by Laura Crum
So the other day I got a real thrill. You know, where you get shivers down your spine? And yes, it was because of one of my horses. We horse people are easily thrilled by our horses. This time it was my old horse, Gunner, that gave me that thrill.
I bought Gunner as a three year old, and accomplished quite a bit with him. Here’s a link to a recent post with photos showing Gunner as a cutting and team roping horse.
Anyway, the thrill I got the other evening wasn’t exactly the kind of thrill I got in my youth, when I cut cattle on Gunner—which is probably the biggest pure thrill I’ve ever had on a horse. Getting it just right on a cow that sets up perfectly in front of your horse? It’s quite an amazing feeling. Team roping is a real adrenaline rush—it all happens so fast and you have to be absolutely focused the whole time. And traversing a steep, rocky pass in the Sierras is a pretty big thrill. Just loping up a nice long gentle hill is a thrill for me these days. But this was a different kind of thrill.
Gunner is 32 years old now. These days he moves stiffly, like an old horse, even though he is sound. And our interactions with him are pretty sedate. We pet him.
We hand graze him—he doesn’t see or hear well enough to be turned loose on the property.
We just love on him.
He does look like an old horse. A healthy old horse, but an old horse.
But the other evening, when I went down to feed the horses dinner, Gunner was excited about something he saw—or thought he saw, as I said, he doesn’t see too well any more—up in the brush. His head was up and ears were pricked sharply forward, and he kept letting out those long, rolling snorts that horses use as an alarm signal. The other horses weren’t paying much attention, but Gunner started dashing up and down his two hundred foot run, at the high lope. I watched in amazement as he slid to a stop and doubled back, moving every bit as well as he had in his youth. And Gunner was the most athletic horse I ever owned, and one of the most athletic I ever rode—and I’ve ridden some good horses. Adrenaline was clearly giving him a blast of youthful energy.
I held my breath as the old horse ran and slid and spun, and then came long trotting up the corral in that floating trot full of suspension—and a shiver went down my spine. For those two minutes Gunner WAS that incredible athlete that I had ridden for so many thrilling moments—cutting cattle, going down the fence, roping, riding in the mountains. He was this horse again—not an old horse at all.
And I realized something that I know intellectually, but I can’t always connect to. Those past moments when Gunner and I cut cattle..etc, are very bit as real as the present moment in which he is old and I no longer ride him. If there is one basic truth about life, this is it. “Time is but a stream we go a fishing in.” (Henry David Thoreau) The past moments of our lives are as true and real as what we regard as the present moment.
I know this may seem like an odd thing to say, but consider. My old dog Joey is dead, and the times and moments I shared with him seem as if they are past, while the times and moments I spend now with my little dog Star seem present. But when I come to die, let us say, twenty or thirty years from now (hopefully), Star will be long dead. The reality of my time with her and my time with Joey will be precisely the same.
And in that one moment, standing by Gunner’s corral, I FELT the truth of this. Gunner and I were the same as we had been, all those years ago when I rode him every day. I could feel the thrill of his movement as if I were on him, as I had been so many times. And I know that when Gunner is dead and buried here, as Flanigan is, the truth of our reality together will be no less than it is now, when he is alive. Time past as real as time present. Time is not the bottom line.
It was a very comforting –as well as thrilling—moment. And I’m aware that to some I will just sound like a kooky old horse lady, the equine equivalent of the neighborhood cat lady. But that’s OK. I think some of you will know what I mean.
Another thrill…I just heard that our own Michele Scott (also writing as AK Alexander) is having a special promotion of her books on Kindle. This month only you can get a Kindle edition of her entire three book horse-themed mystery series for 99 cents! That’s a lot of fun reading for just shy of one dollar. Here is the link to buy the Michaela Bancroft series on Kindle.