As it now seems that the behavioral dysfunctions of horses have been attributed to the inherent viciousness or mischievousness of their species, which evolved from a corgi-sized, cloven-hoofed herbivore into a large legal liability, with attendant concerns about their potential to bite, snuffle, drool, roll on the ground in the muddiest possible area just after being bathed, and to appear at their most endearing when they are doing something terrible, like breaking into the grain bin or chewing the new fence, I will need to give unsuspecting humans a heads-up.
In barns and arenas across Connecticut, one sees this terse generic advisory: “This is an equine facility. Enter at your own risk.”
This does not begin to cover the waterfront of dangerous proclivities against which the general public must now be warned.
No such sign was posted in my own barn, I admit, as (a) it is not a business; (b) most, if not all the people who enter there are fully aware of the character defects of its inhabitants; (c) no one who lives there bites, kicks or does anything remotely dangerous as they are both well-socialized and kindly disposed toward humans, especially those with carrots, apples, raisins or peppermints to dispense.
I would have to have a warning. The sign would have to be large, in order to contain the necessary information in its entirety. It would read something like this:
There are horses in here! Horses are large, unpredictable prey animals. They may exhibit some or all of the following behavior: biting, kicking, inadvertently planting their large hooves on your small unbooted feet, licking your hands or face for traces of salt, sugar or fruit juice, mushing you against hard objects in an endeavor to scratch their ears, flanks, foreheads and stifles, making terrible faces, swishing their tails at flies, which may result in painful stinging, rolling on top of you at the horse show in front of the appalled judge, running away when attempting to be caught and asked to do work of any kind, spraying or coating you or your clothing with mucous or swaths of hay slime, jumping over barriers to form social relationships, barging around in your personal space to ascertain what is in your pockets, striking out at insects without heed to who is in the way, cavorting, moving suddenly, moving very slowly, especially when time is of the essence, grunting, neighing loudly right next to your ear, which may cause tinnitus, nudging you repeatedly in an endeavor to get treats, bucking, shying, attempting to demonstrate unprecedented airs above the ground, napping, ignoring commands and requests, bloating prodigiously until attempts to tighten the girth are abandoned, whereupon the saddle slowly or rapidly slides to one side or the other and dislodges the unwitting rider, usually at speed, and generally causing havoc and destruction of one sort or another.
The foregoing may result in; bodily injury, emotional upset and/or distress and damages, including but not limited to: dry cleaning bills, emergency department visits, humiliation, uncontrollable laughter, property damage, ego-puncturing, delight, warmth, feelings of love and uncharacteristic generosity, peace of mind, tears, grass stains, bruises, increased circulatory flow, decreased pulse and blood pressure, coughing, allergic reactions, frustration, depression, cognitive decline, cognitive enhancement or large expenditures of disposable income, all to your potential loss and detriment.
If you still would like to come into the barn, please know that you may experience some or all of the hereinbefore described phenomena, regardless of the level of your expertise, knowledge, training, scholarly publications or experience. Children should be accompanied by an adult at all times for the adult’s protection. Please do not smoke, yell, scream, pinch the horses’ ears, move suddenly, enter a stall without warning, poke the horse with foreign objects, walk within 11 feet of any animal’s hind end, stand on a bucket, produce any reptiles, wear large hats or Australian raincoats. We hope you enjoy your experience. Thank you for your support. •