The fact of him, I mean. The facts. Eleven months of Dar, with Dar. I don't have him anymore, but he is an engine that started something in me.
I was dumbfounded by the ripping sense of loss I felt when I returned him to the jousters and then dumbfounded again by my grief the first time I saw him carrying Jack on his back. Soon, though, the demands of the festival left me scant time for mourning, though I was, though I did. Through my busy, helter-skelter days there he was, there he's been, there he went, a sometimes hazy, sometimes toxic blend of remembering and imagining. I kept putting it off for the work at hand, but he was always there, somewhere below the surface. But underneath it all, I couldn't see how he caused me to grow; I just wasn't looking there.
I knew this horse. I know that now. I knew he needed to fight it out with himself. Maybe he'll get that chance one day, maybe he won't. But I can live with wondering what he could have been because I know only practical things stood between us in the end, not a lack of willingness. I couldn't have afforded the facility, the time, or the trainer to help me answer the question of his nature as clearly as I wanted. I really wanted that answer, I really did. I didn't get it, and that's how it worked out.
These days, I watch with interest when I see Jack out and about aboard Dar. I see that Dar is just fine because he's boss of that kid, doing him a favor carrying him through sloppy, unkempt rides. Dar knows that world; it's where he came from. He can be lazy there, he can say no. He goes in a side pull knowing full well he can duck and buck anytime he likes. Disconnecting him from contact does him no favors at all. He'll lose most of the progress we made with him, but I'll never lose the progress I made because of him.
There were those 11 months, and amid them all the things you don't pay attention to in service of the things you have to pay attention to. I had an injured mare facing a long recovery. I had Dar, underweight and overdue for good basic care. It was triage more than anything, building him up while I tried to settle her down. You work on manners and never notice how easily you engage the radar that enables you to move around a horse safely. You back a pushy horse out of your space and never think of how simple it was to do. You train "Don't ever show me your teeth again" and forget about having done it because you never had to train it again. Endless instants that became as commonplace as breathing accumulated into knowledge and understanding. I have more confidence than I did the day before I got him, and now I'm ready for more.