Jennifer Moody is one of my all-time favorite people, and she’s also a terrific reporter and writer, but I nevertheless lol’d at some unintentional comedy she included in the story she wrote for today’s People page:
In many ways, miniature horses are just like their full-sized counterparts: smart, inquisitive and full of personality.
“Chief,” I said to news editor Kim Jackson, calling him to my desk to show him that little piece of semi-fiction. “Check this out.
“Smart?” I continued. “Horses aren’t smart. They’re trainable, and they have a terrific sense of direction, and they know which stall is theirs, but they’re not smart. A dog is smart; a chimp is smart; a horse is not smart.”
With that, Kim looked up a couple different “smartest animal” lists online and found some entries that might be euphemistically described as interesting. Among them: Sheep and spiders. Horses appeared on neither list, btw. The most comical inclusion was the pigeon, with a picture of a bird reading a book titled “How to s— on pedestrians in 12 easy lessons.”
As for inquisitive, I told Kim, “I suppose you could call them inquisitive in that they are always snooping around for something to damage.” On the topic of personality, I will allow different horses do have different ones; the best ones act sort of like a really big, really docile dog; the worst ones behave as if they’d really like to see how you’d feel you under their hooves.
Anyway, check out today’s story by Jennifer. All in all, it’s her typical outstanding work, and David Patton’s photos are very nice as well.
And if you want to read some more about my take on horses, here’s something I wrote for the People page a decade ago. I still stand by every word of it.
You can’t ride a goldfish, but so what?
Feb. 3, 2000
It took me most of my 36 years to figure this out, but there are really only two kinds of human beings in the world.
There are horse people, and then there is everyone else — you know, those persons who would just as soon not have manure on their shoes, hayseeds embedded in their clothes and feed bills coming out their ears.
I am one of the latter. As luck would have it, I’m married to one of the former, and I’ve told her that my next wife is going to prefer goldfish to horses.
Before we continue and I am branded as a horse hater, I must set a few things straight. First, while I am definitely not an equine enthusiast in the usual sense, I am a lifelong animal lover and continue to enjoy a variety of pets; I tend to view my wife Roberta’s three horses as really large dogs who just happen to be better than any commercial composter at converting apple cores, corn husks, grass clippings and semi-stale carrots into fertilizer — lots and lots of fertilizer.
Second, my mom grew up on a Minnesota dairy and, having inherited that agrarian gene, I’ve always been somewhat of a farmer at heart; thus, I like living as we do, out in the country, and for the most part I don’t mind helping my wife tend her horses and the eight others we board — though I reserve the right to grumble about the most irritating aspects of equine care.
For example, many horses are fed one or more dietary supplements, and these supplements come in plastic buckets whose lids are affixed as securely as barnacles on a ship’s hull.
Every couple weeks or so, Roberta will say, “I need you to open a new container of vitamins,” or whatever. She says it like it’s easy to do, though she obviously knows it’s not or she would just do it herself. Honestly, I would rather she say, “I need you to get jabbed in the face with an ice pick,” or, “I need you walk under a falling safe.”
Anyway, on a recent Sunday night, with me, a hammer and a screwdriver locked in a pitched battle with one of those almost impenetrable lids, I resolved, as a matter of public service, to explain once and for all to her and the other horse-afflicted among us why they should set their horses free and keep goldfish instead.
In no particular order, here are 10 reasons for doing so:
1) No one ever mangled his fingers or suffered a heart attack trying to get the lid off a container of fish food.
2) You can use your pocket change to buy nutrients for a goldfish, while a horse’s annual feed bill is roughly equal to the gross domestic product of Ecuador.
3) Fish food doesn’t come in 70-pound bales and 50-pound sacks, and it doesn’t have to be loaded onto a truck in the blazing sun.
4) A goldfish uses a few gallons of water in its lifetime; a horse drinks a few gallons of water every day.
5) When a goldfish owner enjoys an outing in the woods, he exercises his own legs, not Dobbin’s.
6) You don’t need a tractor, a pickup and love of shoveling to deal with a fish’s bodily waste.
7) Goldfish don’t rodeo.
You seldom have to take a goldfish to the vet or anywhere else, and if you do, you don’t have to use a trailer.
9) Since it’s not a 1,000-pound animal with a brain the size of a walnut, a goldfish lacks a horse’s ability to mindlessly damage property or put you in the hospital.
10) If your kids have goldfish instead of horses, you don’t have to spend mind-numbing hours, as a dutiful parent, in the stands at a horse show waiting for the brief moments that your children actually do something (I know of one father who described being at a horse show as “like standing in line to watch paint dry.” I know another who, in an attempt to pry his daughter loose from the equine world, offered to buy her a car. She was 12 at the time.)
All right, all right, I realize horses aren’t all bad. For example, even though I consider horse racing to be primarily just another arm of the seedy gaming industry, I think Secretariat was one of the coolest sports figures ever and definitely deserved his spot on ESPN’s top 50.
And the original “Big Red,” Man o’ War, was worthy of admiration too. He lost one time, on a fluke, in 21 races — to a horse named Upset, which is where the now-common term for an unlikely victory comes from.
But despite all that, I’m probably more apt to turn into a serial goldfish swallower than to ever become a real equine enthusiast. And to those horse people who would try to win me over to their side — well, all I can say is that would be a true upset.