Catherine Macaulay
Catherine Macaulay

Horsing around with words


According to Wikipedia, there are roughly twenty-five thousand idiomatic expressions in the English language—a small percentage of them pertaining to horses. How many can you find in the copy below?


I’ve been thinking about the woman I met during a hunt breakfast recently. A bit horsed-face, she nonetheless caught my eye given how impeccably well turned out she was in formal hunt attire. I would later learn that she was a bonified clothes horse who had lately taken up foxhunting in Virginia, her children fully grown, her husband deceased, worn through from years of slaving away like some common workhorse, saddled with responsibility.


The gentleman standing beside her happened to be a former master of foxhounds who listened patiently while she extolled the virtues of foxhunting in this quaint Virginia one-horse town aboard her one-trick pony, which she’d been sold along with a bill of goods from an unscrupulous horse trader who clearly had seen her coming.


The former master of foxhounds listened with unfailing politeness. But I could tell by the way he kept plowing through his Bloody Mary that he was thinking how full of horse sh*t the woman was—she being one of the reasons why he rarely attended hunt breakfasts anymore, even though he had nothing but time on his hands since being turned out to pasture by his former employer.


The woman kept jawing about how much fun she was having horsing around with the horsey set while the former master of foxhounds slipped further away into his Bloody Mary, wondering how someone so clueless and horsey looking ever managed to keep a billionaire hedge-fund manager faithful all those years, given the wealth of foxy ladies available with which to play the field. But who knows why anyone rides it out with a person, least of all with someone who insists upon forging her way into polite society with the pronoun “I” stamped onto every sentence. Maybe the gal had family money, or maybe her husband had backed the wrong horse and simply refused to admit it.


At any rate, the woman kept jabberwocking away and the old gent continued holding himself with the proper conduct, knowing that some bitches* just liked to lead the field. And just about the time I thought she’d never get off her high horse she went and inquired whether or not I fox hunted given that she’d failed to see me at the morning’s meet, which in truth, was nothing more than a dog and pony show disguised as foxhunting—so many in the field being new to riding much less to the sport.


 I told her I was a former barrel racer, which I wasn’t, mainly because western saddles always rub me the wrong way. But still, it pleased me to tell her that, and also that I’d quit riding after I’d gotten thrown from my white, 16-hand thoroughbred during a claimer race at Charles Town.


“Hold your horses!” said the former master of foxhounds, nearly spilling the drink from his glass. “White isn’t recognized by The Jockey Club.”


I assured him that the color had indeed been vetted by the Club and that just between us, my gift horse, whom I never looked in the mouth having won him off a shady, one eyed jack of all trades who played the ponies, was in fact a descendent of the venerable White Beauty mare foaled in 1963—the one that started the whole Jockey Club challenge, and though out of the running these days, her progeny, Wild Beauty, remained a rare and mystical thing, in possession of a forward disposition, but being soft in the mouth and quite gentle once you caught him out of the pasture, his noble bloodline making him the perfect mount for some dark horse looking to come up from the back of the field—that rare white thoroughbred whose lineage defined him as an undisputed blueblood in any arena.


“Well, that’s a horse of a different color,” said the woman, suddenly so intent upon me that wild horses couldn’t drag her away. “Is he for sale?”


“Perhaps, to the right home,” I replied.  Leaning over, I whispered, “I’ll call you.” Then, I took my leave for the buffet table, being hungry enough to eat a horse. Behind me, the former master of foxhounds continued nosing through his drink. But I heard him mumble “horse feathers” into its rim, having suddenly recalled the wealth of nonsense that had prompted him to go to ground years ago.


You heard it here, straight from the horse’s mouth.


(*Term for a female hound)

Things I did do during the last winter snowstorm




Shoveled the drive, shoveled the walk up the front entrance, popped two Advil, started shoveling down the back steps, scowled at my husband for being tied to his desk, threw snowballs at the dogs, grew tired, threw down my shovel, fell back across the snow, stared up at the speck of a plane climbing across the great blue overhead, heading southward, wishing it was me up there in a warm state of mind.


Things I didn’t do during the last winter snowstorm


I didn’t:


Chip out frozen water buckets, haul fresh water down from the house, pick ice balls out of anyone’s hooves, muck out around stall-bound horses all hoovering expensive hay, picking up their heads just long enough to gaze longingly out at the fields, cringing as those same, fresh horses went kicking and bucking over still snowy fields, everyone being happily boarded at someone else’s farm, leaving me free to shovel the drive, shovel the entrance, shovel the back steps...warm in the knowledge that it could be worse.


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© Barry Rosenberg