The Force of the Horse

Dolly: A Horse for the Holidays

Story by P.H. Cody

“The holiday season is upon us and we at Straight from the Horse’s Heart would like to dedicate each December ‘Feel Good Sunday’ to sharing stories that warm our hearts and stir our souls with holiday cheer and sentiment.  Please sit back and enjoy as it is time to recharge your batteries and wash out your minds, ‘Feel Good Sunday’ is here!” ~ R.T.


FriendshipI try to kid myself that it wasn’t that long ago, that I’m not really getting into the realm of “old,” but my kids remind me daily that it’s true. All the same, there are many wonderful memories stored in my head of holidays, and of horses, but one that combines the two of them is the one that sticks out the best this time of year. In order to give a proper presentation to this memory, let me introduce you to my memories of Dolly.

Dolly was that “dream come true.” She was my first horse, bought for me by my wonderful Dad right after I finished second grade. In all honesty, she could also be called a “hand-me-down.” She had belonged to a friend of the family, until his little girl went off and found boys, and then college. She was around 9-10, no known pedigree, liver chestnut with a comet marking on her head. Now to say she was perfect would be stretching it, but to me she was a gift from Heaven. I learned so much from that mare, even more than I realized at the time.

Now that you’ve met Dolly, let me tell you about Christmas! I have a mom that loves Christmas, so needless to say, we had some great Christmas traditions! We went to church at the little Methodist church on the corner just up the road from home, it’s still there, just not so little any more. Every year, the youth group did a live Nativity. I’ll never forget the year they decided to use live donkeys as part of the scene. Somewhere, I don’t have a clue where, they found a pair, momma and full-grown daughter and the folks who ran my Dad’s barn (he himself not a horse person by any stretch), volunteered to haul these two back and forth for the nativity. So, the first night came up and we went to load these two donkeys. The momma loaded right up, but the daughter was not getting on that trailer! I don’t mean maybe either! Now, I had grown up right next to a barn full of horses, yet at that point in time – with me being all of maybe 12 years old – I had never seen a donkey except maybe at the zoo once or twice, and had never heard a real one, just the cartoon ones. So this donkey starts to make her protests known about her mom being locked up in a trailer…and known loudly!! I think the whole population of Powder Springs, Georgia heard this little donkey! I don’t think we ever did get them to the nativity scene.

So the next year, we decide to go about this a little differently. Dolly was volunteered in to be our donkey. After all, it was dark, and who was really going to notice anyway, right? So my little trooper and I walk up to the church – she was much more cooperative than the donkeys! All went well at first, she didn’t mind the sound system, or all the kids milling about, rehearsal went without a hitch. So, the crowds begin to gather, the night gets colder and the wind picks up. Now mind you, this isn’t one of those sit and start nativities – we ran the whole thing 3-4 times for about 3 nights with narration of the Christmas story and us acting out the parts. So we start our first show of the night. Mary and Joseph get set up in the lean-to stable, of Dolly was standing outside of, behind a make shift fence with two wheat straw bales hiding me and my best friend who didn’t trust the fence to hold the mare and were sitting there giggling and trying to make the cast laugh. Then come the wise men – remember that wind that picked up? Our wise men had nice, flowing robes that had not flowed so much before the wind! I knew there was going to be trouble as Dolly stopped munching and threw her head up. I got ready for inevitable jump and run that I knew was coming. I guess maybe it was because it was Christmas, or maybe because God didn’t want to ruin such a good performance, but the jump and run never came. Instead, once the wise men were settled about the baby Jesus, Dolly thought she’d check the closest one out, you know, make sure he was really a human like he had been in rehearsal. Of course, he didn’t see her checking him out, and as she stretched as far as she could right up behind the back of his head. Upon discovering that he was indeed a human in those robes, Dolly did what any self-respecting horse would do, and snorted –thus causing the innocent wise man to do the jump and run that I had expected from my mare! So you see, good things do happen at Christmas, in fact, we succeeded in not only making the cast laugh for the rest of the night, but also that entire audience!

And the memory isn’t over there, becoming braver with Dolly’s trustworthiness, we even did a few shows where Dolly carried the mother Mary to the stable. How many horses can say they’ve done that? And the cookies, Dolly had everyone spoiling her rotten between shows with cookies and treats. Yep, that’s what I remember at Christmas, a little mare who was never a famous show horse, never won any big races, and didn’t even have a set of papers to claim, but she gave me some of the most wonderful Christmas memories a person could have. That’s what Christmas is about after all, memories of love and friendship!

7 replies »

  1. Thanks for the story – I think many of us have special memories about having horses as part of our families – thanks.

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