Empire

Empire

Quietude Roman Empire, 2009 Morgan Stallion – Pure Foundation | Pure Lambert
(Quietude Jubilee Kingdom x Quietude Miranda)

 

See Empire’s first daughter, Autumn >>

 

Kingdom
The King and I: Jubilee Kingdom and Henry Fleming, 2008

My Empire For A Horse

By that cold, rainy March of 2009, I had been riding Quietude Jubilee Kingdom at every opportunity for a couple of years, exploring the unending trails around Beard and the Greenbriar River Trail.  Sometimes I rode with other people, but mostly I rode “alone” (which, of course, is a figure speech, because while it is possible to hike alone, one always has company on a ride).

I was up for a few weeks that spring, staying at our our family place in Beard.  Winter in Pocahontas County is a perfect isolation chamber for the chronically introverted, so I was parked there until fate or enterprise forced me back to civilization.

susan shannon hanley
Susan and Shannon Hanley

Dinners with Susan and Shannon were welcome apostrophes during the week.  A good excuse to clean up, and always interesting conversation – whether about horses, God, history, or what-have-you.  If Shannon Hanley is breaking bread, and if Susan gives him enough rope, there’s going to be some provocative conversation if there is any at all.  If you’re the sensitive type, you may get offended.  But what you definitely will not get is bored.

One evening over dinner, I learned the first foal of the season had been born.  He was early – a Kingdom son out of a Crispin daughter (Miranda).  Susan asked that night if I would mind taking some shots of him for the website, and, of course, I was delighted to have the mission.

I was up early the next morning.   Cold, dark and rainy, it was clearly going to be no good for riding.  So I packed up my camera bag after coffee, and headed over to the Hanley’s place to take some snaps of the baby.

The day was made of iron – just soupy mud; cold and grey, with a foggy mist everywhere that seemed to turn rain as soon as you went outside.  When I made it to the mare barn, the mother and her new baby had the run-in to themselves.  I had a telephoto lens on the camera, so I just stepped inside their paddock to get some shots from a distance.

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Empire approaches as Miranda tries to block progress, 2009.

Before could get them into focus, the foal was coming to check me out.  His agitated mother lumbered close behind, her wet ears pinned and her tail swishing in frustration.  This messed up my shot, so I stepped backwards to reframe it.  When I did, the colt just stepped towards me – committed to exploring the human up close.  It was quickly apparent that I wouldn’t be able to get a decent body shot without changing lenses in the rain.  I snapped what I could, and resigned to come back when the weather was better, or at least when I had the foresight to have a wide-angle at the ready.

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Miranda: Her eyes look into you.

Back at the house, I flipped through the pictures and was surprised how well they turned out. Hidden in the muck and dreariness was near perfect light.  Scanning the images, I saw the mare in a different light altogether.  While she certainly had been handsome in person, on film, she was Elvis.  Just magnetic.  With time and change out of the equation, you could easily see something in her you might miss in passing.  And the pluckiness of the newborn cut through the bleak backdrop like a spotlight.

By the end of the week, the Hanley’s were pondering a name for the colt, and this would be good conversation fodder around a warm fire at Highland Trace.

Knowing I had long ago vowed to buy a Kingdom son “someday – when the time was right”, Susan asked what I planned to name him.

“Not sure I want to say”, I said – not wanting my name to be used prematurely.

But we were a few glasses into dinner by then, so I gave it up eventually:  “Well, the only logical place to go from ‘Kingdom’ is ‘Empire’ … so that’s probably it … when the time is right.”

This discussion happened to come on the heels of a somewhat longer dialogue between Shannon and me regarding the major advances of human civilization, and how we really hadn’t moved the ball since Rome.

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Sold! Empire & Henry, 2009. Photo: Susan Hanley

If it wasn’t the next day, it was the day after, when Susan called down to the house to announce they’d decided on a name for the foal:  Quietude Roman Empire.  Really?  Yep.  I’m not sure if it was Susan or Fate  – or some combination – that decided this was the one, and the timing needed to go ahead and get right, but this was the one, and when I reluctantly headed back to organized society a week later, I went by the Hanley’s to leave a check for the first price I was offered.  And I wore a big smile all the back to North Carolina.