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Horse of a Different Color

29th Oct 2022 in

The Horse of a Different Color

by Kent Duryée

Not so very long ago, perhaps a thousand years or so, there lived an emperor. The emperor had ruled for many years. His kingdom was prosperous and he was well-liked among the people. He was a fair and honest man, and treated all his subjects fairly. Even though the people believed that he was a god sent from heaven to rule over them, he was wise and knew that it was important to remember that things seldom are as they first appear.

The emperor had always loved horses. As a young boy, he had worked in his father’s stables learning horses’ ways and habits. He had spent many hours sweeping out stalls, laying fresh straw on the ground, and then feeding the horses so he would have to do the same thing all over again the next day. In fact, the young prince spent many more hours sweeping behind the horses than he did riding them. He did not particularly enjoy cleaning stables. However, he loved riding the horses. Atop a horse, riding through deep canyons amid the juniper trees and fog, he felt free.

The horse stables were run by a group of monks who served the prince’s father, the emperor. Monks are religious men who seek answers to life’s questions. Through these monks’ quiet teaching, the prince began to understand the connections not only between the horses and the Earth and stars, but also his own connections with the Earth, the sun, and the stars. The young prince was growing up.

The chief of the monks was a kind old man known as the Horse Master. The Horse Master had spent more time with horses than with people, and he knew more about them than anyone in the kingdom. It was believed that the Horse Master could actually speak with horses. People were sure that this was true, and stories of his strange powers blew around the kingdom like the winds of springtime. The Horse Master was also blind.

The Horse Master took the young prince under his wing and taught him many things. The prince learned to look into the eye of a horse and sense the spirit of the animal. Sometimes this would fill him with excitement and joy. Other times he would feel an overwhelming sadness. The prince learned to observe how a horse moved and how it held its head and how it acted around other horses and people. Through riding and caring for the horses, the young prince came to know them better than even his father, the emperor, did. He could sense their needs. He knew which horses were gentle, and which were likely to be full of mischief. At night and in the early morning, he would hear the horses speak to each other in their soft whispers. While out riding, he could feel the horses’ senses, telling them what lay ahead and behind. He loved to feel their muscles move, rippling beneath him like the surface of a river. The prince began to sense the connections between the horses and the Earth. As time passed, the young prince began to sense even the connection between the horses and the stars. These are the important things about horses, not their color, or the length of their tail or mane. The old Horse Master knew these things, and often told the young prince, “Even a blind man can see a good horse.”

The prince grew and soon the time came for him to rule the empire. The prince, now the emperor, no longer spent entire days with the old blind Horse Master at the stables, but he still loved horses and spent time with them whenever he could.

Soon the young emperor married. A beautiful son was born, and the empire rejoiced with the emperor and his wife. As every child does, this young prince grew to have interests in different things. This prince grew into a young man with little time for horses and their spirits. Other important things interested him. He loved sports and other people. He loved spending time at parties and festivals. These are good things and the young prince was growing up well. He loved the people of the kingdom and he would make a fine ruler someday.

The day came when the young prince wanted a horse of his own. He wanted to be independent and to move about the empire on his own. All young people wish this for themselves. He talked to his father, the emperor about this. “Father, I need a horse so that I may travel freely and learn about our kingdom. I feel that I must see and touch and feel every corner before I can become a good emperor.”

“I see that the time has come for you to be on your own,” said the emperor. The prince, as all young people do, needed to learn about the world, and to find for himself that things are seldom as they appear. The emperor called for the old blind Horse Master.

“Hello grandfather, and how are you today,” the emperor greeted the old man. Even though the Horse Master was not really his grandfather, it was the way of the people to address older people as grandmother or grandfather, out of respect for their wisdom.

“I am well,” replied the old monk.

“That is good to hear my old friend. I have called you because my son desires a horse so that he may explore the empire and come to know the land and the people. The cost does not matter. I want you to go and find the finest horse the kingdom has to offer for my son.”

“But emperor, I am old and blind, and cannot move as well as before. I am afraid I cannot make such a journey. However, one of the younger monks is becoming a fine judge of horses, almost as fine a judge as yourself, your highness,” the old Horse Master replied. “If it would be acceptable, I would send him instead to look for a horse for the prince.”

The emperor agreed, “That of course is acceptable. As I said, cost does not matter. Tell the young monk to hurry and search the entire kingdom for the finest horse in the land. When he has found the horse, he is to come here to the temple and tell us about it.”

The young monk was sent out into the kingdom in search of the finest horse in the land. He was gone for many weeks, because the kingdom was large and stretched across many mountains, deserts, and plains.

One day, the monk returned. The young prince was excited to learn about what kind of horse had been found. “I am happy that you have returned safely from your travels,” said the prince to the monk eagerly. “Please, tell me about the horse you have found. What color is it? Is it a mare or a stallion?”

The emperor looked on and smiled to himself. The young monk furrowed his brow and thought feverishly about the horse he had found, trying to remember. He looked quickly at the young prince and said in a distracted way, “Oh, yes your highness, it is a white stallion.” The emperor continued to smile to himself as the monk hurried back to the stables.

In a few days, the horse was brought to the palace. That morning the young prince could hardly contain himself he was so excited about seeing his new white stallion. He hurried around the palace busily preparing to go and meet the horse.

The prince, the emperor, and the old Horse Master met in the great square in front of the palace and waited for the horse to be brought to them. The people from the town where the young monk had found the horse came from around a corner leading a beautiful horse that held its head high above the crowd.

The young prince furrowed his brow. He looked again at the horse. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Was the young monk blind, too? “Father,” said the prince in dismay, “what kind of cruel trick is this? The young monk said he had found a white stallion for me. I look at this horse, and I see a black mare.”

The old Horse Master smiled, and took in a deep sigh. “Ah, so the young monk is as good as that, is he?” said the old man to the emperor.

The emperor looked at the horse, unable to take his eyes off the animal, and replied in a low tone, “The young monk is truly a fine judge of horses.”

The black mare looked at the Horse Master, and he felt a great calm wash over his soul. “Yes,” the old man thought, “the young man has truly learned his lessons well,” and he stood and said to the emperor, “Even a blind man can see a great horse”, and walked back to the stables chuckling to himself.

The young prince heard all of this, looked back at the black mare, and wondered. He realized then that he was just beginning to learn about the world.


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