So I'm in the barn. The sound of the slaps resounded through the arena, echoed off the high ceiling of the scared space. Each followed by a steam of parental invective: "Now STOP that, mister. "if I even see----even see---those teeth of yours once more I'm going to make you sorry." "You know not to.........."
A few seconds later, another thwack, another sermon in Donna's mellifluous tones.
She and her horse, a young and strapping Dutch warmblood ( the breed of choice for every rider on the rise these days, the Lexus of horses), go through this routine every time they are together, he turning to pull at some bit of her clothing with his handsome teeth, she responding with a slap on his neck with her open palm and a foretaste of what she'd be like as a mother. No matter how colorfully strident her remonstrances, her horse was apparently too thick to get it. His English language skills failed to progress.
Every time I watch their pas de deux, I was reminded of dog owners who keep crying "Come Buster, come. Come, come!" as their dogs are running merrily away. Their calls arise from the bottom of a deep well into which they didn't even know they had fallen, unable to escape: the well of speech. If only someone could pass a law prohibiting the use of spoken language in animal training, or a least require alternates, such as chair for "sit," rice for "come." Then maybe people would realize they have to teach first, speak second. Or not at all----visual cues work just as well as verbal ones.
I wondered why Dalton did not inform Donna that if you have to rehearse the same play over and over again without ever getting to a real performance, it's the director's fault. Then again, knowing the financial role of Donna's fiancé in buying the expensive animal, as well as the natural recalcitrance of Donna's intellect to expand, I wasn't that surprised. Nonetheless, I remained appreciative of her wardrobe of trim $400.00 breeches and the fact that she stood definitively on one side of the great divide: women whose hair stayed perfectly coiffed no matter what they did around horses, and women like me.
The Fifteenth-Century mystic Margery Kempe saw a man striking a horse, and as she stared the image dissolved. Its particles reformed and there before her was Christ being lashed, his blood flowing like tears. Hey, maybe Margery ate too many mushroom. But to blasphemously put her beloved Christ's face where before there was only a beast's (only, certainly, the very least of his brethren) this, as we have come to see, is rank sentimentality, woman's foolishness. We are supposed to be civilizing ourselves out of it, but there is one slight problem. That Sentimentality, also know as compassion, is the one thing that has allowed human civilization to continue, for without it we would leave our children hungry into he streets and our babies tied to tables to learn how long it takes them to expire from neglect. As some British critic, I don't remember his name, who has the knack of seeing this clearly, has written: "Whenever people say 'we Mustn't be sentimental,' you can take it they are about do something cruel. And if they add,'We must be realistic,' they mean they are going to make money out of it.