Monday, November 17, 2008

As light fades into a New York November night

The past five days were busy with the Equine Affaire in Western Massachusetts. I was helping my sister and Californian Rex Peterson with their horse RJ Masterbug, one of the horses that played Hidalgo in the Disney film of the same name. RJ is one of the two primary horses who played the part (five were used in total). RJ is a true star. Men, women and children went ga-ga over him. People went crazy over meeting Rex as well, one of (if not the) top Hollywood horsemen of our times.

Today I got a late start, taking it easy this morning then finding myself distracted by non-farm responsibilities. It was late afternoon as I rode out from the barn for my final ride of the day on Spanish-native Duende, an Andalusian stallion. Duende is a gray in the horse world, but to most people he would simply be a white stallion.

As the two of us left the property today’s magic began. We rode out for about an hour as the November darkness quickly descended. I am easily taken over by delusions of grandeur, yet what could be grander than riding a horse who could have literally jumped out of the pages of a book of fairy tales?

The pockets of fall color that clung to the trees when I arrived two weeks ago are long gone. Today felt like winter. It was in the thirties and flurries of snow sprinkled down all day. Duende and I walked, trotted, cantered and galloped through the Dutchess County countryside. I relished every moment, knowing that my respite here is just about over. In the woods, a carpet of rapidly decaying leaves was underfoot. In the fields, summer grasses were long drooping as their winter hibernation began.

White tailed deer fluttered by frequently, on the run from fall hunters, and the man on the big white horse. The deer didn’t faze Duende--not much did. He’s a big sweet horse with a generous heart.

The sounds of the ride were memorable too. Flocks of geese squawking, the hooves of Duende clip clapping on the country lanes and pounding the Dutchess County dirt. The rhythm of Duende beneath me made me wish he and I could go off forever—to a mystical land.

As we were walking down the lane into the farm it was dark. A deer hunter straggled across our field toward his Dodge truck. A car pulled in behind us. The two headlights cast two giant shadows, side by side, of Duende and I dead ahead across an expanse of lawn. They were a pair of comically large outlines of a man on his horse, the perfect visual for ending the perfect ride.

I removed the tack, sprayed down the big white stallion’s legs, brushed him, and put his rug on for the cold November night. When I left him he was in his stall, munching hay.

Thanks Duende.

Jim Breitinger
Windrock Farm
Amenia, New York