By Theresa Morris
I was in my early teens when I had my first encounter with a horse. I remember approaching it and putting my hand out to pet it. The horse quickly turned its head around to look at me. He was huge, muscles protruding, eyes staring down at me, nostrils flaring back and forth with a sound of heavy breathing, like a rumbling snort. He had a look in his eyes that said "don't touch me!" At least that's how I felt. I walked away with a sense of intimidation and maybe even a slight fear. Needless to say, from that point on, I had grown to become indifferent about horses.
Fast forward to 2012, I was participating in an art show. I was approached by a woman who began to tell me about some unique horses in southern Oklahoma. Almost immediately my mind traveled back to my youth, to the horse that scared me. She continued to talk and mentioned some interesting things about these mustangs. She then suggested I might be interested in taking some pictures and possibly drawing or painting one of the horses. Being an artist, I'm always looking for new material. I had never painted a horse, so this made good sense. She pulled out a business card, turned it over and wrote down her name and number and handed it to me.
Several months had gone by but my thoughts were taken back several times to the short conversation about the horses. I finally decided to call the number on the back of the business card. I ended up talking to a man named Bryant and made arrangements with him to go see the horses.
My partner and I headed to Antlers, Oklahoma to see the mustangs. We pulled up to the property and got out of the car. A man approached us, introducing himself as Bryant Rickman. He then proceeded to talk about the mustangs. He walked with us as we took pictures of the horses. This man, Bryant, was a walking encyclopedia. There were over 150 horses and he knew the names of every single one of them. A person could point out one specific horse and he could tell you that horse's entire life story from it's day of birth. I was so impressed by this man and his knowledge. By the time we were finished, daylight was disappearing. I had spent most of the day taking pictures and never really had much time with the mustangs. I knew it was time to leave and a sense of sadness came over me. I knew I had to come back.
Several weeks had passed but we finally made another trip to see the mustangs. Once again, we met with Bryant. He took us to another place where some of the mustangs were being kept. We arrived at feeding time. Bryant made the noises and hollered the words that caught the attention of the horses. They started coming in from the wooded areas, the pasture beyond, from around the barn, and from all directions. They were nonchalant in their gait, but their brilliance was displayed as they focused steadily, heading toward that familiar voice. As they drew closer, my eyes followed from one side to the other, keeping a close watch. For a few seconds, as they approached, that old fear began to creep in, but as I stood there I quickly realized these horses weren't like the horse from my youth. There was something very different about them. They possessed a certain calmness and gentleness that drew me in. They were a little smaller in stature than most breeds but you couldn't deny their physical strength and endurance. Many of the mustangs walked straight up to me, gently nudging me, like they were asking me to pet them. Off in the distance, a small foal was running back and forth, trying to engage the playfulness of other young ones to join in on her fun. She would stop then take off as fast as she could run, whinnying and kicking her back legs into the air. It almost seemed like she was showing off for us. She was having so much fun and there I was standing in the midst of these amazing creatures. My childhood fear was gone, replaced by reverence. A peaceful, tranquility was now present and I was overcome with a sense of honor. How lucky was I to have been a part of their existence for those few short moments. They are smart, mild in manner, gentle, playful, small in stature but strong in character and stamina, and quite affectionate. Their tales and manes are long beautiful.
I have never been moved so much as I was with the Choctaw Mustangs. My time with them has only just begun. I have developed a lifelong love for the majestic creatures and I can't wait to see them again.