Dear Santa Hoss,
I write to you this year not to ask for presents for the Human (I’m skeptical whether she deserves any) or for myself (though if you wanted to send me some molasses cookies, I wouldn’t turn them down), but on another, much more practical matter.
By this time, Santa, I feel we’re pretty good friends. I’ve had your direct email since 2012, and I imagine that’s because you recognize my expertise in monitoring Human behavior. Along with my keen sense of Human behavior and misbehavior, I’ve also gained considerable background in my training career in understanding the way they learn (or don’t learn).
That’s why, dear friend, I think it’s important you consider carefully the toys you’re leaving for youngsters this Christmas.
I recently overheard several conversations in the barn aisle about the play sets horse-loving Humans played with as children and I have to say, I finally understand where some of my problems are coming from. Santa, you’re not doing children any good if your toys don’t adequately prepare them for the education they’ll face in the barn.
Luckily for you and your elves, I’ve assembled a few suggestions on how to make the typical model horse and model barn a little more realistic.
• Typically, I’ve noticed toy horse sets come with the following ingredients: Horse, saddle, bridle, rider (in full grand prix gear). Sometimes there are saddle pads and grooming kits.
Where, might I ask, is the poo?
We all know poo happens. I’m a grazing animal. I can’t help it. Poo is going to be in the wash stall, in my stall, in the barn aisle, in the arena. It’s going to be everywhere, so why isn’t it part of every configuration of horse play set? I did see one model set that included a pitch fork, a bucket, and one poo pile. Now I hate to tell you, but I produce a lot more than one pile a day. These aspiring dressage queens and hunter princesses are, if they’re lucky, going to spend as many hours dealing with poo as they are flopping around in the saddle. They’d better get used to the idea.
• Often, I’ve noticed toy riders for toy horses show up in highly impractical gear. They either don’t have helmets or their helmets don’t stay on and are really just a thin plastic shell. No attempt at ASTM certification. That’s not going to protect Fox Hunt Sally very well at all.
I’ve also yet to see Sally with an air vest. Children need to get used to the way these work—inflating when Sally dismounts, inflating when her horse trips, inflating when Sally sneezes. These youngsters need to get used to saving up for a new air canister and swapping them out.
• Speaking of which, why doesn’t Sally ever seem come with a first aid kit? She can share her horse’s iodine and vet wrap, but she’s likely to need her own band-aids, aspirin and a laminated card reviewing the symptoms of a concussion. If she really wants to be safe, perhaps she should have several sizes of splints and tourniquets, and maybe some survivalist instructions for performing field surgery and resetting dislocated limbs.
The world of riding horses is beautiful but not for the faint of heart. The sooner Sally embraces this, the better.
• All too often, I’ve noticed model jumps come in grand prix sizes…and nothing else. Now don’t get me wrong, I find crossrails as boring as the next horse, but are children supposed to believe that the model horses come out, do a hunter circle and start their day over 3’9”?
Actually, this sort of goes with the question of why Sally doesn’t have an air vest, doesn’t it?
• Last but not least, my biggest pet peeve Santa (and it should be one of yours as well): I’ve found too many of these toy horses and accessory sets come with blue ribbons and little plastic trophies. In fact, I’m hard pressed to find toy ribbons which aren’t blue.
Santa, this is how you get perfectionists (or as I prefer to call mine, poor losers).
Children must learn early that the best color they’re likely to get some days is something less glamorous like brown or green, if they get one at all. And trophies happen for very few riders indeed. Sally must learn disappointment before she can appreciate success. Preferably, a lot of disappointment.
On that note, Santa, happy Christmas to you. Don’t forget Rudolph when you hand out your cookie rations, eh?
All my love, Jitterbug
|Jitterbug is a Michigan-bred Professional Draft Cross who skillfully avoided saddles until age 5. Since then, she has been lauded for her talent in successfully managing humans while training herself to one day achieve eventing greatness. Jitter and her human live in central Kentucky.
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