My Kingdom for a Horse: Homo sapiens seeks equine companionship for work and pleasure
I was a girl on a horse.
Before we got our horse, my twin sister and I would have given our kingdom (or anyhow, one of our dolls) for a horse. Oh, for a horse.
Her name was Virginia. She was a large sorrel mare, a draft horse. She’d reached a certain point in her career, the point of refusing to work. The neighbors on the neighboring farm saddled with this stubborn old good-for-nothing gave her to us. (This took place during the 1950s, the Age of the Tractor, but these neighbors worked their horses.)
Virginia was strong, powerful, and beautiful. She cost us zilch to feed. (One horse added to 100 cows costs nothing.) She came with her tack. Was she happy to be ours? Of a summer evening, we’d call to her—grazing out in the pasture—and she would lift her head and point her ears in our direction and nicker.
Once when I was 12, Virginia and I were cantering down an old logging road. Virginia suddenly came to a full halt. I almost flew over her head. Five feet in front of us stood a stag with huge antlers—a white-tailed deer. He was stopped in his tracks, head held high. The standoff persisted for motionless minutes until—thinking horse and stag might fight—I shooed the stag away.
What is a horse? Kingdom: Animal. Phylum: Chordate. Class: Mammal. Order: Perissodactyl—an ungulate, a hoofed mammal, with an odd number of toes. Yes, that hoof is a single toe (evolved from three fused toes), and yes, the hoof the farrier trims is a toenail. Perissodactyls are distinct from even-toed ungulates such as cattle and deer. Family: Equidae. Genus and species: Equus caballus. All breeds of horses and ponies, whether domesticated or wild, belong to the same species.