The magazine I write for regularly (WATERSHED) asked me if I had a horse story for a special edition they were putting together last summer. Everyone has a horse story, my editor said. So I sent them this one, albeit somewhat modified for their genteel readers. I think the readers of this blog can handle the expanded version. It was brought back to mind when my blog-buddy Bush Babe posted this lovely story about a cute little foal prancing about the paddock.
My story is the other side of the coin.
When I was a teenager, a friend of mine lived on one of those sprawling King City estates where horses were bred for the Olympics, and British royalty regularly dropped by for spirited games of polo and the find-a-wife-in-Canada game (latest winner, Autumn Kelly from Pointe Claire!) a sport that replaced the other kind of fox hunting. Alas, my friend's father was neither owner nor polo participant, but one of several grooms employed to clean tack, and muck out stalls. Still, when she asked me if I wanted to help out at a horse show, I had a teenage Harlequin-esque vision of what that might entail – handsome young English lords astride magnificent stallions, one of whom might recognize my potential, a jewel in the rough beneath a manure-encrusted exterior, and ride off with aforementioned jewel into the sunset, towards greener pastures.
My job, in its entirety, was to hold the foals on a rope before they were led into the show ring. That seemed simple enough. I hadn't had much experience with horses other than riding lessons at summer day camp. My job experience at the local A&W slinging burgers and at the local donut shop didn't count either, but that was okay. To use my favourite expression - one that has since spelled more trouble than I can possibly explain here - I thought, "How hard can it be?" What I didn’t know then was that these little beasts, unlike the ones I knew from Disney cartoons and books and movies, can be a tad testy. And if put in a situation where they feel discomfited in the least, they behave like bratty kids on a sugar high.
The second I turned my back, ostensibly to check the ring but in fact to seek out any eligible blue-bloods, each foal would jump and land well-placed kicks from my shoulders on down to my feet. They missed my head simply because I ended up hunched over in a fetal position. Twisting and writhing, they'd snap their heads back and pummel me anew with fresh blows every time I lost focus. Soothing murmurs did nothing to calm them, nor did pulling on the rope with authority. It only made them even crazier. They'd stop briefly, giving me hope that I'd finally gained the upper hand or exhausted them, until I turned my back to lead them in the ring, whereupon the wild kicks and tantrums would resume. I was convinced, it being the era of The Exorcist, that they were in fact possessed by the devil himself. I was no longer checking the stands for a prince. I needed an old priest and a young priest.
I was soon bruised and covered in muck, and worse, my illusions were shattered as there was nary an English lord to be found. Not that I would have joined him on that ride into the sunset....not unless the horsepower in question came in the form of a Jaguar convertible.