A horse is a horse of course, of course…
Until today I had a whole lifetime of horses. Since I was a young girl I’ve always ridden… had some wonderful times on horseback. In my twenties I owned a rather beautiful bay thoroughbred and between he and I we competed in dressage events and horseshows and had the odd success and some memorable times. In my thirties, I owned a handsome chestnut quarterhorse and found that no amount of strength was enough to control his exuberance.
But in the last twenty years, I’ve been partnered with a stunning Apaloosa called Spot
who taught me a lot about equine intelligence. An unusual beast, he played pick-up-sticks like a dog, he could bow like a circus horse and he could shy at shadows that were inevitably his own. He had an expansive nature… one that bonded with the most unlikely creature… a merino ram called Rambo who in full throat sounded like an old man burping. He and Rambo shared buckets of feed, shade, paddocks, water and me. They called to each other when separated and Spot’s last ever cry was to his best mate.
Spot taught me what it felt like after a day’s hard riding: where it hurt, what horse sweat smelt like, what my own body does when sitting on him and he decides to shake himself. He taught me what it feels like to canter up a hill with a horse bucking on every second stride. What joy unsurpassed it is when we galloped along the shoreline, spray flying up and his hooves beating a tattoo on the sand. We rode together in endurance events in which, despite his long back and delicate legs, he excelled, passing every single vet check. We competed at shows, where with his remarkable patterning, his elegant legs and his arched neck he won ribbon after ribbon.
But our best times where when we rode alone, just he and I, in the Australian bush with the chirrup of bush birds around, the creak of a leather saddle, the jingle of the bit because he’d often chew it and I always knew he would be thinking of jogging or shying at that very moment… just to give me a scare. But then there would be the crack of twigs, the squeak of branches and the brushing together of the dry eucalypt leaves and all would be right with the world.
I’ll miss his smell, that glorious smell of horse that is precious only to the horse-lover. I’ll miss the tufty touch of his winter coat and the way my hands would glide over his silken summer coat. I’ll miss the way his mane would grow ever upward like a Mohican’s haircut and how I was obliged to shave it to make him seem less clownish. I shall miss his dolphin eyes which used to turn and follow me wherever I was when working near him. I’ll miss the way he’d kick out with the off hind leg when I walked behind… he hated being approached from the off side hind. But more than anything I shall miss that very low wicker when he saw me coming.