MALIBU WAY OF LIFE: ‘The Horse is God’s gift to Man’

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In this passage from the Koran, 15,000 years of human history are distilled into a single sentiment that embraces the mystery and the brass-tacks practical nature of the human-horse bond. There is no creature with whom we share the earth that has given us more, nor one whose nature remains so mysterious. For everyone who has ever welcomed a horse into his or her life, that life is forever transformed in some way.

One icy Saturday morning when I was nine, I heard a heavy truck lumbering its way slowly across the crunch of frozen gravel. I looked out and beheld a horse trailer and a weary driver hooking a steep ramp to its rear. Mother dashed out and I flew behind her, gaining and then passing her on the walk.

“What are you doing?” she cried out to the driver. Placid as a packhorse, he kept at it. Through the door, I caught a glimpse of something golden as a promise in the shaft of light that pierced the high window. Wave her arms all Mother might, I knew I saw my future in the dark eyes of a pale palomino led down from the truck.

He was poker-winnings, one of a hundred oddly extravagant gifts we received from time to time when Dad’s buddies tired of playing for cash and bet fantasies instead. Of course, I named him Lucky. Headstrong and talented, he was an equine James Dean and I loved him as much as any teen ever loved a movie idol. Lucky won us ribbons in the ring and then peeled me off on low branches racing in the woods. He’d jump a 4-foot gate and then balk at a stream and dump me in it. Yet, for all my flying dismounts, I knew these were adolescent pranks-just a tease-for, instead of taking off leaving me mud-encrusted and hurt, Lucky’d stand by and nuzzle me until I brushed myself off and clambered back into a secure spot in the saddle. We had a bond, something ineffable that could not be spoken, a psychic link that surpasses understanding. Somehow, we shared that rare mystery of interspecies connection.

It is many years since Lucky and I parted, but last week I experienced the quintessence of our bond. Under the Big Top in Glendale, there is a circus to take your breath away, “Cavalia,” homage to the horse.

Created by the amazing talents that produce Cirque de Soleil, this features the only human I have ever seen who could make one believe in the ancient myth of the Centaur, half-man/ half-horse: Frederic Pignon.

Standing 20 feet from his horse, he gently waves a hand and his stallion follows as though mesmerized and drawn by a string. Then, there are two horses, then three, then a stable-full and all are swaying to the motions of a fingertip. It is a thing of beauty to behold-and it is leaving Los Angeles this weekend. Hurry, don’t miss it.

Carrot Cake For a Centaur

Serves 8

(The L.A. Times said Cavalia’s star ate carrot cake for his birthday. Two philosophies govern the cake-one says throw in everything and it might gain some redeeming nutritional value; the other says, “What the hay-it’s dessert, stupid!” Horses, of course, reside in the latter camp.)

1 1/2 pounds carrots, trimmed and shredded

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups Wesson oil

2 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder

3 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. vanilla extract

* Cream cheese icing

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Butter and flour three, 9-inch cake pans.

3. Sift together flour, baking powder and cinnamon.

4. Beat the sugar and eggs until thick. Add vanilla and oil. Stir in the flour mixture.

5. Fold in carrots (and any other additions). Spoon equal amounts into each pan and bake until the cake springs back when you touch it-about 30 minutes.

6. Cool before frosting.

“Healthy” Variation: Add your choice of: 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, 3/4 cup crushed pineapple (well-drained), 1 cup raisins and/or 1 cup shredded coconut. Note: If using pineapple, reduce oil by 1/2 cup and eliminate 1 egg.

Cream Cheese Icing

8-ounce package of real cream cheese, at room temperature

3 Tbs. butter

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. lemon juice

1. Cream cream cheese and butter.

2. Sift in sugar and beat well. Stir in flavoring.