Mick was grazing very happily in the camp with the long veld grass. The sun was baking wonderfully. The mares were all under the trees, eating the bark. He just knew how much trouble they’re all going to be in when their human saw it, but he didn’t feel like arguing. He would much rather hear what they were talking about.
‘I tell you, that’s what they said.’
‘Nonsense. Why would they want to identify as animals?’
‘Only our human treats us well… Did you hear what happened –’
‘That’s not what we’re talking about.’ The mare bit the other one on her butt.
‘This is the year of the pig.’
They all looked at Mick, but he just kept grazing on the lush grass. He actually liked kikuyu more, but growing field grass was nice enough. He turned his back on them.
‘Anyone born in 1995?’
‘Not that I know of.’
‘Maybe old Johan… He is lying in the upper camp under the acacia tree.’
‘Mm. Then it’s 2007 again.’
The mares whinnied excitedly.
‘Only Mick was born in 2007…’
He felt cold. Why were they laughing like that?
‘Well, then he must stay away from red, blue and green this year.’
‘And preferably wear yellow, grey, brown and gold.’
‘Hydrangeas can bring him happiness.’
They snorted louder.
‘And he must not move east or west.’
The mares made such a fuss that the chickens started squawking in the orchard and hid under the peach trees.
Mick looked up at the sun and turned his body so that he was not facing east or west. It’s the last year he may participate in competitions – his human had said so. And if he wanted to win, he couldn’t afford to have a year of misfortune.
Their human rushed out to see what the mares and chickens were up to. Mick didn’t pay much attention to them – not even when the mares got chastised over the tree bark. He repeated to himself the things he must avoid – and the things that could benefit him.
‘Okay, Micky Baby, time to practice,’ his human said. She was wearing green.
Startled, Mick ran away.
He refused to go near the green she was wearing. He ran first one direction and then another, careful not to go east or west. He saw his human standing under a tree – she just shook her head and watched him. He stopped running around.
‘We’ll work later, Mick,’ she finally said and walked away. Without touching him. Without offering him a carrot or corn. Mick slumped down in the long grass. He felt awful.
‘You’re a strange one, Mick.’
He opened his eyes. A hen stood in front of him.
‘What are you doing in my camp?’
‘Gotta see why you’re driving everyone crazy today.’
He sighed and rolled onto his back.
‘It doesn’t help to play dead. Talk.’
He turned and looked at her. ‘Oh, Sara, it’s the year of the pig. And I am one.’
‘O-kay. You know you’re a horse, right?’
He explained to her what the mares had said.
‘Well, you clearly know what you’re doing.’
‘Sarah!’ called a rooster from the orchard.
‘I better go back before Oliver loses his comb.’ She walked away.
Mick stood up. Sara was right: He knew what to do. He saw his human at the stable – she was wearing a pink shirt. He galloped towards her.
‘Are you feeling better now, Mick?’ she asked.
He made all the right noises. From a bag she took out a hand full of broken corn kernels. She held her hand open and he licked it up.
‘Such a good boy,’ she said and rubbed his shoulder. ‘Are you ready to train for the competition?’
He made all the right noises. She went into the tack room to get a harness. Mick hoped that she would take the grey one. But she came back with the blue harness! He remembered that the mares had told him to stay away from blue. Distraught, he wiggled out of the harness as his human tried to put it on and trampled it under his large hooves.
‘Mick?’ his human asked cautiously.
He looked up from the ground, panting. She looked bewildered. Mick took a deep breath to relax and yawned. He stood still so she could touch him.
‘Maybe it’s time to stop…’ she said softly as she rubbed his chest.
Mick nudged her with his nose. But she didn’t see it as encouragement to go get another harness. She sighed, picked up the dirty harness and walked away.
Mick looked after her, not sure how things could go wrong if he avoided a colour that could cause him an accident.
‘You know, it’s all that corn you eat.’
He looked down. Sara was standing just outside the stable.
‘What are you talking about, chicken?’ he asked annoyed.
‘Horses are not supposed to eat that much corn. You know it can cause various diseases, right?’
‘Yeah,’ Mick said slowly, thinking of the mares who got laminitis so easily from too much corn, lucerne and kikuyu.
‘Well, I guess it can cause other problems too – like bringing bad luck even if you avoid everything that can cause it like the plague.’
Mick nodded his head. He could absolutely see how things could go wrong with too many treats. Not that he would like to give up his corn, but a horse had to do what a horse had to do.
He looked around and saw that his human was with toothless Johan under the acacia – probably giving him fine feed. Mick took a deep breath. With a great nicker he ran north to get his human’s attention.
She ran to meet him.
‘What is it now, Mick?’ She looked him up and down to make sure he didn’t have an injury.
He watched her closely.
‘Mick?’ She carefully held out a few finely ground corn kernels in her open hand.
He shoved her hand and it fell to the ground. The chickens scurried closer and ate the seeds. His human sighed.
‘You’re going to get fat if you keep eating everything that falls on the ground.’
The hens clucked in response.
‘Have a good giggle. When you get so fat that you can’t move fast, you’re going to be in big trouble when the horses run and don’t care who or what is in their way.’
Mick looked down at the hens. Sara ate well and her eyes shone mischievously. He heard the mares neighing as if they were sharing a joke with the hens.
He stamped his front legs as the realisation shot through him of what was going on. He looked from the hens to the mares and narrowed his eyes and flattened his ears. Just because people believed that their happiness was determined by which animal they may be, did not mean that he, as a horse, should be lumped in with them. No matter what the mares had to say.
He was a horse. A strong, smart horse.
Mick stepped closer to his human and licked her neck. She giggled. The hens squealed uncomfortably because he was standing between them. He ignored them and licked his human again. She took a carrot out of her pocket and offered it to him. He took small bites while she held the carrot and rubbed him between his eyes.
‘Okay, Mick. No more corn for you – clearly it makes you a little overactive. Do you want to go practice now?’
He nodded, turned his body so that he found her arm on his back and walked with her to the stables. He held his head up as they walked past the mares. And even when his human put the pink harness on him, he stood absolutely still with his body east and allowed her to do it. He knew it looked good against his black fur. He watched the wall with his trophies. He could already taste how his hard work would be rewarded.
And all these stories about things you could do to avoid accidents were pure bogus invented by the mares and hens to get him off his trolley.
© 2022 Ronel Janse van Vuuren