11 May

The Horse’s Prayer

This afternoon I picked up an old horsey book from my childhood that I’d not read for years. Amongst the familiar stories and well-thumbed pony pictures, I came across The Horse’s Prayer. Written in the 19th century by an unknown author, the piece is a plea from a carriage horse to his master.

The Horse’s Prayer was always read out at the closing of the Olympia Christmas Show which was always televised live on BBC1 when I was a child, before the days of multi-channel satellite TV. As a special treat, I was allowed to stay up late and watch the coverage. I will always remember sitting wrapped in a blanket in my pyjamas beside our Christmas tree with its twinkling lights and glittering baubles transfixed by the tableau: pantomime characters on horseback; Cinderella’s coach drawn by beautiful white horses and of course Santa Claus. And then all the lights in the arena would be dimmed; the snow would start to drift down and into a reverend silence The Horse’s Prayer would ring out. It was a magical, tear-filled emotional moment and my childhood Christmas would not have been Christmas without it.

The words of the Prayer still ring true in sentiment today, although some of the literal pleas are no longer relevant, such as the docking of tails for example. Everyone involved in keeping horses should have a place in their heart for The Horse’s Prayer. Enjoy!

The Horse’s Prayer

Feed me, water and care for me and, when the day’s work is done, provide me with a clean shelter, a clean dry bed and a stall wide enough for me to lie down in comfort.

Be always gentle to me, and talk to me; your voice often means more than the reins.

Pat me sometimes that I may serve you more gladly and learn to love thee.

Do not jerk the reins, and do not whip me going up a hill.

Never strike, beat or kick me when I do not understand what you mean, but give me a chance to understand you.

Watch me, and if I fail to do your bidding, see if I something is wrong with my harness, or my feet.

Don’t draw the straps too tight.

Give me freedom to move my head.

If you insist on me wearing blinkers to keep me from looking around, at least see to it that they do not press against my eyes.

Don’t make my load too heavy and don’t leave me tied up in the rain.

Have me well shod, examine my teeth when I do not eat; I may have an ulcerated tooth and that you know if painful enough.

Do not tie my head in an unnatural position, or take away my best defence against flies by cutting off my tail.

I cannot tell you I am thirsty, so please give me pure cold water frequently.

Do all you can to protect me from the sun and throw a cover over me when I am standing out in the cold.

Don’t force an ice cold bit into my mouth, but warm it first in some water or in your hands.

I always try to do cheerfully the work you require of me and day and night I stand hours waiting for you.

And finally, my master, when my useful strength is gone, do not turn me out to starve or freeze, or sell me to a cruel owner to be slowly tortured and starved to death.

But do thee, my master, take my life in the kindest way.

And your God will reward you here and thereafter.

May you not think me irreverent if I ask this in the name of Him who was born in a stable.


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