Charlie’s Choice: - Matchmaking Using Horse Sense

By Susan Bayard Rifkin

Susan and Charlie – Charlie’s hovering over me, even with two familiar people nearby, really made me feel as if he chose me.


A friendly, handsome 5-year-old blue roan Nokota gelding chose me to be his person. Considering that I looked at about 150 horses loose in two large pastures in a matter of hours, I’m happily amazed this was a wonderful experience, and it is an adventure I recommend.

I’ve named him “Charlie” and he is my first new horse since 1988. Unlike the four other horse purchases I’ve made over the past 25 years, this is the first time I let the horse do the choosing - I was alone in a field with loose horses, and had one who I had never seen before come up to me, choose me, hang around me to be petted, and even warn his friends to keep away from me. There seemed to be an invisible “Sold” sign. But I think Charlie hung the sign over my head, not over his.





I heard from several owners about the Nokota horse’s combination of intelligence, athletic ability, and bonding with their people. And I found their history intriguing. (For more information see Then a few days later I met some Nokota horses that Leo, Frank, and Ed Kuntz had just shipped in from North Dakota and were at a farm near me in Pennsylvania.

I’d met Frank Kuntz on some of his trips to deliver Nokotas. And my friends spoke highly of his brother Leo’s integrity and horse knowledge. So I felt comfortable dealing with them.

I was also impressed with the more natural environment these horses grew up in. I believe that a real functional horse society teaches the horses a lot of things they are designed to learn. My veterinarian explained that some behavioral problems were due to horses not learning properly “How to Be a Horse”.

So, when family matters suddenly sent me to Colorado, I arranged to fly from Denver to Bismarck, North Dakota.

Charlie and his friends were all so attractive that I would have had a difficult time choosing among them.

After a peaceful hour’s drive to Linton, I met Frank Kuntz and Shelly Hauge at my motel and they drove me out, and into, the young mares' 1700-acre pasture. I saw at least 75 fillies.

The 75 fillies were in three bands. They came when they heard the truck because they associated it with being given hay or grain. How close they came to us depended upon their personality. Some had been gentled and came close by to get petted. I was literally in their territory, and they were out with their friends.

They are known for being compatible with each other. Most had no marks on them from biting, kicking, or the fence. So I was confident that none would harm me on purpose. I had only to watch out for “horsing around” with each other, and there was very little of that.

Frank asked what my criteria were for the horse I wanted. I thought I wanted a filly, but would consider a gelding. I wanted a friendly, confident horse who would be a cooperative partner for a variety of horse club activities, like trail rides, mounted games, lower level dressage, and jumping. Most of all, I wanted a horse that would choose me. I was reassured by Frank's easy acceptance of my “the horse will find me” plan. Turns out he is familiar with this technique.

Animal Communicator Anita Curtis told me that my late horse Richie’s spirit would help me recognize appropriate horses by encouraging likely candidates to interact with me. Two friendly fillies seemed interested, as did one beautiful mare who kept looking at me, but she did not come close. By day's end I had seen a lot of horses and taken a lot of photos, but due to a technical glitch, I wasn't able to view them that night. Frank suggested that I return alone the next day to the filly field and hang out so they could get to know me.

These curious colts left their herd to come check me out.

Before I did that, I wanted to go to the ranch to see the colts and geldings. I arrived at the ranch mid morning, when everyone was occupied elsewhere. I easily identified the weanlings’ pen and the stallions’ pen. So the herd of 75 or so horses I saw about 200 yards away had to be the geldings and colts. I was walking slowly towards the herd when a small group of colts decided to head towards me. They passed nearby and kept going. As I watched them, I saw an older group emerge from another area. The first gelding I saw was exactly what I wanted. He had a big confident walk, powerful haunches, good legs, and nice head. But he ignored me.

Then several blue roans came into sight. Had I been looking at them using a conventional shopping method, any one of them could have been my choice.

Then, just as I hoped, one of these horses chose me. The big blue roan with a wide blaze set slightly to his left side hovered over me. He ignored his friends, except to tell them to leave me alone. He stood quietly for petting, and allowed me to give him Reiki. He practically had his head in my lap. So, I was smitten.

I had enough of my logical brain working to look him over. His conformation was good, his muscles were evenly developed and there were no obvious knots or dents. He was comfortable with being handled all over – no pain anywhere, nothing tender or ticklish. His legs were clean, his bare feet hadn’t been done, and were wearing evenly naturally. So I assumed he was sound, and moved symmetrically. It wasn’t until I’d paid for him that I saw he was also a good athlete and beautiful mover. He had a kind eye, and enjoyed attention without being pushy. And when he told the others to move, he did it quietly, but effectively.

These friendly fillies had little or no handling. It was amazing to have so many come to greet Shelly (pictured), Frank and me.

His dam is an alpha mare Leo owns. I was happy with what I saw of her conformation and character as she kept the young colts in line. I heard that about 80% of a young horse’s behavior is influenced by the dam. I was also pleased to hear that his sire, Ed Kuntz's 'Baldy', is a good riding horse, and I admired two black geldings also by Baldy.

Frank then took me for a tour of the colt herd. I admired many of them – but Charlie was clearly #1. And Frank saw how Charlie hovered around me as we took photos.

The next morning Leo went out into the pasture with me. As Charlie led us, Leo explained how I should behave to become the leader instead of the follower. We finally turned back towards the main herd, and Charlie went back out into pasture with his friends. But a few minutes later he walked the 100+ yards back to us and the main part of the herd. He worked his way through them to where I was standing by the fence... and stood quietly as I petted him.


About the author:

Susan Bayard Rifkin has written other articles for Natural Horse and especially enjoys those about complementary animal health care. She is a Reiki Master and has studied Gentle Touch. She lives in Chester County, PA with her adopted feline friends Felix Snowpaws and Miss Sasha Kitty, near Charlie’s new home. You can contact her at or 302-593-1687.