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October 18, 2010

A Horse Girl Through And Through

Our former barn manager left a few months ago to have a baby. She’s in her early 20s and has taken to motherhood like me to chocolate.

Less than four weeks postpartum, she made her first appearance at the barn, and we were on her like dirt on a gray mare. All of us barn moms were “oohhing” and “aahhing,” making the necessary comments about beautiful features, long fingers and the eternal mystery of the sweet smell of newborn baby.

The kids in the barn were close on our heels, interested to see what all the fuss was about. Most had never seen such a young infant before and were quickly mesmerized by the sight. It was a joyous occasion, and the new mom swelled with well-deserved pride.

As well-wishers came and went, Julia, a college senior who works at the barn and is a dear friend of new mom, slowly made her way over to say hello. She made polite inquiries regarding mom’s health and congratulations regarding the safe arrival of baby. Julia is incredibly gracious and polite. However, as her gaze lingered on the dear sweet little one, her expression began to sour. Her brow furrowed. The edges of her smile turned slightly south.

The baby squawked. Julia jumped a mile. “What is it doing?!” she yelled. “Why did it do that?!” Mom and I laughed. Baby boy moved and threw his arm out. Julia grabbed her pitchfork. “That thing is freaking me out,” she said. This girl is a cheerleader. She was (partially) raised in the South. She just called someone’s new baby an “it!”  I could not have been more shocked if Emily Post herself asked me for a spit cup for her chew.

Now, I understand fear of babies. I was so scared to death of my own first born (the girl), that I cried when people left me alone with her. But Julia is the most together, polite, unflappable 21-year-old I’ve ever encountered. My husband and I adore this kid. And here she was, displaying an irrational fear, unfortunately within sight of my husband, who enjoys nothing more than exploiting one’s weakness for his own enjoyment. And heck, this was good stuff. I could really have some fun with this one.

Hours later, after Julia and I had finished barn chores, husband and I helped her man-handle her 18.1-hand Hanoverian mare (we like to refer to her as “The Giraffe”) who has an irrational fear of having her head touched. Julia wanted to get her forelock braided to get it out of the way before the next day’s horse show. Things went much better than expected, but it still required a very brief stint with a lip chain.

Once it was over, Julia comforted the mare and spoke to her in a very soothing tone. She turned to look at me, and she had a tear in her eye. “I just wish she could understand that I’m not going to hurt her.” The compassion she felt toward this gynormous animal was ………well…it would have been touching, if this wasn’t the same girl who just completely freaked out at the sight of a baby three hours ago! Come on! Husband and I took one look at her and laughed in her face. Hee, hee. Hoo, hoo. I’m still laughing.

Parents, let your daughters grow up to be horse girls. It will keep them away from the babies.

Elizabeth Howell grew up riding on the hunter/jumper circuit in Massachusetts. Now she is a horse show mom. She holds a day job at The Emily Post Institute and slings horse manure on the weekends. Her website is www.sheridesIpay.com.

 

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