The Horse Who Didn’t Want To Be Ridden
Many of literature’s greatest stories feature animal protagonists, from Black Beauty to Animal Farm and from Charlotte’s Web to Winnie-The-Pooh. It is more palatable for humans when their follies are shown to them by using animals as metaphors. In this story, too, we have a horse for a protagonist. Although he usually enjoys taking kids for rides, what happens when he comes across a particularly unpleasant boy? Does he try to understand the situation or does he judge the boy by his actions, much as we humans do? Read on to find out.
In 2009, a Swedish study confirmed that horses can sense their riders’ moods. Yes, horses have a sixth sense. Even though I have not read the study, I agreed with it. I overheard my owner Jack discuss it with his partner Kelly when he was grooming me.
My name is Star and I’m a retired race horse who used to specialise in the 3000-yard race. I had never lost a single race in all my racing career except for the last one. I still recall getting the heebie-jeebies the moment my Jockey sat on me. He was an evil man and I knew it. The bastard had hidden small blades in his whip. When we turned for the homestretch he began to whip me. I was so hurt and angry that my stride began to falter. My heart was burning with rage and my competition edged past me. It was the only loss of my career and I was retired after it. If I’m not mistaken it was the bastard’s last race too as he took to drinking and was last seen as a homeless beggar on the streets of Manchester. At least, that’s what Jack told Kelly.
When Jack and Kelly heard that I was likely to be put down, they bought me and gave me a second lease of life. I knew Jack was kind hearted the minute I met him, the vibes he gave me soothed me like the taste of a delicious McIntosh apple.
Jack and Kelly run a campsite in a Somerset valley, which includes a stable too. The stable is full of horses, like me, who are either retired or have been abandoned by their owners. During the day we go out on short rides around the campsite and we spend the evenings grazing in the large hilly area behind the stables. The campsite is surrounded by woods and it has a melodious shallow beck ducking and weaving beneath a few stone bridges. It is a popular campsite because kids love to play on the sloping green grass and have the freedom to explore the beck too. But most of all, the kids love riding us.
Yesterday, I heard a commotion outside the stable. I ambled over and looked across the stable door. I watched a boy, he looked like was around 14 years old, say to a younger girl, ‘Lucy, I know how to ride horses ok. So you need to just follow my lead.’
I knew that the boy was stuck up. I could feel weird sensations shudder through my skin. It felt like a few thousand flies feasting on a small open wound on my body. I flared my nostrils, snorted and shook my head. The girl jumped back and looked at me fearfully. I felt bad that I had scared the little girl while my snorting had had no impact on the boy who looked like her elder brother.
‘Never show a horse that you are afraid. If you do that a horse will walk all over you. You need to show them who the boss is,’ continued the boy as he rolled up the sleeves of his light blue shirt and then stood with his arms on his hips. I wished I was out of the stable, so I could land a nice juicy kick on the bully of a brother’s rear.
The girl looked at him, ‘But I’m scared, Ellis.’
‘Don’t be scared Lucy. Just go ahead and stroke him. You need to look into his eyes.’
The little girl came up to me. I lowered my head. She stroked me with her tiny hands, turned to her brother and said, ‘Ellis, look at the star on his forehead. He is such a handsome horse.’
I stood there patiently beaming with pride. The white star on my chestnut brown color set me apart as a special horse, it was in fact, after what I was named.
‘You need to stroke them like this,’ said Ellis coming up to me and rubbing me under the chin.
I wondered if I could hate him any more than I did. Everything about him was loathsome. He smelt rancid and his round eyes stared unblinkingly into mine.
Just then Jack arrived, followed by a couple who looked like Ellis and Lucy’s parents. I tingled with excitement. We were going out on a ride. I hoped that I was Lucy’s ride so I could show her how to have a good time on a horse and build her confidence. Jack saddled me up and then saddled an old shire horse called Milly and led us out. He first led me to the mounting step. But that loathsome Ellis was standing on the step.
I snorted and shook my head but Jack did not look at me. He was talking to Ellis’s parents, ‘Star is a very good horse, he will be perfect for Ellis.’
I stared at Jack, willing him to choose another horse for Ellis, but he just smiled at me, caressed my chin and said to Ellis, ‘I’m sure you will have an excellent time on Star.’
After adjusting my stirrups to fit Ellis, Jack led me a little further away from the step and then handed my reins to Ellis. Jack then went and fetched Milly. After Lucy had mounted Milly, he adjusted the saddle and stirrups and then handed Milly’s reins to Karen, a new and slightly inexperienced stable worker, who was going to lead the ride. Karen took Milly’s lead and began to walk down the road towards the trail. I felt a nudge in my sides just as I began to follow them.
‘Did you see that, Lucy. I kicked Star in the ribs and he began to walk. I told you, I know how to ride horses,’ said Ellis.
I snorted angrily, bobbed my head, and began to walk slowly allowing a gap to form between Milly and me. I wanted to teach Ellis a lesson in humility. Ellis watched the gap increase and began to desperately kick me in my ribs egging me to go faster but I continued walking very slowly.
Karen turned back and realised that she was too far ahead and she stopped until I caught up. Although Karen resumed the walk after I reached her, I stopped. Ellis dug his heels into my ribs, but I stood there until I could feel his legs tiring from all the kicking and then started to amble until I reached Milly’s rear. Then, I picked up pace and moved alongside Milly.
Lucy turned to find my face right behind her.
She gasped in fright and said, ‘Ellis, can you stay back a bit, your horse is too close to me.’
Ellis pulled on my reins, but I just didn’t slow down.
Lucy turned back, ‘Ellis, you said that you know how to ride a horse then why are you not controlling your horse?’
Ellis pulled harder on my reins, but it had no impact on me. Instead I put my head down and pulled Ellis (who was still gripping the reins) forward until he was lying spread-eagle on my neck. Happy with myself, I raised my head. Although Ellis struggled to right himself it seems he had still not learnt his lesson and he dug his heels into my sides. It was the last straw, I made up my mind, I was going to make this ride complete hell for Ellis.
The path climbed up steeply through a single-track and at one point there was a steep drop into the valley. Karen took Milly across and I followed, but, I stopped in the middle of the track and began to eat some leaves on the side of the trail. Ellis began to kick me as Karen and Lucy went further away. After I had eaten my fill and I could feel the panic rising in Ellis’s kicks I suddenly cantered a few 100 feet and stopped. The inertia threw Ellis off and he landed smack on the path. He screamed loudly. Karen heard the screams, hurriedly tethered Milly to a tree, and came running towards me. Ellis’s face was pale and he was shaking. Karen held him by his shoulder, ‘Are you ok, Ellis? What happened?’
The boy’s chest heaved rapidly and he said, ‘Star stood eating some leaves and I tried to get him moving.. b..b… but he went too fast and I fell off.’
Karen consoled Ellis and then asked, ‘Are you ok to ride him back? If you are not, don’t worry. We are not far from the camp site now. It is just a five-minute walk.’
Ellis shuddered and shook his head, ‘I will walk.’
Karen nodded, ‘That is fine Ellis. Would you like to hold Star’s reins and walk back?’
Ellis looked at me. His arrogance seemed to have evaporated. He shook his head and said, ‘No. I will walk by myself.’ I secretly gloated to myself.
We set out again as Karen held my reins along with Milly’s, and Ellis followed behind us. Just for added measure I pooped on the trail and Ellis had to jump to avoid it. A few people walking along behind saw this and roared with laughter.
Ellis looked like he was about to burst into tears.
Soon we reached back to the campsite.
Ellis just stood there as Lucy ran to their parents to say that she had a wonderful ride. I was very pleased with myself as I had helped make the world a better place.
This morning, I noticed that something was off when Jack and Kelly came into the stable to groom us. I had never seen Jack with a frown on his face..
As he began to brush me he said, ‘I don’t understand how it happened Karen. Star is such a nice and gentle horse. But he behaved very badly with Ellis. The poor boy has a severe form of Autism and was just recently coming out of his shell after taking horse riding lessons. But because of Star’s behavior he tried to commit suicide. Ellis’s parents are planning to sue us in court and are making a case for Star being a dangerous horse. We may have to put him down.’
Dinesh Kaulgud is an IT Commercial Manager who lives in U.K. with his wife and daughter. When he is not out running, cycling or meditating, he can be found dreaming up stories. Unfortunately, he still believes that elves will come out at night and help him write the stories down.
Read his articles here.