Categorized | The Past

Shetland in Town


As a little girl I had dreams about horses and riding them. These dreams were likely based on a book I once read called “Black Beauty”. The book was narrated from a horse’s perspective. This Black Beauty was a good-natured horse that had been told by his mother to always do his best to please his owner, whether or not the owner was good, or cruel. While reading the story I thought I understood a lot about horses, how they cared, how they were eager to please and forgive. I dearly wanted a horse like this. I would be a conscientious master to it. I would give it the love it yearned for.
Whether I could ever have a horse was often a topic of conversation at home. Our family didn’t have property that a horse could graze on, or a roof for its head. We lived in town! I began, then, to wish that we lived out of town. That way there was a chance to get a horse – a black and shiny, beautiful one.
My parents tested my resolve as to whether I would take adequate care of such an animal. Then one day, dad brought home a horse. I was a bit speechless, as it wasn’t quite what I had pictured. It was very short. This was apparently so that we could reach to get on its back. It had a coarse, tanned colored coat, a choppy mane, and a large head for its body, at least to my way of thinking. They called it a Shetland. It was supposedly a great children’s pony, which was a gentle, good tempered, intelligent animal with an adaptability to rough conditions, minimal care, and could survive without much food if the necessity arose.
It proved to be a misfit. If it had any gentleness in it, I never found it. If it was supposed to be quick to please and kind, I would strongly disagree. I would, however, agree that it was intelligent, and even sneaky, cagey, spiteful, independent, stubborn and mean. Some of this I discovered when I tried to ride it. For one thing, it wouldn’t ‘steer’. Not that I was any pro on the matter, but no horse can be so dumb as to not know you intend to go somewhere when you’re on its back, clicking, clucking, kicking and yelling giddy-up!
I took it for a walk once. I was happy to show off the only horse in town. I wanted it to proudly prance up and down the streets. The neighbors would surely all have their eyes glued to their windows. I had the halter rope and was meaning to be in charge of our direction. The pony had a different plan. It was good to go away from home, but determined as a mule to not return. I was stronger willed I felt, so I put my weight into the homeward direction and pulled. I didn’t want to be ashamed of a disobedient pet in front of spectators. I yanked again. It reluctantly turned and belligerently toddled along for a short choppy distance and then the miserable thing bit me on the shoulder. I was suddenly in terrible pain. Certainly there would be blood running down my back, but I didn’t want the neighbors to notice. Hopefully no one saw that part. I gave the nag one more determined tug. It flew at me, knocking me into the gravel, and jumping clean over my body. I waited for everyone to come running to my rescue. All was quiet, and nobody came. I dragged myself, winded, off the ground with my shoulder throbbing like a viscous drum. Maybe it was good that no one was watching. That was embarrassing.
The ignorant mutt stood there, not far away. I gathered together what courage I had left. The only option was still to get the Shetland home. I was willing to be at least, and only, that responsible. I still wanted mom and dad to think I could handle a horse – just not this one. I managed to grab the tow rope again. This time I was mad and I didn’t mind letting it know so. I felt the best action was to continue on my way home, in pretension, hiding the fact that I was suffering immensely. This was an act for the benefit of the horse now. Letting it understand how much it had gotten the best of me was not my plan. In reality a mountain of fear was welling up inside of me, as I coaxed it along, and I was trying hard not to burst into tears. I kept one very diligent eye on that great set of teeth.
Neither of my parents was privy to this secret design of the pony. It waited until there wasn’t an adult in site to take advantage of me. After I got back home with the miserable beast, I carefully explained every detail of the plight. I let them know that the horse was stubborn, mean and extremely dangerous. I could have died out there in the street, but I had faithfully brought the rotten thing home.
This incident spoiled my budding love for horses. A little part of me still wants Black Beauty, but I can’t be sure there is such a horse. I look at every one with a certain skepticism and fear. I’m envious of horse whisperers and angry at horses for not loving me more. The reality of the matter is that the author(s) of Black Beauty had the horse animated in the book – not with a horse’s feelings – but with that of a child’s. I think I was supposed to learn how good it is to be kind and forgiving. I am to humans, I am to animals and other horses, but I haven’t forgiven that Shetland.

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