I was born legally blind. This availed me the fabulous opportunity to attend riding camps for the blind as a ten year old girl. I loved horses so much that I begged my parents to enroll me in lessons.
We found a place near our home that offered therapeutic riding And I was thrilled. I loved riding my horse Charlie around the arena But after awhile, I wanted a bigger challenge. We learned how to do a rising trot and even dressed our horses up for halloween. It was fabulous, but I wanted to ride on my own, without a guide.
As time went on, I was invited to ride more often and partake in more classes per day. During my free time between classes I would wander around the farm yard. It felt so magical to me. I loved walking along the wooden rail fence finding horses who were standing at the fence waiting for a carrot or a snuggle.
One day, I was guided by my inner sense to a different barn. I can only see a few feet ahead of me, so I just followed my inner navigation system. I could feel a horse calling me into the barn. I have had the experience of feeling animals’ emotions, but this horse was very clearly speaking to me telepathically. I was 12 so I didn’t even question whether this was possible. I was excited to be spoken to by a horse and was excited to meet and get to know him. It was a small barn with just six stalls. The two first ones were empty, but the back stall was occupied by a fabulous palomino Shetland pony!
I was thrilled to meet him. I talked to him and petted him for at least an hour on the first day. He was begging me to allow him to come out of the stall. I knew that this would not be appreciated by our teacher Nancy, so I told him I would get permission.
The next day I came for class, he was out in the coral in front of the small barn! I was thrilled when I heard him Whinnie and ran up to the fence. He eagerly invited me into the coral and asked me if I would like to ride him.I told him that I would need to ask Nancy for permission and he snorted out loud. He told me that I had been riding horses for a few years by now and he was just a little pony. “I have no idea how to ride without a saddle and bridle.” He shook his body and showed me that I could just walk up to the fence and get on, I wouldn’t need a stirrup to mount him. His mane was thick and luxurious and he assured me that I could use it to hold on. “We can communicate in our minds, so you don’t need reigns. I don’t need reigns like a horse, I am far smarter. You and I will just communicate with each other. I will take you for rides and show you the pasture and you can be my friend. I’ve never really had a friend and I have never been ridden. I have always wanted to be ridden, but I’ve never had the opportunity. Nobody has bothered to put a saddle on me and nobody realizes that I already know how to be a mount. I don’t need to be taught.”
The pony walks right up to the fence and aligns himself perfectly so that I can use the fence to assist with mounting. I get on his back and feel exhilarated. This is the first time I’ve mounted a horse all by myself! I’m a real rider now! He laughs beneath me and begins romping around the coral, both of us giggle in the fall sun. Then, suddenly, he decides to roll on the ground! With me, on his back. He takes care not to hurt me, but I fall and watch him laughing and rolling in the dust. “What are you doing? Why would you ask me to get on your back and then throw me off and start to roll?” Peels of his laughter fill my mind. “I needed a bath! I also wanted to show you that the horse is always the boss. If you stay on, that’s because the horse wishes it to be so.” Dust and hair filled the air as he arrogantly shook his body, he trotted away, laughing. “That’s your lesson for the week.”
We enjoyed the fall together. I was introduced to his barn mates. We walked around the farm yard together. He often escaped from the coral. Everybody gave up trying to contain him!
“You sure found a friend in Skeeter.” The breeder exclaimed one day as we walked through the yard together. “Skeeter,” I am laughing and he takes offence and quickly trots away. He’s so bratty. He’s never allowed into the pasture with the horses because he bites them and wrecks the fence. He chases them and some of them are valuable show horses None of the other horses really seem to like him because his behaviour in intolerable. He hides his feelings of being left out by pretending that he really doesn’t care to associate with the snobby horses, but I can feel his loneliness some days.
I’ve seen him nip at horses in the barn and push his ears back when he walks past them. This is a sign of aggression. I have heard him complain under his breath when the other horses are dressed up for competitions. One day, I bring out the curry comb and attempt to brush him out. His blonde hair is so thick with dust it’s almost impossible to brush him. “Thank you.” The words are an almost inaudible whisper. This is how he and I spent our late fall days that year. He loved being groomed. I took almost all of November to clean his coat But I did get it sleeker than it ever has been!
One day, after I had him looking pretty spiffy, he asked me to put him in the barn with his friends. He stood in the centre of the little barn, showing off his sleek coat. Once the fashion show was over, he instructed me to place him in the last stall. “You’ll find the lock right up at the top of the door.”
There’s still sunshine and another horse-Charlie needs grooming I rush back to the arena to take care of this task. Charlie is enjoying his grooming. He doesen’t communicate like Skeeter. I can just feel him relax and I feel myself going into a meditative state. He communicates his feelings, but not much else. I’m jolted out of peace by a commotion out in the yard. “Who left Skeeter in the barn? That damn pony ate all the feed and let everyone else out to help him!”
Nancy is trying to wrangle up all of the horses who are loaded and resisting. “Christine, I know you spend a lot of time with him, did you put him in the barn? He needs to go in his stall with all three locks bolted! He’s such a brat, he let all of the horses out and ate all of the oats - enough feed for a week, gone in an afternoon!” I slink into the barn and was taught how to lock my bratty friend into his stall. A long lecture on the negative impact of overeating for horses ensues and I scream at my friend in my head for getting in trouble!
Winter evenings are so beautiful on the prairie, during the day it’s so windy, but at night it’s so still. The sky is black and the stars twinkle. I can see much better at night and am excited to ride Skeeter. His winter coat is luxurious, like velvet! I throw a halter and lead rope on him and toss the rope over the fence to denote that I need him to stay still so I can mount. “Let’s go” I say as I excitedly hop on his back. He stands there, perfectly motionless…
“Come on, it’s snowing and its so beautiful, let’s go for a run!” Nothing, no reaction, it’[s like he’s lost his ability to speak. I kick his sides gently and click my tongue.
Suddenly, I’m flying through the air Then, thud, the wind was knocked out of me and I’m looking up at the sky.
“I’m not a horse. Don’t ever kick me. If you want to go for a ride, don’t tie me up.” The haughty pony walks past my stunned self. “You weren’t even tied! Why are you so frustrated? Come back!” Tail and mane erupt in the night air, Hot air is ejected from flared nostrils. Hooves stomp snow into the crisp air. “You are never to tie me to a fence again if you want to continue to mount me.”
I’m left to dust myself off and recover from the shock of being on his back one moment and breathless the next.
Our relationship continued into the summer and next fall, until Nancy announced that she was expecting her first baby. Classes would resume after the baby was born. I tearfully said goodbye to my teacher and friend as he nuzzled my neck, his hot, sweet, grassy breath tickled my neck and the smell of him and the sound of his voice are still with me, all these years later.