My horse, Leon and that ‘something special’ connection we shared

martin godwin with his horse leon in WWI parade

My horse and close friend, Leon and I had a certain ‘something special’ connection. Many who know me may not know that I used to ride for the Creswick Light Horse Troop in full WW1 light horse uniform parades in Melbourne, Ballarat and Mildura. Leon was my mount for these memorable rides. He was strong, handsome (being part Belgium draft) and had a sturdy yet kind presence.  

Leon and I relied on each other in extreme scenarios that many of the parades would throw at us. Imagine the sounds and excitement of balloons, drums, bagpipes, brass bands, tanks, guns, cannons and even a low-flying bi-wing plane swooping the formation.  

During the parades, tears would appear in my eyes; in part due to the occasion that I was commemorating, and in part due to the special connection I felt with Leon for sharing this experience with me. 

Leon consistently gave beyond the task that was asked. On one particular occasion, we were in troop formation (four abreast) in an ANZAC Day parade riding down St Kilda Road in the middle of Melbourne. Children were clapping, waving their banners. The energy was tremendous being in a formation of around 24 horses. 

Leon and I were on the far right displaying the full uniform of a light horse and rider. He had an original WW1 saddle on his back adorned with all of the kit that included rifle, bayonet and sword. I was adorned in a full trooper uniform with slouch hat and bandoleer (see photo).

The moment came when we were parading down the road and an elderly lady in a wheel chair to my right caught my eye. She appeared to have severe scoliosis and was unable to raise her head high enough to adequately see the full parade. In her right hand she was waving a small white cotton handkerchief as we rode past. I thought for a moment, then without hesitation proceeded to direct Leon out of the parade and towards the lady.  

Leon did what I asked and once we were facing the lady, he locked his eyes onto her and walked another 15 metres straight across to her. When we reached her, I tapped the reigns and by his own accord, dropped his massive head right into her lap with his nose barely touching the blanket draped across her knees. What followed was one of the most tender moments of my whole riding career. 

Leon held his head there softly as the lady gently patted his nose for a few moments. My eyes were welling up. Leon was never taught to do this. 

After what appeared to be minutes (in reality was only a few seconds) Leon took a step back, raised his head, turned back to the parade and re-entered the troop where his position was left.

I still remember this moment so clearly and I do believe that that small moment is what all of these commemorations are about. I’m not sure what Leon and that Lady shared in those brief moments, but I am so pleased that he worked with me to bring this moment about. I will never forget this and my eyes still well up remembering it to this day.

This day shone a light on that ‘something special’ connection we shared.

events, horse love, horse personality, riding
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