horses have a special patina that the younger ones have not yet
earned. This poem captures the a bit of the magic of the equine
senior, may they be mares, stallions or geldings. You can be assured now
that this poem has a happy ending so it is "safe" to read but do grab
the Kleenex. We at Bint al Bahr have been blessed with several of these wise
treasures. Links to their special stories can be found and the bottom of
THE OLD GELDING
By Karen Higgins Kleiner
It was a dying summer morning as
I let the horses out.
Somehow the old grey gelding surprised me
He danced through the pasture after the weanlings,
arthritic hocks still had animation
The stiff knees snapped with all the spirit he could muster
head high, nostrils flared, old neck arched
Tail flagged over his back
"Must be a nip of autumn," I thought
And as I leaned on the fence, watching him disappear over the rise,
I remembered the times we had known together.
I bought him young - he was
almost jet black
With a few white hairs sprinkled like stars
In the midnight sky.
I said, "I will break him and train him and he will obey. "
Foolish child that I was
One cannot tame the wind
You must learn to bend with it
Bend I did.
I swallowed my pride, my arrogance
Learned to love his freedom of spirit,
As I mellowed, so did he.
He came to know my voice, my
My weight upon his back
He bore me proudly, willingly
We showed them all with pieces of blue
Tri-colored ribbons of blue, red and yellow
We were a team
We were undefeatable
He taught me humility when the blues turned to red
And somehow winning wasn't as important
As playing the game.
The black coat turned to steel
then to soft pewter grey
We still trotted around the show ring
Under different tack
Big western saddles hung with silver
And riding the gelding
Became as easy as sitting in my favorite chair.
Time for a new challenge
She was tiny red and perfect
And oh, so lonely
We watched as he shook his head at her
Laid his ears back
Threatened her with hind leg cocked
But she cried to him so softly
And the answering nicker broke low in his chest
"Come to me," it said, "I will teach you all."
So the aging gelding played a new
Raised the fillies of that filly.
Taught them patience, manners
Not to fear his two-legged friends
Babysat them when taken away from momma.
Watched them grow
And let them chew his mane and tail to nubs.
Again a change
We took to the trails during those difficult times I learned
to appreciate the trees, the deer
The sunrises and sunsets, the birds, the quiet
What has been given to all of us
And what each of us has put out of our heart.
The children clamored to ride
He patiently taught them too
Pulling their arms off when they didn't give him enough rein,
Dumping them over his head, without ceremony,
When they got too cocky or too confident
Bearing them proudly to their first blue
Then the day finally came when they said
"We don't want to ride this old horse anymore."
Old he was - the coat of white
Had dimmed to soft ivory, shaggy even in summer
The firm muzzle with its proud flaring nostrils
Had developed a saggy lower lip
The back was sunken
Knees stiff, hocks arthritic
Ears drooped, eyes sunken - but he still had Pride.
Other horses came and went
The old gelding stayed
For all he had given me
I could not begrudge him the handful of feed
The few extra minutes of work
The space he took up in the corner of the barn.
I thought about this all day.
Tonight as I called the young stock in
He was nowhere to be found
I put the little ones away
Heart in my throat,
I made my way
To the pasture.
He was standing still in the
Tail over his back, poised ready to fly
My heart went back to all those times long ago
Head flung high, his large black eyes searched the sky
He bolted hard, running past me, around me
He stopped inches from me
Arched his neck - lowered his head to my hand.
Oh, God, I thought, or Allah, or
the Powers That Be
Or whatever watches over old geldings and sentimental women
Grant us this wish
That when we leave from here - this space and time
Let our spirits run among the deserts of the sky
Chase the clouds and jump the stars for Eternity
Suddenly the spell was broken
And a very old gelding was getting his face rubbed by
someone who could never let his memory go.
Through the deepening twilight
We walked to the barn arm over his neck
- he followed me with love
Through that late summer evening dusk
While the crickets chirred softly