I left a copy of the Law Tribune in the barn. I picked it up and looked at it idly. This was the reason: Vendrella v. Astriab Family Ltd. Partnership had been discussed in elaborate detail in that issue. Although this column verges on dangerous anthropomorphism, here is a meditation about what the horses would say about the case. We join them over a flake of hay.
Timmy: No fair hogging the paper, Zack. Tell me about the case.
Zack: This is the issue. The Supreme Court is considering whether we, horses, that is, as a species, are inherently vicious.
Timmy: I don’t understand that word, “inherently.” I hate when you use words I don’t know.
Zack: You should listen to Amy more closely. She uses words like inherently every day. You just hear the part when she calls you a good pony. It means they are going to decide if horses, just by nature, are vicious.
Timmy: Goddamn it, Zack, it isn’t easy having you as a stallmate. Amy loves you the best … everyone thinks you’re more spiritual … I get really depressed sometimes.
Zack: You’re lucky you’re so handsome.
Timmy: Wanker! (Lays ears back and bares teeth.)
Timmy: C’mon, tell me about the case.
Zack: The horse bit a kid. Understandable, but not forgivable. I bet I know why. They named that poor horse Scuppy.
Timmy: Scuppy. Wow. That’d put me in a biting mood. Was the kid doing something to him?
Zack: No, not according to the record. It was just a baby.
Timmy: Maybe he mistook it for … an apple?
Zack: You might. But I don’t think he did.
Timmy: So, do you think that means we’re in … in … uh, vicious? I’ve never bitten anyone.
Zack: We are really not inherently vicious. People, on the other hand … I’ve seen some things.
Timmy: Yeah, me, too. But aren’t there—remember that horse at the last barn, the one that used to bite everyone all the time?
Zack: I know who you mean. I think he had Lyme disease. That’s the thing about some of us: we resort to desperate measures when more subtle communication is called for.
Timmy: Yeah, you’ve got that subtle communication down, bro.
Zack: Oh, get over yourself. Really, I think it comes down to individuals. Just like people—there are some really good ones and some really dreadful ones. I remember, you weren’t here then, it was just me and Amy, but there was a barn manager who just lost her mind. She stopped feeding us. No reason at all. In Texas, where I was foaled, there was a man who carried a gun to the barn. He treated his horse horribly. But he was just one person.
Timmy: I got hit with a broom once. The guy who hit me was wearing plaid. My blanket reminds me of it. I can’t help it. It was traumatic.
Zack: But you still trust people, most of them, right?
Timmy: Yeah. Not all of them know what they’re doing, but generally they’re OK. The ones who bring treats, especially.
Zack: Most people don’t know we’re prey animals. Predators are vicious. Prey get eaten.
Timmy: Eaten? You’re trying to give me nightmares. You know I’m sensitive!
Zack: Look who’s talking—you made friends with a cat. I’m just saying … there’s good and bad in every species. I don’t much like dogs, but I’m not willing to condemn them wholesale.
Timmy: So, what happened … to Scuppy?
Zack: I don’t know, but I think … he probably got … put down.
Zack: That’s human justice in the animal world.
Timmy: Now I really am going to be up all night.
Zack: Look, I won’t lie to you. (A short silence.)
Timmy: Do you think you could just drop some of that alfalfa over the partition?
Amy F. Goodusky, a former paralegal, rock ‘n’ roll singer and horseback riding instructor, is of counsel at O’Brien, Tanski & Young in Hartford.