Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails

The Good Life

There’s nothing like a sore rear, to give a horse time off. Mine that is, not the horse’s. Until the black and blue yield sign I was wearing faded, and the pain ebbed, I wasn’t going to do much riding. Chico didn’t mind the time off either. He was one of those wonderful horses that could be left three days, three months, or three years, and be exactly the same horse. He was always a good, old boy. He wasn’t just a good boy with people. He liked all the horses, the dogs and the cats too. What he didn’t like was, the Canada geese that would land in his pasture and try to take up residence. He clearly hated their arrogance, never mind the noisy scolding and hissing that’s a huge part of what geese are. They would spread their wings, lower their heads and run at him, threatening with all the noise and hissing they could muster. Most animals would be intimidated, and run from a goose giving chase. Not Chico though. He wasn’t intimidated by a couple of silly geese. Nope, not one little bit. He’d turn the tables on any sassy goose that dared invade his territory. Many a time, we stood and watched with amusement, as he chased geese away. He always appeared to have the best time at it, and when he achieved success, stood proudly defiant, while surveying his domain.
To say he had nothing to do wasn’t entirely correct. There were still those who depended on his sweet nature and perfect obedience. Those who were learning to ride, friends of the girlchild, all the usual, except me. I needed a bit more time to heal.
Though I didn’t ride, couldn’t ride, seriously, my butt hurt when I sat, never mind ride, there was still lots I could do. There were horses to put groundwork onto, and sweetpea to advise as she rode horses in training. Still, it wasn’t long, before I was itching to ride. I still had aches and pains, but enough was enough. It was time to ride again.
Because I was a bit creaky, and gingerly careful, I decided that I should ride Chico instead of one of the other horses. He had quite the hollow back, whether from simple old age or being ridden too early, yet this wasn’t a problem. A nice, gel riser pad, with a cutback saddle pad over it to make the saddle fit, and he was good to go. Collecting the reins, I placed a foot in the stirrup to mount up, only to have Chico protest. He actually went so far as to put his ears back, and even ground his teeth at me! Sure, it was quiet, but I certainly heard it.
“Chico,” I sternly stated, hiding my surprise at his behaviour, “enough.”
He immediately obeyed, and the moment passed. As per usual, we all had a lovely, relaxed ride, and it was wonderful to be back in the saddle again. I did wonder about Chico a little though. I wondered if his eyesight was beginning to fade. It struck me that he seemed slightly different somehow, as if he was looking at random things, more intently than usual. It wasn’t a farfetched idea. After all, Chico was a very old fellow. He was entitled to the odd change here and there. We all get old. That doesn’t mean life ends though, and we would enjoy Chico until the time came when we couldn’t.
A couple of days after that, we were all going to go riding again. I was taking Mister dependable again. He hadn’t been used since the last time he’d been out, and was behaving a tad oddly. There was something amiss, something different about him that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The whole time I brushed and tacked up, Chico seemed to be a bit miserable, which was very odd. Chico was never miserable. I didn’t even get the chance to do more than put my foot in the stirrup. His head was already snaking around to warn me, and he ground his teeth at me, loudly.
“Wow,” the girlchild gasped with surprise, “What’s up with him?”
Sternly reprimanding him with my voice, I expected him to immediately comply like he had before. He didn’t. Instead, he quite adamantly repeated his protest.
“I think Chico wants to retire,” the girlchild wisely observed.
“I believe you’re right,” I agreed, even as I began to undo the saddle.
We never retire a horse due to it’s age. We don’t ponder long and hard over it, or agonize over what other people might think or say. We let the horse tell us when it’s time. Some show their age. Some get too sore and creaky, and some, like Chico, say what they want, in a most obvious way. Chico retired that day, to chase geese, hang out in his pasture with a good buddy or two, and simply enjoy the good life. Chico was in retirement.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB