Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mourning Taxi

My beloved old Warhorse, Taxi (AKA "Taximeter Cabriolet" and "Big Yellow Taxi") passed away in the early hours of September 14. He was somewhere in the neighborhood of 37 years old.

Many people will remember Taxi as a horse that anyone could ride, and who could qualify a Resusci-Annie as an expert horseman. He made a LOT of people think that they knew how to ride, in fact. He certainly taught me a lot about horses, riding, and life in general.

Taxi had at least four careers in his long lifetime. First and foremost he was a Hunter-Jumper. Not only did the previous owner inform me of this, Taxi informed me of this fact by taking me over a number of jumps, several of which I was not informed of in advance. And he could jump pretty high for his age (his mid-20's then), as a 4' jump was no problem at all for him.

His second career was as a movie star. I bought him, in fact, specifically to use for the Kevin Costner film "The Postman". He was the wrong colour, being a Buckskin/Dun and the job required a black horse, so we worked on that. I knew he was going to be a great horse when he didn't object to being dyed black. 18 bottles of Revlon, BTW, to dye a good-sized horse. He kept looking around behind him wondering where "that black horse" came from, and went to! Taxi worked on a number of films besides "The Postman" though, including "Ride with the Devil" (with Toby McGuire), and Mel Gibson's "The Patriot". In all of them Taxi's willing heart and steady personality shone through. I think Taxi's last production was working on the History Channel show "The Conquerors", in which my friend Henrik Olsgaard portrayed William of Normandy. Taxi of course portrayed his Trusty Warhorse, and did a wonderful job in that role, as always. I have no idea how many guys tried to buy him from me over the years, but I wasn't about to sell him, ever. He was my buddy forever, that one.

Taxi's third career was as a Cavalry horse for reenactments. He had learned his trade doing Cavalry in films, so it was easy for him to do. Just not so many horses around, and a bit more gunfire. Not much though. And while we were at it, we did some "train robbing" too. He didn't mind the size of the locomotives, the crowds, or the gunfire. The hiss of the steam wasn't exactly his thing though, and he tended to give the steam clouds a wide birth when possible.

His fourth career was as a jousting horse. He didn't do a lot of it himself, but he trained a lot of other horses, and people, how to do it. He could hit his mark, and run a straight line whenever called upon. All the other horses we've trained for this took a lot of time, Taxi just did it naturally.

He had a good retirement, too. Even after we decided that he was too feeble to really put anyone on board him anymore, he still wanted to come out and play with the other horses when we would drill. He would just pair up with one of his buddy horses, and form up with the rest of the horses for the drill. He knew it down pat, and once he knew what the specific maneuver was, he'd do it as well as the rest of the horses (the one's with people on board). The best was when we did a "Left On Into Line" move. In it, the first horse(s) in a column turn to the left and halt. The next horse(s) pass the first ones, turn left, and halt, and so on and so forth. Taxi was taking up the rear, and simply followed on, and parked on the right exactly where he was supposed to. No rider. I was so proud of him for that!

Over the years Taxi also was the "go-to" horse for my daughter Alexandra and my wife Neb. He taught them a lot, too. But even after I had pretty much replaced Taxi as my primary horse (I didn't want to wear him out by riding him hard, so while on "The Patriot" I bought Twister to take his place. After Twister didn't work out, I bought Woody, who is still my Warhorse), Taxi was always first in my affections. He may have become the "spare" horse, but rather than, as in most cases, the "spare" being the problem horse, Taxi was the easy horse to ride. And he loved doing things for people, teaching them how to use their aids, and being a generally wonderful "lesson horse", as it were. He excelled at that, as with all things.

But his heart finally gave out. He had suffered from congestive heart failure for a few years, thus his retirement, but was otherwise healthy. But over the past few weeks he had begun to lose weight, and wasn't as spry as he usually was. I got into the habit of every morning when I went down to the barn to feed the horses of kissing him oh his forehead, and letting him nuzzle me back. The last time was Friday morning, as I had to fly to Reno to attend my nephew's wedding just south of there. So it was my fate to not be there when he passed away, but he was with good friends and family, people who loved him. They saw him off gently.

Thanks for letting me pour this out, I know that many people would want to know of Taxi's passing. Raise a glass in his honour, to wish him quick passage and godspeed to the green pastures of Fiddler’s Green, where all good horses go.

I'll have more to post, I'm writing up a proper eulogy for the old soul now, but this will do for the moment. I just need to get something up for him now, while the pain is fresh.