What Do I Know About Horses?

December 1, 2012 2:03 am0 commentsViews: 29
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by Bruce Harris Bentzman

It frightens me to get close to horses. That’s not to say I haven’t been close to a horse, pulling my toes away from their hard hooves, keeping my fingers distant from their chomping teeth. When Levittown, Pennsylvania was young, there were yet farms and dairies and stables about. We could walk, or ride our bikes, or get our mothers to drive us to where we could rent a horse to go horseback riding along country trails, through woods and over fields.

I hated the idea, but when, in my early teens, my friend Richard badgered me with critical evaluations of my courage, I relented and accompanied him. First the horse would not move. Then it tried to rub me off against a tree trunk, and then to knock me off with a low branch. When we reached the field, the horse galloped off despite my pulling the reins, until I pulled so hard that the horse reared and complained. It was obvious the horse wanted to lose me, yet I clung with a fearful grip…

When I was a boy, my Levittown neighbors kept a pony on their lot. That pony hated me. I never did anything cruel to the pony, never even called it names. They told me the pony didn’t hate me, it merely didn’t respect me because it could sense my fear. What’s the difference?

On a sunny afternoon, I happened to be crossing my neighbor’s lawn while their pony was on a long rope munching grass. The pony was watching me as he ate. I became fixed by the one eye that observed me, failing to consider the reason the pony was shifting his backside in my direction. I began to make a wide berth of his stern, but he moved with unexpected speed and subtlety. Then he backed up! I don’t think I was expecting a horse to voluntarily move in reverse. I realized, as he lifted his head from his lunch of lawn to take a measure of the distance, that I was in a bad place. Simultaneously, I threw myself backwards even as the pony launched both back legs. I felt the air passing across my face as his hoof rose past my chin by a fraction of an inch. The pony missed and I rolled out of his reach.

And yet, and yet… It must be said, many of the girls I knew and liked the most, loved horses. They were the sassy ones, the interesting ones. They wore clothes with nonchalance, moved inside them with natural grace that didn’t seem like posturing. They would be willing to play rough with you. They could be included in sports. They weren’t delicate or dependent, which made them seem all the healthier. And they were good at reading minds, perhaps a skill they developed interpreting the moods of horses.

In any case, they knew something about us boys that they must have learned from horses. They knew how to reign in our savage desires, trained us to dance in unison with them, and there was a gratifying concord in doing things together. I might not have liked horses, but I liked the women who liked horses.

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