Friday, February 8, 2013

Five for Friday—Horses, of Course

I have always loved horses, from the first Walter Farley book I ever got from the library, Little Black, A Pony, and probably even before I could read. I owned every horse book available at the time and begged Dad to drive me to the feed store whenever I’d saved enough to buy the newest Breyer horses, as well as going riding with a couple of my friends who owned horses and taking riding lessons once a week.

Twice, I have had the opportunity to own a horse—both times with no success. The first was when I won a pony in a raffle. I was only seven or eight years old at the time. Mom and Dad said we could not afford all the peripherals—the feed, vet bills, etc. I balled hysterically for days, probably weeks; it still makes me sad to think of it. The second time was years later. We had moved from New Hampshire to North Carolina, then back to Connecticut. My best friend from New Hampshire had to find new homes for her two Arabians—a colt named Munchkin and a filly named Gidget. Janet knew I had a special love in my heart for the skittish, doe-eyed beautiful young mare with the dapple-gray coat. Again, however, I was too young for a job and we were unable to afford the transportation, let alone the upkeep. My heart was officially broken this time. I have never stopped thinking of Gidget, dreaming of the times we would have had together had things only been a bit different. I have never given up hope, either, that one day, I would be able to afford to own a small stable of horses, even as I stand at the top of Age Hill and raise a wary eyebrow at the rock-strewn, slippery slope down to Senior Citizen-ville.

If the stars aligned themselves tomorrow and I was able to run right out and buy a stable and fill it with horses, these are some of the breeds I might choose.

1. Arabian: Well, that’s a gimme. These gorgeous creatures, with their intelligent eyes, wide, flaring nostrils, and barrel chests, were made to be in perfect harmony with their ancestral desert home. Hi-crested necks and proud tails held high are other notable characteristics of this breed. Small, compact, and sturdy, Arabians are part of the breeding history of the famous breed called Thoroughbreds. The Godolphin Arabian, The Darley Arabian, and the Byerley Turk are the most noted sires among racing enthusiasts. While many people admire Thoroughbreds, the first horse that would enter my stable would be an Arabian.

Photo by leilahh courtesy of the Stock Xchang

2. Andalusian: The stunning beauty of this breed could take the breath from the very cells of your body. Every bit as gorgeous as the Arabian, but standing an average of 1½-2 hands taller, this elegant animal was favored by Medieval kings and knights for their strength and courage. Its beauty and naturally high-stepping gait makes this horse the perfect animal for dressage. Andalusians are best known for their long, thick manes and tails, with the tails of show horses often dragging the ground. Andalusian blood can be found in most modern horses, particularly in the United States. I would love to have a pure-blooded Andalusian in my stable.

3. Pinto: The first Pinto I can ever remember seeing was owned by the parents of Bobby Law, who lived just up the road apiece from my childhood home in New Hampshire. Bobby’s horse was black and white, but these patchwork quilt horses come in many shades. While Pintos are recognized as a breed, their unique colorings can sometimes be found in other breeds. Two famous examples are Misty of Chincoteague, a pony, and Hidalgo, made famous for the movie of the same name starring Viggo Mortensen, in which this brave horse raced against many others, including my favorite in the number one spot, at the close of the Wild West era.

4. Quarter Horse: One of a few iconic American horses, this breed can trace its origins to Andalusians and Arabians, both. Most often seen in rodeos, running figure eights between barrels or helping cowboys round up “wayward” calves, this breed is best known for its ability to put on short burts of speed. There are even races—a quarter of a mile long—for these animals to show off their prowess.

 5.Mustang: Some would consider this horse to be the “mutt” of the horse world; so how could any red-blooded American not love this animal? Just as our forefathers were “kicked out of every good country” in the world (to quote Bill Murray from Stripes), the forefathers of the Mustang escaped from paddocks and stables all over the New World to breed with local horses. For a time, there were so many of these wild horses that ranchers hunted them almost to extinction in order to save the grazing land for their own livestock. I would love to have one of these in my stable, ironically, because of their wild background; well, maybe I’d just give them my land to roam on instead.

So there, at long last (it literally took me all day to simply type this up from my written draft) is my “dream stable”, an eclectic mix of beauty, grace, and strength of both body and spirit. Have a great week-end. See you all Monday for yet another mystery of this world.

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