By Sean Clancy
From The Saratoga Special, reprinted with permissionHorses are just like people, you have smart ones, dumb ones, honest ones, lazy ones . . . come meet 20 horses all in the same barn all at the same time, about 9:00 in the morning. By the stall number but certainly not numbers. Stall 21. The chestnut gelding stands in the back of the stall scraping his teeth on the wall. Back and forth, back and forth in an arc. He notices the observer but doesn't care enough to stop rasping his teeth. Ah, to be perfectly entertained and content.Stall 20. Stake horse lets out a sigh and walks to the front of the stall like duty calls. Stretches his head like he's cracking his neck, ears up and teeth out. Come back here he seems to say.Stall 19. Small bay strides into his home from the treed walking ring, sneaks a bite to eat from the pulled back hay net.Stall 18. Empty stall. Bedding's matted down, shank ready for returning horse, whoever he or she may be.Stall 17. Sleepyhead. Big chestnut at half mast leaning over his webbing. Peaceful. The slumbering giant.Stall 16. Light bay horse bounces his time away, doing a half weave. Not full-fledged nervous but itchy. Wants to be somewhere else and no one will let him go there.Stall 15. Hello long tongue. Dark bay stands looking out of the stall with his front legs wrapped tight in a pair of Velcroed ice bandages. Tongue waggles. Stall 14. I see nothing, I hear nothing, and I want nothing except for this flake of alfalfa hay in the back corner. There is nothing else in this world. Nothing. Stall 13. Empty stall. Remnants of last night's bandages litter the stall which awaits fresh straw. Blanket, chain shank, and snap leather shank await in the pulled back webbing.Stall 12. Big bay done up in ice boots, secured by a rubber tie at the end of a screw eye, eye high. Hay in the hay net is good but I'd rather have that notebook. Lean over here, will you?Stall 11. Tail knotted up out of the groom's face, a raise of the hind leg, just a reminder of the allowance being given to the little man at the back of the horse with a bandage wrapped halfway around a cannon bone.Stall 10. No hay, straw will do. Munching, munching, munching, where's my hay?, munching, munching, munching. Stall 9. Day is done. Four legs secured in white flannel, masking tape wrapped taut around each leg. Exercise is over for today, be asleep in minutes.Stall 8. Best horse in the barn. Big bold bay with that eye. That eye which looks into yours like your father before he grounded you. You are simply a person in the king's presence.Stall 7. Empty stall. Last set of the day, needed a good track, out there going through the motions, trainer watching, boom, boom, boom . . . the stall simply waits.Stall 6. The rubber tie keeps the 1,000 pounds off the floor. Ice boots cooling old bones. Don't cut the tie or the world will thump.Stall 5. A hot air balloon blaze between the wide eyes. The hay grinds between the shaded teeth. Stall 4. Three bandages with one more to go, green liquid rubbed deep down to the bone. Nose pressed into screen of the back window looking out to the grass. Stall 3. My world goes this way. The only horse standing perpendicular in the stall, right smack across the stall. Barns have angles and rhythms whether it be the curved tack hooks, the long slope of the roof, the pattern left by a rake, then one horse strikes it all in half. She didn't seem to mind.Stall 2. The last one in the line (stall one's the tack room), a fitting
ending. Asleep, dropped down dead asleep. Head under the buckets, hay stalk across the eye, legs frozen in running motion. Goodnight from the horse.Contact Sean Clancy via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone at 518-581-1947.