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Appaloosa
(1956 - / United Kingdom)

Appaloosa

<i>I have always loved the word guitar </i>
- David St. John

I have never been bumped in a saddle as a horse springs
from one diagonal to another,
a two-beat gait, light and balanced,
as the four-beats per stride become the hair-blowing,
wind-in-the-face, grass-rippling,
muscle-loosening, forward-leaning
exhilaration of the gallop.

And I have never counted the slow four-beat pace
of distinct, successive hoofbeats
in such an order as to be called The Walk.
Or learned capriole, piaffe, croupade in a riding school,
nor heard the lingo of outback cattle-cutters
spat out with their whip-ends and phlegm.

I have never stepped my hands over the flanks
of a spotted mare; nor hidden a Cleveland Bay
carriage horse, or a Yorkshire coach horse;
a French Percheron with musical snicker;
or a little Connemara its face buried
in broomcorn, or in a bin of Wexford apples.

I have never called a horse Dancer, Seabiscuit, Ned,
Nellie, Trigger or Chester, or made clicking
noises with my tongue, fifty kilometers
to town with a baulking gelding and a green
quartertop buggy. Nor stood in a field while
an old nag worked very acre,
only stopping to release difficult knobs of manure,
and swat flies with her tail. And though I have

waited for jockeys at the backs of stables
in the mist and rain, for the soft feel of their riding silks
and saddles, for the cool smoke of their growth stunting
cigarettes, for the names of the yearlings
and mares they whisper along with the names
of horse-owning millionaires—ah, more, more even
than them—I have always loved the word appaloosa.

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