Competition 50: Horse Lines

Horse's Head from old children's card game

In response to the request for horse lines there was a large and varied entry of likely equines and the equine-related, from cart-pullers to Martin Elster's Clever Hans, and the reappearance of Pegasus, a beast of fascination to versifiers it seems. There were also other exotic aliens such as unicorns among the quotidian quadrupeds, as well as some old chestnuts who ran well for a furlong or so only in the end to collapse splay-legged on the course like Devon Loch. David McLintock's villanelle introduced the word malinky and Alan Millichip's entry reached a conclusion familiar to Grand National jockeys: The horse cleared the jump leaving me far behind. Judy Koren noted that while canine loyalty is renowned/you can't ride even the largest hound and concluded I think I'd rather keep a cat.

With commiserations to those beaten by a short head or disqualified for bumping and boring, and thanks to all who took part, below in no particular order are the results of LUPO’s late summer steeple-chase.

Richard Fleming: Napoleon’s Horse

Napoleon’s horse, put out to grass,
upsets his fellow quadrupeds
with tales of victories en masse.
When he appears they turn their heads
and then move off, to congregate
far, far away till he departs.
Such boasts can only irritate
those whose career was pulling carts.

♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦       

Katie Mallett: Activist’s End

Dirk sprang to the stirrup, with Jazzer and me;
I galloped, Dirk galloped, we galloped all three;
Away from the stables, the hounds by our side
As we followed the drag through fields far and wide.

Then an activist calling for animal rights
Rose up from a hedge whilst waving red lights,
Which startled the horses which reared, and poor Dirk
Was tossed in a ditch in the mire and the murk.

But Jazzer and I recovered control
And went for the activist, body and soul.
He ran for his life, but we galloped faster,
We’d show this protestor who was his master.

We cornered him by an old barn, where we found
A good length of bale twine left on the ground
And we bound him up tight to the back of a horse.
We’re facing a charge of assault now, of course.

♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦  

Judy Koren: Horse Sense

Too many people love The Horse –
the sole extent of their discourse,
their conversation, willy-nilly
revolves round stallion and filly
and they’ll compare, till you drop dead
Arabian and Thoroughbred.

They search the online Registry
to verify each pedigree,
avidly follow all the shows
but at the half-breeds thumb their nose
scorning those gentle, loving creatures
whose looks don’t match a set of features.

It seems that horse sense is confined
to species of the four-legged kind.

♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦  

C.R. Edenhill: Horses For Courses

While Fay loved Jean's finesse and flair
Her parents liked his fine cord breeches,
His sporting style and savoir faire
And rumours of his Swiss-banked riches.

But then one day her father tried
A question touching stud and stable,
And ‘Yes, I breed them’, Jean replied,
But boldly added, ‘for the table.

♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦  

Gail White: A Different Steed

The fans are pacing in the stands
With tight-clutched tickets in their hands,
Each cheering on the equine host
That pounds its way from post to post.
Their cry around the racecourse rings –
Everyone wants a horse with wings.

The hunter when she rides to hounds,
The polo player on the grounds,
And every keen competitor
Who mounts a horse is looking for
The break-away that leaps and flings –
Everyone wants a horse with wings.

Lovers and children, set apart
As riders of the mind and heart,
And poets too, in dreams released,
Go questing for a different beast,
Symbol of life that lifts and sings –
Everyone wants a horse with wings.

♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦  

Stephen Gold: What Goes Up . . .

Pegasus dropped in one day,
To ask if we could speak.
His English is remarkable,
Considering he’s Greek.

“I’ve had a thrilling new idea!
It’s radical, but rational:
Let’s have a crack, down at the track,
At winning the Grand National!”

Wings on a steed, he quite agreed,
Might seem a bit bizarre,
But nothing in the rules decreed
That there was any bar.

However high the fences loomed,
They’d be a piece of cake.
Within the hour, at Paddy Power,
We’d pledged a hefty stake.

The great day came. I held my breath.
“They’re off!” Oh such a roar,
As high above the hurtling hooves,
I watched his figure soar.

The start was all that one could wish.
The end still brings me pain.
Alas, he spied the winning post,
But failed to spot the plane.

The moral is as clear as day,
I tell my kin and kith.
Don’t put your shirt upon a cert.
That’s just another myth.

♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦  

Ken Chester: Anatomy Of A Horse

The famous Flat star, Golden Puck,
By Discus out of Glitterball,
Who won a mint, despite tough luck
With numbers that the Fates let fall,
Will grace a painting just begun
By Art-mad trainer's offspring Sean –
So just as well the subject's one
Well used to getting badly drawn.

♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦  

Julia Griffin: The Equinox

Observe the gracious Equinox:
A private star from poll to hocks,
He mutely shakes his secret mane –
For in his pride he does not deign
To flaunt his gifts so wonderful:
To some he seems mere partial bull,
A humble lumberer designed
To trudge with loads of mulch behind;
Some may believe him incomplete
And disallowed for cloven feet,
Or even question (being coarse)
The union of ox with horse.
From all such common souls aloof,
The Equinox inclines his hoof:
What is his kind? Men may suppose
As fits their diagrams; he knows.
He steps along without demur,
And ploughs his field en grand seigneur,
With nostrils flared that all may see
His perfect equinimity.

♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦  

Mike Mesterton-Gibbons: My Rocking Horse

My parents said this horse was best of all.
You didn't have to feed it twice a day.
Re-shoeing it or mucking out its stall
Or making sure it didn't run away
Cost nothing from the day they brought it home!
Kept happy by its rider near the fire,
It never spied a mare that made it roam:
No fence was ever breached by its desire!
Gymkhanas by the hearth attract no flies,
Hard-wired to smell out dung on which to breed.
One needn't always question what is wise,
Regarding where to step behind your steed!
So, yes, I never took a riding course      
Except astride my tireless rocking-horse!

 ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦  

Susan Jarvis Bryant: Pony Tale

My heart used to hanker for horses
(that bright equine blaze of delight)
till that dastardly day when dark forces
turned my thrill to a bone-chilling fright.

Oh, the trauma that followed the error
of mounting a proud chestnut colt,
who became a wild-eyed, bucking terror
determined to throw me and bolt.

He whirled and he tossed and grew sour.
My fingers, they slipped from his reins.
I was dragged till Walmart switched the power
straight off at the parking lot mains.

Now I’m banned from that store ride forever.
To be honest, I don’t really care.
I won’t straddle a pony – NOT EVER!
I would much rather wrestle a bear.

♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦  

Martin Elster: The End of the Road

I’ll say my farewells now, my old cayuse
lying there on your side,
no longer any use,
who was my lone companion and my ride.

From dawn to dusk I perched astride your saddle
to rope a steer or drive
those restless, lowing cattle
across the country. How can I revive

a horse that can’t rise up? You were as spryful
as any foal for years.
Now I must use my rifle,
the Winchester that rang inside your ears

when it frightened off a coyote, mountain lion,
or silenced rattlesnakes.
We slept beneath Orion
on autumn nights and plowed through whiteout flakes.

You heard the songs I sang to soothe the drove.
Now I will hum a song
to one who’ll never rove
again across the Plains. You’ll not last long.

I heard your labored breaths all through the night.
You know I’ve always done
what needed doing. Fight
no more! It’s dawn. I’ve put away my gun.

Lancers in full dress uniform riding right. Graphic material advertising Johnston's Cornflour.