The problem with an Unpredictable Horse was that, well, he was unpredictable. He always had been.
Of course, his name was not really Unpredictable Horse. His name was Ringo.
He grew up on a farm in Colorado in the late 1990s, along with two dozen other horses. While others would follow the humans around, and respond to calls and training, Ringo would look off into the vast skies to stare at the rock formations and mountains in the distance, and use his hooves to draw pictures of what he saw in the dirt.
When no humans were around, he would sometimes climb trees. It was hard to do at first – he was a horse after all. But even as a foal he was the most goat-like horse you could imagine, and just like a goat, he could climb. He didn’t start with trees, of course. I mean, he tried to start with trees, but they were a little hard, so he started with rocks, haybails, barrels, rock walls – anything he could practice on while no one was looking. Once he’d mastered those, he moved up.
“What in the Sam Hill?” one of the farmers said when he saw Ringo halfway up a small blue spruce. Later the farmer convinced himself that he’d imagined the whole thing – a horse can’t climb trees, after all.
Ringo watched birds fly overhead – from small juncos and chickadees to large ospreys and bald eagles. He loved watching how their wings moved, and how they would push the air behind them to propel them forward. Ringo didn’t have wings, so he used what he did have – his legs. They didn’t seem to work to make him fly, but they did move him forward, and if he pushed in just the right way, he did get off the ground for a brief second.
Ringo would sometimes try to share his interests with the other horses around him, but they only really seemed interested in eating, galloping, and spending time with the people who looked after them. Ringo liked the people, but he also liked the clouds, the way flowers bloomed, and the noise of an airplane in the sky (“Neeeeeeeeerrrrrrrr,” he imitated to himself).
As he grew, he and the other horses were given muzzles and saddles, and for a few hours each day people led them around the fields in an orderly procession. At first this was exciting – each day he had a new friend he could share his interests with. But the new friends didn’t seem to want to go where he wanted to take them. They seemed more interested in leading him in line behind other horses. The routine soon changed, with people riding on the horses’ backs instead of walking in front. Ringo had watched people ride motorbikes and tractors, and wondered if he was one of those now. He snorted to make the right sound, but couldn’t figure out how to make his legs spin in circles the way that wheels do. The person riding on his back nudged him with a gentle kick. Ringo gave up on his transformation, and fell in line with the other horses. They all walked slowly along a dusty path.
Ringo looked up and saw a sparrow flitting about in the clear blue sky, and wished he could join it in its dance.
After months of these daily walks, Ringo and the other horses were led out of their fields and taken closer to the red rock formations he had looked at so often. When he realized what was happening, Ringo’s eyes widened. He was so excited. Now he had new places to climb.
As they made their way along a path between two large rock formations, Ringo edged off the path to one of the rocks. His rider made noises and pulled his reins. Ringo stepped on the bottom slope of the rock, but his rider kicked him harder, and Ringo sadly made his way back to join the line. Over his next few steps, though, he saw something on his front feet – red dust. Proof that he had made it onto a rock. He beamed with pride.
After they got back home and his rider dismounted, Ringo heard him say to someone else “I don’t know if this one is gonna make it through training. He’s unpredictable. We might have to just keep him on the ranch.” Ringo looked down at his feet, and was sad to see that the red dust had all gone. If he ever wanted to go back, he’d have to do what was expected of him.
A week of guided ranch walks later, Ringo was disguising himself well as a normal rule-following horse. He joined the others on a guided walk through the red rocks. He longed to climb back on the rocks and get red dust back on his feet – to explore this “Garden of the Gods,” as he had heard someone call it. But he felt sure that if he did, he might not be able to come back. And this was too beautiful to miss seeing on a daily basis just for a few moments of fun. So he held himself back from rock-climbing, and the people in charge seemed impressed.
After a few more days of walks like these, he found out where so many of the other horses disappeared to sometimes. It turned out they went on some of the same walking paths, but this time with other people riding them; people they hadn’t met before, who were were excited to see the same red rocks that Ringo himself loved. So when a rider climbed on his back, Ringo decided it would be unfair not to take him.
Ringo was toward the back of the line of horses, but found it hard to be patient, and occasionally jumped out of line to pass some of the others. The guides – on the horses at the front and the rear – yelled at Ringo to get back in line. He felt embarrassed, and did as he was told, but he felt sad – he was letting his rider down.
“Yeah,” the guide at the rear said with a sneer to Ringo’s rider as he rode past. “Your horse likes to be a little different than the others.”
“That’s a good thing,” the rider said in a quiet voice directly to Ringo, and patted him gently on the neck. Ringo felt excited and affirmed by his rider. He liked being his own creature. The guide’s comment was meant to be an insult, but Ringo proudly accepted it. He was different.
The group of horses continued on, riding up a path higher up the hillside between a large rock formation and a group of juniper trees.
Fwoomp, came a sound from his left, like a massive amount of air being pushed by a pair of enormous wings.
Ringo looked through a gap in the rock formation to follow the sound. He assumed everyone would be looking but he quickly realized his head was perfectly positioned so that he heard it very clearly, but no one else had.
As he looked, he saw the pair of enormous wings that has made the sound. They were orange, and belonged to a creature he’d never seen before. This was not a bird. It was huge and scaly. He couldn’t see much through the gap, but this creature looked fierce.
Naturally, Ringo ran towards it.
“Whoa!” shouted the rider on his back, unsure of how to handle this sudden change of behavior. Ringo neighed to say you see that too, right? Of course we’re going after that. But the rider didn’t seem to understand, and called out to the guides, “Uh – a little help here?”
The guides at each end responded by stopping the whole line of horses, and they each started to ride toward Ringo. Ringo looked through the gap in the rock formation – he couldn’t let this enormous scaly orange creature get away – he had to go see it up close.
If he waited any longer, the guides would stop him, or make enough noise that this creature might leave. It was now or never.
He decided it was now.
“Don’t restrict me!” he neighed at the guides, and ran as fast as he could toward the gap in the rocks. He wasn’t a hundred percent sure he could fit through it, and from the shouting coming from his back, it was clear his rider wasn’t sure either. A few feet from the rocks, his rider panicked and jumped off. Ringo missed the commotion of the guides coming to check on the rider – he was too busy leaping through the space between the rocks, with the precision of an eagle focused on its prey.
Once he was through his view of the giant orange creature widened. Without the rocks in the way, and now seeing that the ground sloped down in front of him, he could see just how enormous this creature was – larger than any other living creature he’d ever seen. Despite its size, and its obvious power and strength, Ringo wasn’t intimidated at all, and found himself drawn to it.
The creature hadn’t seen him yet, but Ringo made some noise as he slid down the dusty slope, and the creature turned its head to face the sound. The creature’s fearsome features gave way to a look of regret, and Ringo heard its deep booming voice quietly whisper, “Oh no…”
Ringo could tell something was about to happen, and with the full momentum of his run still with him, he jumped from the dusty slope and landed on the creature’s back right as an orange glow filled the air around them.
Moments later, the rider and guides looked through the gap in the rocks to see where Ringo had run off to. Their perch gave them a clear view of the valley below, but Ringo was nowhere to be seen. Disappeared also, of course, was the dragon which called itself The Teleporting Trevor, but neither the rider nor the guides were looking for it.
“Well, I’m glad you’re okay,” said one guide to the rider. “I don’t know what to tell you. That horse always was an unpredictable one.” And then, just to make sure everyone was on the same page, he added, “But… no refunds…”