Have you ever heard of the dreaded Horse Addiction? If you are a horse person, you probably know something about it. We Nathans are experts. It's cost us friends and a ton of money. We've talked about the problem with our current friends, most of whom are also severely addicted. We proposed a new organization, modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous, but with a kickier name: Horse Addicts of Yesterday-- or HAY! We also proposed 12 step meetings before, during, and after horse shows. And even-- acknowledging just how bad the addiction is--during horse show classes. Yes, your HAY! sponsor would ride double with you during your classes, singing the HAY! anthem, and urging you to stay in control! Talk about commitment!

We've written this report to let you know that we tried HAY! -- and it failed. First off, not too many horse addicts want to kick. None, actually. In hopes that someone who reads this will be moved to quit, a transcript of an actual HAY! meeting follows. Hopefully, none of you will sink to the depths of depravity shown here. Treatment professionals should find it invaluable. Many resemblances exist between horse addiction and addictions to hard drugs. For instance, a heroin addict may get clean of heroin, but later become an alcoholic. Or cocaine addict. Similarly, someone addicted to hunter-jumpers or three day eventing may break that addiction and find him/herself hooked by a reined stock horse. Or even a mule. Or driving. Sad, but true. Arab riders may change to weirder horses, such as Peruvian Pasos. (Our research shows that no one switches into Arab addiction from another breed. We suspect that Arab addiction is caused by a mutant gene. Or possibly alien abduction.)

Anyway, while HAY's! time on earth was short, it did provide us with valuable insights. For instance, we know that horse addiction is totally untreatable. One bright spot is that future generations may not exhibit a tendency toward it, as true of many other addictions. For instance, we asked one woman how she felt about horses. She said, "I hate horses. My father had race horses." Gasp. The worst horse addiction, feeding another addiction, gambling. The woman went on, "I spent my childhood cleaning stalls. I was unpaid barn help at stinking fairgrounds. My father spent our FAMILY FORTUNE on his lousy horses!! I hate horses." She started raving and was carted away....

Yielding a nugget for all horse-addicted parents: Indulge those horse related cravings, Mom and Dad, and make your kids free! They'll hate horses so much they'll never follow your example. And--you'll get what you really want! You need that new saddle! Horse! Ranch!

The kids don't need college that much.



Okay. Here's the transcript. This HAY! meeting took place at an unnamed all-breed horse show in the American West. Names have been changed to protect the obvious. Read and weep. This could be you.

Alana K., wiping her eyes: "I used to have a beautiful 10,000 square foot house. With granite counters. And a Sub-Zero. A swimming pool. A full time maid! My hands!" She looks at her hands and cries. "I had perfect hands. Like a lady!" The group waits for Alana to compose herself. She does, "Now, I have a 1,200 square foot shack. There's holes in the walls! The toilet leaks. My refrigerator came from Sears. Used. I don't even have a cleaning lady...." She breaks down. "My job! Oh! My job!" Someone says, "Did you lose your job, too, Alana?" A gruff, Germanic voice intervenes, "No cross talk!" It's Fritz, the HAY! leader. Boy,he is tough! Alana moans, "No. I have three jobs. I have to pay my vet bills! My trainer! The hay man! You know how it is, feeding a habit." Anguished looks. No one will meet her eyes.

"And my husband!" Alana sobs. "How could he do that to me? After all these years!" Alana sobs, then lapses into silence. What did the creep do? Cheat on her? Leave her? When she can, Alana speaks, "He beat me at the Nationals! I should have won that pleasure class! I deserved the Blue! I earned it!" Alana's eyes look demented. "But I fixed him" She lets out a barely audible chuckle and rubs her hands. "I cut him off in the finals!! Rode him right into the wall! See if he beats me again." A murmur rumbles around the room. Of what? Anger? Approval? Of good job, Alana? Way to go? What does the crowd's strange energy mean?

Alana looks unhinged. "I don't care if I have a lousy house! I've got 264 acres! 40 box stalls! Pastures! A round pen! Hot walker! And a LIGHTED INDOOR ARENA! I don't care about my old house! All my old friends! My family! I don't care that I have to work every waking minute to pay my trainer and vet! Just seeing Bootsy out there, playing in his corral is enough! Bootsy and Tootles and Foxen and Lord of the Manor, and Elvis, VaVoom, Voodoo, Ringo..... Violet, Rosie..." Alana can't go on naming her horses because of the stomping and whistling from the others. "Atta way, Alana! You go, Girl! Who needs a house! You have 40 box stalls! Ride right over him the next time, Sugar!" They're out of control.

Fritz, a three day event rider before joining HAY!, cuts in, "Please! No cross talk. Just tell your own story." He pauses, and addresses Alana, his prerogative as group leader. "Alana, I'm getting really nervous hearing you. I think you better talk to your sponsor." "You're my sponsor, Fritz." Oh. He hadn't been listening to her during their sessions. Fritz couldn't stop thinking about a copy of "Reined Horse Rider". The pictures! When he was jumping and doing dressage, Fritz never noticed how beautiful the reined stock horses were. How much skill it takes to ride them. How cool cows were, either, or how awesome Western riding clothes are. The craving to ride a cutter or reiner is overwhelming. With difficulty, Fritz brings his attention back to the room.

A new group member, Sandy N., is telling her pitiful tale, so much like all the others'. "I've been crazy about horses my whole life. Maybe even before that. I had a past life regression that said I was a cavalry officer in....." Fritz: "Stick to this life, Sandy. Its the rules." "But I'm from California..." "No past lives, even if it is a major part of your culture!" She wilts, then recovers. "Well, my first horse was a bay gelding named 'Spice'." The crowd perks up at the physical description of a horse. "He was so great! He bucked in circles. Nailed me so many times I can't count." Aw. How cute! He bucked her off! "He had trouble with flying lead changes. But you could rope off of him..." Misty looks around the room. A first horse story!

June P is moved to tears, "I had a bay gelding once..." Sandy fires back viciously, "This is my story! Butt out!" No one will ever cut her off! In the show ring, or out of it. "Once I had a horse, my life became unending trail rides and parades. Riding lessons. A drill team. But I really got hooked when I got into horse shows." Nods. Shows were the worst! Best! The adrenaline! The thrill of victory! The lust for revenge! Sandy went on, "I got a real good gray gelding. Came from one of the Rose brothers out in Hollister, California." No one appreciates her dated name dropping. June,wiping her eyes,starts up with her story, "I had a gray gelding, too." Alvin: "Me, too!" Suzy, "Me, too! He caulked and died." Oh, no! Colic is the worst. The group starts to cry.

Sandy N. barks out, "Hey! I'm not done. That gray gelding was good, but my last horse as a kid was incredible! A thoroughbred Quarter Horse cross. Bucked like a rodeo horse, but when she worked, Wow!" The atmosphere in the room becomes electric. Did she win? People clutch their chairs. "She could spin like nobody's business. And stop! She won the California State Reserve Champion Junior Stock Horse title one year. Incredible horse! Her name was 'Robin Rose.'" Sandy's voice becomes worshipful, uttering the animal's name. Group members burst out with their own horse show wins. Jill: "I won the AHSA Hunt Seat Medal Class in Madison Square Garden when I was 17!" "Wow, Jill!" She beams. Harvey, "Well, my mare was National Grand Champion last year!"

Fritz cuts in, scowling, "This is bad talk, talking about winning. Talking about horse shows." His face takes on its harshest look, "But, if you want to talk about these things, I won more than any of you. That's why I'm the HAY! leader! I won everything! In the Fatherland, they still talk of my winning. When I come to this pathetic country, I win even more..."

"Shut up, Fritz!" Handling rank horses has made a woman of Sandy. "No one cares about what you did in the Old Country. Or here. And it's still my turn!" She bursts into tears, "I never should have sold Robin!" Abject anguish. Shirley, "Why don't you just buy her back?" "She'd be 57 years old, if she was alive." Sobs. "She died in someone else's barn! I never should have let her go. She had so much cow! The last guy who owned her liked her so much he bred her to his stallion, even though she was 27 years old. My Robin had a filly! Supposedly better than her mother!" The air grows hard. Jaws clench.

"What color was she?" "Bay." A good, conservative color. Correct anywhere. "I heard he baby had more cow than her mother." "Robin had lots of cow?" Fritz could picture the mare before him, dark bay, incredible hocks. Great short back. An incredible stop. "Vere is this baby mit all der cow?" Fritz' German accent gets more noticeable when he's excited. The air is thick as cheese. People are shifty eyed, picking up their purses and briefcases, sidling toward the door. "She's in Bakersfield. In California." All the western riders calculate mentally: "Not too bad, 18 hours across the desert in the middle of the night. Not too far to see a good prospect."

Fritz starts the stampede, "Vell, my friends. I joost remember I have appointment right now." (10 PM on Saturday night?) "Ve have to end zee meeting. Bye-bye." Fritz runs for the door, jamming it from the outside, buying himself a precious few moments. He's pulling out the parking lot when the rest stream out, having climbed out the windows. They scream obscenities at Fritz as they jump into their trucks. The race to Bakersfield is on.

Where is Bakersfield, exactly? Where is Robin's filly, assuming they find Bakersfield? The group pulls out their cell phones at the exact same second, calling Bakersfield information and creating an historic jam up. Each participant in the race calls every horse-sounding establishment the operator comes up with, including the Carousel Coffee Shop. Their finely tuned stalking instincts fully operational, the hunters seek and find the target. Robin's baby is at Elvis DeNiro's Training Stables just outside of town. The real action begins! Those cell phones are smokin'! Sotheby's never saw an auction like this!

Fritz wins the bidding war, paying $18K for a 30 year old mare he's never seen! What a guy! But that's why he was the HAY! leader. The group pulls into Elvis' yard at the same time. Elvis pulls out Fritz' new mare, Blue Bay-O. She's down in the back, half blind, and staggers when she walks. She still has great pasterns. Elvis shakes a toy shaped like a cow. It makes a mooing noise. Blue Bay-O drops halfway to the ground, crouching like one of the horses in the magazines, ears going like radar, looking for a bovine. "Wow," says Fritz. "That's cow!" The others stand around admiring Fritz and his purchase. He has what it takes to be a HAY! leader-- unquenchable desire.


Yes, she's a real horse. The photo was the last time I showed her back in 1965. The show was "Tally Ho", at the Menlo Circus Club in Atherton, California. They still hold the show every year. The photo illustrates a number of important points: (1) I really did wear size 29 jeans once. (2) Almost every aspect of horsemanship is better now than in the "good old days". You'd see jerky stops like this back then, the horses' mouths open and heads thrown up. Training and horsemanship have improved incredibly. Modern Western riding is as elegant as dressage. (3) Robin had great hocks. Look that those hocks! Umm!

I didn't sell Robin. I gave her away. Twice. The last time when she was in her mid-twenties to a big Southern California trainer whose name I can't remember to save my life. He did breed her and get that baby! That baby-- or its baby, or its-- is out there! Please, please, if you see a horse that looks like the horse in this photo or maybe its child or grandchild, e-mail me!

Baby! Gramma's here! Come back! I didn't mean to give your great great grandma away!! It was all a mistake! Come back!

As you can see, beating horse addiction is not easy! We don't know anyone who's actually done it. Oh, some have used cheap tricks to escape. Bankruptcy. Going to jail. Death. You might as well admit defeat. The only thing to do is enjoy the ride and company!

All the best to my fellow addicts!


















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