The Shoeless Horse, by Diana Earth Episode 9: Melancholy Joy

His neck was satin smooth in summer, and his outlined eyes were lovely. To Bonnie, the pale little horse smelled wonderful, and when he pranced around tossing his head, his long mane and tail tousled by the breeze, her heart swelled.

There was no one else to ride with though; no one else to enjoy talking horse with. No other teenage girl lived nearby who also had the good fortune to have a horse almost in the back yard. Bonnie was new in town, and it seemed most horses were out in Pitt Meadows, or miles down Ioco Road in Anmore. She should have had the confidence and smarts to join some kind of riding club, but she didn’t.

At Centennial high school, she found herself in her last two years of secondary school feeling like a fish out of water. She hadn’t been in the popular crowd in Vancouver, either, but she’d had a small group of friends she’d known for years. At the modern school in the ‘burbs, she was an absolute nobody.

For some reason Bonnie didn’t connect with anyone who had a horse. If she had found friends who knew the equestrian scene in the area, things over the next year could have turned out very differently.

As it was, Bonnie’s little sister was the horse’s sole local admirer, but after Rae’s terrible accident it didn’t seem safe to let the small girl double behind anymore. Bonnie’s long-anticipated life as an actual horse owner seemed much narrower than she’d expected. It was also a financial challenge.

Bonnie worked a few shifts a week at the local A&W restaurant. She was a ‘car hop’- a person who served drive-in customers while wearing a funny brown uniform with a pinned-on soldier cap and a change-maker jingling on her hip. Bonnie was horribly nearsighted, so arithmetic remained her great weakness and it took forever for her mother to teach her to make change properly. But learn she did. She absolutely had to have that job.

Hogan the horse needed supplementary food along with the grass that grew in his pasture, and eventually, a shelter to protect him from rain and snow. Bonnie had done her research- she knew the horse would also need to have his teeth and hooves tended to. She understood professionals had to be sent for, and she would have to raise the money. Her parents had enough on their financial plates these days – there were four kids in their family in three different schools, and they had just moved from the city. They simply could not help with expenses.

Bonnie had done plenty of reading on horses since she was small, and was familiar with the old expression ‘ no hooves, no horse’.

She looked at Hogan’s hooves, saw cracks in all four, and knew that before long they would need to be properly trimmed. She struggled to put aside some cash, and began searching for information about local ferriers who might do the job.

Meanwhile, with her dog their only companion, Bonnie rode her horse around the little town, down its back roads and up into its hills. A couple of times, she snuck down to the playing fields of the school her brothers attended and let the horse have his head, galloping illicitly on the smooth, red cinder track she knew full well was intended for student athletes.

At night she worried there’d come a pounding on the door, with school board authorities ready to prosecute, so she discontinued her vandalism and resumed her search for safe places to ride alone. She had no horse trailer or the money to rent one, so she searched carefully for a refuge nearby.

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