Ellen Daly

I started looking more to divert my mind from my grief than anything else. My sister started looking, too—now I knew I was in trouble. Then I got an e-mail from her with a link to a place called Quietude and there he was—a chestnut vision with this white blaze on his face. Quietude Dante. He reminded me of Ranger because he looked sturdy but beautiful.

He was a Lambert Morgan bred by a couple who had single-handedly resurrected the line. Wow. My education had begun about a type of horse who had been lost in history.

I have always loved Morgans. The first horse I every rode was my aunt’s Morgan gelding, Brandy. I was 4 years old. I imprinted. He was a bright chestnut with personality to spare. Many years later, my aunt gave Brandy to my sister. He was her fist horse. At almost 25 years old, he was nearly unstoppable. This started our journey that would lead to Cruiser, Ranger, Mingo and Cole. Would Dante be next?

It was late fall when I contacted the Hanleys at Quietude. A prompt return e-mail gave me Dante’s vitals, but he was in West Virginia and winter was coming. This delayed the trip until spring. I spent all winter looking at YouTube videos of the Quietude horses and reading about Lambert Morgans. Even the name, Quietude, seemed like a good sign. It was an expression my Dad used to use when things got hectic. My dad was never big on horses, but he was not a person to shy away from his dreams; as he collected multitudes of classic cars over the years and much of his time was spent restoring and driving them.

Spring was coming, and it was time to commit to my trip to West Virginia. I decided that around my birthday in April would be a good time just because it was my birthday. I talked to John, my boyfriend, about it. He was on board because he said we could make it a mini vacation out of it and camp. He loves to camp. I don’t like camping, but I would do it to make it fun for him, too

John is a planner so when packages from LLBean started arriving and long discussions about how to stay warm in the van ensued, too, I knew he was doing everything he could think of to make me comfortable in his van. It is a mini camper with a microwave and heater, so it wouldn’t be too bad.

I was very nervous leading up to the trip. This was a huge decision and there was the issue of my little cat, Stormy, to consider. We were taking the dog with us, but Stormy doesn’t travel well, and he is an indoor/outdoor cat. Someone coming over to keep an eye on him was not an option. My sister came to the rescue. He could stay at her house in an empty bedroom, and she would completely spoil him.

The time came to transport Stormy. He hates cars and messes in his carrier every time, but we got him safely to her house. Barriers were put up to keep the dog away and her cat, Thunder the Wonder Cat, was too scared to go near him. Stormy was not happy, but he was in the best possible hands.

My trip to Quietude began that night. Driving for hours gives a person lots of time to think. I was thinking a lot. Two horses would be quite a bit of work. Could I handle it? My sister had been doing it for years and rarely complained, so it was possible. A new horse is uncharted territory. Would my anxiety be too much to handle it or would it rise up to the challenge. My head was spinning. Would Dante disappoint in person and would it all be a waste of time? My journey physically and mentally continued. I had many cat updates. It sounded like Stormy was doing okay.

We made it to West Virginia the next day. It’s a beautiful place, especially in the spring; rolling hills and mountains covered in green. This was a good part of the travel; seeing beauty around each corner. We had a day of travel, then we camped that night with a trip to Quietude the next day. I was so excited and so cut off from the world. West Virginia mountains have no cell phone towers. No more cat updates. I was off the grid. One of the biggest decisions of my life and no one to consult except for John, who once tried to feed Ranger a hamburger.

The day finally arrived. It dawned cold but bright. The journey that started last fall was now real. We started out on winding roads up mountains to Hillsboro, West Virginia; the home of the famous author Pearl S. Buck. I saw her house.

We followed Sue Hanley’s careful directions down gravel roads and across creeks. We arrived at the site of the sight of the Highland Trace House--the Hanleys’ daughters’ impeccably restored summer home. Then up the road; horses everywhere. There was a big red barn where I saw some silhouettes of horses in stalls. Dante maybe?

We drove toward the Hanley house, down stallion row. Each stallion gazed at our van as we passed. I tried to identify them from their pictures on the website. There is nothing like the keen gaze of a stallion. We met the Hanleys and the young dog, Colt. He was a silly half-grown dog who was still learning about people. I had been there with our dog, Stubby, who was starting protectively from the van window.

We went into the house to get to know each other. John is an avid photographer, and so is Sue Hanley. They had a lot in common. It was fun. They are nice people. Then it came time to check out Dante. We drove back to the red barn where I’d seen silhouettes. We walked in—and I’d like to say I had eyes only for Dante—but their stunning stallion Quietude Jubilee Kingdom was in the barn. He dominated the scene, and he knew it. Then my eyes turned to Dante stabled next to his pasture mate, Trey. Dante watch us with much interest and was enthusiastic about the attention. He was a brighter chestnut than in the pictures and had thick hair on his legs like a draft horse. They took him out of the stall. He tied well and lifted his feet nicely. They handed me a brush and I worked my way toward his back and stood by his withers. I thought of my sister’s horse, Cruiser. Then I knew Dante was right. He had some professional training and had been on many trail rides. The Hanleys were forthright about his personality and skills. There was no reason to doubt them and besides, he gave me the Cruiser vibe.

After that, it was time to look over the 400 acres of Quietude. I have never seen so many horses and pastures. All the horses love people and are so curious. I met Dante’s father, Quietude Barcelona; a favorite stallion of Shannon and sire to many Lamberts. It is truly a special place where the land and animals are loved and respected.

When our tour was over, it was time to camp for the night. The Hanleys generously let us camp next to their daughter’s house. We had access to the house, electric and best of all—the bathroom. It was a perfect, clear night. We were surrounded by horses and my boyfriend took many nighttime photos of the stars.

Morning dawned and I was able to watch Dante amble about his pasture with his friends. I felt guilty about taking him from this paradise to a stall in Cleveland, but he had a destiny to fulfill. He is descended from a line of working horses who helped build our country. He would be glad to have a job and lots of human attention. He loves people and the trail; a natural traveler with his easy trot and curious eyes.

I was sad to leave Quietude the next day, but my new adventure would be arriving in Cleveland in a few weeks. Besides, I missed Ranger and my silly cat. As soon as we reach cell phone signal, it was time to spread the news. Dante was joining our herd and snappy, little Cole Train finally had a trail buddy who could equal him.

Somehow, I could hear my dad say, “Why another horse?” and see him roll his eyes and smile.