The Brave Eighteen
Nine horses and their riders went out that day prepared to sacrifice themselves. Here is their story.
My rider, Pete, was on that mission. He was riding my buddy, Sundance. My name is Aztec. I would have been honored to go on that mission but I was dealing with a previous injury preventing my going. Perhaps in an attempt to lessen my guilt, Pete told me he wished we could have done the mission together. But it was not to be.
Pete told me about his mission, but like the others he was not going to tell the public about the epic adventure from which they had just returned. So it falls on me to let everyone know about the bravery displayed that day.
It was a hot, cloudless, sunny day throughout Southern Illinois. Everyone came to the Riding Center expecting a usual day of training. But when they arrived their Instructor General, Sarah, informed them that the Center was under attack. After explaining the situation, she asked for volunteers. Eighteen volunteered.
A plan of attack was devised and the Brave Eighteen, as they will forever be named, went off to battle. Nine horses and nine riders. Their mission was to ride through the enemy line and eliminate as many of them as possible making it safer for those who followed.
My rider said the first few minutes were uneventful, even pleasant. Expecting a battle, it was a bit disappointing.
But then they entered the trails which were surrounded on all sides by trees, dirt, fallen logs, some mud, and THE ENEMY IN HIDING.
Suddenly, the enemy’s strategy became clear. They would attack individually. Attacking only one horse and rider. And without warning. As quickly as the enemy appeared, it would disappear. It happened so quickly, nothing effective could be done. The enemy would show themselves, hover, strike, and zoom away.
These adversaries were a tremendously fast and sneaky enemy making it impossible for the Brave Eighteen to ever initiate an attack. These guardians of the Riding Center would never know from which direction the enemy would strike. The only defense was to squash them whenever they would drop out of the sky and land upon the backs of our heroes.
They rode on. The Brave Eighteen.
Sundance saw an attacker swoop down from the sky and he tried to stomp the life out of his opponent. Unfortunately, the attempt failed. And just as quickly as the enemy appeared it disappeared.
None of our heroes were spared this kind of attack.
Still, the Brave Eighteen rode on.
Sundance told me those swooping attackers appeared to be over an inch in length. Some would hover like a drone. He could see their long colored wings and brightly colored eyes. Sometime, when they landed, it would feel like a knife slicing his skin, blood would ooze out, and the assailants would try to feed on the blood pools.
It was the responsibility, though, of my four-legged friends to let the rider know when an attack occurred. My friends would shake their head, stomp their feet, or swish their tail to warn their rider when the enemy showed up. Sometimes my rider friends would have to thrust out their appendages believing the enemy would be dissuaded from its attack.
My friend, Velvet, and her rider, Captain Jean and my sister, Emirah, and her rider, Lieutenant CJ Baker, were undaunted. They gave orders to quicken the pace and canter on. There would be a risk, though, involved with the faster pace. They would be through enemy lines quicker, but at the faster pace squashing an assault would be much more challenging.
It took only a moment before the next attack occurred.
The youngest warriors, Abby and her rider, Private Maddison, came under attack by two enemy at the same time. They are true warriors, these two. Even though they had the least experience of the group, they were fearless. Both had a courageous heart but that made no difference to the enemy. Abby and Maddison soon found themselves struggling with defending themselves and maintaining the current pace.
Coco and her rider, Private Lisa, saw that the two were about to be overpowered by the enemy. They quickened their pace to help the young warriors take on the attackers. The attackers lived no more.
A request was made to slow the pace. Doing so, though, would make The Brave Eighteen more susceptible to personal attacks. But doing so would also ensure the demise of more enemy. The mission after all, was to make it safer for those who were to come after them.
After careful consideration, the order was given to slow the pace and to slaughter more of the enemy.
Pete was too humble to tell me of his own personal victory. I learned of it through my buddy, Sundance. He told me that he and Pete were pretty lucky during the mission because they had only come under individual attack one time. They had spent most of the mission warning the others of impending dangers.
But there was that one time.
Three enemies came out of the tree tops to attack them. Pete and Sundance saw them coming. One in front followed by two more, horizontally behind the leader. When they got within arm’s reach, Pete reached up with his bare hand, grabbed them out of mid-air, and squashed them. Sundance told me it was quite impressive. I would expect nothing less from Pete.
The Brave Eighteen was making great progress. The enemy was being eliminated. Fewer attacks were being made. It seemed as if the enemy had given up as The Brave Eighteen rode into an open field. But unbeknownst to our heroes, one last ditch effort was about to be made.
It was in that open field when the final attack occurred. Serifina and her rider, Corporal Peg, were riding rear guard. Two of the enemy, hiding in the tall grass, jumped onto Serifina’s underbelly as she rode over them. In an attempt to rid herself of them, Serifina raised her front legs, kicked out, and then rolled onto her side. Corporal Peg alerted the patrol of her precarious situation. Her alarm was heard. Then both disappeared into the tall grass.
Serifina sprang to her feet and ran to the nearest member of the Brave Eighteen, Coco and Private Lisa, to get her rider help. Coco and Private Lisa followed her back to assist Corporal Peg who was in a fierce battle with the enemy. Corporal Peg finally stood up, proclaimed the enemy deceased, and then remounted her trusty steed.
The Brave Eighteen rode on.
For the next fifteen minutes, no more contact was made with the enemy. Captain Jean and Lieutenant CJ Baker declared the mission’s objective achieved. The battle was over. The Brave Eighteen then headed home.
Upon their return, the riders washed the remains of the enemy from their hands. My horse buddies were checked for war wounds, groomed, fed, and returned to their quarters.
The report made to General Instructor Sarah was as follows: The enemy body count was high. Many horseflies lost their lives. The only injury was to Corporal Peg, who suffered a slight wound when she and Serifina disappeared into the tall grass.
The Riding Center is now safe for others to enjoy.