Horse Lovers Are Really Sick People

During this holiday weekend, when we are enjoying the company of friends and family as summer is winding down, I hope that you get the opportunity to enjoy your equine friend(s). Due to it being a holiday, I thought instead of having the blog dedicated to a medical topic I would share with you my favorite story from the Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover’s Soul. I know it describes me, so I know it will touch the hearts of most of you.


Horse Lovers Are Really Sick People

Did you ever stop to wonder what exactly it is about horses that makes so many people fall obsessively in love with them?

One contribution factor is the number of horse-related stories so many of us read as kids. Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, My Friend Flicka, CW Anderson’s Billy and Blaze stories, Misty of Chincoteague, King of the Wind……the list goes on and on. And, of course every horse-mad girl (or boy) that I’ve ever know has a collection of Breyer horse models. But what exactly is the unknown thing that pushes a normal kid to ask, over and over again, “Mommy, Daddy, when can I have a pony?”

I have long believed that it is very easy to fall in love with horses. Why shouldn’t it be? They are beautiful, powerful animals; the stuff of fantasy and legend. They are an integral part of our country’s history and the rest of the worlds as well. The very fact that a mere person can bond and form a partnership with such a large and intelligent creature has inspired art, literature, and myth throughout the ages. But how…why…what makes it happen?

I have a theory about that. I believe that the love of all things equine, the true love, is a virus. Most people are carriers of the infection. Many will suffer the symptoms at some point in their lives, usually late childhood to mid-teens. Then there are those who are terminal, destined to exist in the grip of the horse-love virus for their entire life span.

What other rational explanation could there be to explain the intense emotional, physical can financial sacrifices we make for our horses? Why on earth would a normal, sane person dedicate all of his or her time to grooming a very big animal that is going to roll in the mud as soon as he gets outside? It certainly can’t be considered typical behavior to spend the better part of the day picking bits of poop out of a stall with a pitchfork, or spending all one’s free hours in a barn. And why would anyone even want to be at the barn when the weather is soggy, freezing, or hot enough to melt your eyeballs? The concept of horse ownership seems to defy all logic.

It starts innocently enough. The average young girl rides a carousel horse for the first time. Not long after, she graduates to pony rides. One Christmas morning, she receives a toy horse or her first copy of Black Beauty. Her parents notice their little darling clipping pictures of horses out of magazines and making a scrapbook. Her weekly allowance is deposited into an elaborately decorated, equine-themed coffee-can for the future horse-purchasing fund. The Barbie dolls are shoved into the closet and replaces with Barbie’s horse, Breyer models, Grand Champions, or whatever other brand the local toy stop carries. Christmas rolls around again, and the obligatory letter to Santa simply begs, “Please bring me a pony.”

Her parents chuckle to themselves, “Oh, she’ll grow out of it,” and in some instances, they could be right. There are those who escape the clutches of the virus. Puberty hits and the rush of hormones occasionally is strong enough to extinguish the infection. But not always.

If the virus persists, the requests for driving lesions are now accompanied by those for riding lessons. The coffee-can fund is in the bank and the horse-crazy teenager is looking for a part-time job to raise additional cash. Instead of rock stars and athletes, posters of galloping horses cover the bedroom walls. Books on stable management and horse care join the well-read storybooks on the shelf. Horses are scribbled on the covers of notebooks. Book reports and class projects consistently revolve around an equine subject. Shopping expeditions always include a quick side trip to the local saddlery. No, she may not own a horse, but she already had riding boots, a hoof pick, brushes and a halter, all displayed in a place of honor in her bedroom.

If the parents are willing to treat the symptoms, the victim may get riding lessons. If she is truly fortunate (and her folks have the cash), she might actually get a horse. Then there are those poor, sad souls, the riders without horses. Perhaps college got in the way, or marriage and motherhood. The virus is still there; nighttime finds the subject tossing verdant fields. Oftentimes, these folks may have to wait until the mortgage is pad and the kids have moved away before being able to satisfy the needs of the disease.

I am not trying to scare you by telling you all of this. I only seek to warn you, to let you know what to expect in yourself or younger members of your family. You see, I speak from experience. I am a terminal horse-lover virus patient. It hit me early, when I was about three and had received my first Breyer model horse. It stayed with me through my childhood, up to college and into adulthood. My parents were very understanding, and provided therapy during my teen years in the form of riding lessons and a big, black gelding named Shadow.

I’m in my late thirties now. My Family still loves and supports me. They never fuss when I miss weekend gatherings because I need equine treatment. They don’t comment when I can’t spend money on them, because I’ve already spent it all on my horse. If the basement in my house is full of tack, horse blankets and other equipment, they just smile and walk around it. And at Christmas, there are as many gifts for my horse under the tree as there are for me. They know the virus can’t be fought, only accommodated.

One of my best friends recently had a baby. I went to visit them both and brought a stuffed pony for the new little girl. In a crib full of toys, it was the only thing she would hold on to. The contagion has been passed again.

-Cristina Scalise

[Canfield, Jack. Chicken Soup For The Horse Lover’s Soul: Horse People are Really Sick People. p354-357. Health Communications, Inc.. 2003. Print]