Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Possible Return of Grace

In this story, I ought to be twelve, so try to picture me as a twelve-year old.

My hair is a brighter shade of red, eighteen inches long, tangled, bangs.  I am of medium weight (in the seventies, considered fat).  I am, in a way you can't articulate, kind of odd.

Finally, like legions of twelve-year old girls in the seventies, I am horse crazy.

When I was a girl, my dad read Marguerite Henry books to me at bed time.  Misty of Chincoteague, King of the Wind, Sea Star, Stormy...  [BTW, Marguerite Henry was born in 1902 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.]

As a girl, I longed to have a horse of my own.  Taking lessons once a week, even going to summer camp and riding horses every day, fell short of the exclusive, romantic relationship I read about in those books.

When I was 44, I got my first horse.


Belle is a marvelous horse.  Her coat is the same color as my hair was when I was twelve.  Her petite face is lovely enough to for the cover of a Marguerite Henry book; and she's spirited and smart, like Misty of Chincoteague.

I wouldn't say that she doesn't love me.  I've said in an earlier post, she's horse-identified.  The way that Humphrey Bogart is a man's man, Belle is a horse's horse.

In fact, she's enormously popular with the other horses and can usually be found standing in the middle of a horse herd sandwich in the dry lot, or paired off with a Tennessee Walker or Appaloosa gelding in the pasture.  They jealously block my access to Belle as I approach with her halter, and trot alongside as I lead her away.  I am always ready to spin the end of my rope in their face if they menace or crowd me.

Belle associates me with apples.  It's hard to say how she feels about me, separate from the apples.

And then I found Grace.

A tall, somewhat block-headed, slightly gangling, tri-colored pinto, Gracie ruled over the mares in her herd with unbridled contempt.

She was the horse in the books who fell for the kid.  And I was that kid.

So, even though I really didn't need another horse, I half-leased Gracie from her owner in order to spend more time with her.

Now, Gracie wasn't the horse in the books who goes on to compete in the Olympics or Madison Square Garden.  She doesn't race across the Arabian dessert or give birth to the modern day Thoroughbred.

Gracie is the sort of horse that you can walk around.

Occasionally she jumps really high over something, or right up into the air over nothing but the sand in the arena, but that's usually because she's been startled.

It has been pointed out to me that Gracie's structural integrity does not lend itself to athleticism particularly.

Plus which, she really doesn't like to be pushed.

She prefers not to be spurred on to activities that run contrary to her inclinations.

I would run Gracie in the round pen, (a large round pen about sixty feet in diameter).  I'd stand in the middle with my Clinton Anderson "handy stick" facsimile and have her run circles around me.

If you know someone for whom power and control is essential, then you know someone like Gracie.  Running them around in circles til they're tired will exorcise their demons.

The first couple laps around the ring, she'd buck and snort before settling into an agitated trot.

Then I'd imposed a change of direction, and she'd kick up a combined buck-snort-fart that was as entertaining for me as it was cathartic for her.

After a few more laps the balance of power shifted from Gracie to me.  Out with the bad air, in with the good.   Soon, she was walking spirals behind me with her head lowered like an obedient dog.  (Which is ironic, because I have three dogs and none of them are obedient.)

(For those of you who may be wondering, I hardly ever needed to touch Gracie with the stick.)

After a couple of weeks, I could thwack my whip on the ground repeatedly and loudly right next to Gracie and she'd just stand at attention, patiently waiting for me to tire of my chest-beating posturing.  (This whole process is called desensitizing.  It helps fearful, nervous horses to become steady and trusting.)

We became like equals.

It raised me in the estimation of the horses in Belle's herd.

Even Belle.

I was like, popular.

For her part, Gracie mellowed, which was good for everybody.  The herd relaxed. Like when an overbearing boss falls in love and gets happy.

Friends in the barn talked about Grace and me.  They were a little puzzled.  I already had a horse, after all, (and, arguably, a better one).  My half-leasing Gracie made no sense on the face of it.

I had some mixed feelings about it myself.

The added expense seemed decadent.

The attention I lavished on Gracie felt a little philandering.

On the other hand, the horses in Gracie's herd, including Belle, were no longer tense.  Their owners were pleased because their horses weren't tense and bitter like middle-management.

And so, Gracie and I continued to cavort in the round pen, joyfully snorting and bucking and farting, reaching detente, and building a rapport based on mutual respect and affection.

That was last summer.

When a horse you don't own is trailered off  to South Dakota, you can be pretty sure you're never going to see that horse again.

Over the winter, I often wondered how Gracie was doing in South Dakota, with all that snow and open range, and where was South Dakota.  I still don't know.

Now, remember to picture me as a twelve-year-old, because this story is about to get all Marguerite Henry on you.

I got a text yesterday.

Gracie's owner is looking to re-home her.  Do you want her?

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