My sister loves horses, as does our mother. My friend Missy in Moore County owns a few, as does my friend Judith outside Siler City. Judith even owns one old-timer whom she feeds mush out of a bucket …
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My sister loves horses, as does our mother. My friend Missy in Moore County owns a few, as does my friend Judith outside Siler City. Judith even owns one old-timer whom she feeds mush out of a bucket because his teeth are so bad.
My wife jokes about pink ponies with glitter manes, but if anyone out there knows a woman whose inner little girl does not love ponies, I want to hear from you. And if you know someone who needs to be around horses, tell them to volunteer at Horse & Buddy Therapeutic Riding Program in New Hill.
I have cleaned too many stalls and oiled too much tack to think of horses as anything but hard work. We kept them on the farm down Bear Creek Road where I grew up, and as a teenager I worked for a local quarter horse farm to earn cash for movie tickets and record albums. Going to the stockyards in Staley was a lot more exciting than the Friday night crap-o-rama on network TV, and I have great memories of horse shows in Silk Hope, but I have been stomped, bitten, bucked, thrown, and kicked too many times to care for their company. I am done breaking winter ice on watering troughs so they can drink. I refuse to scrub any more algae from those old tubs in the summer. I have thrown my last bale of hay, swatted my last horsefly, and you can keep your glycerin soap. Not that I hate horses; I just prefer to keep them at a distance. Watching the Kentucky Derby on TV is close enough for me.
Our mother is in her 80s, and only recently swore off riding; after a partial hip replacement, too much could go wrong if she fell. She contents herself with watching from the paddock fence and chatting with the staff, but my sister needs to exercise. She used to swim at the Chapel Hill YMCA before the pandemic, but at a family powwow we agreed the risk of infection is too great: no more swimming until everyone gets vaccinated.
Thank goodness for Horse & Buddy. All my mother has to do is wear her mask in the barn and when she rides around the covered, open air arena. She may not be doing laps in the pool, but thanks to Horse & Buddy she can still get some exercise on horseback. Since she was under the weather the other week, I drove my sister to their stables near the Wake/Chatham line.
Horses are a lot like swimming pools or boats; it is much easier to have a friend with horses than to actually care for some of your own. My sister is handicapped, but she ambulates well enough with a three-wheeled walker to get in and out of the barn and up and down the ramp to the mounting block. She also has weight issues, but we were pleasantly surprised to discover she likes horses better than junk food. The staff made it clear she could not ride if she was too heavy, and I am proud to say she stuck to her diet. Somehow they found money enough to buy and install a motor hoist chair above the mounting block; with the push of a button the chair lifts her up, slides her over, and lowers her into the saddle like she was an armored knight at some medieval jousting tournament. She even rides a draft horse: a dark bay Percheron mare named Grace that flunked out of Amish plow training. As staff member Lauren put it, “She was pretty bad at it.”
That may be so, but great beast is perfect for my carrying my sister.
While horse and rider practiced their routine inside the ring, I walked into the barn into get out of the wind. Down the center aisle I saw each stall had poster board listing its occupant’s name and individual quirks. Here was a shaggy Shetland pony named Carmen; across the concrete were two quarter horses named Emma and Panama. One horse likes to break fence boards with a single push; one likes peppermint as a treat; one makes silly faces when he eats an apple. Walking through the barn reminded me how much like people horses are: they each have their own personality.
At the back of the barn the poster reads that a new Curly pony needs a sponsor. It costs about $130 a month to feed and board him. His name is Zeke, and he could be your little pony if you want.
Dwayne Walls Jr. has previously written a story about his late father’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease and a first-person recollection of 9/11 for the newspaper. Walls is the author of the book “Backstage at the Lost Colony.” He and his wife Elizabeth live in Pittsboro.