Horses: Everything You Never Wanted to Know
Author: Reb Hay

Chapter 3
They Bite

Instructor Woman inspects my barrow load like as if it were a long lost friend. ‘Good work Ava,’ she says.

            I follow her gaze into the barrow. It’s just shit. Nothing about it is good. I dump it on the big pile behind the shed and am about ready to call it a day. A thorough scrub in the shower and then a few hours relaxing is what I’m thinking. I could do a bit of Pinterest or, better still, trolling. 

I allow myself the brief pleasure of delusion, musing on my former life, grieving my losses. Dream on, sucker. I have no phone. It has been confiscated. A scary woman at reception frisked me on arrival and found it in my pocket. ‘You won’t be needing this,’ she said with a sneer. ‘I’ll lock it away in the drawer for safekeeping.’

Ha! It’ll so be on ebay by now, on its way to the highest bidder. 

Instructor Woman is waiting to pounce on me when I round the corner of the shed.

            ‘Well done, Ava.’

            I wish she’d stop praising me for shoveling manure.

            ‘Time now for something more enjoyable, don’t you think?’

            What I think is that her idea of fun and my idea of fun are going to be light years apart.

            She hands me a halter. ‘Let’s go and catch Ben.’

            Who? Oh yeah that’s right, The Shitter. What on earth would we want to catch him for? Unless he has a secret fancy for social media, I’m thinking I’m right about the light years.

            We enter back in through the gate. I almost hesitate but I don’t want Instructor Woman shoving me around again. So I march in, re-facing the trauma of the battlefield. The Shitter looks up.

            ‘Ben, come on,’ the woman calls. ‘Ben!’

            This woman is crazy. She has provoked The Shitter and now he’s coming for us. I do what any sane person would do and stand behind the instructor. She brought this upon us—let her be the sacrifice.

            I peer over her shoulder. Okay, so The Shitter is not actually coming that fast. It would be stretching it to call it a charge. Even I recognise this. A casual saunter perhaps. 

            Nevertheless I stand at a respectful distance and let Instructor Woman secure Ben with the halter. She suggests I might want to pat him. Why would I want to pat a shit machine?

            She tries to hand me the rope. ‘You lead him,’ she says.

            The rope falls to the ground between us. ‘It’s okay,’ I say. ‘I’m cool just watching.’

            ‘Actually,’ Instructor Woman picks up the rope. ‘It’s not cool. You take the lead. You don’t have to be frightened.’ She presses it into my hand.

            ‘Allergic,’ I mutter but my hand closes on the rope. No one accuses me of being frightened. I march towards the gate, hoping to leave The Shitter in my dust but he’s right beside me. ‘Watch the personal space, mate,’ I growl. He ignores this advice and we reach the gate like it’s a dead heat.

            Instructor Woman directs us to the hitching rail and hands me a brush. Her instructions go something like this: ‘Here take this brush—blah, blah, blah, blah—I’ll be back in ten minutes.’

            I figure The Shitter and I might be able to work on our relationship now that he is securely tied down.

            ‘So,’ I say. ‘How’s it going?’

            But he’s not much of a conversationalist.

            ‘Come on now,’ I prompt. ‘How would you like your hair done today?’ I hold the brush up for him to see; I try to make it perfectly clear. 

            He stamps a foot, which clearly means he wants to look like a punk rocker straight out of the eighties.

            ‘Alright!’ Finally The Shitter and I might be making traction. I commence vigorously brushing his hair up the wrong way. He swishes his tail to encourage me. He even starts to stamp in time to whatever music he has going in his head. I’m sliding the brush up his neck, getting my full hip and shoulder into the sweep. His ears are flicking like a crowd going wild.

            Then it all goes bad. The Shitter must be doing Ice or something because, all of a sudden, we are no longer rocking. We are rumbling. His teeth come around at me faster than a snake striking. I raise an arm in defence, catching him across the snout. He flings his head in air, ready to dive bomb me. 

I leap back, straight into the arms of Instructor Woman. Thank God, I have witnesses. Someone to vouch for me, someone who has seen I am a victim of a vicious, unprovoked attack. My story of untold hardship will be believed and, any moment now, I’ll be whisked away back to the safety of the city. I might even get one of those cool therapy sessions where some woman has to listen to me go on and on about every little thing Mum ever did and be empathetic. Who would have thought this could all work out so well?

I turn to Instructor Woman, tragedy written raw and fresh across my face. ‘Did you see what that monster did to me?’

‘I saw what you did to him.’

‘Yeah, self-defence. He was trying to kill me.’

‘I saw him trying to get away from you.’

‘No way!’ I’m not liking where this conversation is heading. I try steering it back to me getting an early pass out of here. ‘He was so getting ready to strike again!’

But Instructor Woman is not even listening. She is stroking The Shitter in long even strokes. ‘What’s all this?’ she asks.

‘What?’

‘His fur is all brushed up the wrong way.’

Though she’s sure old enough, I still don’t think Instructor Woman would understand about eighties hair. ‘I was just doing his hair,’ I say.

She’s wrecking all my hard work. ‘No wonder he tried to bite you.’

I stand open-mouthed. Here I am being told that a horse has more rights than a hairdresser. The Shitter has just assaulted me and is going to walk.

I throw down the brush. Unbelievable.

Horse versus human: one all.

 

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