The Shoeless Horse, Episode 11: the ‘Little Big Man’ in Winter

In winter, the little horse from Britannia Beach was a tragic figure out in his pasture.

Though Bonnie’s boyfriend had willingly constructed a small lean-to to protect the horse from the elements, Hogan the Horse didn’t seem to like that shelter one bit. Except for the times his favourite mash was served in a bucket within the lean-to, the horse stayed outside.

For the first time Hogan appeared to be lonely. He wandered around chewing the long brown grass and nibbling various shrubs, his pale coat wet-plastered to his ample body. There were stains of mud on his flanks, and water droplets dangling from the long hair beneath his chin.

It seemed that his ancestors had possessed a phenomenal capacity to grow a cold-weather coat. During the Dark Season, Hogan resembled a small Polar Bear. His winter coat was so thick that Bonnie’s hands were lost in it when she was fitting on the horse’s bridle. Though the pale coat was sometimes sopping wet on the outside, the under-layer of Hogan’s hair was dry and warm.

Even when snow arrived, Hogan remained outside his shelter almost all the time, day and night. Though it was more difficult to see him in the distance with his pale form blending into the white, close up he looked bizarre. He seemed twice the size he’d been before he’d put on his winter garb, and a line of icicles was now suspended below his jaw. Icicles jingled from the ends of his long mane.

Maybe it was the fact he was a little bit lonely that contributed to a subtle change that winter in Hogan’s attitude toward being ridden. Maybe it was the fact that the ungainly old stock saddle had disappeared, replaced by a simple pad with a girth and nothing much else, so that Bonnie was essentially riding her horse bareback. Bonnie was petite, but she managed to wrap her legs around her horse well enough to keep a decent seat. Whatever the contributors were, Hogan seemed to be less annoyed about being ridden.

One day, there was three feet of snow blanketing the town of Port Moody.

A big snowfall like that only happened once in a blue moon on the South Coast of British Columbia, and this one was special. Instead of melting within hours, the snow stayed, maintained by unusually cool air temperatures that lasted for days.

Bonnie was giddy. She loved the drama of an impressive weather event, and she had a romantic notion she and her little horse should go on a snowy journey together. She slipped the pad onto Hogan’s back, put on his bridle, and hauled herself up. She wasn’t sure how things would go. The horse would be ploughing through snow that came to his belly, so she decided to start modestly with a crossing over the field adjacent to the home pasture, and take it from there.

Bonnie guided Hogan around the house and yard where the land-owner brothers lived with their many animals, and up the slope into the field next door. It was steeper than the home pasture, but Hogan ploughed through the snow with a steady willingness.

Bonnie was swept with grateful awe that the Brothers had helped her dream come true. She slipped into a state of dreamy happiness as her horse rhythmically soldiered up the slope. Oh man! She was a lucky girl to have Hogan so close to home. And now, she was riding in the gorgeous snow.

The horse, puffing softly as he made his way up the snowy hill, seemed as contented as the rider. Meanwhile, Bonnie was so relaxed, she suddenly slid right off the horse’s back and, like a rag doll, plopped down into the snow .

She was on the ground, and she’d let go of the reins! She gaped up at the horse from the deep snow in a panic, struggling to her feet. Her galvanized mind blazed with danger-fraught possibilities: the horse bolting, a possibly disastrous pursuit – across the field, through the residential neighbourhood and maybe down to the deadly highway!

Hogan, however, had stopped moving. Looking mildly surprised, he gazed down at his relocated rider, and he didn’t move a muscle. Amazed, Bonnie pushed through the snow to position herself upslope of the waiting horse. She hardly dared to believe this calm and patient being was the horse she knew. She slipped onto Hogan’s back, and they resumed their winter wonderland trek.

Christmas was yet to come, but Bonnie had already received a fine gift.


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