No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.
The first time I saw him along with two billion other viewers was through the magnifying glass of a television screen broadcasting the opening ceremonies of the XV Olympic Winter Games.
He thundered onto the snow crusted field of the stadium followed by the charge of the painted ponies ridden by the aboriginal people of Alberta. Sixty thousand visitors and athletes representing fifty-seven nations applauded his confidence, grace, and agility. The Jamaican bobsledders, highlighted in their canary yellow parkas, cheered as he stormed past their seats.
At twenty-five, he truly reflected Darwin’s law of survival of the fittest.
His lineage would never allow anything but the spirit of a warrior. He commanded the lead of the pecking order in any pasture or paddock. He would not agree to only form part of a pack. His grace and speed allow you the vision of his ancestors swimming ashore from a shipwrecked Spanish galleon.
Engulfed in the sounds from the crowds, the bands, and the flags; nothing altered his regard for crossing the field ahead of all others; he danced with his head held high, ears and tail raised flowing in the wind. His shadow crossed over the snowy field for all to see.
Breed from European descent his eyes wide and ears pricked, he was born to run; and at the call of an eagle’s cry under the bright blue sky that afternoon, he turned the herd as one about and galloped off the field. The rise of the competition has led to the refinement of his ancestors.
He proved an invaluable warrior that demanded your respect on a Polo field; he did not shy from the charge of the other competitors or from the aggressive mallets as they passed by his head. His strength and agility, his power and grace made him a perfect competitor. The playing field was his backstage.
His loyalty and respect were unquestionable. Strangers were well advised not to take advantage of his good grace and ride him as mounting their own; he reserved reciprocation until he had his audience on the field. It was quick and masterful as the warrior would eliminate, at his will, unwelcomed followers.
He refused to accept age and when retirement was upon him he rebelled.
He knew not leisure and reminded everyone of his power and charge.
Yet, after time, he did not object, he enjoyed his days, accepting his new role as Lord of the Manor. His pasture was lush; he shared his stable with few. A creature of habit, he scoffed when asked to be a trail pony. He would continue to lead the pack in his pasture.
He taught wisdom and built character within the young of the pack. When asked to consider a child’s saddle he was hesitant, but showed his loyalty and trust and stood tall. As he walked inside a paddock supporting a young child, he knew the care that had been entrusted to him.
Each time the pack looked on in silence, respecting the lesson that was being taught.
Each day he returned to the paddock where he would be blanketed, saddled, and await the excitement of his young riders. With wide eyes and ears pricked he shouldered them with grace and elegance, quickly to correct their errors. His reward was their affectionate tiny arms around his neck.
His heart only grew with devotion. How fiercely loyal he remained.
Many years thereafter while waiting for his Doctor to arrive he said goodbye. The pack surrounded him until they knew he was safe and resting.
The warrior as always had completed his last post on his terms; when the Doctor arrived, his attention was spent on the young riders, who did not understand what they had witnessed.
The Doctor, a young man, with great wisdom, took the time and sat with the youngsters calming them with stories of their pony’s happiness in the days before and that he is in heaven in a place that he will run and play.
Within a few days a card of sympathy was sent to all the young riders from this young man quoting Stanley Harrison –
Somewhere in time's own space
there must be some sweet pastured place
where creeks sing on and tall trees grow
some paradise where horses go,
for by the love that guides my pen
I know great horses live again.
Always the warrior, he shall not be replaced, only remember in admiration.