This is the first excerpt from Never Say Neigh, the award-winning book written by that great equine writer Noah Vail and his human muse Mary Farr!
I love the word yes. Yes rings of escapades. It feels like a path to new things and exciting possibilities. In my opinion, too much no creates needless anxiety and missed opportunities. I’m speaking from my own experience, as I used to say no to everything. No bath. No plastic bag flapping around me. No trailer rides. And for Pete’s sake, no winter blankets. Not only have I missed a boatload of treats and chances to go places, but I spent a couple of mighty nippy winters wearing nothing but my skivvies. So when Madam told me her story about her first horse, I was glad to hear it was a yes kind of story. Well, yes to almost everyone except maybe Mrs. Langford, though truthfully, even she came out better—or at least a little better informed about girls and their horses. The story goes like this:
Madam managed to win over her parents when it came to horses. By this, I mean her mother and father admitted defeat early and bought her a horse named Koko. Now, I never met Koko, but she sounded like she came up short in the good manners department. Madam, though, saw nothing less than perfection and dependable transportation to her friend Robin Langford’s house. Robin had a horse too. Together, the girls nearly wore out their horses. Some days, they saddled up early and came home late. They trotted cross-country and around town, dressed like Roy Rogers, ready to lasso a stray cat. Madam dolled up Koko’s mane and tail with rose oil hair tonic from the local drugstore. The girls blackened their horses’ hooves with boot polish and painted diamond shapes on the horses’ rumps.
Some days they hung around the backyard, inspecting their horses, pretending to be show judges. They bragged about their horses’ bloodlines, though neither knew much about bloodlines. Other days, they galloped around the neighborhood, posing as King Arthur or Chief Seattle. The girls taught their horses to jump barrels and fallen trees and took them swimming in Lowes Creek. They worked hard at inventing ways to play with their horses. Most of what Madam described sounded like fun, except for the part about lassoing cats.
Robin also had two Shetland ponies named Cindy and Midge. Every so often, Cindy gave birth to a foal about the size of a cocker spaniel. Nobody could explain this little marvel of birth, as no stallion ponies lived in the area. Sometimes the girls dressed the ponies in circus costumes and hitched them to a wagon. Neither Cindy nor Midge liked that much, which didn’t surprise me. Shetland ponies tend to bristle at basic pony activities, such as wearing saddles and bridles or ferrying girls on their backs shouting, “Yahoo!” Midge usually ran off with her rider or plunged her head down to graze at an inopportune moment. This resulted in the saddle falling over Midge’s neck, causing her rider to land face first in the sand burs. Cindy enjoyed rolling in the dirt, a trick that caused serious wear and tear, both on saddles and riders.
One time, according to Madam, she and Robin convinced Robin’s horse, Sherry, to come into the Langfords’ kitchen. Perhaps this crossed the line in terms of healthy horseplay, though I admit I’ve enjoyed time in offices and tack rooms posted as “No horses allowed.” In any case, the girls had little chance to applaud their success coaxing Sherry up the steps and in the back door. No sooner had they led her through the mudroom into the kitchen than Robin’s mother returned home from a bridge game. Bargaining with Sherry about hurrying out the back door looked like bad plan. So Robin put some cereal on the stovetop to keep Sherry occupied while the girls worked on an escape route. Unfortunately for everybody, Mrs. Langford sashayed into the kitchen before any such plan materialized. I do wish I’d been there to watch when she poked her head around the refrigerator and beheld the view. Both girls ducked into the mudroom, leaving Sherry munching Cheerios off the stovetop.
No surprise that Mrs. Langford’s screams startled Sherry. This launched a series of events that alerted the fire department and dismantled the Langfords’ kitchen. The small space hardly allowed for Sherry to run for cover. She did, however, jump on the open dishwasher door. She also collided with the stove, knocking a good bit of cookware to the floor. All this resulted in Sherry’s slipping on the linoleum floor and nearly trampling everyone. Details of what happened next remain unclear, but I understand everyone, including the horse, escaped without injury. Mrs. Langford, never warmed to the humor of the situation, but she did appreciate her new dishwasher and redecorated kitchen. Sherry learned quite a bit, including how to navigate steps and eat breakfast cereal off a stovetop. The girls received a severe reprimand for their antics but recovered quickly. It seemed to me that everybody gained a little something from this creative exploit.