Hold Your Horses

I heard Paul Hunter read at R.A.S.P. last winter. He writes poems about farming the way it used to be.

Hold Your Horses

First he taught me how to hold
come carrot or apple
fingers together palm up
because they can't see down past
that velvety nose to their mouth

so the treat even offered
by a harmless eight year old
might still cost a stray nip

then he showed me the bridle
with its steel bit set way back
in the space between their teeth
that could manage them only so far

so you don't want to overdo
and hurt them only then
did he show me how to take the reins
between my thumbs and fingers
to feel in their sensitive mouths
that surge and flow like a river

then finally told me what I need today
is for you to just hold them

so get up close alongside
the tamest of the old boys which is Bill
on a short lead persuade him to accept
that he will have to lift you
clean off the ground to take a step
convince him how much trouble
it would be to dance with you
dangling like a bauble off his chin
though rest assured that he could

he's going to nod and stamp a little
shake his head try to turn and see
back here what I am hitching up
he knows how big he is
likes to show he's impatient
see how much slack you will give
that he can take

but you stand still holding on
convince him with your calm
use both hands make your voice
steady but a little gruff

and even if you still don't half believe
who's boss convince yourself
you'll never lose your grip
let him go do something reckless

Paul Hunter