In the woods at the back of my land is a section of trail I call Tranquility.
The path here follows an old roadbed lined with wild flowers and teeming with moss. Embankments on either side rise high above shoulder level and are dripping with a variety of ferns. An underground spring nearby keeps the air damp and misty. The place always gives you the feeling that you are not alone, but it is not eerie.
Cassara, my black Arabian mare, was a fiery sort, but she was calm and confident under saddle. This section of trail, however, awakened her fires, and she would always stop and raise her head upon entering. She opened her nostrils to blow and look up at the trees. She danced on her toes and jigged and stopped again as if to listen.
What was she thinking? What did she see? Why did her ears dart back and forth, as if hearing a different wavelength reserved only for fairies? I neither saw nor heard anything unusual. All I could do was sit and wait until she’d relaxed enough to walk forward. She always passed through the spot with her neck arched, but not in a spooky way, and I was not afraid. I think she enjoyed the coolness and breeze in her mane.
Cassara was a great-granddaughter of Cass Ole, the Arabian who starred in the movie The Black Stallion. She carried her ancestor’s spirit, intelligence and kindness. When I bought her, she had not been trained to saddle and I was only able to lead her. I was an inexperienced rider, and together we taught each other the subtlety of horsemanship and learned to understand one another. It was not always easy, and I had the bumps to prove it.
Over time our bond grew tight and true, and she had only to whinny at the gate for me to let her out of the pasture. I often let her graze without a halter or other restraint because she never wandered off or showed any interest in being with the other horses. She responded to my voice, and while I was doing barn chores, she kept her attention on me. Cassara taught the other horses how to come to the barn when called and she was the sentry who warned them of an intruder in the pasture.
I remember one particular trail ride where she came to a stop and would not budge. The other horses had not noticed the coyote digging into a rabbit hole a few hundred feet away. I heeded her warning and turned around---probably saving my dogs from a serious confrontation!
There are so many things that made her special, but to me just the privilege of spending 16 years with such a magnificent creature was reward enough. I did not own her; it was more like she owned me. I was attentive to her needs, and I was honored to be of service. Her intelligence was endlessly fascinating, and it seemed she always had something new to teach me.
When she was gone, she left a huge, gaping hole in my heart. I have loved other horses, but none inhabit the far recesses of my mind like she does. I prefer to remember her life and not dwell on her absence.
Still, I feel Cassara has not vanished entirely from this world. I like to believe that she has joined the mystical creatures who inhabit Tranquility trail. I sense her presence and beauty there every time I pass through.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #454, July 2015.