Sunday, May 03, 2015
I recently gave my horse away. Although he was still very youthful for a 20-year-old, he was too old for me to sell with a good conscience. For years, as a horseshoer/equine dentist I would pop open the mouth of someone's newly acquired 12 or 13-year-old prize and see 25-year-old teeth. "But they said he was twelve years old", they would say in shocked amazement. And I would show them all of the conformation markers of an elderly horse. I live three miles from the edge of over one hundred square miles of state and county forest. Not many years ago I had a horse named Stormy that could cover 30 miles easily in one afternoon's romp. All he wanted to do was run. We ran all over creation. We ran when we shouldn't have run, even took a nasty spill one time, and got up and ran some more. I had to put him down eight years ago. Today (until next week anyway), I still have Stormy's successor, Cappuccino. He's the best horse I ever had. I don't use him. I just gave him away. He's 20 years old (70-years-old in people years). He deserves better than me. He's still in his prime, really, and lonely - his partner colicked last year and almost died before I could shoot him - he was just lying on the ground with his eyes closed, shaking; dieing. The vet advised there was no bringing him back.
I'm going to miss riding in this country. A good horse is different than anything else you can get out on in the woods. It's quiet; you can hear everything going on around you near and far off. You can go anywhere, and any which way you want. You don't need a trail, a road; if you can fit between the trees, you can go. If the trail or road doesn't go where you need it to, then you can go cross-country. If you get lost and don't know which way to go, if the sun is hidden, then go by your compass in the direction of home.
You can get a horse stuck in a bog or a swamp if you cut corners too closely and are not careful. But you learn the hard way and become more careful. There's nothing like the excitement and energy underneath you on a horse. And, he or she is likely having a better time than you are. I don't have time for those moments anymore. Cappuccino's pasture mate is gone, but he is still very youthful with a lot of trail left in him, and he's lonely. I gave him to couple of older friends who got stuck from a horse trader a few years ago with two horses they don't know whether or not are going to run away with them now or later; they just know they will. They are tired of getting hurt. So, at least my guy will now have a couple of pasture buddies with a woman who'll appreciate his services of being level-headed and sturdy. He loves to get out and be ridden, to just trot comfortably or walk briskly along; he's just what a person is looking for in a horse.
I've not lost my desire to get in the woods but am faced with other competing desires which have a greater pull in more interesting directions right now. The fact is that horses are hard on the body, they are hard on the time, and they are hard on the bank account. You actually have to make personal and financial sacrifices to own and care for a horse the way one deserves. The time has been right for a while for me to make a change to something that suits me better right now. But right now I'm good, and ready to accomplish a few other priorities, and to wait.
For years while out in the woods on a horse I have been cursing three wheelers and four-wheelers and two wheelers and all of the all-terrain vehicles for bothering me with their smelly racket. They stink and they are noisy. While riding one, you can't hear the birds and the deer, or the wind or the leaves, the loons, the partridge, hear a fox or a wolf take off, a bear, a groundhog, or squirrel make a break for it, or anything, except the motor of your noisy machine and the one in front of you. But everything is different now.
Blame it on global warming, or not; many of the roads around here are now posted with 35 mph speed limit signs for ATVs to be driven on them legally. Yes, years ago one would never have seen this coming. But, you can't ride snowmobiles if there is no snow, and there has been very inconsistent snow in recent decades, and you don't need snow to ride your ATV in February. And, you can ride an ATV all summer too; and make what used to be a pretty lucrative winter-only tourist season, full of snowmobilers coming up from Illinois and Southern Wisconsin to some of the best snowmobiling in the world, into a pretty nice summer ATV season as well, with a similarly nice jolt to a usually depressed economy.
The reason I don't cringe so much anymore at the thought of dealing with ATVs out in the beautiful and hilly, vast forest around here (that is just sitting there waiting for me) is that all of the sudden I can see myself heading down the road legally now for five or six miles to some favorite place, head into the woods, ride for 20 or 30 miles . . . when I'm 80-years-old, if the Lord is willing to keep me around for that long, on an ATV. No!, not on some smelly, noisy thing, I'm picturing something totally different. And I'm sorry for my over-the-top optimism here but have you read all of the news lately about the rapidly advancing solar energy technology. Better yet, have you read about molecular fusion energy developments? Molecular fusion is going to be under the hood of the car relatively soon. Solar is a lot better than it was a couple of years ago, but I don't have to necessarily wait for either one of them, because the Zero electric motor cycle is already here. But that's not the one I'm looking for. The one I need will be a quirky little wide-wheeled, blissfully quiet little grunt of a bike that carries you silently but powerfully through the woods, up the steep hills It will be one with a big, fat padded seat and room for a partner (dog?), with a molecular fusion battery (power baby!) capable of long range. Or, maybe I will have too many more important things to do and never have time for such a thing. But secretly, patiently, I wait.