"Ulme of the Alentejo"
The two formed a partnership in their mutual quest for fame and glory, until Providence intervened.
Sold to breeders in California, Ulme was ordained to fight the bulls as greed prevailed over patience. His natural gifts of strength and agility were quickly abused in the frontal attack of these formidable animals also bred for the corrida. Anna Maria’s dreams of riding in the bullfight were dashed. The ache in her heart was unrequited, knowing that without Ulme, she would never be allowed to test herself in the corrida. Her only choice was to find her beautiful Ulme. The horse she had raised from just a foal, trained and schooled, her soulmate.
Anna hoped to find Ulme and, perhaps by reuniting with him, she could at least be part of the life she wanted. The months turned to years, but Ulme had disappeared. Anna’s favorite horse, so physically powerful, had vanished. She searched across California, desperate to find this special Lusitano. Her despair at times was overwhelming. However, she believed with all her heart that one day they would find each other again.
“Noodles, are you finished?” Rico was impatient as ever. “Just hold your horses, Rico.” What a strange expression, I thought. I have heard it more times than I can recall, but saying it to a horse of all things, it sounds utterly ridiculous. My favorite idiom for holding your whatevers has to be Cool your jets! Now, that’s an expression I’d like to use with a group of jet jockeys trying to ride dressage. Wishful thinking, as my mind meandered well away from the task at hand. The herd around me growing even more impatient.
“Guys, guys, please! I’m in the middle of this forward for the book about Ulme, and then I promise we will pick up with the story right where we left off. That is unless you boys are too tired?” I looked at the group of horses anxiously waiting for me.
“No way, Noodles. We’re done with dinner. Now tell us what happened. How did Anna Maria find Ulme and end up here with Erika and us?” Rico and Donni were determined to hear the story, regardless of the hour. Just my luck, I could barely keep my eyes open, and this mob is on its second wind.
Rico moved closer to me, pushing a couple of horses aside. In a shrill voice, one only his mother could love, he said, “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m very confused. First, they leave Portugal, but not at the same time. Then, they go to California, but not together. And finally, they end up here in our barn. Doesn’t make any sense to me.”
“Just ignore him, Noodles. This is a great story, and we have all night. Or at least until I fall asleep. I have always wanted to hear how fate brought Anna Maria and Ulme back together after so many years.” VP, normally disinterested in anything unless it pertained to him, had silenced the chorus of critics, at least for the moment.
“Okay, so may I continue or does anyone else have a comment from the peanut gallery?” Using my very deep voice, I did my best to admonish the little gathering of horses.
“What’s a peanut gallery? Is that some kind of Dutch insult?” Rico asked Donni, who was standing next to him.
“Rico, pull yourself together! You are a Royal Diamond. Your Sire and your Grandsire are two of the great dressage bloodlines. Yet listening to you right now, you are whining like a cat. Most unbecoming for a 17 hand warmblood built like a warhorse.” My rebuke was having the desired effect, as Rico realized he was acting childish.
His high-pitch voice made us all wince, “Sorry guys, I was impatient. Please excuse me.” I scanned the assembly, testing with my eyes for anyone else wanting to try my patience.
“Okay, glad that’s resolved. Now, back to the Alentejo,” I told the group.
I spoke nonstop, for what seemed like hours, to my ragtag collection of horse friends – telling the story of Ulme and Anna Maria, from their humble beginnings in the Alentejo to the bullfighting arenas of California. My friends listened, at times holding their breaths, anxious, as the battles with the bulls felt too real. Each of us imagining how we would handle such dire circumstances. Facing down these massive animals – weighing close to two thousand pounds and capable of speeds approaching forty miles-per-hour –they were a force to be feared.
“Noodles, you can’t stop now. What happened next?” VP had joined in egging me on to finish.
“Guys, I’m really tired. What do you say we leave it there and conclude tomorrow night?” I stifled a yawn, making it clear I was done for the night.
As the other horses made their way back into the stalls and some laid down for sleep, VP quietly stood next to me.
“I had no idea, big guy, that the lass had endured so much. Can’t imagine losing everything and not having anywhere to go.” VP was thinking out loud, empathizing with all Anna Maria had suffered, losing Ulme and then her home.
“I suppose, VP, it helps us understand what drives her, that determination to succeed both in the arena and out of it. She is extraordinary. A real rider, a Stick like few others. Aside from Anna and Erika, there are not many Sticks who understand us.”
“Well, big guy, at least we have the two of them. Most horses don’t even have one Stick they understand.” VP turned and closed his eyes, allowing his thoughts to drift away as sleep took its hold on him as well.
As for me, it was time to rest. For even those who seek perfection’s bliss must find some respite from destiny’s drum. Wow, I must remember that line. Maybe I’m turning into a poet of sorts.