The Shoeless Horse, Episode 22: Coping With Educational Experiences

Bonnie was graduating.  Formally, she was about to graduate from high school, and informally, she had just passed another course in the School of Hard Knocks.

After bringing down the horse, not only was she struggling to force herself  to concentrate on her end-of-the- line schoolwork, but she had to work several days a week, argue with her brothers, care for the horse and her dog, and try to catch glimpses of her busy mother and sister. And then, there were the many ups and downs of life with her Dad.

Since her father had become an executive of a brand new company, the happy ‘ups’ were fewer and the exciting stuff was happening more often.

She went to the store before Father’s Day one afternoon, and was struck by the lack of cards that had appropriate greetings for a Dad like hers. Bonnie’s Dad was prone to a wide range of behaviours and comments that didn’t fit the dreamy and warm messages she saw on cards in the store.

The Father’s Day cards in the stores all spoke gratefully of fathers who were always therefor their children, always supportive and inspiring.

There were no verses that offered an ode to a father who was not always there, who yelled and screamed at his kids every second Saturday, and who sometimes tormented their mother with a flood of awful put-downs.

Dad wasn’t always mean and temperamental. He could be really funny, and sometimes very kind and generous. He enjoyed the pets- the whole menagerie – even though he liked to lead his sons in some serious taunting about the horse.

The thing was, Bonnie’s dad was unpredictable. He’d slump into long periods of silence, walled off from his family though all five of them were just steps away. When he was in the miserable periods he wouldn’t speak to anyone, and was downright dangerous to disturb.

Sometimes these moods lasted for weeks. While her dad was in this state, she and her brothers and sister could not risk bringing friends home – not after school, not even on the weekend.  It was a pain, but they lived with it.

For Bonnie’s mum, Ava, the pain was literal.  She’d suffered with migraine headaches since she was twelve years old. She got them so bad, they knocked her right off her feet. Sometimes, Ava lay in the dark for days, the door closed and her voice behind it frighteningly weak.

The pets made everyone laugh. The two young cats the Pinda Brothers had sent home with Bonnie and Dawn raced around the house as they grew, wreaking havoc with the décor and skittering around so comically that sometimes the whole family laughed themselves silly. The dog was difficult when she faced the world outside the house, but affectionate and endearing with her favourite people. The horse was…  well.  You’re listening to this story.

Bonnie’s final year of school brought some distraction from the challenges that had come along with the horse of her dreams. She understood now that even without the hoof issue, she had not accepted how difficult it could be to properly care for a horse.  Sometimes she felt guilty. There was plenty to graze on in the generous-sized pasture, but was that any excuse not to pay attention to Hogan some days?

When the time since the last trimming went by and Hogan’s hooves grew again, the girl understood two things. First, it would soon be time to stop riding him, to protect his hooves from her weight. Second, it was time to get prepared for another ‘humane treatment’ at the hands of the veterinarian and the farrier.

Though her mother had toiled to produce a stunning dress for Bonnie’s graduation, the girl was haunted by those other plans.

She shuddered whenever she thought of it:  her horse, shocked and dazed, struggling bravely against unseen forces to stay on his legs. Her handsome, defiant little Hogan, horribly drunk and pulled down to the ground in a defenseless heap.

She was worried sick now about two unavoidable obligations  – attending Grad with a boy she didn’t even like anymore, and participating in the next awful bringing down of Hogan.

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