“He was tied up to the trailer out behind the stands, a blaze-face palomino gelding, roughly 15 hands, high withers, slightly ewe-necked, back a little swayed, …white hairs on his muzzle,eyes sunk in with age. An old warrior with his best years long since gone away, left here baby-sitting at a small-town horse play-day.
Watched over by her parents, a young girl kissed the horse; they coached her on the fine points and wished her luck, of course. He hardly seemed to notice when the small girl took his lead; he followed without balking but not with any speed. She climbed on and walked him round some, he went without a fuss; his head was down, the reins were slack, his feet dragged in the dust.
When they called her name his ears pricked up, she sat up in her seat; trotting to the gate there was new lightness in his feet. When they got into the alley he flared his nostrils wide, picked up the bit and arched his neck, she latched on for the ride. She let him go and as they went the years melted away, and he was once again the barrel horse he’d been in younger days.
With eyes on fire and muscles bunched, raw power in his stride, blazing speed and energy wrapped in horse’s hide. He had chased the cans from old Cheyenne to the Calgary Stampede, from Amarillo to Salinas, he had lived the game horse creed: “Run to live, live to run,” it was printed in his genes, from nose to tail his big heart pumped blue blood through his veins.
Coming through the pattern they touched the last can some; it was still up on its edge when they were halfway home. When she asked him for a little, he gave her all he had; the barrel stood, the run was good, and the time was not too bad. When she pulls the saddle he’s an old horse once again, but while he’s running barrels, he’s all he’s ever been.
So here’s to that old gamer — may our golden years like his be filled with golden moments and glorious memories, Of races run and races won, of places that we’ve been, of friends we’ve made along the way and good things we have seen, And someone who will need us for what we still can do– may our needs be small, our wants be less, and our troubles be but few.”