California Riding Magazine • January, 2010

Horsey Humor:
Four Legs Are Better Than Two

by Bob Goddard

The signs are clear enough. My coworkers want to know when I plan to retire. I can see my bald spot without using two mirrors. And I can’t remember the last time I was carded for beer. The young cashiers not only neglect to ask for my I.D., they barely even glance up at me. “Age visually verified,” the receipt says.

I don’t mind. My philosophy: any day above ground is a good one. The only thing that bothers me about my induction into the AARP gang is this: “So… any grandkids yet?”

To this, I simply respond, “Absolutely! And all of them have four legs and weigh half a ton.”

Those with traditional grandchildren have difficultly accepting my indifference. It’s as if my preference for quadruped descendants makes me guilty of not fulfilling some obligation to our species. Besides, they say, grandkids are great because you can spoil them all you want, fill them full of sugar and then hand them back to their parents at the end of the day.

I don’t know. The whole plan seems kind of hostile. Do these people harbor some kind of grudge against their adult children? Are there unresolved issues that motivate them to employ a toddler as a stealth weapon – a Brat Bomb – designed to disrupt the evening bathing routine and make a mockery of the concept of bedtime? And I’m not seeing how creating a generation of unnecessarily obese, poorly behaved miniature humans is doing the species any favors.
Four legs are better than two, I tell them. And the reason I tell them this is to change the subject before they get to the part about their grandchild being gifted:

“We think little Samantha may be gifted.

She’s only nine months old and she already knows her alphabet!”
“Sure, but does she know ours?” I ask. And to nudge the conversation in my direction, I add: “My daughter’s horse knows how to open his stall door with his butt.”

Getting to Know the Kids

Four legs are better than two. I know some will scoff at the comparison, but it’s basically the same idea. We get to enjoy our daughters’ horses without all the cost and responsibility. Jenny and I have always liked having the horses around when the girls were growing up. We just never appreciated paying for them instead of buying things like socks and underwear without holes.

Like their biped counterparts, four-legged grandchildren require a lot of attention. And like any good grandparents, we try to stay involved. So instead of shopping for strained vegetables, we help stack hay. We put up fencing in lieu of painting the baby’s room. We go to horse shows instead of dance recitals. And if there is any doubt, mucking a horse’s stall is much preferable to changing an infant homo sapiens soiled diaper. Horses do not eat meat.

Occasionally, we get drafted for horse-sitting duty. Jamie, the nervous mother, feels compelled to leave us with 10 pages of instructions, but like any seasoned grandparents worth their salt, we already know what’s best. It’s just takes common sense. Common sense and the ability to move your feet quickly enough so the horses don’t step on them. I always wear steel-toed boots in the barn.

Horse-sitting is good for grandparents. It gives us the opportunity to get to know our equine grandchildren on another level. We learn their personality quirks, their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses, the stupid things they do and their intellectual achievements. You never really get to know another mammal until you lay your hands on them.

Inevitably, you develop favorites. You shouldn’t, but you do. My favorite is Jamie’s Thoroughbred, Chilli. He’s very smart, I want you to know.
You’ll never guess what that horse did last week. I am constitutionally incapable of picking up a halter without it instantly turning into a tangled mass of nylon and buckles. Chilli knows this. So when he noticed I was having trouble manipulating that curious piece of equipment, he lowered his head and actually thrust his long face into the correct opening. What a great kid!

Um ... horse. Chilli is a great horse.

Jenny likes Bert, the Arab, the best. “He’s short,” she says, beaming with pride. And what a scamp! He likes to nip at Eddie’s tail in the barn while we have the Morgan on the cross ties.

And Eddie? Eddie tried to bite my thumb. What a rascal!

We had a great time just watching the boys play in the pasture. Chilli is definitely the field boss over Bert and Eddie. And (...brag, exaggerate, brag, vaguely amusing details, totally unnecessary details, more unnecessary details, brag, brag, brag...)

It was fun. And successful. Jamie came home to as many horses as when she left. Although they might be a little hyper for a day or two. I can’t wait to tell everyone at work about them.