Horse People Sure Can Be Touchy

When you make fun of crap on the internet for a living, you learn incredibly surprising lessons about the utter touchiness of strangers. Hypersensitivity to the point of acting like a dick about it is not only unwarranted, it ends up ultimately doing the overreactor's cause an injustice, as reflects poorly on the cause as a whole. Now, in some cases, it's perfectly understandable why someone would be touchy because of their personal experience with a topic; we cover some heavy shit here, and often routinely-maligned enthusiasts of, say, stamp collecting have just about had it with the goddamn stamp collecting jokes. But in other cases, a seemingly innocuous topic elicits a shockingly whiny, complainy response. And no one has out-whined or complained the Horse Enthusiasts. They're nearly as loudly wounded as Rush Limbaugh fans.

I had no idea how serious a business fancy horses were until we started talking about Mitt Romney's horse that's more valuable than most entire families. And while I find it ruefully hilarious that a candidate for President spends hundreds of thousands of dollars and received a $77,000 tax credit on care of horses that dance and prance in competitions while most Americans would be completely financially destroyed by an extended stay in a hospital for humans, it turns out, horse raising is no fucking joke. In fact, joking about it actually means that I'm a citydwelling snob who hates America and fun and probably even God. Case in point: one of several emails I received after calling Rafalca Romney a Little Lord Fauntleroy horse, from a very concerned woman in Oregon named Judith:

Judith M******
Fri, Jun 22, 2012 at 12:50 PM
To: erin@jezebel.com
Subject: The truth about HORSES
You don't know anything about the horse culture in this country. There is way way more money spent on "western" riding disciplines - you know, the guy roping cows and playing rodeo at the local arena, the teen aged girl doing barrel racing for prize money - just the average trail rider...! The stud fees for the western horse and the number of them way outstrips the "hauty eastern disciplines" like dressage or jumping! People pay tens of thousands of dollars to breed their mares to the top western stallions in cutting as well as halter which is just a "beauty" contest! Go to your local county or state fair - you will see the cowboys and cowgirls proudly exhibiting their pampered darlings on which they have spent a high percentage of their income!

The word "dressage" is French for training. Like ballet, it takes many years and dedication and personal discipline to get a horse to that level - there are lots of everyday folks who work for a living who are working on dressage with their average horses! You insult us with your ignorant snobbery!

Judith M******
Silverton, Oregon

You'd think I'd have learned my lesson about angering the horse people, since I clearly know nothing about "the horse culture" in this country. For what it's worth, I grew up on a hobby farm in rural Wisconsin and was President of the West Sweden 4-H club for like 3 years back when I was a youth, during which I, in my snobbery, forced all of my fellow agriculturally inclined youths to eschew livestock in favor of doing city snob things like attending performance art exhibitions and looking at farmers with a wrinkled nose and complaining about sushi that isn't fresh enough. But making fun of Mitt Romney's expensive horse means I'm a snob because I don't consider that western riding is more expensive? I'm confused. Anyway, I made the mistake of engaging with Judith by telling her that she should learn that not every article on the internet is a direct affront to her, personally, and that she should distance herself from what she reads.

She responded,

JUDITH M******
Fri, Jun 22, 2012 at 7:59 PM
To: Erin Ryan
It's a business you nitwit! They pay trainers, riders, grooms, buy hay, grain, vet care...lots of people make their living off rich people's hobby's! How much did "I'll Have Another" (winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness this year) cost? Check out THEIR tax forms! YOU are the snob here!

This was just one of multiple wounded, irate messages from horse enthusiasts, because apparently some horse owners are like a forest floor blanket of trilliums — you poke fun at one, you insult literally all of them and threaten horses themselves with extinction. I never suggested that Romney's fancy horse be shipped to France and made into a ponyburger, or that no one should ever own horses or enjoy being around them, or that all horse riding people were silly. I'm a girl, you guys. I wanted a pony from age 5 to age 15, too. But, little did I know, when I brought Rafalca Romney into the mix, I inadvertently challenged thousands of horse lovers to a duel at sunrise. Horses, like rape, the Holocaust, pedophilia, AIDS, and kitten murder, are nothing to joke about. Serious business!

Look — I understand being fed up with being the butt of people's jokes. Whenever I get drunk and try to talk after spending more than a few days in the Midwest, I sound like a character from Fargo. I can't say the word "vague" correctly because I've got a weird accent. My feet smell like vinegar when I wear shoes without socks. I've given up trying to dance. I take way too long when I try to relay anecdotes because I'm awful at editing myself when I talk. I was really into chickens when I was too old to be into chickens (At 12, I had a pair of black rosecomb bantams that I named Peabody and Penny — nerdy, nerdy, nerdy shit). I spend so, so, so much time thinking about abortion and birth control that I'm boring to be around. I cry about stray animals. And all of these things are totally jokeworthy. But rather than stiffening and lashing out when anyone dares imply that something you enjoy is anything less than The Most Seriouspants Thing in the World That Must Be Addressed with Utmost Respect, just lighten the fuck up and join the joke fray. It's just more fun for everyone that way, and it's better for your blood pressure. Cardiovascular disease kills.

Either everything is varying degrees of ridiculous or nothing is, and a world where everything is dead serious all the time is a world that makes me want to put my head in an oven.

Plus, horses can sense it when you're too tense.

Horse Crazy/Shutterstock.