Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Dear Backyard Breeder

Dear Backyard Breeder,

Today we killed your pony. I thought you deserved to know, since you obviously cared so much about him that you kept him alive five years longer than he should have been, just to dump him in someone’s pasture like unwanted trash.

Five years. That’s how old the vet estimated he was. Five years of living with a deformed spine, deformed hips, brain damage and neurological deficits, all of which he was probably born with. Five years of being unable to walk properly, let alone run or buck or even easily lay down. He showed us that today when he tried desperately to lay down to nap before the vet arrived, but couldn’t bend his hind legs to allow it. I hope he was at least a cute baby, because the stallion I saw was nothing but a pain-riddled shell of what should have been a mercy-euthanasia as soon as he came out of his mom.

So tell me, what was it? I just want to know what your reasoning was to allow this sweet guy to suffer his entire life. Did you have his momma and decide it would be a lot of fun to raise a foal? Did you own the stallion and decide he needed to prove his manhood? Did your kids beg you for a baby and then get bored? Did you breed him hoping for a million-dollar baby to pay your bills for awhile? Fuck, you didn’t even geld him. I guess that vet bill was more than you budgeted for, huh?

Tonight, a friend of mine helped me adjust his body in my trailer so the backhoe operator can pull him out easily in the morning. Do you know what kind of friend says "sure" when you ask a question like that? One who has seen just as much fucked up shit as I have and knows what it does to your psyche to see this shit on a daily basis without someone to vent to. We managed to get the strap around his stiff front legs, and two 140-pound girls pulled him to the back of the trailer. His big, thick, black forelock fell over and I stared at the white star, stripe and snip for a minute and wondered why anyone would force such a cute face to be so miserable his entire life. This pony suffered for a long damn time, and you allowed it. And then you let people like us have to feel like fucking dogshit because we had to be the ones to kill him and end his pain. That pisses me off. I didn’t ask for this, I do it because I HAVE to. Because people like you keep breeding shit to shit to make more shit and then abandoning that shit and leaving it for responsible people like us to clean up. Thanks, I really had nothing better to do in my twenties.

My horses at home don’t even line up at the fences anymore when I pull in with the stock trailer to see who the new guy is. Most of the time, there’s a dead horse inside and I think they know. They don’t want to see that. Maybe they appreciate that I helped one of their own cross over to wherever it is that horses go when they leave this world. Maybe they just think I’m the fucking Grim Reaper and they’d better be on their best behavior or they’ll be in the trailer next. I don’t know.

Tomorrow, I’ll take your pony to the place where I take the rest of them. A really nice guy named John The Backhoe Guy will pull him out with the strap we put around his legs, and push him into an unmarked grave alongside all of the others. He’ll bury him, there won’t be any fanfare, no one will even know what his name was. You didn’t bother to give anyone that information when you ditched him. I might shed a tear on the way out. But make no mistake, it’s not for you. It’s not even for your pony. It’s for the fact that there will probably be another one just like him tomorrow, or the day after that. I see John The Backhoe Guy every week lately, and he tells me every time that he hates when I show up. I smile and say I hate it too, but we both know what it means: Somewhere, some asshole backyard breeder said “Hey! Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a baby horse?”

I took one last photo of your pony for you, in case you cared. I figured you might want to see what he looked like tonight. I hope it was worth it.

The Horsechick

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Pony Lady

I’ve never been accused of being the maternal type.  It’s not that I hate kids, there’s just this deep-rooted fear of the unknown and convincing me to babysit is like trying to baptize a cat. There’s usually a lot of yowling, some cussing, the claws come out and I usually get my way.

I don’t fear all young humans, just any under the age of two, and those from the age of five to about nine. The little ones cry and puke and shit all over and are essentially zero fun, and the bigger ones ask too may questions that aren’t satisfied with an equally-puzzled-sounding “You know, I really don’t know….maybe we should ask your mom?”. Any human over nine (and of the female variety) generally thinks I’m pretty damned cool, and until they hit about eighteen, they’re nearly tolerable. Once they hit eighteen, I’m not nearly as cool as they previously thought I was, and once I hit my thirties, I can probably kiss that little window of awesomeness goodbye as well. 

This is why I will never have kids.

Right now, I am the coolest person in the world to a decent number of the pre and mid-teenagers that I know. And, according to my buddy’s two year old, I’m pretty awesome. He doesn’t really say it like that, but I get shown a lot of toy dump trucks, bulldozers and jeeps, so that must account for something. Also, he hasn’t thrown up or shit on me. That means they like you, right?

Anyway, I know, deep down, that the single, solitary reason I am considered cool to most of the female juvenile humans I know is simple: I have ponies.

When I show up at the training barn with a load of horses and ponies for “Let’s see if this one has any natural talent”-day, there is generally a small herd of girls waiting outside my trailer to take lead ropes before I even get the truck in park. I pull in, and I instantly go from that same social-nobody that I was in high school (and never really outgrew) into a popularity queen that could rival Taylor Swift. Pat says there’s no way this is good for my ego and claims that I may be a narcissist. He’s probably right, but for the meantime, fuck it. I am awesome. I am somebody. I'm like Santa, but much better-looking in breeches. I am… The Pony Lady.

I’ve always been able to lean on the possession of the horses as an ice breaker when it comes to kids. It doesn’t matter who they are, whether they talk much or not, there’s something about horses that has always been able to bring out the chattiness in a kid. I instantly score points when I can pull one out by the halter for them to pet, and as any horse owner knows, being responsible for that first horse-petting or riding experience can get filed into their little brains as one of those memories they’ll have for a lifetime. I try my best to make it a good one.

I even have the fluffy little lard-roll of a Corgi to lend herself to the kids’ memories of how great it is at Uncle Pat's house (and consequently, how great I am). Even kids terrified of dogs have a hard time being afraid of 35 pounds of fat and 5 pounds of fluffy white fur on four-inch legs. She’s a good ice-breaker, and if her presence can help one terrified kid overcome their fear of dogs, then she’s done her job (yet again).  I love the little fat tard.

Anyway, when Pat told me that some of his siblings would be bringing their spouses and respective kids over to see the house and meet the animals, I looked at him like he was nuts.  Of course, I had the obligatory panic attack and cleaned the house, but I knew we didn’t have anything here that any of his nieces or nephews would want to play with (all under 12, I believe, and half of which are in that “over 5 and consequently terrifying” range), and it’s cold outside. They were going to be bored, plain and simple. Bored kids get into trouble.

But, I have secret kid-friendly weapons. I have the horses. And the dogs. Well, at least one dog, anyway. The 125-pound Bulldog was not going to be making an appearance, since we weren’t positive how he’d handle little kids. He’s been good in the past with one at a time, but a houseful? The last thing I needed was a kid getting bit that I’d eventually be related to. That might put a damper on the engagement…

So the families showed up, Buford was in his cage, and I really thought we’d be okay. I honestly did. Until the 35-pound fluffy white loves-everyone-and-would-never-ever-hurt-a-kid-even-if-they-smelled-like-cheese dog waddled up to the first kid.

Cue blood-curdling scream...

Now, for the life of me, I can’t figure out what is threatening about a fat little dog with gigantic, pointy ears and no legs. I’ve tried looking at this from every angle possible, and I just can’t figure it out. But I do know one thing, I’ve never seen a little human climb to the top of a couch faster than that girl moved. I didn’t even know they could move that fast! Whole new reason to not want kids of my own: I’ll never own something I can’t catch with grain or peanut butter. It was astounding.

The scream of course set Buford into SOMEONE IS DYING,  I MUST ATTACK THIS THREAT AND DEFEND EVERYTHINGGGGG!!!!-mode, which, I’ll admit, is terrifying to listen to, whether you live with this dog or not. There’s a reason he’s referred to as the home-security system. No one in their right mind would cross his path to break into this house. This set the rest of the kids off into a screaming/yelling/shrieking fit, because there’s nothing remotely unterrifying about 125-pounds trying to protect his family from something he can’t see from his crate. 

So at this point, I now have Buford, who is trying to bark the door of his cage open, ShortDog, who REALLY just wants one of these damned kids to rub her belly, so she’s waddling around from one to the other to the other, which makes the kids ALL leap onto the couches to get away from her, all while shrieking in ear-piercing octaves I didn’t know any human aside from Mariah Carey was capable of reaching. And their respective parental units trying to talk over the screams to ask the kids to stop. And Pat yelling at Buford for yelling at everything.

This is why I will never have kids.

So after trying unsuccessfully to calm the clusterfuck down, we ended up outside to see the horsies, because horsies are cool, and I’ve never heard one growl or bark. Buford is still in the house in his crate, pissed off as ever, and ShortDog got locked inside as well to hopefully prevent me experiencing another ruptured eardrum.

At this point, I’ve struck out on the cute, furry puppy thing. Who the hell knew the kids were going to be piss-themselves-terrified of ShortDog?! Seriously, she looks like a fat bunny rabbit, how is that terrifying?! Whatever. Perhaps we’ll have better luck with Tyler. He’s cute, he’s chestnut and has perfectly-matching white legs and a big blaze, and he’s finally done humping everything in sight, thanks to that extra surgery last summer. He’s the shortest, least-intimidating horse I’ve got in the field right now, and I know him well enough to know that he gives absolutely zero fucks about anything and will stand quietly until the kids are done molesting him.

Tyler gets pulled out. Tyler is not amused, but Tyler does nothing except yawn and drop his head for the nose-petting he knows is coming. This is nothing new for him.

Cue blood-curdling screams…


And then it hits me: I am no longer cool. I am no longer the awesome Aunt-To-Be. I am still The Pony Lady, and that has just become a negative thing. I have struck out on not only the fluffy white puppydog, but the adorable kid-friendly pony as well. I am out of tricks, my bag is empty. I have no idea how to relate to these kids, they have turned from exciting prospects of new fans, to little Martian creatures that I do not understand. I don’t watch cartoons, I have no idea what to talk to them about. I put Tyler away, completely defeated, and I head back to the barn.

The kids spent the remainder of the visit running up and down the hill of the driveway in some sort of strange variation of tag. In the cold. Completely and thoroughly enjoying themselves away from the child-eating dogs and horses. They have no idea what they’ve done to my fragile ego. They are happy. They are free.

And I am the very uncool Pony Lady.

This is why I will never have kids.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why I Hate Horses

Disclaimer:  I am in a shitty mood, Cleveland is dead, and if you think this blog sounds like the rantings of a spoiled brat, come pour yourself into trying to keep a good horse comfortable for a few years, just to have to lose him anyway.  Watch him die, knowing you failed at prolonging his pain-free life, and then tell me I'm whining.  

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a Horsechick.  I don’t know anything else or any other way to be.  I started with miniatures when I was five, and I suppose I never really grew out of it, much to the dismay of my parents.  As long as I’ve been in the horse world, I’ve heard people (mostly my siblings or former significant-others) say, “I hate horses”.  Generally this came out of their mouth when I was in the midst of foiling their plans with something horse-related.  I can’t say I blame them.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately too, actually.  And to be perfectly honest, not only do I see where they’re coming from, I’m beginning to agree with them. 

I’m facing the very difficult and unpleasant part of ownership right now in that Cleveland was laid to rest a few weeks ago.  I miss him and, frankly, this makes me very frustrated and pissy.  I don’t handle grief or vulnerability well, and I tend to display any negative emotion in the form or sarcasm or anger.  It’s wasn’t his fault that he had to die, he was used up hard his entire life, and not afforded the luxuries that a horse of his caliber and kindness should be until it was too late.  He was in pain, despite the medications he was on to try and help, and his quality of life was unmistakably low and I had to make the call to end his suffering before his body failed him completely and he ended up passing in a painful, miserable way in the middle of winter.  He didn’t deserve to have to go out like that, no horse does, and it seems like there are quite a few assholes in this world who will turn a blind eye to their pet’s suffering and wait for nature to “take its course”.  He died quickly and peacefully, high as a kite on pain meds and still chewing on a mouthful of grass.  Exactly how I want to go out, the lucky bastard.  It still hurts though, in that tiny space where they say my heart would be, if I had one.

This pisses me off, and leads me to wonder why in the hell I do what I do.  What’s the point, if there are still people out there doing the exact opposite of what’s right?  Why should I have to be the responsible owner who anticipates her horse’s pain and does her best to avoid it for the good of the horse, even if it means looking like a jackass sitting in my car in traffic with tears streaming out from under my sunglasses for a full two weeks before the horse even dies because every time I’m alone, all I can think about is the fact that he’s one of the kindest damned horses I’ve ever come across and I only got a couple of years with him?  Talk about torture….at least I could blame my red, puffy eyes on allergies.  Thank god for waterproof mascara.

Since I have a job that affords a large amount of time for internal reflection (which I’ve learned is never a good thing), I spent most of the past few weeks contemplating why I do this to myself.  Verdict: I have no idea.  The pain and aggravation far outweighs the rewards, it seems.  I’ve decided that I, much like the aforementioned men in my life, hate horses.  And upon further discovery, this is a feeling I’ve evidently held for quite some time.  I just didn’t know it.

I hate horses because, as an elementary and middle-school age child, no one ever invited me to their houses for playdates or sleepovers.  Looking back, one could probably assume it was because of my inability to get along with others, but I know it was because I had ponies at my house and everyone knows ponies are the most powerful magnet in the world to little girls.  Everyone came over to my house, I went nowhere.

I hate horses because I could have bought a much nicer dress for senior prom, had I not had to pay board or pay the farrier that month instead.  Let’s completely disregard the fact that my prom date ditched me for another girl mid-dance whom I’m fairly certain is a male, post-op, these days.  And no, I’m not going to let that one go. 

I hate horses because I probably could have gone away to a fancy school and gotten a shiny, expensive degree in something that pays a whole lot more than I’m making now with my less-shiny degree, but because I refused to “give up the damned horses” (thanks Dad), I’m working my ass off every week just to hand my checks over to the horses in one fashion or another.  Gucci?  No.  Grain. 

I hate horses because when my friends post Facebook pictures of their epic vacations and world travels, I know that I’ll never do the same because no one will be able to comprehend the feed chart in the barn or keep track of what horses need what care on a daily basis.  I also know that I’m a complete control freak and couldn’t leave town without stressing out the entire time.  Also, see above regarding paychecks….

I hate horses because we could be living in a lakefront house right now, but at last check, horses haven’t adapted to life as aquatic creatures yet, and I’m sure there’s a zoning ordinance against keeping horses in a walk-out basement and letting them graze a public boat launch.  I could have been living the boat life, but my blinding white legs (from wearing jeans or breeches constantly) prevented my bikini-body from ever taking shape.

I hate horses because I could have a closet full of the trendiest clothing and shoes, but instead, I have a closet full of outdated show clothes, Underarmour and “barn jeans”, and have legitimate anxiety attacks whenever an event arises that requires me to make a conscious effort to dress up.  I couldn’t curl my own hair if my last breath depended on it.  I couldn’t curl ANY hair, actually.  But I can braid the hell out of a fake tail.  Just don’t ask me to do it in heels.

I hate horses because fall doesn’t mean cider mills and trail rides and pumpkin-spice lattes for me.  Fall means panicked phone calls from owners who forgot that it snows in Michigan and desperately want me to sell their horses for top dollar.  This week.  For free, to “help them out”.  Even though the horse hasn’t been ridden in five years and hasn’t seen a farrier in the last six months.  But it should bring close to what they paid for it ten years ago because it’s a nice horse. 

I hate horses because instead of being ecstatic and eagerly planning a wedding, I’m trying to guesstimate how much winter hay needs to be purchased based on how many horses may end up dumped here and signed over by their owners when the snow flies.  I worry about how many I can afford to save and what happens to the ones I can’t help.  I see no rational reason to have a wedding when that money could be invested in the property in the form of a stall barn or arena footing or paying off the house.  Having horses has robbed me of the ability to take joy and excitement from something that the majority of girls dream about from the time they get their first Barbie.

I hate horses because at the end of the day, when all I want to do is curl up on the couch with a book guilt-free, I can’t.  I have a dozen emails, calls and texts to respond to from other horse owners asking for advice, tips and tricks to make life easier for them and keep their horses happy and healthy.  I hate that I dread calls from unknown numbers because they usually involve someone saying “My friend said you can probably sell/take/give away my horses for me so I don’t have to send them to the auction”. Never mind that I have a herd of my own to attend to, if I don’t answer and help them, the horses suffer. 

I hate horses because when I go to a show, its’ not with a nice, finished, expensive show horse that I can show off and take pride in.  I take what I have at home, and more often than not, I’ve loaned it to someone without a horse and am just along to help while they enjoy their day.  I cannot justify spending substantial money on a problem-free horse when I know there are hundreds at any point in time desperate for a home to keep them off the kill truck.  My guilt cripples me.  Actually, no.  My shitty knees cripple me.  My guilt (and cheapness) keeps me from owning a nice show horse. 
I hate horses because I know that at any point in time, there are at least a dozen people in the horse world that I’m forced to interact with that should eat a bullet the ugly way for what they do when no one is looking.  I see the shit that goes on, the abuse, the lies, the cheating, and because the horse world is so unbelievably small, I have to shut up and even sometimes smile.  The worst offenders, yes, I can try to do something about those (and I do), but for every big fish that I fry, there are a hundred little ones waiting for their turn to grow.   

I hate horses because I can look out in my pastures and know that every face staring back at me (only at dinner time, of course) has been on the receiving end of one of those “big fish”.  Every horse I have and that passes through my hands is broken in some way, be it physically, mentally or emotionally.  They are all the products of humans, and there is nothing I can do to change that.  Some I can fix, but the scars never truly go away, they just get covered by a little bit of hair, or pushed to the backs of their minds and maybe forgotten about for awhile in lieu of cookies, kindness and a little bit of patience.  Some are like Cleveland, who had a handful of years of peace and comfort at the end of his life, but whose life had to be cut short far too soon nonetheless.  They are products of man, never designed to be broken so badly, but broken.  And because of this, I cannot walk away.  Sure, I could quit.  Sell everything and buy that lakefront house and the nice clothes.  But then who will take care of everything I’d be walking away from?

I hate horses because they’ve built my reputation for brutal honesty for me.  This one has an issue, and no, I won’t sell him to you because you have kids and I won’t put anyone in the position to get hurt.  This is a nice horse, but you’re not experienced enough to be successful with him, sorry, I’m not going to take your money, go spend it on lessons.  This also causes me to loathe the asshole “trainer” who talks parents into an unsafe ride for their kid just to make a quick buck.  That kid gets hurt, that horse gets dumped at a sale, and I inevitably have to tell the “trainer” that she’s an irresponsible idiot and is going to get a kid killed, try to save the horse from a death sentence, and find the parents a new trainer.  Then I get accused of having “anger issues”.  Which is only slightly untrue. 

I hate horses. 


Monday, June 23, 2014

I Was Right

Sometimes, I have a good idea.  My good ideas are usually quite profitable.  However, more often than not, my ideas really aren’t that good, they usually end up being more trouble than they’re worth, and I end up having to admit that I may have been wrong.  As much as this would delight most men that I’ve been in relationships in the past with, Pat is not one of them.  I suppose he would be, save for the fact that my “good ideas” generally involve him working on something, so my failures become his wasted time and efforts.  For some reason, despite all of this, he still wants to be with me.  Poor guy, I suspect he might have a bit of brain damage….who the hell wants to stay with a Horsechick?

Anyway, because we have come face to face with the harsh reality that the tractor we need around here is going to cost dangerously close to $20,000, my latest efforts have been focused on quick-flip “projects” that will turn a substantial profit in a short amount of time to generate tractor-money.  Most of these projects require a human much handier than I, enter Pat.

When we bought this place, Pat fell in love with the barn.  At this point, I’m certain the house could have been filled with dead bodies and snakes and he would have still made the offer on the property.  To be fair, it is a great barn.  It’s huge, easily bigger than the house, with cement floors, high ceilings, and lots and lots of room for stuff.  It also could have easily held six stalls comfortably, but I was quickly informed that hooves had better never touch the concrete floors or I’d be sleeping in said barn.  Without stalls.  Okay, fine.  I was allotted an 8x8 square in the corner for my tack and equipment (a space that quickly turned into 10x16-something because, let’s face it, I have a lot of shit), and the rest quickly turned into big-ass-workspace/Man Cave.  He has a mini fridge, which makes it official. 

I firmly believe that all significant-others of Horsechicks should have access to a space that is wholly and entirely theirs.  We are a tough creature to survive with, and since it is only a matter of time before show clothes and bridles take over the kitchen table, polo wraps and saddle pads cover the laundry room floor, and Vetwrap and Betadine appear in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, the least we can do is give our significant-others a space that is theirs.  Gloriously uninterrupted, horse-free, and beer-filled.  Pat quickly filled his space. 

Because of the existence of Pat’s barn, and the fact that he is a fantastic welder, my “good ideas” have gotten generally larger and more complicated.  The man can fix just about anything, and when it comes to welding, he is an artist.  There isn’t much he can’t make good as new, it’s just a matter of whether or not his efforts will be more than the profit margin allows for.  Last week, on a tip from a good friend, I drug home a rather tough-looking horse trailer.  The ’94 Bison had certainly seen better days, but for the amount of work that it needed, it was worth waaaay more than what I paid for it.  A hefty contribution to the tractor-fund, for sure.  When Pat got home from work, I didn’t get my ass chewed out from the driveway, so I must have done well.  I left the trailer hooked to my truck, knowing he would put it where he wanted it to start the deconstruction process. 

Now, maybe this is female-logic speaking, but since the barn is at the top of a hill, and the truck is already hooked to the trailer, I assumed that the future Mr. Horsechick would have taken the most logical approach and backed the trailer up the hill and into the barn with my truck.  Not so, says Pat.  That would result in the trailer facing out and a further walk back and forth to the welder.  Evidently, we are going to do things his way.   “Ooooookay babe, whatever.  Can you please not kill yourself while I go take a quick shower?”  “Yep.”

One would consider “Yep” to mean that it would be safe to take ten quick minutes of relaxation and scrub off at least one or two layers of dirt and that a grown man would take that time to do something other than nearly kill himself.  Pat is a pretty intelligent guy (aside from his decision to stay with me, but we try not to hold that against him), and is very safety-conscious.  I generally don’t have to worry too much about him.  But as I’m rinsing the conditioner from my hair, and I hear my phone start to ring from the bathroom sink, I get that gut feeling that this is a phone call I really need to take.  It’s Pat.  Oh hell….

“Are you dead yet?”

“No, but I’m going to be real quick here if you don’t come out here and help me.”

“Oh Jesus…Can I put clothes on first?”

“Only if you can do it like real fast…”  I can hear a little bit of panic in his voice.  Pat does not panic.  This is bad.

It was at that point that I leaped into the bedroom and spent a solid ten seconds trying to decide the pros and cons of finding underwear, shorts, a t-shirt, should I opt for a bra?  Ugh, what about shoes?  Where the hell were my flip-flops?  Wait, if he’s doing something stupid, I should wear more than flip-flops…I’m likely to get my foot crushed otherwise.  But then I’d need socks.  I’ll never find two socks right now.  WHY didn’t I put the clean laundry away instead of leaving it in the basket?!  F-it, I’ll just wear the towel.  At least I’m clean.

Clearly, crisis management isn’t my strong point. 

So I go sprinting out of our bedroom, down the hallway, towards the back door, snag my flip flops and jam my feet into them mid-stride, while holding up my bath towel, which sends both dogs into a full-blown OHMYGODSOMETHINGISWRONG!!!!-panic, and the three of us dash out the back door.  They’re barking at nothing and running in circles, I’m trying not to trip over them or my own two feet.  I run across the driveway, silently praying to whatever higher power governs this type of shit that the super-religious neighbors didn’t decide to grill dinner in their driveway tonight, and bust through the side door of the barn.

Pat is straddling the quad, which is a youth-sized 200cc machine and probably weighs less than he does, which he has hooked to the 2,800 lb horse trailer in an attempt to pull the trailer nose-first into the barn.  Up the hill.  Into the barn.  It didn’t go as planned.  The quad made it, and then lost traction and began getting drug backwards down the hill by the clearly much heavier trailer.  If he had let go of the brakes on the quad, the trailer (according to him), would have rolled back down the hill, probably swung sideways, and flung the quad (and himself) like a Frisbee.  I’ve never really thought about it until that moment, but I’d imagine Pat would make a pretty shitty Frisbee.  And wearing nothing but a bath towel and $3 flip-flops wasn’t really the way I wanted to meet the paramedics in this township. 

So he has me finagle myself to where I’m now the one holding the brakes on the quad, he’s grabbing chains, ratchet straps, come-alongs, whatever he thinks will remedy this clearly-fucked situation, and somehow manages to get the trailer worked into the barn and on solid, non-hilly ground.  I am still awkwardly sitting on the quad, trying to figure out what was so wrong with using my truck when two very important thoughts dawn on me:

1)   I was right.  Ha!  I wonder when he’s going to admit that...

2)   Mosquito bites end up in some very uncomfortable places when you’re wearing nothing but a bath towel.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Family Values

I hate the holidays. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my family.  For all of their quirks and arguments and obnoxious habits, they are a great group of people.  Unfortunately, none of them are horse-people.  This isn’t generally a problem, they have their lives, I have mine.  We live a pretty hefty distance apart, and that works quite well for me.  They are city folks, with block parties, dance clubs and bars.  I am not.  My neighbors have chickens and a donkey, and a date night for Pat and I usually consists of a trip to Tractor Supply or Home Depot.  Both if we’re feeling a little crazy that night.  They go on weekend sightseeing road trips, we go get hay and consider it a win if we make it back with as many bales as we left the hay guy’s place with.  They lease new cars every 24 months, I own a ¾ ton four-wheel-drive pickup with seat covers to try to slow the takeover of mud and dog hair.  Their dogs go to groomers, mine get a dunking when I’m scrubbing water troughs.  There is a blatant and significant difference in lifestyles.  And I am completely okay with this.

But then the winter holidays roll around.  During the summer, I can usually dodge those “family get-togethers” by whipping out the good old standby excuse of “I have a horse show that I’m hauling a few to.  Need to do it for marketing purposes so I can get these ponies sold!  Got a house to pay for, and you know how that goes!  Sorry!”.  That usually works fairly well, but come Thanksgiving and Christmas time, I’m out of options.  I have to go and make my annual appearance to quell the brewing rumors that I’m pregnant with an illegitimate child and trying to hide it from my relatives. 

During the holidays, I have to actually dig out something that somewhat resembles “dressy clothes”.  I have to find footwear that doesn’t have spur marks or the slight aroma of pine shavings and horse shit, and put makeup on.  Like eyeshadow and stuff.  My baseball cap has to stay home, and it is only this time of year that I become aware of the fact that it’s been a year since my last haircut and…oh god….when was the last time I actually colored my hair?!  THAT’S my natural color?!  Ugh. 

I can usually make it through dinner without too many stares or comments about how much I can eat (sorry, don’t believe in Jenny Craig.  Anyone that moves tack and hay and chases escaped horses doesn’t need that bitch anyway), and when one or more of my cousins brings their new baby (which is apparently the accessory to have), I can sit quietly in the corner and ponder what halter colors would look best on the new horse at home.  They leave me alone, babies are much more interesting anyway, I suppose.  To each their own.  Although I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m becoming the token “weird animal relative”.  The equine version of “Crazy Cousin So-and-So with all the cats” that every family seems to have. 

Inevitably during the course of the evening, I run out of places to hide and someone asks me what’s new.  I am Facebook friends with some of these relatives, and they pretty much always ask me about my newest shining star of a prospect that I enthusiastically post about.  “I saw that new horse you have!  The red one, she’s really pretty!”.  This is where things usually go south.  I try to be patient, I really appreciate their attempts to relate to me and try to seem interested in the happenings in my life.  I really do try to dumb down my language so that it’s comprehendible to the common non-horse person, but I can’t  I’m terrible at it.  Rare is the horse person that can simply shut down horse-speak, and if anyone knows someone that can teach that ability, I’d love their contact information.  Our conversations usually go something like this:

Me: “Oh, thank you!  She is actually a he, but that’s okay.  He’s such a doll!  Really a great mover too!  Did you see him jump in the videos?”

Them: “Um, I saw a video where he was running around hopping over things!  Did he really win those ribbons?”

Me: “Yep!  That was his first show actually.  He showed in the baby greens and did really well!  Got a little squirrely down the first outside line but the girl that I had riding him kept it together…”

Them: “What do you mean squirrely?  Do they have squirrels there?”

Me: “No, sorry.  I meant he’s kind of green, er…untrained, still, so he wasn’t very good at staying straight between the jumps.”

Them: “Ohhh!  So, is it like, hard for them to jump all of those jumps?  Don’t they get tired?  I mean, it didn’t look like he was going very fast, he looked like he was tired.”

Me: “Nah, he was jumping a hunter course.  They want those horses and ponies nice and slow and consistent.”

Them: “What do you mean ‘hunter’?  Do you hunt on them?”

It is usually at this point that I begin to appreciate why half of the horseshow world tends to go south for the winter.  It’s not because of the shows…it’s because of the forced family interaction if they stay here.  I get it now. 

Our conversations never seem to last long.  I suspect this is because you can only try to explain the difference between a pony and a horse or a hunter and a jumper to the layperson so many times before they give up trying to understand and go back to incoherently babbling at whichever diaper-clad shit-machine baby is in the room.  So I do what I assume every horse person does at a family function: I finish whatever big-kid beverage happens to be in my cup at the time, pour myself another a little stronger than the last, and wonder how I can possibly afford to spend next winter in Florida. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Polo Knots

     I hate winter, but I hate spring even more.  At least during the winter, I have a valid excuse to bundle the horses up in seven blankets a piece, park them in front of all the round bales they can eat, and hibernate in my house under the mantra “It’s so damn cold out!” and feel relatively guilt-free about doing so.  People don’t judge you for hiding inside when there’s frozen tundra on the other side of the front door, because they’re doing the exact same thing.  Unless they happen to have a heated barn and indoor arena at their disposal, in which case they post stupid selfie after stupid selfie of themselves and their horses being all warm, fuzzy, cozy, and productive in their training.  And the rest of us hate them for it.

     Anyway, I hate winter, but to me, spring is much MUCH worse.  Spring brings sunshine.  Sunshine brings the thaw.  The thaw brings mud.  I hate mud.  Mud means that no matter how warm and sunny it is outside, my feet are cold and wet because those great boots I bought on sale in January are no longer waterproof, and, damnit, there’s another puddle that I end up shin-deep in because puddles apparently eat Thoroughbreds.  Try as I might, there’s no convincing this stupid horse that walking THROUGH the puddle does not mean that puddle monsters will painfully devour her from the hooves up and consequently turn her into a pony.  Leaping sideways and dragging me into the middle of aforementioned puddle is clearly the only way to handle this situation. 

     Spring means that all of my fellow horse owners are getting a jump on their show season schooling, their trail rides, their pasture-seeding, and I’m over here trying to figure out how to lure an ornery old Appaloosa mare to the pasture gate without actually having to let go of the post I’m clinging to, because if I take one more step in, the mud WILL suck my boots off of my feet.  Evidently, this wonderful new property we have has drainage capabilities comparable somewhere between Louisiana Bayous and the Florida Everglades.  I’m certain we already have mosquitoes.  Completely ignoring the fact that the entire property features a grade that makes it nearly impossible to construct an arena or erect a barn without bringing in massive amounts of site-prep equipment, apparently this “grade” isn’t enough to drain anything to the point of being considered usable.  This is bullshit.

     Unfortunately for me, my hatred for spring and the accompanying mud is matched equally by my love of a long, thick, beautiful tail on a show horse.  Yes, I have a garden-variety of tail extensions in my arsenal of show tools, but there’s something so gratifying about a gorgeous natural tail on your horse that leaves everyone wondering how the hell you got it that way.  This past fall, a friend on Facebook finally shared her secret to her “Holy Crap!” tails on her horses: The Polo Knot.  She shared a video and within two days, I was outside with conditioner, VetWrap, and a lot of concentration trying to balance my iPhone on the back of my horse’s ass while trying to watch the YouTube video and mimic what they did.  It worked.  For a while, anyway.  Practice makes perfect though, right?  By the fifth horse, I’d finally figured out how to perfect the knot, wrap it tightly, and make sure that those tails were tucked away high and clean to be left there all winter, fully expecting them to come out in the spring and cascade to the ground like a Herbal Essences commercial. 

      Fast forward four months, and today I found myself ankle-deep in mud chasing the back end of my stupid Thoroughbred back and forth as we played our favorite game: “YOU’RE GOING TO EAT MY TAIL!”-Keep-Away.  She was the only one of the five to still have her tail wrapped from the original attempt back in December, a clear testament to my ability to do anything right.  Because of the mud, and the fact that show season isn’t that far away, I decided then and there to re-wrap all five horses in hopes of trying to preserve what tails they had, and maybe have enough there in a few months to successfully hide an extension in. 

     Now, my original wrapping experience was back in December, and I knew there’d be no way in hell that I’d find that original YouTube video, taking thirty seconds to search for it just wasn’t in the plans either.  I decided to redo the polo knots from memory.  It couldn’t be that hard right?  I knew there was a three-piece braid in there to start with, pull out a small piece at the top to twist with before you start the big braid…braid a little, fold, split the three pieces into two, fold them back and forth a few times around the big braid…some twisting…some turning…wrap with VetWrap and voila!  Couldn’t be that hard at all!  I mean, hell, if I could remember all of that, but I couldn’t even remember what I had for breakfast this morning, CLEARLY I knew what I was doing.  Video schmideo….I had this handled.  It wouldn’t take more than five minutes per horse, tops.  I’d be done in half an hour and could go start dinner.

     Two and a half hours later, as I finished up Cleveland’s tail and realized that I have horrible time-management skills, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that these stupid polo knots just didn’t look right.  I kept looking out in the field and figured that if the four other horses’ tails all looked exactly the same, just like this one, I must have done it right, but….I just didn’t remember the ones last fall looking like this.  It wasn’t until I pulled out the black VetWrap for Cleveland’s tail and finished the roll that I looked down at his tail in my hand and it hit me…

….Oh my god…My horses have dildos for tails…

     Bright pink, two neon green tails, a purple, and now this gigantic monster of a black one.  My pasture looked like a Lover’s Lane store.  I'm sure that the small population of porn-star horse-owners would be proud, but I am clearly the Worst. Horsemom. Ever.  A quick holler up to Pat in the barn elicited an eruption of laughter from him and a confirmation that even a non-horseperson could recognize what I’d done.  I have no idea how I managed to do it once, let alone five times without realizing what I was making, and I’m certain that if Sigmund Freud were alive, he’d have a field day and would come up with a very complicated explanation centered around my subconscious desire for a vibrant-colored horse-sized device or some crazy shit like that.  I can assure everyone that I get quite enough action in that department, no toys necessary, thank you very much.  I really just have no idea what happened there…in hindsight, I probably should have searched YouTube for the instructional video.

     After realizing that anyone that looks at my horses distinctly-colored tails would wonder just what in the hell goes on here, (seeing as the occupied pasture is along a main road), I had to make the decision.  Do I chase down all five horses immediately and rewrap them one by one?  It was getting dark and I knew I wasn’t going to have that kind of time.  In the end, I decided to leave them in all of their phallic-shaped-tail glory and take care of it during the week as time allows.  Screw it, we’re new to the neighborhood, we should probably just give everyone something to wonder about right off the bat so the crazy shit we do doesn’t come as such a shock. 

Worst. Horsemom. Ever.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Horse Show Boyfriends

      As I wrapped up my first year as head-coach for an local high school equestrian team (a tale in itself that I might tell later on), I came upon the startling realization that these young horsewomen had absolutely no knowledge of an invaluable asset that was plentiful and right under their noses.  So, doing my coach-ly duty as both a fellow female and a horsewoman, I let them all in on this secret source of manual labor:

      The “Horse Show Boyfriend”.

      Now the Horse Show Boyfriend need not be an actual boyfriend (for all of you parents whose hearts just momentarily stopped beating).  Any male friend will suffice for this particular purpose.  He must simply be physically strong, weak-willed, and ideally in love with your daughter (or you, if you happen to be single, this also applies to grown women and men their age).  His purpose is only to make your life as a horse show parent or competitor easier for the several hours that you are on the grounds.  Odds are, at the high school level, your daughter will be completely exhausted by the end of the show, so there’s minimal chance that they’ll end up spending unsupervised time together after.  There’s really no downside. 

      Since local horse shows are almost always on weekends, this frees up most potential HSB availability.  In the case of high school equestrian team, the majority of boys in that age group have unlimited availability on weekends, and will certainly clear their schedule when they receive the text from your daughter that reads “I’m at a horse show, you should come up and see me!  You can meet my horse!”.  Amazingly, these boys will ignore the last sentence of that text and ditch their friends and prior commitments to hop in the car and come to your daughter’s side.  Well, more like your daughter’s horse’s side.  This is where you come in.

      Once the HSB arrives, it is your job to make sure your daughter does not forget that she’s there to ride and compete despite the unplanned testosterone presence.  You can make sure this does not happen by quickly putting the HSB to work.  No teenage boy wants to stand around at a show full of girls and VERY LARGE horses who have VERY LARGE hooves and VERY LARGE teeth and conspicuously stand out.  Give him something to do so he looks like he fits in.  Need water buckets filled from a quarter mile away?  His legs probably aren’t broken, he can carry them.  She needs her saddle pulled out of the trailer?  Send him after it.  Let him show off his pubescent muscles for her by verbally instructing him in proper saddling technique while she gets dressed in the privacy of the truck (this also insures no accidental peep show while your back is turned).  Can’t get the girth tight?  Have the HSB do it!  Be sure to warn him that the horse might reach around and try to bite if he pulls to quickly, (this is a great opportunity to instill a healthy fear of the horses in the HSB).  Once the horse is tacked , the HSB makes an excellent horse-holder for the bridled horse that can’t be tied to the trailer any longer while you do important things like drink your coffee and chat with other parents. 

      While your daughter is heading to the warm-up pen, allow the HSB to accompany her.  They will get a bit of one-on-one chat time, and you can rest assured that no physical contact of questionable nature will take place because she will be mounted on top of 1,200 pounds of escort while he walks alongside.  Bet you’re glad you bought her that horse now, aren’t you?  The HSB won’t enter the warm-up pen, he’ll loiter outside in case she wants to chat on her way by, so you can keep a close eye on them both and potentially get some private-conversation time with the HSB.  Save the death threats for later, you may never actually need to use them.  Use this opportunity to explain what the judge will be looking for when your daughter goes in to show, and teach him a few horse-savvy terms so he can understand the mysterious language everyone around him is speaking.  Perhaps offer him something to drink or a few bucks for the concession stand.  Then leave him alone to nervously wonder why you didn’t tell him about your gun collection at home. 

      The trick to perfecting the usage of the HSB is to make sure your daughter is aware of his presence at all times.  No self-respecting teen is going to throw a tantrum in front of this guy.  This will be the most peaceful horse show you’ll ever attend, relish it.  If the HSB hints that he might be leaving soon, invite him to a post-show dinner!  If he accepts, he’s in it for the long haul, he might be able to tolerate your daughter’s hobby, and you’ll have someone to unload the trailer tonight when you get home.  If not, and he doesn’t have a good excuse like “I have to go to work”, “I have a lot of studying for the SAT to do”, or “It’s my turn to dish meals at the soup kitchen”, he’s not a keeper anyway and you’re better off letting him prove that to your daughter right now.  Explain to her beforehand that if he can put up with her showing and get along with her horse, he’s worth keeping around.  No man is worth the headache if he can’t help out at a horse show from time to time.  The best part of the HSB is that there’s no commitment on anyone’s end.  If this one doesn’t work out, invite a different one next time. 

      Now if you’re an older horsewoman and thinking this whole HSB thing doesn’t apply to you, think again.  Use the man in your life to your advantage.  Compliment him on how great his pickup would look…definitely better hooked to your trailer than any of the other guys’ trucks at the horse show.  Get him a comfortable lawn chair to set up in the shade and make sure there’s cold beer in the cooler, and then let him be. 

      They’ll get up and help when you need them, but by the fourth or fifth horse show, they’ve pretty much figured out the gimmick and it’s going to take more than a smile and batting your eyelashes to get them to come along.  To make things more interesting, show with a few girlfriends, and invite their men to bring grills, alcoholic beverages and tailgate the show.  It won’t take long before word travels to their single buddies that horse shows are the holy grail of women, and much more plentiful hunting grounds than a football game. 

      If you’re like me, and you’ve got a man who has figured out the Horse Show Boyfriend scam, yet still enjoys tailgaiting the shows with his friends, just go with it.  They might get a little carried away, but as long as they’re not disturbing anyone else or spooking horses, who cares?  Horse shows are painfully boring to non-equestrians, and unless you’re at a show with a lot of beginners, making a drinking game out of rider falls will lead to a group of very sober, bored men.  That’s never a good thing.  It is also very important to stress to the men BEFORE they become intoxicated that, under no circumstances, are they permitted to do any “improvements” to your horse trailer without your prior consent.  Horse shows spark competition not just amongst the riders, unfortunately.

      The most important thing to showing with an HSB as an adult is the bartender feature.  A little Southern Comfort in your coffee before your class helps to calm nerves, and if nothing else, you quickly become semi-famous on the local show circuit for being the traveling mini bar.  Plus, after three or four modified coffees, you don’t even care how catastrophic of a train wreck your ride was, AND you have a designated driver to drive the rig home!  Perfect horse showing, every time!