The Force of the Horse

Equine Fireworks

by R.T. Fitch – Excerpt from the book “Straight from the Horse’s Heart

Last night, July 3rd 2005, I entered Terry’s office to shut down the computer prior to heading for bed.  Everyone else was tucked away and I was just doing the last minute security sweep when my eyes caught the bright glare of a fireworks rocket heading for the stars in the northern sky.  When it reached it’s predestined point of suicide, it erupted into a brilliant display of red and blue stars cascading downward across the acres of millet that separate us from a distant subdivision.  I walked closer to the window when, suddenly, the noise of the explosion reached our farm.  BOOM!  As the sound trailed off, another took its place -the thunder of hooves.  The horses were freaked.

I ran out the back door and looked over our compound’s rear fence.  I could just make out, by the glow of the barn’s back security light, a multi-colored, many legged mass working up and down the back fence.  The boys were NOT happy.

I called them, jumped the fence, and began to whistle the comforting dinner whistle.  Although they slowed, they would not come any closer as I was several feet nearer to the terrifying sight and noise.  Continuing to walk towards the moving mass of fur, feet, and ears, I knew that there were a few bulging eyes in that mess.  The darkness, however, covered the evidence.

As I neared, Apache, the tough little Brazilero, peeled off from the herd and planted himself in the middle of the pasture staring at the source of the commotion.  I let him be as he was making his statement that he was tough, cool, and the big man on the farm.  Standing at only 14.3 hands, he suffers from chronic short man syndrome.  Again, I whistled, as I planted myself next to the back fence.  I was particularly careful that in the dark I not touch the electrified rope that keeps the boys away from that single strand of my neighbors barbed cow wire.  I only had on sandals and touching that now would result in all five hairs on my head sticking straight up.  That would surely terrify Terry when I finally made it to the bedroom.

Apache stood his ground and, in the dim light, I could both see and feel two Thoroughbreds, one Appaloosa and a little Mustang mix headed right towards me in full gallop.  It was a pretty sight, but rather disconcerting as I failed to bring out any protection – not even a lead.  I hollered “WHOA” and walked towards them.  They split up and in an instant I was surrounded by heavy breathing and horse noses tapping me on the shoulder and the back of the head.  Harley steamed up my glasses as he wanted to verify my identity.

As the horses milled about me, I listened and watched as their individual personalities materialized both to my eyes and to my ears.  Ethan instantly became brave with me standing beside him.  He planted himself firmly on the ground looking in the direction of the fireworks with his ears pointed forward – a virtual pillar of strength.  Should I move, however, he would too and not allow the gap between us to be any greater than just a few feet.  Of course, that was not due to fear, but rather comradeship.

Then there was Harley, slowly circling and finally standing behind myself and Ethan.  Although he wants all to believe that he is the toughest and the greatest, he will gladly give over the title of Pasture King to anyone who will take it in a time of crisis.

Big nervous Bart continued to pace the fence line with the little Mustang baby carefully tucked between him and the fence.  Little Pele kept peeking over Bart’s back to see what I was going to do to make the fiery noisy monsters go away.

I calmly leaned over, reached to the earth and jerked up a handful of grass as if I was grazing.  I kept this process up as I drifted further and further away from the back fence.  The notion that I was calm enough to graze pulled all of the horses to me, with the exception of Apache.  He was firm in his stance.  As the horses calmly came around me, I heard the whispers and the soft gentle sounds of expression that I have learned to love.  They come so rarely, but when they do, it is so special.  I listened and did not cloud their words with my inquiries.

“What are those things?” panted little Pele. “I have never, ever, seen anything like that.  Do they eat horses?”

“We don’t think so.” answered Harley, “But we are safe now that Grey Mane is out here.”

“We were safe long before he ever showed up,” countered Ethan.  “The fact that he is here shows that they are a special thing and he is only here to help us learn from them.”

Bart replied, “Man, you’re smart.  I thought that someone was shooting at us and that we were all doomed.”

Having enough of the chit-chat, Apache slowly turned his head and snorted, “You are ALL a bunch of sissies!”  Then he laughed.

I laughed too and, when I did, they all turned to look at me; then at each other; and then at me again.  It was truly a “Kodak Moment”.  Those horses looked at each other, and then looked at me.  You could clearly hear them say, “Does he hear us?”  The look of shock and surprise was priceless.

Ethan moved away from the others and pressed his nose against my chest.  “Yes he does.  I forget this as it does not happen often, but I was the one that taught him to listen.”

Without giving away my secret, I stroked Ethan’s forehead, looked directly into his left eye and smiled.  He put his left nostril into my right ear and exhaled, “And I hear you, too”, he said.

We then turned towards the north, standing behind Apache, and watched the fireworks: Ethan to my right; Harley to my left; Bart with his head over my right shoulder; and little Pele goosing me in the left kidney,

“Can I come in with you tonight dad?  Please?  Can I come in, huh, can I?”

I turned and petted his head, smiled and turned back to the display.

Five horses and one human watched in awe.  None of us can tell you when it was all over; the night melted away and I do not know how or when I found my bed.

Happy 4th of July to You and Your Family – 2 legged or 4

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17 replies »

  1. Horses are the absolute coolest!!!! Wish everyone realized this!!! Happy 4th to ALL!

    PS, RT, tonite I will be out in the barn w/my little herd, as my Indiana neighbors put on a good imitation of the assault of Ft. McHenry in 1814! It’s mutual reassurance time that all really IS well w/the world.
    take care,


  2. You’re awesome, R.T.! Not only do your horses know it, but we know it too.
    Thanks for sharing.
    I have to go out now and tell my boys all about this story. They’ll like this one.
    Happy 4th to all!


  3. It reminds me of one Fourth of July when I was concerned about a bunch of early babies (Saddlebreds) that had just been weaned, plus a field of mares with babies. We were on the south side of Lexington and could see and hear the city fireworks display from our hilltop location.

    The Saddlebreds, with hardly an exception, charged toward the lights in the sky and seemed to enjoy them. Every time there was a big bang, the babies bucked and played with one another, then halted to gaze at the lights and wait until another big bang, in an elaborate game.

    Many of our horses carry the brave hearts of the Civil War warhorses, who charged toward the smoke, guns and sounds of battle and fought with their masters until felled. There are several accounts of Kentucky Saddlers [often known as “Denmarks” during the Civil War] that continued to charge with their lines in spite of the fact their riders had been shot from their backs.

    These riderless horses would terrorize the Union ranks by charging the lines of men until they fell dead [which was quick once they reached the lines]. The accounts of their extreme bravery in the first year of the war made them highly desired by the Union officers.


  4. Thank you for posting this. It’s sometimes easy to forget how brave horses are.
    I’ve read accounts of the Lipizzaner movements and how they used those moves to actually fight and protect their masters in war, but it’s nice to hear about these horses in our country who are every bit as brave.
    Can you refer me to any particular sites or books that I can read about these horses in the Civil War? I’d really appreciate it if you can.
    Thank you.


  5. Went through the same last night on my spread…the mares got freaked ’cause the gelding was leading the reaction to the multiple displays going off at the same time (and I live in a rural area).

    I was doing the last for the night puppy potty putt. I talked to him and he calmed down. He listened and then the mares slowed down. He trusts me…can’t get any better than that.

    Brilliant, giving, intelligent souls these equines are.

    And humans say horses are stupid!

    Thanks RT.


  6. Please, on this Independence Day, join me in writing to our President.

    Dear President Obama

    Please, pay tribute to America’s wild horses who helped pave the way for our great country and who along with their humans, fought wars and rode into battles.

    Now, our Nation betrays them as they are fighting mountain lions, the BLM, special interests and mother nature.

    Although protected by Law, our country is stampeding them to death and into indefinite, inhumane captivity and no doubt behind our backs, to execution by slaughter.

    How can this be preservation of our wild life, our public lands, or our own heritage?

    Freedom is deserved by all and should not be taken by corporations or through appeasement.

    Please, help fight for their freedom before it is too late!

    Please, call for an immediate Moratorium on wild horse roundups and use our tax dollars for an accurate land study and truthful and unbiased assessment of what the BLM has left behind or for the planned roundups ahead.

    The oil spill could use our tax money more realistically than destroying what remains of our National heritage and innocent lives who are dependent on freedom and human integrity!


  7. Thank you R.T. for this most wonderful and inspiring insight into how intelligent and aware horses are. This truly made my day! With your brilliant writings, more people begin to see horses for who and what they truly are.

    Happy 4th of July to you and your family, both 2 legged and 4 legged.


  8. Had to smile,,,,the beaucoup fireworks display in D. C. (at taxpayer expense) featured a location with “an important patriot” on horse in the background while the trumpets played (saw it at the end of the “National” celebration on PBS…and it will replay…no cow, no sheep, no chicken, no pig;just a magnificent equine).

    Funny how they are important enough to be immortalized in bronze for great accomplishments that make this country and in the next minute, a concerned citizen can’t even get a professional reply from their rep or Senator….or watch them being exterminated on our public lands with a law that is supposed to protect our wild ones no less.

    Thank you humans and states and Washington, DC, and Farm Bureau and….the lack of memory respect and gratitude just never seems to end. It will someday. It will, with or without you elected amnesiacs.


  9. thanks so much for sharing, RT. Having no horses it’s such a gift to read your words and imagine what it would be like to be a part of their world in such a way. Priceless. Thanks for the image…


  10. Had to go out into the dark pasture tonite to settle down our horses when a neighbor put on a fireworks display that would rival a very fierce battle at it’s highest and lasted for over an hour. My mare Ruby was difficult to approach, but once I was able to get up next to her and start rubbing and tickling on her, she settled down although she was still keeping an eye on those “horse eating explosions” in the night sky. Our paint gelding Buddy was easier to approach, but on one really loud blast he jumped sideways and liked to have flattened me.

    It was over after a while and I stayed out with them in the dark for a while longer, enjoying the moment.


  11. This is so beautiful, RT. I can just see you understanding the communication from them. I bet you’ll remember that awsome night for the rest of your life! This was great (talking about when the fireworks) “reached it’s predestined point of suicide.” What a great way to say it. Thanks!!! I’m so glad you could calm them that way.


  12. What a great read! I laughed out loud at RT’s five hairs standing straight up! Our neighborhood was eerily silent last night. No local community fireworks displays or gatherings and no neighborhood activity! It matched the mood of our country now; most don’t have money to burn or reason to celebrate. They feel helpless to change the path we are on and fearful about the future. It is no wonder it is difficult to get anybody’s attention about our wild horses with the country in shambles. I keep thinking of the wild horses who will soon lose their freedom and I am even more somber than most! Thanks for the wonderful story, RT!


  13. Rt I loved this article. I am glad to know that someone else has the capacity to hear their
    horses speak. This was an astonishing moment when this happened to me. When you open your heart and listen they WILL speak to you. Its not a conversation like you and I have
    but I receive a silent voice. My girlfriend has an amazing Arabian gelding and one day when I was visiting her farm he told me that they call him a camel. I was what, who calls you a
    camel and then proceeded to tell him that he was a beautiful Arabian horse and not a camel. When my friend appeared, I asked her if anyone had referred to him as a camel. She looked at me and laughed, wondering how I knew such a thing. She quickly said he
    often does something funny with his lips and mouth and definitely looks like a camel.. It is wonderful to communicate with the horses, but not so when I visit stables and the horses tell me what is going on. My friend’s horse would tell me when someone different visited or when one of the horses was naughty in the barn. Others have told me that they need more food. Amazing..we had a party at one of the barns and we watched the fireworks from the back of the area. My Appy loved the colors and was not effected by the bangs..Totally unusal, but I think as long as we were together he was fine. In fact, I have a picture showing us all lined up at the back of the arena..Really cool…If you listen with your heart, they will all talk to you…


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