Horse Travel In North Italy

I have no pictures of it — no stunning visuals to go with. It was one of those moments where nothing interesting or exciting was supposed to happen when I left the house.

Only it did.

Dark night, 5 degrees below zero, snow on the streets. I was headed to the pharmacy for a last minute pick-up. There were no cars out, no people. Only me and the white, lamplit streets.

Rounding the corner, I heard it approach from behind. An approaching clack, clack, clack.

Horse on a street in Malta
Horse on a street in Malta

Quickly — I turned around, but saw nothing. Walking faster, now. Then there it was, again, clack, clack, clack.

Then, out of nowhere, a monstrous form emerged: a shadow from the ether. I could barely make it out, but then the sound of its feet. The stomp-slip-glide of its hooves through the snow, resonating in my eardrums. The clamorous rattle of its tack, shuffling and shifting with the weight and force of each step, overpowering the rider’s gentle clicking sounds.

And soon, I realized: this was not just any horse behind me. It was an oversized work horse. Think: Budweiser Clydesdale meets the Hulk. On a sidewalk. At night. A plodding trot looming from behind.

Its beastly nostrils flared, huffing streams of hot air. And I could hear its muscles pumping, then lungs expanding — in and out. Out, then in. The heat of its body was palpable on my exposed cheeks, its pulsing contract with life smashing down.

All other sound silenced by the snowy night.

After a snow in Cavareno (Val di Non)
After a snow in Cavareno (Val di Non)

If raw beauty had a trademarked moment, this was it.

I stopped dead in my tracks. And I stared. A horse taller than an RV, wider than any tractor, taking up so much space, yet so little. And as it passed, as it disappeared down the road and slipped under the yellow glow of streetlight, I felt so, so small.

It turned the corner, and was out of sight.

Where the horse and rider were going, or what they were doing on a snowy, nighttime street was a mystery. But the sight of them, emerging from the dark… The smell of horse hair and hay…  The chiming-shuffle of tackle and hooves… The smallness I felt as the horse towered past…

These things are burned into my memory.

Other horse sightings have occurred in Val di Non, ones I have proof of:

Horse on a street in Cavareno (Val di Non)
Horse on a street in Cavareno (Val di Non)
Horse out on trail in winter (Cavareno)
Horse out on trail in winter (Cavareno)

But none as striking or epic or ineffable as the horse that goes undocumented. Save for my ramblings. My memory. Those timeless images stamped in the mind…

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