Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Addiction

I didn't know when I ran off and married the man that he was predisposed to an incurable addiction. Sure, he talked about his love for horses when he was a little boy, but don't all kids love horses? What I didn't consider was that his blind, unreasoning love extended even to the smell of manure, green hay stains on their teeth and brutally hard feet. Manure is not a real problem once you get used to it permeating everything about your life. I have been knocked down by a skittish horse while leading her out of the pasture and then dragged around the manure pile, because like a water-skier, I forgot to let go of the lead line. The poor little filly kept looking at me sideways and tried so hard not to step on me. Like the idiot I was, I kept hollering, "Whoa" in my most authoritarian voice. It is hard to be the authority figure while lying on the ground with manure streaks on you clothes and hair. The problem I had was with the smell of horseflesh on my husband's clothing and skin that came with the constant grooming and currying of his precious equines. When you raise horses for the show ring, your life is scheduled by the needs of the horses. Do they need feeding, exercising, grooming, breeding, veterinarian care,your life savings or any other myriad of things? The hubby would feed in the morning in his business suit and then cheerily head off to the office smelling of "Eau de Hors Hide". You may anticipate an evening out after the hubby gets home from work and has fed the gang in the barn, only to discover that one of their number has been secretly plotting all afternoon to develop a case of colic..... which will require a half gallon mineral oil lavage and being led around the paddock for a couple of hours. Horses who colic are not allowed to lie down until they have done their duty and produced a manure pile to prove that their intestines have not twisted in a volvulus. We all know where the wife falls on the priority scale with this warm pile of poo! Honey, would you like to take a turn leading him for a while? So, much for dinner out.
Vacations become trips to horse shows or a quick run to Texas to take your hot mare to visit that stud with a strong hip and long neck. Not only do they have the privilege of messing with your mare.... they get paid for doing it! Eleven months and ten days later, you find yourself hanging out in the barn at all hours of the day and night awaiting the birth of the new foal. You breed your mares in late winter or early spring, because you want your babies born as close to Jan. 1st as possible. We are talking AFTER Jan. 1st! If a baby should happen to hit the ground on Christmas, it would become a year old on Jan. 1st. All horses become a year older on that day and must compete with other horses in that age class, where the rest of the horses are eleven or twelve months old, but yours is only two weeks old chronologically. People who turn up at a show with a large, well developed weanling don't fool anyone.... everyone calls those babies "turkeys", because they were probably born on Thanksgiving and hidden in the barn until January.
It all started when I was in nursing school (at forty years old) and was studying every night. My poor husband was so bored and I was up to my eyeballs trying to study and keep up with a bunch of eighteen year olds. We were sitting on the front stoop looking at the stars one night when my honey said, "I've always wanted a horse of my own." Like my brain was in the off position, I replied, "So, go buy one and board it somewhere." I think the actual purchase happened the next day.... there just happened to be a gelding offered for sale in the newspaper and BAM!... we sold the house, bought acreage in the country and started
building a home and barn in the outskirts of town. I won't lie and say that I didn't like the country or that I didn't like having a few horses in the backyard, but a very wise patient at the hospital said, "Never add onto your barn." Owning a couple of nags only lasted until his first foal won the Michigan Breeder's Futurity. The addiction was on and he wanted more and more. Every stall was soon full and the mares had babies in the stall with them and they were pregnant for the next year. Where where we going to put them? The little voice in the back of my head said...."Never add on to your barn!" I threatened to leave home if some of the babies were not sold and pronto! He did sell the ones that didn't appear to be winners and bred for more. I did love the babies.... they are born and are standing up within an hour and are nursing within two hours. If you spend time in the stall with them, they begin to think that if you are not their mother.... you are at least an aunt or uncle. You have about ten days before they start getting teeth and will suck on your fingers just like human babies. My husband handled them from the first minute when he pulled the amniotic sac off their faces and they followed him around like puppies. He would run his hands over their backs and legs to get them adjusted to standing in the show ring and having their legs placed in a show presentation. One newborn kicked out with a quick flick of his back leg and broke my husband's baby finger the first day of it's life. It didn't matter... he was mainlining on horse manure by that time. He was fortunate to win many state futurities and made money from the shows and the sales, selling to breeders in Mexico, Venezuela and even Terry Bradshaw.
Then, the time came when we were getting older and keeping a small horse farm became more than we could handle. He says we had to sell the horsefarm, because the mower broke. I was the mower and I got asthma. The day we moved away, he sat on the picnic table and stared out at the pond.... I know there were tears in his eyes, but did not go out and let him know that I knew how hard it is to break an addiction. They don't make equineaderm patches for people who can't get the love of horses out of their veins. He still dreams of possibly owning just one mare to love, but I know the secret....never add on to your barn.... and our barn door is locked.


Lisa said...


What a great post! The fact that you both took on such a life change in your 40's is so inspiring. That must've been a wonderful season in your life. I know that horses can be messy, time-consuming and expensive, but I think I can tell from your post that you wouldn't have changed one moment of those experiences!

..."Eau de Hors Hide"?!? You are hysterical!!!

Take good care,

Teri said...

I think he already has one mare to love...of royal lineage I believe. You, my friend, are damn good stock, and I know he appreciates his good fortune. Hope you don't mind being likened to a mare dear Kacey, but I mean it in only the most affectionate and respectful way.

Ciao Bella...enjoy!