The Con­tro­ver­sial Horse

Trail Rider - - FEATURES - BY BOB GODDARD

TThere’s a con­tro­ver­sial horse at the up­scale eques­trian barn where my daugh­ter takes rid­ing les­sons. He’s a 19-year old Paint Horse with chaotic patches of white splat­tered against a dun back­ground. The patches on the geld­ing’s face and neck are par­tic­u­larly dis­or­ga­nized, with vaguely de­fined bor­ders be­tween white and color. His baby-blue eyes have earned him the nick­name Ol’ Blue Eyes. Not ex­actly orig­i­nal, but ac­cu­rate. This is of­ten short­ened to Ol’ Blue or just Blue. It’s not un­usual for a con­tro­ver­sial horse to go by sev­eral dif­fer­ent names.

Mys­tery Name

The Ol’ Blue Eyes con­tro­versy cen­ters around three main is­sues. The first in­volves the mys­tery be­hind the mean­ing of his real name, PC. No one at the barn re­ally knows what the let­ters stand for, but ev­ery­one has an opin­ion.

The first names that popped into my mind were Po­lit­i­cally Cor­rect and Per­sonal Com­puter, but nei­ther makes much sense in an equine con­text.

Other guesses that are more ap­pro­pri­ate, but equally un­likely, in­clude Pony Com­pan­ion, Pretty Col­ors, and Painted Colt. Un­der the cat­e­gory of “Just Wild Guess­ing,” we have Post Card, Price Chop­per, and Pa­per Clip.

Fi­nally, there are the ab­surd spec­u­la­tions, no doubt in­spired by the cur­rent cam­paign sea­son. The more cheer­ful ones are Po­ten­tial Com­mu­nist, Pos­i­tively Cor­rupt, and Prob­a­ble Catas­tro­phe.

But no one re­ally knows.

Se­lec­tive Hear­ing

The sec­ond con­tro­versy con­cerns Ol’ Blue’s al­leged deaf­ness. The barn is di­vided into two camps. On one side are the One-Siders, who be­lieve the horse is deaf in only one ear. They con­tend that Ol’ Blue will take ver­bal cues from one side; how­ever, no one agrees on which side this is.

Then there’s the Po­lit­i­cal Es­tab­lish­ment The­ory that Ol’ Blue is com­pletely deaf in both ears. His re­mark­able pe­riph­eral vi­sion may give the ap­pear­ance that he can hear, but don’t let that fool you. Just be care­ful when you en­ter his stall.

I re­ject both the­o­ries. I be­lieve there’s noth­ing wrong with Ol’ Blue’s ears. He’s sim­ply en­gag­ing in se­lec­tive hear­ing, a finely honed sur­vival mech­a­nism made nec­es­sary in this kind of barn en­vi­ron­ment.

‘Just a Trail Horse’

The third and fi­nal con­tro­versy cen­ters on what Ol’ Blue “is good for.”

“I re­ally don’t like his neck. And he looks clubby on his right side,” sniffs the One-Per­center Pony Princess.

“What’s that sup­posed to mean?” re­torts the Weary Rid­ing In­struc­tor.

“Well, he’s prob­a­bly not good enough to show. But you could still use him as a trail horse.”

“So trail rid­ing is for show re­jects? Is that what you mean?” While my heart and mind is with the Weary Rid­ing In­struc­tor, I take a cue from

PC and pre­tend not to hear a word. I’ve learned not to get in­volved in this sort of dis­cus­sion; it never ends well for me. Strict barn neu­tral­ity based on well-prac­ticed obliv­i­ous­ness is my of­fi­cial pol­icy.

Pony Princess con­tin­ues: “No, it’s just that you can use any horse for trail rid­ing.”

Weary In­struc­tor sighs. “Not re­ally. It’s a dif­fer­ent skill set. Some horses don’t have the temperament for se­ri­ous trail rid­ing.”

The ar­gu­ment es­ca­lates from there, with Pony Princess up­ping the emo­tional ante with a pre­dictable cat­ti­ness. Her clear, but un­stated, as­sump­tion is that PC doesn’t be­long at the up­scale show barn be­cause, af­ter all, he’s “just a trail horse.”

PC’s Per­spec­tive

Of course, PC doesn’t see it that way. Not only does he be­long, but he’s held in high es­teem by hu­mans and horses alike. His sta­tus is con­firmed by a num­ber of spe­cial priv­i­leges the other horses don’t en­joy.

While the pam­pered show horses pace in­side their gilded stalls, PC is al­lowed to graze all day in the pas­ture with his pony friends, Peanut and Ras­cal.

PC also gets to go on all man­ner of ad­ven­tures, mak­ing daily treks into the wilder­ness, sure­footed and con­fi­dent. He knows the sur­round­ing ter­rain bet­ter than any horse in the barn and barely bats an eye at trail mon­sters that would send the other horses into a panic.

As I watch PC graze with his bud­dies in the warm morn­ing sun­shine, it fi­nally hits me what the ini­tials in his name re­ally stand for: Per­fectly Con­tent. TTR

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