The Shoeless Horse, Episode 25: The Gathering Storm

Bonnie and her horse were spending less time together. It made her sad to think of harming him by riding him.  She had to find a solution to the hoof problem, but it was almost unbearable to think about.  She was nearing the age of eighteen now, but she couldn’t face the dilemma she was in.

She talked the situation over with her tired mother. Ava displayed her usual empathy, but didn’t know what should be done.

Ava had enough on her hands with hours of commuting to work, her youngest daughter being harassed on the way home from school, and her eldest son and  husband taking turns getting into trouble. The horse and the continuous angst of her oldest daughter were the least of her worries.

The kitchen Ava had furnished so charmingly was often the scene of horrible dinners gone wrong. The kids’ father sometimes refused to eat. Dean particularly seemed to relish waiting until the beautifully-plated food was on the table, then  pointedly pushing it away.

The four kids were shocked at first when they saw this – they were always hungry and knew they were lucky to have such beautiful food. Most of their friends ate pretty mundane meals and lots of plain white bread; Bonnie’s most affluent friend usually ate from tins.  But Ava was an avid student of nutrition, ahead of the times when it came to serving attractive meals from all the food groups.

The food rejection was just one of their Dad’s interesting stunts.  As soon as Bonnie’s sixteen-year-old brother got his driver’s license, he was involved with his father’s mischief as well as his own. Even as Steve ran his own experiments with intriguing alcohol varieties and dosages, he was called upon now and then to extricate their Dad from his.

Meanwhile, Bonnie came to a decision about her horse. She would put him in a boarding stable, hoping she’d find a solution to her frightening situation  while having Hogan cared for by someone who knew horses well.

She doesn’t remember how she found the beautiful stable and the soft-spoken woman who owned it. She doesn’t remember if she rented a horse trailer or rode the horse there, since it wasn’t too far away. Bonnie doesn’t remember the woman’s name, though she vaguely recalls the lady saying she could not ride horses anymore.  What she will never, ever forget is that woman’s kindness.

A petite woman with light brown hair sprinkled with a little grey, the stable owner told Bonnie she boarded horses because she enjoyed their company.  Her husband, she said, was good enough to do the painting and heavy lifting.

Bonnie was delighted to discover the horses were kept in roomy, clean box stalls during the night, and let out into a green pasture in daytime.  The place was storybook perfection, and Bonnie was happy to pay the boarding fee every month.

The day she committed to leaving her horse at the boarding stable,  Bonnie explained her situation with Hogan . Dry-eyed, she told the stable owner what had happened, and how awful it was to take the horse down . She also told her what the vet had said after the second time.

‘Hmmm,’ the stable owner had said. ‘ We‘ll do our best to keep him happy, after all he’s been through.’

The horse liked the stable owner immediately. Hogan liked that woman so much that he became a pet, following her around as she watered and fed the other horses and sometimes putting his head over her shoulder.

Bonnie was a little jealous about the shoulder thing, but relieved that the horse seemed happy. She was busy working full time, navigating a new romantic relationship, and driving as far from home as possible to visit friends.

Things were often pretty weird at home. One of her brothers was sleeping a lot and often missing school. Her younger brother snarled at her. She was worried about her mother, but did very little to help her other than pay a few bills. She wondered why her smart, resourceful little sister was struggling at school. She missed seeing Hogan when she looked out behind the house to the big pasture.

The clouds were gathering, but Bonnie certainly wasn’t ready for the coming storm.

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