Writing and Expression From The Sunshine Coast

The Shoeless Horse, Episode 19 : Searching For Salvation

in Nature/Spoken Word/Storytelling by

The girl was riding her horse less and less.  Filled with both love and regret, Bonnie for a time avoided dealing with Hogan’s problem.

She fed him, visited with him at the fence, and cherished him from a distance. Out in the pasture, his hooves were mercifully invisible. Though she was petite, Bonnie now felt that riding put too much pressure on his messy hooves. Slowly but steadily, the joy of owning her dream pet was eroded by guilt and worry.

Her parents were busy with their own challenges and conflicts. Despite their many differences, Ada and Blaineboth loved animals. They not only tolerated several sets of cats, Bonnie’s troublesome dog and the little rabbit who was brought home from a hilltop just in time to give birth to more rabbits,  but they also enjoyed the horse. However, they were socially reserved at the best of times. Neither of them had friends in Port Moody yet – and absolutely no connections with anyone who knew horses.

A few times, when the night sky was clear and the moon was full, Ada stood at the bedroom window on the upper floor of their new suburban home, and watched as the small white horse raced around the pasture, glowing in the moonlight and full of high spirits.

Bonnie didn’t have many friends at her swanky new high school. She didn’t know anyone from the hip crowd or the horsey gang.  She did have a friend named Linda, a kind and intelligent girl with a delightfully squeaky laugh, who at least provided sympathy.  Marion, a witty and quirky girl who lived down the street, also provided – if a bit reluctantly – a sounding board at times.

After the disastrous ‘sacking out’ procedure with Pete Barker, Bonnie’s options had been explained to her.  She’d since been trying to forget them. Her heart felt unbearably heavy whenever she let herself think of it.

“If you’re not going to have him thrown again,”  Pete had told her, ” You will have to get the vet in and put this horse under anesthetic to knock him out and lay him down. Then while he’s out I will come and trim his hooves and float his teeth. It won’t be cheap.”

Oh, God ! How would she ever pay for all this?  Tormented by guilt and worry, Bonnie rarely rode the horse. She worked to raise the funds.

Time has erased some of the details, but I for one would like to believe the girl raised all the money herself, and borrowed nothing from her family.  Somehow, she managed to accumulate money to pay both the veterinarian and Pete Barker.

At last, she made the next fateful phone call.

“I’m ready,” she said to Barker, her heart like a brick in her chest. “What do I need to do to prepare?”

On the appointed day, the vet and Barker arrived within minutes of each other. Bonnie was terrified but kept quiet and rigidly attentive.  She had treats ready for the horse. She’d picked out a spot in the pasture where the ground was soft and the grass was short.

Pete had told her that they would need to have two lines on either side of Hogan’s halter, to make sure they could pull his head to one side or the other as he fell to the ground. It made her sick to think of it, but she would haveto do her best, because the things they were planning were dangerous for her horse .

The horrifying facts had come at her one after the other.

“We have to give him just the right amount of anesthetic, or we could kill him,’ said one. ‘And if he’s out too long on the ground, he could get seriously chilled.”

“We have to make sure the horse doesn’t flip when he goes down,” said the other,  “or he could break his neck.”

Numbly, she poured some of Hogan’s favourite mash into a bowl, and the horse plunged his head nose into the treat.  The vet pulled a brown bottle, some plastic tubing and a scalpel out of his kit. The ferrier tied the lines to her horse’s halter and braced himself to pull.

The sun shone and mercifully warmed the ground, the scalpel cut into Hogan’s pale neck, and a thin stream of brilliant red coursed down to his chest.

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