Dancing with a Beast

Back with the boys, I was a leader once again. Last week Forest had rolled and his rider had fallen off. This week, I was determined to show everyone just how wonderful this little, spunky, grey beast truly was.

The lead rope was passed to me, and all at once, everything was right in the world.The rope was wet, and covered in grass and spit, but it was like holding the key to a room of treasure you’ve been in before and would do anything to getback inside.

“You’re gonna have to make sure he knows you’re in charge,” said Linda, walking up beside Forest and I as our rider got situated in the saddle that was admittedly much too large for his tiny body.

“He’s gonna want to take advantage of you, and you can’t let him. Just hold his face like this – See?  I’m not putting any pressure on him. – Just hold him still, and he’ll be fine. If he starts to move his head back to his legs, just use a little force and move his head back up. You got this,” she said and walked away with the confidence of a woman who knows that a horse could decide to buck or roll in the blink of an eye, yet trusted her workers enough to give them complete responsibility for the situation. After all, she wasn’t walking alongside the horse, I was.

And so we started off, slowly at first, but Forest had other plans. My feet struggled to keep up with his quick pace – my converse getting stuck and sliding in the sandy arena while his hooves expertly stamped down the ground as he trudged on ahead – but a smile plastered itself across my face anyway.

The side walkers behind me chatted to the rider, Calvin, about how well he was doing and if he liked being back on Forest. The wind whipped around us, and even in the covered arena, a chill settled in the air, telling us all that fall had finally arrived.

Round and round we continued. “Great job Calvin team!” shouted the ringleader as we passed by and Calvin gave his best smile and a happy giggle – a pleasant surprise to all of our ears. All the while, Forest kept up his happy pace. He walked with purpose, with dignity, as if he was proud to be the pony chosen to assist such precious cargo.

After the trail ride and return to the arena, Forest’s demeanor had changed only slightly. He was tired, after having served in both the 3:00, 4:00, and now 5:00 classes, but his little grey head was held just as high as ever and his eyes said, “Listen, I know what I’m doing. Last week was just a bluff.” Walking next to his powerful body, I believed him.

We danced in an ever moving pattern of push and pull. I was in charge in the same way that he was in charge. We both knew when to give and when to take and that was what made our dance so beautiful. It was our job to keep the child on his back safe and we had worked out just the right pattern of steps to get our mission accomplished. He had to trust me and I had to trust him. Somehow, I did.

And once again, I was reminded why trust is such a fragile, glass-like, shattered, glued together time and time again, piece of humanity. I was reminded why I should never give trust away so easily, even to an animal who I had such a wonderful connection with just moments before.

That horse. That grey beast who I was so proud of and so in awe of for doing so well, as soon as Calvin walked away and it was just him and I, hauled off and bit me.

I didn’t scream or slap him out of surprise. I just pulled my arm away as though it had been burned on a flame, and said a single word, “Stop.”

And he did.

My arm stung like the force of a wasp sting for the remainder of my time in the arena and only intensified when the fabric of my shirt rubbed against it. It was my reminder, that no matter how close I thought I was with Forest, this horse was still a wild beast. He still had his own thoughts and own wishes, and it was not my place to interfere with his life.

Not only humans, but animals too, can take and take and take and after so much, they just can’t take anymore. They have to lash out – get the offender away forlong enough to breathe again and then things can go back to normal. Or maybe,normal no longer exists. Maybe normal was the burning arm where the teeth sunk into skin. Maybe normal was the moment of silence that followed the initial impact of animal mouth on human flesh.

Not surprise, nor anger, just calm, quiet, acceptance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *