"There is a touch of divinity even in brutes, and a special halo about a horse, that should forever exempt him from indignities."
- Herman Melville
"Your horse is fucking crazy."
"My horse? I got him for you... so you could have your champion eventer from the very start, you know, to build him up, train him the way you always wanted to?"
"No, no horse of mine acts like that. You're the crazy who bought him, you two deserve each other."
It was going to be a fast-food night. I had been home from flying a total of three minutes and it was clearly evident that Missi would not be cooking dinner that night. She sat on the couch rifling through her phone resentfully not making eye contact with me.
"Uh, hi baby, I'm home?" I paused, bracing for the upcoming response. "How was your day?"
She snapped her head to the left to finally look at me. Her face dripped with spiteful sarcasm. "Awful, thanks for asking. Jill and I cut Honor's balls off - it was a fabulous time." Her smile was hollow and felt like a segue to something more ominous. She continued, "Jill has castrated hundreds, if not thousands of horses, and I have been there for a big chunk of those. We both agreed that no horse, ever, has been as difficult as this horse you loosely call 'Honor.' He's a bastard who needed his balls cut off."
In the JTAC world, this is called "Danger-Close"
"You cut his balls off? I feel like this might have been one of those decisions we should have made as a family. What if he turns out to be some stellar horse and we regret it later?"
"There is nothing stellar about that horse. He's got a club foot, he's knobby-kneed, he's a terrible mover, his butt is way too small, he's built downhill, and he isn't exactly friendly... as we discovered. He's a train wreck whose most redeeming quality is that he won't be reproducing."
I pivoted from hesitation to retaliation. "So you cut his balls off? God help me if I leave the toilet seat up." I turned to Willoway, lounging lazily on the carpet in front of the t.v." You're not much support, eunuch. Great, I'm the sole reservoir left in this house for testosterone, and apparently I'm now a dwindling endangered species whose greatest threat is the woman I live with."
"I don't think you understand."
"No, you don't! We don't know how good of a horse he's going to be! What if he turns out to be some kind of superstar? And then you're dining on your words with a side of colt balls while ruing the day you deprived him of his manhood."
"You can't be serious. If it's any consolation, Jill almost let him keep his balls. He spent three hours trying to kill us. It's better for him and frankly... the fences, for him to get gelded. It will help him settle down and God knows he could use it. I have been working with horses my entire life. I'm not being mean, I'm being honest. I'm telling you, he is not stallion material. There's a reason he was $120 at Jones. If he's not conformationally favorable, cutting him is the responsible thing to do. But he was so out of control we almost gave up. We had to drug him three times the normal dosage just to be able to do it. It was like he just shrugged off the drugs. He wasn't having any part of it. It's bad enough just trying to catch him to put a halter on him. Imagine running down that same horse and attempting to confiscate his testicles. He was an evil asshole."
After getting three steps closer, Honor sprang to his feet and started doing NASCAR laps around the paddock.
Missi went on to explain the half-ton wrestling match between the three of them. Jill Mixer was a remarkably experienced equine vet in OKC that Missi had been working along side for roughly six months. She drove a mercilessly rigorous schedule of equine care at Remington Park race track, seeing thousands of horses every year. I doubt she kept a running tally of testicles in a portfolio, but the assumption she had pared her fair share of males was a safe one. Apparently, the fury with which Honor defended his pride was unmatched. Honor had spun chaotically on the lead rope, ripping against the female duo, frantically fighting for the sake of his legacy. Once secured and twitched, the hysterical battle continued on, wrenching back, punching, kicking, refusing to settle. Complicating the struggle further, the colt was defiant against anyone coming near him close enough to inject him with sedatives. In deft, experienced courage, Jill had managed to thrust herself into the fray, inject him, and skillfully escape with her life. This process was repeated two more risky times before the horse's body was finally overcome by the drugs. Both Jill and Missi were caked in sweat and dust kicked up by the chaos of hooves. Despite his bachelor's night drunken stupor, Honor continued the valiant battle, striking blindly with intoxicated hay-makers in a desperate plea. They pinned the colt's wobbling body against the wall of the barn, juking and deftly dodging stray strikes from Honor's inebriated legs. Jill weaseled her way to Honor's hind quarters and with quick, skillful dexterity, vindictively cut away. After hours lost in the ardor of combat, the ladies hewed Honor's parts from his body with triumphant pleasure. Both walked away exhausted, splattered with blood. Not since Lorena Bobbit has male genital mutilation inspired such moral vindication.
"That was by far the worst castration of my entire career." Jill had lamented. She offered Honor's remnants in a jar to Missi as a spiteful trophy for the whole ordeal, but Missi declined.
These photos took over two hours to get close enough to take.
I remembered the few times Missi had asked me to put a halter on him. Much of her grievance was well founded. No, he wasn't mean or aggressive. He simply wanted nothing to do... with anyone. He lackadaisically grazed throughout the front paddock, comfortable in his solitude. But his solitude was his security blanket, akin to Ted Kaczynski, with similar response when approached by society. Treats didn't work. Hay didn't work. Bringing our mini up to the adjacent paddock didn't work. Honor enjoyed his distance and considered any advance a personal affront. Putting a halter on his head was slightly more difficult than shaking hands with a rattlesnake and even less appealing. I roiled with fear any time I heard the dreaded "I need your help" come from Missi's mouth - and Honor required a lot of help. It got to the point we just left the halter on him for the sake of ease. He would run with unbridled abandon around the paddock nearly careening into every fence in all directions, caring little for his own safety, much less ours. Caring for Honor required courage, perseverance, patience... and quick feet.
Honor was not a good Horse. But I perpetually rationalized his maniacal independence with a keg-half-full attitude. "Look. See? He's fast!" My Pollyanna approach typically met with cutting glares from Missi tinged with noticeable cynicism. "You just wait... he's gonna be a champ." I said it tongue in cheek. In my heart of hearts, I knew how much I didn't know. I knew how much Missi did know, and Missi had already forgotten more than I would ever know. Missi was a devout atheist in the faith of Honor. I suppose looking back now, my tongue in cheek pride in Honor was a continuation of that sparked kindling I had seen at the auction house. Unfortunately, even I was battling through the harsh reality of what I was seeing in front of me. Finding any smoke in that kindling was quickly becoming impossible.
It had been almost two weeks with Honor and whatever light existed at the end of this tunnel was the fierce glowing eye of a stampeding thoroughbred running full bore towards us. I wanted to believe in him. I wanted to believe a great horse existed inside that strangely constructed equine husk. Unfortunately, the evidence just didn't support the hope.
Missi had just finished recounting her treacherous tale when a rolling thunder shook the house. "Is that another earthquake?" I asked. Choctaw had earthquakes a couple times a week, most too infinitesimal to feel, but occasionally they were noticeable. Missi sat there unresponsive, leering into her phone. The rumble continued.
She peeled her eyes away from her phone, looking up to me with her head cocked to the side like the RCA Jack Russel examining a phonograph. She looked confused. The confusion wiped from her face when a banshee screech pierced through the house walls. It only faintly resembled a horse's whinny. Her facial expression altered, but her head remained in the same, slightly off-kilter posture. She batted her eyelashes in sarcastic, satirical innocence. She was smug now.
"No, it's not an earthquake... it's your horse."