A Tale of Two Horses

December 23, 2020

“The Black was looking out on the open sea; his ears pricked forward, his thin-skinned nostrils quivering, his black mane flowing like windswept flame. Alec could not turn his eyes away; he could not believe such a perfect creature existed.”
― Walter Farley

Shirley at three on a pony!

 If you ask Shirley Bellows what her prized possession is, she will enthusiastically share the story of her copy of The Black Stallion signed by none other than Walter Farley.

In grade five, Shirley had moved to London, Ontario, and became best friends with Lorena and Carol, who shared her horse-crazy passions. Carol’s mother was a brilliant single mom of four and she wanted to keep the girls busy. She brought them down to the local library one afternoon, signed out three copies of The Black Stallion, and immediately got them signed up for library cards. From that moment on, the girls were hooked and would head to the library every Friday afternoon to exchange their latest novel (usually about horses).

One day, Carol’s mom was working at a hotel in Fort Eerie when she heard that the crew of the Black Stallion movie was filming at the race track there, often referred to as “the border oval”. She quickly ran to the nearest bookstore, purchased three copies of The Black Stallion, and asked Walter Farley to sign the novels after explaining about the girls and their passion for both horses and reading!

Fortunately, Shirley’s love of horses didn’t end with her adventures in reading. She continued to be involved in the equine world, eventually taking weekly riding lessons with her friends at a nearby stable.

As the years passed, she started going to the stable with her boyfriend. They volunteered to help out and learn everything about horse care, grooming, and cleaning. When her boyfriend became her husband and they moved out to a farm, her dreams of owning a brilliant, affectionate Arabian had not lessened. They finally had the space to keep a horse, but as newlyweds just starting out, it was still a dream with a substantial price tag!

Then one day, they heard of a friend selling an Arabian. They knew they couldn’t afford her but went to meet the owers anyway. It was love at first sight! Robin Bint Rabannezabez was a registered ¾ mare and as far as Shirley was concerned, the perfect horse for her. The owners saw the connection between Shirley and “Robbie” and offered her up at half her asking price.

Shirley spent over 20 beautiful years with her little Arabian and claims she was just as brilliant and wonderful as she had hoped, “an absolute dream come true!”

A dream that all began with a book from the library.



Some of Shirley’s favourite horse tales:

Mudeater: an American buffalo hunter and the surrender of Louis Riel / John D. Pihach

‘Seabiscuit: An American Legend’ by Laura Hillenbrand

note from Shirley: “Laura researched this so well that she completely exhausted herself and it was years before she could do another book.”

Man who listens to horses / Monty Roberts

The Black Stallion, Walter Farley