My Pet
Mirava Macaraig Yuson

Many kids have cats and dogs, fish and birds, rodents, amphibians and even reptiles. But I have a pet that’s big and powerful. Her name is Epona, and she is a horse.
Epona doesn’t live with me. She lives in my grandfather’s farm in Indang, Cavite,and I see her only every Saturday when we go to the farm. She is about five years old.

My mother and grandfather bought her recently from a farmer from a nearby barangay.

It was from a riding experience in yet another barangay nearby that I decided I wanted a horse for a pet.

During one of those Saturday farm visits, my plowing chores were interrupted when a friend and her family dropped in. It turned out that Mama had made arrangements to lunch with them in their farm.

Their farm was huge. The big difference though was not in size, but that they had stables, which housed three thoroughbreds and two native horses. Since my friend and I were not experienced riders, only the two native horses were saddled for us. Our mothers also insisted that we be escorted around by guides. Though we enjoyed ourselves, we both felt that the ride would have been more fun without the guides. My friend mentioned that she hoped to be rid of her guide by take riding lessons with Mia and Steven Virata, at Rancho Leonor in Silang, still in the province of Cavite. She urged me to enroll likewise.

My experience at Rancho Leonor was so exciting. I made new friends, both human and animal. I was able to ride horses twice the size of the horses I rode in Baguio or Tagaytay. By the end of the riding camp, I no longer needed a guide. I also loved playing games with horses ­­-- not formal ones like polo but simple games like Rescue Relay and Musical Poles. According to a book I bought recently, these games are called gymkhana events. Even if I never won, I had loads of fun.

Whenever we finished an activity, I would rush to the stables and feed grass to the horses. Aside from learning how to saddle and ride horses, we also learned how to groom them and clean their saddles. Later, I realized that grooming was my favorite part, because it gave me a chance to make the horse happy, by brushing and cleaning it.

Grooming strengthens the bond between the horse and the rider. Since the horse allows me to enjoy a ride, I also want it to have its share of happiness.

When the camp ended, I could not stop pestering my mother for my own horse. Soon she started negotiations with the farmer who owned a pregnant mare.

Even without meeting her, I named my horse Epona after a powerful mare in a video game I had been playing for a year now. I decided on that name from the moment I yearned to have my own horse.

On the day I was supposed to meet Epona for the first time, the farm hands told Mama that Epona had met an accident and her foal had died. This changed all the arrangements, and the horse was not delivered to the farm. After two more weeks of negotiations, I found Epona waiting for me one Saturday morning.

She’s a local horse. My younger cousins think that she looks common, what with her dark brown coloring. But this coloring that looks so common to them is considered as bay. My cousins also think she’s too small to be a mother. Despite everything they say, they are now trying to convince my grandfather to purchase horses for them, too. So whenever I go to my grandfather’s farm, my cousins come along and help me with my Epona-related chores.

First, we scoop horse manure, with certain equipment, of course. To make fertilizer for the crops in the farm, we dump the piles in a compost pit. Besides, I also found out that manure left to lie around would cause the new grass growth to turn acidic. Horses do not like their grass acidic.

After that, we ride. While we still wait for the delivery of Epona’s saddle and reins, we ride bareback. I usually lead Epona, and one of my cousins rides her around the farm. They take turns, after which we groom her.

Horses are one of the most useful animals in the world. Apart from serving as transportation to this day, they are also much help in farms. Horses are one of the kindest animals. They are extremely gentle, and easy to understand, simply by watching the movement of their ears.

Some horses are treated like machines by people. Though Epona was a farm horse, she does not show any trace of abuse. I am always watchful for these signs. You have to know when your horse is tired or sick. Since she had a previous owner, I am trying to establish a bond with her by constantly talking to her. I also choose to walk her more often rather then ride her. I am hoping that my constant grooming of her will strengthen the bond between us. I even sing to her, and make music with my flute. The tune I play often is called ‘Epona’s Song,” which I also got from a video game.

I still have so many projects lined up for Epona. I have to improve her present stable and have paddocks built for training. Epona must also be branded and registered with the municipal government. Sometimes when I think of these tasks to be accomplished, I wish I simply enrolled in a riding course at a country club. Then I remember that I do not like dressage, and I will never be allowed in a polo field anyway. Riding on the open field and engaging in gymkhana are my preferences.

When you are with a horse often, you begin to understand their nature and their attitude, and this endears the horse to you. A horse makes you like her and want to be with her. Thus, both of you are rewarded with friendship and happiness.