I'm exhausted, and it's not like any day on the farm allows you time off. When you absolutely need help--and at some point we all do--only other horse people can handle it. If you call in your plant-sitting friend, your horses will smell fear and eat them alive, metaphorically speaking. Therefore, we must seek out other horse people. Though we horse people aren't always the most outgoing, on occasion, each of us desperately needs the assistance of our horsey pals. You know what I'm talking about: the truck breaks down at an out-of-state show or you're stuck in traffic past feeding time.
You also know the feeling when you're about to place that call, too. "Hey, it's Jeremy. What? Jeremy Law...L-A-W...from next door. Yes! How are you? Good, good... I know we haven't talked in, like, eight months, but could you feed and turn out our horses, make sure the cats have kibble and let the dogs out--Kit needs to stay in the back yard. Hazel will only poop in the front yard, but you have to stand nearby without actually looking directly at her or she still won't go. Oh, and if Skip--the Quarter Horse gelding--is still limping, can you paint the inside of his right front leg? Just be careful, he'll bite you if you're wearing green. And, um, Kit needs her belly scratched; otherwise her midday nap is just total restlessness. Please, don't be grossed out--she has allergies and is a little scabby and very self conscious. What's that? You have a show tomorrow? Oh, nevermind, then. Oh! Are you sure? Is your husband comfortable around horses? Will he mind? Ah! You're getting even with him for not going to the show, heh, heh, heh. That's rich! No, I mean, thank you. You have no idea... no, thank you--and him--really... thank you both."
Yeah, horse people... who wouldn't want to help us? Honestly? Nobody but another horse person, or maybe someone married to another horse person.
As much as it pained me to get out of bed today, it was not one of those occasions to call in that favor. I slept poorly last night because of the horses in my dreams. That in and of itself is not strange, but what happened in the dreams was a bit much. I think I fell asleep while thinking about the barn, so in my dream I was in the barn. In the dream it was storming outside, so the horses were in. I had just finished feeding them and was ready to head to the house to fix dinner.
"Where are you going?" I heard someone say. "I need a brush."
No one was in the barn aisle. I took another look in the tack room, squinting into the shadows. Nobody was there, and I turned to leave.
"Hey!" said the voice again.
I reeled around, scanning the aisle. Our Thoroughbred mix, Vander, was leaning out over his stall door.
"Did you hear a voice or am I going crazy?" I asked him.
"Both, I suppose," Vander responded.
I approached him slowly, not taking my eyes off his mouth.
"You heard a voice," Vander continued, "and you're going crazy, though those events are entirely unrelated."
"You can speak?"
"You should know--it's your dream," he responded.
"Touché," I said.
"What does that mean?" asked someone behind me. "Is that Spanish?"
It was Skip. Skip and Vander could both speak. I felt like I was in a bad episode of Mr. Ed.
"As I said," began Skip, "I want a brush, like, right now. I just feel gross and itchy."
"I gave you a brush and a bath this morning," I said.
"That was this morning," he answered. "Besides, I think a fly landed on me."
"I wouldn't mind a good brushing, either," said Vander.
"Is this what you guys do all day?" I asked. "You stand around waiting to be groomed?"
"No," said Vander. "We usually have deep philosophical debates--not that you'd understand."
"Philosophical debates?" I asked. "About what?"
"The meaning of life," answered Skip.
"And how far have you gotten with that?" I asked.
"Skip's simple mind has formulated the theory that horses are here to eat down the grass," said Vander, "lest life on this planet be choked out by the overgrowth."
"We're lifesavers!" exclaimed Skip, beaming.
"It's a myopic perspective," said Vander. "If he were right, we could simply skip the grass, and then we wouldn't need horses. No, I believe there's more to it."
"What?" I asked. "More like metaphysics or reincarnation?"
"Perhaps," Vander said, "but I'll only come back if people start inventing saddles that are comfortable for the horses, too."
"Are they that bad?" I asked.
"Absolutely!" exclaimed Vander. "There are a few that are okay, but, for us, most saddle experiences are painful. Imagine if you sat for hours in a horrible chair or slept in an uncomfortable bed. And you wonder why we get so grumpy when you ride."
"How about that new saddle mom got fitted for you?" I asked.
"Okay," he responded "that one I like."
"What else do you guys talk about?" I asked.
"Eating horses," offered Skip.
"I thought you guys were vegans?" I said.
"Not us!" said Vander sternly. "You, people, eating us, horses."
"You didn't think we knew about that, did you?" Vander asked.
"I figured you guys knew somehow," I said. "Did you two figure out that debate?"
"What is there to figure out?" Vander asked. "We're against it, though we have no say. Slaughterhouses in the U.S. and elsewhere will continue to pay for the horses as long as there are people to pay for the meat."
"I like cows," said Skip.
"Yeah," I said, "what about cattle? We eat a lot of those."
"You're asking two separate questions," Vander responded. "I can't speak to the morality of meat, so we'll skip that part of your inquiry. I can, however, respond to the second embedded question. Most cattle are bred for human consumption and milk production. Horses, however, are usually bred for other purposes, like being athletes or pets. But with the demand for horse meat there is a lucrative reward for every irresponsible or unscrupulous breeding practice, as well as a moneymaking alternative for lazy or fickle owners."
"I like pigs, too," added Skip. Vander shot him an angry look.
"It leads to some unfortunate abuse," Vander continued. "And if there are cases when horse slaughter is justifiable, do those cases redeem the entire practice? Besides, personally, I don't think cattle share our 'lifeview.'"
"'Life-view?'" I asked.
"They're not as passionate as we are. Look into a cow's or bull's eyes, and tell me if you see the same thing as when you look into our eyes." he said, leaning in and giving me a good, wide-eyed stare for emphasis.
"So, I can keep eating beef?" I asked.
"That's your thing," Vander said. "We certainly don't want any."
"Do you guys debate anything light and whimsical?" I asked.
"Treats!" shouted Skip.
"What's your favorite?"
"Peppermints!" shouted Skip.
"Peppermints are nothing compared to carrots," said Vander.
"Carrots!" shouted Skip.
"How about apples?" I asked.
"Apples!" shouted Skip.
"Cliché, but tasty," said Vander.
"Cliché!" shouted Skip.
"You don't even know what that means," said Vander.
"Tasty!" shouted Skip.
"Hey, what about plastic bags?" I asked.
"Gross!" shouted Skip.
"Who would consider a plastic bag a treat?" asked Vander.
"Not that," I said. "Why are you guys so scared of plastic bags? You weigh, like, 1100 pounds."
"Why can't people just throw them away?" asked Vander.
"That doesn't answer my question," I said.
"They rustle and fly," said Vander. "It's a bad combo."
"I see. What about horses and telepathy? Can you guys really read people's minds?"
"I'm not sure about Skip," said Vander.
"That's me!" shouted Skip.
"What about you?" I asked Vander.
"You're just going to have to continue wondering about that one," he responded, smiling. "But, I will say that I knew you were going to ask me that."
I laughed. "How about that brushing?" I asked.
"Me first!" Skip shouted.
"Hold your--well, nevermind," I said. "Just let me grab the brush."
I tossed Vander a carrot and started brushing Skip. I'd only finished brushing Skip when the alarm went off and woke me from the dream. I rolled out of bed.
"What time is it?" Kimberly asked sleepily.
"But, there's another twenty minutes before we have to get up."
I kissed her. "I have a little unfinished business in the barn," I said as I threw on some clothes and grabbed my coat.
It was a little early, but the horses were vocal about being ready for breakfast. I dropped their buckets and grabbed Vander's brush. He raised his head from his feed bucket to look at me. I held up the brush.
"I bet you thought I'd forget," I said.
Vander was still looking at me when I started brushing his neck. I know I have an active imagination, but before he returned to his bucket, I'm positive I saw him wink at me.
Jeremy Law and his wife, Kimberly, live on a small farm in North Carolina with their two cats, two dogs and two horses.
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