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A horse is a horse … unless it’s your sister!

Here’s a column I wrote a while back — if you’ve read Sideways in Sarasota, it’s old hat to you, but if not … at least it will give you some insight into just how animal-crazy my family is.
Most people think I only have brothers, but actually, I have a sister … sort of.

Nickers – that’s her name. So-called because that’s all she does: nicker, whinny, neigh — and you thought Mr. Ed was the only one talking.

Yes, my sister is a horse … of course!

Knicker-doodle on the ranch ...

Nicker-doodle on the ranch ...

Though her “barn name” is Nickers, she’s registered as “Audacious Image” and it couldn’t be more appropriate. Audacious, saucy, spoiled – that’s her.

Though this may sound crazy to those who aren’t “horse people,” Nickers is like a member of the family; so it’s natural I call her “sister,” albeit an equine one, and even more natural that I’m jealous of her. (Ever hear of the Brady Bunch? Well, let’s just say Jan has my sympathies … Nickers! Nickers! Nickers!)

If you’re a hardcore horse lover (like my Mom), a horse nickering away is akin to hearing a baby gurgling happily in its bassinet. If you’re a “normal” horse lover (like me), then the nickering sounds like a hoof-stamping brat. Especially when I’m in the middle of one of my long, drawn-out stories that I’ve only told to my mother six times already – just let Miss Nickers whisper a whinny and my Mom will jump up to go give a carrot to the beastly girl!

She’s crazy (I mean Nickers, not my Mom) about hay and grass and carrots and horse “cookies.” Yet she easily keeps her filly-ish figure (another reason to be envious). She’s naughty enough to be called “little devil” (must not run in the family, since I’m a perfect angel) but no one seems to mind. If anything, her high spirits and feistiness only serve to make people adore her even more. (It’s not fair!)

Nickers, honestly, is a bit of a pasture prima donna – she only wants true equestriennes like my Mom on her back and the last time I clambered up, she refused to budge. How humiliating.

But she’s pretty free and easy with the kisses. If you ask nicely, she’ll almost always plant a big horsey kiss smack-dab on your lips.

She’s a proud horse, if slightly self-absorbed. Grazing serenely in the field, taking an afternoon dip in the pond, Nickers seems oblivious to the unending work my Mom has mucking the stable, keeping hay in the barn and the front field mowed, all while she — Nickers — relaxes with a little après-grooming roll in the dirt.

Several months ago, Nickers seriously injured one of her front legs; my Mom has been nursing her practically round-the-clock ever since. The physical work of caring for a large injured animal has been grueling. The worst part, though, has been the emotional toll my Mom’s suffered from watching a lame leg humble the spirit of her magnificent friend.

But, if you’ve got to be a horse, there’s no human you’d ever want at your side more than my Mom. Even before Nickers was hurt, a friend of my Mom’s always said, “Boy, when I die, I want to come back as one of Elizabeth’s horses!”

I honestly don’t know who has more spirit and grit – Nickers or my Mom. My Mom never complains, even though I know she’s bone-tired and worried. And Nickers, as frustrated from stall confinement and weary from pain as she must be, is still bestowing adorable horse kisses over her stall door. Neither of them knows what it means to give up.

The last few weeks have brought modest improvement, and I’m cautiously optimistic. I want to see Nickers wandering about lazily, looking for the choicest grass. I want to hear my Mom scold her away from the rose bushes. I want to see Nickers toss her head impatiently (and bossily) back and forth, demanding more hay before bedtime. Even if she can never be ridden again, I want her to be healthy and happy and nickering all the way.

My Mom and Nickers are more than horse and rider … they’re best friends. They’re family. And, despite my sisterly jealousy, Nicker-doodle is an incredible horse and I love her with my whole heart. She’s beautiful and full of life. She keeps going when the going’s rough. And she does it with style.

She’s an incredible spirit, that horse. Just like our Mom … of course, of course.
UPDATE: Since writing that column over a year ago, Knickers has recovered extremely well from her injury. She is pasture-sound, meaning she can no longer be ridden, but she’s pretty okay outside of a limp and occasional pain in the old injury area.

Posted on January 12th, 2009Comments RSS Feed
One Response to A horse is a horse … unless it’s your sister!
  1. I’m relieved to hear that Knickers has recovered so well. She seems very content. Thanks for the pic.

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