Living (night)mare brings host of problems

Living (night)mare brings host of problems By Bob Karolevitz Last week I promised to tell you about our second horse which Phyllis bought with the money she got from the sale of our recalcitrant Shetland named Tiny.

Size-wise, she went in exactly the opposite direction. Tag, a lumbering middle-aged Morgan mare looked as if she just stepped away from a milk wagon whiffletree.

Unlike Tiny, she was soon nuzzling my shirt sleeve and nibbling a sugar cube which I just happened to have in my pocket. She quickly won my acceptance, and I resigned myself to a new set of problems.

Needless to say, they came!

It wasn't long before we learned that Tag had worms. This created an apparently intense desire to scratch and rub, and soon our wooden fence of 2×6 boards and 6×6 poles was going down like Tinker Toys in a windstorm.

When a 1,300-pound horse does a hula against a nailed-up barricade, something's got to give. And it did!

While the veterinarian almost forced me into the poorhouse pumping expensive medicines into Tag, I spent my good working hours re-nailing boards and re-tamping posts. It was all part of a costly lesson in horse economics which did neither my morale nor my bank account any good.

Buying high octane hay for a hungry horse, for instance, can add a sizable chunk to the grocery bill, especially when you're only getting about 15 clippety-clops to the bale. Then comes the bottles and cans of ointment, unctions, pills and potions prescribed to keep your horse healthier than you are.

Normal people worry about measles, chicken pox and mumps; horse lovers fret over glanders, splints, spavin and poll evil (which has nothing to do with politics).

We decided early on that Tag was not the world's greatest riding horse nor was she likely to win any ribbons at the fair. Maybe she'd made a good mother, we thought. The idea was intriguing until I discovered it's almost cheaper to marry off a daughter than a mare.

I always felt I knew enough about the birds and bees to understand conversations in the barracks, but horse people, I soon found out, are unusually knowledgeable about sex. While we were seeking an equine bridegroom, we had stud-horse talk at our house from morning till night.

We couldn't mate Tag with just any old oat-burner, I was told, as we checked pedigrees, markings, conformation and � almost as an afterthought � breeding fees. Finally the selection was made, and she was shipped off like a Chinese virgin to the connubial chambers.

After a honeymoon of appropriate duration, our prospective mother came home, and all of us in the family were impatient for the passing of the 11 months which our Farmer's Almanac said was the gestation period for a horse. We were extremely solicitous of Tag. Nobody rode her in her delicate condition. She got special rations, and we babied her as if she were a childless middle-aged queen making one last try for an heir-apparent.

Gradually she got bigger and bigger. As her belly swelled, the excitement at our house grew proportionately until at last the appointed day arrived.

Nothing happened.

Nothing happened for the next two weeks either, so we phoned frantically for the veterinarian. He came right out and gave Tag a hasty examination. Then he announced very clinically: "All you've got here is a very fat horse."

Pampered and over-fed, she has been fooling about foaling. Our disappointment was great, to say the least, because 11 months is a long time to wait for a colt-less let-down. It was expensive, too. We didn't even get her dowry back.

We've had other horse experiences through the year, but I'll spare you the details. It's hard to write with tears in my eyes.

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