This is my old friend, the aptly named Nice Fellow. I'll have to scour my drawers for a better picture of him. I know I must have one somewhere.
Nice Fellow, the only beast I've ever met with a genuine sense of humor. I've seen him be wickedly mischievous when he knew it would fly well... while keeping infinite amounts of patience and kindness for the younger children and the beginners, like I once was.
Once, a friend and I were going for our respective mounts that day in the pasture. I quickly had the halter on Oural; my friend was attempting to get Nice Fellow. Who would happily trot just out of reach whenever she came closer. Not very far: just out of reach. When I began laughing, she handed me the halter.
I handed Oural off to her, took the halter, and called Nice.
He promptly stopped trotting away and, to my friend's lasting consternation, came to me at once, looking no small bit smug and quite pleased with himself.
I'm still smiling.
On the way back from the pasture, there was that trough where we'd stop to let the horses drink. One day, Nice and I stopped there as usual; when he looked up at me from his drinking, I started moving on... upon which he promptly dipped his muzzle back into the water. Okay. I let him drink, waiting for him to look up again... and the second I made to move on, he went back to the water again.
This time I paid attention.
The lazy old bastard, hoping to delay work, was pretending to drink.
I kid you not.
Once, when he was younger and still being trained for riding, the school owner had set him loose in the manège to make him jump some low obstacles; you do that to let young horses get the hang of it without the encumbrance of a rider or a lead.
Nice Fellow disdained the low obstacle, sidestepped it, galloped off, and cheerfully jumped the wall of the manège instead.
That's Nice Fellow for you.
I used to spend a lot of time at my riding school as a kid, whether I had any reason to be there or not. There was always something to do, you know, hay to distribute, boxes to clean, horses to groom... Sometimes, during summer breaks, we were allowed to choose horses and go ride them in the woods, so that they wouldn't stay too long without being ridden. I usually picked Nice, when I could. We were old pals, you know? He knew me in and out, and I knew him just as well.
I managed to keep riding once a week even during the thick of my studies, back when I was in classes préparatoires, when I could come back home every weekend. Then I moved halfway across the country for further studying, and that's when I stopped riding.
I still visited my riding school now and then over the years, and even managed to ride a little while I was unemployed. My last visit was a good while ago, though.
When I returned there this weekend with jallora, I should have known to prepare myself mentally, I suppose. Somehow, I didn't, though. I mean, intellectually, I knew what to expect; it's nothing like confronting it emotionally, though.
Nice Fellow, Oural, Orion... All those of their generation... They're dead, of course, all of them. All but one: faithful old Pudding, gone almost white with age, but still there, and still standing. At first I didn't recognize him. Then I think I must have paled and murmured, "Oh my god..."
I caressed his nostrils. He licked my hand.
It was good to see him one last time.
There are times like this when I can almost understand the urge to stop thinking, and to believe instead. Hopes of afterlife... I wish I could believe there is, somewhere beyond the rainbow bridge, an eternal pasture where they're waiting for me, and where we'd ride together again.
So long, my old fellows. It's a colder world out there without you.