The Shoeless Horse, Episode 18: The Magical Trip to the Lake. Flashback.

After the boys in the car scared her out of her wits when they drove by and slapped her horse, Bonnie wondered if she should continue the ride to the lake.  She was still shaking like a leaf, and it was a long way.

The horse, though, had quieted. His hooves made a pleasing thud in the fine gravel on the shoulder of the road and the sun was still shining. She decided to press on.

As she rode slowly along, Bonnie gazed at the homes set into the trees that grew on the downhill side of Ioco Road.  Back in 1970, these were medium in size, but many faced the water and had expensive landscaping with long driveways.

As Hogan’s hooves thudded softly on the gravel, she thought as she so often did of her mother. Ada never tired of looking at lovely houses.  Though they were all still school kids, she’d instilled a love of beautiful things in her children.

When Ada saw appealing but expensive clothes, she sometimes bought a pattern resembling the outfit she’d spotted, and recreated it on her sewing machine. She was always strapped for cash, but she was determined, so some lovely things came off her sewing table.

Bonnie was amazed at what her mother could do, but she knew it didn’t come easy. Ada had almost no spare time, so she did most of her sewing at night when she was exhausted. There were special occasions when she sewed for her daughters, too.

In a way, Bonnie realized, the love of beauty was one of the traits that made her fall madly in love with the horse she was at this very moment riding. The day she first saw him, dancing sideways, tossing his long mane and gleaming like moonlight, she was utterly captivated by both his looks and his spirit.

Just as a messy family, too many work hours and a difficult husband soiled Ada’s dream of a magazine-worthy home, the reality of a horse who rolled in the mud,  sometimes had a bulging grass belly and occasionally escaped his pasture messed up Bonnie’s perspective on owning a real horse. When she wasn’t worrying about getting her homework done, she fretted about the hours she was losing at work and the cost of Hogan’s feed.

Today, however, she hoped she was about to do something wonderful.

Bonnie had seen riders and horses swimming together on TV. She’d been thrilled when the man she’d bought Hogan from had said this horse didn’t mind the water. It was about seven miles to beautiful Belcarra Regional Park and the lake. Seven miles back to Port Moody.  Would it be worth the hours?  Would it go the way she hoped ?

She doesn’t remember how long it took, but at last she rode off the road, onto a forest trail, and out onto the beach. The lake glittered in the sun and she could see into the clean, clear water of the shallows to the gravel at the bottom. Hogan was thirsty now, and dipped his muzzle to the water. There were just a few people in the park. Several of them stared, and Bonnie was both proud and embarrassed.

She was scared, too. What if the horse rolled over on her in the water? What if he got upset and dumped her on the beach? There were lots of possibilities.

“Ho, boy,” she said softly to the little horse. “Let’s go.”  She nudged his sides with her heels and clicked her tongue quietly, hoping no one would see how nervous she was. Could anyone tell she’d never done this before ?

Hogan was ready to wade into the lake. His rider, amazed she was living a fantasy she’d imagined for years, was delighted. She clung to his mane, leaned over and whispered praises into his pricked ears. Shaking with both fear and happiness, she urged him deeper into the water. He seemed to enjoy himself. Did his hooves lift off the bottom? Was he really swimming?

Bonnie didn’t want to press her luck. If the horse got panicky, it could go badly for both of them. She let her legs float a little, then turned Hogan back toward the shore. Her brothers would call her a chicken. Truthfully, she was scared to really, really swim her horse.  But it was enough. Hogan had again proved himself to be versatile and brave.  Again he was her hero –  and her jeans dried nicely on the jubilant ride home.


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