I can't even pick which one was my favorite, I think I have 2.
Denny: He was my first experience starting a horse all on my own. I was 15 and had all the fearlessness of youth. He had been abused and traumatized by his former owner's "cowboy" (in the stereotyped sense of the word) and was dangerous as they called him. If a man stepped into the pen with him, he would ricochet off of panels, barns, and people trying to get away. I still remember the exact moment I made up my mind. It was before school on a crisp November morning when I was feeding, I looked at him and said "You're pretty, I think I'll ride you." So that afternoon, I came home and got my saddle and snaffle and carried them to his pen. After about 20 minutes of just standing in the middle of the pen and letting him run circles around me, he stopped and looked at me. I took my time and got the bridle on him. I slowly calmed him with gentle scratches all over his neck and sides, then I grabbed the saddle pad. His eyes widened but I continued to talk to him and let him sniff of the pad, then gently laid it against his neck before moving it to his back. I took it off and put it back on several times doing it less gently every time until he was comfortable with me just tossing it up there. When I tossed my saddle on top of it, he just flinched but stood still. I cinched him up with no problems and then tied his head each way to teach him to give to the bit. After he had that down, I lunged him each way until he was relaxed and then got on. No rodeo like I expected, no running or throwing a fit. The only time he ever bucked with me was about 2 weeks into his training when I just threw the saddle on, climbed on and asked for the lope. Not that he could really buck anyway. I corrected him with a few tiny circles and he hasn't bucked since. To this day, I am the only one who can successfully ride him and control him well. I made a lot of mistakes but I wouldn't change a single one of them because he helped make me into the horseman I am today.
My second favorite is Dobe. A friend offers my Dad a 3 year old buckskin
mustang stud for $125 (apparently they hadn't looked at him since he was a yearling and still a buckskin). He had never been handled. Dad gladly accepts and brings home a skinny, blown out, little fugly gray stud that is completely W.I.L.D. Left him in the trailer until we could get a halter on him then tied him to the side of the trailer. He didn't fight or pull back at all. I spent that first day just standing with him at the end of the rope and slowly feeding him alfalfa from my hand and bringing him water. Day 2 went to the round pen where after some initial rubbing and scratching, he is saddled with no fight. Only a couple of spooks away from the saddle. Tied his head around each way then lunged him until he relaxed a bit. Then got on. Has never offered to buck and by day 5, I was riding him through cattle. Now been riding him for 4 1/2 years and used him to drag calves all spring and am now using him to wean. Carried the flag in the parade for the last 2 years and he is one of my best friends.
There is no feeling quite like taking a horse that no one else has been able to handle and watching them mature and grow into a wonderful using horse. To see them learn and watch as they have a lightbulb moment is why I like to train horses.
Whew, and you thought your's was long, Kevin. LOL.