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Just say neigh to horses in the classroom

September 04, 2013|By TIM ROWLAND

Item: The Washington County Board of Education could vote as early as Tuesday on the first reading of a new policy governing service animals for individuals with disabilities in public schools that would now include miniature horses, board officials said.


An open letter to the Washington County Board of Education:

Dear Sirs and Madams:

We need to talk. No, really we need to talk — and soon.

This new policy you’re considering that would allow miniature horses in schools? I don’t want to speak out of place, but I own a miniature horse and believe I can talk with authority on the matter.

Our horse was given to us by our dear friend, Jimmy, when he was leaving his job as an equestrian barn manager. In Jimmy’s care, the horse was known as Stormy, but She Who Shall Remain Nameless did not feel as if this name was cute enough for such a precious thing, so she renamed him Doodlebug.

For the record, Stormy is more accurate.

My own horse is a draft/thoroughbred cross, and about the size of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Visitors would act a bit gun-shy around the animal, but Beth would say: “If they had any sense they’d be scared of Doodlebug.”

Look, I understand the federal government is behind this edict to allow horses in schools under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But if it were up to me, one disability would be enough — no sense compounding the situation by throwing a minihorse into the till.

The problem is not that these animals are not smart; the problem is that they are. They have tousled, shaggy manes, doey eyes and cute little hooves. Yet behind this dollhouse visage is a creature with the cunning of Rasputin, the wisdom of Solomon and the soul of Chucky. It’s like if Bill Belichick were adorable.

What does he do? It’s kind of hard to put your finger on it. For one, he’s an attention hog. If two adults are having a conversation that doesn’t directly involve his own wonderfulness, one or the other or both are about to have a hindside full of horse teeth.

Second, he’s bossy. He will choreograph all barnyard critters to his satisfaction, at times — I can’t prove it, but I feel certain — putting them up to acts of misbehavior that they would have not broached on their own.

Third, he’s slippery. He will stand as still as Stonehenge, eyes half closed, as if running away is the last thing on his mind. But turn your head half a click and he’s gone. I have spent Christmas Eves not with feet up, waiting for the Jolly Old Elf, but frantically tearing after a minihorse on the lam.

Fourth, he has a sick sense of humor. Fifth he is a glutton. Sixth he is righteously — and loudly — indignant if he does not get his way.

I could go on, but I believe you get the idea. I would also point to the ADA’s stipulations concerning the appropriateness of a horse: “To help determine whether a miniature horse can be a service animal, the ADA provides four assessments: whether the horse is housebroken; whether the horse is under the owner’s control; whether the facility can accommodate the horse’s type, size and weight; and whether the horse’s presence will not compromise the legitimate safety requirements necessary for the facility’s safe operation.”

Housebroken? Oh, I would hope. Because believe you me, I can tell stories about a minihorse’s production in that regard. And “mini” is not an adjective that comes to mind.

Further, I do not believe there has been a minihorse in the history of Earth that has been “under the owner’s control.”

You cannot control a mini, you can only hope to contain him. So allow horses in the classroom if you want, but I believe the answer should be neigh.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at timr@herald-mail.com.

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