Seniors & Aging

Pam Stone | The tale of a horse with no tail

Anna at the feed store bought a new horse.

Technically, a pony.

“He was bred to race but he just stopped growing at 14.1 hands,” she explained, totting up my order of timothy and alfalfa hay, shavings, two bags of grain and a Snickers, “So they had to figure out something to do with him.”

“Ponies can be hugely successful! The Lamb won the Grand National, twice,” I reminded her of the diminutive grey that first took the honor in 1868.

“Well, he doesn’t have that much speed but he’s sweet, and wasn’t very expensive and he’s beautiful, except...”


Anna lowered her voice so that those browsing chicken scratch and gate hinges couldn’t hear.

“He doesn’t have a tail.”

“Born that way?” I asked, perplexed.

“No,” she sighed, “the horse he shared a paddock with ate all the hair off it and it never grew back. I mean, it looks like a foal’s tail: he’s got a little fluff that covers the dock (tail bone, covered by muscles and skin, for you cityfolk), but at the end of it, there’s no skirt of hair. Now, it doesn’t bother me because, it’s like a car: I don’t see the dent in the trunk when I’m driving, so who cares, and I don’t see his bobtail when I’m riding, but I couldn’t bear the thought of him not having anything to swish away flies.”

“So tell her what you did, Anna,” chimed in the gal that worked the register on the other side of the room.

“I’ll tell you what I did,” Anna chirped, “I went to Sally’s Beauty Supply and bought him hair extensions!”

In my mind, I imagined that shopping trip. Anna has soft, curly, brown hair and what she bought for “Happy” was a handful of glossy, long, black, locks. Don’t you know the sales clerks had a good sniggle behind her back: “Does she really think that’s gonna look good with the rest of her hair?”

“The problem is,” Anna went on to explain, “human hair is really expensive, and I couldn’t afford too much, and it was a bear to attach each section to his dock with a grommet and braid into what little he’s got and then use a pair of pliers to clamp it in place, so he’s just got a few of these stringy clumps of hair hanging down.”

“Like Bob Marley?” I asked, signing my credit slip.

“Not quite that good,” she replied.

Poor Happy.

“No, he loves it!” Anna declared. “At first, he started swattin’ his tail back and forth against his sides like a windshield wiper, trying to figure out what it was, but now he just uses it like any other horse. It just doesn’t look very real.”

“Now that it’s warm, I finally shaved my legs,” I said, catching the eye of the man waiting patiently behind me for these two women to stop gabbing so he could ring up his dog food, “And I was gonna donate it to Locks of Love but you can have it, instead, for Happy, if you want.”

The man didn’t even crack a smile. Tough room.

“Actually,” said Anna, “I’m making a sign, right here, for anyone that might want to donate some of their horse’s hair. I prefer black, as that’s his natural color, but, really, I’ll take anything.”

As I drove home, it occurred to me that I had a horsehair fly swisher in my tackroom – an unbelievably decadent token that was given to me by friends in Los Angeles, as a goodbye gift as I was about to move to South Carolina.

“Because there’s all kinds of bugs there, right?” they asked, giving me this beautifully hand-woven, Hermes, leather handle sporting a thick, long, swatch of real horse hair. I’ve only used it once, while riding on a trail, to swat away the deer flies that torture the ears and neck of a horse, and it seems a waste for so expensive a gift. I could give this to Anna!

The only problem: the hair is green.

Well, if pop star Katy Perry can sport hair the same, exact, shade, so can Happy, right?

Poor Happy.