Dave Barry on Horses
Dave Barry on horses: “You Take The Horse; I’ll Gladly Take The Dog”
RECENTLY a woman I know named Michelle came into the newspaper office
with a big ugly wound on her upper arm. Realizing that she might be
self-conscious about it, I said: “Michelle, what’s that big ugly wound
on your upper arm?” Sensitivity is the cornerstone of journalism.
It turned out that Michelle had been bitten by a horse. It was her own
horse, and it bit her while she was trying to feed it.
This is a typical horse maneuver. Horses are the opposite of dogs,
gratitude-wise. You give a dog something totally wretched to eat, such
as a toad part or a wad of pre-chewed Dentyne, and the dog will
henceforth view you as the Supreme Being.
It will gaze on you for hours with rapt adoration and lick the ground
you walk on and try to kill the pizza-delivery person if he comes
anywhere near you.
Whereas if you spend hours grooming a horse and lugging its food and
water around, the horse will be thinking: “Should I chomp on this
person’s arm? Or should I merely blow a couple gallons of horse snot
into this person’s hair?”
I don’t trust horses. “Never trust an animal with feet made from the
same material as bowling balls” is one of my mottoes. I never believed
those scenes in Western movies when bad guys would tie the hero up,
and his horse would trot over and untie the knots with his teeth. A
real horse would size up the situation and stomp on the hero’s feet.
I don’t blame horses for being hostile. I myself would feel hostile
toward somebody who was always sitting on me and yanking on my lips.
But what I don’t get is, how come they’re so popular? Especially with
Now, you’re probably saying: “Dave, you’re just bitter because in
fifth grade you had an intense crush on Susan Cartoun, and you wrote
`Sue’ on your notebook inside a heart, but the name inside the heart
on her notebook was `Frosty,’ an imaginary horse that she loved much
more than you, despite the fact that, if Frosty ever had the chance,
it would have got imaginary snot in her hair.”
Yes, it’s true that I am a little bitter about that. Also, I have not
forgotten my first experience with a horse. I was 9 years old, at a
farm, and I attempted to ride a pony.
“Pony” is a misunderstood word. Many young people, having grown up
watching the “My Little Pony” cartoon show, believe that a pony is a
cute little pastel-colored critter with a perky voice and a nurturing
personality and a 1973 Farrah Fawcett hair style. Whereas, in fact, a
typical pony is the same weight as an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme but
with no controls or moral code.
Anyway, following my sister’s directions, I put my foot into the metal
thing hanging down from the pony (technically, the “fetlock”), and
instantly the pony, not wishing to be boarded at that time, trotted
briskly off, with my leg attached to it.
I attempted to keep up by bouncing next to it on my other leg, like
the famous Western cinematic star, Hopalong ****, but finally, in a
feat of astonishing equestrian skill, I fell down backward and got
dragged across the field with my head bouncing gaily behind amongst
the cow doots.
I could tell the pony enjoyed this immensely. It couldn’t wait to get
back to the stable and tell the other horses via Snort Language.
“You should have seen his hair!” snorted the pony. “He’ll need to
shampoo with industrial solvents!”
“Next time,” snorted one of the older horses, “try stepping on him.
It’s like dropping an anvil on a Hostess Twinkie.”
“And the legal authorities can’t prosecute, because we’re horses,”
So I stayed off horses altogether until 20 years later, when I was
courting my wife. We were in the Rocky Mountains, and they had rental
horses, and she wanted to ride one.
Naturally, she loves horses. As a child, she used to ride a neighbor’s
horse bareback, an experience she remembers fondly even though she
admits the horse would regularly try to decapitate her by running
under low tree branches at 27 miles per hour.
I don’t want to sound like a broken record here, but why is it that a
woman will forgive homicidal behavior in a horse, yet be highly
critical of a man for leaving the toilet seat up?
But I was in Raging Hormone Courting Mode, meaning I would have
wrestled a giant snake to impress my wife-to-be, so I let her talk me
into getting on this rental horse.
It turned its head around and looked at me with one of those horse
eyeballs the size of a mature grapefruit, and I knew instantly what it
was thinking. It was thinking: “Hey! It’s Hopalong ****!”
So while my wife’s horse trotted briskly off into the scenery, looking
for low branches to run under, my horse just stood there, eating and
pooping, waiting for me to put one leg on the ground so it could
suddenly take off and drag me to Oregon.
So I sat very still, like one of those statue generals, only more
rigid. I’d say we moved about 11 feet in two hours. Next time I am
definitely renting the snake.
Fortunately, my wife’s horse was unable to kill her, and we got
married and lived happily ever after, except that she keeps saying
that she wants us to go riding again.
I don’t know what to do. I think maybe tonight I’ll fix her a
candlelight dinner, give her some wine, and put on some soft, romantic
music. Then, when the moment is just right, I will gently but firmly
bite her upper arm.