The Horse

Mary PW Chin 穷孩子
Whereas my association with the deer was by chance encounters, my brushes with horses and mules were mostly planned rendezvous to be met rain, snow or shine. I recall feeling neither my fingers nor my toes during a cold dip at -6℃. Outside planned rendezvous, I had chance encounters, from the windows of British trains, with horses grazing in the fields. Their beauty somehow made me feel shy in a strangely dignifying way.

L'AbbayeBrecon Beacons
Twice weekly I rode, sometimes bare-back, without saddle — direct contact at the expense of higher risks. I brushed them with bare hands, without gloves. Here, I was finally convinced that the horse may panic anytime, switching from a slow walk to a gallop within split second -- that is my part to be on vigil and my skill to avert.
☞ more stories from Switzerland
This mountain range taught me contours, an episode I acknowledged in my thesis. Tom navigated mountains and waded waters ever-willingly. I adored watching him drink from the river. The quenching was at least as profound as the thirst. He was onced traumatised too; hyper-sensitive to men approaching his backside.
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Niagara, Plume and Pablo took me on their backs in L'Abbaye, Pressinge. In Brecon, it was Tom and company and in Ipoh, Susan and Yogi. Plume was the most mischievous; we had a love-hate relationship. Pablo, RIP Easter 2014 after 27 years of loyal service, was the most affectionate.

In Wales I loved watching them quenching their thirst whenever we stopped halfway through rivers. In Switzerland I loved watching them munch. That gives a meditative, almost therapeutic, effect of some sort. I envy their muscles not in the feet but in the lips, upper and lower. Soft but muscular. They articulate what I can only do with fingers.

Horses are in many ways blessed. Particularly for their mandate on the the first faltering steps: these words place me in thanksgiving mode like no other. Everyone falters at some point in life but the horses' first falter inspires and reverberates across the universe.

I adore their close cousins, donkeys and mules. When I fly, I pick seats suffixed 'D' whenever I can. That's right, 'D' for donkey. Smaller planes with less seats to a row normally skip certain alphabets, so seats D normally end up by the aisle whether on big planes or small. I sense bonus blessings when the departure or arrival gate happens to be 'D' followed by a number. Whatever the number, so long as it is a 'D'.

Here is where I first rode. A gentleman joki used to take me out to the racing track on non-racing Saturdays. Once, a rider and his horse galloped pass from the opposite direction, in stunning balance and perfect tandem pace by pace — a spectacle I can never forget.
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Most of the time it was group riding round and round the school. Once, once we went into the woods, through thick branches and trees. I remember that unique height and angle by which my eyes caught theirs. From then on woods draw me in wherever they are.
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Sleep baby sleep Sleep baby sleep
Waky waky mate Waky waky mate
Baby boys with mom Baby boys with mom
Being thrown off
hand X-ray The making of the pair of hands which occasionally appears on this website (dirty hands @ work, the lecture about voxels and the 5-finger prayer): both hands are really mine. My right hand, which had a fracture when I was thrown off Plume like a projectile back in September 2010. We were enjoying a beautiful walk on a wonderful day when she broke into an unplanned gallop. I took the X-ray images and superimposed my bones over my favourite textile using GIMP — a fantastic open-source alternative to Photoshop.
Plume's unplanned gallop #1

When the doctor saw me, she rolled up her sleeves to show me, "I had one too". Another horse rider. For months after my fall, Plume was overwhelmed by remorse. And then she recovered. In the meantime, Niagara and Pablo took turns to take flight from whatever fear they perceived, but those gallops were benign.

Plume's unplanned gallop #2

Years later, it was time for me to bow out of the country, and the stables. My perfect riding partner and I were having our last ride out with our teacher with us. Teacher was a bit new, and she was walking by my partner on Pablo. I was on Plume, ahead. As Plume's mischief kicked in, she decided to run away from the teacher. I smellled it this time — a gallop unplanned on my part but fully intended on Madamme Mischief's part. This time I was prepared. I wasn't thrown off. I managed to stay on her, stopped the gallop and brought her back to teacher. There, I earned my trophy of surviving an unplanned gallop just as I bade farewell to Europe.

When we got back to the stables, after jumping off, I rebuked Plume verbally. She cried. That was communication. I was just pounding the stick to the ground; my stick went nowhere near her body. She got the message in full: never to do that again to anyone else.

I felt sorry for leaving my perfect riding partner with that memory of our last ride together, of witnessing from behind the danger I was in. As it turned out, she perceived quite the opposite. It wasn't traumatic at all. She drew strength from that surviving of a mischievous gallop.