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December 27, 2013: Other People’s Messes

If you go (on the web) to Craig’slist Alaska, first to the for sale section, and then to the Farm and Garden section, you’ll come to a header that reads Icelandic Foal. If you then look at the ad, you will see three photos, all of a pinto foal, born on December 7, 2013.

You might then, as I did, say What gives? Foals aren’t supposed to be born in December. That is unless the stallion broke through a fence and impregnated the mare 336 days previously, which I suspect is what happened in this particular instance. Either that, or it was an immaculate conception. Imagine it, the baby Jesus came back as an Icelandic filly. Near impossible, I’d say, because the gender would be all wrong. Jesus can only be a male.

And no one would purposely breed a mare with the expectation that it would foal in the dead of winter in Alaska. There are better times of the year for such things, like May, June, and July. This is a seasonal double-whammy – the cold’s hard on mares that are lactating and foals that are nursing.

Back when I was in college (I got an Associate’s Degree in Light Horse Management), my teachers repeatedly told us students that good fences make good neighbors. I listened with half an ear to this because at the time it bore no relevance to my life. I did not own a horse, nor did I expect to own one. I had designs on going on in veterinary science, so I figured that fencing was something that others would have to deal with. Fencing? Huh? We were also told that Osage orange made for the best posts. Arcane knowledge, even back then.

I eventually became an English major. And dang it, once again, fences came to the forefront of the academic conversation. In the instance I am thinking of, it was Robert Frost’s “The Mending Wall” – a poem that anyone who goes to school in New England must (in the words of William Wordsworth) “Murder to dissect.”

In part, the poem went “He is all pine and I am apple orchard/My apple trees will never get across/And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him/He only says ‘Good fences make good neighbors.” Entire dissertations have been written about these very lines – suffice to say, good fencing keeps sheep and cows, pine cones and apples, and mares and stallions from mixing it up.

Actually, we as Icelandic horse owners know this for a fact. Our dear Signy mixed it up with Skjor the day before met her. Their mating produced another pinto, Hrimfara. However, she was foaled in May, a far milder time of year.

What goes around comes around. Quite obviously, the owner of the new pinto foal didn’t have adequate fencing in place. If she had, there would be no December foal. And instead, I would be writing about today’s cross country ski adventure.

There should be a law (this is the finger shaking portion of this dispatch) in place which prevents this sort of thing from happening. Actually, there should be a board that enforces a law which requires that every horse owner in this state provide their horses with adequate shelter and food, and access to water, 24/7. The horse owners must show this board that they have a manure management plan in place and that they have good fencing in place. And by good fencing, I do not mean electric tape fencing. I mean solid fencing of a height no horse can jump or break through.

Of course, this would never come about here in Alaska, because Alaska is the place people run to in order to escape having to be beholden to anyone individual or group who might infringe on their so-called personal freedoms.

Now, if I had to go before a board and the board said that I couldn’t have horses because I have more than the required one horse per acre, I would comply, most likely by moving. And I would do this respectfully, and with a smile. This would go hand-in-hand with my belief that the board was acting in my horses’ best interest. And at the same time, in other people’s best interest.

In the meantime, we don’t have such a board. Just Animal Control. Your horse has to be really bad off for them to take action.

So, what about this foal? I fear for its future, just like I fear for the future of most Icelandic foals born in this dog forsaken place. The problem is this – Icelandic horses are wide-eyed, cute, pony-like, which is a strike against them. Most see these Muppet-like creatures as being suitable for the grandkids because of their size. And so they end up being handled in a way that’s antithetical to their breeding. The second-to-last end result is often that they’re trained in a fashion that causes them to become resistant (hence, the moniker ‘stubborn little pony’), and the end result is that they end up languishing away in someone’s barnyard. Few who acquire these nifty horses think to look at their training in relation to their history or background.

I am going to have to keep my fingers crossed that this pinto filly lucks out and ends up having a life that’s befitting its status as an exemplary riding horse.

Next: 287: 12/28/13 Rainbow Spangler