Part 1//Why having horses is nothing like having dogs

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I’ve been super sick, so i don’t aim to organize this well and my point is liable to get lost here or there. But, as per my usual, I promise to get wherever it is that I am going.

It is hard to describe what love of a horse is to those who do not have/ride their own horses (pats self on back). One of the most common misconceptions is that the relationships equestrians have with their horses are akin to those people have with their pets. Ages ago, when I didn’t know better and made the occasional error of gushing or worrying out loud about Ryllin to non-riders, I found, much to my chagrin, that they tended to relate my feelings to their experiences with their dogs. It became clear to me then that non-horse people really are not able to understand what I am talking about. Horses are nothing like dogs, keeping them is nothing like keeping dogs, loving them is nothing like loving dogs, they offer more, they take more, they make you a million times more crazy. The real distinction between the relationships arises when it comes to horses that are really being used, the more rigorous the riding/sport the more involved and complicated the relationship tends to be. But I’ll espouse on that in Part 2.

The financial investment alone is a hundredfold. Combined with the time investment, which is so significant that for most of us it leaves little to no room for any other hobbies, horse ownership/equestrianism is elevated to the classification of a full on lifestyle. This is also one of the chief reasons many horse people are completely off their rocker. What horses offer their riders is also markedly different from the offerings of dogs, but that portion of the lesson will be delivered in careful detail come Part 2.

For now, and with all that being said, I want to focus strictly on physiological issues which separate horses from everything else pet-like, and how those issues affect the hapless humans endeavoring to manage them. Unlike dogs, horses are dishearteningly fragile. Most people don’t realize that horses can drop dead on a dime. It would seem that these animals had never quite acclimated, evolutionarily speaking, to domestication, and, despite their imposing dimensions, are utterly frail. Their bodies can be potentially riddled with a slew of debilitating conditions, many of which, if gone unnoticed or not properly addressed, easily turn deadly. The two most common sources of horse fatality are their guts and their feet. Horse feet are complex structures, somewhat poorly designed to withstand the rigors of supporting over 1000 lbs, especially when that 1000 pounds is hurling itself over obstacles or performing complex aerial maneuvers. The saying goes “No foot, no horse”, and it is quite literal, a bad foot means at best, a lame horse, and at worst, a dead horse. Lots of care goes into maintaining healthy feet on a horse, from shoeings and trimmings, to supplements, dressings and careful selection of footing. A foot can go bad in a day, dietary issues, bad shoeing, genetic issues, weather issues, ground conditions, stall conditions, etc. all can cause deadly foot disorders and diseases. You might say, what’s the big deal, one foot goes bad, there are three more. Be assured, a horse needs all four of its tiny feet to equally distribute its enormous weight, one foot gone, means the other three will go shortly thereafter, as they cannot take the horse’s weight in perpetuity. And no, horses can’t just lie around while it gets better, like dogs. A horse’s weight and intricate circulation/nervous systems prevent it from being able to lie down for long without dying. I kid you not, a laid up horse will basically crush itself from the inside, its organs will go out one after another under its own weight causing permanent damage to its nervous system and eventual death. So not only can a horse with a compromised foot not be ridden but often, the degeneration of the hoof structures is so severe that it has to be put down. A sport horse, who becomes too lame to be ridden, is a tragedy in itself, as the amount of work, time and feeling that goes into creating an effective riding partnership between horse and rider is massive, but when said horse has to also be put down, the dimension of loss is on another level.

Second most common and sudden horse killer, that all horse people live in constant fear off, is colic. Again, seems innocuous enough right? I mean who hasn’t had a little colic, a bit of constipation here and there, some gas? Well, if you’re a horse, the word colic carries with it weight equal to that of words like cancer or apocalypse. In short, due to the unique anatomy of equine stomachs and intestines, indigestion kills. Kills suddenly and mercilessly. So there is that. It’s definitely nothing like when a dog gets upset stomach and barfs all over your favorite duvet. Not only is a horse physically unable to regurgitate its food btw, i.e. throw up, but as I had mentioned earlier, it can’t even rest it off on its back, since even laying down for too long is deadly to horses.

Another thing to mention is that unlike dogs, horses cannot breathe through their mouths, so when they have a cold, or an allergy, they can easily suffocate and, again, die. For the same reason horses often croak from simple choking.

With these few example, I am trying to illustrate why dog owners have no comprehension of what goes into horse ownership. No one really understands what it’s like to be dealing with a horse health problem, how all consuming and exhausting it can be, except for horse people of course. And this is just one dimension of horse ownership, the highly redacted physiological one. It is also why horse love is nothing like dog love. The more attention and worry something requires, never you mind money, the more significant the place it occupies in our worlds. Just from the perspective of wellness, horses are infinitely more complex and demanding than dogs. After spending years worrying and obsessing about every cough and every limp, the feeling we develop for our equine partners is infinitely deeper and more involved than the fuzzy uncomplicated affections we feel towards our sweet canine companions. It’s just simple math. Involvement and investment is commonly proportionate to attachment and meaning. The harder we work at something, the more we value the product of our labor. In the case of horse ownership and equestrianism, a live, sound horse is the product.

—–>Part 2// Why Horse love is nothing like dog love // The partnership, the sweat, the guts, the glory.

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On the culture shock of Wharton, Texas & some of its subsequent charms

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At first arrival, I’ll confess I thought I might not be able to enjoy myself in Wharton. However over the last couple of days Wharton has grown on me just a little bit. It has its dubious charm. In Wharton, Texas I am looked upon as skinny. Repeatedly and much to my jubilation people have asked if I am a model. Whilst I battle the bulge in Scottsdale and Los Angeles, here I could stand to gain a few. This has definitely played a part in my recently improved opinion of the town. 😀

Disclaimer: It is always hard to speak critically or even just observationally about anything from the vantage point of privilege. Automatically shadows of snobbishness, conceit or arrogance are cast on the narrative. I do not think that I am better than anyone because of the advantages afforded to me in life. The place from which my opinions stem is not one of disparagement or disregard, I am aware of the difficulties faced by these areas, aware of why things are as they are, I do not discount the individuals when I speak in generalities, or underestimate the value of their characters and souls.

Although I realize that many areas in the U.S are much like Wharton, and it is by far not the worst or the most rural; to me, it presents with a real culture shock. This experience is akin to that of a person from a developed country visiting a third world country. I cannot help but be slapped in the face by first hand awareness of how different people can be, how varied their priorities, their tastes, their standards of living and ambitions.

Lululemon and Starbucks do not govern the lives of people in Wharton, but neither does what could be conventionally described as “good taste”, moderation, aesthetics, nutrition, fitness, health, education or dental care…etc. To me the lifestyle led by most here is starkly different from what I know. But admittedly, I had lived a somewhat insulated life, without having much need to ever leave my primary comfort zones. Where I thought there was an economic gap between south and north Scottsdale, I think there is a planet gap between Scottsdale and Wharton. Everything from the pace to the motivations of life here is different. In Wharton people seem to either work very hard or barely at all. Farming and fracking are the things putting bread on the tables of a vast majority, as is every fast food franchise known to man. Few here have heard of such luxuries as Trader Joes, Wholefoods,Tofu…. Organic, yoga or Crossfit are not terms widely used or understood. Ordering coffee at the single coffee shop in town is a strange and somewhat frustrating experience, it’s almost as if although we speak the same language we cannot reach an understanding. I realize this is because people here do not alter their orders and do not express arbitrary preparation preferences, like people in LA are accustomed to doing. It is not a realm for the pampered or the particular. I have done my part thus far in giving LA girls a decidedly bad name.

There is no shortage of plump cows, languidly parked under shady trees and in fields, living their lives beneath the Texas sky on God’s green earth. As all animals should. Such sights feel to my heart like hugs. People are extremely nice, kind, polite, they appear to be quite united in their communal humanity. This is the advantage of a small town, without a great socio economic discrepancy. Considerations of wealth, ambition, vanity, competition, city stress, do not afflict these people or divide them in the ways that they do in other areas. It is a simpler world that I think breeds a kinder folk. As far as I can tell racial tensions don’t prevail here, people seem to live on equal footing, healthily intermixed. I can’t be sure, but from my limited observations, humans are less divided by race in this small town than in many other liberal, more cosmopolitan areas on the west coast, which is ironic. On the west coast although equality is a highly esteemed and hailed aspiration, it is not necessarily as much of a reality as it appears to me to be in Wharton. Again I think this is because socio economically everyone is in a somewhat same boat here. They occupy their small world together, they farm the same land, frack the same ground and drink the same beer in the only bar in town.

P.S. Lena, is the little Polo pony I got to ride on the 30000 acre ranch which is home to the Polo farm, and it was a truly beautiful thing. Not only is the scenery expansive and robust, but I have arrived at the conclusion that Polo ponies are perhaps the most fun to ride of all equine athletes. They are alert, very forward, have excellent endurance and listen very closely to their riders.

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Chapter 5: When things got weird

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Ch 5

             It was impossible not to stare at them. A small girl of nine or ten with her right hand firmly planted on the back of a mangy skeletal hound was slowly crossing the street. The dog was enormous, almost as tall as the child and, judging from appearance, in a truly pitiful state of health. It was thin and gaunt, with ribs prominently displayed through paper-thin layer of ashy skin and a sharply protruding spine beneath patches of strange grey fur. It was either very old, very sick or both. On the contrary the little girl brimmed with health. Her skin was pink, almost peachy; wispy auburn hair covered her shoulders in a cascade of curls, she moved her tiny feet pointing her toes, like a little dancer. Even from a distance I could see her bright eyes shining like tiny ambers from beneath long thick eyelashes. The duo had such a peculiar quality to them that even I, in my state of heightened self-involvement, forgot myself for a minute, stopped and marveled at them making their way to my side of the street. When they came closer I was surprised to discover two things, the dog was even uglier and more handicapped than I had imagined, both of its eyes were glossed over with a thick white film, and the beautiful little girl walking by its side was, in reality, an even more beautiful boy. The animal was obviously blind, and the boy’s hand was moving it along. He was a “guide boy” I thought, an ironic reversal of roles between a human and his dog. Having cast off all considerations for that social convention, which since early childhood instructs us not to stare, I stood there, watching them approach. They were like something out of a fairy tale or from another time, so out of place on this otherwise unremarkable Los Angeles block.

When they were about half way across the street I realized that the little boy seemed just as interested in me as I was in him. Unapologetically staring back into my face he floated towards me, right up to the point when there was no more than 3 feet of pavement left between us, at which time he stopped and shifted his eyes to the shopping bag in my hand. A bottle of cheap Vodka, prominently displayed itself against its transparent plastic containment. If it didn’t occur to me to feel self-conscious right then, the words that proceeded to come out of his tiny pink mouth turned me scarlet red.

“Drink much?” Was all he said, but those two words spoken in that little girl voice made all the blood in my body rush straight to my face.

“What?” I thought It had to have been a misunderstanding, I must have misheard him.

But he just stood there, unabashedly staring me down. It was an uncomfortable, unexpected turn of events. This child managed to go from an enchanting little fairy tale prince to an obnoxious little shit in as much time as it took him to blurt out those two words. I could tell that I really didn’t have a choice but to extricate myself from this situation. Whether he said what I thought he said, or not, getting into it with a little kid in the middle of the street wasn’t going to help matters. I had enough sense left in me to just walk away. Completely dumbfounded, I stiffly turned on my heels and started walking in the apposite direction from whence he came.

“Surreal, completely surreal” I mumbled to myself.

Despite best efforts to free my mind from the echo of that condescending little voice, it seemed to have stuck to me, as unnerving in its residual state as it was when I first heard it. But if that wasn’t enough, the bizarre duo itself turned out to have been just as persistent. When quite some time later I heard footsteps nearby and looked over my shoulder, I saw them trailing behind me, about 30 feet away. Agitated by the discovery I quickened my stride and in a few minutes checked for them again, the distance between us had not increased. Were they intentionally keeping pace? I wasn’t in any kind of a mood to be haunted by some snotty little asshole and his ugly stray. I stopped abruptly, whipped around and glared straight at them.

“Listen, Lord Fauntleroy, where are you parents? What do you think you are doing? Where are your parents?” I shouted, the sound of my own voice surprised me, it was incredibly high, like a shrill. His reaction was not at all what I expected either. Instead of looking intimidated or scared, like a child ought to look when faced with an angry, spitting adult, this boy let out the most wholehearted and boisterous laugh. He laughed! At me?

“Parents? Ha Ha Ha! Where are your parents? Do they know what you’ve been up to? Anyways, other people have business this way too, you really ought to do something about the paranoia.”

He sounded nothing like a 10 year old, and nothing like a stranger. I blinked stupidly fast, hoping that added eye lubrication would assist me in clarifying this entire conundrum, maybe I knew him from somewhere, or maybe he wasn’t a child at all but some kind of a little person. Still in front of me stood a strange small boy and a large ugly dog, and his angelic appearance did not match his insolent tongue. I found myself in exactly the same situation I was in the first time around with only one mature course of action-to leave. So once again I turned around and walked on. But he wasn’t done with me.

“And Charly, you ought to hurry, it’s about to rain.”

My eyes widened to the point of a facial spasm. The last time I felt frightened like that I was 7, my sister had put on a scary clown mask with long sharp teeth and jumped out from under my bed as I was climbing into it. I remember feeling then just like I did now, convinced that she was something otherworldly, I had taken off running out of my room screaming for help. When I heard my name, spoken so nonchalantly in that little voice by that little stranger, my feet reacted, running away with me as fast as they could, just like I did when I was 7. Thankfully I wasn’t far from my hotel so my new pace allowed me to reach it within a couple of minutes. Ducking in under its awning I stopped and leaned on the gilded front doors, trying to catch my breath. Finally I dared to look back for the first time since I set off sprinting like a mad woman. To my relief the street behind me was empty; there was no trace of the runt or his dog. I squinted and stuck my head out into the street, trying to peer out further than my sight would allow, a drop of water fell on my face, I wiped it off with the back of my hand, but one more drop fell in its place, the next thing I knew rain was pouring from the sky. As predicted.