“You Be the Judge,” by Catherine Morita

By Guest Contributor November 7, 2016 16:51

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Catherine and Shillelagh

Catherine and Shillelagh

You Be the Judge

By Catherine Morita

I have always loved horses, and got my first horse Shillelagh, in 1968, when I was thirteen. He was a green-broke bay gelding, just over two. Shillelagh and I grew up together and became best friends, as we rode everyday along the wash road and in the endless hills surrounding Simi Valley, California. There were lots of horses and motorcycles, and we all shared the trails amicably.

My brother Steve had a Hodaka 125cc motorcycle, and we would often meet along the trails, with our friends or alone and talk. I would brag to Steve how horses were better than motorcycles, and he would ride wheelies around us, saying, “Motorcycles, just fill em’ up with gas and go.”

Steve on his Hodaka 125cc motorcycle

Steve on his Hodaka 125cc motorcycle

Over the years, Shillelagh and I bonded, and he taught me many lessons, responsibility, compassion, kindness and patience just to name a few. And Shillelagh trusted me, and would do anything I asked of him. I tried explaining this to Steve, but he wouldn’t listen. During those years we rode in Simi Valley, there were three occasions, where Shillelagh and I were able to actually show Steve how horses were superior to motorcycles.

The first occasion came when Steve and I met on the trail one day and were talking about nothing in particular. We were next to a very tall and steep hill with rich, deep soil so soft that it would crumble like chocolate cake. We often used this hill as a short cut, sliding down it, but no one had ever been able to climb up it because the dirt was so deep.

I leaned over Shillelaghs’ bare back and stroked his soft neck talking to him gently. I urged him forward, and what started out as a slight incline got steeper and deeper as it rose. We managed to get more than half way up the hill, and his legs sank so deep, that I began to wonder if we would be able to make it to the top. But Shillelagh wouldn’t give up. He would steady himself for a few breaths and gain his footing, then take a huge lurch, higher and higher until we finally scrambled over the top.

The next opportunity came, when Steve and I were talking from opposite sides of a five-foot, barbed wire fence. Without saying a word, I rode Shillelagh back a bit, turned him around, and we galloped up to and flew over the fence with the ease and grace of a bird.

In 1973, the city purchased a parcel of land where a very large, run-down stable stood. Over the course of several months, bulldozers and tractors leveled the area, leaving only the trees behind.  They laid sod, built tennis courts and such, and also forged a man-made lagoon.

Steve and I met again one afternoon next to the lagoon. I realized this would be the best way to show him once-and-for-all, the supremacy of the horse. I gently squeezed my legs around Shillelagh’s barrel, and without any hesitancy he strode forward, splashing gently into the water of the lagoon. The water deepened with each step, and pretty soon he began gliding and lurching in slow motion, with me hanging onto his mane trying to keep from sliding off.  We walked out on the other side just as pretty-as-you-please.

The wash road in Simi Valley, California

The wash road in Simi Valley, California

It was the most thrilling and electrifying experiences I ever had, and I couldn’t wait to tell Steve about it. When we rode back around the lagoon to where Steve sat on his bike, he wasn’t the least bit interested. He just rode off with his head hanging low. He didn’t like being beaten by a girl, especially by his sister.

I know that motorcycles are useful and fun to ride, and can go much further and faster than a horse, but it is just a machine and all you need to do is turn a key. An average horse weighs approximately 800 to 1,000-pounds. It is a living, breathing, thinking, feeling creature, with a mind of its own. It is a large and intimidating animal, and it takes a great deal more talent, is much more of a challenge, and gives so much satisfaction, to be able to get that ‘beast of burden’ to do what you ask of it. And when you do, that horse will give you its all.

Although Steve will still champion the motorcycle, I am pretty sure that deep down, he knows that I am right.  What do you think?  I’ll let you be the judge.

A very long time ago I found a poem I think expresses my opinion in a succinct and powerful way. I believe it reads like this:

Look back at our struggle for freedom

Trace man’s present day strengths to its source

And you will find that Man’s Pathway to Glory

Was strewn with the bones of a horse.


By Guest Contributor November 7, 2016 16:51
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