“Let us suppose that you have found a horse that you admire,” I said to my wife. She turned toward me, briefly, and then turned away. I had more to say but I kept it to myself. Marriage is sacrifice. “In horses as in all things, there are rules to follow,” I said. She stood up and walked out of the room. I stood and considered whether or not I should follow her. She was going quickly and I was not sure I could walk that fast.
“In horses as in all things, there are rules to follow.” I said the same thing when I woke up this morning, and the woman next to me told me to go back to sleep. She was a neighbor whose husband died within the last year, and who has, since then, been keeping company with other men in the neighborhood. She turned away from me and her body shifted meaningfully inside her nightshirt. I returned home—it was just across the street—and continued to explain the code of horses. My wife and I sat in the screened porch near the southernmost finger of the lake, which extends into our property. We faced east, away from the street, away from the neighbor’s house. We had a good view of the golf course and the clubhouse and the gate on the edge of the development that is never opened except in cases of emergency. I followed my wife into the kitchen. She was preparing some food for herself. She offered me some, but I wasn’t ready to think about it yet.
“Let us first suppose that you have found a horse that you admire,” I said, hurrying on so that she could not raise an objection or a challenge. I reviewed the process by which you might find a horse that you admire. You wake early in the morning. You smooth down your bed. You brush your teeth and pull on a hat. You call out to your driver and tell him to prepare the trailer. You visit a farm in which several horses are lined up in the paddock. As they are paraded throughout the turnout area, you mentally assign a number to each horse based on your relative disappointment or displeasure. Two horses please you above the rest. They are beautiful creatures: strong, noble, lyrical in their lines whether they are still or in motion. One of these horses is discovered to have a flaw in its left leg. It has been treated once and will have to be treated again before a determination about the horse’s future can be made. Your admiration for this horse diminishes, though your interest in it increases. The other horse is so large, strong, and perfect that your admiration is unconditional. You worry you might never be able to look at it directly. There is a man standing next to you. He works for the horse farm. He steps toward you and indicates the first horse with his eyes, after which he hikes his eyebrows quizzically. You nod. The purchase is completed. The horse is loaded into your trailer.
“It is best to stable this horse in a part of your estate where you see him often,” I said. My wife was gone from the house by then. She may feel that she already knows these rules, or can intuit them from rules she knows about similar matters. I went back to the screened porch and continued to hold forth on the finer points of stabling. There was a man on the golf course within earshot. My voice must have been raised because he thought I was speaking to him, though it was not raised high enough that he could make out the specifics of what I was saying. He waved at me and went on to the next tee. I continued. The literature is full of scare tactics regarding flaws in the legs of horses. We have all heard stories about legs and guns and kill shots in barns before dawn. They are short stories, brutally so, and designed to create the impression that a horse with a flaw in its leg is like a relationship damaged beyond repair, where the only recourse left is destruction. This is a terrible oversimplification. As I explained to the receding back of the man on the golf course, there is a good chance that a horse’s leg will recover, and you will want to be there when this happens, which is why you want the location where he is stabled to be close to your house. You will want to place the food in a conspicuous location, so that the horse can find it. Remember that horses frequently suffer from muzziness, never more so than when they are recovering from a leg problem. The food is only the beginning of your responsibility to this proud creature. Give more care to the arrangement of the horse’s stable than you do to the arrangement of your own home. When storms descend upon the country, as they do every summer, when the lake rises and there is threat of flood, you will want to feel certain that this horse, your beloved woolly-headed mount, is safe. More to the point: you will not feel safe unless your horse is safe, and since self-preservation is the only absolute rule, you will want to take special precautions to care for your horse.
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