Intrusive

An inconsequential thing happened today that my mind refuses to let go of.

My son and I went to a National Trust estate for the day, and along one of the boundaries was a field full of horses. Before heading home, we went and sat overlooking them to have a drink and a snack. There was a huge ditch on the horse’s side, so we were resigned to the fact that the horses wouldn’t come over, even though we both not-so-secretly still hoped they would.

We sat and ate and drank and talked about horses and which ones had penises, and while we weren’t paying attention, one snuck up on us. A horse. With a penis. The ditch meant we couldn’t really stroke him, but, rather excited, I reached out and gave him a tiny piece of apple. I have a degree in equine science. I would never advocate feeding strangers’ horses, and I am also aware that apples are sugary and thus, despite what we’ve been told, not the best treat for horses. However, there is a small horse-crazed child still living inside me, and she was sitting next to another small child who, himself, is quite partial to a horse. And we wanted to be friends. And maybe, frankly, I think I’m above the law because I’ve studied equine nutrition at degree level.

Then a lady ran toward us shouting “please don’t feed them!”, and I said “oh, okay, sorry!”, and she said it again and I said it again, and Malachi asked why we couldn’t feed them and I explained that she must be the horse’s owner and she was in charge of looking after them, so if she didn’t want us to feed them then we had to respect that. And she came over and asked what I fed him, and I wryly said “a little piece of apple” feeling like I might as well have said “a big mac” and she shook her head and said “no. The sugar in the apple gives them laminitis.” And I nodded blandly and said “okay, sorry”, while repressing the urge to suggest she was stretching the truth just a little bit if she was saying a 1.5 inch chunk of apple was going to cause laminitis, and wondering if I should explain that I did know a bit about horses and, while I totally understood why she didn’t want me to feed her horse and I shouldn’t have done it, it really was just a tiny bit and I wouldn’t have given him the whole thing even, let alone like a bagful. And then, dissatisfied with my limp response, she said some other things that I can’t remember now as she ineffectually tried to shoo the horse away. And then she told Malachi that giving horses apples makes them poorly, and he looked at her in quiet, sad horror, so I said that a tiny bit wouldn’t do them any harm, but if they had too mu- “No, a tiny bit DOES do harm!! I’ve lost horses because of apples!” to which I passively did a sort of slow nod and waited for her to go away.

Malachi is not well-acquainted with death euphemisms because we just say things are dead, so he simply thought she was a bit silly and had misplaced some large animals, perhaps by confusing them for fruit. But, after she went off to eye us from a safe distance, I clarified anyway that, while it was probably not a good idea for us to feed the horse without permission, that lady seemed to be a bit extra worried because she’d had horses get poorly from too many apples before, and the amount we had given the horse was not going to have any adverse effects. But, no, we couldn’t just get on them and ride them away. And we sat and finished our drinks and our snacks, and the lady walked around in the field casting suspicious glances our way once in a while.

And now I can’t stop thinking about the fact that, to her, I probably looked like I wasn’t taking her at all seriously and was instead lurking in wait to spring upon her horses with sugary treats the moment her back was turned.