Guest Author - Susan Hopf
For years (decades actually), around Halloween time, I have spooked the boarders in my barn by setting up a dummy dressed like a rider. Sometimes in breeches and riding coat with helmet and whip in hand or sometimes in an oilskin duster with a few cobwebs here and there he just sits quietly in a corner of the bench at one end of the indoor arena. The best (scary-wise that is) years have been when I placed him under the switch for the arena lights. They are vapor lights and take some time to brighten enough to see. Most don’t notice him until they walk back in with horse in hand to ride. He doesn’t move or make any strange noises but, I think, because he is not too out of place, this mysterious barn visitor, goes unnoticed until you realize (or question) whether or not he really belongs there. He has only rarely scared the bejeezers out of anyone but creeps even me out as he watches you ride with his unseeing eyes – sitting there – just watching – never moving – just watching.
My next favorite Halloween with horses prank is to run up the driveway and around the house as the headless horseman – just before the dong of the doorbell winds down. With blood dripping down my severed neck, maggots coming from the eyes of my head, of course carried in my raised hand, my horse covered in flowing and tattered garb, and both of us wailing with a screech that will wake the dead of those buried across the street (I do live across from the village cemetery) – oh my I lust for the thrill of scattering the remainder of goblins, firemen, Square Bobs and Hannah Montanas – all the while hoping that next year they will avoid my house altogether because “that crazy old horse lady lives there and hands out horse poo with worms for treats”. This is, unfortunately, just a fantasy generated, every year, at about 9:30 pm when I no longer find the costumes cute, the doorbell has rung a million times, even the dogs no longer get up to bark and I have already given away half of the Milky Ways I was hoping to have leftover for my own indulging. Ding donggggggggg – oh well – gotta go.
Speaking of the Headless Horseman – the Sleepy Hollow movie with Johnny Depp has some of the most outstanding riding throughout the movie. The scene when the villagers are in the church and the headless fellow rides his horse around the white picket fence that borders consecrated ground is truly extraordinary. The horse is perfectly Classical in his carriage and is executing the most technically correct and beautiful passage. A passage is a highly elevated trot that moves more up and down than forward and is a rather difficult movement. I often watch this scene just for inspiration.
Another scene that is more scare than correct horsemanship is when the horse and rider jump out of the roots of the ancient and huge tree which is really the entrance to the underworld. The effects are amazingly real and it takes my breath away even though I know its coming. The movie in and of itself is quite good and I try to gather my boarders together sometime every fall to watch it – the fact that it offers horses and good riding is just icing on the cake.
Speaking of cake – horses like treats (or more precisely will trample anyone that stands in their way for a treat) and something you can do during pumpkin season is to stuff a pumpkin for each horse full of apples and carrots (both cut up) and let them roll them around in the pasture. The pumpkin is safe to eat and some horses like them, others not so much, but either way they all have great fun trying to get to the treats inside. Good eating and good fun – what could be better.
Happy Halloween and no need to worry if you notice more witches’ and fairy knots (those twisted snarls in the manes of horses that seem to come from no where – they are actually reins and/or stirrups produced by witches and fairies for their night time rides – yes on your horse) – All Hallows Eve is, after all, the time of year for such folk to celebrate.