"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
-- John 13:34-35, New International Version
There is a horse at the Francis home in Hooper whom we lovingly refer to as Apollo.
This 17-year-old bay beauty is the love of all who come into contact with him.
I loaned him to my friend, Susan Hall, this summer to ride in the Utah State Western Riding Club Association. She had a ball, and when I saw her and Apollo together, she was hugging him and loving him every chance she got.
Her granddaughter, Makenzie Hall, always asks me about Apollo whenever I see her and Apollo is not there. She loves him too.
No doubt, she fully enjoyed the few weeks Apollo lived at her house.
And then there is another Hooper resident, Dixie Davies -- I let her ride Apollo the summer before for some horse-riding lessons.
She only wanted to go to the lessons with Susan and me if she could ride Apollo.
The thing that is so interesting about Apollo is how he became the horse that everyone loves.
It actually was through adversity.
This became obvious to me because of Apollo's quirky behavior, which he mostly has gotten over.
He had his front teeth kicked out by a cow when he was a baby. I've seen him in years past turn downright paranoid around a calf or a steer.
And he didn't like other horses running at him at full speed with riders trying to hand off a baton to his rider. I've been on him doing riding club contests when he has tried to run and bolt when we did this.
His body was a problem when we used him in horse shows. He's built in a way that western pleasure judges don't like. His head is placed at a high angle, and compared to the other horses, he always looks like he's carrying his head too high, even when he puts it down.
And while he could spin around like nobody's business, he just couldn't seem to pull off a sliding stop.
What's more, he didn't behave when it came time to put a halter on him. He ran the other way.
There have been many shows and appointments that we've been late to as we tried to catch him.
Perhaps these quirks are why his owner before us told me that Apollo was not the horse for us on several occasions when I said I was horse shopping.
Perhaps these quirks were why his former owner didn't like him.
But I didn't ask any questions when I bought Apollo during the 2002 Winter Games. We named him after Apolo Ohno.
I didn't see the missing teeth and I didn't think critically about his higher-than-normal head when we bought him.
I just felt my heart beat when I met him, so the Francis family came up with the funds to bring him home.
And we've never been sorry. We just loved him and loved him. I've even been caught about a hundred times kissing him on the forehead.
He has since won the Francis girls a lot of honors in events like pole bending and reining, in which he has excelled despite his lack of a slide.
We've enjoyed watching him take care of us. I put my 7-year-old daughter on him 10 years ago and it became obvious to everyone that he wouldn't do anything to hurt her.
And we've had so much fun finding out that he could open a can of soda pop with his teeth and put his head back to drink his treat down.
Neither we nor the neighbors had fun learning that he could open a gate with his nose or jump the fence and run through the neighbors' fields and yards, but we loved him all the same.
And all those quirks?
Most of them went away over time. The more we loved him, the better he did.
Last week, I rode Apollo for the Antelope Island Great Bison Roundup where I pushed my horse right up against hundreds of bison that are even bigger and meaner than cows or steers ever were.
At one point, a horse being held by its owner was getting away from him, and I jumped off Apollo and ran away to catch that man's horse in the middle of that vast island.
Apollo didn't go anywhere, and people were impressed. I knew all along he wouldn't take off.
When we got to the end of the roughly 17-mile ride that had been up and down rocky terrain, I was sore and moved like an old woman.
Apollo wanted some grass and as he reached for it, I dropped my reins to the ground. Onlookers thought I should move faster to get off a loose horse. But I wasn't worried.
My horse trailer was about 17 miles away as we finished, and I handed Apollo over to some people who were strangers to him as I went to get my wheels.
When I came back, they said they had been coaxing him for a half hour to walk just a few feet. "What was his secret?" they wanted to know.
"Me," was what I said as I climbed aboard and loped away, laughing.
But I know that the real secret to Apollo is love.