Baxter Black: Slick — The Super Horse

I sat on a piece of art work. It had a beating heart. A ripple ran between my legs, a tremor at the start. No more than a one on the Richter scale. A glacier calving at the limits of my sonar.

“What do I do?” I asked the artist. “Ride him,” he said.

Sure. Just climb in Apollo 13 here, and take her for a spin. But I can ride, can’t I? I’m supposed to be a horseman.

I tensed in the saddle. No perceptible movement, just a rush of electrical charges to my extremities in preparation. Lighter than the flutter of a fly’s wing hitting a spider web. He felt it. He was instantly alert.

I clucked and shook the reins. He stepped out. Neck arched, feet placed perfectly, smooth as a glass slipper on ice. His skin shone – his mane shimmered – his stride measured – his strength apparent – his superiority unquestioned.

I became larger than life. I raised my imaginary sword. I was General Lee. King Arthur. Hernan Cortes. I was the last conquistador riding into history on a bronze horse.

A firm pressure on the throttle. An immediate response from the engine room. We kicked into a lope. I had complete confidence that he could bank, maybe even roll but I held the horizon steady.

Then laying the reins gently to his neck I signaled left. He actually turned his head back to the right and looked up at me with his big whale eye. A quick glance of irritation, a snap of impatience. “You’re oversteering,” said the artist, “Just the slightest touch and he’ll turn. Matter of fact, just think about turning and he will.”

Back into the gallop. I could hear calliope music. It is hard to ride something so majestic, so outrageous without imagining that the whole world is watching. Like escorting Lady Godiva down the aisle. You worry, ‘Do I look okay? Is my hat on backwards? Will I act a fool?’ But, of course no one is looking at you.

In my preflight check, landing instructions were simple: just say whoa. “Even running?” I asked. “Just say whoa.” In the time it would take a dally to tighten, he had gone from a gallop to a dead stop. Without even touching the brakes. The depth of training to achieve this feat is profound in my mind. Just say whoa. Try that in your BMW.

How is a piece of artwork like this accomplished. Once I asked a woodcarver about a statue he made of a dog. “How do you do it?” He said, “I just carve away everything that doesn’t look like a dog.”

It strikes me that training horses is like that.

I have ridden many horses. This horse was another dimension. As true a piece of artwork as a Remington painting.

I don’t know if I’ll ever ride a horse that good again. It was an unexpected gift that will satisfy many longings. See, I’ve also never ridden in a Lamborghini . . . but now I don’t have to.

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