Monday, March 17, 2008

A Tribute to Snowball

This post follows A Tribute to Napoleon...

The next summer my day camp switched to a different stable. Suddenly, we were assigned one horse to care for throughout the summer, and we had no choice in the matter. I was assigned to Snowball, a tiny gray mare with freckles all over her body. She wasn’t the sleek, flawless white I had hoped for when they told me her name. I rated her as average when it came to perkiness and response time. Some kids had horses that moved up into faster gaits with a minimum amount of urging, while others could kick and whip with the reins to their heart’s content and the horse would never move beyond a slow walk. Snowball took a lot of urging, but she did eventually trot for me.

When we played Tag, Hide and Go Seek, and Capture the Flag on horseback, Snowball didn’t have her head in the game. I had to work her hard to make her get with the program. For years I had been fantasizing that I was that girl on the white horse carrying the victory flag, and now I had my white horse (sort of) and was in a game of Capture the Flag. However, no sooner would I trot her into the other team’s territory and a player on a faster horse would tag me, putting me in jail where I had to sit. I felt cheated and often wished they had assigned me to a better horse.

One day upon arriving at the stable after I had been sick for a week, I was told that I had to ride a different horse, because Snowball had been put out to pasture. She was old and had gone lame after someone else rode her too hard. I rode another horse, which was fast enough to allow me to capture the flag without being tagged, but the exuberance of victory was lost in my sadness over the end of Snowball’s career. After our ride, I ran to the fence of the pasture and scanned the horizon for Snowball. Upon spotting her at the top of the hill grazing, I called out her name. Her head popped up, then her tail, followed by a long, loud whinny, and she broke into a full-on, flawless canter all the way down the hill, screeching to a halt in front of me. I petted her and kissed her lavishly, and then a voice behind me said, “Would ya look at that? I guess old Snowball isn’t ready to retire just yet!”


misha said...

It sounds scary to be galloping around on horses with bunches of other kids! I would be so scared to run into anyone! Last summer I was really self conscious that I would run into another horse, and I was only trotting and walking! Horses aren't stupid, though. They would move out of the way if another horse came running into them, right?

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Yes, horses are pretty good about avoiding collisions, but just like people they can misjudge. I had an experience last year in which I was standing in the paddock when my neighbor did something that spooked my horses. The took off running toward me all clumped together. The two horses in front split to go around me, but the horse in back didn't see me until it was too late. Her chest hit my shoulder and she reared up to lighten the impact of the collision. My brain got rattled around a bit, but I didn't fall thanks to her quick thinking. It's always good to wear a helmet around horses, even if you are not riding them.

misha said...

Sounds like a scary experience! I'll try to remember that next time I go to the stables. Thanks!

Rising Rainbow said...

It sounds like Snowball really bonded with you. How cool is that!

Seems I've always sought out those kinds of relationships with horses. I'm lucky I've seen a few of them myself.

jdp said...

What a great story... thanks for posting it.

Twinville said...

This was beautiful to read about. Thanks for sharing more of your early horse experiences.

I sometimes read bogs of people who are sour about horses and they say that horses cannot have relationships with people. That they could care less about their 'people'.

I often wonder, that if they feel this way, then why do they even bother riding or being around horses?

Maybe they just don't get it? Or they aren't making the effort and truly 'listening' to the horse?

Sounds like Snowball had a relationship with you and actually liked being around you.

Maybe she went 'lame' because she didn't care for the other people who rode her and was trying to communicate in the only way she knew how.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Those are all interesting thoughts. I might put together a post exploring why some horses bond with some people and others don't. I've already got several ideas. Thanks.