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After Work: The Horse Whisperer Of Loxahatchee

“…And so I came to meet the Horse Whisperer of Loxahatchee. The Horse Whisper is a slender woman who appears to be in her seventies. She wears her white hair in a single braid down her back and favors old Disney World tee shirts, well-worn jeans and aged boots...''

Dona Gibbs paints a graphic literary portrait of a lady who loves horses.

Each December and January the unofficial parade of horse trailers rumbles into Wellington, Florida. These are not the usual one- or two-horse claptrap affairs that snarl traffic on narrow country lanes. These are horse equivalents of rock star tour buses, holding a dozen or more super stars of the equine world.

For seven weeks beginning in late January through the middle of March, Wellington is the place to be for horses, their riders and the people who love them (a.k.a. Mom and Dad.) Last year the Post Beach Post reported that 5,000 horses came rolling in for the Winter Equestrian Festival, the largest event of its kind in the world. Sixty-one horses were flown in from Europe.

At the height of the festival eight rings are occupied simultaneously. Sleek hunters and jumpers, elegant dressage mounts, pampered ponies—they’re all there ready to perform.

Between events there’s practice, horsy hydrotherapy. (Imagine the size of that whirlpool) special Pilates' classes for their riders, massage sessions for both.

Saddle makers, boot makers, blacksmiths, hay and grain merchants, vets, trainers, tutors, grooms, clothiers horse dentists—yes, you read that right—horse dentists, creators of custom made tack boxes, jewelry designers and interior decorators eager to add that proper horsy touch to your home all do their part to add to the spectacle.

It’s all pretty amazing for a town that was built out of what was the world’s largest strawberry patch and before that 18,000 acres of swampland. Now there are gated equestrian communities with beautiful multi-million-dollar homes and equally impressive stables. There are incredible brand new mansions with palatial stables and covered riding rings on unpaved sandy roads.

During the season, year-rounders try to top one another with celebrity spotting in the local Publix. Yes, even Hollywood stars occasionally have to pick up a loaf of bread. And Hollywood celebs can be parents of horse crazed teenage daughters.

Each year when I pick up the local paper during the Festival I can count on seeing a least one article on horse manure. And I pity the low-man-on–the-totem-pole reporter whose task it is to research and write it.

It’s estimated that a thousand-pound horse produces about fifty pounds of manure a day. 5,000 horses. Forty-nine days, Whew! And it’s all got to be put somewhere and I haven’t seen any mushroom farms around Wellington.

There’s another horse world in the adjoining community of Loxahatchee -one far less affluent. With all these horses around, I was eager to ride again. I didn’t think I was quite ready for a high-powered barn and trainer.

And so I came to meet the Horse Whisperer of Loxahatchee. The Horse Whisper is a slender woman who appears to be in her seventies. She wears her white hair in a single braid down her back and favors old Disney World tee shirts, well-worn jeans and aged boots. She is absolutely dotty about horses. Or maybe just plain dotty.

Her stable is on a dirt road named for a letter of the alphabet. There are roads named A through F, at least. It’s as if the planners had built the roads and then lacked the imagination to give them spiffy names. Or maybe they thought no one would ever live out there.

The Horse Whisperer came limping out of the barn, stuck out her callused turquoise be-ringed hand and pumped mine vigorously.

I was more than a little concerned about her limp. I didn’t think it boded well.

“Oh, this old hip of mine, “She laughed. “I fell off the curb at Taco Bell. Dropped my durn enchilada too.”

She squinted past me to the distant fields where a large dump truck was making it way down a path.

“He’s up to his old tricks,” she huffed. He’s dumping manure illegally, bringing it over from Wellington. Gotta get the Law after’im again.”

So, the Manure Issue has tinges of economic class warfare. Here the richer dumping on the poorer was literal, not figurative.

“ This is your lucky day. You’re gonna ride my baby,” she said as she led out a horse who was the walking definition of long in the tooth.

“I rescued him. Yes, didn’t I, snookums? They were gonna make dog food out of your po’ bag of bones.

She leaned into his shoulder and the horse relaxed against her.

“You know, they call me the Horse Whisperer of Loxahatchee. That’s what that fellow from the paper wrote about me.

“When we lived up North on Long Island, people from the track used to call me for emergencies, you know, to calm skittish horses. Even caught a runaway once. The poor horse was just out of his mind. Everybody thought he might jump the fence and head for the highway. I came out and whistled. He stopped, turned and looked at me and then came walking right up to me, friendly as a puppy.

“Lead Sugar over that that old kitchen chair over there. That’s my mounting block and we’ll see how you do.

While I walked and trotted and walked and trotted Sugar around the ring, The Horse Whisperer told me more of her story through a megaphone. Somehow I knew I wasn’t the first recipient of this tale.

“My husband and I moved down here about twenty years ago with all my babies, horses I’d rescued. That pony you saw back there. He was out in this little bitty paddock, up to his hocks in mud. Not a scrape of hay. No water. Not a feed bucket in sight. The neighbors called the animal control people and they called me.

“My daughter was a nationally ranked rider. We had this one horse, he could float over the jumps and Susie did well with him at the Festival. But you know, that’s a money game over there in Wellington and Susie got busy with college,” she sighed through the megaphone.

“Well, I think that’s enough for Sugar today. Next time we’ll work on trotting over poles and maybe some figure eights or a canter-- if Sugar’s up to it.

Back in the barn we wiped Sugar dry and put his blanket on.

“Now let me show you a trick he can do.” She leaned towards the horse and puckered her lips.

“Give Mama a kiss.”

And Sugar puckered as well as a horse can pucker and kissed her.


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