A Stable Influence

Alyce Gorter

Francis Picabia, 1911, Horses, oil on canvas, 73.3 x 92.5 cm. Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
[This article appears in the December 2019/January 2020 issue of The SCOOP.]

One spring when I was a young student, I suffered through a serious bout of pneumonia. Too ill to attend school, I was confined to my bed upstairs away from family traffic in a house with no television and in an era before electronic devices. But during my recuperative hours, boredom was never an issue as I would trace, again and again, a small plastic horse, then colour and name each picture before adding it to my rapidly expanding stable of paper ponies. How was I to know then that fantasy would later become reality in the form of genuine horsehide and hooves? (Although my future horses would arrive already coloured.)

Now here is where many armchair philosophers might wax eloquent about dreams and how they often come true and how we can make them happen. But before you begin, let me state that a lot has already been said about realizing your dreams and I believe most of it to be drivel or hogwash. For example, Roy T. Bennett, politician and author, said, “The surest way to make your dreams come true, is to live them.” Well, duh! You think? Although, if you’re living it, it isn’t really a dream now, is it? It’s called reality. You see? Drivel.

Fennel Hudson, a rural lifestyle and countryside author, said, “If we spend enough time dreaming, then the dream might eventually become real.” That’s like saying that if I spend enough time in the kitchen, I might become a good cook. Then again, odds are pretty good that I might not. With that kind of gamble, why risk it? After all, there are places I would rather be that at the very least carry a higher return on the pleasure investment scale. See? Hogwash.

Perhaps, though, I can identify with what Colin Powell, an American politician and retired 4-star general in the US Army said: “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic, it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” That I can attest to. The only way to improve that statement is to add the word “money.” My version would say, “A dream doesn’t become reality through dreaming, it takes sweat, determination, hard work, and money.” So there, now you can quote me.

However, getting back to my artwork... Apparently, this repetitive behaviour during my convalescence wasn’t connected to a little girl’s daydreaming about horses, but was rather, evidence of a deep-rooted addiction. As a child, of course, I wouldn’t have known that. It was only many years later after my long-suffering (his word) husband pointed this out that I started to ponder the matter. Perhaps he’s right, because I am drawn to all things equine like a gambler is attracted to Vegas. And my habit probably carries as much risk of financial doom as if I routinely fed the metal mouths of the slot machines. In fact, I would probably not spend nearly as much in a casino as I would in a tack shop. I have more sense than that. Plus, the bouncers probably oust you from the pleasure palaces once you’ve spent your limit at the gaming tables. Tack shops don’t have this customer protection service in place.

So, over the years an assortment of steeds has galloped, pranced, and plodded through my life leaving behind hoof prints on my memory and sometimes on my hide. I have been dumped, thumped, bitten and thrown, nuzzled, licked, hugged and comforted by four-legged creatures with manes and tails and personalities as different as those of any two-legged friends. I have been given horses that proved to be worth their weight in gold and I have paid good money for others that couldn’t justify their keep. Some have lived out their lives with us and others have moved on for one reason or another.

Now I must digress here a moment as there are probably some who believe that when you get an animal, it should be considered a lifetime commitment — as in only the death of the pet or that of the owner is a justifiable reason for resale or “rehoming.” It sometimes surprises me though, that these same people don’t see the irony in that they are often on their second or third spousal relationship. In fact, they would probably approve of that as a new category on Kijiji — Looking for forever home for wife/husband; comes with own clothes, grooming kit, and food bowl; sadly outgrown.

I don’t share this view. If you can provide a better home to an animal than the one it already has with me, then I am doing right by that animal to allow it to move on. (I’m not convinced the same rule should apply to humans and Mr. Wonderful appears to be happy right where he is so don’t bother calling.)

The age I incurred pneumonia is lost in time, but my passion for horses continues to be as much a part of me as my blue eyes and the dimple on my chin. That love has not been dampened by the sweat from mucking stalls or hampered by the hard work of building fences. On the off chance, though, that it truly is an addiction, I am starting a local chapter for fellow addicted horse lovers of Hippophiles Anonymous. There will be a meeting and tack sale here on Saturday. Bring money.