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December 22, 2016

You Might Be Able To Dress Us Up, But Can You Take Us Out?

Cartoon by Jody Lynne Werner

It’s officially “the holidays”—a time when people expect each other to clean up, go out, and socialize. That can make it a tough time of year for horse owners, as those three things are difficult for us to accomplish individually, let alone all on the same day.

After a day that begins at 5:30 a.m. and includes barn chores, working, barn chores, and riding followed by more barn chores, all we want to do is go home and stay there. Because of that, horse people can come of as being anti—or at least non—social. But really, we’re not unfriendly. We’re just tired.

Horses are not nature’s party animals, and since our schedules are dictated by their needs, neither are we. We’ve become creatures of habit with a strict routine in which shower/clean-up is immediately followed by pajamas/bed. Once we fall under the spell of the hot water and whatever botanical shampoo we borrowed from our horse, motivating ourselves to do anything other than become horizontal is epically challenging.

“Cleaning up,” by the way, is relative to one’s normal appearance. For us, it means donning a shirt without slobber on it, pants without hoofprint-shaped Kopertox stains, and footwear you can actually walk into somebody else’s house with.

We’ll do our best, but the only thing we own that meets these requirements might be our unicorn PJs with the footies. No matter what we wear, we’ll still be driving our barn car, which, by the time we get to the party, may have completely negated the effect of our shower.

“Going out” can also problematic, since many parties don’t even start until after our bedtime. “But, it’s Saturday night!” doesn’t mean diddley to us. Sure, maybe you can sleep in late. Last time we tried that, the mares busted out of their paddock, went downtown, and crashed the pancake breakfast at the Elks lodge.

We just can’t afford that kind of clean-up bill.

Though going out isn’t our favorite thing, we know that there is one big benefit in attending holiday parties: Holiday parties have lots of food, and horse people have lots of big bags.

While the rest of you are mingling and making merry, we’ll be making repeated passes at the buffet table to knock another dinner roll or appetizer into our tote. While you’re making up small talk, we’ll be making off with small sandwiches.

Oh, don’t look at me like that. Nobody’s going to eat those leftover finger sandwiches tomorrow, and you know it. We waste too much food in this country. Let us do our part to ensure that no quiche is left behind.   

Heaven forbid we get invited to a formal, sit-down dinner party. Horse people don’t really know how to “dine.” The closest we come to fine dining is when we all stop at the Tex-a-Mex on the way home from the horse show.

We’re not quite sure what to do with all the dishes or why we need a second fork and spoon. (Come on, you people haven’t heard of sporks? Google it). We can only assume the extra cutlery is provided for our entertainment. You know—for sending little packets of sugar and tiny pots of creamer flying across the table via spoon-a-pult or a treb-u-fork.

Like we did at the Tex-a-Mex.

And all those other restaurants we can never go back to.

Horse people are much better at the kind of dinner parties where you sit on the floor, eat with your fingers, and after enough beer, decide to hop on the horses bareback and test-ride the new ditch and bank in the cross country field.

Not that that’s ever happened to me.

Speaking of drinking alcohol, it’s probably best that we don’t. Our judgment tanks in the presence of adult beverages. Once we’ve knocked back a few margaritas, things we’d ordinarily never do start to sound like good ideas. Like pulling the chestnut gelding out of his stall, painting his nose red, putting an antler-hat on him, stringing him with battery-powered twinkle lights, loading him into the stock trailer, and taking him caroling with you. 

In the dark.

Then chasing him down the road when the lights slip down around his legs and spook him, and explaining the flood of calls to 911 from neighbors reporting disembodied twinkle lights zigzagging through the darkness, to the desk sergeant.

Not that that’s ever happened to me.

But, without a doubt, the most challenging part of the clean up/go out/socialize trifecta is the socializing part. Socializing just doesn’t come naturally to us. 

Unless we can talk about horses.

And unless you put some kind of collar on us that shocks us every time we use certain words, you are going to have to listen to us talk about horses—at least long enough for us to determine whether you can talk horses back to us.

That’s our ultimate goal in any social setting: to locate our own kind. Normally our barn clothes and distinctive aroma are enough to attract similar species. But when we’re “cleaned up,” we must resort to verbal rituals.

“Hi, I’m Janet. Sorry I’m late, but my OTTB came up three-legged and I needed to poultice him in case he’s working on an abscess or a bruised frog.”

Pause for reaction.

We’re not doing this to purposely confound you.  

We’re fishing.

We’re throwing out key words and phrases like hooks, trolling for other horse people (assuming we haven’t already met them all at the buffet while competing for cocktail weenies).

It’s our hope that we’ll get a response like “I almost didn’t come it at all! My mare was showing signs of navicular and I had to wait for the vet. He wants me to try Osphos and have the farrier put egg bars on her.”

And if the response we get is Blah blah blah blah, , insemineringsteknikker  avlshoppen,  blah blah Dansk Varmblod blah blah auktionen for en rekordhoj $$, blah blah blah blah fohlen, blah blah vitaminer og mineraler manglende motion eller stress…?

No problem. Horse people can communicate complex thoughts via sign language; the irregularity in our gelding’s gait; how to persuade a suspicious stallion into a slant-load; our entire fourth-level dressage test. 

There’s a chance we will pull some unsuspecting passer-by in to help us act out the new groundwork maneuver we learned, or what the vet had to do to turn the foal around before the mare could deliver. So if you see us fervently talking with our hands, you might want to walk the other way—especially if we are making long reaching movements.

Most of the time, though, our attempts at socializing become a game of catch-and-release. If your eyes take on that telltale glaze when we mention tying up or Prix St. George or live cover, we won’t hold you captive. We’ll respectfully let you go and cast our line somewhere else.

Right after we make another pass at the buffet table. 

After years of trying to fit in with corporate America, Jody Lynne Werner decided to pursue her true passion as a career rather than a hobby. So now, she's an artist, graphic designer, illustrator, cartoonist, web designer, writer and humorist. You can find her work on her Misfit Designs Cafepress site. Jody is one of the winners of the Chronicle's first writing competition. Her work also appears in print editions of The Chronicle of the Horse

Read all of Jody's humor columns for www.coth.com here.

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