Hogan the horse was mellow in his own way at times, and there were special interludes that brought the pleasures his young rider had dreamed of.
Hogan wasn’t a large animal. He was just fourteen hands high, which in many opinions classed him as a pony rather than a horse. Though he wasn’t tall, he had a wide chest, good legs and was surprisingly strong . Perhaps from all those Hell-bent runs- apparently both before and after he came into Bonnie’s life – his wind seemed very good.
Bonnie needed to let him run, she knew, but she was afraid to let him have his head. She wasn’t anxious to repeat the Hell-bent runs; she would need some time to recover from the wild gallops she’d already experienced. How to let her high-spirited horse exercise thoroughly without getting both of them killed ?
One day she remembered part of the solution: have the horse run uphill. If he ran up a grade, he’d work hard and would be forced to keep a slower pace. Luckily, Bonnie had some very steep hills nearby – the wide swath of cleared land that ran under the regional power lines.
Her friend Leah came out from Vancouver for a visit, and they decided one day to give it a try as a team. One rider would attempt to stick in the saddle as the little horse plunged up the hillside while the other scrambled up by foot. After a few exhausting sets of plunges, the girls would switch places.
Bonnie was shocked at how hard the horse worked, and how ambitious he seemed. There wasn’t much grass to tempt him, no other reward evident for churning his way up the steep slope, but Hogan was willing to toil.
Thankfully, there were no human witnesses. Anyone watching from below may have wondered if the two girls were out of their minds. Thinking back, it must have looked from a distance as though the horse was being abused.
Hogan, however, seemed to be just fine with the thankless effort of ploughing uphill over the rocks, earth and strewn wood below the power lines. For the girls, it was tortuous.
Keeping a seat while your mount is climbing up a steep slope is tough even for a seasoned endurance rider. Bonnie and Leah weren’t used to this violently trying exercise; the person riding took as much punishment as the one scrambling on the rocky ground.
I fervently hope the girls took the horse to water when the trio at last arrived at the top of the ridge, because they did not take water along for themselves or the laboring horse. A few years before, Bonnie had nearly killed her dog Duchess by running her beside a bike on a hot day with no breaks or water.
When the trio arrived at the top of the ridge, all were covered in sweat but one quickly regained his breath. Leah was a competitive athlete at school, so her breathing smoothed out next. Bonnie was exhausted and puffing but jubilant – the horse seemed happy, and the view to the valley bottom was terrific.
It took a very long time for the girls to lead the horse back down the slope, and more to walk from the power lines back home, but this had been a satisfying trek.
Bonnie was beginning to understand that her horse carried with him a sense of self-respect. When she had made the mistake of slapping him a few weeks earlier, he had not attacked her, but rose up onto his back legs out of surprise and outrage.
Later on, that same response may have saved both their lives.
This has been Episode 6 of The Shoeless Horse, an original story by Diana Earth.
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Episode Seven is coming up shortly !