I recently found myself musing over a COTH blog titled “In Case Of Apocalypse, Give Me A Mare.” It got me to wondering how the horses I had known (regardless of gender) might cope with apocalyptic conditions. Horses aren’t fight animals, after all—they are made to run. It doesn’t take an extinction level event to crack them wide open—as anybody who has attempted to pass a flapping tarp knows. It got me thinking about which steed was best suited to each scenario, and, more importantly, which ones would NOT make the cut.
The Charge Of The Fright Brigade
Confidence (super heroine of the “We Go Fast Now?” column) has a regal look and self-assured air; she is the type of horse depicted on ancient tapestries woven with scenes of noblemen riding into battle. She is large and in charge, with a cocky sort of sureness in her ability. Confidence is the partner you want when you’re approaching a triple combination and you see your life flashing before you instead of seeing a distance. It’s easy to imagine such a super-mare leading the battle charge, cutting a swath through the invading horde as effortlessly as she cuts one through her evening alfalfa.
Except for one thing.
Super-mare’s Kryptonite is oncoming traffic. She reacts badly to horses coming at her. Like, totally tosses her tacos and turns into a 1,500-pound froot loop, badly. Allow an approaching horse (let alone a horde of enemy horses) to get too close, and she’ll split. Literally. Into several pieces, all of which will spin, and each of which will bolt off in a different direction. If you find a piece big enough to hold on to, count yourself lucky.
On the other hand, if the battle is going south, and you need to make a hasty retreat? You are on the holy grail of horses, my friend.
Fair Weather Unfriendly
Fiona wouldn’t care what was coming at her—bring on the zombies. She’s a keen competitor and with just the right amount of sez you in her attitude. Small, stout and round enough to pick up a 6-10 split, she is the perfect zombie bowling ball. I can almost hear the sound of them (imagine sound effect of bowler rolling a strike) flying as she clears the road. If all that stands between you and safety is busting through the herd, Fiona is the only battering ram you’ll ever need.
That is, as long as the zombie invasion does not happen in the summer. Because in the summer, people turn on lawn sprinklers, and Fiona won’t get within 100 feet of those hissing, spitting leviathans. She’ll be out from under you before you know she’s gone, and you’ll be zombie-slaying solo.
On the positive side, if you can catch her again she’s short enough to get on from the ground.
Judging by sheer size and presence, one might conclude that Jubal would have made an ideal riot control horse. His breeding was of unknown origin, but he looked like a cross between an equid and some sort of benevolent veggie-taurus, the kind that has a prehistoric mass of ganglia that didn’t quite become a brain. He was built like a linebacker but moved with the grace and lightness of a ballerina. He could turn on a dime, and a sweep of his Brontosaurus-sized noggin could have parted a crowd as easily as Moses parted the Red Sea.
Unfortunately, this gentle behemoth was afraid of absolutely everything. Flowers. Shadows. Moving objects. Stationary objects. A wadded-up Kleenex. (No, seriously. We put a wadded-up tissue in the middle of his stall once at feeding time, and he refused to come inside for his alfalfa. He would only sidle up to the door of the stall, crane his neck to peek inside, and snort at the fluffy interloper. It didn’t help that his snort made the tissue move. In his mind, he clearly saw Gandalf waving a staff and shouting “You Shall Not Pass!” We’re convinced that he would have starved if we hadn’t removed it).
I have no doubt that Jubal would have taken one look at the riotous crowd, gone stiff-legged and toppled like a fainting goat.
What Jubal was very good at was standing stock-still. In the event of a mannequin challenge emergency, he’s your go-to guy.
If you were a bank robber in the Old West in need of a trusty, steely-nerved partner in the form of a getaway horse, Mo was not your wingman. Mo always looked like he had just downed too many Red Bulls; he had the kind of nervous energy that made him fundamentally unfit for high-pressure hijinks. It didn’t take much to put him on edge, at which juncture he’d start spitting out individual nuggets of manure like a four-legged Pez dispenser. He’d nervous-poop a trail straight from the bank to your hideout. Then, at the first sign of an approaching posse, he’d spontaneously combust. And while a chestnut fur bomb might be a good way to get the lawmen (or zombies) off your trail, you could only do it once.
I’d like to think my own horse, Murray, loved me so much he would have calmly crossed a raging river or coolly carried me out of a burning building to save me (assuming I also had carrots in there—I mean, let’s be realistic). We had been together for 20 years, after all. I just knew I was precious cargo to him.
Turns out, I was more like ballast. You know, that stuff you toss overboard because it’s slowing down your getaway.
I learned this the day I was taking a lesson in the outside ring while a controlled burn was taking place in the field next door. Murray was fine with the fire at a distance; the billows of smoke didn’t even register on his flight-o-meter. But as soon as it was close enough for him to hear the crackling of the flames, he did the only legitimate side pass of his life right out of the gate and down the road.
I still remember my trainer yelling “Put him on the bit! Put him on the bit!” as we alternately zigzagged sidewards and backways out of earshot.
Um, pardon my disregard for the tenets of classical horsemanship, but I don’t want my horse’s response to fire to be, “Oh, flames. I need to get on the bit!”
I want his response to be, “HOLY BEET PULP! FLAMES! BEAT A PATH TO THE EXIT!”
Which, I must admit, is exactly what he did.
I just wish he’d care a little more about whether or not I stayed with him.
Chestnut Mare, Beware
There was one horse, however, that I knew could handle all the aforementioned situations. She wasn’t big. She wasn’t young. She wasn’t athletically superior. She was a little 25-year-old New Zealand Thoroughbred, chestnut mare named Maggie May.
Those who hadn’t known “Maggie” in her prime viewed her as just another school horse that taught kids to ride. But she was wise, educated and experienced, and as bombproof as I’ve ever known. The gates of hell could open, all four horseman of the actual apocalypse could play chicken with her, and she’d win. As for zombies? Unruly crowds? A charging brigade? They don’t stand a chance.
So yes, give me a mare. Give me Maggie, and bring on the end of the world. We’re ready.
After years of trying to fit in with corporate America, Jody Lynne Werner decided to pursue her true passion as a career rather than a hobby. So now she’s an artist, graphic designer, illustrator, cartoonist, web designer, writer and humorist. You can find her work on her Misfit Designs Cafepress site. Jody is one of the winners of the Chronicle’s first writing competition. Her work also appears in print editions of The Chronicle of the Horse. Read all of Jody’s humor columns for coth.com here.