One of the greatest things about being a college professor is the same greatest thing about being a college student: Summer Vacation. And one of the greatest things about my Summer Vacation is getting to spend a bunch of lazy hours at the barn without having to worry about what time it is, or about whether I’m getting too dirty to go anywhere but straight home. And one of the greatest things about the barn is Barn Mice, aka Barn Rats aka Stable Rats aka tween and teen girls that are so crazy about horses they’ll do just about anything, including scrubbing grain buckets, to get to hang out with them and ride them once in a while.
This is the time of the year when the Barn Mice start to come out of the woodwork. School is out, or nearly out, and the Barn Mice share my opinion about the greatest thing in Summer Vacation. I know this because I was one, back in the day. I like these kids. First, they’re more interesting than a lot of kids that age. Video games make fascinating conversation…if you also play the same video game. Beyond that? No. The Barn Mice aren’t to be found holed up inside, getting pasty and crabby from sitting around while a game or show sends useless adrenaline pounding through the system. They’re to be found outside, having Adventures and learning incredibly valuable things, stuff like “horses can feel what you’re feeling, so if you’re angry or scared, you need to find a way to get that under control before you go messing with them” and “things happen, horses step on you, you fall off them and get a little banged up, but you get better” and “you get out of things what you put into them” and “if you want something, you need to work for it.” Like I said. Valuable things. You don’t get that stuff from staring at a screen all day.
The other thing I like about Barn Mice is that they always admire The Wonder Horse. And they do it at some length. Lately, they’re admiring his new bling. He got a brand-new rhinestone browband for his bridle, and is now a Sparkle Horse. I feel strongly that every gelding should have, at some point in his life, an eight-year-old girl that decorates him in glitter and wants nothing more than to Love On Him. I get the sense that there has not been a huge amount of this kind of thing in the Wonder Horse’s past. Too busy being a Professional Horse. Well, better late than never. So what if he’s 18 and I’m 45? We can still have Glitter Hooves and Glitter Braids and Sparkle Tack. My local tack shop actually carries sparkle bell boots – and if they start carrying them in green, I’ll buy out their entire supply. The Wonder Horse looks terrific in green. All that red hair, you know. It’s his Color. Anyway, the Barn Mice love to love on Huey. They love to love on all the horses. But they always love Huey. That’s because he’s huge. And red, and he has a gorgeous white blaze. Barn Mice love markings. And he droops his lip down and looks all goofy when he’s relaxed.
Anybody wants to hang around and shower compliments on my horse, that’s fine with me.
So this morning, as I was hanging out with Huey and getting him ready to ride, the Barn Mice were having a First Rate Adventure. They had all been on a trail ride. I’d have been tempted to join them if I’d been around when they left. Only problem is, The Wonder Horse gets very…excited…when he’s outside of the ring, and it’s critical to go trail riding with a horse that will not make him more excited. I learned that the hard way last summer, when we wound up in a situation like a bunch of Cub Scouts camping out in the backyard – the kind of camp-out where they manage to freak each other out so violently that everyone stampedes into the house around midnight, and someone wets the bed.
I arrived right on the heels of the Return of the Trail Riders, and right in time to watch Phase Two of Barn Mice Heaven unfold.
They gave one of the horses a bath.
Now, the horse they decided to bathe was a Haflinger. This is what’s known as a “draft pony”. He’s big and blocky just like a draft horse…only scaled down. And Haflingers all look alike, and what they look like is this: CUTE. If Disney commissioned the Imagineers to manufacture the Perfect Pony, a Haflinger is what they’d come up with.
They’re tan and blonde, just like a California Girl. They’re roly-poly. They have huge thick manes and bangs and tails, like some sort of living My Little Pony.
Yep, they all look like that. Including the one getting the bath this morning. Hardly looks real, doesn’t it?
Watching a couple of tweens bathe an ultra-cute draft pony is like watching a Three Stooges skit co-starring Shirley Temple and her dog. There are some Challenges to be faced vis-a-vis The Water Hose and Where To Point It. Especially when you’ve got one tween on one side of the horse…and the other tween on the opposite side. Then there is the Horse Not Feeling Like Getting Wet Challenge. This one they chose to resolve, for reasons I don’t quite understand, by untying the horse from the hitching post and hanging onto the lead rope. That decision turned the entire delightful scene into a Moving Spectacle.
The horse’s name is Winnie. It’s short for something else, but you’ve got to admit, it fits. They’re round and brown and blonde, just like Winnie the Pooh. And there’s a pun in there too. Like Winnie? Whinny? heheheheheh…omg, it’s catching. Because the Main Takeaway from Barn Mice Bathe A Horse has to be the sound of giggling.
Hey! Winnie! Stand still!
No! Bad horse! That was very naughty!
Eek! The water!!!!
and so forth.
At one point I looked over and saw that they were sudsing him up. He’d decided finally to stand still. They assured me he likes getting rubbed. The Barn Mice just come up to the top of his shoulder, so this was a lot like watching a team of cheerleaders wash a sport-ute at a charity car wash. They were making some pretty good suds, too.
We can spell things with the soap bubbles!
Look at this! I’m going to spell something! I….love….you! I wrote I love you on his back!
It was positively annihilating, the experience of listening in on all this.
It stayed great for a good long time, too…long enough that I was working The Wonder Horse in the ring when the Moving Spectacle, in the Rinse Phase, made its way right over to the edge of the arena.
Girls, be sure you don’t squirt Huey with that hose!
When they were done, they decided to braid his hair. I mean, really, who wouldn’t?
AND they decided to do this without putting him back on the hitching post. Which meant that the Moving Spectacle now featured Barn Mice holding the line, and other Barn Mice dangling from the mane, while attempting to braid it mid-air. It was…gymnastic. I was so transfixed by the scene that I almost had to stop riding, myself. It was, perhaps, a month’s worth of Cute all rolled into about two hours. It may take me weeks to recover from it all.
I leave you with Templeton Thompson, who understands it all.