This is not Colorado, with bands of wild mustangs roaming the plains…….our 21 hectares in the midst of wide open country, grass lands and wheat lands, is a prairie to two tiny horses, Safira and Captain Snow. They are our prairie horses.
If you are bound by superstition, you would forever be troubled by knowing that you were born in the early hours of the morning on Friday the 13th. But if you were a horse, you would not know that it was Friday, or the 13th, or that the month was August, or that your mother struggled all on her own to bring you into this world….or that a little boy was waiting eagerly for your arrival.
You would only know that whatever there was– milk, a mother, a great big sky with endless plains beneath it, shapes that you later learn are trees and bushes — was there because you were there. Without you, none of it would exist. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that all of these things are because of you, but because you have seen them with your own eyes.
About nine years ago we went to a show at Nelson’s Creek and happened to see the most adorable little equines on earth, fully formed but diminutive in stature, the Outeniqua Miniature horses. The younger of our sons, eight years old at the time, was transported to a place where only children his size could fit – us adults have lost the way and grown too big – and could not get those little horses out of his mind. Three years later we were living here on our prairie and came to hear of a pregnant mare for sale. So we brought her home to live with us – in the garden. Which is a few acres, so her confinement would be unconfined, so to speak. The retired big horse gazed across from his field, but other than smelling that she was a horse and sometimes hearing that she was a horse, he didn’t really believe she was one and showed little interest. But B was watching and waiting and dreaming of his little horse’s foal to be born. We had no idea what to expect; all we knew was that the father was a very handsome dark bay Shetland pony—I had actually seen him. The day the foal gets born, B said, he would not be going to school.
That was nearly six years ago. We were all amazed in the dim early morning light of a dewy August day to see that Safira had company – her new companion looked like a little goat! No languishing about for this new mother, she seemed to want to keep moving and wherever she went the small, fluffy grey shadow stayed close by her side. B did not go to school that day – nothing they could teach him there would beat watching in awe and pride
and wonder, the first day in this new creature’s life. He called him Captain Snow. When I first saw him, I could not help thinking of Nell and her son Ken’s new colt. On first sight her shocked reaction had been to say that it looked like a goblin, which mortified Ken. Goblin, he thought. She had named it. Aloud he said, “Mother, would you think of a name for him?” In despair she had raised her eyes and saw, up behind the line of the green hill, a great thunderhead pushing up into the dark blue of the sky. It was so dazzling white it half blinded her. “There,” she said calmly, “see that? A thunderhead, and it is pure white. We’ll call him Thunderhead, Ken – and that’s a fine enough name for any racehorse.”
I didn’t offer any names. I liked the name B chose. “Captain” was intended to make the wee animal as “big” as possible – give him stature. Little did we know that he would do that all on his own, give himself “stature”, in spite of his lack of size. And “Snow”, well, there was a good deal of white splashed about, especially on his face and legs and once he matured and lost his baby fur, also his whole undercarriage.
Snow (as we have come to call him) has one crystal blue eye and one very dark eye – both with snow white eyelashes. He has an attitude as big as a house, even though he stands less than three feet tall. He thinks he is as big as a house, because the first horse other than his mother that he ever saw, was so big. Well, to him at least. As soon as he could, as soon as he got the chance, he marched up to that big house of a horse and introduced himself. Without a fear in the world. Without any knowledge that the big horse might lazily lift one hoof and plant him into his next life, which would not be on earth. And so began an unlikely friendship between big and small. Through Snow’s eyes, he was every bit the same size as Harvey. For the rest of the big, gentle horse’s days, he had a little grey shadow.
Even though I have long not been in that special place where children fit, I do not forget that it exists. When I was there, I read, lived and breathed so many animal and horse and pony stories, it was hard to tell where they all ended and my own life began….and with the arrival of each of my sons, which happened both times to be in summer, I was compelled to read My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead, and Green Grass of Wyoming all over again, while drinking copious amounts of unsweetened tea. And as soon as they were old enough, I read those stories to them too.
Every man might need a dog…..but every boy needs a horse. Even if it is a little horse.