…we bought a jackass in disguise!
Each time I feed Finnbar, I sing a parody of Elvis Presley’s “Devil in Disguise”. It goes something like this:
It goes on from there. (No, it doesn’t get any better.) Finnbar is Liam’s horse. He’s been around the blog a few times. Mostly for his bum-biting obsession and his ill-fated attempt at T-post pole vaulting. Today, I thought we would go into a little more detail about his intrinsic jackass-i-ness.
Let’s start with feeding time. Food is, after all, Finn’s obsession. The horses are on a large pasture, and they get grain year round. However, to Finn’s great displeasure, the royal caterer comes but once a day. This highly anticipated event occurs at 4:30 pm. Which means if one of us opens the front door ANYTIME after 2:00 pm, a palomino face glares over the fence. Then, the King of Ye Olde North Forty issues a royal edict proclaiming: “Our supper is late, and We are not amused”.
As the serfs go about their menial farm-y chores, Finn periodically ducks his head and glares through the fence. If they should take time from their royal duties to tend their own meager plot of earth, they fan the flames of kingly anger. Then, he’ll wedge his big head through the fence and start cropping grass in the yard. Remember, he’s on acres of pasture, but he has to put on a ‘Don’t you see how starving and desperate I am?’ exhibition. He actually pauses between bites to glare at the commoners! Looking down his nose at them, he seems to declare, “You just can’t get good help these days” and “I wish beating serfs was still legal!”
When 4:30 pm rolls around, his fury knows no bounds if some other animal is fed first! If for example, Grace takes hay and grain to the bleating invaders before someone appears with his bucket, that huge ten-year-old quarter horse turns into a bratty three-year-old in an instant! All, ‘I’m starving and neglected’ theatrics are over. He stands to his full height, glares pointedly at the nearest servant and stamps his foot. Repeatedly. Until food appears. Or, until he sees a different animal being fed before him. At that point, stamping isn’t enough. Then, he must paw the bottom rail of the fence. He loves this part, because, it makes a terrific noise. He also happens to reach this part of the performance about the time someone is free to feed him, so he thinks it’s effective. (Believe me, we’re working on this behavior.)
When the feed finally appears, it leaves Finn in a conundrum. Since he’s a bully, Finn has to be tied before anyone is given grain. He has serious equine control issues and a desperate need to be in charge. To submit to being tied would grant some measure of power to the puny humans. However, he’s clearly starving and the servants are unpredictable. If for example, he turns and walks away from the feed to assert his superiority, the worthless humans are prone to sticking his bucket just out of reach and walking away. They wait until he’s faint from lack of sustenance (at least ten minutes) before returning to their lead rope rebellion. What is a kingly quarter horse to do? Clearly, he must take a very quick walk (to prove his dominance), then circle back and offer his head to be tied (making it clear it’s his choice), and finally, while eating the life-saving grain…he must plot revenge!
The grain is given in buckets that clip over the fence rails. By the time Finn has snarfed the grain, licked the bottom (and handle) of the bucket clean, he’s revived. Food not only pulls him from the brink of death, but clears the haze of starvation. A vengeful plot forms in his jack-sassy brain. He waits patiently until one of the lesser beings approaches. When they get about ten yards from him, he delicately plucks the feed bucket from the fence. He holds it carefully in his teeth waiting for the magic words. When the servant is about five yards away, Finn shoots a wicked look their direction. This is the human’s cue to trot forward growling, “DON’T…YOU…DARE!” Hey! Presto! Finn, with a toss of his head, slings the bucket into the paddock. Then, grinning pointedly at the human, he turns and angles his massive hindquarters to place the bucket as inconveniently as possible! Dominance successfully reasserted. Score one for the palomino!
Finn actually uses this hindquarter angling trick pretty often. For example, he guards hay with his bum. We have two horses. One is rather timid and passive. The other is…Finn. So, hay has to be split into two stacks. We normally put the stacks far enough apart that Ronan, my horse, can eat in peace. However, every feeding time Finn breaks out the Black and Decker measuring tape to decide if the stacks are close enough for bullying. If they’re even an inch too close, he’ll eat from one stack while angling his bum and (more importantly) his hind feet at the second. When Ronan comes to his own pile of hay, Finn kicks the air around the hay until Ronan slopes off dejectedly. It’s usually at this triumphant moment that the hired help stage a coup. They either move the hay or (horror of horrors) bind and gag the royal personage (or at least tie Him to a fence post).
The only way to recover from such crass treatment at the hands of the hoi polloi is a trip to the day spa. Finn’s third favorite activity (after eating and bullying) is wallowing! When he feels in need of pampering, Finn takes a trip to the local organic mud baths (A.K.A.: the Oolie Goolie Swamp). This haven of rest and respite is deep in the heart of Texas’ Black Clay region (in a low spot near the creek bed). It has the advantage of added texture from the occasional cockle-bur mixed into bejewel His Majesty’s mane and tail. The thick tenacious qualities of this mud are guaranteed to make a light horse disreputable by day and allow him to blend in perfectly at night! Perhaps that’s the goal! Maybe it isn’t about comfort and relaxing, but about a clandestine career as a cat burglar!
I think that would be the perfect career for Finn! He has some decidedly cat-like qualities. Have you ever seen the play “Cats”? There is a song in that play about a cat named Rumtumtugger. One line stands out, “Rumtumtugger doesn’t care for a cuddle, but I’ll leap in your lap in the middle of your sewing. ‘Cause, there’s nothing I enjoy like a horrible muddle!” Next to “Jackass in Disguise”, that could be Finnbar’s theme song. If you reach to pet him, odds are he’ll wait until the last moment then jerk his head away leaving your hand hanging in mid-air. See, just like a cat or a rude tenth-grade jock.
However, if you walk into the pasture to work on something, he’ll shove his horsey nose all up in your business. If you ignore him, he’ll follow you around, taste all your tools, and eventually flump his huge head down on your shoulder. It’s as if the moody cat/horse suddenly morphs into a faithful labrador. Don’t be fooled! The moment you raise your hand to rub his velvety soft nose, he’ll jerk his head away and wander off snickering, because, he managed to sucker you into buying his nice guy act. See, whether he acts like a cat, dog, or horse, he is really a jackass!
The man we bought the horses from warned me that they were slightly ‘buddy sour’. He meant that they prefer to be together and tend to misbehave when separated. For Ronan, I believe this is true. Ronan is fast and well trained. He has, as my father would say, a tender mouth. This means that riding him is like driving a car with power steering. He is very aware and moves easily requiring little direction or correction. However, he’s the tiniest bit high strung. Like, you know, a twelve hundred pound chihuahua during a thunderstorm! As much as Finn bullies him, Ronan is still much less frightened when he’s with Finn. I think it is like hanging out with the schoolyard bully. You still get picked on, but he’ll probably beat up any strangers that try to shove you in a locker or your head in a toilet bowl.
However, for Finn, this is not an emotional connection. His clinginess to his friend is all about faith! Finn’s faith that Ronan may be given something good to eat, and that he, Finn, is tough enough to take it! Earlier this year, Ronan developed a mild winter colic. This is basically a belly-ache, but it can become life threatening if not treated. So, the vet came for a visit. We brought Ronan into the yard. The vet proceeded to make him well, by doing all manner of unpleasant things.
Ronan was given shots, poked and prodded, but worst of all was the NG tube. This involved shoving a long plastic hose up his nose, down his throat, and into his stomach. Then using a tool that looked like one of those bug sprayers from the old Tom and Jerry cartoons (except much bigger), the vet proceeded to pump a couple of gallons of mineral oil, water, and Epsom’s salts down his gullet.
During this process, Finn kept running up and down the pasture whinnying loudly. The vet remarked that Finn seemed worried about his friend. I had to explain that Finn didn’t give a toss for the fate of his ‘friend’. He was simply panicking, because, he was afraid Ronan was getting a snack and he wasn’t!
You may be asking yourself why we don’t reenact a few scenes from the French Revolution and overthrow the monarchy. Well, the answer is simple. Finn is a dream to ride. He is calm and well-mannered when saddled, if at no other time. He stands perfectly still while you mount. He has plenty of git-up’n-go when you want, but is content to simply meander leisurely too. When we ride him, even his flaws are convenient! For example, Finn is a little barn sour. This means that given all the country roads and woodland trails, he prefers whichever one leads home most quickly. He doesn’t fight or argue trying to go home before you’re ready. He’s learned that’s the quickest way to make a u-turn straight into another couple of miles of walking. However, being barn sour does make his ears a very useful compass! If we somehow manage to ride into unknown territory it isn’t a problem. All we have to do is ride Finn in a circle and watch his ears. The ears will ALWAYS point toward His royal palace! After all, he is the King of Jackasses!
Do have you livestock or a pet who thinks it is a member of the royal family? Do you have a horse that can eat his weight in anything that stands still? If you have a moment, please leave a comment! I really do love to hear from y’all!
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