Get a HorseTuesday, April 12th, 2011
Linda Brady Traynham
We all know where that phrase comes from in my circles, but considering the deplorable state of American “education,” it was a jibe thrown at idiots having trouble with their new-fangled auty-mobiles or causing problems. I’m prepared for a reversal in public sentiment and a revival of that phrase becauses getting a horse is becoming more sensible by the day, even if a horse is a hole you throw hay and range cubes into. The cheerful way to regard what comes out of the other end is that it is great fertilizer that doesn’t smell. Well, it does, but it is a fresh, clean, earthy, “normal,” organic scent. Manure in general is a fascinating topic in terms of all the kinds which do not smell vile. Mankind’s, absolutely. Hogs’, definitely. Chickens’ in bulk, yes, indeed. Horses, cows, and goats scatter excellent fertilizer that simply does not smell bad, and I will go enquire of the only dastard I know who dares raise sheep in cattle country. Why do we hate sheep? Because they destroy grass by eating it down too close to the ground for it to live, as opposed to a condition known as “overgrazing,” which means that if you’ll get the horses and cattle out of that pasture it will recover. (These are things you may well need to know, someday soon, so pay attention.)
Hayburners are not gas burners. They do not—at present–require expensive licenses and insurance. They could carry your brief case if you rode one to work, and can pull wagons and power machinery. Their feed can be bought in large lots; you do not wait in line, go inside to pre-pay, or inconvenience yourself when they are hungry. You hang a feed bag over their heads. Horses do not need points, plugs, condensers, mufflers or tune-ups. Good ones LIKE to work. While it is very true they have no doors or convertible tops (wear a hat and carry a slicker), they’re pretty reliable.
Horses can reproduce themselves. I have never heard of a multi-horse pile-up on the freeway, although there were accidents when some hot-blooded Regency buck attempted to show off his pair of “16-mile-an-hour-tits,” either turning his rig over or endangering pedestrians. Horses are distinctive. I was amused by an otherwise very lavish production of “Pride and Prejudice” whose producers thought they could get away with just two good ones, a bay and a gray. No, dear people, I am not going to mistake the gray Darcy rides if someone else is astride him, any more than I will fail to recognize the expensive outfit his nasty sister wears in her first scene when she makes her appearance later at a party. Horses aren’t like modern granola cars which can be “distinguished” only by removable license plates.
Other than protecting one from the weather, carrying more, and going faster, horses are superior in every way to bits of Detroit and Japanese iron. Considering traffic jams, perhaps it wouldn’t matter that your buggy seldom went over seven mph. I can imagine, easily, “Enterprise Livery Stables,” offering fine horses and nags. We may yet see why it was a big deal to be part of “the carriage trade.”
Horses for private use are certainly one solution to gas crises and high prices. A simpler one for many of you is to reduce the number of unnecessary miles you drive, but consider the thinking time you would gain if you rode a horse…When we got our second one, dear Charles and I enjoyed joking that we were no longer “a lousy one-horse outfit,” we were “a lousy two-horse outfit.” The moral being that there are and have always been societies which calculate wealth in horses and goats. We’re up to eight now: 1 fine stallion, 1 well-trained gelding, 3 trained riding mares who are with foal, soon to be 4 from what the stallion says, and a pair of teenagers who giggle and show off for the hunk, who nuzzles their noses and says, “You’re real cuties, but you’re jail bait. Next year, perhaps. Don’t call me, I know where to find you.” There is a slight problem brewing, namelly that a year from now instead of eight horses we will have a full dozen. A horse eats dang’ near as much as three cows, and Americans don’t eat horses, although the French and Germans do. Horses are addictive! In town or in foul weather they would require shelter, and a standard garage would stall two only of them. (On the other hand, that is the only kind of “stalling” that horses do. Their batteries don’t run down, either.) Horses are the jewelry of the land and referred to frequently as “pasture art.” Men brag about the skill of their roping and cutting horses as other men boast of the performance of their machines.
Laughter. Does your car show off when you return?! The boys and girls KNOW they are beautiful and elite, and when I merely called Poco Bar Knight’s name yesterday his head came up, he posed proudly, and then he turned into streaming golden liquid fire, racing a furlong. He stopped, all but took a bow, and went back to grazing along side a pasture mate. He could see I wasn’t going to go down to the horse pasture, preferably with an apple or carrot, but he enjoyed strutting his stuff for me…while I called encouragement to him.
“Oh, Mrs. Traynham, you are such a romantic, and as vain as your horses. We haven’t got any place to put them, and they really are not suitable for our needs.” Will you feel the same way when gas hits eight dollars a gallon? Ten? Twelve? When the only significant freight moving does so by rail? Even AMTRAK may finally make a profit for the first time in thirty years. I expect to see a time when a horse–and our glossy doctor’s buggy–will be a very useful thing to have…and when a saddle-trained one will cost as much as a medium-priced car instead of today’s lows.
As Wayne Gretzky said, “My job isn’t to be where the puck is. My job is to be where the puck is going to be.” Right now my horses might be thought of uncharitably as a costly affectation, or–more kindly–as an expensive hobby which is utilitarian two or three times a month. In time, they may be the difference between transportation or walking, or life-savers. That’s why they hanged horse thieves, you know. When you stole a man’s horse it wasn’t like stealing his car. Leave him stranded and death was a strong possibility. Saddles are making fine lows, too, 10% of the price two or three years ago. A good rider does not HAVE to have a saddle, but one certainly makes mounting easier, staying on easier, and riding more comfortable. If you haven’t checked www.themeshreport.com lately, do. I have photos up of the stallion exiting through his renovations of the barn so he could chase three pretty ladies, one of whom smelled very good to him. By sheer chance my daughter was standing there with a camera in her hand when “Beau” broke out, knocking out the end of his stall and the side of the barn. You never appreciated the power of “one horse power” before, did you?!
Am I joking about getting a horse? At most, only a little. If you can afford one and have a place to keep it, I’d do it. I did it, obviously. Stabling charges are unbelievable, and by the time you made it to the place that boarded your horse he would probably be long gone. I will simply say that I feel much better having the option of something that can be ridden or carry 200 pounds or more. I haven’t played Jesse and Frank James fleeing the posse with my brother in well over fifty years, and shouting “Wolverines!” is a young man’s game, but I feel safer having alternate modes of transportation.
Linda Brady Traynham