Duke’s General Lee
General was short for “Duke’s General Lee”. He was normally called General. To those who knew and loved him, we often called him “Gen”.
Where Did I Meet Him?
General was the first horse I met at our family friend’s farm. The first place I kept horses after I left the lesson barn. His stall was the first one on the left, across from the tack room, and across from the marker board where everyone left each other messages.
Many a conversation was had to standing by that markerboard or leaning against the wall right next to it. In fact, it was in that very spot that I first caught a glimpse of General.
I Thought He Was Huge!
Turns out, that the horses had to step up into the stalls there. General was not ginormous like he looked when he stood in that stall. He would stand at the stall bars and almost look down at you and watch what was going on.
He Wasn’t A Giant Afterall!
In reality, I think he was probably around 15.3 hands ( don’t quote me on that, it was a long time ago). General was a chestnut gelding with a flashy white face. I would assume he was a quarter horse, or maybe a paint since he had so much white….I honestly don’t know.
He was a solid, strong, nice looking horse. Kind of in-between lanky like a thoroughbred and more short and stout like the old-style quarter horses.
Who Owned General?
His owner was boarding him at that farm. The owner of the farm, our family friend, Gail, leased General from his owner, whose name I can’t remember.
I guess she didn’t have a ton of time to ride, and General was a perfect horse for an adult beginner like Gail to start to ride on. Oddly enough, Gail ended up buying a bug-eye, firecracker of a two-year-old Morgan gelding named Dejavu Dublin. I still have Dublin now, I have known him longer than any other horse in the barn. We go way back, anyway, back to General.
Gail was an adult amateur rider. She loved horses and riding but was a little timid. A confident, trustworthy horse like General was absolutely perfect for her. She loved him just as much as his owner did.
Back In His Day, He Had Quite The Reputation!
By the time I met General, he was well into his teenage years. He was very mild-mannered and well behaved. I was always told stories though about how wild and crazy he was as a young horse. See his owner got him when he was really young, and apparently back in his day he was quite a handful.
If you saw him you would see how it could be true, he was a strong, powerful horse even though he wasn’t that tall. He definitely had the capability of being pretty scary if he wanted to. Evidently, as a young horse, he did it quite often.
He Simmered Down In His Older Age
The General I knew, was the farthest thing from wild and crazy! Luckily, he was old and settled down by the time we crossed paths.
He was a very well mannered, well-trained horse with a quiet demeanor. I don’t remember him ever getting really upset about much.
I honestly do not remember the circumstances of how I got to ride him for the first time. The ride though, that I remember.
General was probably one of the first horses I rode that actually was well trained. Not that the lesson horse I learned on weren’t well trained. They were just different, to compare the two would be like to compare apples and oranges. The lesson horses were obviously good and broke. They were testy and stubborn though. You always were on guard for whatever trick they might pull next.
As Was Usual For That Time In My Life, I Was Nervous About Getting On Him
I remember being nervous about getting on General. Having not had a ton of experience riding anything besides lesson barn horses at that point. I was always hearing about how amazing and wonderful General was. Which made me excited to try him, also nervous though, figuring if anything went wrong it would be all on me since he was Mr.Perfect.
A Totally Different Experience
Riding General was a totally different experience than the ones I was used to on lesson program horses. He was willing to work, forward-moving and very responsive to your leg and seat. General never pulled any dirty tricks like the lesson horses I learned on. He never dropped a shoulder or spun and bolted or stop and ate grass. He knew his job and took it seriously.
Riding Gen and feeling him respond to me so differently. It made me realize something about my riding. As a kid, I was a nervous rider. It is honestly a wonder that I’m where I’m in life because I spent my early years with horses very scared and needing a lot of encouragement.
Being a nervous rider on stubborn lesson horses had made me into a defensive rider. I was always on guard, trying to correct thing that wasn’t even happening and anticipating the worst.
He was basically the first horse I ever rode that just did what I wanted without question. Not only did he do what you wanted, but he also did it willingly. You never had to ask him twice.
General is the first horse that I can ever remember being relaxed on. He had a demeanor about him of self-confidence that I could feel him send to me when I was on him.
I Had A Couple Firsts With Gen
Cantering Out In The Open
General is the first horse that I ever cantered out in an open field on. I remember thinking about how he has been so good so far, that this was going to be it. He was going to run off with me in the field and I’d either fly off or be unable to stop him.
I asked him to step up into canter from the trot. He went right away and maintained a perfectly steady rocking canter. Even in those first few strides, we took that I know I was probably clenching on for dear life and he was wondering what the heck was wrong!
Working On Going Up And Down Hills
We had a big hill in the field where I rode. It is all different now there is a lot of fences and a riding ring. At that point, though it was just a giant open field with a fairly steep hill to the gate at the top. To get to the nice smooth flat part of the field and back you had to go up and down the hill.
In the lesson situation, I learned in we never were exposed much to hills. There was what they called a hill back in the trails but it was more just like a dirt mound.
I was scared about going up and down the hill. Once I would get on I would feel myself tense up at the thought of having to make it down the hill and back up.
General Took Care Of Me When I Was Nervous
It didn’t take me long to realize it was no big deal. General was probably thinking, chill out kid! Hold on I got this! General was well balanced and went up and down the hill like it was nothing. I feel like he was so balanced that he almost naturally put me in the right position to be secure on him as we went up and down.
General was probably one of the first horses that I learned to trust as well. Which is why I learned so much from him. I didn’t ride him all the time or anything. I always jumped at the chance if someone said do you want to hop on General, but it really wasn’t a regular thing. Just every once in a while.
What I Learned From General
I learned to trust a horse. Also, that just because the last horse I was on behaved badly, it did not give me the right to get on a different horse riding defensively and anticipating bad behavior. He helped me realize that each horse is an individual. Get on a horse expecting it to be good, not preparing for the worst!
General being so calm and relaxed despite my initial tension, made me realize later on that my nerves were probably causing me to be tense on the horses I rode. Which ended up converting into them having nervous energy or acting really testy.
I learned pretty quickly on General that it was safe to relax on a horse. He taught me to not get on a horse and ride defensively. Assertive calm energy gets you a lot further than riding on the defensive.
Riding Without An Instructor
General was probably one of the first horses that I rode outside of a lesson situation. That is a pretty big deal when you are young like I was. I remember being excited about riding without someone telling me what to do. At the same time wondering what I should do since there was no one standing there to tell me!
What A Well Trained Horse Should Feel Like
General was not highly trained for any specific discipline. He was just a really well broke horse with impeccable basics. Looking back on it now I realize that to have a horse go as General did should be the goal before moving onto any more specific or technical training. With the solid basics he had and the confident way he carried himself, you could have easily done whatever you wanted with him.
Any horse that I have ever trained to go as well as General I have been pretty proud of because he was such a solid horse. I’d say as close to perfectly behaved as possible when dealing with an animal who has a mind of its own.
General just had such a cool personality, he had a distinct confident demeanor. When you sat on him, it felt like he was ready to take care of business. That made me able to finally be more comfortable and relaxed on a horse.
What Happened to General?
Gail stopped leasing him when she bought her young horse, Dublin. Shortly thereafter his owner moved, fairily far away. So General left and moved to a new farm closer to his owners new home.
His owner’s mom still lives in our area. We used to run into her every so often and I would always ask how Gen was doing. It always sounded like he was living it up and enjoying the good life in his old age.
I don’t know for sure, but I’d imagine that General has moved on to greener pastures by now. He was certainly a special horse. I learned so much from him and I most certainly will never forget him.