It's odd. This horse was only in my life for a few years. Not sure if it was two or three all told, but he was so important to me that my relationship with him has coloured what I looked for in every other horsey relationship since.
It was pure luck that I came across him. I went to visit a friend who took me to the place where she was having riding lessons, and I got to ride this old rodeo horse. As an English-style rider up to then, as most Aussies are, I just could not believe how it felt to ride this Western-trained horse who had buttons I didn't know horses could have, and who had a rocking horse canter that blew my mind. (Not the half-crippled crawl that some western pleasure horses do now, but genuine, traveling, easy canter that would get you a long way without tiring you or horse.)
Anyway. I still had Chubby but I just connected with this plain bay horse so much, and I guess mum thought I would be growing out of Chubby soon, so she came and watched me ride Mono and agreed to buy him. I was so happy.
Looking at the first picture I have of him, he was far from a happy horse himself. He had some real issues, some of which resolved with our gentle ways, and some that he never let go of. I never cared. I don't think you do when you are young, or maybe it was pre-internet horse ownership, where you didn't feel like every moment with your horse had to be perfect all the time or you must be failing as an owner. :)
I have the cheesiest grin in that pic. I just loved riding him, tense upside-down neck, fussy mouth with badly-adjusted pelham bit and all. That coat I am wearing, by the way, is the corduroy and fake lambs-wool one that I loved so much I had to be periodically caught and forced to take off so it could be washed.
Mono did have problems, no doubt about it, the sort that so many older horses develop as they get wiser and experience more things, not all of them fun even if for their own good. He hated to be caught, but that was resolved the first time we put him in the paddock and he realised there were pigs on the property next door. He walked the fence line as far away as he could get from them, and when I went to call him, he came running to be caught and after that he was never a problem. :) We never did manage to get him sand drenched with the nose tube, though. He'd have fought to the death over that one! He did get much better about loading and floating.
Over time, his expression softened and all the tense upside-down muscles in his neck loosened. He became truly the most beautiful looking horse I have owned. Not pretty or flashy, he just had the kindest, noblest, loveliest face of all. I wish I had more (and better) pictures of him.
He had come from a cattle station up North. I never knew his breeding but assume he was mostly Thoroughbred with a dash of Waler, as most stockhorses were in those days. His full name was Monomeeth, which I was told was local Aboriginal for 'Agreement'. Never found out if that was true, but he did like to get on with you (except for over certain things he considered life and death). I remember writing a very smooshy teenage-girl style poem all about something along those lines. Oh dear, I cringe to think of it! :D
With his background of being a roping horse, and the fun games my sis and I would play with our horses in the paddock round the sprinklers, we got very good at pony club games. He and I and one other horse and rider combo always came neck and neck in our age group at the novelty events at the end of each pony club ghymkana.
This is us at the Prince Phillips games. That's where all the best Aussie pony club gamers get together and compete in teams each year. Look at Mono's lovely head and sweet expression! Look at my unlovely, unsweet expression! Heh. That girl next to me, I didn't like her much. She was bossy, and I think she was trying to boss me around when they took this pic. :)
Mono was hogged (mane cut very short) in this photo, and I generally did keep him hogged. It was the done thing for geldings in Western riding at that time, and it really suited him as it showed up his lovely neck and shoulder. Man, was it easier than the fussy little braids they do in Western now too!
After a bit of time of joining me in my pony club shenanigans, his injuries kind of caught up with him. He was already 14 when I got him (I think) and he'd had a hard life. The lady who'd owned him before me took him back and swapped him for another horse, who deserves a story all his own. After that Mono was lent to a very nice lady who cosseted his joints and took him for gentle trail rides, and eventually he went back to his old owner and lived there as a retiree for a few more years. He was buried right there at home with his also-elderly paddock buddy, put down on the same day so they wouldn't miss each other. I was so lucky that he had such a loving person to watch over his aging days. Adult Tina would have done the same thing, but teenage Tina was a bit of a prat, as most of us are at that age. I wanted to do more than Mono could do, and though I loved him, I could only have the one horse, so that was that.
I didn't know then what I know now, which was that I would never have exactly that relationship with another horse in my life. In our later days, I could ride him out into the bush bareback, no bridle, no halter. He trusted me and I trusted him, and to think you wanted to do something was to have him do it. I thought you could have that with most horses, if not all, but that's just not true. My horses ever since have all been taught to have the same 'buttons' Mono taught me about and I always strived for the understanding I had with him, but apart from one other horse, who I will tell you about one day, I have never had it the same again. You just don't. Some horses you meet are just special. Special to you, even if to others they might not be. You just click, and when you do, well, after that it just isn't the same if you can't get it.
I only had Mono for a few years, but he taught me things that shaped who I was as a horse-person ever after. He also gave me some of the most fun riding years of my life. I was very lucky to have him.