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photo by Sheri Dixon

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Big Red Horse

I've been horribly remiss in blogging- life is extremely hectic right now- all good things, no worries- but I feel awful not posting anything for so long, especially since my personal goal is 3 times weekly and it's been almost 3 weeks since my last post. Therefore, I'm sharing this short story with ya'll- I wrote it a few years ago and pulled it out yesterday as a possible reading for a radio show, but it won't work- I can't read it without crying. *Enjoy*

The big red horse waits quietly, one ear forward and one back, about to give the most important performance of his life.
Having traveled thousands of miles, and having given many outstanding performances, he's ready for this one as well.

Born in sunny California, Regal Risk (Frisky to his many friends and admirers) was a big showy colt whose glowing red coat and tall white stockings were the perfect package for his 'look at me' attitude and his huge willing heart.
As a young gelding, Frisky was Top 10 National Halter Gelding two years running, and then began his under-saddle career.

At the age of 12, Frisky was purchased by Amy Langhorst and went home to Ohio. With Amy, Frisky was shown extensively in Western Pleasure AOTR, and achieved his Legion of Merit. Frisky had his own following at shows, and people came by just to see the big red horse with the enchanting personality.
The year Frisky turned 25, Amy decided he should retire to a warmer climate and a life of leisure.

This is where I came in. Amy asked if Frisky could come live with me and I made sure she knew that I'd love to have him but that my facilities are not as fancy as he was accustomed to- my horses are out all the time with a run-in for shelter, their few acres enclosure mostly wooded (meaning his 6 foot long tail would need to be trimmed) with a pond to swim in (meaning that his white sox would be getting dirty), and that I flat out don't have time to ride the horses I already have, much less another one. Amy assured me that that's exactly what she was looking for- someplace Frisky could relax and just be a horse for once. Frisky packed his bags and headed for Texas.

Amy and I were both worried about how a 15 hour drive would affect the old guy. The trailer pulled up and Frisky was led out- head up, nostrils flared, tail awave, prancing as though on springs.

Frisky settled in with his new stablemate, and proceeded to begin his retirement. No shows, no being ridden, 100% pasture time and getting just as dirty as he pleased. For the first time in his life, he had nothing to do.

He hated it.

I first noticed a change in his expression. He got kind of a bratty, bored look to him, and started picking on the other horses. Then he started fence fighting with the yard dogs. Although into his 20's, Frisky was not at all ready to retire.

Enter Rebecca, who needed a temporary replacement for one of her string of horses. Even though Frisky hadn't been ridden in several years, he just walked into his new job and did it. When the horse Frisky was filling in for couldn't come back, Rebecca asked if Frisky could stay on.

Regal Risk++ aka Frisky, the big red horse, waits quietly, one ear forward and one back, about to give the most important performance of his life. Saddled and bridled, Frisky is led up to the mounting ramp.

A helper on each side, young Kevon is transferred into the saddle- helmet on his head, voicebox in his lap, grin on his face. Rebecca asks Kevon what he'd like Frisky to do. Kevon presses a button on the voicebox and a metallic voice says "Trot". "No, Kevon, you can't trot first, you must walk first" Rebecca says, barely hiding a smile. Kevon grins and again presses "trot". Finally, Kevon is persuaded to press the "Walk" button and off they go, around the arena. At different spots, they stop, and Rebecca asks Kevon to do various things to help his balance and coordination. Sometimes there's a furry puppet dangling from the ceiling that Kevon grabs and makes bounce and it makes a sproinging noise. Sometimes he holds brightly colored flags straight out as he rides. Always he has a huge grin on his face- one of the only times he ever smiles.

And always at the end of his ride, they trot- Frisky floating as if on springs, tail in the air, Kevon grinning ear to ear, poor helpers running full out to keep up.

Frisky works three days a week with three different children who are handicapped and autistic. Standing in the line-up, he gazes intently across the field to the playground of the special-ed school, looking for 'his' kids.
He is in his glory.

After years in the show ring up to the national level, strange and sudden sights and sounds are met with a ho-hum attitude. When Rebecca starts out new horses, it's usually a month or more of having them watch what goes on before she puts a child on them, since the toys can be alarming and the verbal outbursts of the autistic children even more so. Frisky was working his second day there. He is clearly adored by his small riders, and truly appreciated by Rebecca and her crew.

The first time I went to see Frisky in his new role; I was brought to tears by one thing. His expression is no longer bored and discontented.

Standing in the line-up, the big red horse waiting quietly, one ear forward and one ear back, ready for the most important performance of his life, is happy.

*Post script- the morning of a semi-annual show for the parents and families of the students, Frisky was nowhere to be found at breakfast time- an unheard of occurrence. After an extensive search, his body was found deep in the woods, his favorite spot in the shade and on a little ridge. There was no sign of inward or outward struggle, and it is believed that at age 30, that giant heart just gave out.

Frisky’s body is buried where he chose to lay down for the last time, but his spirit lives on in every child that he touched.

In every rainbow that flashes across the sky, I know where the red comes from.

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