They’re your workmate, they’re your teammate, they’re your best mate. But they are never just a horse.
They put their heart into what they do. Always willing to please. So long as they’re treated right.
They’ll lap that break-away cleanskin through the timber for you. They’ll stand tall and proud in the arena for you. They’ll get first place in the barrels for you. They’ll stand there and put up with being hugged, kissed and petted for you.
And when they finally leave this world, they leave the emptiest of places in your heart. Only a hoof print is left behind.
To say goodbye to a much loved horse is a heartbreaking thing. Recently my friend said goodbye to her beloved Toby. As I headed down to the horse paddock to tie up the loose ends all the bad memories of saying goodbye to my own horse, Chief, came flooding back. I knew exactly what she was going through and it was nothing but pain.
But opposite to the heart ache of saying goodbye they can bring us so much joy too. For a Saturdays entertainment, a group of horsey strangers descended on one of the most well equipped horse properties in the Katherine area. One girl was unable to bring her own horses in so I brang in my Ruby to ride for myself so she could ride old Charger who was coming in anyway for an appointment with the vet.
Most people don’t think all that much of Charger. He’s done the hard yards, he doesn’t come from any kind of special blood stock, he’s missing half of his nearside ear and these days he works as hard as he feels like. I was waiting for his condemnation which is what I usually cop from males. Instead he received nothing but praise. He did everything she asked of him. She loved her mount and he loved his rider. What it boiled down to was she was glad to have a horse to ride for the morning and he was glad to not be flogged around a paddock trying to keep cattle together from sun up to sun down.
Charger did me proud. Ruby on the other hand, I’m starting to think I have bitten off more than I can chew. She had a massive dummy spit when being saddled, did not like any other horse other than Charger going near her, her canter (which is normally very smooth) was a series of unwanted pig roots and while I took Charger to the vet I expected to return to find dents in the stable walls and scratches and cuts all over her (thankfully the infrastructure was fine as was she).
Ruby might be an arrogant handful but I still love her. I’ve definitely got my work cut out for me. At least I still have my Charger by my side to balance it out. And as my Territory Mum and I watched him in the afternoon zoom around the house paddock, roll in the mud and whinny at the fence it had us thinking.
“Territory conditions aren’t meant for horses”, she said.
I agreed but added “If it wasn’t for the horses what would the Territory be? It was built on the back of the horse.” Just like the world we live in. It was a horse by the human races’ side helping to make it all happen. Doing their silent bit. Wars have been won and lost on the back of a horse and cities built.
Between the tears and the memories of writing this piece I’ve struggled to find the words that do justice for the horse. I feel that to call them a noble animal is an understatement, to say they are beautiful or graceful is an understatement. All quite simply because they are never just a horse.