Schoolies are the drudges of the horse world. They’re the horses folks learn to ride on, treading endless circles around dusty arenas, carrying every level of skill from clueless beginners to intermediates working toward their own private horse. They learn to tune out the leg flopping, rein yanking, unsteady balancing of their passengers; they tolerate bad riding that would goad a higher-strung equine into rebellion; they figure out evasions that test the patience of students while helping to teach them the skills to cope with such tricks; they sort through beginners’ conflicting signals yet respond to proper aids; and the best of them can pony-ride-pack a tiny kid patiently yet come alive to the sensitive aids of a rider who knows how to communicate with them. Horses hardly ever start life as a schoolie; usually it’s a step down (or many steps down) from whatever career they were bred and raised to pursue.
Drudges, yes – also the unsung heroes of the horse world. As the modern world moves farther and farther from the past of horses being an integral part of life, they’re the first step for ever more folks who want to learn to ride, perhaps eventually to have a horse of their own. They bring delight to the students who ride them – and yes, at times frustration, but that’s part of the education they offer. They become the cherished friends of children (and adults too) who dream of horses and live for trips to the barn, for grooming and treating and hugging and loving their giant equine buddy. They teach more than riding; they teach hard work – in learning to ride well, in the labor of their care – and sometimes they teach hard lessons in life’s realities.
Finny was a school horse at the barn where my horse Ben boards: a short, round, sturdy red and white pinto with an abundant forelock and mane, an amiable disposition, a trot way bigger than he was, and a calm willingness to tote any rider safely around the ring, from tiny beginners to more or less competent adults. He knew his job and did it well, always with an eye out for treats (of course!), and was adored by all, especially his own pet girl (and every horse, but even more a schoolie, deserves his own pet girl to worship and pamper him).
Finny had to be put down Thursday, when the cancer infesting his sinuses reached the point where it was time to let him go. He passed over the bridge calmly, peacefully, amidst those who loved him.
He will be missed.
Cross-posted at my blog, where you can see [a photo of Finny](http://exurbanmusings.blogspot.com/2018/08/tribute-to-schoolie.html).