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Brushing a horse makes the years disappear

May 6, 2012
Messenger News

Some days are better than others. Much better.

On a recent Sunday, I stood quietly watching a friend work. It's good to watch others work, you know. But as I stood there, Vinney leaned close and laid his head on my shoulder. While my mind wanted to yell "What's going on?" my heart sighed. He nibbled my ear and blew warm air onto my neck.

Anybody blowing warm air on my neck gives me goose pimples big enough to use as ski jumps, but that was the least of my problems.

"He will bite," Doc Emerson said.

Bite? My mind grabbed hold of the word, quickly pushing it into the caution section of my brain. I shrugged my shoulder and startled Vinney enough so he backed off. Not too far, but far enough I didn't worry about him nipping a big hunk of ear away.

Vinney is one of the trotting horses Ron Emerson and Mark Holtan raise and race. It's late enough in the year the horses are stabled at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds instead of at Emerson's veterinary clinic in Eagle Grove. The guys take care of them every day, hooking them up to the sulky for practice laps.

That day I'd dragged my husband and daughter to the fairgrounds to let them share the fun. He stayed in the van, watching from the comfort of the soft seat, and she got close enough to Vinney to realize horses are much bigger up close than grazing in a field, so she spent most of her time coaxing the stable cat out of its cubbyhole.

I, on the other hand, wanted to help. By that time Emerson had put Vinney back in his stall and latched Cool Place in the middle of the stable alley. Because I stood close enough to Vinney's stall, he started the nuzzling trick. I figured he was just showing how much he liked me, but Emerson was fairly certain the horse was working up to an after-work out snack.

Given the choice of cleaning the stall or brushing down Cool Place, I quickly reached for the brush. It's been a long time since Dad milked cows, but I still know the difference between a brush and a wheel barrow.

Though she wouldn't get close to either horse, my daughter said she could see the difference between the two of them, noting how dainty Cool Place looked compared to Vinney. She certainly looked beautiful trotting around the track.

Somehow I didn't finish my brushing gig before Emerson finished his cleaning, so he took the brush and reminded me "she isn't a show horse" as he covered her rump with harness straps. That's just wrong - she has the right to look shiny bright while sweating in the sun on the track.

Being in the stable reminded me of the year I was 10 and my family went to the Iowa State Fair. I spent most of my time at the stables used by horses racing for grandstand entertainment.

Funny how something like brushing a horse can take years off your life.

So long friends, until the next time when we're together.

Sandy Mickelson, retired lifestyle editor of The Messenger, may be reached at



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