Horsey girl at heart

By Debra LoGuercio

©Copyright 1999, Debra Lo Guercio, all rights reserved

     You have your cat people and you have your dog people. Everyone seems to be one or the other, depending on whether they prefer to dominate or be dominated by their animals. But it's not really an "A or B" world. There's a "C" bunch out there that prefers animals in the large, industrial strength size. We prefer animals that won't eat your shoes, relieve themselves on the carpet or lick their private parts when company comes over. We're not cat people or dog people. We're horse people.

      Horse people are predominantly women. They start out as Horsey Girls. The Horsey Girl stage occurs around age 9 or so, when horse lust consumes a little girl's existence. She draws horses at school. She puts posters of horses on the wall. She owns every single book ever written by Walter Farley or Marguerite Henry, and can recite passages of "Black Beauty" by heart. And not one single Christmas list doesn't have "a pony" right at the top.

      Another sure indicator of the Horsey Girl stage: no interest in Barbie dolls whatsoever, unless Barbie is riding on top of plastic horse models. And if Barbie is too stiff to sit on her horse properly, there's an easy remedy: break her legs at the hip. You know your kid's a Horsey Girl if every one of her Barbie dolls has at least one leg that dangles.

      Horse lust only consumes little girls. Little boys at this stage are preoccupied with producing armpit farts, snickering about bodily fluid and attempting to burp the entire Pledge of Allegiance with one breath. Which probably explains why little girls prefer horses over little boys. Little girls don't like unruly, stinky, dirty beasts. Unless they have silky coats and long, flowing tails.

      I was a Horsey Girl. My room was filled with Breyer horse models, which is all I ever asked for come every birthday and every Christmas. While my friends were making lovely, lacy little doll houses for their Barbies, I was out on the lawn making ranches for my horses, using sticks for fences and empty tuna cans for watering troughs.

      You can spot a Horsey Girl by her clothes. Back in my Horsey Girl days, other girls were donning their "Mod" outfits and white go-go boots, but I proudly walked the neighborhood in the official Horsey Girl uniform: dusty cowboy boots, knee socks, stretch shorts and a plaid cowboy shirt with shiny silver snaps down the front. And the hair? Ponytail, of course!

      Now, among your Horsey Girl population, you have two categories: those with horses and those without. I was fortunate. I had a horse, so I didn't pine away in equine lust like my horseless counterparts who could only dream of having a horse for years until they discovered (to their parents' horror) that teenage boys can take the sting out of not having a horse. (Note to parents: Get her the horse. It will hold full-blown adolescence at bay for a few extra, precious years.)

      But even with a horse of your own, adolescence may be forestalled, but it won't be prevented. You may buy a few extra years of sweet childhood, but sooner or later, the hormones kick in. And they will not be ignored.

      There comes a point in every Horsey Girl's life when she's walking down the hallway in junior high, and all of a sudden, that dorky freak from history class magically transforms into the cutest boy on earth. Birds sing when he appears. The clouds part and rays of sunlight beam down in his presence. Just like that, heartbeats replace hoofbeats, and all those Black Stallion books get shoved aside to make room for Seventeen magazine, curling irons and shoeboxes full of mascara and lip gloss. The posters of horses running through meadows come down, and are replaced with posters of celebrity boys that make groups of teenage girls emit that ear-piercing squeal that makes fingernails on a chalkboard seem gentle to the ears by comparison.

      It happens to the best of us Horsey Girls, even me. Little by little, my horse became an afterthought. Once I hit high school, I was more interested in studs than stallions. But I didn't totally give up horses. I still had one in college and even after I got married. But then came the kiss of death for a Horsey Girl: children. There was no longer such a thing as "free time" to go riding. And when you discover that it costs about the same to board and feed a horse as it does to pay for daycare and diapers, and there's only so much money to go around, one or the other has to go. And the hospital wouldn't take my kids back. There was no other choice. I traded in my saddle for a stroller. My Horsey days were over.

      Ah, but once a Horsey Girl, always a Horsey Girl. I didn't sing "Rock-A-Bye Baby" to my babies. They heard "Don't Fence Me In" and "Run for the Roses" and "Old Paint." And no teething rings for them. They had My Little Pony to gnaw on. And when my daughter started kindergarten, it wasn't in Baby Reeboks. She strutted off to school in pink cowgirl boots, sequins flashing and fringe swaying.

      My kids are growing up now, and who knows — more time and cash flow may become a reality. I'm starting to think about climbing back into the saddle again. It's been far too long since I spent some time with dirty, stinky, unruly beasts. The kind with silky coats and long, flowing tails, that is.