It’s Either in Your Blood or It’s Not
By Jec A. Ballou
My friend Carmen’s adorable daughter Simone is, against all logic, horse-obsessed. I, too, suffered horse obsession as a child, but unlike Simone, I lived on a farm, so my craze seemed mostly normal. Simone, however, lives in a condominium in a high-density neighborhood in a populated metropolitan area. Neither her parents nor friends share her equine enthusiasm; it developed in her apparently out of the blue. This charming little blond-haired girl now has horse pajamas, pony colouring books, Breyer models, a wooden stable, horse-themed Valentine’s cards and cookie cutters, etc. She is afflicted so severely that all the non-horse people around her can only scratch their heads.
To me, Simone proves a hypothesis from my trainer in Portugal. He said to me one day, “It’s either in your blood or it’s not.” He meant it didn’t matter what any person’s financial situation, environmental influences, or anything else happened to be. If horses were “in your blood,” you were fated to have an undying affection for them. Some folks might not actualize this fate until later in life, he pondered, while others seize on it immediately at birth. Simone appears to fall into the latter category, which warms my heart because so did I.
As a young child on our farm and surrounded by horses all day, I still wanted to play horse games at night, read horse books, or make horse drawings. I couldn’t get enough. My elementary school teachers telephoned my parents on several occasions to express concern over my potential neurosis. Meanwhile, I submitted book reports about The Black Stallion, science projects about veterinary topics, history essays about ancient breeds, and I invented four-legged games at recess. My teachers panicked about this single-mindedness and told my parents to make some kind of intervention. As if they hadn’t tried.
Indeed, they gave me Barbie dolls, bicycles, mini baking sets, and Lincoln Logs. But I only wanted horses, horses, and more horses. My parents had to give up and pray that I would mature – magically somehow – into a well-rounded adult. And mostly I have. Or at least I trick myself into believing that. Then, moments like one last week rattle me out of that comfy daydream. I was chatting with Carmen on her couch when suddenly I noticed across the room a small stable filled with Breyer horse models. Childlike, I bolted off the couch mid-sentence (I believe we were discussing grown-up stuff like politics) and ran over to it. Simone joined my side instantly and I begged her to show me the little stable.
She obliged, but only after her tiny hands showed me her “favourite” member of the barn, a thick-necked plastic draft horse. My favorite was the Appaloosa with splotches painted on his rump, although Simone didn’t get around to asking me which one I liked best. She was excitedly relaying the details of her pretend farm to me, like the fact that all 12 of her horses were stallions. And the Palomino one didn’t get along with the others. And that her horses had just gone into the stable for the night before I came over. “Uh-huh, uh-huh,” I followed along, instantly a four-year-old again myself. Oooooh, my chest filled up with joy when I remembered my own Breyer stable and teeny weeny pasture fences and the endless hours of “playing horse.” I was starting to feel like Simone and I were birds of a feather, never mind the nearly 30 years between us.
Then she offered to show me the rocking horse that she’d received for Christmas, which I agreed to in a heartbeat. We skittered upstairs to her bedroom and within a moment, I gave thanks for the nearly 30 years between us. A lot has changed since the days I made up four-legged galloping games at recess. Namely, technology has intervened. Had I owned a rocking horse of the likes of the one Simone now possessed, I never would have stood a chance at being a well-rounded adult. In fact, I’m pretty sure I would never have left my bedroom.
Simone’s toy horse is frighteningly lifelike. “Rosebud” stands as tall as a Shetland pony, is able to swish her tail and move her head and neck. She even chomps carrots and makes chewing noises. She is able to carry a grown adult on her back and when the rider swings her arm overhead and says “giddy up,” the horse actually does. Its body starts herky-jerking and the fuzzy little technological beast makes clomp-clomp noises. When I pulled on the reins, it stopped.
Wide-eyed, deeply envious, and truly speechless, I curried this almost-real horse’s hair and assured Simone she was the luckiest girl on the planet. As for whether she stands a chance of ever out-growing her horse-obsession, I’d say there’s no way. But I secretly hope she does, because I’ve got a place in my house already picked out for Rosebud.