from A Squandered Life / White Rock Horse '68
….both he and the horse somersaulted in a violent spray of sand.
Stuart's family had two horses and, one day off, he asked me if I could ride. Feeling semi-pro after my experiences in Alberta and at Younberg's I said “Sure.” He then said that one of the horses was slightly mad but that he would ride that one. Now that he'd mentioned it, I was pretty certain I could see a mad gleam in that horse's eyes, and I was glad to be getting on the other one.
My horse was a big tall magnificent animal and getting up was no mean feat, but, once aboard, I felt like a king. It was early morning as we set off down a track through the forest towards the sea. We clip clopped through the hight street of a sleepy little beach community and came out on to a truly vast expanse of beach.
“Wanna gallop?” called Stuart and we set off flying across the sand like a pair of desert cyclones. I'd never ever galloped so furiously on a horse. We came to a halt at the water's edge. I was totally totally exhilarated. We were both beaming in the morning light as the horses snorted and shook their heads and splashed through the shallow water.
We turned for home and Stuart pointed out that people were beginning to appear on the beach. “We'd better take it easy,” he said, “We can't gallop when there's people about.”
So we walked and cantered a bit, and then suddenly, Stuart took off. That seemed a bit odd given what he'd just said, but I saw him look back at me with a startlingly ashen face, aghast and helpless. I thought I should try and keep up but his horse was now really flying and I could see Stuart hanging on for dear life. In stead of swerving back up the road to the left, the pair of them carried on down the beach. Further on there were beach cottages with back gardens that opened up straight on to the beach. As they careened down the length of the narrowing beach I saw a little girl come running out of one of the back gardens. She ran straight under Stuart's horse and both he and the horse somersaulted in a violent spray of sand.
As I approached I saw the inert figure of the little girl with Stuart a few yards on struggling to his feet. The horse too had got to its feet and carried on fleeing. As I came abreast, Stuart was kneeling next to the girl and people were coming from the houses. Stuart looked up at me with an expression of anguish and horror, but glanced down the beach and pointed to the disappearing horse. I left him crouched over the girl as people gathered round and set off after his horse.
My horse strode majestically in pursuit but we couldn't catch up until the other tired and eventually stopped to graze on some grass growing between the beach and a railway line that swerved in from the low hills to the east. We approached slowly and I dismounted and managed to get hold of the other horse's reins. Both horses were sweating and shaking and I let them both graze for a bit. By now I was shaking too, like a flipping leaf, as I wondered what might be happening back at the scene of the accident.
When we'd all stopped shaking enough, I re-mounted and set them walking back the way we'd come. We'd come a long way in that mad gallop and by the time we got back to the beach side houses, there was no one to be seen. No little girl, no Stuart, no gathering people. I found out later that Stuart had gone with the girl and her parents to the hospital, but all I could do was walk the horses back through the quiet high street and up to Stuart's family place. I unsaddled them and fed and watered them, and then went into the house to face the facts.
Astonishingly, the girl was all right. Stuart was still with her and her parents at the hospital, but she'd recovered consciousness and hadn't broken anything. Stuart stayed there the rest of the day but appeared back home in the evening, looking drawn and exhausted. He was in tears as he related that the first thing the girl had said when she came to was, “Is the horse okay?” He shook his head. “That damn horse,” he said, “Took the bit and took right off. I could only hang on.” He visited that girl in hospital every day until she was let out a week or so later.
© 2013 Deacon Martin