Nothing But a Horse Snob

“He’s a nice horse, but you can not touch his ears,” she stressed. She motioned with a cigarette to one of the bare-footed girls, who came into the pen, wading through the deep gray sand, and took Packin’ Six by his frayed green halter. Well, I think it was green. Once.

I have such a disdain for nylon halters. When I was a kid, all we wanted were shiny new nylon halters in pretty colors. The barn manager, who was a caustic woman who hated children but loved horses, and so naturally turned to running a lesson barn for a career, went into the feed room and came out with some tattered old nylon halters in varying shades of manure. There was red-manure, purplish-manure, greenish-manure. “Here,” she said, thrusting them at us, adorable little ten-year-olds with curry combs in our hands and dirt on our faces. “Here’s your nylon halters. Your horses will break their legs on them. Enjoy.”

I had a few nylon halters over the years, some truly garish in jewel-tone fashion colors of the nineties, some more subtle, but I never got her leathered sneer out of my mind, and by this time, anyone who used nylon halters was not worthy of my time.

But the tattered old halter was just the beginning. Momma went inside with a bang of the screen door and came back out with the tack: a blazing red nylon bridle from the feed store, complete with nickle-plated curb bit, a red fleece saddle pad woven deeply with horsehairs and blackened with sweat, and the absolutely necessary nylon-padded western saddle with plastic stirrups tied on with orange baling twine. The orange really clashed with the red color scheme.

I might have been a total snob, but I didn’t have any doubts that they had a nice horse and they knew it. So what was wrong with him? There had to be a reason he was here, skinny and in serious need of a pedicure. I decided to tack him up.

“Want me to do it?” I offered to the girl, who was about thirteen and was clearly in charge of training here.

“You gotta take it apart,” she said, handing me the two halves of the headstall. “Put it way back behind his ears. If you touch his ears, he’ll flip over. They eared him at the track.”

Well, you don’t find sixteen-two-hand Thoroughbreds with clean legs standing in sandy backyards keeping company with pigs unless they have some sort of mental instability. So this guy didn’t like his ears handled, eh? I could manage that. Heck, I might even trick him and touch one – just to see what he’d do. I mean, look at these people. They clearly weren’t horsemen. He probably would’ve let me put the bridle right over his ears if I were gentle enough!

I smirked but did just as the girl said, wrapping the two halves of the headstall around his neck and then buckling them together on the right cheekbone. But after I buckled the headstall, I pulled it snug – right up against his ear. He jolted as if he’d been shocked and ran backwards a few steps.

Oops. Embarrassing. A kid on the porch squealed and Momma called down, “Now don’t touch his ears now! Don’t never let nothin’ touch his ears!”

I blushed. But he didn’t flip. So there was that.

“You’re lucky he didn’t just flip over on your car,” the girl said. She glared up at me with accusing eyes. “I said don’t let it touch.” She shook her head and threw the thick saddle pad and the decaying saddle over the horse’s back. I realized that I still couldn’t cinch up a Western saddle properly, and she would have found me out in about thirty seconds if I had still insisted on tacking the horse up.

She would’ve thought I was nothing but a horse snob, and she’d have been right.




Filed under Rapidan, Thoroughbreds I've Known

7 responses to “Nothing But a Horse Snob

  1. Arg! You’re such a tease with these segments!!!!! Obviously I love them.

  2. Aren’t we all. GreaT story. I hate nylon halters too, after seeing what they can do.

  3. Like these snippets as well!

    Have to admit, I’m confused about the nylon halter hate. I’ve used one for my Paso ever since he out grew the nylon foal halter that came with him. Never been a problem. It has a break away cheek snap and I never turn him out in a halter or leave him in his stall unsupervised with it. So, if you don’t turn a horse out in a halter or leave it on him in his stall, what does the material matter that much? In fact, I’ve been using a nylon and rubber grazing muzzle lately, which does have the flimsy plastic buckles should he get stuck. It’s the only halter I’ve ever left on him and I was very nervous about it at first, but *knock on wood* no problem so far.

  4. Emily, hating on nylon halters – even perfectly safe ones – is the essense of English equine snobbery. You might have trouble with this because you have a Paso *snark*


    They actually do make perfectly safe nylon halters now, and for a while I had a really cool one with a little leather loop as the breakaway. It was snazzy. Bonnie looks good in navy blue. But, well, she broke it. And I didn’t feel like trying to find the replacement loop. So… I went back to leather.

    Leather is CLASSY. Leather with a brass nameplate – it doesn’t get any better than that. I just love it.

  5. Well, yeah, I get the classy thing. That’s why the OTTB got a nice leather halter from Quillin with his Jockey Club name. I just didn’t see the purpose in getting the Paso one since his nylon halter, which a dear friend gave him, is still solid.

    I appreciate the snobby. Just wanted to see if there was some practical reason.

    • so the THOROUGHBRED gets the Quillen’s halter (and aren’t they THE BEST?) and the PASO gets a nylon one?



      But no, if it’s breakaway I don’t think there’s a practical reason. Also you could throw in the buy-USA thing if you wanted, since Quillen’s halters are hand-made in Kentucky and nylon halters come from… where do they come from?

  6. “They actually do make perfectly safe nylon halters now”.
    Yeah, in my day, they didn’t. Horse got his hind foot hung up while scratching his face, and just about tore his whole cheek off. It was a horrible injury, and only because the darned thing would NOT break.

    Nylon Halters come from nylon trees.

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