I recently released a music video to my blues-rock song "Wrong One", and as expected, the horse that I'm riding in the video received more attention than me or the song... well, almost anyways. ;-)
So, let me introduce Johnny.
Johnny's registered name is Hezatheonefritz and he is a 5 year old American Quarter Horse that I bought from Nielsen's Performance Horses just south of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I fell in love with this little guy the moment I rode him. He was three years old when I met him, gangly and just started under saddle. I fell in love with his mind first; so level-headed and easy going, smarter than your average person, and his beady eyes always watch you even when he's not looking at you directly.
When I moved to Nashville he came along for the ride... a five day drive. The further south we got the hotter it became and the U.S. was actually in a heat wave at the time. When we left Calgary it was 56 degrees, by the time we hit South Dakota it was in the 100's. When we hit Nashville it was 104 degrees with 70% humidity. Johnny and the two other horses that came along for the ride (and the dog and cat in the cab of the truck with me) were wondering where the hell I'd brought them to. However, the lush, rich, knee-high Tennessee blue grass quickly gained the horses' attention and the heat became bearable as they stood around eating for two weeks soaked in sweat until they acclimatized (which horses are phenomenally good at).
Johnny has been my pal ever since the day we met. Loyal, willing, smart, playful, sensitive, calm, athletic, just a pure joy to be around. He does have a cheeky side and he's not a "anybody can ride him" type of a horse. At times he's too smart for his own good and I have known him to take merciless advantage of people unless I'm around to keep a stern eye on him. He has been known to eat brooms, knock things over for fun, he poked his head through a window screen and tore it to shreds, he leans on the farrier and can be a general brat. And all the more I love him for it!
But when it comes down to business there's no other horse I'd turn to. Whether it's checking the pastures, sorting cattle, or heading out for a long trail ride, he's my man. He even won me my first Ranch Sorting competition last year! It is not very often you meet one-of-a-kinds, but that he certainly is.
Sometimes when I hear powerful music I envision a rearing horse, mane flowing and nostrils flaring. I don’t know, it’s strange, it just floats in slow motion through my mind. Burns a glowing ember inside my soul. Makes me want to turn into the music, living in that moment of perfection – or to turn into that horse and strike the air with angry hooves, eyes wild and glinting with freedom and rage. There is something similar to understanding the spirit of a horse to understanding the emotional release of playing guitar.
I can look into the eye of a horse I’m training and see myself. Sometimes it’s cathartic, sometimes it’s enlightening. Sometimes it’s scary, sometimes I don’t like it. If you know how to read horse behaviour their thoughts become transparent to you because they live in the moment, and they want you to understand them because it makes them feel safer – they take comfort in knowing you’re understanding them. And they make it very obvious if you know how to pay attention.
Like the horse, the true guitar player is living in the moment and exuding the raw emotion of that exact moment. That is the pinnacle of guitar playing. At least it is for me. Your soul seems to take over from your physical being. Often I catch myself in mid solo where time slows down – or does it speed up? – and it doesn’t seem like I’m playing, I’m just feeling. Just like a horse. So perhaps there’s nothing better than playing guitar except maybe being a horse.