The Shoeless Horse: Episode 4


The Many Definitions Of The Word: “Spirit”

Sometimes, Bonnie looks back with amazement at the nerve she’d had to take on that little horse.

First, and among the warnings given before she took Hogan home, was the fact that this was no obedient cow pony.

The pale horse liked to move around quickly. If you wanted him to move, all you had to do was make a small kissing sound and he immediately accelerated.

He had a horrid, jerky trot but a delightful, rocking- chair canter. When Bonnie let the horse move into a canter, his wonderful mane flying up over her hands, she felt like she was floating. Maybe in Heaven.

‘Keep your reins tight,’ the vendor had said. ‘Do not let your reins go slack with this horse.’

Bonnie quickly learned the truth of this advisory: if you forgot to keep your hands in touch with his mouth, the horse shifted gears FAST from a walk to a full-out gallop, and once he started that gallop, it was mighty hard to stop him.

She later recounted to friends that her horse was a vehicle with two speeds:

Stop, and Hell-bent.

It was on a Hell-bent day that the horse suddenly managed to get the bit in his mouth and take off at full gallop down a dirt road that crossed an active railway line. He roared across those tracks like a small runaway truck, and Bonnie nearly died of fright. This, as it turned out, was the first of several highly instructive events.

Later, Bonnie went to a tack shop and asked about bits that were more effective at convincing a horse to stop. She didn’t want to be harsh, but Bonnie didn’t want to be killed, either.

Meanwhile , the little horse befriended the family cats. George the Tuxedo Cat adored the horse – in part because George adored steam baths.

When Hogan was eating his favourite mash from a big square tray that lay on the ground by the fence, the cat would slide over, lie down in the grass next to the feed tray with his belly to the sky, and wait for the fun.

While the horse snuffled through his treat, he’d puff warm, steamy air from his nostrils. George rolled around ecstatically as his soft fur caught this wonderful, sensuous steam all over his white tuxedo tummy. It became a ritual.

Though Hogan enjoyed the company of the cats, he was death on dogs. Bonnie had an athletic dog named Duchess, a dog she’d had from a pup. Naturally, part of Bonnie’s dream of having a horse of her very own was the vision of riding in forest and field with the dog trotting alongside. Hogan, however, didn’t share this concept of bliss. In Hogan’s mind, the only good dog was a dead dog.

When the Husky from down the street came over one day and slipped through the stands of barbed wire that kept Hogan confined to the meadow, the horse raced over and threatened to stomp the dog to death with his front hooves. The husky barely escaped.

Bonnie’s dog Duchess nearly lost her spine when the horse snaked out his head and took a mighty chomp into her back. The dog screamed and leapt ahead, and never again came within a two metres of Hogan’s powerful square teeth.

Those teeth were capable of being gentle, though. Bonnie could tell that her horse had once had guardians who loved him and taught him endearing tricks. If she put a cracker in her mouth, she could lift her face to the horse and he would gently lift away the tasty cracker in his large but sensitive lips.

And then there was the horse’s relationship with Bonnie’s little sister Dawn.

Dawn was a petite but athletic eight-year-old when Hogan came to their family. She had always had a love for animals, and she was not afraid of the horse. She fed him, talked with him and lightly stroked him. She was small and easy on his back- the only rider he happily accepted.

Now and then Dawn hopped aboard with her sister, and the horse was completely relaxed.

When Bonnie tried to double with her brother Steve, however, the horse went ballistic and Steve was airborne. Great good luck and excellent teenage reflexes saw her brother land on his feet like a cat, completely free of any desire to ride the horse again.

Some of the happiest rides Bonnie had on Hogan were with Dawn, walking slowly around town, sometimes singing ‘Horse With No Name’ together. The three of them were in sync, and those hours are engraved into the memories of both girls.

Hogan’s spiritedness was positive in some ways, negative in others.

He charmed Bonnie’s parents by racing around the meadow at night sometimes, glowing in the moonlight within view of their bedroom window, galloping for the pure joy of it.

Though the horse seemed nervous of most men, he accepted Bonnie’s boyfriend, Kirk. Kirk was over six feet tall, but he was soft-voiced and slow-moving around the horse, and Hogan accepted him. Kirk rode the little horse around the field with no trouble.

On the other hand, Hogan had ways of dealing with people who refused to pay attention. When the very assertive wife of a friend’s older brother – we’ll call her Wanda – demanded to ride the horse, Bonnie was worried.

Wanda said she’d ridden horses for years and knew what she was doing. After a string of educational experiences, Bonnie now knew for certain that FEW people were used to a horse quite like Hogan. Wanda insisted, and showed up at the pasture one summer evening, complete with a small nephew she said should ride with her. Wanda could not be dissuaded.

Up into the stock saddle went Wanda, pulling her young nephew John with her. Bonnie quickly explained the rules.

‘ Keep the reins tight, and don’t let him get into a trot!’ she urgently said.     ‘Make sure you feel his mouth.’

The horse started to move across the pasture, obviously accelerating.              Bonnie saw immediately her advice was ignored – the reins were loose and Hogan was headed straight for the only large tree in all of five acres.

BAM! He stropped Wanda off on the trunk of the tree and young John disappeared. Wanda’s legs could be seen in a small hollow – but her blonde hair was several yards away! Bonnie’s Dad raced to the legs, and Bonnie to the hair.

Bonnie was stunned to see that the hair was completely separated from the body; she yelled and raced to her father’s side.

Wanda was unconscious, thrashing like a wild animal in the grass, and had bloodied Bonnie’s Dad’s nose. The little boy sat smiling dazedly, a fine line of blood crossing the width of his forehead.

It turned out Wanda had been wearing a wig.

Bonnie and the rest of the Holmes family members were beside themselves.

Wanda came to, drove herself and her apparently unhurt nephew home, and phoned in a rage the next day, yelling about her concussion.

‘ That does it. NO MORE riders from outside the family,’ said Bonnie’s mother,  ‘ except Leah.’

As it happened, there WAS another rider from outside the family, other than Leah – and that led to the worst event of them all.


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