All that Jazz

Horses rank among nature’s most beautiful creatures. When they gallop across a field it is as if the wind had taken form. Even more, this external grace is matched by an honest, generous personality with the capacity to teach us about life. This week’s column belongs to Jasmine.

Jasmine, my Arabian mare, has been my riding companion for several years now. We learned the process of sharing together. Prior to Jasmine I had ridden our old mare Creseida, but she had always been the boss. With Jasmine it has been a different relationship, one much more demanding of my attention and much more rewarding.

Although I had spent my adult life teaching language, I had never recognized horses as having their own complex language. Unlike ours which is largely verbal and linear, theirs is visual and tactile. To us, their language may be subtle, having few sound cues, but it serves them as flight animals. And it has no term for deceit. What the horse feels is written all over its body, no lies, no deception.

When Jazz wants to ride or feels she hasn’t been getting enough attention, she makes no secret of her desires. Actually I have never known her not to want to ride. Anytime I come into the field she wants to know whether I have come to take her out to play. And playing is her specialty. As I have learned to become more proficient at playing horse games her affection has grown. Mind you she has always wanted to please, especially when it came to playing with Daddy.

Like anyone else, however, she can be bad, not deceitful, just bad. One day she and the other horses broke a fence rail separating their rough pasture from the big hay field to the south. When I saw them out there I took Jamie, our dog, to help me to bring them in. I opened the gate wide, replaced the broken rail and called the horses. Jamie immediately went to work barking them back. So they did with Jazz leading. They followed Jamie right to the gate before Jazz, her head down, nose wrinkled, ears back gave Jamie and me a snort and took off bucking and kicking across the field, the other horses at her side. When they reached the west fence they all turned and trotted, heads and tails high across the centre of the field, laughing all the way, looking for all the world like Lippizans on parade. At that point I did the only thing left to me, took Jamie back to the house, had a coffee and read the paper. About an hour later, when they came into the barnyard for water, I went out and closed the gate.

Jasmine and Jamie have much that they could teach to people that would listen. They always return love for love. They never lie. They never disappoint. They never indicate that, given the chance, they would trade me in on a younger, faster model. They always greet me as if I were a special part of their day. Best of all, Jasmine is still young enough that she and I will grow old together. When she is no longer able to ride on legs of fire I won’t either. So, this week belongs to Jasmine, my Arabian mare, for now my ticket to the four winds, for the future, my old friend ready to take me wherever our hearts and bodies can still manage. See you next time.

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