Former columnist for the Los Angeles Post Examiner, the Baltimore Post Examiner, and Gatehouse News Service

Monday, May 28, 2012

Lion-Hearted...


This post tonight is about my dear sweet horse Nello, and how he continues to inspire me.  He is one of my life's biggest teachers - I'm so grateful for him and also for his ever-improving strength in his legs and overall good health - more like exuberant health, truth be told. 

Nello has arthritis, and I have been antsy with him lately, increasingly wanting to do more on horseback - learn more, become better, learn the art of dressage or even jumping, maybe.  And Nello, though gaining strength at our new barn with his 24 hour turn-out, just can not do these things - he's a good-time laid-back Charlie who can trail-ride and walk and trot, and that's about it.  (Oh, and lots of snuggles, carrots, and lazy walks on wooded trails together.)  But for me, with my fancy new ideas about my skill, and getting somewhere with all of this, Nello was looking like an increasingly bad bet moving forward. I heard people use the phrase "my first horse," and "the horse I started out on."  Is that what Nello is for me, I wondered, in the big scheme of things?  Could I find him a great home, and move on to my second horse, the horse I could increase my skill with?

Well, I actually connected with someone who offered me what seemed to be the perfect home for my boy - he said Nello would spend his days grazing and napping, and would be tucked into a cozy stall at night.  The only thing missing from his description of Nello's new life were the Disney woodland creatures; bunnies and blubirds and cute skunks gathering around at night underneath Nello's stall window to visit him.  I was impressed, but did some "detective work" on this person, and found that he is a horse dealer - Nello would probably be sold within a week or two of arriving at his new home for rough work - or worse, meat.  There was no Disney ending for him there.

My eyes stung with tears the next time I was standing next to him, rubbing his knobby knees and tacking him up to ride, combing his beautiful black mane and carefully cleaning his feet, the feet that have walked so many miles in the past, before I acquired him, as an over-used carriage horse.  I had come so close to losing him, all in the name of going faster, doing more, becoming more skilled.  I had forgotten commitment - not to myself, or to riding as a sport, but to him.

Nello and I went into the large outdoor ring at the barn, preparing to do our usual walk - maybe trot - before thinking about going out on the trails.  I noticed a pep in is step after I mounted up and we began making large loops around the ring, and soon we were trotting at a pretty fast pace; definitely fast for Nello.  "What's up, boy?" I said, reaching down to pat his shoulder as he continued trotting faster and faster.  Suddenly, with what felt like a lurch, we were galloping down the straight-away.  Hooting with delight and surprise, I had to slow Nello down from a slow gallop into a relaxing canter, which he was really reaching for, and sustaining.  Together, we were flying.

He was telling me, as sure as I sit here typing this, don't give up,  I can do this.  Have faith.

Thanks, buddy, for the lesson in life, one of several that you have taught me.  You'll always be good enough, even when riding is just a memory for us.  I'll be there, and I will worry more moving forward about whether I'm good enough for you - and your huge heart.

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