Manolos, Manifolds, and Manure
Last fall I wrote about my blue-eyed girl who quietly entered the world one hot Father’s Day kicking it around a barrel pattern. Despite her inability (and lack of desire) to ride a bike she’s learned to lope and more importantly to stay in the saddle.
We’ve spent the last year building a relationship with a big red gelding named “Mahalo”. Mahalo is a less than magical escape artist; he just breaks his halters. Two of them in under six months. He’ll kindly carry my big little boy with no official eye color at a jog despite said big little boy yelling “faster” and randomly swinging his legs. But he’ll pick your pockets clean if you’re not paying attention. He won’t bat an eye when you’re picking off scabs or scratches, but he acts like life is ending if you approach his face with a spray bottle. Despite my farmer’s protests, Mahalo was an amazing addition to our family.
“Mahalo’s” foray into barrel racing has been nothing short of a disaster. Races have people watching. Barrels. And he has to run! Throughout the year he’s learned to load and trailer. And after so many false starts he’s running a clean pattern. Not perfect. Not money winning. But consistently clean.
This summer he carried my blue-eyed girl through her first official race. No hesitation. No bucking. Sound and sane. This fall he carried my blue-eyed girl through two races. Again, no hesitation. No bucking.
My farmer taught me about animal care. Mahalo has taught me about animal feeding. I’ve studied feed tags, supplements, and articles. I have listened to my veterinarian and farrier; with their help we’ve built him a ration that provides a little extra for his hooves and coat while ensuring that he remains healthy and well fed. We’ve added an injectable joint supplement and sunflower seeds for his coat.
I know that animals need proper care, food, and water to be productive. This translates to horses. In Chicago, activist groups are labeling horse carriage operators and the entire industry as abusive, inhumane, and outdated. While individuals are entitled to different opinions, there is no evidence that carriage horses are mistreated. Chicago’s carriage horses have access to food, water, and shelter. They work a six-hour workday in comfortable conditions. I can pull the carriages that the horses pull in Chicago. My closest friend and I can pull the carriages loaded. They’re not heavy, they’re made to be easily pulled.
Activist groups also argue that cities aren’t the place for horses because of the traffic and noise. Through scrupulous training and handling, carriage horses are comfortable in loud, urban areas. The horses’ owners wouldn’t bring an untrained and a poorly acclimated horse into the city.
Horses built Chicago. Horses have an inherent drive to work. Even my big red gelding, has a drive to work. Some drive. He loves every opportunity to take laps around the hay field or traverse the woods. Keep your eyes open for a pineapple wearing big red boy running around the barrels next spring.