march 9 2012

Wena Poon

Austin, Texas



March 9, 2012 was a day of "smirr" in Texas. If you've never heard of smirr, it's the term the Scots use to describe fine, furry, misty drizzle that comes down incessantly and blankets everything. Smirr doesn’t let up, either – unlike a shower, it stays around for days and nights, until everything is soaked through.

I wanted to be an amateur bullfighter, an aficionado practico. APs are people who fight small bulls recreationally, not professionally. However, I found that I was afraid of the little practice bull in the bullring. This was completely illogical, given the circumstances. Even Spanish children could fight the small bull. I realized I was just a city kid and afraid of farm animals. This really bothered me. I couldn't really practice outside of Spain or Mexico as we didn’t have the right kind of bulls in America. I decided to train with the next best thing - horses. I signed up for polo instruction.

(Fast forward to Buenos Aires polo camp: “Bend down and hit the ball!” shouted the instructor as we galloped across the field. “Don’t worry, you’re still on the horse! You’re still on the horse!”)

Having a horse makes you more aware of outdoor conditions. Because rain affects the "rideability" of the soil and the comfort of the horse, I'm now obsessed with weather. I have several weather apps on my phone that tell me how many inches of rain will fall. I have different wellingtons, one for each kind of mud. When there is a drought, I worry because there could be hay shortages. My interests are now aligned with those of farmers. I regain the agrarian consciousness that my ancestors once had.

On Friday, March 9, 2012, I knew nobody would be at the stables as the rain was spectacular. It would be a desolate day of Epic Mud. I decided to go and share the pain with my horse, who is kept outdoors. I thought he would be cold, sad and bored in the rain. I know I am just projecting.

I put on his bright blue "raincoat," made of heavy ripstop nylon, which I know he doesn't really need. Horse clothing, like all clothing for pets, is not really about the animal, it's about the owner's vanity. His long winter fur is waterproof. Even without a raincoat, his lower body will be completely dry in the rain. But since I wore a raincoat, I thought he should have one. Kitted in our raincoats, we went for a long walk in the smirr. It’s not safe to ride in the rain. Horses slip in the mud. Besides, your leather saddle would get wet and moldy.

I don't really talk to my horse much on our walks. I read that horses don't really care about sounds or voices - in the wild, like cats, they're silent.

Horse people are a weird bunch. I can't say I really get along with them. A lot of them are animal fanatics. They keep their horses locked up in tiny stalls, but they disapprove of bullfighting. I’d rather die in a burst of glory than be in captivity for 20 years of my life. I know I am projecting again. It’s impossible to know how animals feel about these issues.

I noticed the majority of horse owners are middle-aged women. They call their horses "my boy" as if they are sons. I hate this. It sounds so patronizing. I call my horse "old man". He hates my iPhone. He won't have his picture taken. The moment he sees the iPhone in my hand, he runs away. So here's a photo of me wearing my polo outfit with another horse.

I don’t really know how to play polo. I’m just in it for the clothes, and to learn not to be afraid of large mammals so I can be a bullfighter. I have a book of polo rules that I haven’t read. People keep asking me when I'll play in a real game.

“The ground’s too wet,” I say.


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