Gosh, it's so hard for me to choose LOL. I guess I'll just stick with the first.
Oh, and I apologize in advance for the length.
I guess that one would be old Buck. My Dad started him as a youngster back in the late 70's. He was always a bit of an oddball type horse with a strange personality. Dad got him going pretty well and sent him back to his owners. They had some people try to use him in the feedlot and nobody could get along with him at all.
It didn't take long for him to start taking advantage of people and he turned dangerous...quickly. He hurt a couple of cowboys pretty dang bad before it was all said and done. Anyway, one day, my Dad was up at the ranch of the guy that owned Buck (they were good friends) and saw them loading Buck on the truck with a bunch of beef cattle headed for slaughter. When Dad asked about it, owner said that the horse was dangerous and he wanted him dead before anyone else got hurt. After much arguing, owner finally agreed to give the horse to Dad. That's how we ended up with him.
After some serious re-training and lots of near death experiences on both their parts, Dad and Buck finally kinda figured each other out (or at least Dad figured Buck out...Buck just didn't give two hoots one way or the other and would just do whatever he **** well pleased and would just demolish anything that got in his way; fences, pickups, trailers, people...). Dad started team roping on Buck and they won a lot of money together. Heck, Buck paid for over half the mortgage on the house I grew up in.
It was several years later and Buck was tied to the fence at home while Dad and some friends practiced roping in our arena. I think my brother would have been 4 or 5 at the time, and he crawled up on old Buck before Dad even saw what was happening. Buck just kind of looked around to see what was on him, dropped his head and went right to sleep. I guess that was a bit of a shock in itself because he was always alert to everything whenever he was tied at a roping (he was one of those horses that everyone took a wide berth and no other roper ever asked to borrow him for a run because they were all scared of him LOL).
I don't know how they worked it out or prepared for it, but Jason started riding Buck from then on out. Buck taught him how to rope and was always the most trustworthy and faithful kids mount you could ever hope for. Both my brother and I grew up on him and he taught us both so much.
Nobody ever would have guessed that an outlaw horse that stood 16 hands and weighed upwards of 1400 pounds of pure muscle would have ever willingly responded to the cues of a 40 pound child LOL.
To this day, I don't know if it was just his outlaw nature or if he was just one of those unique horses, but nothing scared that horse...ever. In all the years of watching Jason ride him and in all the years I rode him, I can never remember him even acting like he was thinking about spooking and we had him in some dang hairy situations. Fireworks, flags, snubbing up a nasty bucking horse, little kids running all around, under, and over him and he would just stand there with a leg cocked and his eyes half closed almost like he was saying "Okay, just wake me when it's over and you need something".
That was the horse that helped me get my confidence back after breaking my arm badly in a fall from another horse.
Between all the years of team roping, a broken bone in one front leg (that healed), and me and brother riding him a few billion miles, he came down with a pretty serious case of arthritis. The winters kept getting harder on him and so, in the fall of '02, it was decided to put him down so he wouldn't have to bear the pain of winter again. He was 27.
The one thing I will always remember about that old horse was the last time that Dad roped on him. Buck had over-reached and broken a bone in a front leg several years before and several vets advised that Dad put him down because "he would never be sound again". Dad just couldn't bear to do it without at least giving Buck a chance, especially since both Jason and I were riding him at this point. Dad figured that if he could at least be sound enough to pack us kids around, it would be worth it.
After 3 months of stall rest, Dad turned him out to pasture with the yearlings and left him for a year. He slowly got better until he didn't limp at all, even when chasing the youngsters around the pasture so Dad decided to catch him back up and see if he could stand up to some light riding. He did great but Dad decided then that he would never rope on him again. He was just too valuable a horse to risk hurting him again.
Anyway, it was several years later and we were at a team roping. I was riding Buck around the parking lot and the arena, just being my usual unconcerned self, I might have been 7 or maybe 8 at the time so Buck would have been in his late teens then. Dad had been roping all day and had made it to the final go. If he won, he would bring home a really big paycheck. He was riding a fairly young horse that was pretty worn down by that time so Dad found me in the parking lot and asked if he could borrow old Buck for one run.
Of course, I said yes so Dad pulled my saddle off and threw his up there and the change in old Buck was incredible. As soon as he recognized Dad's saddle, his head came up and his chest puffed out. His eyes got big, his ears went back, and he blew a big old snort. When Dad mounted up, old Buck strutted to the arena gait (other horses would prance; not Buck, he strutted
because he was 1400 pounds of bad-ass and he knew
it). Dad backed him in the box and they made the run as if Buck had never had a single day off. They won the money that day but that was the last time Dad ever rode him. He didn't even ride him out of the arena, he dismounted right there in the middle and led him back to the trailer.
When he got back to the trailer, he had a tear in his eye as he pulled his saddle off for the last time and put mine back on there. The change in the old horse was just as incredible the second time. As he recognized my saddle, he dropped his head and his ears went floppy and when I got back on, he was perfectly content to plod around in a walk or a slow jog.
Back in his and Dad's glory days:
When he and I made most our miles:
Him being my confidence builder when I broke my arm at 9. He was pushing 20 then.