Writing about horses: why stallions should have their teeth extracted

medium_340848452“Oh, you little b*stard,” I shouted as the stallion’s jaws snapped shut around my shoulder blade for the umpteenth time that evening – each time, in fact, that I walked past his box pushing a barrow as I mucked the horses out.

I tried tiptoeing. I tried crawling along so my head was level with the barrow handles. I tried giving his box a wide berth by pushing my barrow along the grass beyond the concrete path. But each time he was waiting for me, and despite being a horse he had a neck like a giraffe and jaws built on an extending gantry system… his teeth could have reached me if I was walking by on the main road half a kilometre away.

“Comment?” smiled my Belgian godmother, owner of a large livery and showjumping yard just outside Brussels, Belgium as she strode up carrying some feed buckets. “Oh, Hombré, que tu es amusant!”  She looked at my wincing face and guessed. “He ees only geeving you little kiss,” she simpered. “He not bad boy, pas du tout.”  With that she placed her own cheek right by those bionic jaws and fondled his ears with her hand. Sneering at me with one eye, Hombré blew hypocritically down his nose and nuzzled his owner like the true sycophant he was.

“He hurt you?  Non, sûrement pas,” my godmother continued.  “Hombré really good boy, n’est ce pas?”  She buried her face in his silky black forelock and gave him a smacking kiss. I swear if that horse had hands, he would have been thumbing his nose at me.

Not only was Hombré a bad boy, he was positively evil. My godmother had bought him as a weanling in what at the time was the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and had raised him, an orphan deer, several German Shepherd dogs and her own son together as one happy family.

Regarding all of them as her children she of course would not hear of neutering, which although fortunate for her son was not necessarily the appropriate course of action for the remainder. And so Hombré had remained entire.

Having lost the deer to a tragic illness my godmother had packed up her remaining family when the time came to move home to Belgium, with Hombré and the GSDs flown back in as much comfort as their human sibling – a mean feat in those days and one which must have cost her a fortune.

Despite his other severe shortcomings Hombré had a huge jump in him, no doubt arising from his wild African genes and probably a strong survival instinct. He was only about 15.3hh (relatively small for a horse), bright bay with arrogant attitude, but ridden flamboyantly by my godmother he reached the top showjumping levels in Belgium without even trying hard. In fact with his talent he could have gone a lot further, except for one small problem.

Unlike most dressage and other show stallions who know when to keep it in their pants, our Hombré had no such modesty and in fact had been actively encouraged by my godmother to be the full-blooded boy that his entire status permitted. Various official “children of” were dotted around the countryside of the Democratic Republic of the Congo prior to his departure and once he was in Belgium, no-one with a mare could become a client on my godmother’s yard. Or on any other yard within a radius of about 10 kilometres.

Despite fencing her paddocks quite substantially my godmother thought it was all good healthy, normal stuff for Hombré to leap over everything to do his duty with a pretty girl. My godmother always was the romantic sort, and Hombré wasn’t about to argue the point.

small__3885562769Hombré’s hippy-like addiction to free love may have been almost containable at home, but at shows it was not. During my school holidays when I was a teenager, much of which time was spent on godmother’s yard learning how to get horses off the ground and over jumps, one of my key duties was to travel to shows with her and Hombré carrying a large “cravache” – a horse whip – and stand at the entrance to the collecting ring while they were jumping a round, in case Hombré caught a whiff of a mare in season and decided to divert the course across the showground.

He wasn’t stupid, was Hombré. Having been goaded into the ring via a convenient gap in the ropes he knew that was the easiest way out again. And on a number of occasions I was called upon to waggle the whip at him as they came round, my godmother frantically putting her leg on to keep him focused while he eyed up the space available for a quick escape. Fortunately, the whip worked.

However when there was no-one to oblige in this way, Hombré had been known to do a runner through the gap despite my godmother screaming abuse at him and no doubt numerous stewards and other officials leaping out of the way in the nick of time. Failing that, Hombré would simply jump over anything that barred his way – spectators, straw bales, even cars – and gallop on in the pursuit of true love.

Years later, when Hombré was well over 30 and enjoying a cosseted life in a cosy box heated by infra-red lamps, I would still walk by his box with trepidation. And he would still eye me up with lips quivering and the glint of brownish teeth lurking behind them.

The last time I went by his box before he died, I stopped for a moment, taking my life in my hands, and put my arms around his neck. “Go on, bite me again, you old b*stard,” I muttered under my breath.

But he didn’t.  This time, he nuzzled me and blew softly down his nose. We were friends at last.

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photo credit: Krysten_N via photopin cc
photo credit: Svadilfari via photopin cc

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  1. Great article as always Susan. I love how you write and you can tell your passion for horses is genuine. shared this with my friends on google+ and twitter. 🙂

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