Nakai is my Appaloosa gelding.

He’s a senior, landing somewhere in the 25+ year old range. I bought him from a wonderful lady who purchased him from someone who got him at an auction. His previous owner was nice enough to give me his original ad, but I otherwise have zero information on him. I was going by the age on his advertisement until I had the sense to ask dentist thoroughly check out and age his teeth 3 years ago. Imagine my surprise when they told me he was at least 22 years old (at the time, I thought he was 18-ish).

Nakai’s 25 going on 5, with a dry sense of humor and a patronizing willingness to go along with whatever plan I have. He loves to careen around like a maniac with his Arabian friends and at the same time is the faithful security blanket for everyone while out on trails. He’s bombproof and trusts me explicitly. He’s mellowed out with age, but he’ll gleefully take advantage of non-horsey friends and relatives that come to see him. He still tries to play chicken with me when I’m crouched down with the camera. He knows when you know, and he knows when you don’t.

He knows exactly how far to push things and can throw a tantrum like the best of them. These tantrums are rare now, although he had plenty while we grew together. There’s a fine line between just enough and chaos, and even now (almost 10 years into our relationship) that line blurs. Nakai spends the majority of his time trying to outwit you. If you’re riding every stride, he’s thinking about the next three. Rides have to be constantly varied, as he’ll catch onto the routine and try to insert his own ideas of how he thinks it should go. His independence and willingness to think outside the box makes him an invaluable partner.

When I ride him, it’s like settling in with your favorite novel. He knows me from cover to cover. I can think of something and before the thought has finished he’s working on the movement. Our muscle memory is incredible, and when I’m riding alone I forget where I end and he begins. He absorbs all of my emotions (good and bad) and shows me what I love and hate about myself. He is the ultimate window to my soul. You have to prove to him he can trust you – not that you’ll take care of him (he’ll do that), but that he can trust your decisions… that your ideas are better than his own.

On trails, he is all business. He is competitive, frank, and will pick out the best way to navigate trails if you don’t supply a path. He’s quick and so flexible it’s almost a bit ridiculous. He doesn’t have time for anyone’s spooks or snorts; he’ll motor by whatever horse-eating monster lies in the brush. His confidence is legendary, and his patience is thin. He enjoys ‘working’, and hates waiting around.

He has ERU in his right eye – Equine Recurrent Uveitis. It’s a difficult disease with a thousand variables and no real solid answers. He’s had quite a few flare ups, and sometime during the last year went blind in that eye. He also has a small cataract. Nakai seems to be one of the luckier ones, though, and through a strict diet of UV-protected fly mask and small daily doses MSM and Bute, we are able to keep inflammation down and prevent additional flare ups. We are now over a year of being flare-up free!