She’s an embattled soul, my Saida, standing in the center of the field, bad leg cocked, long neck stretched low, her head angled slightly to one side to ease the pull on her scarred left shoulder. Dixie stands at the trough, J.D. and Sierra under the pines. Among them all, Saida is the paradox, the inconstant thread. Plain brown in contrast to their appaloosa patterns and dusty donkey grey, her winter coat is shaggy, tattered where the CSU and 1808 brands mar the pattern of hair, missing where old wounds inhibit its growth entirely. Even her name is not her own, just one of many tags she’s borne. To my mother, she is Aisha, Swahili for ‘new life’. But to me she remains Saida. The unconquerable.
While the other horses were grazing in open fields, Saida was healing from wounds that will never be explained, alone and untreated. While little J.D. roamed with a herd of incorrigible donkey siblings, Saida stood with hundreds of other horses, crammed into dirt paddocks and narrow chutes. While Sierra and Dixie dallied at riding camps, Saida struggled to find her balance in a cattle rig traveling across the country.
When I first saw her she was wild and raw, almost unmanageable, carrying a foal that was not her own. Trust was a truth that she never quite subscribed to, but motherhood proved to be her natural calling. It was not a permanent state, however, and soon she was cast to the winds again, homeless and ill-suited to the expectations of a palfrey. But I saw a nobility in her misanthropic ways, a brilliance in her madness, a kindness in her manic attentiveness to the self appointed position of herdsman. And so here she stands in my field, safe now, but tattered and battered and not much to look at.
But come spring, the matte brown shag will slip from her lanky angles, revealing the crimson of blood bay, a coat of skin-close velveteen as soft as owl down. The summer sun will bleach her new hide to a copper coated ruby and her scars will loosen beneath its heated golden glare. She’ll run laps just to hear her own footfalls and the other horses will follow her even though they don’t understand why she finds such joy in the action. And she’ll never be explainable. Her sudden affection will never be something I can claim on a whim, her absurd fears will never have a basis I can grasp.
Come fall, her coat will drag low, its dull brown a catch-all for dirt and dead grass. The chill will set in and her scars will stiffen in its grip and the years will hang from her coatrack hips again. She’ll take to dozing in the sun, and move in a disjointed swagger, always stepping short with her bum left hind. But when spring shows up again, it will breath new life into Saida. The unconquerable. The inconstant. The noble and indomitable.