Friday, December 21, 2012

Telling a story

When MomToo started writing about me, she didn't know how to write about my time at the hospital. I was there forever, and she couldn't visit me all the time, so it was hard to know what I was doing, besides hanging out in my stall.

She knew I had neighbors in the hospital, and she remembered one. He was a big grey stallion and was in a contraption to keep him from lying down. The hospital people told her he had been injured by the big moving box.

So she made up a story about who he was and what we talked about. She gave him the name of her friend's horse. Her friend's horse is a very special stallion with a very special name.

Here is a sample of what she made up:

* * * * *

My friend Valentin had stopped talking, so I watched the horses down the hill again. I was watching them jump when I heard a familiar noise, so I turned and looked out of my stall door. Auntie Niki and Miss Tina were outside.

Auntie Niki came in first. She patted the side of my neck. “How are you, Snoop?”

“Says on his chart he’s got a little fever,” Miss Tina said as she walked in. I felt her hand touch my hip, then run down my leg. “Cast looks good.”

“They’ve still got him sedated,” Auntie Niki said. “He’s not very chewy.”

I don’t know what sedated meant, but she was right. I didn’t really feel like putting anything in my mouth that wasn’t food. Auntie Niki never let me push my nose against her, but today she did. She scratched my face between my eyes. It felt good.

“It’ll probably be at least a week before he comes home,” Miss Tina said. “I’ll have the guys prep a stall. He’ll have to be on straw until the cast comes off.”

Straw. So that’s what the long, sticky bedding was.

They walked back toward the door. I swung my leg around and faced them.

Miss Tina pointed at my cast. “Poor guy. Hope that doesn’t have to stay on long. I’d hate to have him founder.”

“See you tomorrow, Snoopy,” Auntie Niki said and they left.

“Valentin?” I had questions, and he seemed like a smart horse. I had to call him a couple of times. He was pretty cranky by the time he answered.


“Miss Tina and Auntie Niki said things I don’t understand.”

“What else is new?”

“Nothing’s new. You’ve only been asleep a little while. The horses down the hill are still jumping—”

“Never mind, Snoopy. What didn’t you understand?”

“Auntie Niki said I’d been, um, es-dated.”

“What?” I could hear him shake his mane and snort. “You must mean sedated. It means you were given medicine to make you calm and even sleepy.”

“Oh. And Miss Tina said she hoped I didn’t founder.”

Valentin was very quiet for awhile. Then he spoke. “That is a serious fear, Snoopy. We need to keep the blood flowing in our legs, up to our heart and down to our hooves. If it doesn’t keep flowing and feeding our feet, they begin to hurt. The wall that supports our hoof starts to decay.”

“Then what happens?”

“Eventually the bones fall through the hoof. If you have a human who loves you, they have you put down before that happens. It is excruciating—I’m sorry—it is very painful.”

I thought about Uno. Holly had said his leg was hurting and the bones would soon go down through his hoof. She said there was pain that would heal and there was forever pain. I shared this with Valentin.

 “Could that thing, founder, happen to me?”

He shuffled around in his stall. “It could happen to either of us.”

“But maybe not, right?”

“Right. Maybe not.” He didn’t sound like he believed in maybe.

“Right. It won’t happen to me. Or to you.”

“If you say so.” Valentin chuffed a little. “I’m curious. With a name like My Flashy Investment, how did you get nicknamed Snoopy?”

“I’m not sure. Mom said I was named Snoopy before I was born. She was at a horse show and I was growing in her tummy. MomToo said I was the size of a beagle, whatever that is. Then Auntie Niki started calling me Baby Snoopy. I don’t know why.”

“I don’t get it, either, but it is a good name for you. You are very inquisitive.”

I wasn’t sure what inquisitive meant, so I asked him, “Is Valentin your only name, or do you have more?”

“I believe it is all I need. I am an Andalusian of very old breeding. My sires and dams can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when we were warriors on men’s battlefields. I myself have sired twenty foals and I am only sixteen. I was on my way to visit with another mare when I had my unfortunate accident.”

“You’re such a smart horse. I only know my mom and dad’s names. Oh, and one grandfather.”

“You are a Quarter horse, yes?”


“I hope I am not too impolite, but your breed does not have the kind of history as my own. You were born of this land, which is very young compared to where I come from. I would not expect much history from you. No offense.”

“It’s okay. Mom’s the one who remembers stuff. I forget a lot. She told me I wasn’t an old spirit, like her. My spirit is brand new.”

“For a Quarter horse, your mother is wise. It’s too bad I can’t meet her. Is she still at the place where you were born?”

“Sure. I still live there, too.”

“Amazing! Her human kept you, too?”

“MomToo? Well, sure. She rides me.”

“Snoopy, you are a lucky horse. I myself had passed through two owners by the time I was your age. I’m now on my fourth.”

“Is that bad?”

“No, they have all been nice humans, even if they weren’t always wise. It’s just hard to say goodbye, go to a new home, make new friends. I guess change comes to everyone.”

He was quiet again. I guess he was thinking about everyone he said goodbye to, and I started thinking about Uncle Snowy, and Johnny and Tucker. Uncle Snowy was still in the pen where I used to be, but Johnny went away one day in the moving box, and Tucker went to a horse show with me, then went home with someone else.

I did miss them, but I meet so many new friends, it makes it all okay. Like Valentin. I only understood half of what he was saying, but he had a pretty way of talking.

Soon I heard another kind of noise outside my stall. It sounded like the cart at home, the one that brings my hay. It took forever, but finally I watched a man walk toward my door with something green in his hand. It was a whole flake of hay for me. I hadn’t had anything to eat in forever, since the last time.

I was so hungry, I might have tried to eat the lady in white.

* * * * *

I'm okay with her telling a little story sometimes. For MomToo, it's possible I talked with my neighbor. It's not exactly a lie, if you don't know whether it's true or not. What do you think?

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Next Big Thing


MomToo told me to answer some questions for you about my next big thing. I usually only think of a big thing as getting a lot of carrots or a whole apple, but this is about my book.

What is the working title of your book? From the Horse's Mouth: The Memoir of One Lucky Horse.

Where did the idea come from for the book? MomToo was away for a few days and when she came back, she was all excited. She told me she got an idea while she was at the conference, whatever that is, and she was going to help me write my memoir. I don't know why I'm such a big deal, except that when I was three I was a champion and when I was four I broke my leg. But I got better.

What genre does your book fall under? We're still talking about that. I tried to tell MomToo what to write, but she made a few things up. So a lot of it is true -- I really won shows and broke my leg and chased goats. But some things are kind of, well, not.

Which actors would you chose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Actors? I don't know about them. I don't understand it, but MomToo says she'd like to be played by Diane Lane, and Auntie Niki says she'd like to be played by Anne Hathaway.

When will the book be available? I'm kind of not in charge of that. MomToo says a lady has to come take my picture for the book, and it's still being read by something called beta readers. She's hoping to release it in the spring or summer of next year.

I hope I answered these okay.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Snoopy's friends

We have quite a few horses at the ranch, and some of them ended up in Snoopy's book. One of these horses is Wendy, aka Which Way Wendy. She was bought a long time ago to be a show horse for one of the young girls. After many attempts at many shows, everyone decided that Which Way Wendy knew exactly which way she wanted to go - home and away from horse shows. The girl traded her in for a little mare who liked showing and Wendy became a lesson horse.

Wendy and one of her young students.
She started out as a ruthless teacher, rideable by the more advanced students. Seat in the wrong place? Don't expect her to turn right if your butt's pointing left. Standing in the stirrups and pulling the reins? Try sitting down and saying "ho" if you expect to stop. She was also light-sided and her gait was not smooth, so it was easy to find yourself on a bumpy ride at warp speed if you grabbed her sides with your legs.

Wendy will be 28 in January. She is now one of our beginner horses. Although she still requires her students to put their tushes in the middle of her saddle, she has become more tolerant of wiggly seats. She's used to the pull stop as well as a simple command. But don't get your legs into her. She'll still be off to the races if you squeeze too hard.

At 28, she's in amazing health but she does seem to be getting senile. In her youth, Wendy could be jumpy around loud noises, large trucks, and the ranch's tractor. She is regressing back to that state. As James Thurber put it, she's "jumping at slighter sounds."

We'd love her to stay around well into her thirties. We are also realistic. Every day with her is a gift.

Here's a little excerpt from the book:

Rusty was waiting for me when I got back that day. He was a nice horse, even if he was busy doing something all the time. Wendy would complain about him a lot.

“Why don’t you just settle?” she asked. “Why do you always have to be wandering around, climbing your stall?”

He’d laugh. “Why not? It’s fun, right, Snoopy?”

I didn’t really know if being so busy was fun, since I liked standing still in my stall and was never in the mood to climb up the metal poles. Wendy’s idea was pretty good, that a horse should save their energy. Hilde made me pretty tired every time he gave me a lesson, so I was happy to rest afterward.

“Do not listen to him,” Wendy told me. “He may be a year older than you, but he has always been too active for his own good. He was running circles around his mother when he was only a few hours old. Do you see how big he is? He will wear himself out before he is fifteen.”

“Were you born at the ranch, too, Wendy?”

“No, I was born on another ranch, a long way from here. I wasn’t even born in a stall, but out in the field late one night. My mother was part of a small herd. I grew up surrounded by other foals and mares.”

She was a plain horse with no markings, but the hair on her flank grew in funny squiggles. “Why is your hair so funny there?” I asked her.

“That is a brand. Because different humans owned different horses in the herd, they marked us all so they could tell who owned which ones.”

“Did it hurt?”

“Not really. I was fairly young. The men who did it were efficient, if not very gentle about it. They led me into a small stall, just big enough for my body to fit into. I was nervous, but one of the men rubbed my neck and withers until I felt somewhat calmer. Then I felt a cold pressure on my flank that stung a little. It stayed for a few moments, then went away, and they turned me loose.”

“I don’t remember having that done.” I looked at each side of my body. “I guess I don’t have a brand.”

“No, none of the horses born here have one.” She walked over to her water dish and drank. “You have been coddled.”

“What’s coddled?”

“You are born in warm stalls on soft straw, surrounded by humans to help in case something goes wrong.”

“You say that like any of us has a choice,” Rusty said as he knocked his hoof against the metal.

“None of us has a choice,” Wendy told him. “You simply received more attention than I did. You don’t know what it’s like to be pushed into the cold air, nuzzled into standing and forced to walk through the dark toward a group of fuzzy strangers. And I do not know the feeling of spending days, weeks, months in the sole company of my mother, without being on the constant move.”

“I would have liked that,” Rusty said. “I like to be on the move.”

“I guess I would be happy either way,” I told them. “Since I wouldn’t know any difference.”

“You’re too easy going,” Rusty told me. “Humans are going to expect you to do whatever they want.”

“Well, why not?”

“Why should we? I mean, okay, some days I get along fine with my owner, and with Niki. But if I’m not in the mood to do something, I at least make them give me a good reason to do it.”

“I just figure, if I do what they ask I get to finish and go back to my stall.”

“That’s smart,” Wendy told me.

“That’s stupid,” Rusty said. “You’re such a chump.”

I suppose I should have been mad about being called a chump, but it was okay. Rusty’s brain liked to go as fast as his body. I probably am too easygoing. I just never saw the point in fighting everyone, especially my humans. They were really strict, but they usually played good games.