It starts innocently. Maybe when you were little, your dad watched John Wayne movies like mine did. We fell in love with a column of cavalry horses (instead of their riders.) We loved those horses until the cavalry met a band of Indians- Indian horses were always better. Or it may have been a movie like My Friend Flicka or Black Beauty- but a heart opened and the hook was set.
Years later while flipping channels, I came upon that cavalry column again, with the familiar soundtrack booming. (Growing up, I saw She Wore a Yellow Ribbon more often than I saw most of my relatives.) This time it occurred to me that those horses must all be gone by now. Gasp! I see dead horses.
I remembered my dear, crazy Uncle Gus who kept his draft team long after tractors made them obsolete. My family considered the horses a useless folly, but when Gus hoisted me up onto the back of Big Bob, I understood why Gus couldn’t say goodbye. Big Bob and Gus are decades gone now, but I know if Gus is driving something, it isn’t his tractor. He would have understood about the movie horses.
There was a domino effect after that, realizing that all of my childhood horse friends were gone as a whole. It’s simple math and obvious, for sure. Still, realizing it gave me a feeling of quantum loss.
So yes, my barn is haunted by movie horses and childhood horse friends. Then my post-childhood horse friends. And okay, every horse I read about or that belonged to a friend. And some I watched on YouTube. Probably a few horses I passed in fields next to the freeway.
Haunted, I say. Horses can be heart-breakers and learning to live with loss is part of the agreement. If you are around horses long enough, you can mass a fair sized ghost herd.
Among Spanish-speaking nations, Halloween is known as El Dia de los Muertos- The Day of the Dead. It’s a joyous and happy holiday- a time to remember friends and family who have died. It’s a party in the cemetery.
Sign me up- I don’t mind being haunted by horses. It’s a love lingering from the past. Missing them is sad, but to be honest, they each left me with so much more than I gave- it would be ungrateful to complain.
And it’s no use trying to ignore them. Ghost horses are never far away- they are always grazing by the arena, ready to lend some help with a lesson or a training challenge. Best to make peace with them.
For all the horses: for Big Bob and Lady, King and Cindy. For Touchdown and Roo and Denali, and especially Dodger- thank you. I’m grateful for all those who brought me up and trained me. Feel free to haunt me anytime.
Happy Halloween/Day of the Dead. Who needs a broomstick when you can go for a ghost ride?? Brua-haa-haa-haa!
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.