The sound of autumn


Circa, 2014

Last week, I heard the distinctive sound of fall.

No, not rustling leaves, but the steady, whirling brrrrrrrrrrr and the rattling clickety-clack from neighboring properties.

The sound of clippers, mowing through miles of horse hair.

Last week, spurred by warm weather, horse owners everywhere uncoiled their clipper cords, sized up their blades, and cleared store shelves of blade wash and coolant spray.

Most horses who work hard in cold months need a haircut; otherwise, cooling down takes hours. (Blankets make up for what’s been removed.)

In the best of circumstances, body clipping is a loathsome chore. A royal pain in the butt.

Why? It’s time consuming. The clippers easily clog and the motor can overheat; the blades dull with use. And if you don’t cut with meticulous care, your horse will look mouse-chewed and shabby.

For the human, it’s an itchy task; a raincoat and slick pants will help repel hair, but bits always find their way into underclothes.

Last week I heeded the sunny, warm days and contributed to autumn’s song.

But clipping Jazz wasn’t just onerous, it was perilous.

He’s a thin-skinned, squeamish Thoroughbred, so I sedated him last year. And planned to do so again. Unfortunately, Jazz currently has a skin infection (“rain rot”) which leaves tiny scabs. Removing them is uncomfortable — I tried in advance, but Jazz was intolerant. So I planned to clip them off, assuming sedation would override his discomfort.

I was wrong.

When I steered the blades into his scabby patches, dozing Jazz tried to kick my lights out.


Sedated looks are deceiving…

But once you start clipping a horse — especially one freshly-bathed and temporarily tranquilized — you gotta finish. I spoke soothingly to Jazz, growled, hollered and tried cutting as gingerly as possible. Sometimes he’d issue a tail-swish warning, other times he’d just let hind foot fly.

Eventually, Martin restrained my horse while I plowed on, cursing a lot and dodging sporadic kicks. When done, I felt like a boxer who’d lost a match.

Jazz was quasi-clipped. The barn looked like a crime scene.


Two days later I attached fresh blades and hacked off Rocky’s wooly coat. A veteran show pony, he was far more compliant.

When done, I stood back and admired my work.

Rocky looked much better than Jazz.

As though the rodents had spared him.


Equine Invasion


“This place is going totally horse crazy,” said Martin, today. “It’s like… there’s no escape.”

“Yea, I know,” I said. “But now that the girls have Rocky, they want to ride all the time. And Hadley’s in pony club, and there’s lessons, and I’m hunting–”

“I’m not talking about the horses in our field,” Martin interrupted. “I’m talking about the ones in the house! You girls and your horses — you’re taking over!”

“It’s not that bad,” I countered.

Though the coffee table tells another story. 

Recently, a friend passed along her childhood collection of Breyer horses.

An ample collection populating the table.



“Don’t worry,” I said. “We’ll find a better place for them. And this horse thing? Maybe it’s a phase; the girls could grow out of it.”


I mean, it could happen. Take Hadley: it looks like her enthusiasm is waning.



She’s doesn’t like these horses one bit…



The sorta new pony


We are no longer pony-less.

Rocky arrived last Monday.

Arrived sounds weird — like FedEx deposited him on the front porch. I retrieved him that day. And home from school, the girls bolted to the barn to see their new pony.

But his stall was empty.

In my absence, Rocky scuttled under his stall guard and ran into the front field.

The kids spent 15 minutes chasing runaway-Rocky — unsuccessfully — until I armed them with a bucket of grain.



Ponies are inherently crafty and cunning, and Rocky will teach the girls a thing or two. But overall, he’s a good-natured soul. Oddly enough, I knew him 10 years ago. Actually, he lived at our farm for a summer.

Here’s my friend Hunter riding him, circa 2004. Rocky was 6 years old. None of our kids existed yet.


And it’s not like I followed Rocky, or knew what happened to him through the years. But the horse world is like “6 degrees of separation.”

But more like 2 degrees of separation. Everyone knows everyone, hence the Rocky reunion.

In less than a week, he’s displayed a tolerance of sheep dog herding, skittish cows, kids on bikes and other nonsense.


Hadley & Rocky’s maiden voyage


My one complaint: Rocky’s too much of a good thing.

Brynn has been incorrigible since he arrived; she just wants to ride. Her teacher reported that she was “unmanageable” on Tuesday. And Wednesday morning Brynn announced that she was sick. “My head,” she said. “It hurts. I’m sick.”

“You can stay home,” I said, then added, “but you can’t ride Rocky. If you’re sick, you can’t ride.”

She frowned. “Okay, then I’m not sick.”

It’s amazing how fast a pony can cure what ails you…