The next afternoon found me dragging my feet across the lawn to the barn. I had no idea what horse would be waiting but it didn’t matter. The horse of my dreams would never be mine.
My teacher was waiting at the gate. “I think we may have found a solution to your horse problem.”
“Oh,” I smiled, “Did you fix my horse?”
She just laughed. “No, but I did find one that would fit you. I had to ask one of the boys in your class to trade …” she motioned for me to follow her into the barn, but I just froze. I could only imagine…
“Hey,” my teacher yelled, “I can’t wait forever. Here’s your horse.” And with that proclamation I found myself holding the reins of Barney, the farting horse.
The next hour seemed like a cruel joke. Instead of racing around the pen Barney meandered. Bugs passed us by. The boy who had rode Barney yesterday paused as he passed us.
“Great.” My eyes were burning a hole in my saddle.
The boy gave Barney a loving tap, “Just wait ‘til you see what he does when he stops.” He actually looked like he missed the pleasure. I was very afraid.
“Everyone rein in.” the call came across the pen. I tried. It was like pulling the leads on a rock. Barney would get there when and how he liked. Finally, we settled in close to the horse in front of us. So close that his nose brushed her wickers. “Hey,” said the girl, “Couldn’t you back up a bit?”
I tried to pull Barney back. He wouldn’t budge. I stood in the stirrups and pulled with all the strength I had, Barney gave his head a few disgusted shakes and moved back two steps. “How’s that?” I said loosening my grip. In a display of remarkable energy Barney lunged forward and bit. The horse jumped straight into the air, the flying girl screaming and clutching the saddle. I threw my hands up in disgust, “Sorry!” But Barney wasn’t finished. He backed up and kicked the white horse behind him sending the horse running into the ring. Barney, his fit of raucous energy fully spent, now sat parked, sideways, like a new Ford at the mall, lazily scratching level holes for his hoofs in the dirt.
“Get your horse back into position!” My teacher’ brown bob waved as she tried to catch the reins of the run away horse.
I did my best. I pulled the reins up and down, right and left trying to put Barney into a better position. Barney would not budge. I tapped his side with my boot. He flicked his tail. I bounced up and down in the saddle breathing; “Come on!” down his neck. Barney chewed his cud. By the time my teacher finally got to my side Barney’s tail had stopped moving and he was feigning sleep. My teacher was livid. “Get your horse under control!”
“I can’t! He won’t budge!”
“Come on. Barney’s our oldest horse. He knows the commands. You’re the one with the reins, remember. That’s what the bit is for; you pull the reins, the horse follows. Watch.” Sure enough with the smallest tug she led Barney forward into position. “You’ll have to try again tomorrow,” she sighed, “Lead your horses to the barn.”
“He’s so old he probably doesn’t even remember.” I hissed under my breath. The look Barney gave said something very different.