Tack eyed the barn from the porch. His mind raced to Nightmare the 30 year old Tennessee Walker that was grazing in the pasture. It was a cool spring day one perfect for riding. Since he had gotten out of the nursing home two months ago all Tack could think about was ridding. Tack’s rocking chair moved rhythmically back and forth as his mind wondered down the barn isle to the tack room and back to Nightmare. It had been almost 2 years since he had last ridden Nightmare, but he couldn’t seem to shake the thought. His daughter wouldn’t be back for some 5 hours or so and he reasoned that he had time to saddle Nightmare, ride and be back before anyone was any the wiser.
His 85 year old legs balked at he walked up the slight hill to the barn. Seemed the distance had gotten longer over the years. As he entered the pasture, Nightmare eyed him as did the other horses. Tyler, Bacon and Lavender all greeted Tack, but it was Nightmare that understood why he was there. She could be moody and unpredictable but Tack loved Nightmare and Nightmare loved Tack. They had something special, something others didn’t really understand. Immediately she came close to him and nuzzled his jacket pocket looking for a treat. Tack stretched out his hand stroked her eyes and mane. “You want to take me for a ride” Tack questioned as he moved his hand up and down the mare’s mane? She seemed to nod “yes” as her head moved up and down at his touch.
He moved down the barn isle to the tack room and she followed. Tack breathed deep and took in the smells of the barn. The barn was a place he had always felt at home. Entering the tack room, Tack reached in a treat bin and pulled out a peppermint. Nightmare pushed closer as Tack placed a halter over her head. She chewed up the peppermint and stood calmly as Tack tied her at the rail and slowly tack up Nightmare. With the bridle in place, Tack lifted the Saddle. It seemed heavier than Tack remembered and the weight of it nearly toppled him. He steadied himself and moved to Nightmare and with all his strength lifted the saddle. It landed half way on but Nightmare hardly moved and Tack pushed with all his effort and got the saddle on Nightmare’s back. Fastening the girt was even more difficult but Tack pushed, pulled and cursed a bit before he got it somewhat tight.
Tack moved Nightmare behind the old Ford truck park in the bottom section of the barn. He lowered the tail gate, crawled up in the truck bed and mounted Nightmare that way. Nightmare waited calmly as Tack pushed himself up into the saddle. Mounted on Nightmare’s back Tack felt strength in his veins he hadn’t felt in sometime. He guided Nightmare slowly away from the barn up the pasture around the pond and up toward the woods. Nightmare moved at a slow walk, until they started toward the woods. At Tack’s urging she broke into a slow trot. Once into the trees Tack slowed Nightmare back to a walk and the two enjoyed the trail that ran along the back fence line.
Tack breathed in the cool spring air and listen to the birds sing as Nightmare navigated the familiar path. Once out of the woods the two rode through the open gate that lead to the back pasture and resumed a slow trot. Nightmare responded to his leading like she always had. Tack dared to move faster and stirred Nightmare into a canter. He felt the familiar movement of Nightmare beneath him, something he had felt so many times before. He lost himself in the moment as the two moved as one. The old mare pushed harder than she had in some time for Tack and Tack pushed himself hard for her. Slowing to a trot the two looped around the back pasture and then headed back through the woods, down past the pond and back to the barn.
Tack slide from the saddle as Nightmare stood ever so still. He lead the old mare to the tack room removed the saddle and bridle. Nightmare stood perfectly still until Tack produced a peppermint which she eagerly ate. The entire ride had taken 20 minutes but it had been 2 years in coming. Tack and Nightmare looked at each other and Nightmare seemed to smile. Tack spit and rubbed the old girl on her head and mane and she nodded her head like she always did. “Thank you girl” Tack said.
Back on the porch, Cynthia, Tack’s daughter, woke him from his sleep. “Beautiful day, dad” she said smiling. “Hi honey” Tack answered sleepily. “How long have you been asleep” Cynthia asked? “Not sure how long I’ve been out here” Tack answered. Cynthia sat down next to Tack and the two rocked in silence as they both watched the horses move about the barn. “Would have been a nice day for a ride” Cynthia said. Tack looked at her out of the corner of his eye. “Yes it would have been” he responded as a huge smile crossed his face. Nightmare seemed to be nodding her head in the distance at Tack’s words.