Like most of you, I was born with the horse-loving gene. Maybe they switched babies in the hospital, because neither of my parents knew much, or cared much, about horses. Mom still can’t tell a halter from a hackamore, although she bought me both over the years. Perhaps, like twins, being a horse nut skips a generation: my grandmother rode a horse to high school and, beneath her photo in the senior yearbook, is the caption “Bounding Berta.”
The horse thing didn’t go away. When I was about 5 years old, Santa Claus brought me a pony for Christmas. Actually, Santa left the pony at a nearby farm, and we had to get him. Having no horse trailer didn’t stop us: we just loaded up the yearling Shetland pony in the back of our camper. Though I was just a little kid, and can remember lying on the cabover bed, gazing down at the shaking black pony standing between the sink and the dining table, I was pretty sure that I was in heaven.
I guess Santa did the pony thing after I had a candid talk with the minister at church. Again, though just a tot, horses were clearly on my mind. According to family lore, I made a couple of statements that, today, might get my parents arrested, or at least interviewed by the child protective folks. Back then, they all laughed. “I’m going to marry a horse, and feed him alfalfa,” I reported. In case they didn’t understand, I added “I’m going to have a baby- and it might be a horse.” Like generations of little girls before and after me, I wanted to be a horse.
What is this thing about women and horses? It’s real, it’s strong, and it fuels the horse industry. Almost a hundred years after the internal combustion engine began to make horses obsolete, there are more horses in the US than at any other time in history. The reason? Little girls who turn into big girls who love horses. Freud thought horses represented a strong, sexual father figure. Is a swaybacked old gray mare a father figure? If so, I’m confused when I look out the back window and see my antique Arabian that I’ve had for almost 30 years. Just for the record, I’ve known her longer than my father, and she’s been a bigger influence in my life than he was.
I think the reason women love horses is because they can. Horses, though physically large, enjoy human care and respond intelligently to brushing, feeding, and ‘quality time’ spent with their particular human. If we start to interact with horses as children, as little girls, horses allow us a legitimate outlet for not only our nurturing nature, but also for our daredevil side as well. Little boys are allowed to play with guns and do other macho things, but little girls are supposed to be miniature ladies. On a horse, we can run and shriek and cause the ground to shake, intimidating the men and boys around us who usually get to make the noise and have big smelly fun. Horses let us be genderless children – even when we’re grown-ups.
Now I’m almost 40, and still haven’t grown hooves or a long useful tail. I’m probably not going to turn into a horse, and having been around the horse business these last 4 decades, I don’t think I want to be a horse any more. But they’re an important part of my life. In fact, I’m one of the lucky few who actually make a living related to that horse-loving gene. My business is called Hobby Horse, because horses have always been my hobby, and still are. In addition to making show apparel, my horse hobby has led me to writing about what I know: horses and their people. Please join me as we explore horse/people here on the new frontier of the Internet. Stay tuned.
Suzanne Drnec is a horse parent, clothing designer, and writer. Her current horsehold includes several lawn ornaments: a Paint, a Quarter horse, and her antique Arabian. Comments? Reach her at [email protected]