By C. L. Beck
As a kid, I always wanted a horse. However, when you live on a lot the size of a Kleenex, in the suburbs of Washington D. C., the neighbors don’t take kindly to the fragrance of road apples.
The dream never died and when we moved to Utah, the hunt was on. Our son, Dave, had never ridden, so a calm, gentle horse was a must. When we explained that to a prospective seller, his family looked at each other and exclaimed in unison, “Spooky!”
It was a weird thing to say. As far as I knew, we didn’t look like Lily and Herman Munster. When I realized ‘Spooky’ was the name of their horse, it should have been a clue to the animal’s personality. But hey, we’d never owned a horse—maybe they’d named her that because she was born on Halloween.
“Will you ride her so we can see how she responds?” my husband, Russ, asked.
They nodded yes. The son ran to the barn and brought out a prancing, side-stepping horse.
I wondered, "Is it normal to see the whites of a horse’s eyes?"
The boy leapt on and the horse bolted before the kid’s backside even hit the saddle. They ripped around the arena, scaring the beejeebers out of the barn cat who sat sunning itself by a post. Horse and rider finally reared to a halt, inches away from us, and I had visions of Spooky falling over backwards and squashing us.
Dust filled the air, but Russ managed to cough out a few words. “Thanks so much, but I don’t think that horse is quite right for us.”
The next horse we visited was a Morgan named Sonja. She was calm, friendly and wanted to sit in our laps. That was a good sign, wasn’t it? She was so sweet we probably didn’t need to ask, but I did anyway. “Can we take her for a ride?”
By ‘we’, I meant Russ. After watching Spooky the Devil Horse rear up and flail the air, the only thing I was willing to climb on was a fence post.
Sonja stood quietly, nuzzling the owner’s arm as Russ swung into the saddle. She didn’t crow-hop, buck, or walk out from underneath him. That was another good sign, wasn’t it?
Russ rode her in the arena, and she walked sedately, sticking close to the rail—so close his knee bumped each post as he rode past. The horse was trying to rub him off. Apparently Sonja was great at being a large, affectionate, manure-producing pet, but not much good for riding.
It took some searching, but we finally settled on a white Arabian. I had visions of myself as Lawrence-etta of Arabia. The horse was beautiful, fine-boned, and regal. And as we found out over time, she was also as dumb as dirt.
Plus, she had this nasty cough. It seemed like every time she ate hay, she coughed. Thinking she had a cold, we doctored her with a shot of combiotic … and for good measure, a couple of slurps of honey. One did about as much good as the other, because she kept coughing.
Ok, I take that back; the combiotic didn’t do much, but the honey was useful. Hay stuck to her sticky lips and muzzle as she ate, which not only provided comic relief but also prevented her from blowing nasal mucus all over us when she coughed.
Eventually, I asked one of the old-timers about the problem. Reluctance flitted over his weathered face. He hemmed and hawed, and finally mumbled something about the horse being “heavy”.
“Heavy?” I thought. “Of course, she’s heavy; she’s a horse! What nitwit doesn’t know that a horse is heavy? ”
It turns out the word wasn’t “heavy”; it was “heave-y”. As in, "Thet thar horse has the heaves". When you rode her, she’d cough every few steps. It was like sitting atop a walking earthquake and was about as much fun as having saddle sores. We kept her for a while but all she was good for was manure for the garden, so eventually we traded her to a guy who knew her history.
It was a good trade in my book. We got a hundred gallons of heating oil and he got a heavy horse with hay stuck to her lips.