took her over some lower fences (jumps).

Niska had been born with an umbilical hernia (as you can see in the photo above), often a sign of a stressed birth, she needed surgery for that. The hernia appeared as a bump under her belly.

When Niska was old enough I started training her. She had the most beautiful head, which unfortunately none of my photos captured. Photography is certainly better now we have digital cameras and can take as many pictures as we want without worrying about using film!

Niska was pretty easy to train too, she soon became comfortable with saddle and loved going for trail rides as much as being ridden in the arena. The barn was predominately a hunter/jumper stable and many of the adults there (they had over 100 horses at the stable) frowned on Arabians, calling them stupid, high strung, and idiots. Niska proved them wrong, she was one of the most level headed horses in the barn.

Tia and Niska, you can really see the color change.

In fact Niska was so calm that the stable eventually asked if they could use her for their handicapped riding therapy program and as a lesson horse. She was a real charm.

One fond day in my memory I took her out on a trail ride, which we often did on our own. On the trail I met a saddled horse belonging to a woman who often belittled Arabians. I knew his rider must have fallen and could be injured ahead, so I went in look of the rider. We encountered a barking dog on the way, and it was probably a half mile later when we found the rider. Sure enough the same dog which Niska did not flinch at had spooked her horse.  So much for the crazy Arabian!

As far as Arabians go, Niska was not perfect and probably could not compete at the higher levels, but did take her to one Arabian show where I was showing my more competitive gelding, The Sorcerer. She only had one class, a halter one, where the horses are judged on conformation. To my surprise she came second place, winning Reserve Champion Half Arabian Mare out of a group of at least a dozen horses.

Eventually my life made some horrid changes and I made the difficult decision to sell my wonderful horse Niska. I took care to bath her and brushed out her tail, which by now was thick, white, and dragged on the ground about 4 inches. Her body was a funny dark gray color, and she was a bit on the fat side. I took about a dozen pictures of her, which I foolishly never got developed and my camera was stolen with the film still inside. That would have been around 1989.

It was some years later, my life had bounced me around through bad and good. I finally found myself back on the good side of things when my youngest sister informed me that she had found the lady who bought Niska roughly 14 years earlier. She still owned her and had at least one foal from her who had done well in Dressage. If I would like to visit I could.

Making a trip to visit was not an easy thing, the distance was far, and I knew it would be emotional. Indeed on the day we went it was bad weather, recent storms had made a mess of the road and Niskas owner was cleaning out a flooded basement. She told us we could visit Niska if we wanted, and could brush her but was otherwise too busy dealing with her emergency.

Niskas son.

Niskas son was in the barn, he was rose gray and looked very much like her, a beautiful head and similar face markings. Niska was living in retirement in a wonderful pasture.

She was wet and probably did not recognize me, and to be fair with her drastic color change I might not have recognized her either. She had totally gone gray (often people mistakenly call gray horses as white). She was still a bit fat, something I would rather see on an older horse than being thin, but still beautiful.

Niska B Khemosiam

Most people never know what happens to horses after they sell them, I was lucky enough to learn Niska had indeed gone to a fabulous owner, who, at least at that time, had given her a forever home.

I still wonder what became of the pictures I had of her in the camera. I would love to have those back. I sadly suspect the film was removed and destroyed.

Related Reading for Horse Lovers

The Beauty of the Arabian Horse

Winning is not Everything at a Horse Show

Equine Genetics Gray and Roan

A Horse Named Anna

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User Comments
  1. AlmaG

    On December 9, 2009 at 8:17 am

    That was a great story. We can only wish that the new owners would love them as much as we did. :)

  2. Kinga

    On December 9, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    That was very heartwarming! Niska is a beautiful horse.

  3. sienna1

    On December 10, 2009 at 2:37 am

    Amazed at the change of colours.. great story

  4. Jenna Christiansen

    On December 11, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Wonderful touching story….well done to capture the emotions of it….I know it was tough to give her up….sorry for that…. but, the peace to finally know that she’s ok….well worth the trip….Thank you for sharing….

  5. EMVY548

    On December 12, 2009 at 12:04 pm


  6. PR Mace

    On December 14, 2009 at 3:38 am

    A wonderfully touching story. Thanks for all you do and for sharing this tale.

  7. lillyrose

    On December 18, 2009 at 6:27 am

    A lovely story! the pictures are beautiful and Arabs are one of the most gorgeous of horses!

  8. clay hurtubise

    On April 1, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Great story and wonderful pics.

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