The hill seemed to have no end, it simply kept winding up. Just when you were sure you were almost there, you'd round another bend only to see a dozen more looming up ahead. He was dead tired, but bless his huge heart, he put everything he had into it.
I could feel his labored breathing as if it were my own; even for the riders the hill workout was hard work. Being the smallest team, I held him back behind the other two, pacing his stride and finding the easiest way up for him. This irritated him to no end - he hates being last. Every now and then he'd give me a random burst of energy, and I'd let him come up alongside one of the others, but always asked him to come back after a few strides. As the path got steeper and the hill became eviler in our eyes, the bursts of energy became less and less, until he was simply focusing entirely on keeping up with the longer legged, taller thoroughbreds ahead of him.
Trotting was getting extremely laborious for him; I could even see the other two beginning to slow. As we rounded the second last turn, he faltered, and for the first time ever, I felt his stride become as tired as he actually was.
I want a break.
"We're almost there, just a little further. I know you can do it," I kept my voice light and encouraging.
Just try to keep the trot, I told him through my hands before I let the reins slide through my fingers. He took the opportunity to stretch his neck out and find his own pace, and sure enough, he kept the trot.
Rounding the last turn, he asked me again when we would be done.
"We're almost there, just a little further. I promise, just a little further!" I went up into a half seat as I touched him gently with my heels.
Go get 'em.
He jumped forward at the cue, surprising me with one last burst of energy that he had apparently been saving up. He cantered as close as he could to the others, putting his nose at one of their flanks. I cheered him on as he poured everything he had into that last run.
If you want, I can go faster. I know I can. I felt his draining energy, but at the same time, there was a solid determination and will in his stride. I believed him.
It's okay. We're here. I touched the right rein gently as he dropped down to a trot, then a walk, sides heaving and slick with sweat.
We kept walking towards the edge as a breathtaking view came to greet us. I gazed out over the valley, stroking his sweaty neck as he stood for a moment and relaxed his entire body with a huge sigh.
"You did it pony," I whispered, running my fingers through his mane. "Good job."
P.S. I entered this into Pearls on a String's photo challenge. Check it out?