THE HALTER CLASS

I'm a show horse

…my trainer leaned on my back, and took a nap.

 

I’m a show horse.

Early in the morning they pull me out of my stable, away from grains and hay. I have to stand still and let all the brushes run on my skin. My tuft and mane are pulling and itching, my nose is sticky and stinky with that stuff they smear on it.

They want me to stand square, not moving an ear and if I raise my head they pull it down. But if I fall asleep they wake me up.

Hungry and bored, I have to stand and wait.

I’m neither allowed to talk to other horses nor to sniff at the humans that slowly walk around me during the class. I’m a little scared of how they stare at me.

This morning, while I was waiting for my turn to be stared at, my trainer leaned on my back, and took a nap. I could hear the same noise the gray gelding does during the night. I stood still and square, watching the other horses without moving a hair.

It didn’t take too long. Then the trainer woke up.

He brushed me again and said “I have all the work to do, while you just relax…”

I’m only a show horse; he’s the trainer.

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THE LITTLE DOG

Friendship

Then I felt a wet touch on my nose.

 

The heat was terrible and there was nobody around. I was left alone in the barn; even the flies were gone.

They all had left, ready to prove their worth in the show arena, and I wondered why I had been left here.

I was still puzzling when I heard someone barking: “Are you lame?”

I’ve never had a great feeling for dogs. I know that they are not very smart and also too small to actually count for something. The dog I saw sitting on top of the shaving bags in the aisle was the smallest size I’ve ever seen.

“What do you mean?” I asked, sniffing at the little snoop.

“You’re a horse and you’re not in the show ring.”

The small thing showed some experience. “And?”

“Only limping horses have been left back in the stables… the cripples.”

Suddenly I understood what he meant. What did Claire say when the gray gelding had been left at home? Useless…

I felt very sad. I wanted to lie down and never get up again.

Then I felt a wet touch on my nose.

“Don’t be sad” said the dog. “You’re not useless while you have a friend.”

I closed my eyes and all the sadness disappeared…

It was licked away by a dog.

 

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PARTNERS

Partnership

As he put the bit into my mouth, he whispered softly in my ear: “Don’t make me mad today”.

 

My trainer took me to the arena and we walked side by side to the center.  He carried the headstall and I carried the saddle. It’s because we are partners.

I looked around while he talked to Claire. He didn’t allow me to move away from him, he pulled my head down and wanted me to stay close beside him. My partner holds on me.

Then he tightened the cinch and I stopped to breath for a moment. He walked around me and   I heard the sound of his spurs. He bent down and tightened my leg straps too. My partner takes care of me.

The guy put his hand between my ears and dangled the headstall on my face. As he put the bit into my mouth, he whispered softly in my ear: “Don’t make me mad today”. My partner trusts me.

With my tongue I pushed the bit to the right place behind my teeth and spread my legs, waiting for him to ride on me. He pulled on the reins and I felt the pressure of the bit. I stood still, knowing what would come and waiting for the pressure of the spurs. My partner has me.

I trotted and loped, I ran fast and slowed down. I squeezed my bones to round up my back and bucked only twice. I turned willingly in each direction. My partner drives me.

My trainer and I stopped in the center of the arena. He stepped down and petted my sweating neck saying: “Great job baby.” He turned his back to allow me to scratch my itchy face on it.

That’s because we are partners.

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THE SHADOW

The shadow

“But you throw the same shadow.”

 

I love it when they pet me, I don’t care if they ignore me, but I go mad when they stare at me and say: “Hmm… she’s not like her mother.”

Since my very first moment here at the show, humans are making me nervous with that strange remark. Even a bay mare said something about me not being like my mom.

This morning they took me out of my stall, rubbed me all over with some soft stuff and used the ‘cat in the can’, as the gray gelding calls it. It’s a puff of stinky wind that sounds like an angry cat and keeps the flies away for a while.

We went to the arena where many other horses were standing around, just doing nothing. Claire and my trainer rubbed me all over again and didn’t give me any chance to take a nap.

Suddenly the guy stopped, stepped back and said: “No, you’re not like her.”

I pinned my ears back and wanted to kick him.

He slapped his hand on my butt and made sounds of fun.

I pricked my ears up again and he scratched my withers. Then he looked at the ground and said: “But you throw the same shadow.”

 

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THE OWNER

The mad mare

The mad mare looked at me with her blue eyes.

 

After work, tied in the aisle, I was taking a nap.

“Your owner is coming today.”

Claire’s words woke me up. I’d already heard that said by someone else. I looked straight forward and tried to figure what an owner is.

“You’re wondering what an owner is,” said the mad mare nearby that always has her ears pinned back.

I don’t like it when others are listening to my soul talking to itself.

“Nobody really knows,” said the gray gelding, hanging his head out, “but it’s someone tightly bound to you.”

I tried to bend my neck to check my flanks but was not able to see much. In any case, I didn’t notice anything attached to them. I looked at the wise gelding without a word.

“Everybody has an owner,” continued my gray friend.

“How does it smell?”

“I’ve heard about owners that smell like apples and carrots,” he said.

My soul suggested I should check in the manger.

The gray gelding’s voice lowered. “I’ve also heard of those having the smell of blood and cruelty.”

I felt a shudder running from ears to tail.

“So what is an owner good for?”

“It’s the one that lets you stay alive,” whispered the gelding.

The mad mare looked at me with her blue eyes. “It’s the one that lights the sun.”

I closed my eyes and tried to get back to the nice dream I was in before.

It’s raining today.

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ALONE

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I would like to hang my head to the outside but I have to stare between the bars…

 

Why do they let me stay here, behind these bars and looking straight into the dark?

I miss the smell of my stable, the sound of the breakfast falling into my large manger, the gray coat of my wise friend moving in the stall in front of mine. Instead I smell sweat and pressure.

I would like to hang my head to the outside but I have to stare between the bars, and the only thing I can see are more bars and other staring eyes between them.

They’re all gone: Claire, my trainer and all the others who were running around excited and nervous. They gave me a last quick pat, then closed the stall and went away.

The manger hanging on the door has been empty for some time, but it will serve later to play with, and I’ll not lose the hope that someone will come and get me out of here.

I still have the sound of human voices in my ears, so loud and unfriendly, but this silence is even worse; it carries the sighs of tired horses and the weeping of the losers.

I would like to lay down, resting my head on the ground, dream about my friends… but nobody watches my sleep.

Thus, I’ll wait.

This too is the show.

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THE SHOW

halter class

Than she said something and I tilted my ear towards her voice.

 

We are at a place I’ve never seen before.

This morning they tied me up in front of my stall, and while my tongue was searching for the remains of breakfast between my teeth, Claire rubbed me all over with all the different brushes. She smelled like she was nervous and her strokes where not as long and soft as usual. I wondered what was going on.

My trainer arrived while Claire was doing my tuft; she always pulls it and sighs, as if she were feeling bad.

“Ready?” asked the guy.

Claire sighed again. “Her long ears…”

I looked around trying to figure out who she was talking about.

“She’s a listener, like her mother,” answered my trainer, “use those great tools in the show ring.”

When Claire took me to a large arena, I was relaxed, although I felt she was nervous. I’m only afraid if my trainer is nervous…

We walked for a while among other horses that I was not allowed to sniff at, when suddenly Claire became stiff.  Than she said something and I tilted my ear towards her voice.

“Show them,” she said, “you’re out of the crowd.”

Her voice was full of expectation and excitement. I felt her vibrations going over to me and entering my body. I heard the beating of her heart matching mine and she was no longer stiff.

I knew this was the show.

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INSPIRATION

The speck and the log

“It’s a speck…”, he said…

 

Do you know how it is when an eye itches and you do not know how to scratch it?

I was in the paddock, looking for something hard on which to rub.

The Aphorism Ass was in the shadow in the paddock nearby, and he looked at me, shaking his long ears. ” You’re disturbing my meditation, you silly filly. “

“I need a scratch”, I replied softly.

He came up to the fence. “Happiness is having a scratch for every itch. But only the wise know how to do it. “

I lowered my head and scratched my eye on my front leg, trying to understand what he meant.

He pricked up his ears and looked at me for a while. Every now and then he waved his ears to swat flies. “It’s a speck…” he said, while I rubbed against the log of the fence the eye that was starting to hurt.

“You have to learn to itch where you can scratch. “

I have great admiration for the wise and did not dare to ask for anything else. I tried to look at him through the eye that itched, but saw very little. He looked so small…

He stared at me for a long while, flared his nostrils and snorted. Then he shook his head, turned around and rubbed his butt against the pole. “The eye, the speck … the log… a new aphorism.” he muttered and walked away.

I’m so proud that I inspired the Aphorism Ass.

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THE DEVIL

The devil

The guy walked briskly in front of me.

 

At home, I always enjoy the walk from the stable to the arena. My trainer and I go side by side and he talks a lot. I don’t understand all that he says but I can hear his voice and the sounds he’s making; some of them trigger pictures in front of my eyes, others give me the feeling of pleasing warmth. I also watch his body signals and try to combine those with what I hear. Usually those things go quite well together.

During the show, my trainer came to me when breakfast had not yet reached my manger. He petted my neck, said a few words, put a saddle on me, and we left the stable. I wasn’t happy at all, the only picture I had was that of my food.

The guy walked briskly in front of me. I tried to listen for his sounds but could not hear any. His body was stiff and he smelled like fear and excitement. I started to look around for some danger I possibly hadn’t noticed before.

My trainer pulled me into the arena where many other horses were working and suddenly I felt alone. Fear overcame me; for some reason I couldn’t hear nor see my trainer anymore.

I wanted to go back to my stall and pulled back. The horses in the arena became huge animals, teeth bared and ears back. Some were soaring above me, others looked like dogs, staying aside and foaming at the mouth. I was afraid they would eat me up.

I tried to escape but something held me back. I was trembling and sweating.

Then I felt the well-known touch on my neck. My trainer was back, his voice was again understandable, and his sounds matched his body signals perfectly. The threatening animals disappeared, one by one.

“Have you seen the devil?” asked my trainer.

Sometimes he asks strange questions.

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TEARS

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His ears were hanging and a drop left the corner of his white eye.

 

” They’re here! “. The wise gelding swung from one leg to the other.

I was still having breakfast and I did not pay much attention to his excitement. I heard Claire call someone and then a loud noise startled me.

” … the ramp dropped,” muttered the gray. ” Let’s go … let’s go … “

Now I wondered what was going on to be so exciting and stopped eating.

Two guys came into the stable and looked around. The gelding raised his head and whinnied loudly; I’d never seen him like that. One of the guys opened his stall, but now Claire ‘s voice rang out: ” No, not that one. He’s blind … useless. “

The gray gelding froze. He sniffed the air, then slowly lowered his head.

The guys moved quickly to the end of the aisle, and soon they passed, leading off the bay of the stall close to the door. He was quiet, with all its legs bandaged and a blanket on him. They were not going to the arena for a workout.

I heard a thump – thump – thump, that made cats escape and dogs bark.

The door of the stall across the aisle opened up, and the gray gelding stepped into the aisle.

“Do you hear the sound of the ramp, baby?”

“What is it?”

“The heartbeat of those leaving for the competition.”

“I don’t want to leave.”

“You will go, I will stay.” The voice of the gray gelding was weak. “I’m useless…”

His ears were hanging and a drop left the corner of his white eye.

“Oh … does it hurt?” I asked, looking at the drop running towards his muzzle.

“It’s the silent language of grief,” he replied without moving, “humans don’t understand it.”

I didn’t understand it either.

Claire took me out into the blazing sun. I looked back, wanting to say something to the gelding to comfort him, but I couldn’t see him anymore. Then, when I heard the thump – thump – thump under my hooves, I felt a thrill running from withers to tail.

The hunger to stay was no longer there.

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