Thursday, June 19, 2008

Did National Velvet do this?

As mentioned in the very first post on this blog, although my obsession with horses may not have started with TV or books, it was certainly fueled by those images. It took awhile, but I eventually understood I could not grow up to be Zorro or the Lone Ranger, much less their horses. Imagine my disappointment. Reluctantly, I looked to National Velvet to keep my dream alive.

I had only ever been around four real horses until well into adulthood, which means my
understanding of horses and horse ownership was seriously flawed. It was limited not only by a lack of in-the-flesh experience (quantity), but because I had such a narrow scope of experiences as well (quality). I read the glossy condensed version. I saw the movie trailer containing only the best scenes.

Horses on TV, in books, and at horse shows are all so clean, sleek, and beautifully groomed. For an embarrassingly long time, I felt sorry for horses that were turned out all the time because they were exposed to the elements and looked so filthy. If I had a horse, I'd make sure it had a nice clean stall to live in and it would always be clean and perfectly groomed. Not only that, but all those POOR horses had to eat was grass. If I had a horse, it would get the best hay and oats because I would really CARE about MY horse.
When I saw shaggy, thick-coated horses, it never dawned on me that horses got winter coats. I thought they were just some ugly, ill-bred horse. Yes, I really thought these things, but, in my defense, that was a long time ago. Well, mostly anyway. Once again, the word "naive" understates it by miles and eons.

Movie and TV horses are compliant, well-mannered. I assumed if they were born in captivity, they
were basically like large versions of Lassie -- "Fetch the C-clamp, girl!" I thought the only horses that really needed breaking, per se, were captured wild mustangs. I reasoned domestic horses somehow knew people were their friends and they just automatically complied, sensing we benevolent humans had their best interests at heart. "This lady feeds me, grooms me and loves on me, therefore I will be a good boy and do anything to please her." Mmm, not so much.

When I got Poco, we couldn't (still can't) afford a barn, so I bought a prefab metal loafing shed to provide shelter, which is, of course, the humane thing to do. It's a law in my county, but I found out trees, which we have in plenty, count as shelter. At first, Poco was scared to even walk into it. To this day, neither horse spends time in it doing anything other than eating the food I place there. When it's gone, so are they. Regardless of how inclement the weather, they prefer to be exposed to the elements. In the midst of tornadic activity in the spring or ice storms in the winter, they'll have their butts backed into a cedar tree. There's $1,000 I could have spent on better tack, but that's a post for a different day. It's nice for ME because when the weather's crappy I can spend time with them out of the elements, but Poco and Jaz sure as hell aren't impressed with it at all.

I knew you were supposed to brush them, pick out their hooves and bathe them, have regular vet and farrier visits, that kind of stuff. But I didn't know you had to teach them to tolerate any of it. "Uhhh ya want me to lift muh foot? Here ya go. How about this one and these other two?" Well, Jaz DOES, but that's why he's my pocket pony :-) At first with Poco, it was more like, "My foot?? Why do you want my foot? This can't be good! You're trying to KILL me! I'm going to die! Who's THAT? HE'S not touching me either! Help! Murder!" Now I know for a fact he'd been through all this before, but we had to learn it all again. I must have missed the episode of National Velvet where she tries to pick up a hind foot and ole King decides he'll just lean on her rather than bothering to shift his weight and balance.

Never, in my wildest dreams did I EVER imagine some of the less savory tasks associated with horsekeeping. I don't recall having seen the episode wherein Velvet puts on rubber gloves to reach up inside King's crusty, disgustingly nasty sheath, as he leans around, wide-eyed with that "WTF do you think you're DOING???" look on his noble face. I must have also missed the one where Velvet cleans King's dock, only to have him lift his tail and fart directly in her face, or worse yet, crap all over her impeccably booted feet. And the one about cleaning the sand and dirt out of his nose and eyes, and then he blows his nose all over her pristinely starched ratcatcher. I never saw Velvet worm her horse, trim his ears, spray him for flies and mosquitoes, or deal with the myriad of things which can irritate their skin. Never saw the one where she got poison ivy from kissing on him after he'd been rubbing against trees wrapped in it. I'm really sorry I missed that particular episode.

I must really be a die-hard, because I don't mind a bit of it.

One more time: THANK YOU Heather, Jason, Nita, Jon and all the wonderful people on the Happy Appy forum for your infinite patience and generosity with your time. Help has always been there when I've needed it.

Next time: Back to School

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