It's old and dilapidated and mushy and ooshey and grimy. Most of all grimy. It's most certainly not the glorious
marble palace of Kublai Kahn. It's a proper working farm that demands sweat to seep out of every pore and gives back only
painful calluouses and a sense of fulfillment. The barn was leaning in on itself in a haphazard and careless manner. I'd
had nightmares that the old mold heap would fall down on me in a moist and crumbling vise of a heap. It never did.
Manure and compost.
The stench of them goes hand in hand up you nose and down the back of your mouth to lie it's tired-self down on your
tongue for a bit, for even the odors have to labor away on Xanadu farm. After a while, you'll come to welcome the reek as it
becomes associated with happy memories. It becomes, 'homey', if you can stand to bear it.
Today the ground is mushier and osshier than usual. The rain had dared to try and clense the world of the
distinctive smell of horse manure. The sky is white-horse grey, the kind of grey so white that it blinds and painfully tears
into the cornea to slice and cleave the grey matter 'twain.
We, all the girls in our novice class, had settled ourselves on a giving, tired, and dusty old couch that might have
once been yellow, for about five minutes before our instructor said anything. The junk heap of a couch was in Linda's, our
instructor, open-air office that did little on the side of protecting against the elements. She finished up some of her
paperwork, or as she called it, 'crap-forms'. She looked up and smacked the desk twice, the international sign for, 'I'm all
done with that unpleasant business,'.
"So, who do you girls want to ride?" Megan piped up first, front and center like a soldier,
"I want Zephyr." She was welcome to him. Zephyr's versions of gaited walking made you feel as if your teeth were
going to clatter and rattle out of your skull. He was as stubborn as his mulish counterparts. He was a hard boy to speed up
or slow down.
"I'll have Charlie." Brittany always picked her. I, personally, was done and bored with her. I liked my horses
fast to run, quick to react, and equipped with an enduring supply of evergy.
"I'll have Poco Loco, please." He fit all of those requirements for me. On top of that, he was just about the
sweetest horse that ever did grace the earth. Despite the fact that he was past his prime, he could still outrun the wings
on the wind and the fins in the river. In my mind, at least.
"Okay, go brush 'em and tack 'em and I'll see you ladies in the indoor ring."
I walked over to the stallion and gelding pastures with Megan. The sexes were kept separate to prevent males hurting
themselves to get to the mares and, to that extent, unwanted foals and colts.
Zephyr, the horse Megan had chosen, was the only horse, gelded, that was allowed to be penned up with Big Blue. Big
Blue was an ornery and firey young stallion that could kick the crap out of any bear, if given the chance. Though, his only
targets were the unfortunate sides and heads of his fellow (gentler) pasture-mates. Zephyr was the only one big enough and
willing enough to fight him off, hoof prints on Big Blue's side and rump were sufficient evidence to that.
On the other side of the spectrum, Poco Loco was small and soft like a colt. Like a downy feather. If he hadn't
been sired and dammed by horses, he would have met the height and weight requirement for a pony.
I opened and shut the gate, remembering Linda's words about a proverb from the prophet Muhammad, 'Never leave you
camel untied,'. The geldings eyed me, vaguely wary after years of dealing with humans. They clumped together in a
'pseudo-herd' and slowly walked away from me, not sure if I had treats of their tongue or a whip for their rumps. I hooked
Poco Loco by his harness and led him to the gate as the 'pseudo-herd' followed their brother.
He plodded in the mud alongside me, not questioning anything and only giving me a nice horse glance with his nice
horse eyes. Have their ever, in all of creation and existence, eyes as kind as those of a horse. In the sense of trust, I
guess he was like a baby, or an old friend. He was very good at standing in his place as I hooked him up to the walls. He
knew what had to be done.
He was decent in keeping his head out of my way and allowing me to pick up his hooves without much coaxing. That was
a nice and mature gesture considering the other, plod-heavy boys, so convinced of gravity's hold on them that they wouldn't
think that they could lift up their hooves for a quick scrape over. Poco Loco was like the over-achieving nerd of the class.
It was a great feeling to get him all clean and softer than a cloud. He was almost so soft that it hurt to pet his
coat. You know the feeling.
His saddle was nice and soft leather; you can't even feel the metal base.
Soft saddle for a softer horse.
Riding Poco Loco at a canter is like riding a tormenting rver. He's all smooth like glassware in his gaits. It's
frightening as all hell the first time around, but my boy won't hurt me. He's stable as a mountain beneath me, even though
we're going at the terrorizing speed of about ten miles an hour. I relax my posture and he relaxes in turn. I move with
him. I become an extension of his spine. I become a small flea in his mane. He sets me free and loose into the universe,
a wild radical, before I have to be bounded to the ground again and to a minivan going fifty miles an hour.