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Oct 25

Gross horse reality neither jibes nor jives with cronal nostalgia

The young crone and her horse Serenade, ca. 1970. Note no helmet, no sunscreen, no boots. Yikes!

When you’re a kid — and I’m sure nobody will mind if I continue addressing these essays to the International Vagina Community; it is an ingrained habit, and, unlike most habits in which crones indulge, it has, at worst, a neutral impact on the good of humanity — but as I was saying, when you’re a kid, you want one thing.

A pony.

I won’t lie. I had ponies when I was a kid, and it was awesome. When my sister Tidy and I went completely horse-crazy during what might now be called our “tween” years, my parents obligingly moved us to a horse farm and dabbled in breeding Arabians. It was such an idyllic American childhood that I didn’t fully realize it was over until, at the indecently advanced age of 40, a couple of rapid-fire adult-themed tragedies rang me on the old clue phone.

Poor, callow me. I wasn’t a wise old crone yet, or even an aunt. I was just a feckless narcissist in her prime who, when forced at last to go mano a mano with truth, found she was incapable of responding with anything other than chronic melancholy. I was just pathetic enough to imagine that all my past happiness yet survived, preserved in a bubble of conflated space and memory and rural Texas and dappled horses and #3 BBQ Burgers at the Royal Drive-In in Frisco, all completely unmolested by time’s relentless bitch-slaps.

Well, you can guess what happened next. I staggered around for a while, but, convinced of the truth of the bubble, ultimately I determined that I would Go Home.

Galling as it is when celebrated white dudes turn out to be right about these goddam universal truths, I have to grudgingly give that one old dude credit. You really can’t go home. You can’t even say “bite me, Tom Wolfe,” because that would only be shooting the messenger.

My bubble, for example, omitted this useful bit of info: horses, it turns out, are just awful.

Here, by way of illustration, is Stella, my pretty little 15-year-old Arabian mare.

Stella

Stella is one of two Dreadful Acres inhabitants who came from an Arabian horsemill prominent breeder in North Texas. She is a sweet little pet, a classic, old-fashioned Crabbet-looking mare who wouldn’t hurt a fly. She is but 14 hands and some change, but nevertheless was professionally trained for the Western pleasure ring by a 220-lb dude.

I don’t know him personally, but my assumption is that this professional trainer dude is a prick extraordinaire. And not just because he’s too large to ride these tiny pony-size Arabians. I assert the dude’s prickness based on the fact that when Stella arrived she had 2 infected girth sores, a blown hock, evidence of a badly healed broken rib, and wouldn’t let anyone touch her chest or pick up her hind feet. She also frequently did that thing that abused and terrified horses do, where they suddenly grow an extra two feet of neck, and stick their heads straight up in the air, and look down at you with psycho-eyes like you’re a fiend in human shape, all while trotting in place. If it looks like they’re gonna blow at any second, that’s because they are, and the result is a swath of death and destruction as far as the eye can see.

So that was pretty dreadful. Fortunately I cured her of all that crap. My brilliant plan was to not hit her across the chest with a whip all the flippin time. Whadya know. Now she’s footloose and fancy-free.

Yep, everything was comin’ up roses for old Stel, so naturally she developed the famed Austin allergies and started rubbing holes in her eyes

Stella

This, I think I can assert without fear of contradiction, is really dreadful.

Every year, starting in about March, I have to poison her with mega-doses of prednisone to calm the allergic reaction and slather her with silverdine to control the secondary infection, just to keep her eyes moderately unswollen and fairly functional. To get the pred into her, I have to soak a handful of senior pellets in apple juice, pound 20 pills into dust with a hammer, mix it together, and top with agave syrup. The pred makes it hard to keep extra weight off her, so I have to weigh every ounce of hay she eats. To keep the flies out of the raw eye sores she has to wear a fugly fly mask all summer, clear into November. The fly mask doesn’t bother her a bit, but from my perspective, it kind of defeats the purpose of keeping a pretty horse in the front yard. The most excellent-looking part of an Arabian is precisely the part that is covered up by a fly mask.

Stella

One kind of gratifying, un-dreadful thing is that she’ll let me dab the silverdine on her eyes without my even having to put a halter on her. She hasn’t unfurled that extra neck in quite some time, except to mug me for more carrots through the gate.

23 comments

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  1. pheenobarbidoll

    Gawd, my eye immediately watered at that. Can’t imagine how painful that is.

    Would that we all had the ability to speak to animals. It would make medication so much easier. You could simply *explain” what the medication was for, why she needed to take it and why rubbing her eye was bad. Of course, being a horse she’d go ahead and rub it on the fence any damn way, but at least you’d know it wasn’t your lack of communication causing the problem.

    The downside would be never riding another horse again because you can be sure you’d hear ALL about how heavy you are and how the horse is sick of carting your lazy ass around and would never shut up the entire time. And no matter how sympathetic you might be, you would eventually get tired of hearing about her eye allergies and how delicate she is.

    Adulthood. Ruins shit for everyone.

  2. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    The eye rubbing is horrible to watch, all righty. I don’t normally let horses use me as a scratching post because their heads are essentially anvils encasing walnut-sized brains, but in Stella’s case I make an exception. She really appreciates it when I let her rub her eyes on my shoulder; it’s a softer surface than anything she can find in the shed or the paddock, and you know that shit’s gotta hurt.

    Horses can communicate with people, though. Stella, for example, successfully explained that being ridden makes her broken rib hurt, so she’s just a pasture puff now.

  3. pheenobarbidoll

    Your shoulder is far less splintery, one assumes.

  4. gingerest

    Aw. What a pretty girl. I feel you, Stella, because my eyes do that same thing when I’m around your sort, but I’m lucky enough to have fingers to rub my eyes (even though I’m not supposed to) instead of having to use gates and poles and trees and humans. I find cold compresses soothing.

  5. ew_nc

    I’m glad you found Stella. I’m sure she’s glad too. After being treated as badly as she was, becoming pasture prettiness is a sweet gig.

    I once had 2nd and 3rd degree burns, and I can tell you from experience that silverdine is freaking awesome stuff. I didn’t need a halter for that sweet relief, either.

  6. verona

    Do you still have the donkey that took a swim in the pool? If you’ve had any experience with goats, please share. I need somebody to talk me out of getting some.

  7. Tarr

    This is more like it.

  8. M.K. Hajdin

    Got a horse question for people who know more about horses than I do.

    One of my neighbors has a pasture that used to have four horses in it. I had the habit of walking by, patting their noses, giving them an apple or two. (Wild apple tree conveniently located nearby!)

    Once when I was on my way past, carrying a new mop that I had bought, the horses saw it and shied away very nervously. I wasn’t brandishing it or anything. I tried to hide the mop, but they wouldn’t come near me as long as I had it in my hand. I wondered if that’s just because sticks make horses nervous, or if somebody had actually hit them with a mop or a broom handle?

    Are horses normally afraid of anything with a handle? Or had they been mistreated?

  9. Val

    Poor Stella – I thought I was going to have to ship my lil’ Divorce/Fire Sale special back to KS when he broke out in horrible full-body mange-like allergic dermatitis! Fortunately I allergy tested him, had the custom serum made, gave him innumerable shots, & these days he can tolerate our TX summers w/out too much misery w/diligent fly control.
    & Verona, why not get goats? They’re a lot more low-maintenance than equines. (I have a couple who are rescues from my niece’s goat-showing days, refugees from the BBQ wagon :-)

  10. Darragh Murphy

    You take such marvelous photographs. Your skill, as well as the picturesque nature of your subject matter (excluding the eye sore), is definitely why, but I was wondering what kind of camera you use. You probably have mentioned the model back at the old place, but I don’t go there anymore because it’s too melancholy and it turns out you really can’t go home.

    BUT, I’m wondering because I recently bought my first camera — a Sony rx100 digital that is supposed to be a wonder. Of the approximately 20,000 shots I’ve taken so far 19,990 of them are trash, but the few that came out right really are beautiful, so I have hope for the camera; not so much for my photog skills.

    I’m trying to capture girls hockey games, which may or may not be more challenging than pretty horses on beautiful, arid farms.

    Anyway, if you say you use your iphone for all your perfect pics I will cry.

  11. Lynda

    Good Morning! I’m loving this new site, so glad to read about Dreadful Acres. Something for you to consider: give this gorgeous girl apple cider vinegar (with “Mother”) in her feed daily. I have read that it can help keep flies away from horses. Google it and see what you think. Found the suggestion on a natural remedy web-site. I suggested it to a friend for his horses and he’s told me it really works. Hasn’t had to mask his horses since he started it. Although, with her eyes being so inflamed it might not work as well and the mask would still be necessary.

  12. CSue

    My Paint horse developed massive allergies after I owned him for two years. He scratched his head, neck, butt, and belly raw on anything he could find. I had him tested, and now he’s on allergy shots and special food. He hates getting jabbed, but tolerates it. You know you’ve got a special one when you find they’re allergic to OATS. >.< Plus 25 other things.

  13. Gayle

    Poor horsey. Not to contradict or anything, but even with the mask, she’s awfully pretty. She looks a little like an old time movie starlet with a face mask on!

    I’m glad she doesn’t mind it. I had to deal with animal allergies myself this summer. My pup has what’s called “seasonal allergy disorder.” He was miserable itchy with awful deep scratch wounds for weeks upon weeks until he was diagnosed. At first we thought he had fleas and dipped him and dosed him with pesticides several times over at the recommendation of “skilled” vets. Poor thing went nuts with the itches– digging and rubbing, rubbing and digging . Turns out this seasonal allergic thingie has become quite common in the Northeast.

    I’m thankful for the fall. As is he.

  14. That Girl

    I’m glad you weren’t always awesome. Means there’s hope for me. Stay Crone-y. Not that you care, per se, but I prefer your amusing voice talking about your lunch and your ranch because it is less depressing. The biggest problem is, the wrong people read IBTP. It’s the mens who need to.
    XOXO That Girl

  15. minervaK

    I think she’s gorgeous even with her mask on.

  16. Elizabeth

    “Unmolested by time’s relentless bitch-slaps.” Stealing it. As one crone to another, I feel entitled. Okay, I will footnote you.

  17. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    M.K. Hajdin October 26, 2012 at 4:54 am:

    I wondered if that’s just because sticks make horses nervous, or if somebody had actually hit them with a mop or a broom handle?

    Horses can spook at anything they’ve never seen before. Their minds are set to scram from anything they perceive as danger, so the question is, have these horses never seen a mop before? It seems highly unlikely. Even when you’re raised in a barn, unless it was by devilishly untidy people, you’ve seen mops and brooms on a daily basis and have long since determined them to be non-life-threatening.

    So my deduction is that yes, these horses have been abused by someone with a broom. Fucking bastards.

  18. tinfoil hattie

    Being a crone is a gift for having survived.

    My sister was always the horse-crazy one, and I never caught on. I have always feared horses! I now have a friend who offers weekend retreats for women afraid of horses! I think I will attend one someday. She has a lovely little country property with barn and two horses, and they are rather beautiful.

  19. veganrampage

    Thank Goddess Stella has YOU. The poor, poor horse and what we do to them as a culture. It kills me.
    Please fellow blamers never bet on horses or have anything to do with that shit show. The horse abuse is rampant, no matter what lie the tell you. A trainer/owner was just telling me how the horse are electrically shocked before each race. It’s routine (and illegal) but no one cares who is power to stop it.
    Most people would have had Stella sold to the meat man since she is of no “use”. IBTP. I so despise the way “we” treat animals and women!

  20. M.K. Hajdin

    Damn, damn, damn. I was afraid that would be the answer. But I was hoping against hope. Dammit.

  21. Cyberwulf

    when you’re a kid, you want one thing.

    A pony.

    I was the most tomboyish tomboy that ever did tomboy, but from the ages of eight to twelve I blew all my pocket money on My Little Ponies and My Little Pony knock-offs.

  22. Mary

    Awwww Serenade! Po Po Stella. I’m loving this blog. You have always had a gift with words. You’ve made me laugh out loud! Why are you not published?. Or maybe you are?
    I’m teaching a 5 year old riding class now. Things have changed since the day of you and I. Horse treats! What the heck! Horse treats use to be carrots or sugar cubes. Now they freakin make horse treats! Saddles are different at the ranch where I ride. Girths (here called girts) are plushy and there are more straps made out of stuff other than leather. Reins have clips on bridals and are made out of webbed straps. Makes since that things would change but horse treats? Please!

  23. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    Mare! I’m going to email you immediately.

    It’s not just the treats that flip me out. Have you seen a horse’s teeth get floated lately? It’s not a farrier with a hoof rasp anymore, it’s a vet with sedatives, a speculum, power tools, and an invoice for $200!

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