Approaching Horses: Commentary


and there past the barn
I see the horses,

grazing out in a field,
together, but also alone.

I see the horses standing in the sunlit fog.
I pause to acknowledge their dignity.

they stand waiting to serve me,
neither domesticated nor wild.

they bow their heads to graze,
content with whatever grass they find.

I approach with excitement.
I approach with fear.

their muscles flex when they move.
I pause to acknowledge their power.

a horse can sense your danger.
they see inside your secret heart:

I know he sees my secret greed:
I know he sees I work too hard:

he knows my fear of failure:
he sees my cowardice.

I approach with excitement.
I approach with fear.

my horse huffs through his nostrils
as I slow my approach.

he remains calm and I know
he’s made his fair judgement,

I remove my thick gloves
stuff them in my pockets.

the cold air engulfs my naked fingers
as I reach out to my horse.

then my fingers touch his warm neck,
and he presses himself against my hand.

. . .

My grandparents had friends with a ranch in the Badlands of South Dakota. These friends also had a dog named Dammit. Throughout the day you could hear them yelling:

“Dammit, stop that!”
“Dammit, come here!”

Anyway, they also had horses, and in the cool mornings I’d stand out there, leaning on a fence, watching them graze. To me, horses have always seemed to possess something secret and special, like a different kind of consciousness, or maybe like a special protein in their blood.

When John received his vision of the end times, it makes sense to me that when Jesus came to judge the world and to bring justice, he came in riding a horse (Revelation 19:11).

It’s all projection, I’m sure, but leave me be in my equine fantasy.

Anyway, one of the sons, Davie, saw my fascination with the horses and asked me if I wanted to ride one. Since I was so young, maybe 8 or 9, he had me climb up on the saddle with him.

I clutched the saddle knob with both hands as my little legs bounced outward over the sides of the mighty horse, and we trotted through an open prairie. At some point we began a little gallop, which excited me and I hollered a bit. This triggered the horse to run faster. An exhilarated terror overcame me, and I began yelling, which just prompted faster running.

Davie leaned down to my ear and said: “If you keep screaming, he’ll keep running. He feeds off your fear.”

Fear begets fear. That was quite an epiphany for little me. I calmed myself, suppressed my urge to scream, and the horse, too, slowed down to a peaceful trot.

We can learn a lot from horses.

From my third collection: Tender Lines of Code, which you can get for a little while longer HERE.

Dan Kent