As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m currently in the middle of an almost 3-week long barnsitting stint. With 9 horses in my care, including a foal, it’s definitely a lot of work (especially doing it around my regular job) but I do enjoy it a lot. The money is good, and time spent in the barn, cleaning stalls or feeding or sweeping, has always felt a bit cathartic. At least on the days when it’s not 105+ degrees. On those days I just think I’m probably an idiot and wonder why I couldn’t fall in love with an indoor hobby.
While I try not to be too biased, I will admit that my favorite of my charges is Toni (aka Kovington), the black Trakehner stallion. This is probably partly because I’ve always really liked stallions and gotten along well with them over the years. They can be a little hormonal and stupid sometimes, sure, but a lot of them are also very kind and extremely intelligent. They usually also have a little bit of cheekiness about them (I love a cheeky little shit of a horse, I can’t help it), and Toni is no exception.
Toni is older, 20 this year, and he’s been around the block a time or two by this point. He can size you up right away and figure out just how much he can get away with, to the point where you can sometimes almost hear him chuckling to himself at your expense. He always knows what the point of “too far” is, though, and he’s careful to never cross it.
Toni is also completely beautiful. He’s big and solid black, well-muscled, and has a walk like a cougar. I am generally not a big Trakehner fan, but he is by the only Trakehner stallion I really like – Enrico Caruso. He likes to prance and “talk” on his way out to turnout while he’s passing the ladies, whether they’re actually paying attention to him or not (usually not). He also makes a big impressive production about galloping a lap of his turnout when you first turn him loose, as if he’s trying to remind everyone of just how gorgeous he is. When I go to bring him in, usually all I have to do is call his name and he comes running up again, shaking his neck, always showing off.
In his stall he’s basically a puppy – 100% gentle and would not hurt a fly, but also maybe don’t turn your back to him or he might grab the back of your shirt, or turn your muck bucket over, or grab your muck fork and drool all over it/throw it out the window. He’s also got these big lazy floppy lips that you can’t help but want to wiggle, even if he looks at you like you’re embarrassing the hell out of him while you do it. He’s really goofy, but he doesn’t want to admit it… not good for his street cred.
Last weekend I hopped on him for the first time, just taking him on a quick hack around one of the fields. If it’s possible for a horse to feel regal and noble and elegant and sophisticated, he does. Sometimes horses just give you that feeling that they’re special, and Toni is one of them.
Toni isn’t the first stallion I’ve dealt with, but he’s one of my favorites. He reminds me a lot of one of my favorite horses ever, the stallion Valentino Z, who just passed away. Valentino was also extremely intelligent and kind, much like Toni, and also brimming with plenty of personality.
I’m not generally the kind of person that falls in love with other peoples’ horses, but I have to admit that I’ve got a real soft spot for Toni. In a way he kind of embodies everything that makes a kid fall in love with horses in the first place, back in those simpler times when all you saw while looking at a horse was a big beautiful creature that was awe-inspiring beyond measure. Not conformation, not breed, not suitability, not gaits, just… plain and simple beauty. It seemed like every cheesy kid’s book about horses featured a black stallion in it somewhere. It’s nice to be reminded of that sometimes – to see one that is so magnificent that they can stop you in your tracks and make you appreciate the sheer perfection of the animal in front of you. Toni does a great job of that.