“Horses were not always house pets.”

This sits alone in a margin of an old gradebook. I have no context for it, although another Horror a few pages later does mention a character in Equus, so maybe this student was also writing about that play, although I have never taught it in a course.

I once had a student who built her assigned literature anthology on the subject of horses. This gradebook is from the University where I used that assignment. Perhaps, then, it is a statement from her anthology’s Introduction. In that case, it might have been one of those opening statements that offer the reader a quick and breathtakingly generalized vision of history.

Did she then mean to observe that horses were not always domesticated but used to live free and wild? But many domesticated animals live in designated areas other than their human family’s own dwelling. Even back in the days when domestic animals lived under the same roof as their human family, they were segregated from the rest of the living quarters and were definitely not thought of as “pets” or invited to climb up on laps or sofas.

I had to share this, if only for the bizarre image…although the thought did cross my mind that I might find a nice picture of a wild horse to drive home the point, as it were. My consequent trip through Creative Commons yielded a photo so bizarre that I hesitate to put it here although Creative Commons would let me. It is evidently “from Francesca Romana” and may have something to do with the closing of a horse track in Milan. It is so appropriate to this post that it might almost be a photo taken or inspired by my student. Anyway, I invite you to follow this link and judge for yourself whether horses have, in fact, become house pets unbeknownst to you or me: https://www.flickr.com/photos/banamine/5069308545/

Beyond this, I believe my student’s sentence needs no further comment. Let it stand as unembellished and unexplained. Enjoy imagining contexts for it, or picturing the many dimensions of strangeness that lurk beneath her serene observation.

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

10 responses to ““Horses were not always house pets.”

  • Mary Jane Schaefer

    Ah, Ruth Anne, in the distant past, when I was a grader for Michael Goldman’s superb Shakespeare for English Majors course, the final
    exam I designed and corrected was very fair. I gave eight essays questions. Pick ONE and write an essay. With a warning: don’t tell me the plot. I already know the plot. So, why did the girl who knew nothing about the hunting dogs in a Midsummer Night’s Dream WRITE about them? Perhaps she hadn’t read any of the plays? In any case, I was bug-eyed with astonishment to read about the barking of the mysterious HAUNTING DOGS loose on the moors of Theseus’s territory. And don’t forget the fog. (As in, “I haven’t the foggiest”?)

    • RAB

      The Hounds of the…Athenians? Did they bark in the night? Did they cry Havoc, or perhaps “Boo!”? Maybe she just knew more about haunting dogs than hunting dogs? Jeeze. Read ’em and weep, as they say in a completely other context….

  • solberg73

    Mr Ed the talking horse was decidedly *not* “always a house-pet, never a ride” as has been snickered in the press. {Ed- check the stats; I knocked the living saddles off some stiff contendas at Pimlico back in the day!}
    And his owner was likewise *not* ‘always a rapist”. {ed- a simple typo in his business-card bio; should have read ‘Doctor ‘O’: Therapist-at large’
    Seriously; perhaps the ‘dom’= ‘house’ root of ‘domesticated’ influenced this error.
    And as ever; your posts are always inspiring, never dull.

  • Susan P

    Oh dear. No one has more horror stories than English/Literature teachers. Except, maybe, Stephen King.

    • RAB

      Stephen’s got nothing on us. Maybe it’s time for a movie that gives life to some of these statements. Why should WE be the only ones running screaming into the night?

  • yearstricken

    I’ve heard that people stopped keeping them as pets because of all the horseplay.

    • RAB

      Your lines are better than mine, my dear YS. Which reminds me…when would you like to do a guest blog for me? You may have noticed that my nose is not as reliably being honed on the grindstone of late….

  • RAB

    Dear Yearstricken…Watch those papers for Horrors, so when you do have time you’ll have fodder. (For house-pet horses or otherwise!) I cannot imagine 24 teaching hours in one semester–the most I ever managed to carry was 15, and that about killed me. Blessings on your head.

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