Meet the Horses
Wild Eyed Ben * Grazing in Heaven*
WildEyed Ben was a champion Thoroughbred, nominated for the Breeders’ Cup, a black type allowance winner, a turf horse, a distance horse, a bread-and-butter horse, who gamely brought home a check nearly every race run, and who then went on to become a foxhunter extraordinaire. He was never out of the ribbons, every time shown, over fences. He could do a five stride line in three and make it look right. He never launched at jumps, he simply aired them, and left the judges and the spectators (and like as not the rider!) gasping for more.
When his amateur-owner became crippled with paralysis which resulted from a brain tumor, he automatically modified his jumping style, now burying himself at the bases of his fences as meekly as any Short Stirrup Hunter, yet somehow, amazingly, still brilliantly, as well.
The Master commented regularly upon his good looks; the field, upon his good manners. He hunted six seasons and earned the still-residually-paralyzed owner her colors. He did not take kindly to being retired. The first time his owner led another horse out of the pasture towards the trailer, in the dark of the early morn, dressed in her canary vest with its bright embossed buttons and wearing her smart, black, patent-leather-topped dress boots, he bit that horse. The second time, Ben rushed past the horse being led through the gate on its off side, then circled the truck and trailer three times at a mad gallop. If he had shouted it in English, he could not have expressed himself more plainly: “Take me! Take me! Take me!”
He was an iron horse, a warrior horse, a horse of high mettle. For years, religiously, each morning just at dawn, he would nip and rear and tease the herd into accompanying him on a miles-long gallop around the perimeter of the field. Just once, he would take them around. I would lie in my bed and listen as the hoofbeats would approach, then echo, then fade. It never failed to put a smile upon my face.
And yet he was safe for any child to ride. He had a softness for children. It seems entirely fitting that his last rider, who rode the spring of the year that Ben turned thirty, was a troubled, disadvantaged, nine-year-old boy whose father was a hardened criminal and whose mother was nowhere to be found.
I like to think that during that ride, WildEyed Ben somehow managed to impart some of his own glorious energy into that young child, who would thus remember the grand old Thoroughbred for all his coming days, and that that memory might sustain him, through all his coming troubles.
Please, dear God, may You allow his spirit to gallop on. My dearest, dearest WildEyed Ben, run as free and as fast as when you were young, still wholly in your prime. May you never take another lame step, may you never feel another fly’s sting, and may you never lack for kisses all upon your velvety nose. Rest in peace, dear Ben. You will be dearly missed.