Tuesday, October 19, 2004

This was supposed to be a post about shoes

A "girly" thing I never got: Horses.

Never could understand the fascination with horses. Sure, they're very beautiful animals. But the only horses I knew were the poor old things made to drag tourists around and around Philadelphia. Maybe that's why horses make me sad. To me, a penned-up horse is a melancholy object—both on account of the dejected specimens plodding around the city and on account of my childhood memories of Tammy, a neighbor girl with an expensive set of plastic horse models.

Tammy loved to put me to work building elaborate fences and jumps for her miniature equine fleet. This labor completed, Tammy would toss me the Palomino she no longer loved, because it had tumbled off a shelf and lost a leg. She’d adopt the role of the Black Stallion and would "gallop" away, shouting, “The stallion is loose! Chase me! Chase me!” Since the plastic horse in her hand wasn't much of an actor, Tammy would whinny and snort as she tore off across the park.

Tammy laughed at my entreaties that we play a different game. “I’m not Tammy!” she’d tease, stamping a hoof and shaking her mane. “I’m the stallion, and it’s your horse’s job to try to catch me. But your horse is slow. And the stallion is the fastest in the world. So your horse eventually will die. In a little while, we can pretend that her heart explodes!”

You had to give it to Tammy for drama. But I was better at recognizing bad employment situations back then.

Unwilling to subject the Palomino to further indignity, I laid her gently on the grass and walked home. I thought I heard Tammy sputtering in my wake. But it was only the Stallion, strutting his freedom.


At 7:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll admit I had a few of those models, though I never played with anyone; I was always the one with the bad employment when it came to the other girls and their "clubs." I did, however, manage to get a number of horseback riding lessons in in my tween years, and it does make the difference--not only do you get to know the beauty of the horse from the ground level, with the velvet nose and hot hay breath, but to learn, at an age when everything else begins to spin out of control that a horse will listen, a separate creature of just under a ton in weight will say, "Yeah, I'll do that for you" just out of its own nature, is incredible. Now of course there's much more to it, and many stable horses are rather disagreeable souls, but that didn't matter at the time.

I understand your sympathy for the city horses; here in Chicago, the tourist-carriage horses are well maintained as far as I've seen, and the vast majority of horses are boarded at stables adjoining preserves of unpaved greensward and trails.

And as far as I was concerned, the whole hypothesis of saddle-rider interactions was quite bunk. Others' experiences may have varied, but I was in it for something rather different than that sort of stimulation.


At 8:59 PM, Blogger What Now? said...

I started teaching Black Beauty in my Children's Lit Course today, and so we spent the hour talking about Anna Sewell's criticisms of what even good people do to horses. I haven't been on a horse since I was 8 or 9 years old, but I started feeling guilty about it!

At 2:04 AM, Blogger Mel said...

I knew a girl who took her horseplay so seriously that she ate grass.

At 7:53 AM, Blogger YelloCello said...

Whoa (<--oops, no pun intended), the grass-eater trumps Tammy, I think. And yes, if I'd ever ridden horses or read more books about them, I'd probably better understand horse passion. (Although maybe not. I remember being mostly disturbed by _Misty of Chincoteague_. And is it wrong that I often get aspects of that plot mixed up with Steinbeck's _The Red Pony_?)

At 4:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoa indeed--_The Red Pony_ was like a horse version of _Sounder_ or _Old Yeller_ which, frankly, put me a bit off yellow Labs. That in turn is pretty funny since I'm a bit of a "yellow dog" myself, but that's a horse of a different color.


At 3:39 PM, Blogger Benedict said...

I guess all of those beer commercials are missing the mark with this crowd. By the same token, has anyone been following the Pete Coors campaign?

At 4:52 PM, Blogger YelloCello said...

I'm confused, Benedict. What does this campaign site have to do with horses? Or with sick horses or rabid yellow labs?

At 4:58 PM, Blogger What Now? said...

M, _Misty of Chincoteague_ *is* disturbing! I read the whole series as a kid, and then I hadn't thought about them in years, but I actually reread _Misty_ this summer (I reread a beloved book from childhood most summers; it's a weird revisiting thing). In my memory of the book, a little girl had all sorts of adventures with a pony--all very girl-power. Well, it turns out that I had completely misremembered the whole thing; it's actually a brother-sister pair, and it's the boy (naturally) who has all the adventures, while his sister does things like clean out the stall. None of this is surprising in a 1940s book, but I'm amazed at how I rewrote it in my memory as an empowering book. Very strange!

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