Boyfriend (now husband) vs. horse

I realize that most of the posts focus on Whitman or Ries – the “Wondertwins” who are my current (or in Ries’ case – attempted) show horses. I am still the proud owner of Fredrick a/k/a Rhymes W/Orange a/k/a Gold Medal Freddie (JC name).

I consider Fred to be my first “real” horse. Not to undermine my first few horses who were either Quarter Horses with some pretty rough/sad background stories or a draft cross who came with her own interesting background story and heartbreaking end. Now that I think about it, the same could be said about the boyfriends prior to my husband. They were sweet/harmless enough but they were stepping stones to the “keeper”. Now, previous boyfriends do not hold a candle to my previous horses, but both teach lessons and teach you what to avoid in the future.

Fred was a gorgeous and freakishly orange chestnut gelding (a very recent lifestyle change a few weeks prior to his purchase) that we bought when I was 19. Fred was the horse that fit the strange set of requirements we were shopping with. We needed a horse that I could compete and that my father could trail ride. After several months and thousands of miles of shopping trips it was a just gelded, four year old, off-the-track-thoroughbred with a month or two of training.

My then boyfriend/now husband came over to see the new love-of-my-life. Being a horse guy, I was very excited to present my new “real” horse (who was certain to be ready for the Olympics before I could drink legally) to him (the boyfriend – Fred already knew who he was). Fred was an incredibly oral young horse. He reached over the stall and I was playing “gotcha tongue” with him – sixteen years later he still loves that one. I stuck my fingers in his mouth and rubbed his gums much to his delight. Dear boyfriend/husband allowed my new love to “wuffle” along his forearm. At which point the “orange one” peeled back his adorable busy lips and latched on to a three inch long, half inch wide strip of his forearm.

The elicited a girl like squeal from the boyfriend which caused Fred to promptly spit his arm out. The boyfriend then went to climb over the stall wall to hand out the well deserved correction. However, I was not willing to have said shiny new horse corrected and grabbed hold of the boyfriend’s belt and prevented him from getting the naughty horse within the appropriate amount of time. This pretty much set the tone for the first six years of their relationship.

The next winter Fred followed up by nuzzling the boyfriend’s hairline while he was sitting on a hay bale. What seemed to be a cute bonding moment went south very quickly when Fred revealed that it was just a taste test. He grabbed the boyfriend (and surprisingly now and still husband’s) by the scalp and lifted him right off his feet. That time I left Fred to his own devices, largely due to the fact that sympathy pains had me crouched down covering my forehead.

Fast forward a few years and boyfriend is now my husband but the horses still live at my parents, greatly cutting down on the time that Fred and the husband have to spend together. Fred really liked my husband at that point, but more as a king enjoys his court jester – its an exploitative relationship. We went to a dressage show at Grand Haven. Now mind you, its a small recognized show circuit around us, so everyone knows each other. Everyone was also highly aware that Fred was an affectionate, bomb-proof solid citizen who would follow me around like a dog and make those natural horsemanship guru ponies look half broke. Dear husband agreed to hand walk Fred so that I could read tests for others in our groups. As soon as I walked out of the ring I was handed the lead rope to my horse (who would have been whistling if he was human, he was so guilty) by a husband who looked like Mt. Vesuvius on the verge of a Pompeii destroying explosion. I took the lead rope and the husband stalked off. Turns out that Frederick had started to follow the husband out of stabling and took it upon himself to rear up and flop over on his side, roll and kick like a two year old having a temper tantrum. Evidently, there were two separate episodes of this within a few minutes. To make matters worse, several middle aged women stood around wondering what could have been done to cause this and using the evil eye on the husband that so desperately wanted to wind up and deliver a much deserved kick to an orange butt.

This is after a show where I was doing the usual of rubbing Fred’s gums and teasing his lips. Fred never abused this privilege with me. Dear husband went to softly rub Fred’s nose and was immediately rewarded with teeth. While dear husband was still shaking the feeling back into his thumb, my instructor walked into stabling and stuck her fingers under Fred’s lip in response to which he just flapped his upper lip up and down in delight. (Again, still married and I still own the horse – go figure!)

Fred is going to be turning 21 this spring. The relationship between my horse and husband improved remarkably once we moved the horses to our place. Evidently Fred recognized that the husband was now definitively part of Fred’s “herd” and the last decade has been smooth sailing for the two of them. I don’t even want to get into the Whitman vs. husband issues at this point (yes, still married).

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Oddities of the English language

English is a quirky language. There are a large number of “rules”, most of which have more exceptions that the New York State tax code. Horse people come from a wide variety of backgrounds and like most specialized hobbies, horse talk is has a vernacular all its own. We have some made up words like “cribber”. That is a hysterical one to try and translate into Spanish. So far I have not found someone that can give me a short translation of that, so if you are at the track with a Spanish speaking groom you end up reading a note card that has you asking the individual if the horse “bites and sucks on the wall”. Of course, I could be saying anything for all I know. Regardless, it gets a perplexed reaction.

German is a far more direct language for horse terms, but in English they take about three sentences to explain. “Schwung” is pretty easy (loosely translates to “swinging through the back”) but it is also a nice way to test if someone was a teenager in the ’90’s since they will quote lines from a “Wayne’s World” movie or at least start singing.

One of my all time favorites is from my forays into the world of selling horses for others. Invariably someone will come to see a horse or call and ask “does it ride good”. I realize that salesmanship and the potential commission should override my desire to be a smart alec, but not so far. I invariably answer with “I have no idea, normally I do the riding”. People from a sport or English discipline normally laugh or rephrase the question. Western people seem to either not understand what I am saying or I get the hairy eyeball. I will let you draw your own conclusions on that.

My other personal favorite is the verb “to buck”. Some of my most respected friends (or former friends once they read this) have a hard time with this one. I would say “the horse started bucking”, “the horse bucked me off (see a previous post on Whitman)” or even the “horse is a known bucker or has a bucking problem”. I have had several people turn a phrase along the lines of “he bucked me”. or ask ‘is he bucking me” I let it go a time or two before I just couldn’t take it any longer. I finally pointed out “just so you know, the verb “to buck” is no where near as flexible as the “f-word” but you keep using it the same way”. That normally gets some owl like blinking directed at me and solves the problem. 

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Editors note: I realize my own speech habits and patterns are far from perfect, but I am comfortable with being a hypocrite. However, if you want a good laugh – listen to what I say to “Siri” and what “Siri” believes I have said. Karma is a mother.

The end of the meet

I volunteer for a group called Finger Lakes Finests Thoroughbreds, Inc. We try to help network and find homes/second careers for horses retiring from the Finger Lakes racetrack. The end of the season is difficult. While we helped place well over a hundred horses, there are still dozens more that are facing a one way trip to an auction or will be in dire straits in a few weeks. I got into this realizing that you cannot save them all, but it is really hard to accept that. Most of the trainers will continue to provide for their horses over the winter and find them homes. Others are gypsies themselves and when they head to warmer climes, they may just leave the horses on the track. Evidently there is a truck that will come and pick those horses up. I don’t know what and all that means, exactly. I have my suspicions, but nothing beyond that.

So if anyone is out there – the website fingerlakesfineststbs.com and there is a page to “donate”. No pressure, but if someone is feeling like making a Christmas time donation, it can help us to help one of the horses in greater trouble. Heck – it could lead to an extra OTTB to spoil at our barn if I catch my husband at a weak moment. If anyone wants to send the link around on Facebook, I would not be offended.

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