EQUUS CABALLUS (The Horse)
© Donald Crane
Winner, 2010, Hunter Bush Poets' Championship - serious section and overall, Morisset, NSW.
This poem is a tribute to equines in general, but in particular to our own Australian stock horse.
All ye who live a blinkered life and tread not oft on foreign strand,
And think the bounds of equine breeds are those we see in our own land,
Should be aware; there is no land, no spot or place nor distant shore,
Where bays and chestnuts have not roamed, where equines have not trod before.
From icy peaks to deserts vast, in heat and cold – in every clime,
Two hundred breeds of horse and more leave hoof-prints in the sands of time.
On frozen tundra, steppe and veldt, in every land where wind has blown,
The local horsemen ride the breeds they proudly train and claim their own.
The equine world is quite diverse with breeds and names that few would know,
With each adapted to their clime, from desert sand to mountain snow.
Diverse in colour, type and breed, the duns and buckskin, creamies, bays,
The skewbald ponies, heavy draughts, the browns and blacks and dapple greys.
Extremes in conformation too, besides the roans and the pied,
As tiny Falabellas stand hock high ‘side cold-bloods from the Clyde.
In colour, temper, strength and speed, in nature, markings and physique,
As ‘tis with man, so too with horse, each equine is itself ‘unique’.
There forms a vision as I sit and grant my thoughts unfettered rein,
A phantom mob of horses pass with flashing hooves and flying mane.
As fluid as a mountain stream, as silent as a winging bird,
Entranced, I watch them gallop by, a ghostly, spectral, equine herd.
Majestic gallant desert horse, the Akhel Tekes take the lead,
The genesis of modern horse whose genes are found in every breed.
And Anglo Arab, Cob and Shire, Icelandic ponies from the pole,
Famed Spanish Lipizanners pass, proud graduates of Haute Ecole.
And riders come, and good ones too, the world’s best horsemen on parade,
With bolas, whips and lariats, in skilful hands, their tools of trade.
In sport and battle, work or show, for centuries they’ve honed o’er time
The skills required, the gear and guile, demanded by terrain and clime.
I see the Russian Cossacks ride, with Mongol herdsmen on the Barb,
Vaqueros, Gauchos, Mounties too, resplendent all in national garb.
An endless stream of horsemen pass from many lands across the miles,
A host of diff’rent equine breeds, a range of diverse riding styles.
Where’er my random thoughts do roam, from east to west and points between,
From every land ‘twixt pole and pole – an ever changing equine scene.
In Flemish fields the Bretons toil in plough and cart with Ardenais,
While ‘heavy lifting’ is the role of Percheron and Boulonnais.
The Connemara clubbers take a Sunday ride down English land
While mobs of Mustang, yet untamed, roam freely ‘cross the Pampas plain.
The Irish Draft roams county downs, the Garron’s home midst lochs and braes.
In desert sand, the Sumbas thrive; On Russian steppes, the Tarpans graze.
The show rings host the ‘pleasure horse’, those pets of stable and of stall,
Who ne’er have raised an honest sweat nor felt the sting of spur or gall.
But in the west on stations vast, where days are long and work is hard,
Our Aussie Stockhorse reigns supreme in must’ring camp and bronco yard.
On every outback cattle run, in droving plants, on polo ground,
This peerless hardy Aussie breed, the Brumby Waler can be found.
Ten thousand of the finest went with Anzac boys to fight a war,
And to a horse they gave their lives, midst shock and shell and guts and gore.
And so it is since dawn of time that noble horse has proved its worth,
In camp or circus, show or track, the loy’lest friend on this great earth.
And those of us who love ‘the horse’, do feel a sense, an inner glow,
A symbiotic bond we share that those sans horse can never know.
That nicker from the stable door, the whinny ‘cross the paddock gate,
A nuzzled sleeve when saddling up, all equine ‘lingo’ from a mate.
When each of us has run our race, the final lap of our life’s course,
Let none forget, with humble heart, the debt that mankind owes the horse.