7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Nathaniel Griffith and the Killer Filly

God bless you, dear friends for coming. And to ye who are new here, I am Nathaniel Griffith and this be my farm.

What's that you say? Am I of the Griffith Shipping Company? Yea, I am, but I've left the running of it to my uncle and my brother-in-law. I fear sailing is not for me. Though in truth, I have crossed the ocean a few times in search of good horseflesh.

Take this dapple gray filly. She's three and spirited. She's got fine straight legs, and if ye look at the peak above her eye, ye'll see she's kind too. Though the man who sold her to me thought not.

Me uncle sent word last fall of a man in Wales who'd brought some horses from Egypt. My sense of urgency to see these fine animals overwhelmed my fear of sailing. 'Twas a hard time to convince our Captain Hall to sail across the Atlantic in late November, but after some pressing, he agreed and we left the week after a fierce storm, the likes of which I'd never seen, hit our shores.  But I digress.

After a very difficult sail (having been blown off course), we arrived in Newport, Wales late January. I was convinced I'd sailed through hell, but upon my word, the horses Mr. Durham had in his possession were well worth the sail.

After two weeks recovering at my uncle's house, I mounted one of his fine steeds and road to Mr. Durham's farm. No sooner had I arrived than the man proudly presented five young stallions of Arabian breeding. I thought to barter a good price for them, but the filly in the back paddock caught my attention. She held her head and tail high and trotted the fence with an intelligent look in her eyes that superseded that of the stallions.

When I gestured to the filly, the man's countenance streaked with fear. "She's a killer," he said then shook his head.

I asked him what had happened.

He coughed and sputtered and stroked a tear from his cheek. "Me son, he was leading her from the back pasture a fortnight ago. I was at work in the barn and heard him bellow. I stuck my nose out the door and the mare jumped to her side, knocked my son down and trampled him."

I gasped and asked, "What gave her cause?"

"Aye, best we can tell it was a wolf pack on the hill." He twisted his neck, and his Adam's apple bobbed. "I'd known a horse to spook at such, but ne'er there be a time before that I see a horse jump upon a downed boy. I held in my hand a pitchfork and rushed to my boy, determined not to let the filly come at him again. Ye see, I'd not known the wolves were on the hill. Only that the filly stomped upon my lad." He shook his finger at the filly. "If I had my musket, I would have killed her right then." With a heavy sigh he lowered his hand and continued. "'Twas blood coming from my son's mouth and he gasped for air--terror claimed his eyes. He died in his bed later that night, not able to breathe for his broken chest."

I shook my head. "'Tis a hard thing to lose a son."

He walked toward his barn. "I'll give you that filly if you pay a fair price for those stallions." He tossed a halter to me. "She's not been handled since that day."

As you can see. I've brought the filly home. The stallions I've already sold to breeders in Boston and Providence. I'll work with her until she's safe enough for any man to handle. She'd not given us trouble on the ship home, and I expect little trouble from her now. 'Twas an unfortunate incident.

I see Dr. Clarke is waving you down. I'll not keep you as I've much work to do. Godspeed one and all.

Like Mr. Durahm's son, I had a filly (her name was Copper) use me as a launching pad. The electric fence along the pasture snapped. She spooked, knocked me over, and in her attempt to get away, she stepped on my chest. In the moments immediately following I didn't feel the pain so much as the panic of not being able to breathe. My lung had been punctured by one of the many broken ribs. Not until I was in the ambulance did I feel the pain.

When I arrived at the hospital, I begged for relief from the pain, but they would not give me any until after a tube was stuck in my side to drain the punctured lung. I had been married only three weeks at this point and would spend the next two weeks in the hospital and a month after that recovering from the broken ribs. What a welcome my poor hubby had to being married to me. To this day I still feel the occasional pang where the ribs were broken and the tube had been inserted.

Once I was able to ride again, I continued to train the filly. While I could ride other horses without hesitation, handling Copper required a battle with fear I never thought I would ever experience with a horse. With the occasional help from others, I managed to train her well enough to sell her to an instructor who would use Copper in her riding program. So like Nathaniel, I was confident in the kind look in Copper's eye. She didn't mean to hurt me, but accidents do happen.

The first recorded Arabian stallion to have been brought to England was the Markham Arabian. He came to King James I in 1616. However, there is evidence that some Arabian horses were brought back by knights after the Crusades.

The Welsh pony is believed to have been influenced by Arabians as early as the Middle Ages, which agrees with the notion of the knights bringing horses back. While the official year the Welsh Pony was brought into America was 1884, I would venture to say that people coming from Wales would have brought a horse or two over with them, and some of these were quite likely born with the native welsh-type pony blood.

The first official import of Arabian breeding stock to America was in 1725 by Nathan Harrison of Virginia. So to be strictly accurate, Nathaniel Griffith didn't bring true Arabian stallions back with him. I just thought it fit the story. That said, I have no doubt that some horses brought over in the 17th century did have Arabian blood. The horses I have read about tended to be smaller than the stock commonly found in England, which is what the Europeans were doing--crossbreeding their horses with Arabians to make them lighter.

King James I's breeding program would have enhanced the Arabian influenced. This, along with the old knights' horses influence, made it possible for many of the horses brought to America to have had a great deal of Arabian blood in them without any formal recognition.


  1. What an interesting post! I love horses, but have not had the opportunity to have much to do with them.

    My daughter had a Morgan-Arabian cross when she was a teenager. He had a beautiful natural pacing gait. Bay with a white blaze and white stockings. He was gorgeous. We had him til he was nearly thirty.

    1. I love bays with white blazes and white stockings. They are gorgeous.

  2. I don't know which story fascinated me the most...the tale or your true story. I love horses, but only from afar. I've never had the opportunity to ride one or even be close to one. Thanks for sharing. God bless.

  3. Lynn, I enjoyed your post immensely. I'm so sorry about your accident. Sometimes, I don't think we realize the power of domesticated animals. That must have been very scary in addition to being extremely painful.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Kay. It was scary, more because I couldn't breathe than because of being knocked down.

  4. What a good story! I am an owner of quarter horses (thoroughbred-mustang). Hardy horses bred for ranch and farm work. We have horses for sale and use them for working cattle and keeping check on our fence lines. This horse story will be so good for our grandkids horse club to read. They come to Pine Hill Farm here
    in North Carolina and love to learn about horses. I am always looking for horse stories
    as this one. Thank You for your post!Carole

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! I've worked with some wonderful quarter horses over the years. Living in cutting horse country now.

      I hope you and your grandkids stay alert and never go through what I went through. But I never learned. LOL About three years later I got bucked off a new horse will cattle penning. This horse also got my ribs and I broke a few more. That was in July. In September I was fine and competed in an two day trial.

      Oh, and Copper wasn't an Arabian. She was a thoroughbred--just to clarify.

  5. LYNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Are you back with us now? WOOT!!! Love reading these articles!!! I take it you are settling into your new home. God bless you for coming by CQ and posting! Hugs!!!

  6. Love horses. I always include a one or two in my novels. I've had Star, Ransom, Grenadier, and Sanchet, to name a few.
    Thanks for the post, Lynn, and welcome back to CQ!

  7. What a story, Lynn! Oh my! I loved Nathaniel's story, but yours was shocking--so sorry to hear about it but glad to know you healed well. I can tell you are a true horsewoman. There's a reason for some old sayings... get right back up on that horse is one of them and a great motto to live by.

    thank you for sharing. I'm glad you're back and posting. I'll be starting up next week, myself.

  8. Fascinating stories, Lynn. What an experience you had. My children and I took riding lessons together many years ago, and when we started the jumping lessons, I just couldn't overcome my fear. I didn't even like the exercise where we "jumped" over a piece of board on the ground. What a wimp I was compared to what you overcame.


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