…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World
There was some sad news this week about a group of horses that were killed on railway lines here in the UK. [link]
Now, horses aren’t really a part of my life as such, other than I live in the countryside so I do see and encounter them from time-to-time – indeed, a mother and her fowl managed to escape from their paddock one night and quietly chomp on the grass outside the front of my house.
I’m usually on my bike when I come across them, so I have to be careful – like cows and sheep I don’t like to startle them if they’re nearby in a field, and if they’re using to road then I’m careful how I approach and pass. They can be easily startled by the strange appearance of a ‘man with wheels’, others are more alert to my approach than their rider.
The only times I’ve ridden on a horse (I wouldn’t say “ridden a horse” because I doubt that’s accurate!) were probably at things like school/summer fates. I’ve really never had any interest in riding a horse, and being told to just get on one/or being shoved towards one for a ride round a paddock seems awkward in hindsight. I consider them as living creatures with thoughts and feelings, and while generally the ones for random muppets like me to ride are trained for such events, at such events there seems to be little time for one-to-ones. I mean, if I were to climb on your back for a biggy-back ride, it would surely only be polite of me to introduce myself and check you’re really ok with it, right!?
As I was Googling for the above news I came across a blog page and picture depicting a couple of horses in the 1800-1900s and the sad news that many horses died on the streets, I suppose through a combination of slippy road surfaces and exhaustion. Just how harshly we treated these creatures before the arrival of the internal combustion I do not know – I can only hope that while at worst these hard-working creatures were slaves to our society back then, they were treated relatively well because their effort work reflect that.
Still, I found the above image particularly moving because of how the passing horse seems to look down on its stricken fellow horse – perhaps with a feeling of compassion, or even empathy. Indeed there are those that can be classed as animal empaths – perhaps I’m such a being. [link]
At the time of all this, I’m currently reading The Epic of Kings / Shahnameh by Ferdowsi. In it, one of the main characters, Rostam has a horse called Rakhsh and the reader learns of many trips and battles they do together. As Wikipedia outlines:
[Rakhsh is] a mighty colt with the chest and shoulders of a lion and it appears to have the strength of an elephant. He is highly intelligent and his loyalty is legendary. No one but Rostam ever rides Rakhsh, and Rakhsh recognizes no one but Rostam as his master. Also, he is the only horse ever that Rostam could ride, since his great strength and weight would kill other horses. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rakhsh
While thinking about writing this blog post about horses I arrived at the passage where a number of large pits are dug to capture Rostam – pits filled with swords, knives and spears, and then covered over to ensure his capture and death. On arriving at the covered pits, whilst being lured to the area with the prospect of a fruitful hunting expedition,
Rakhsh, smelling the scent of newly-turned earth, rolled his body about as though it were a ball. He plunged in terror at scenting the earth, tearing and ploughing the ground with his hoofs. The speedy courser began to pace the road delicately, till he came to a place between two [hidden] pits, and there Rostam’s heart filled with rage at Rakhsh [for a lack of understand as to why he was misbehaving]. Fate covered his eyes and he was maddened, so that he brought out a whip of supple leather with which he lashed at the unnerving Rakhsh and roused him to passion. Being hemmed in between two pits, he sought for a way of escape from the clutch of fate, but his hind legs plunged down into one of the pits, where there was no room either to hold fast or to struggle. The pit’s bottom was covered with knives and keen swords; no place there for courage and no means of escape, so that the flanks of the mighty Rakhsh were slashed through, as were the breast and legs of the stout Pahlavan [Rostam who] … dragged his own [wounded] body out and raised his head up oh of the pit [and shortly thereafter died].