HI HO SILVER
It began with the family traveling to Gettysburg. The children would be studying the Civil War at school soon, and the trip would be educational as well as scenic and relaxing.
We hit the road for the two hour car trip to Gettysburg, took a short break for a quick lunch and geared up to recreate Pickett’s Charge. We rented some audio guides, which turned out to be quite graphic. They did everything they could to make the scene come alive with war-like noises and sounds. Shouts of men, neighing of horses, and cacophonies of guns blasting came through our earphones. With a little imagination we could see the battle scene playing out all around us.
After the emotional experience of war we wanted to see a different part of life in Gettysburg. The part dealing with peace. A sign pointing to a miniature horse farm showed us the perfect place to go. “Let’s go to the farm and see some tiny horses,” we said. So we turned off the road, bumping and jostling along the dirt path to the farm.
A small corral enclosing a group of small unsaddled creatures stood before our eyes. The animals resembled ponies, but they were full grown real horses. When we parked the car and got closer to them we saw how adorable they really were. We saw little palominos, chestnuts and bays, with the biggest eyes and longest eyelashes we ever saw. Some of them had braided tails, and one even had ribbons strung through her mane.
Miniature horses, we were told, are perfectly proportioned to a standard sized horse and retain all the characteristics of horses. They are not ponies. But having been told that fact, if I were viewing an equine police line up, trying to pick out the miniature horse from the pony, probably the wrong creature would be charged, tried and convicted.
“Oh, mommy, these are the cutest animals. Can we buy one? Can we take one home? Please, please?”
Did I happen to mention anything about poor impulse control or that we decided to buy a horse?
We did not live on a farm. We did not own a large piece of land. We did not own a barn. We knew nothing about raising horses, ponies or venture capital.
We arranged to have our new miniature horse delivered to our house in a horse trailer. We lived in a residential area with all of 1/4 acre of land. The tool shed would become the animal’s stable. Out with the rakes, shovels and plant fertilizers, in with the hay, saddle and tack equipment. And hoof pick, water bucket, and curry brush. The children, as they promised, took turns feeding him, bringing fresh water for him and mucking out the stable. During this time I finally understood the meaning of the expression, “He eats like a horse.” I always thought it meant that “he” overate. After watching our horse, I realized that horses never stop eating, from the moment they wake up to the time they go to sleep.
A young woman who worked at a nearby horse farm agreed to give the children riding lessons. Our property abutted a private elementary school with a creek separating our property from the school’s playing field. With the addition of a narrow plank bridge the width of a miniature horse and three miniature people, access to the field was easy.
Did our town’s residential property laws permit horse ownership? Nobody else in our neighborhood housed a horse. Were we permitted to ride a horse on the private property of a school? I never thought to ask.
At the beginning it was fun having our little palomino living with us. He was gentle, friendly, and patient. And the children were living up to their part of the bargain. At the beginning.
As children are known to do, they grew at a startling rate and after a few months of riding blissfully around the field, feeling like cowboys riding the range, we were confronted with, “I can’t ride any more. My feet touch the ground when I sit in the saddle.” In child’s logic, “Why take care of an animal if you can’t have fun with him any more?” We conceded and decided to call the horse farm and arrange for the trailer to pick him up. Our great adventure with living the equine life in suburbia ended. I never found out if we should have been prosecuted for laws of inappropriate occupancy. I can tell this story now that the Statute of Limitations has expired.
But I hope our children will keep the memories and fantasies they had of the wild days riding the range.