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Horse act is a neigh-win situation in family barn

August 28, 2008

There's a sign at a church outside Boonsboro that reads, "Horse Sense is Stable Thinking."

I hadn't thought of the phrase "horse sense" in a long time, and my dealings with horses over the past year had done nothing to jog my memory.

Horse lunacy. Horse freakout. Horse neuroticism. Horse from a planet that is very different from ours. Those have all popped into my head. But horse sense? Not so much.

Except there is this:

Horses, Beth says, have learned how to get through the day by doing the bare minimum necessary for existence. (In the days before they righted the ship, you could have expected a Division of Motor Vehicles joke here, but sadly that is no longer the low-hanging fruit that it used to be.)

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Outside of that, my only thought was that someone coined the phrase "horse sense" sarcastically, but somehow the meaning got lost in the translation.

Cappy and Brooke have been with us for about two weeks, and for a while they were a two-mare support group, clinging together like equine Velcro as they attempted to get a handle on their new surroundings.

After about 10 days, however, they both happened to remember this fundamental truth: They hate each other.

I don't quite understand it, but Beth says it's because each is determined to be the Head Boss Mare of the Universe. She says that mares, not stallions, set the rules (horses are like people in more ways than I thought) and when you have two mares with strong opinions of themselves it can lead to tension, tension being defined as bared teeth, ugly faces, pinned ears, stomping and vicious kicks.

We had installed a fancy and expensive steel-bar divider between their stalls so they could see each other. Now we're going to have to cover it with plywood so they can't see each other.

And if one of them is in season? "Twelve hundred pounds of PMS," Beth says.

They have these flare-ups a couple of times a day, then they go back to being fast friends.

Cappy is the more laid back of the two, although if provoked, she will not back down. Fortunately, she can be bought. Had Cappy been Emperor of Japan in 1931, she would have called back her troops massed at the Manchurian boarder if Secretary Stimson simply offered her a carrot.

In the middle of a fight, Cappy will suddenly realize she's hungry and begin to graze. This infuriates Brooke all the more - until she realizes that the grass does look pretty good and they spend the next six hours placidly munching, nose to nose.

Anyway, to head off any perceived slights, we have to maintain a strict regimen: Brooke gets to leave the barn first, Cappy gets to enter the pasture first, Brooke gets a drink of water first, Cappy gets her carrots first. ...

One of these days, we hope to actually get to ride them, instead of having to continually be renegotiating Yalta. It's discouraging that on a peaceful farm, I now find myself in the exact same situation that I used to find myself in my younger, more urban days: Trying to understand women.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com.

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