Dear Santa Hoss,
Can you believe this is the eighth year I have provided you my expert report from the barn? I know how you value my input as you’re making your naughty and nice lists for the Humans, so I take my reporting seriously. As you may recall, I stopped lobbying for presents for myself some years ago, because I am a selfless, humble creature. (Not sure why my Human chortled when she read that last statement.)
In the last couple of years, my barn has seen an influx of young horses, many of whom are hoping to get their very own Human for Christmas. All of us Quadruped Trainers have different criteria for picking out our Humans and different preferences for the type of person we want to spend our time training.
Joe Nevills Photos
One thing remains the same, however—you need to start off a new human trainee with the proper equipment. So, I’d like to give you some guidance on what to bring those riders on your “nice list” who are preparing to pair with a new Quadruped this year.
• Stretchy disposable bandages, like VetRap or Elastikon. These aren’t for the horse; these are for the rider. Unless the rider is still in their teens, they will come to this partnership with existing injuries and arthritis. It’s very rare to find a Human who can pass a PPE these days. They will be achy already, and when they begin their journey with a new horse, chances are they’ll be in greater need of a little support.
• Rubber reins. These are to give the Human the false impression that she will be able to dictate her rein length. She won’t. That’s the Quadruped’s job, through subtle leaning on one side or the other of the bit. They will help keep the reins in her hands when she experiences her first series of trot-canter transition bucks, however, which is convenient because if there’s anything more annoying than her screeching, it’s the loose reins flapping around my ears.
• New sets of feed tubs and buckets. We shouldn’t have to use whatever the last horse left behind. Gross. Humans don’t sit down at a diner and eat off the last person’s plate, do they? Compatriots, a hint—poop in these. Copiously.
• A pair of cheap rain boots. I know, I know, I usually insist on my Human trainees sporting the best name brands possible, but we get a little tired of waiting by the gate while she struggles to unstick the boot from the six inches of mud, swearing about how much these cost on sale. Actually, it IS a little funny, watching her hop around on one foot, holding the end of the lead rope like a contestant on some American Ninja Warrior or something. Extra socks couldn’t hurt, either.
• A new, ASTM-tested helmet. For reasons I’ve never quite understood, Humans’ heads seem to get bigger as time goes on. Chances are good that the one she had with the last horse will no longer fit when she gets on the new one, particularly if it is a young horse she tells her friends she will be “bringing along.”
• A really good photographer. Let’s face it, part of the joy of adopting a new Human is getting massive credit on social media for taking in the ignorant, the arrogant, the in-need Biped and helping her learn and thrive. We’ll want a good set of photos of her so all our friends can congratulate us on our kind-heartedness.
This also serves as a good “before” picture. I often find these starter pictures are almost doe-eyed—the Human’s hair and makeup are done, her boots have minimal mud on them, and she’s several dress sizes bigger. She looks so hopeful, so happy. So naïve.
• A monogrammed jacket or hat. Everyone loves getting something with their new acquisition’s name plastered all over it, but I like this option because it helps us learn the Humans’ names. (Humans have such weird names, you know. It’s rarely anything simple like Ladybug or Cupcake. If it can’t be expressed as an emoji, I think it’s too fussy.)This also serves as a good reminder for the Human on horse show days, when she’s wandering out of the ring, dazed and confused. “Did I canter at A or C? Was it K or B where the bucking started? Where exactly did I go off the test? Why did I enter a dressage show? What’s my name again??”
As always, Santa, I wish you and your team of Thoroughbreds the very best of luck and safe travels on your Christmas Eve journey. Don’t forget—those of us in the barn have stockings, breakfast bags and buckets available. I know you want to offload some of those millions of cookies you’ll be picking up, eh Big Guy?
All my love,
||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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