Trump was talking more than usual for some reason and it was charging up the dogs that were also vocalizing and chasing each other aggressively on this dry chilly night. The sky was more expressive this evening spilling its red and blood-orange streaks across the horizon as the sun was setting. Spring sunsets in Goldendale were spectacular and tonight the clouds were whispering as the gentle breeze spread out their dense cotton upholstery all over the majestic sky. Expansive splashes of rusty magenta dripped Pollack-style onto the sky’s ruthenium darkness while topping the yearning pines.
I walked along the dirt road from the house to the barn and in the midst of the quiet the lines of a poem echoed in my mind:
There was a moment in time
When I felt the pull of rural loneliness
With sun-parched dust in my vision
Calling under the guise of freedom
Coaxed by fear
Coaxed by love
Into a new blueprint of the soul
To live the Cowboy life
My heart wrapped in chains
By the pull of rural loneliness
I walked to the main barn to clean the last of the stalls and feed Carson, Trump and Sara when I realized Trumpy had been fed and he was reacting to his mother, Sara. A couple of stalls away, she was showing signs of being heavily in season. Trump was low on water and he had already demolished his alfalfa and grain and was now irritatingly kicking at his least favorite grass-hay. Trump was a yearling whose insistent and prolonged nightly monologues were audible all the way to the house. He was always louder and more vocal than the other foals that year but when they were all separated from their mothers, Trump kicked up a verbal fuss of such dramatic insistence that he sounded like a reverie trumpet some nights. Then, when time passed and he seemed to slowly forget about his mother, Trump began to employ his vocal prowess as a domineering tactic with the other yearlings and pretty quickly after his first birthday it was clear who was boss. It was then, around springtime that the name stuck. The fact that he foreshadowed the November presidential election was simply comic relief.
When Trumpy saw me he did his usual shake and buck and then quieted down as I entered his stall and gave him a vigorous scratching over his right shoulder blade. He liked that every time and after I fed him a couple of treats and let him rub my chest with his teeth in return, I let him know that his remaining hay was all he was going to get tonight. His powerful teeth had worn a hole in the chest flap of my Carhartt overalls. This was a sign he was reciprocating my shoulder rubs and letting me know he wanted to scratch my back in return. He walked over and quietly finished off his hay as I surveyed the other horses
Trump’s buddy Carson was a genetically blessed palomino yearling quietly chewing his alfalfa in the next stall. Carson was the most elegant foal I had ever seen. Right after he was born he walked instantaneously and within a matter of days had a prance so majestic and organically prodigious that his natural athleticism clearly set him apart from the rest of his contemporaries. Carson was also gentle and soft-spoken like his namesake, the wise and subtle neurosurgeon who became Donald Trump’s republican rival for a short period of time that election year.
The sculpted purity with a muscled back
The shimmering mane joined
To the oiled leather and hooves
With ungodly blonde beauty
Awestruck by feminine idols
Embracing me into a new frame
Carson busied himself with his evening feeding while I topped off his water and pondered the stark differences in temperament and personality between these yearlings descended from the same father. I rarely went up and affectionately touched Carson. He was wary of anyone and didn’t really crave the human contact. He received the same hugs and love as any of the yearlings after they were born in an effort to socialize them but after that he went back to solitary status. When he was separated from his mother he took it in stride and within three or four days Carson was poised to interact and spend time with Trump and other mares. Some of his innate independent nature and desire to learn from other horses helped stabilize Trump during his difficult days of separation anxiety.
And it continued…
I knew nothing of the western sphere
Alien to the hay stacked range
With dreams of riding bareback
Awestruck in in the glow of cold night pines
Urging quiet out of savage tempests
During the first weeks of Trump’s life, I would go into his stall to hold him. I would enter with Sara carefully eyeing me and trying to block my approach to Trump. Once I calmed Sara down, I cornered Trump and talked to him in a soft, kind voice. He was fearful at first as I loomed over him and walked in his direction. He repeatedly sprinted away and nestled by his mother’s breast. I would patiently stand and continue to talk as I chose one side to walk around and, of course, he would run the opposite way to the other corner of the stall. Both Sara and I would then walk towards him, and after a period of this game Sara became aware that I was being friendly and she began to help me push Trump into a corner so I could interact with him. Once he was in a corner with Sara on one side and me on the other, I knelt and wrapped my arms slowly around him in a giant hug and used only as much force as necessary to hold him still. He struggled and wriggled in my arms and whinnied and reared up while I held him, then he stopped and relaxed. I talked to him directly into his ear and he started kicking up resistance again as I held him. After close to a minute where about half that time he was still I released him. After letting him run and check back with his mother for a few minutes I hugged him again, this time a little longer and I was met with less resistance.
This became a daily ritual and each day was not always met with progress but after a month I would honestly say that Trump looked forward to these sessions as much as I did. It became a game, after a while, that I might play with a child like hide and seek. When I think about the pure fear he manifested the first time I approached him, I wondered if Trump would ever let me touch him. Now, the bond I feel, in some ways is uniquely stronger than one with a child. A foal has no trust at all for any other beings except the mother, let alone a large, alien appearing human being from another species. The joy I feel while he holds still in my arm and conveys a sense of safety and attachment really stokes my spiritual fires. Now he hears my footsteps and even if he cannot see me he indicates his own excitement in my presence, and to experience that kind of trust turns many of my so-called human “friendships” into superficial and meaningless affairs.
Carson continued to ignore me while I cleaned his stall with a pick and wheelbarrow, then I went over to Sarah’s stall. Sara was a broodmare who delivered Trump last season and based on her tail-raising behavior and “winking” she was most certainly in heat right now. She was one of eight broodmares awaiting fertilization by Ice this season. Sara was also a very skilled barrel horse and she travelled well and performed admirably at races and rodeos but she had fallen to four or five on the depth chart. Being a female with her genes made her prime broodmare quality to mate with Ice and I often dreamed about the other foals that would arrive next year.
Could I live this Cowboy life?
Soaked in the sun baked clay
Molded by a new hand
Struck by the dry gusts of daily dreams
Dusting the realms of a changed life
Into the foreign arms of a certain love
The main barn where the yearlings and broodmares were housed had eight stalls and a connecting door to the arena. When the weather was cold and if it snowed, the yearlings would be released into the arena with a mare or two, not their mothers, to comfort them while they ran to the point of fatigue. It was during these sessions that the bonding between Trump and Carson began. Carson challenged Trump to run harder and faster and Trump challenged Carson to play and have fun and interact. With the help of the mares as well Trump was feeling more relaxed in his own skin and Carson was opening up to contact with other horses and humans.
Eight broodmares lived on the ranch now. Six had been there for many years and two had just recently come over from a ranch in Redmond. They all were quite unique with the one commonality that each and every one had paid their dues. Most had worked hard as barrel or cattle horses and were deemed good stock to breed and carry on the future generations. With the equine gestation being longer than that of humans the strain on the skeletal structure from carrying multiple foals over many years really took its toll. Peaches a bay female broodmare now in her twenties could barely walk towards the end of the gestation, the joints around her hooves collapsing into valgus deformation. Now, being spring, the prime breeding season, all the mares were in heat and even the gildings were acting up as a response. It was time to harvest semen and my gratitude ran deep concerning one factor, that I was a willing assistant for fertilization and that the semen harvesting duties landed squarely on the shoulders of the “Sperm Lady.”
Time is lost as broodmares bloom
And burdens are forced upon these
Selfless prophets of the future
Carrying larger loads of kindness
Until gait is stricken and limbs give way
All the dogs followed me to the main barn. Their interest was never satiated and when any human ventured out to the barn, there was bound to be a novel set of circumstances ready to occur that had not quite ever coincided before in their own short histories. Buster, or Bustoza as I called him, was the senior, highly intuitive, wise and communicative boarder collie. If there was one dog that functioned as chairman of operations and was knowledgeable about all the up to the minute comings and goings on the ranch it was Buster. Buster ordered around the other dogs and all the humans and his methods of communication were profound and varied. I once tabulated over thirty different tones and tenors of barks and howls verbalized by Buster to represent the different commands he issued or the opinions he disseminated. And that was just in one day.
Buster was always first to realize something or someone new had breached the perimeter of the ranch. Joey the young miniature Australian Shepherd was a close second and it was usually Joey who pointed out what or whom was now within the confines of the property, but that was simply Joey’s speed allowing him to track down an intruder faster than the other dogs. The fact was, Buster always picked up on the scent or the sound first and knew to rapidly dispatch Joey to the scene. The other dogs were all quite perceptive, except for the black lab Diesel who loved chewing rocks, and they all swung into action immediately at Buster’s behest.
The other dogs had gathered by the exit of the south barn where Jesse was finishing up his work. All the dogs were intent on heading over to main barn where I was and the brood mares were housed and eating. Being isolated from human contact and having more interaction with the domesticated animals on a ranch led to my mind anthropomorphizing both the dogs and horses much more than I otherwise would.
This was a place where a great deal of thinking was done. Cowboys are poets of a minimalist strain of language that exits the lexicon and swoops down like a hawk picking up only vital instruments of survival. The need for excessive language is trimmed away and a critical action or feeling is peeled and turned over in the hand until the description is part of an animal’s hide or the majestic horizon.
Thoughts were meant to exist inside the mind and not out in the open air or on a computer screen. Every once in a while things happened and events conspired to overwhelm the basic daily edifice of non-verbal understanding. It was then that mining for a word or dredging up a feeling became necessary as a warning or an alert in the midst of a steady stream that carries the stoic understanding and resilience to address what the day brings.
Out on the hillside by the vacant blind
Where the deer believe they hide
Apples and pears express the sweet fermentation of sunlight
Angst holds court in the singular landscape
Clutching me as loneliness finds its portal
A hidden opening in the corner of the sky
It seems that homes and intentional structures don’t really belong here in this landscape. They feel so transient amidst the permanence of the mountainous shoulders and the looming pines and rocky canyons with everlasting rivers. People try to root their homes down with heavy tile floors and concrete fortified with rebar steel. What is dotting the vast expanses of barren land seems superfluous and out of place. Like a bivouac during heavy bombing or the wasted words on a pure white canvas meant to remain white while waiting for wordless music.
Language becomes replaced by intuitive gestures and other non-verbal means of communication. This infiltrates the house and alters ways of communication among the few people in the area. The need to communicate eloquently and with verbal prowess in this environment is supplanted by an expectation that everyone pick up on the myriad methods of non-verbal expression. A lack of perception or an unwillingness along these lines leads to loss of closeness and intimacy with others, notably a close partner or wife, in this context. The repeated displays of non-verbal pleadings that remain unrecognized turn to resentments. These resentments lead to further gestures highlighting the loss of dependence on words for conveying what is in the soul. Some people require that their responsibilities and the desires of their partner be spelled out while others fancy a partner that looks and understands using skills that translate a host of hunches and secret desires into a clearly understood reality
In this centuries old task
Where words are of no use
There is a Body-English touch
To the horse’s flank
The urgent rub of the prominent scapula
Connected to the gilding’s heartstrings
That brings on a new friend
Where language no longer flourishes in the open air, there is a cartography of the heart that creates the longitudinal lines and meridians that map those interior expressions of feeling that have trouble coming out as well. I defer to the animals, notably the dogs, to instruct in the regard that is second nature to them and difficult for humans to grasp fully. When I become confused and conversation at the wrong time is a fool’s errand, then a good walk with the dogs helps me brush up on relationships.
Hierarchies and pecking orders among dogs and horses is a fascinating study in socialization. It starts with the innate characteristics and personality traits of the animal. Does a word exist for the character quirks and traits of an animal that would be described along human lines? Again, the tendency towards anthropomorphizing rears itself.
Buster was in charge of the entire campus and all the other dogs. Batman, an overweight, highly intelligent miniature Australian shepherd, was the only dog allowed in the house, therefore he considered himself guardian of the interior living quarters. Joey, another Aussie, was Batman’s offspring, and he was a lean and fast watchdog, who covered and flew around the ranch like a hawk, riling up any deer or coyote that ventured too close. The pair of black labs Diesel and Fish were happy to be here and went along with anything while Chuck the chocolate lab was the Cary Grant of dogs, polite, caring, lean and elegant with a desire to please and look good.
There is an authenticity to the dogs and each one could be depended on to follow through by manifesting their personality strengths and weaknesses in a given situation. This form of honesty forms mutual trust with dog and owner even though people have trouble aspiring to the same level of authenticity.
Once over at the south barn with all the dogs I checked on Taylor and Ice as well as Otis the old cow horse, blind in one eye who was the best roping training horse for the kids and any young rider. Patient, understanding and unflappable, having seen it all, Otis never got riled or over excited. His skeleton was breaking down and it was Otis who taught me which chiropractic manipulations worked best. I could sense his pain yet he never refused work.
Taylor was a champion barrel racing horse, now in his late thirties and in the twilight of his career. He was still racing and he realized that he was the most accomplished horse on the ranch yet he was feeling his age. As a result his performance schedule had become more restricted and its possible he was losing a step or that certain edge that only the limelight and buzz of the crowd at races can sustain. He still had his moments in the sun, but two younger gildings were ready to surpass him in the next couple of years. Taylor was the most affectionate horse on the ranch in addition to being the tallest at seventeen hands. He was given the special treatment of a king: King Taylor. He was like Jim Brown at the end of his career, a step slower but physically just as imposing as he was in his prime. His stall was twice the size of the other horses and he was fed special hay, special alfalfa, and special grain.
It is unusual for a tall stallion to be as successful as Taylor in the world of barrel racing. I compare a barrel racing horse to a running back in football. A wide receiver is akin to a racehorse. The best running backs are strong and agile and fast but usually not exceptionally tall. The ability to change direction quickly and on a dime is valued more than straight-ahead speed in both barrel horses and running backs. Height for a racehorse or wide receiver is valued as is straight-line speed, where simply outrunning the competition is the main objective. Barrel racing, like a running back cutting into a hole in football, requires a lowering of the center of gravity to make a very rapid turn while in a low flexed-limb position. Tall humans and tall horses have a higher center of gravity therefore it is more difficult to accomplish this with top speed. That said, Taylor was not limited at all by his height and though not overly common there have been some great running backs who are taller than most.
I loved Taylor. I felt like he and I had a long-term friendship but I really only knew him for four years. Some days I would save cleaning his stall for last. After I finished feeding him and cleaning his stall I would simply relax with Taylor and brush him and give him some of the chiropractic manipulations I had learned. I talked to him for hours at a time and I believe he could sense my moods. I shared my thoughts with him. Taylor listened when I spoke to him, and sometimes I would have moments of inspiration during the time I spent with this horse. He was more than a horse. Most horses don’t look directly at you. He looked me in the eyes. He would look up and show me where the weather was changing. He was exceedingly sensitive to the weather. If I was around him I could tell just when it would rain or snow.
He had a great deal of soreness that he didn’t express to others and I would massage spots in his lower cervical spine and back that needed to be treated. I never saw him lay down, and I often wondered what my body would feel like if I rarely took the weight off my legs. He and I connected on a profound level even though I did not ride him and in the evenings as the sun was setting, I could sit in his stall and while observing him my mind would take turns of poetic flight and my imagination would sculpt out new terrain that I wouldn’t have time to contemplate while occupied with work. There was a meditative trance I found myself activating when I sat with Taylor. It gave me access to my unconscious terrain and an awareness of the vast reservoir that serves art and the spirit, similar to the unseeable distances at the horizon that can be known by turning away from the mind-numbing work in the world and focusing on the sheer beauty that is served up as a gift to the eyes.
Taylor’s stall, and maybe Trump’s, were the only horse’s living spaces where I would pull up a chair and sit for an hour or two after all the chores were completed and simply read a book or write in a journal. With Trump it was to continue his socialization maturation process but with Taylor it was because he taught me about life. Taylor inspired me by being an authentic individual. Everything I watched him do was fascinating to me. Simply chewing his hay and grain, the way he would shift his weight while standing to take the stress off one side for a while, his reactions to sounds and subtle changes in his environment. To understand anatomy and to watch the contraction of a horse’s massive sinews and great chains of muscle gave rise to thoughts of Rodin and Greek mythological creatures. I became enthralled with a world where communication did not involve words, where sensations ruled and were noticed acutely and obeyed at all cost.
A horse has the eyesight of a bird of prey and often they are the first to notice a coyote or deer before the dogs hear or smell the new guest. While people constantly say what they don’t mean and lie about their feelings most of the time, a horse is deadly honest. I would carefully watch as Taylor paused and stopped chewing and slowly looked up into the distance. Was it a change in the weather, an animal approaching the barn, a sound coming from miles off, or was he pausing to process a sensation that he was not sure of? In a world of social media and ego and false selves projected onto the great collective computer monitor spewing lies and fantasy, a horse is anointed a saint of honest goodness and pure curiosity, a beast of burden whose function is not as vital as it once was, but a survivor who is a forever available comrade to humanity no matter what the request may be.
There was an otherworldly feeling the first time I stood next to a horse. These animals are not like dogs or cats and the sheer massive muscularity of these beasts is intimidating. They are domesticated yet have a wild nature that is contained and repressed and at any moment ready to erupt into fierce demonstrations of unchecked power. I never realized their affectionate natures and the intuitive love they feel and freely give if they have trust. Most people move abruptly and carelessly around a horse. This disturbs them and creates nervousness and distrust. A horse does not realize its power but if one is gentle with movements and gestures a horse is capable of calmly returning its most gentle tendencies.
I followed heartfelt wanderings
Away from structure and surgical tedium
Into a tempting vibrancy
Ruled by love’s escape
Aspiring to embrace new horizons
Fooled by the new rush to fantasy’s ridge
Feeling the new overtake the senses and grow
Never to be more authentic
A woman who thrives on horses abides by a different set of rules with the man in her life. The horse will temper her experience and she becomes accustomed to the sensitive, moody nature of a horse. She wants to please the horse and she hopes the horse will take a loving approach to her, but there will be uncontrollable moments of erratic, and sometimes violent behavior manifested by this animal she has bonded with and entrusted with her life. There is a tremendous degree of respect for the horse. She can’t imagine acting in a way that would disrespect or hurt the horse. Though the man, for the most part, does not pose the violent threat to her that the horse does, her experiences with the horse lead her to express her admiration and respect in a similar way towards her man. There is an understanding of the purity both men and horses have in the arena of battle. The man and the horse want to give their all, and often will give their life for the woman, so there is this inherent gratitude a woman feels if her man is honest and authentic and genuine, even when it comes to dirt and sweat and the foul odors of competition that are manifested by both horse and man. A woman learns to appreciate the effort of the horse over perfection. She understands fallibility and certain layers where communication may not be possible. There is a singleness of purpose that horses demonstrate that is seen in men with strong personalities and understanding this quality in a horse creates empathy towards her man. A woman who loves a horse, appreciates the stark differences between a man and a woman, and as a result craves the musculature and embrace of her man.
These thoughts usually rise up and dwell for a while without being verbalized. In this outpost of wild lifestyles marrying the modern with the Sooner’s sense of straddling savage inroads, comfort and domesticity wave quite as different flag. The western fringe feels like being part of something that real cities have lost in the turmoil of overlapping neighborhoods and the redundancies of an imagination gone stale. A part of something that always seems to fall short and away. When reality can’t match fantasy and you find yourself falling into a world of dreams unfulfilled, hopes dashed and sirens calling back a thunderous yearning now redirected to where it all started. Only with nothing there in an arena with no prisoners except yourself left to regain the footing of a new life that now takes with it the deep scars etched inside the outer shell of joy, a hopeful scaffold aligned with a God-consciousness carrying all the love and lessons that an imperfect passion can bestow.
And then there was Ice. Ice was the lone stud on the ranch, a palomino male specimen, who had all the goods any quarter-horse owner could desire. He stood sixteen and seven tenths hands tall with a sandy coat and a platinum blonde flowing mane that blew in the wind as he raced around his large outdoor pen. The musculature around his gaskins and shoulders prominently contracted as he pranced impatiently waiting to be fed. All horses are muscular but Ice had prominent coils of lean muscle where other horses have very little and his legs were aligned to perfection.
Ice descended from an extensive lineage of barrel racing champions as well as racehorses and was capable of setting records if he wasn’t assigned to the task of breeding some of the finest competitive quarter horses on the west coat. Ice was fed more alfalfa and grains than the other horses and his metabolism easily processed his caloric intake. He also had a daily regimen of all the best antioxidants and seeds and oils to maximize his genetic potential. He lived over in the south barn with mostly gildings, aging cow horses and other young males away from the broodmares and Phillies. He seemed to be calm and even-tempered but I was always cautious around him. You can never be too careful around a stud horse. If one were to watch Ice breed it will give anyone pause and having witnessed that level of violence most inexperienced individuals would not venture close to that horse. Once when he was a couple of years younger he bit a ranch hand on the side of the face with no provocation and no warning as the ranch hand was simply walking by a little too close to the stall.
When I was still green in my ranch skill-set, I was finishing up on a rapidly darkening evening one early winter night and I entered Ice’s outdoor pen to retrieve the wheelbarrow that had been left there. As I opened his gate wider than usual he escaped. It was pitch dark and like a flash he was gone. He moved so fast it appeared that the minute he was outside the confines of his pen the darkness seemed to encase him and swallow him up and then there was pure air and darkness with me trembling in the surreal moment. I envisioned him making it to the main road a mile away and being hit by a car or simply disappearing.
I panicked and gathered help. I ran and gesticulated, and yelled the choice words of a man paralyzed by fear and helpless to act. . With the help of the others and the dogs we located Ice, assembled a makeshift long column of a fence with the portable components usually reserved for travel when a pen needed to be assembled on the road. This fence formed a corridor leading to his pen and with me on a four-wheeler leading and chasing him in the direction of this ramshackle fence pushing him toward the opening he decided to enter and hence he was back in captivity. I learned that the fencing is familiar to him and he desires the familiarity of enclosure, and it really wasn’t the stroke of pure luck I initially thought. While on the loose, however, he kicked over two outdoor water spouts and almost trampled two of the dogs who were aggressively trying to herd him back.
I savored this like tasting the fruit of a new song
A foreign lexicon of chores and muscle memory
But the jargon and base outline never took
The marchers assembled and vowed toward city lights
Curt hints about unrealized expectations
Cut through the terrain of my heart.
It was business as usual the next week and it was time to consider how we were going to fertilize all these broodmares. In the past, semen had been harvested by others, so-called experts in the field and it was time to learn how to do it ourselves. So we asked around and found someone willing to teach her technique. She came highly recommended and went by the moniker of “Semen Lady.”
The “Semen Lady,” also known as Doreen was a woman of sixty who resided on a small farm in Longview Washington. She owned three horses and about twenty acres with a barn and plenty of pasture for horses to graze. Her main passion was breeding boxers. She and her husband were biologists and their livelihood had involved performing complex bench work research on genetic conditions affecting both horses and dogs at the Washington State Veterinary School in Pullman. She retired from this four years ago when they both went off on their own and moved to Longview. Her husband’s role in this was unclear. She had a laboratory on site in her home and access to a variety of outside labs where she could send specimens to diagnose a host of genetic disorders or generate information she was incapable of detecting.. She also had many contacts willing to pay top dollar for proven performance horse semen. She was more than willing to teach how to harvest, check for live sperm under the microscope and divide each sample into just enough to fertilize a mare, then preserve the specimens for storage and transport. Once we were back at the ranch the vet would assist with the actual fertilization process.
Doreen’s husband was wandering around the property with several of the dogs in tow. An overweight boy in his late teens wearing a red trucker style baseball cap and dirty unkempt jeans and a sweat shirt busied himself with a riding mower and appeared to be familiar with the dogs and the property. As we approached the barn the dogs knew to steer clear. There were cages aligned on both side of the modest ranch style house that was twenty yards from the barn. Each cage had a litter of puppies nursing. The dogs outside walking were males and they checked on the cages and had free reign to walk in and out of the house.
The barn was small with three stalls. In one corner was a large black padded cylindrical dummy approximately three feet in diameter and six feet long. It was wrapped extensively with duct tape and was attached to a wood frame stand that angled it upward. It resembled a typical football tackling dummy seen on a driving sled but the wood frame positioned it to resemble the hindquarters and back of a horse.
The stalls were empty with two being adjacent to the entrance and one positioned across from the dummy on the wood frame. The stall across from the dummy had a split-door where a horse could be inside with only the bottom half of the door closed allowing the occupant of that stall to be easily seen.
Doreen beckoned the boy to run into the house and fetch her some equipment. She familiarized us with the set-up and summarized what we were about to do. I walked over to one trailer and placed a lead on Ice and walked him to one of the stalls near the entrance to the barn. Jesse, the ranch hand, did the same with Sara who was in the second trailer and placed her in the stall with the half door across from the dummy.
The moment Sara entered the barn Ice smelled her scent and began kicking the wall of the stall violently. He neighed loudly and in a more prolonged fashion reaching octaves and registers that were atypical. His neigh was different from its normal sound. Usually one gets used to hearing the ordinary sound a horse makes when it is separated from other horses. This vocalization had a higher pitch and was a desperate screeching yearning sound that had a pathetically sad tenor to it. I had not heard any of the other horses make a sound like this. It didn’t sound like fear, yet I became anxious listening to it and there was now a more serious pall that overtook everyone standing in the barn. Ice kept this up as Sara began to wink and raise her tail. I could see Ice rearing up over the top edge of the stall door.
The teenage boy, who turned out to be Doreen’s son, returned with her requested gear. He had a football helmet that one might buy for a child, shoulder pads and an extra large T-shit. There were forearm pads and knee pads as well. Doreen proceeded to dress and once she donned her outfit I couldn’t help thinking she looked like a confused grandmother dressed to go to a post-apocalyptic pick-up football game during a Mad Max film. Doreen then pulled out the glove. This was an interesting silicone condom tube that was long enough to accommodate a baseball bat and on one side of it a rubber glove was fused. She filled the condom tube with KY jelly and placed the glove on.
We all stood and looked at each other. Her husband was standing in the doorway of the barn and I glanced at Jesse as he looked at Doreen. Jesse proceeded to enter Ice’s stall and attach two ropes to his bridle. He exited the stall with Ice and threw me the other rope. Ice ran straight for Sara’s Stall and if I hadn’t given my rope a massive pull Ice would have hurdled the half door. We were instructed by Doreen to watch the erection forming on Ice as we controlled him. Controlling Ice with one rope would have required tremendous strength, however the pull of two force vectors at a ninety degree angle to each other kept the horse reasonably stationary as he reared up and continued his desperate neighing while his tumescence increased. Once Doreen approved of his erection Jesse and I united our vectors and pulled Ice towards the dummy while Ice kept his eyes fastened on Sara. He suddenly moved forward towards the wood frame and reared up to mount the dummy.
Just then with a brand of quickness I never would have anticipated Doreen ran to Ice’s left hind side and slid on her flexed knees like a volley ball player executing a crucial dig. She forearmed him in the flank to let him know she was there and she inserted his erect penis into the large condom. Ice meanwhile started to slide off the dummy to one side toward Doreen as my pull on the rope was slightly angled and as the horse slid he knocked Doreen over. Ice landed on his front hooves as Doreen barrel-rolled out of his way. We allowed Ice to back up and venture closer to Sara’s stall and then resumed the ninety degree rope pull while Doreen readied herself and gave us the signal. This time I moved closer to Jesse and Ice again violently mounted the dummy tearing up duct tape as he tried to balance his front legs on the pad. Like a flash Doreen dove onto her knees even quicker this time sliding into perfect position and once again encased the male organ in the condom. Ice was now well-centered on the pad and his hips were thrusting powerfully and rhythmically while the side of his buttocks knocked against Doreen’s head as she gripped his penis with her hand and massaged back and forth and up and down the length of the shaft. After ten seconds of this Ice let out another gut wrenching neigh as his body froze into a paralyzed contracture against the dummy. Doreen continued to work away and I could see the bag filling with milky liquid. Doreen then released her grip on Ice and sped for cover as the horse seemed to seize into a stone-cold state of unconsciousness for a second or two. This was followed by Ice sliding off the dummy and almost falling onto his right side when he suddenly woke up, caught himself, and landed on his front hooves. Jesse released his rope and I led Ice back to his stall as the horse walked slowly and behaved like a docile animal that had no energy or strength left.
Harvesting semen from Ice was no easy task and in addition to being challenging and risky, it was on certain days, life-threatening. Once a sample was secured from Ice, four mares could usually be inseminated or if a breeder wished to acquire his semen a five figure fee was the cost.
Doreen emerged unscathed as did the rest of us. The horses were packed up in their respective trailers and the drive back was uneventful. I wondered why we didn’t just put all the broodmares out in the pasture and let Ice work his way naturally through each one. Replication is a savage act in the world of horses and as mammals there is a little bit of Ice in all males of the world. In the wild the mares that survive the breeding process are stronger and more genetically hardy than those who do not. Breeding is as serious as life and death. As humans it is part of our calling and heritage to try to find a way to manipulate the elegant set of reproductive criteria nature has designed to best allow the genetically most advantageous horses to proliferate. We say, no, I want more of this breed so God and the divine nature that decides which animals are called upon to occupy the future races becomes muddied by the short-sighted expectations of those with the power to be just dangerous enough. The fact that most people forget is that in a world where humans arose the great mastermind behind the curtain realizes this and all of our misguided human errors are already understood and planned for as part of the ever so natural evolutionary cycle that cannot ever really be manipulated because we are part of the grand scheme and not as special and unique as we think. The human mind will never be capable of truly understanding the big picture.