Somewhere in my stuff is a faded sepia photo of me, age 5, atop a huge, dark-colored horse, wearing shorts, sandals and a serious expression. In the background is the old Panther rollercoaster that used to grace the Cincinnati Zoo back in the days when zoos were an unholy marriage of amusement park and animals. A gentleman had the concession for pony rides, and he also had this enormous horse saddled and ready. I didn't want ponies, I wanted the horse, and there I am, ready for anything. This was the first horse I ever sat.
The second horse I met, at around age 6, was the rags-old-iron man's wagon horse. The gelding was gray, raw-boned, gentle and seemed as big as a mountain. For you younger readers, the rags-old-iron man came around once a month or so in my Cincinnati neighborhood to collect - yup - rags, old metal of all kinds, and broken junk in general. The stable for local work horses was a mile or two from our house, but I was not allowed down there in "that element" as my grandma termed it. Too bad, too, for I am sure those old boys had some excellent horse tales...
Anyway, whenever Mr. Rags-Old-Iron came by, I'd race outside to see, and if possible, pet the mountainous gray gelding. To look into his eyes was mesmerizing. The warm, fragrant breath from his nostrils was intoxicating.
These two first horses are clear in my memory as if met yesterday. Because of them, I have loved horses all my life, and been graced with their presence in my "backyard" (read "barn") since 1981. If I were never able to saddle up again, I would still have a horse out there, for the peace that comes with looking into their eyes, sharing their warm breath, and listening to them swish their tails and chew their sweet alfalfa.
I hope to share with you the horses I know and have known.
Meantime, merry manure-forking to you!