Babysitter horses are legends in their own right. Most of us have had at least one in our lives; that old, semi-retired veteran horse that allowed us to be complete jackasses with virtually no regard for our own safety, and still kept us in one piece. Whether they were the 20-something year old mares that still ambled around a barrel pattern and let us think we were Martha Josey, or the ancient Arab geldings that steadily carried our asses around a show pen, listening to the announcer instead of our unspecific, muddled aids, they were gems. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were sitting on the equine-equivalent of a goldmine. Looking back now, you wonder “How the HELL did I not kill myself with the stupid shit I did on that thing?!”. Really, at the end of it all, we silently thank those now long-gone horses for keeping us alive and encouraging our love for all things equine.
As a fairly-frequent seller of these types of horses, I find myself presented with a particular kind of parent more often than I’d like to be. I guess it comes with the territory, and as annoying as it is, I have to deal with it. This type of parent, although not quite as lethal as the “I want a young horse so my kid can grow with it”-parent, is still completely unqualified to own anything more than a gerbil and overall frustrating as hell to me. This breed of parent is the type you are thoroughly disappointed in within five minutes of their arrival and they have an innate ability to make you wish you’d stayed in bed and hit the Fuck You button on your phone when they called. They are usually quite eloquent, and some even know to ask all the right questions in the phone conversation. They’re sneaky, its tough as hell anymore to vet out the genuine customers from the real idiots, and I wish I could say I had a fail-proof system for picking them out, but I learned yesterday that my system is flawed. This type of parent can come in many shapes and forms, from any background or social class, they have not the slightest bit of a clue, are severely deficient in common sense, yet felt that reproduction of their obviously-stellar genes would be okay. You pity their kids, and genuinely worry for their safety. Unfortunately, these parents seem to think that the best way to keep the kids amused and out of their hair, is to get them into horses….for a day or two.
Now I didn’t realize this until recently, and I suppose that’s my own fault; Horses, horse farms, and the people that run them, are actually developed to be really neat, inexpensive day-care centers. You’re SUPPOSED to be charming, inviting, and entertaining as hell to every person that sets foot on the property (I’m still trying to perfect that part). You’re supposed to be okay when a Suburban full of 8 year olds shows up because Mommy is shopping for a horse “for the kids”. As a barn owner, you’re supposed to be totally fine with seventeen obnoxious brats with no manners screaming and running all over, chasing your dogs, running through your flower beds (what’s left of them anyway, because, this IS a horse farm, after all), finding and catching Garter snakes and laying them on your Labradoodle because “It wants to ride on the puppy!”, and you’re absolutely not supposed to say a word about all of this, because you MIGHT offend this mother who is apparently completely oblivious to everything except the horsey in front of her….and every text message or Facebook update she gets on her $800 iPhone.
Now, to everyone out there trying to sell a “Kid Safe” horse: YOU WILL GET BUYERS LIKE THIS. They will show up (usually late, because they just HAD to stop at McDonalds), they will take up four hours of your life that you’ll NEVER get back, and they WILL piss you off. Please understand that you are not there to sell them a horse. Your sole existence in that dingbat mother’s mind is to entertain her kids for a few hours so she doesn’t have to. You will have to groom and tack up your phenomenal “babysitter” horse, who will tolerate ALL of these stupid kids and dogs screaming and barking and playing tag in and around its legs, then you will have to ride this horse so Mom can watch and decide if its “safe enough” for her precious little darlings. Mom won’t REALLY watch though, she’ll be buried in her phone the entire time and only glance up after you’ve walked, jogged and loped both directions, performed four flawless flying changes, sidepassed both directions, and done three pivots that would make a world’s trainer jealous, all while riding with both hands behind your back while singing a Greek translation of Ava Maria. Once all of that nonsense is done, you’ll have to let every one of those brats scattered throughout your property ride your horse too. For 30 minutes each.
Not one of these kids has ever had a riding lesson in its LIFE, no one brought a helmet (so get your ass back to the barn and get them one, and make sure you show Mom where to sign on the waiver, because she probably can’t read) and all are wearing shorts and sandals. Hence the OBVIOUS need for a “babysitter horse” because Mommy “Just wants a good, quiet horse that I can drop them off at the barn to play with and not have to worry”. You’ll obviously have to make it a lead-line lesson, and spend a few hours hoofing around the arena leading your horse and praying that the gods will strike both you and your horse down right there to save you from this torture. These kids will holler, they’ll kick the shit out of your horse’s sides and flail like fish out of water, but he’ll keep plodding along next to you because of the hours of showmanship training you’ve worked on together. Mom will take TONS of pictures to immediately upload to Facebook, and life will be grand for all of her friends, family, and coworkers with nothing else to do except to “like” them. Your life, and the life of your horse, currently sucks, but who cares? You’re only there to entertain the kids for free!
After you’ve acquired four new blisters on your feet, and your horse has CLEARLY run out of gas and patience, its time to call it a day and untack. Maybe when they see how awesome your guy is to unbridle and hose down, they’ll fall in love and leave a deposit, right?? Don’t worry, Mom and the kids have already lost interest and are on their way back to the Suburban with a wave and a “We’ll be in touch! Thanks!”.
Isn’t this FUN?! And to think: you have three more appointments to show him AGAIN this weekend!!