Horse-Happy Kid (Volume 7, April-August 1980)
July 17, 1980
When I love him the most is when I’m the coldest and aloof-est (sometimes). Or else it’s times like last night, after the guests go home. I’ve never been —I mean had— a someone to be with “after the guests have gone home.”
He’s so gentle with me — I can’t react. I remind me of Wise Guy — that horse was ruined by Hi-Life Stables. After Jan had him for many, many gentle treatment years, he was still totally head-shy; a stall-biter and a rocker. (Why do rocking horses go back and forth? Horses rocking go side to side.) Rockrockrockrockrockrockrockrock Rock off!! Rock you! Oh rock it! ROCK!
I haven’t thought of Wise Guy for so long. Jan buried him beneath the ring where we rode.
All of a sudden I have a huge longing for Chico and Wise Guy - my first horses at Jan’s. Everybody loved Chico and no one wanted Wise Guy. Chico had a red and white striped blanket and a cuter face. Chico was for beginning beginners. I think Chico had a funny trot.
Wise Guy was sooo tall - much taller even than Chico. He had such a bony back — he was not meant for bareback riding. All of Wise Guy’s gaits were terrible — uneven, uncomfortable, nervous. But he had such a noble face — and huge, sad eyes.
Really, few things are as comforting as a horse’s warm breath in a freezing fall stable.
Wise Guy’s blanket was alternating stripes — white, green, white, orange, white…
Stormy, John-John, Nabob, Dancer —
OH I miss Dancer! Dancer Dancer Dancer was the best. Perfect canter, perfect horse. Dancer was once you moved up in the stable ranks. Dancer’s physical characteristics elude me - his spirit is what one remembers.
Oh, I want to be looking down between two horse ears one more time.
One always talked to Dancer as one rode. Later there was Dandy - Jan’s first quarter horse. Wide, low, almost sway backed, she neck-reined. And following Dandy was Candy - a lighter colored horse.
Jan started out with, I believe, three horses. I mean, she had three when I started riding there. Her first was Chico, her childhood horse. Then came Wise Guy, then Dancer. No — Dancer first, then Wise Guy, saved from the glue factory. She may have also already had Stormy, a Welsh Pony (a bucker) for more skilled riders. I’ll never forget the view of an entire horse jumping over my face as I lay prone on the ground after having been bucked off by said horse — pony no less — feisty little thing.
Stormy eventually gave birth to John-John - an icky little pony always — always needing to be cropped, always fighting, and so close to the ground, being passed up by the big guys.
Nabob was Jan’s favorite. An Arabian — purebred, gorgeous, smart and trained in dressage, Nabob was the entertainer. He counted for the audience at every show. Nabob was six when Jan got him for $10,000. A year later she was offered $30,000 for him. She declined. She loved that horse so much.
One year after that, when Nabob was eight years old — very young, by horse standards — he died of some rare horse disease. He, too, was buried under the ring where we rode.
(Underground hives are now appearing all over my arms and hands. I am sitting out at lunch writing scrambled recollections of my early youth. I swear I have the mentality of an 80 year old — without all the built-up wisdom but with plenty of senility and backward vision.)
Horses were only a part of the scene at Jan’s. Triple K Ranch (for Jan, Mr. and Mrs. Katzburg) also boasted a dog - a little Scottie named Cinder (an obnoxious little barker) — and a multitude of barn cats, all half-wild and unwilling to be held. I know one was named “Tommy,” surprisingly.
Later a rooster came to live there. It crowed continually during each lesson and was always attacking people. And then a couple more chickens…
After Nabob died, Jan’s special concern shifted to a dog, Shadow, who was obedience-trained and who pee’d on command. She always called him “Shad.” Eventually Jan acquired a second collie to keep Shadow company.
“Jan’s” was the most idyllic part of my childhood. Naturally, things got more complex and bigger every summer that I resumed my lessons.*
But for me Jan’s will always be Chico, Wise Guy, Cindy the dog, Stormy and Dancer; curry combs and dandy brushes, being too short to brush my own horse, trotting, posting, saddle sores, burning post-lesson piss, sweat and dirt and hair, “Grip with your knees,” “You’re on the wrong diagonal,” “Don’t hurt his mouth,” cooling your horse, cleaning the foamy, drool-covered bit and bridle, walking stiff-legged up to the house; waiting for Mom by clanging gate.
*(My mother would not drive out to the stable in the winter.)