The Shoeless Horse: Episode 16 – The Search

The young horse owner was devastated by the awful events that followed her efforts to get her horse’s hooves cared for by professionals.

Both Bonnie and the horse were traumatized after their first trip to the ferrier. Clearly, Hogan was more determined than ever to avoid any further contact with men who wore tool belts.

Haunted by the knowledge that the horse had to have his hooves trimmed regularly, the girl was now worried sick. The situation was getting serious. Hogan’s hooves were cracked and stretched out too long over the ground. Now into their second year together, she felt guilty when she rode him anywhere the ground was rough. Though the horse gave no sign of pain, he often stumbled.

On Monday, she phoned around and was told that there was a ferrier in the area named Pete Barker who was good with troubled horses. The problem was, Mr. Barker had retired.

In 1970, there was no talk of ‘horse whisperers.’ Western riding horses were not trained, they were ‘broken.’ Bonnie needed a patient and perceptive horseman who knew what he was doing, and she was desolate when no other name emerged. Peter Barker was the man who was good with nervous horses, but he seemed to be out of reach.

Somehow, she got his home phone number. She had nothing to lose. Embarrassed, fervently hopeful, she dialed Pete Barker’s number, and the man himself came on the line.

Bonnie begged Pete to hear her out, and reluctantly, he listened.

“I retired a year ago,” Barker said slowly when he’d heard the tale of woe. “I’m not just RE- tired, I’m plain tired. I’ve worked with horses for a long time.”

“But I don’t know what to do,” Bonnie said. “Hogan is so scared.”

Pete Barker didn’t seem to know a ferrier who could handle troubled horses as well as he could.

“Hmmmm,” he said. Was there a hint of resignation in his voice?

“All right,” said Peter Barker, and Bonnie’s heart flipped over.

Reluctantly, he agreed to visit the creature to see just how bad the situation was. They made a date for Barker to visit a couple of days later, after Bonnie got home from school.

He would just access the situation, Barker said. He was not working as a ferrier anymore – he would come to see the horse and give advice. He made sure the kid understood this was a favour, that he was unlikely to solve all her problems.

From just behind Bonnie’s left ear came her mother’s voice. Ada was miles away, working hard at the restaurant in Vancouver, but the girl wasn’t surprised to hear her.

“Don’t be pushy,” the voice said from its intimate perch on the girl’s neck. “People don’t like to be nagged.”

With the most adult tone she could muster, Ada’s eldest child said into the phone: “I’m happy to pay you for your time. I’m grateful you’re doing this. Thank you so much.”

Barker did not seem happy about coming, but it was a ray of hope.


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