The Shoeless Horse, Episode 15: Sorrow and Admiration

After Hogan the horse was led into the pasture behind the house and left to graze, Bonnie dragged herself up the back stairs and found her mother in the kitchen. There was some left-over dinner, but Bonnie couldn’t eat. When she saw her mother, she fell to pieces.

“Mum, Hogan thinks they tried to kill him,” Bonnie choked out.

“The farrier only trimmed one hoof, AND the owner of the riding stable said Hogan should DIE!”

Bonnie’s brothers, previously engrossed in TV, peeked around the corner but avoided the kitchen. Bonnie’s mother Ada waited, her blue eyes soft.

“Mum, you should have SEEN him !” Bonnie sobbed. “I knew he was afraid, and then they got the twitch, and ropes, and for a minute I thought it might be all right— then Hogan saw the loop on the floor and – Oh God !”

Ada put her arm around her daughter as Bonnie cried out her horrible story.

“Hogan thought those men were going to kill him, and he FOUGHT! He was so brave! He reared, and he stayed up, and we had to run to get out of his way – he bashed his way out of the stall!”

Bonnie told Ada how the horse bolted, how she found him close by, heaving but rooted to the spot. About the stable owner appearing out of nowhere to yell and yell, condemning Hogan as a crazy thing. The man had roared a warning that if Hogan was not put to death, Bonnie herself could die.

Every word the stable owner had yelled was branded into her heart.

Bonnie’s mind raced. It was true that she’d had bad rides. There were times she’d been afraid, when she’d struggled to keep Hogan under control. But not anymore! She had learned to be careful, to work with the horse, and they were together now. Yes, he had hurt two people – but they had been riders who paid no attention to Bonnie’s instructions. Since the No Outside Riders rule had been laid down by her anxious parents, there’d been no accidents.

When the boys in the speeding car had smashed the horse from behind, Hogan had kept his head. Other horses would have run like the ones in the Pitt Meadows tragedy, and got themselves and their riders killed.

Hogan was gentle and calm with those who were kind to him.

“Mum!” the girl cried, “Hogan is not loco! He thought the farrier was laying a trap. He WAS laying a trap! Hogan was tied and hurt and you could tell he was terrified. He didn’t try to bite or strike out at any of us – he was trying to get away!”

“What will you do now?” asked Ada, in her calm, gentle voice. Bonnie often heard that voice inside her head, even when she was far from home.

Bonnie slumped at the table, tears streaming down her cheeks. She wanted to meet the responsibilities that came with owning a horse. Hogan needed to have his hooves looked after, and she couldn’t think of who was going to do it.

Frantically she made a list in her head of people she could call who could tell her where to find the right help. The staff at the tack shop in Pitt Meadows might be a source. She would have to wait until Monday to call them; the wait would be an agony.

The long and tricky ride home, along with the shock, had left Bonnie exhausted. Her horse was fine now, grazing in the pasture, but Bonnie was not recovering.

She wanted to go to sleep, but each time she closed her eyes, she saw again the desperate, incredibly fast and drastic sequence of events that had erupted in the stall at Burke Mountain Stable that afternoon.

To this day, Bonnie can still see her horse’s white-eyed face in the dim stall, and the yelling of the stable owner has never left her ears.

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