The lightness of the snow fluttered down on pony manes that day as the two padded through the sandy beach glaze now covered in glistening flakes of snow dew, one to lead and one to follow. I stood at a distance and hardened my gaze, unsure in the reality of which I was about to perceive in the moment. Could it be that ponies such as these had pictured the day the same as I and now envisioned themselves in flights of fancy upon the frothy sands of seaside snow castle beach? The lesser of the two seemed content to walk at a slower pace behind his lead.
The winds of winter were course with salted brute against cheek and nose, matting deep into windblown hair and long eyelash. They looked as though they had trudged along the water’s edge for some time, leaving nothing behind but the distant dusty hoof-prints for proof that this moment even existed. Truly, I would not have believed it for myself if I had not witnessed it first hand in this very moment in time. Their legs stood strong with each heavy step that came crashing down with a thud over and over again as stiff aching muscles fought against the cold, mercilessly contracting the fibers of even the most pranciful athletic of ponies upon days such as these.
But there were no other days such as these. This was truly a once in a lifetime magical moment to become one with the world around them. Silence held the moment fast as frozen froth topped crests crashed to crackling icy-cold waves. The follower blew his hot breath into the air and watched as it turned to a powdered mist, waiting for response from the friend. The lead nodded and gave a slightly frigid low-grunt expression, then skipped a step in an almost unleashed prance. So unlike him it seemed. For a leader to prance about in childish bliss. He was larger than the other. You could tell his muscle’s mass effort at control. His legs were slightly thicker in the footwork of his dance but it was only a slight skip. Who would know. A light turn in almost chagrinned fashion.
The horse to follow blew hot breath back. The horse in lead knew it was meant as a laugh. Salvaging his reputation, he was brave and walked it off. Hooves crunches beneath unshod hooven askew. Winds hush and ocean’s crashing lulls continue. On down the line they go, one to lead and one to follow.
The one in lead mumbled something after a moment’s time to progress. The one in follow nodded that he knew. It was an ease of understanding in stolen moments shared as they walked along the shores that day. I could not believe my luck in being a third party participant in its commemoration.
Without grace or warning head jerks at the right. Startled, running scared at the left. Main flies. Feet thromp, thrash. Struggling to break free of sea-barred wispy ghosts unseen. Horsey intake of breath. Head jerks hard left. Shoulders press back, back, back away hard and fast. Feet clammer, almost…. Ready, teetering to a fall. No time for noise. No time for fear. Alarmed reaction. A knee-jerk response guided by the Croatian gods guarding the native shore. Embarrassment burns unseen in cheeks, unfurled. Pride does a prissy prance of ‘I’m not scared, I meant to do it that way,’ before dissolving in a turnabout in the sand. Lead checks on the safety of the fold, unfettered horse still in step with the same rhythmic trudge.
Lead fear begins to fold. All is well. Lead stands still in anticipated wait for his fold to come to follow once again. The wind blows. Its direction is unchanged as the follow horse stands hold. Moments pass in stilled silence. Long lashed blink against the only movement of the falling snow. The lead to the left holds still. Waits. The love of the follower gives. Will folds. Head lowers for a moments rest, giving in to the needs of his lead. My heart skips in breathless pause as I witness the giving of one slowly to the strong, controlled, protective, loving wait of his lead. Wait, wait… a moment more. It holds. Then steps begin to plant upon the untouched stillness of blanketed snow. Unsure hoof crunches delicate, pressing tender prints into its new palette of evidence.
Hoof prints in the snow. Who would have thought there could be magic found in such a delicate, untouched lonely place as this. My life is complete. I remember to breath. Slowly, gently, tenderly the follower proceeds. His lead stands grand at a commanding wait, ready to retake his lead. He waits. And waits some more. He does not move as the fold he watches come closer. Hold. Hold. He does not move. The fold is his to command. He comes to take his place behind, in line. I almost whisper something soft in disbelief, but there is no one there to send the words to, so I hush. I am the only one who will bear witness to this event. The command does not take up his post until his follow almost advances past. Almost. Almost taking the lead. Only then. Only then in that moment right before their powers exchange.
When he is sure his fold is safe. When he is sure he has the full extent of everything this fold has inside, all he has to offer the line…. Only then does he overtake him and begin to take his last command. The line is his. He decides the lead. Follow falls in step. No time in pause. No moments are lost. There is no pride. There is no hesitation in the air anymore today. The snowflakes fall. The sands crunch. Snow prints tell the story. And on they wander. One to lead and one to follow.