Monday, Apr. 15, 2024

Jitterbug’s 2021 Letter To Santa



My dear friend Santa Hoss,

Greetings from your most faithful quadruped correspondent. I hope you and Rudolph got that contract issue worked out about the overtime apple allocation.

For many years, Santa, I have refrained from asking you for anything for myself. I am still awaiting my Nobel Peace Prize for this great sacrifice, because as you may know, I have been in need of a great many things this whole time: a bigger hay ration, cookies, peppermints, high-end blankets and bridles, sweet feed… really, any feed at all. If mares are known for anything however, it’s for our great sense of selfless service to others, so I always have used my annual letter to request gifts for other equine trainers or for our poor, bumbling Humans.


Photo Courtesy Of Joe Nevills

At last, I have to break the trend.

My Human and I have been together for many years now, and I recently hired her a young teaching assistant to supplement my instruction. She’s far too incompetent to ever be totally out of my charge, but I want this fellow to log some classroom hours. He spent his first four years at the racetrack doing a lot of part-time work, and this is his first private tutor position, so I’d like him to really jump in with all four feet. (He is only just starting to realize the mountain of work he has ahead of him, as she has decided recently to specialize in dressage. Pray for him.)

As a result, I’ve begun a hunt for new students. I know, I know, I have a lot already. There’s my Human, plus the Professional Biped, and the barn manager (who has yet to perfect my nightly hay routine – the bag is for decoration, missy, not a “great slow feeder choice”). But I am a skilled multitasker, as evidenced by my ability to hold up a hind hoof for picking while simultaneously and silently pooping. And I have a lot more to give.

I’m hoping you can bring me a selection of potential students. I can weed through them from there, but the following should give you a good idea of what I need:


Cookie dispensing: This is absolutely the most important consideration. The proper number of cookies dispensed is inversely proportional to the mass of each cookie. It’s not good enough for them to say, “Oh I give at least five” if it turns out they feed those little nuggets that are basically the same as feed pellets. That’s an amuse-bouche, not a dessert, you philistine.

Test their motor skills. Anything over 2 seconds from lifting the treat bag to treat delivery is unacceptable. I don’t care if their hands are flat when they hold them out; they don’t need to waste time worrying about form over function. If they struggle to open bags or wrappers, they’re not going to have the lightness of hand I need in the bridle anyway.

Also—if, in the course of your interview, they talk at all about “diet,” “guilt-free,” or “no sugar added” treats, I don’t just want you to show them the door, I want you to tell them off. If cookies make them feel guilty, you won’t have anything in common with them either.

Age: I prefer students who are either very old or very young. The very old are just grateful for every step I take that doesn’t crack one of their hips and give me enthusiastic pats after a casual walk around the arena. The very young tend to read books that romanticize the horse-human connection and are content to think of me as a wise and wild creature who should be allowed to lead the way … and the very, very young can’t yet count, so they don’t worry about absurd concepts like “too many cookies.” The young are generally more malleable, and it’s much easier to avoid bad habits than to correct them later. The current Biped is in the middle, and this has the unfortunate effect of her being neither appreciative nor easily sculpted.

•  Ego: I can fix almost any problem, but only if the student wants to learn. The egotistical tend to cry loudly after their first lesson with me, and it hurts my delicate ears.

Patience level: One of the first things I teach my students is that being a really good horseperson is mostly about channeling Sisyphus. You cannot scrub out my water buckets too often. You cannot ever allocate enough time to fully wash out my tail. You will never run out of tack to clean, and I will never not sneeze on the show coat right before you mount up. You will spend all day, every day, cleaning things. How else will you learn how to do it right?

•  Sense of style: Look, I’ve tolerated some really atrocious outfits from the Human. She dressed me all in pink for a while, then all in baby blue. Then there was the rain sheet decorated with giant, sickly red strawberries. For herself, she’s never met a pattern she doesn’t like; her riding gloves look like Picasso designed them on a dare after a bottle of vodka, and the muck boots are even worse.


I have absolutely had it.

The next ones can wear whatever they want to work or school, but I would like clean, tidy, simple colors that coordinate. The student shouldn’t look like she’s halfway between bed and her grandmother’s closet, and neither should I.

That should give you a place to start from, Santa. I know, it’s a big ask. I am very famous after all, and no doubt many, many people think they want to be part of my teaching program. But Harvard doesn’t take just anyone, and neither do I. Please just leave the list of honor students in my stocking, my friend, and I’ll give it a look.

Safe travels this Christmas Eve!

Your very good friend,

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.
Read all of Jitter’s COTH columns.





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