Pitchfork and Pens—Equus Amazus

Pitchfork and Pens-2

 

Equus Amazus, an animal that never ceases to amaze me.

I have been a horse crazy gal for 49 years. I have been actively involved with horses for 35 of those years. Before that I dreamed of what it would be like to be a horse or own one of my own. I read every horse story I could get my hands on. Black Beauty, all of the Black Stallion books by Walter Farley, Fury, Stallion of Broken Wheel Ranch, My Friend Flicka, and National Velvet are a few that come to mind. I also read with a great hunger all the educational and informative books I could find.

I learned to ride on my neighbor’s horses. I was self taught which means that I learned how to fall off as well as to stay on. I practiced everything I had read about when I climbed aboard whichever horse I could bum a ride. So my skill level increased, but not always with the best of form.

I rode horses that were pleasant and patient, as well as a few that probably could have killed me. Walk was not always a word that the kids in my neighborhood, as well as myself knew. We galloped across the pastures and the woods.

I would never ride a horse now the way I did back then, and I’m sure none of my horse buddies would either. We are older, wiser, and more compassionate. We did not mistreat any of the horses, but we didn’t always think that a leisurely jaunt through the woods would be more fun than a mad dash, dodging limbs and spider webs.

Equus Amazus. They took care of a horse-crazy kid.

I have been fortunate to have been able to work professionally at several breeding and training barns since my youth. I have had formal training to ride with some top riders. I have owned some really nice horses over the years as well as some that were not so nice. I rode horses that didn’t care if they smashed or threw me, or respected my personal space, and a few that were bad with their teeth; but they still did things that would amaze me, and I respected their beauty.

How can a one-thousand-pound animal move so gracefully? Trot as if they weigh nothing at all, tail flagged over their back, head held proudly? How can an animal with such fine legs run 40 miles an hour and exert tremendous pressure on one limb at a time, and do so because they love to run with no thought of the danger to themselves?

I have seen them eat a thistle or nettle with tough lips that can strip bark off your favorite tree, and probably kill it in the process, and pick the fine grains of salt or medicine from their feed and leave it in the bottom of the bucket.

Hooves that can break your arm or leg if they kick you hard enough but scratch their ears as softly as you would with your own nails.

I watched a Morgan mare I once owned step over my puppy so carefully it brought tears to screen-shot-2016-09-06-at-9-48-26-pmmy eyes. I had been sure that pup was a goner when he darted into the stall and under those hooves. My Quarter horse, Arabian cross gelding, ran out of his pen because he had been spooked by something and accidently stepped on one of the cats. He pulled his weight somehow and the cat was okay, but I have no idea how that horse did it. Amazus. My oldest daughter showed this same horse when she was very young in Pee Wee halter. He wouldn’t move unless she was far enough from his feet that he could see her clearly. Horses can’t see well right under their nose, but can see a booger a mile away and spook. Go figure.

I have seen incredible acrobatics from horses at play “airs above the ground.” I have seen this from horses at liberty playing as well as the Lipizzaner who had years of training to do Levade or Capriole or Piaffe on command. Amazus.

I have also seen horses run around like crazy and make a hard turn at the fence, fall flat on their side and slide for several feet and then get up like “I meant to do that” and then take off again. Amazus. Not one scratch or broken bone. Put that same horse in a stall and tell it that we are going to a show in a week and next morning they have sliced their nostril almost off or rubbed half their mane out. Yep, that really happened. Amazus.

I had a young mare get herself evicted from my neighbor’s pasture because she decided she wanted a baby and his calves would work in a pinch. Amazus. I put her in a small pen by herself and she jumped the four-foot fence from a stand still because she wasn’t of the same state of mind. Not a scratch.

I think everyone who has watched a foal being born is amazed and touched, even if they have seen it a hundred times. That one never gets old.

The beauty and power of an animal that has been glorified by numerous writers and philosophers for centuries because they have been enthralled as well: Equus caballus—the horse—Amaze us.

Read more from Tamara Hartl!

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