If horses were a prominent character in fairytales and their story-lines mimicked their realities & endings, children would be asking you a lot of questions. You see children have no filter: they just ‘spit it out’. They ‘want to know’ and they more than likely will never give up asking until you formulate an age appropriate plausible reply. The irony is, a lot of of us have stopped asking these questions – either we aren’t able for the answers or we simply don’t want to know as the truth is too much, or the truth might just interfere with the lies we live dressed up as ‘sure everything is grand’ so we can continue to get some sort of need fulfilment out of another’s suffering. Oh yes, dismissing the tales really works for many whilst some of us are left not only to digest the ugly truths, but left to deal with them.
So, back to the curious child. Now what would they ask if their favourite character: the beautiful majestic gelding collapses on the gallops and his trainer doesn’t mirror his or her tearful state, but instead straddles the much loved animal character and smiles for the camera. What do you think the child would say? Maybe ‘why did that man do that?’ Or ‘But wasn’t the horse important to the man?’ Or ‘Why isn’t he sad?’ Or ‘Why isn’t the horse’s owner mad with this man?’ Yes, so many questions. Our inner child as adults should still be asking these childlike but important types of questions and if we aren’t asking them, well, I guess you have the answers to how this photo was normalised as ‘funny’ for some in an adult world.
Let’s look at other roles horses might be given if their diverse scenarios were plucked from reality. A writer’s dream really from an ugly reality.
Many happy ever afters can be quickly reversed for horses – that is in the hands of the owner of course, and someone’s hand in their pocket is a real page turner for them: they can go from owner to seller very quickly, regardless of the buyer.
So, what kind of questions would the curious child reader ask when, let’s say, the beautiful grey mare worth thousands and thousands to the owner once is in the dead of night driven deep into the forest and left there in the darkness whilst he returns home to his cosy surroundings. She or he might ask, ‘Why is he so mean and I thought he loved her?’ Or ‘Why does everyone think he’s a nice man when he does this to a horse?’ Or ‘Will the horse die if no one finds her?’
Or what about the story about the fields where there are lots and lots of horses, with lots of foals but there is no grass. You know the story. Or the one with all the horses running in estates or city traffic. The child reader might ask, ‘Didn’t lots of people ring the number that helps hungry or straying horses but why aren’t they coming to help them?’ Or ‘Why do they choose to help some horses and not the others?’
There are so many storylines to choose from but let me end with one from my most recent rescue experience.
….one day the phone rings and whilst things are very busy at the sanctuary, Pat knows this call must be very important because of the caller ID. He answers the call and the worried caller tells him a horse has been killed on the road. She was thrown through the window screen. Yes, ‘a bag of bones’, she laments. There are two others that need to be checked on. ‘Poor girl, the driver said she was only trying to get to grass at the side of the road.’ You see, her owner locked her into a field of mud. Now why would a horse owner do that?
Pat and Catriona run to the jeep with all the things that might be needed to help a hungry horse. And an hour later, they find the two horses in a very wet and mucky field – so wet that one of the small ponies finds it hard to walk. They check on the bigger pony and as they are checking, the little pony makes many attempts to run to her friend. ‘Don’t take him, he is all I have left,’ she wants to scream. Catriona tells her, ‘it’s going to be OK because you are not staying here. We can’t take you today, but your carriage to take you away from here will arrive tomorrow. For now we will give you feed and stay with you a while!’
The little red pony is so happy. So many people passed them every day and did nothing except for one old farmer who gave them something small everyday. It was their friend’s death that brought the Guards to where they were. They had to do something as the driver was very mad and said it could happen again to another person’s car.’
The sad little pony knew that finally their long difficult months here would soon come to an end. She didn’t like looking at the road where her friend was killed.
The next day, a beautiful horse lorry arrived and one by one, two best friends were walked out of the field of brown, up the ramp, and they never looked back.
When they got to their new home, there were lots of horses just like them. They shared similar stories of bad people hurting them, or their owners not feeding them, or being left in places by their new owners to suffer after their owners getting money. The little pony listened and she started to cry. ‘But I once had an owner who was a good person. She used to brush me, and plait my mane, and we won lots of prizes together. People clapped when they saw us.’ The older and wiser horses rolled their eyes, for they knew so many horses who once lived in castles who ended up in dungeons. They knew of many who told them stories of how their owners were proud of them and showed them off, and how they won at races or at shows. Some horses ended up here when their child owner got too big for them or when they stopped making money for their owners, they stopped being a horse: they became their rubbish to get rid of. Sometimes they were sold for very little money, to owners who kept lots and lots of horses, here and there: country bogs and concrete jungles. Yes, these horses went from never being hungry to always being hungry; never being afraid to always being afraid; never fearing death to living with death.
The lady who minded the horses here scanned the new comers for chips and yes, the fluffy little red pony had one. She had a name and just as the other horses suspected after hearing her story, she was once someone’s pride and joy: a show pony. Now very old and no good for showing so she got sold on to someone who didn’t show horses but hid them in places devoid of food. This made her very sad. She called the vet as both ponies required lots of work. Their teeth were in a very bad way and the bigger horse needed lots of medicine. She thought the little pony would like to live our her days there in an area with another old smallie. She watched the little pony get sad and then angry. And then she realised what was wrong: no other pony could replace her best friend. So she got the lead rope and brought her to him. They were only apart an hour but they ran in circles and made happy sounds when they were reunited.
The kind rescue lady rang Pat and Catriona and told them how her name was Star and how she was sold on as an old pony but the person in Ireland decided to sell her for meat. But somehow she never made it there, but to a bog, down a country lane in Clare.
For the rest of their lives, these two ponies who lost their friend, will live out their remaining years together, happy ever after.
The child reading this story would probably interrupt ‘The End’ and look up to you, and ask, ‘How can people be so mean?’
Indeed, how can people be so mean?
The (real) End