Horse Tradition

by Mary Wlodarski

Like all tradition, a habit
becomes ritual. Soon humans forget
why we started.

It could be the practice of checking a gate,
or filling extra water buckets,
listening for the quiet contentment of chewing
before leaving the barn in the evening,
whistling to your horse that special set of notes
to call him in from the pasture.

Just the other day I learned
the throatlatch on our bridles
were put there by the cavalry.
When horses tired from miles of marching
hung their heads weary of explosions,
fell to their knees in desperation
sweat ceasing to pour
blood mingled with mud
stomachs empty of hunger
soldiers could drag horses behind them
and this way, the bridle wouldn’t fall off.

How will we know
which traditions we claim
and which we rewrite?


Mary Wlodarski has published poems in Texas Poetry Review, Sleet, Shark Reef and Spry. She teaches English and Creative Writing and completed her MFA at Hamline University. She lives in Minnesota with her two horses, husband, and two young boys.