The Shoeless Horse, Episode 17: The Testing

At last. Bonnie would meet a ferrier who pledged to be patient, to be open-minded with her little horse.

Hogan didn’t hate all men. He liked Bonnie’s boyfriend, even though Kirk was tall. The trigger was men with tools. When Hogan spotted a man carrying ropes and tools, he was a nervous wreck. It was obvious the horse had some very bad memories.

At school over the first days of the week, Bonnie was more miserable than usual. Concentrating on her work was next to impossible. She was in a state of suspense, wondering how the visit with Pete Barker would go.

When the day came for Barker’s visit, Bonnie got home fast. She charged up to her room, jumped into her jeans, then raced to the kitchen for a snack. She yelled to the brother she’d spotted to fold some laundry, and then waited for the doorbell.

Pete Barker arrived right when he’d said he would. He wasn’t a big man. He was slim and wore a classic plaid shirt. His face was lined, and he looked both kind and weary. Bonnie’s heart thumped. She was breathless and scared.

“All right,” said Pete Barker, “Let’s have a look at this horse of yours.”

Bonnie got some of Hogan’s special feed, the stuff with molasses that the horse was crazy for, and went around the back. Pete was carrying a piece of burlap. They walked together into the pasture, and Pete explained what he planned to do.

“I’m going to greet him,’ said Pete,” “and try to make friends with him a little. I don’t have much time, but we’ll see what we can do. I’m going to rub Hogan with this burlap – we call it Sacking Out.”

Bonnie felt helpless. She understood the importance of the horse accepting the touch of the strange man, and knew she had to stay back. She lured Hogan into his lean-to with the bucket of sweet meal, and pulled the board across the exit.

The horse began to munch greedily. Bonnie slipped out of the lean-to, trying to stay calm.

“The thing is,” Barker told her as headed toward the horse, “we will know how serious this problem is if he kicks while I’m touching him. If he kicks out with one hind leg, he’s not that bad. We can work with him.”

Pete walked up to Hogan with a calm, matter-of-fact stride, and touched the horse’s neck, talking quietly. He stroked the horse’s shoulder, and moved around to the other side. Hogan seemed to like him, and continued munching.

“If he drives out with both back legs,” Barker said, running his hands over the pale hide, “we have a bigger problem. A problem we might not be able to fix.”

Bonnie’s stomach was doing flips. She tried desperately to keep herself calm as Pete Barker moved smoothly around the little horse, his hands empty, his touch gentle. He slowly tugged in the burlap, and put it up to Hogan’s nose to sniff. Hogan blew softly. Barker gently rubbed the burlap over Hogan’s forequarters, then along his neck. The horse remained where he was, shifting his weight from one hoof to another.

Now Pete needed a long stick. He attached the piece of burlap to one end, and walked out of the lean-to. From outside the half-wall, the ferrier slowly slid the stick with the burlap on it towards Hogan’s hindquarters, gently touching the horse’s body with the sack. Hogan was restless now and Bonnie’s heart pounded.

Pete’s burlap rubbed gently, inching toward the horse’s back legs – and the explosion came. The stick was smashed away as the horse drove both hind legs straight out, breaking the lean-to planking and catapulting the pieces into the field.

“Oh, poor Kirk,” Bonnie thought stupidly, “he worked hard on that wall.”            Her mind was fighting the implication of the gaping hole in the lean-to.

“I’m sorry,” said Pete Barker. “I don’t think we can work out the problem with your horse.”

Oh, God! What was she going to do?


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