Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Happy Birthday, Limerick!

Today is Limerick's 17th birthday. I'm not sure whether to call today her official birthday, or January 1st (as per the Jockey Club), but either way, she was born 17 years ago today.

She was born on Shawnee Hills Farm, near a tiny town named Golconda, situated on the Mississippi River in southern Illinois. I find it so romantic that she was born on the Mighty Mississippi, just across the river from Kentucky. But I'm a hopeless romantic sometimes. I'm one of those suckers that finds beauty in everything.

Happy birthday, Limerick, here's hoping you have many, many more! I have daydreams of riding you around our future Kentucky farm. Your back is a little dipped with age and your coat is a tad rougher, but otherwise you are still the same beautiful horse that I fell in love with 20-odd years ago. Just you and me, walking through the Kentucky bluegrass around the edge of our property on a blue morning, the sun not yet high through the old trees, the breeze lifting strands of your mane and my hair, my fingers gently scratching the sides of your high withers, as I always do. I love you, Lim Bean.

We went on a trail ride yesterday--Trail Ride Number Three. It was just us and one other horse/rider pair this time. The other horse is also a Thoroughbred mare, but she is a seasoned trail horse. Her name is Lady.

I decided to mount at the mounting block near the barn instead of walking Lim over the road by hand like I did the last two times. The road never seemed to bother her so I figured why not; it was that or walk all the way to the mounting block at the Danada Equestrian Center. Despite Limerick's small stature and my athleticism, I don't trust myself to mount from the ground.

Lim was just fine over the road. As we got on the trail head, I saw a Canadian goose attack a jogger running by the pond. The goose flapped its wings, lifted itself six feet into the air, and descended upon the jogger, who was flailing his arms. I watched this from a distance.

"Hey, look at those geese, they just attacked that jogger!" I said to the other woman, who hadn't seen it. She shook her head and said there were too many Canadian geese. Lady liked to chase geese so I figured I would just tuck Limerick in right behind Lady and stay there as we passed the geese.

As we got closer, I saw the geese were protecting six or so little dirty yellow balls of fluff. Babies! No wonder they were being so aggressive. The (male?) goose snaked his neck and hollered at Lady, who rolled her eyes towards him.

Yeah I'd like to see you try it! she seemed to say. Like a fool, I stopped Limerick. I was atop a 900lb animal and these geese were intimidating me. Limerick's head and neck went straight up like a periscope. I could feel her nostrils blowing in the tight, quick way they do when she sees something scary. I could imagine her eyes--huuuuge.

The goose ruffled his feathers, shook his wings, snaked his neck at Limerick and screeched. With that, Lim was outta there. She scrambled backwards a few steps then whirled on her hind legs. A few more dancing steps down the trail and she stopped. Lady and her rider stood twenty yards away, waiting for me.

"She doesn't like the goose!" I hollered. I didn't blame her, I envisioned the thing flying up at me, beating me with its wings, pecking me with that dull hard beak. I think Limerick was trying to save the both of us.

A biker was struggling up the hill, getting closer and closer to me. I waved for him to stop. Limerick was tense, scared. She didn't know the biker was there. It didn't matter that she was okay with bicycles on Trail Ride Number Two--she certainly wouldn't be okay with them if she was in fight-or-flight mode, and being surprised by a bicycle was the last thing we both needed.

Finally, the geese gathered their dirty yellow fluffballs together and herded them into the pond. The male let out one last screech. When they were gone, I encouraged Limerick to join Lady up the hill and she did. We had gone about thirty paces when I remembered the biker. He was trailing behind us, waiting for my okay. I waved him on.

The rest of the ride went smoothly. We went up an enormous hill. There were no paths leading up to it except a narrow, overgrown dirt path that wove between the tall prairie grasses. At the top of the hill, the horse farm stretched out before us, the white plank fencing neat and straight. Grazing horses looked like small, shiny multicolored dots. I could just barely see the Sears Tower in the distance.

When we got to the grassy strip behind the Danada Equestrian Center pastures, we trotted. The horses kicked up dandelions and insects. Limerick's mane bobbed and gleamed in the sun. Her head was down just slightly, her ears relaxed, listening for my occasional "Mmhmm, good girl."

I never wanted to stop.

Oh yeah, the photograph session with Rob and Limerick--it couldn't done. Rob unexpectedly had to work so we're re-scheduling it for next week. No big deal, I just hope it's as beautiful next week as it was yesterday!

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