There is something about horses that makes us humans, at least many of us, go “AAAHHH” in wonder and awe. They helped us conquer the world, carrying the heavy loads and pulling ploughs, trees, chariots and cannons, they are representative and prestigious in their elegance and the probably most popular companion for little girls. They have been bred and trained to be anything we desire: from cannon- and drum-horses during the wars we fought amongst each other, over plough- and tree-tuggers to the dancing horses trained to jump and twist and turn in Piaffes, Caprioles and Courbettes.
We have wandered, warred and conquered, become peaceful, settled and worked the land – and the horse has always been with us, mild-mannered and submissive enough to follow the lead from above. Often they follow us into situations they would, as flight animals, never engage in on their own accord because we trained them to lose their fear of certain things and situations. This entails entering a very small and claustrophobic space, such as a trailer, which is per se harmless and necessary so we as owners can move the horse to a different place (in case of illness or change of stabling). Every horse owner will agree with me that it can be a tricky task to train a horse to enter such a trailer, but it also can be done in a way that the horse might even enjoy staying in there without fear and without being stressed because the horse has learned that it won’t be hurt and trusts its owner. The time it takes to teach a horse is, naturally, dependant on the disposition of the horse.
This also entails staying calm in the face of flapping, fluttering barrier tapes, screaming kids, balloons and colourful (even though they can only see yellow and blue) balls because a horse that does not shy from these “dangerous” things is a safe horse for owner and horse itself. Just imagine riding out and then there is a field surrounded by barrier tape to keep people off it. Your horse shies backwards into a ditch, you fall down, your horse gets hurt, you get hurt and all that could have been avoided by the horse knowing barrier tape as something harmless where the worst thing that happens is to be given treats for being a good boy/girl. We did that with our horses so they would be calmer, more dependable and less stressed themselves. It is good to know that you don’t have to worry about every little thing since your horse will pick up on your worry through your terser signals and then it will become unsettled and more likely to shy even in a normal situation.
Now, it was again high-carnival-time in Germany. Mainz, Düsseldorf, Köln… all the Rhine-cities were filled to the brim with people who wanted to watch the big “Rosenmontags” parades in which also horses were part of the show. And it happened: two horses lost their heads, ran into people and a truck. People were hurt, the horses were allegedly hurt, too. According to the Kölner Rundschau (https://www.rundschau-online.de/region/koeln/karneval/koelner-rosenmontagszug-pferde-prallen-mit-kutsche-gegen-tribuene-29686336-seite2) they did not sedate any horses – which is good in my opinion –, checked their health and their suitability individually before they were allowed to start. The riders and the leaders (every horse has a leader that might help in a stressful situation) were also checked and had to be in possession of a certificate that ensures their aptitude to deal with stressful situations and ride well**. All these precautions haven’t stopped this accident to happen.
When I look at the picture on the left here (taken from
https://www.express.de/koeln/kutschen-unfall-im-rosenmontagszug-jetzt-aeussern-sich-die-treuen-husaren-29692310), I see no barricades, nothing to keep the people from running to the horses and touch them, nothing to keep children from running between the horses on their hunt for sweets*, which is a severe lack in health and safety restrictions. Horses can be trained to do a lot and bear a lot while keeping cool during all of this – just think of the police’s riding forces – and as Dr Zeitelhack, a veterinarian for horses, states in the interview of the Süddeutsche Zeitung: “Wenn die Gesamtsituation stimmt, also Reiter und Pferd erfahren und eingespielt sind, muss man in der Regel keine Sorge haben, dass etwas passiert. Wenn ein Unfall mit Pferden passiert, ist der Mensch Schuld“*** (-->“if the situation is under control, meaning horse and rider are experienced and a good team, one usually need not be afraid of something happening. If an accident that involves horses happens, the human is at fault for it”), but horses are still flight animals, prone to run away when they feel threatened and – in this case – are hit by flying objects. It seems that some very intelligent person thought it a good idea to throw something at the horses. The police are investigating the record of an eyewitness who stated that they saw someone throw a bottle at the horses, which is absolutely unacceptable.
I went to see the carnival parade in Mainz since I live about 100 metres away from the street the parade runs through. The street was barricaded in, every 50 metres or so was a team of policemen/women who monitored the partying people. It was peaceful and there were no horses that looked overly stressed, sure, you could see that there were one or two who were relatively new to this, but they had an experienced, calm horse at their side, which calmed them in turn. As it so happens, I had a slight run-in with another partygoer a few years ago, who thought it the most natural thing to throw confetti at the horses – I mean, it is carnival, there is confetti everywhere and it is being thrown from the big wagons all the time and I imagine it did not seem a big deal to him. He was not drunk, he was not angry and he didn’t want to hurt the animals or anything. He just wanted to celebrate and screamed “Helau” while throwing the confetti. The horses were luckily calm enough to not do anything dangerous even though they shied away from the confetti a little and snorted once or twice. I then took his arm down and asked him whether he really thought it a good idea to throw anything at a horse. He looked at me with a blank face and asked: “At a what?”
I was flabbergasted. I know, I grew up with animals – my aunt had had two Greyhounds since I could remember, we had two horses since I was six, I also owned a cat and my friends had the usual odd mix of hamsters, cats, dogs, guinea pigs and rabbits – and this is not something that every child can boast of, but this guy was middle-aged, somewhere around 40, and he had no clue how to NOT behave when an animal was around and that his actions could have a potentially fatal outcome. I told him then sternly that it was a very stupid thing to do what he did, that he could throw all the confetti he wanted but not at horses because they might bolt and hurt many people and themselves. He was not happy to be told off, refrained from throwing confetti at the rest of the horses in the parade, though. I hope a made a lasting impact there.
Throwing confetti might be meant innocently, which throwing a bottle decidedly is not, but this confetti throwing man is a symptom of a far vaster problem: lacking important knowledge. I don’t think it necessary to ban horses from these kinds of festivities and parades, but the public needs to be educated, especially since many children nowadays have no contact with animals at all. Some believe that cows are naturally violet due to the Milka-cow, and a survey has shown that nearly 1 in 10 American adults believe chocolate milk to come from brown cows (http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/american-chocolate-milk-brown-cows-study-us-dairy-innvoation-adults-a7793016.html). That is more than worrying. These people have not only no idea what they are eating, they also have no idea how to treat these, or any, animals. This is shown in people throwing confetti at flight animals without having a clue of the danger their actions put the people and animals in.
Concerning these probably drunken… geniuses who threw bottles at horses, much more police must be in attendance of such parades and sort drunkards like them out. I’d recommend supervised social work in a stable or animal shelter as punishment. Also, the streets need to be broad enough and have barriers to ensure space between crowd and animals, which seems to have been lacking on some, if not many, stretches of the way the parade went. If there is not enough space, then this stretch can’t be filled with and overseen by the crowd. This would also give everyone in the parade a few seconds to sort things out with everyone watching and the animals would have a few calmer stretches to relax a little more.
Concerning the people and children who do not want to hurt anyone but endanger everyone in their cluelessness: an announcing wagon in front of the parade and maybe one in between that tells people to not throw anything at the animals because they might shy, bolt and hurt someone would help a lot here. I am sure that the man I reprimanded would not have thrown anything if he had known beforehand. It also seems that the horses, in this case, had already bolted before but could be contained then until someone threw something at them. If that is the case, not only poor taste in jokes (again, I can find nothing funny in throwing things at animals) but also poor judgement has led to that accident. The horses would have had to be taken out of the parade immediately and escorted away from the crowd to be calmed down. Not many people would have missed that particular coach.
It is always a heated discussion whether horses should be part of such parades. It makes me very sad to see horses hurt and mistreated in such a way and I wish it would never have happened. But it is not the horses’ fault, as I well know. After growing up with horses of some considerate character I know that there are horses who actually like these sort of things. There was one that would have done everything for its owner because he trusted her absolutely. If she said jump, he only asked “how high?” knowing she would never get him hurt. He was a horse you could depend on – intelligent and bureaucratic to a fault. One of ours, Eike, a small copper-coloured half-thoroughbred mare was skittish and crazy in some situations (riding through a forest she was absolutely convinced that this very tree stump would try to kill her if she passed it) but then again, on a dressage tournament, she was the most relaxed I have ever seen her, neither batting an eye at a bolting, bucking horse called Firebolt and nor flinching when a balloon burst. Maybe she had missed her vocation and should have become a therapy horse for children whom she loved – the smaller the better. She was also great with dogs, come to think of it. What I am trying to show with these examples is that horses have characters and for a parade that size you need horses that have the temper to bear all that hubbub with a sigh and a huge portion of goodwill towards the people around them. When you find such a gentle soul you need to train them very carefully and make sure that they are not endangered by idiotic human beings. I bet these horses were gentle and had proven their nerves many times (as they were checked concerning that, too), but even so, they are still flight animals, prone to run when hit – especially from a side they cannot see very well. I would run away when someone throws a bottle at me. I might stop after a few metres, but, then again, I am a human and not a flight animal.
It makes me sad to write about this accident because it could have been prevented by education and presence of the police. I hope that both humans and animals are soon recovered from their injuries and that there is no lasting damage. I also hope that everything is cleared up and that the perpetrators are caught and brought to justice (as I said: many, many hours of supervised social work in a stable and/or shelter!).
The safety of animals is an important topic to me and I hope that the future generations will know how to behave and learn how to treat these precious beings so that such accidents do not happen again. I also hope that the carnival cities draw the right conclusions from this and install safety measures to keep animal and humans safe, sound and happy.
* Traditionally, sweets or even small toys are being thrown into the crowd from atop the big wagons.
*** Read the whole German article here: http://www.sueddeutsche.de/panorama/kutschen-unfall-an-karneval-schuld-ist-der-mensch-1.3865873-2
When on Facebook, you find the most interesting things. I found this picture, shared by a friend from a writer's page and thought it, as he did, to be a solid
exercise for my writing skills. Thus, I went for it. I hoped that many of my friends would comment and that I could let my creativity run free for a bit. I've been so busy this past year that
there was practically no time left for writing - something that is as much a part of me as breathing.
And my hopes were fulfilled. My creativity had a field day. Or two... Afterwards, I asked my friends whether they would be okay with me sharing these texts via my blog because I really liked them (and they did so, too). They all complied with my request and I promised to protect their privacy. Therefore, all the names in the following texts have been exchanged for fictional names. The snippets are not a part of fully plotted storylines, therefore they don't have full character arcs and may feel like something is missing - the rest of the story. This is the point where you can start creating it for yourself - or share it as a comment below. I would be delighted to read it!
Now, without further ado, the character presentations:
When Arianna entered the classroom it was half empty. Pretty much every table was already partly used by another student and she wondered where she wanted to sit. It was then that she noticed Rani at the front, lost in some thought or other. She smiled and walked over.
"Hi, can I sit with you?"
Theresa's broad smile seemed to come from an inner source of warmth that was always there. Arianna wasn't sure whether this innermost point of Rani was a place of contentment, silence or wanderlust. It seemed to be a bit of all of these things. Theresa had become rather restless lately; it showed in the faint purplish rings underneath her eyes and the tint of sadness in her eyes. Otherwise, she was as quirky and funny as usual, her bouncy curls tied in a ponytail, a quick smile on her face and bubbly laughter interrupting her sentences now and then. Since they had only seen each other during the lecture and chatted a few times upon meeting each other by chance, Arianna wondered, whether Theresa considered her as an acquaintance or someone who could become a friend. She was hard to read that way and it made her a little sad because Arianna would have loved to get to know her more, but she was too shy and had learned the hard way not to pry.
Right now, Cerise was standing in front of one of the sweet-stands and threw her long, blonde hair back, while she was talking to the seller and tasted pretty much everything on display. Individual – that was the first word that came to mind when one thought of Cerise. Apart from her name being a bit out of the ordinary, she was a bit… different herself. Talking a lot, always on the move, but when she was tired, she could fall asleep everywhere. She had a certain something that made people turn around and want to engage with her. Interesting – that was probably the second word that came to mind when you started talking to her. Cerise was the kind of individualist that fitted in everywhere and still managed to do her business entirely her way, which was somehow cool and to which one wanted to belong to. But being like her… that seemed too exhausting in a way… Most of her project hung a little in the air and you never knew what she would start next. Sometimes here, sometimes there, she was like a butterfly that had not yet transformed fully into one and was not yet sure which one she wanted to be, taking a bite out of every offered leaf. And that was good the way it was…
She barged into the room and hissed at her co-worker Jana, who had lifted her index and wanted to say something: “I dare you to say anything about finding a parking space!”
Jana shrugged and asked instead: “Vapiano for lunch?”
“If we must…”
The grumpy answer came from behind the screen that belonged to her desk. Jana heard the clicking of the power-button and the droning of the computer when it booted. She also heard the fervent clacking of her nails on her phone and then the “thunk” as the designer bag landed on the desk. Jana was way less interested in such status symbols as her colleague was, but apart from her strong character and her passion for arguments over the tiniest nothings, she was very happy with her desk-neighbour. On a positive note: her drama was always very entertaining.
Her stare was fixed intensely on the contents of the pot. She stirred, once, twice, then waited and stirred again once, twice, this time counter-clockwise. A voice in her back made her jump: “What are you doing?”
“I'm cooking", she grumbled, a little annoyed at the disturbance of her thoughts.
“What are you cooking up in there? You were so fixated, you didn't even hear me coming.”
“That's because you have wings, Coran. You don't thread the ground anymore...”
“Yeah, right… So… what are you cooking up in there? Smells like rat feet with garlic and looks like cow-poo-soup.”
She turned her head to look at the raven perched upon the herb-rack. He was pacing up and down, looking at her. Her eyes looked back, sad, and her shoulders slumped as if the whole weight of the world had suddenly been dropped upon her shoulders.
“I was trying a new recipe for an antidote to the potion Arania gave to you… But I messed it up somehow. I am sorry.”
Coran smiled somehow, which should have been impossible, given the fact that he had a beak now, but he was not a real raven and it seemed that some human part remained in there apart from the talking and the oh-so-human emotions he felt.
“Don't be sorry. I know you're doing all you can. It's not your fault that Arania is such a jealous b…witch.”
“I should know what to do! I am in my last year, but I have no idea what she poured into your tea…”
It had been three weeks now since Arania had poisoned his drink out of jealousy over their attachment.
“You are nearly finished, too. Don't you have any idea? What did it taste like?” “Uhm… like tea”, he said a little ashamed.
The kitchen of her little cottage was nearly dark and the fire of the oven made her eyes glow and her hair look like fire. He loved that. She was his fire and his sun and he would have drunk a thousand poisoned teas to be with her, but she did not know that. She did not see how smart she was, or how witty. She could be overly competitive and stubborn, but he thought she was cute when her brows furrowed and she behaved like a storm trapped in a water glass. He smiled again, trying to give her some hope.
“Well, at least she did not succeed in trapping you and claiming you as her pet. I'm glad that Rhineward finally looked in the right direction for once and made her pay.”
Arania had been sentenced to kitchen duty at the school, which meant feeding the pigs, cleaning the big pots and cutting the vegetables for four weeks for poisoning him. But the teachers believed it to be a good lesson to have him figure out how to turn back. Up to now, neither he nor Lena, the Little Witch from the Woods as the other students called her because she lived in a little cottage near the school, had found an antidote.
“Where am I”, she thought. “This looks like home, but it isn’t. It feels different.”
Carefully, she explored the house. It was empty. At the end, she stood in the hallway, wondering, and decided to venture outside. She had hardly opened the door, when a loud voice sounded: “YES! The first false step! She has left the house!”
“Ehm”, she thought and looked around.
A camera team and a slick guy with a micro stood in front of her house. She slowly descended the few steps and watched the camera team. It followed her and the man commented: “Now, she is leaving the house. That’s already very good. What will her next step be?”
Then he made a cut-sign and the camera was lowered.
“What is going on here”, she asked advancing.
He made a face rolling his eyes.
“Don’t tell me you suffer from memory loss. That’s the last thing I need.”
“Please just explain the rules to me again… I am… not fully awake, yet”, she said as sweetly as she could.
“You just have to do the opposite of what you would usually do. If you feel like, say, fetching your daughter from school, don’t. You only win if you rebel. That’s what “What would you never do” is all about! – The great show of rebellion. The people love this shit…”
She tucked her hair that had fled her ponytail behind her ears. She still had no idea what was going on, but she decided to play along anyway. Everything felt so real and she wondered what she was supposed to… uhm… not do.
“Listen”, the man said intently. “If you don’t want anything bad to happen, do whatever you don’t want to do… instead of cooking, get delivery, let yourself go. Instead of knitting, learn to ride a motorbike. It’s about breaking out, living a different life. That’s why you applied!”
He was nearly hissing, as if his life depended on her reaction. It was all too much. She felt dizzy, her knees gave way and… she awoke in her bed.
“What is going on now? What was that?”
She had never dreamt this realistic before. She could still feel the fear that had been crawling up her spine when the presenter had talked so intently. Betray her family? Never! The bed rocked gently when her husband turned around. Why was she still feeling so haunted? What dream could do that and why had it felt so real? She decided to go to her friend Marla the next morning. She was one of those New Age Wiccas and knew her way around this stuff a lot better than she did. She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep. That’s when she heard the voice of the presenter again…
With a mighty cry the bearded giant threw his axe after the enemy. The axe whirled around its axis and was planted next to the head into the tree. Surprised, as if he had not expected to still have his head upon his shoulders, the attacker looked at the axe which was humming from the impact. Then he looked back up to the giant, gripped his axe and his shield tighter and attacked the giant himself. The giant gripped his shield as if he wanted to simply tackle his enemy to the ground. Then his enemy said: “If an axe is your last weapon, you shouldn’t throw it”, and smiled with pointy, filed teeth…
Detective Martino knew that he looked young and was easily discerned as the newbie, but the barkeeper could have shown a tad more respect.
“I asked whether you know where I can find Natjasska?”
The barkeeper shot him a bored look. He had long, blonde hair, a beard and looked more like an old rocker than a barkeeper. The corners of his tattoos peeked from under his black band-shirt. Maybe he had worked his way up from bouncer to barkeeper. The barkeep jerked his chin grumpily towards the dancefloor and said: “She’s about to dance. Do you want a beer or…”
The eyebrows raised he scrutinised the well-dressed detective. The implication was clear.
“Nothing, thanks. I’m on duty.”
“Could take a while, though. She’s a favourite and sometimes gives encores.”
Martino gestured a “no“ and thanked him for the information. Then he would simply wait at the bar and check the audience. Social background study they called it. When Natjasska entered the stage, Martino knew immediately why she was a favourite. The long, slim legs wound themselves around the pole and every man in the room, including Martino, could not fight the thought of how these legs would feel if Natjasska would sling them around him. The social background study was forgotten. He felt the heat rise. She was a mixture of Salma Hayek in “From Dusk till Dawn” and Monica Belluci in “Le Pacte des Loups” – the sin in the flesh. Martino felt hotter. Suddenly, he heard a “clonk” next to him and saw that the barkeeper had put down a beer, smirking.
“A beer after all? Lowers the blood pressure and cools the head”, he said with an all-knowing grin.
Martino nodded and took a swig, thankful to have something to concern himself with apart from the personified wet dream on the stage.
A melody carried by the contrabass and whispered by the saxophone seemed to ask the smoke of a cigarette for a dance. She contemplated her small silhouette mirrored on the wall of the Vienna Café, arranged her blouse, crossed her legs and, bored, watched the smoke twisting and turning. The Black Friday had thrown everything into chaos. At least for the inexperienced and the careless. She had taken precautions and was waiting for her partner. It was still quite uncommon to be independent as a woman, but she was no woman to cook and clean for her man. She wanted to use the money on herself, live her own life… She didn’t listen to the claptrap of others anymore. She had learned that good advice was usually given out of envy and that bad advice was even more costly than good advice. Now she lived the way she wanted.
“Another coffee, please”, she answered the nice waitress on her question of whether she wanted anything else.
The cigarette of her neighbour was smoked and the smoke had dissolved. The saxophone, though, continued playing its melancholy melody and Maria sighed. He was taking a lot of time again and made her wait. This had to stop. She decided to drink her coffee and to then leave. Two coffees were more than enough waiting-time. If need be, she would have to act without his “burning hot” information. She had done so before and had done well. Intuition was the magic word; the English called this “gut-feeling” and she had enough of that. That she had already proven. But before she could fret further, her tall partner appeared with long strides and took a seat opposite her.
“Where have you been? You’re twenty minutes late!”
“Oh, you are so typisch Deutsch. The last information took me a bit to gather. I had to make a Telefonanruf.”
His English accent was stronger the more nervous he was. This could be a good sign or a bad one…
The cry echoed through the airship.
He sighed. The crew was too young for such a ship. He was called for every little thing and had to run through the whole ship because he never knew whether it wasn’t an emergency for once. Half-running he got on his way and asked the young technician: “What is it now?”
Focused, she checked her instruments and answered: “We are losing pressure in the boiler. I fear we have a hole somewhere, but I cannot find the welder, or rather he isn’t hearing my broadcasts. The pressure-loss…”
“… causes a loss of power of the rotors. I know. Thanks. I’ll take care of it immediately. You broadcast the pressure values to me every minute!”
She nodded: “Yes, Commander!”
He patted her on the shoulder and ran into the direction of the boiler. On his way, he actually found the welder, ripped his head off for his negligence and sent him on hole-search. In the background, the technician rattled down columns of figures which only meant something to a hand-full of the crew, showing them the gravity of their situation. By now the cockpit had started reporting via the broadcasting system, too, keeping him posted about their altitude and the position of the enemy.
Stress. He was used to it, also to nights without sleep, but with this crew, the operations centre had screwed him. How was he supposed to command one of the biggest steamships without a tough crew, pilot it behind the enemy’s lines – without being seen, naturally – and then bomb the headquarters? He had not yet found a solution for this problem. And now another had been added: the damned technics.
Slowly the sun sank behind the high mountains. He lit his little pipe and wondered whether he could bring in the hay tomorrow or whether it would have to wait another day before it was dry enough to be stored through winter without getting mouldy. He shouldered the hay fork and went on his way home. There, his wife and his son were already waiting. He loved his new family life and the proximity to nature he could offer his child. Yet, he was looking longingly at the far peaks of the mountains and dreamed himself far, far away. Sure-footed his legs brought him closer to home and his mouth puffed merrily on his pipe. His thoughts were at the other end of the world. Bright colours flooded his inner eye and transformed into a huge mass of people and a river. Hazily he remembered the faces of those rushing to the river. What he could not forget though, was the face of a little girl. She had talked to him wanting to sell him postcards. He had let himself be talked into buying one out of pity and now he was drowning in the memory of her doe-eyes that looked at him intelligently from out of a round face. It nagged at him that he had only bought a single, useless card. It had been three years now. Shortly afterwards he had gotten to know his wife, married her and had had a child. Everything went like clockwork – for him. But what about the little girl? Her dress had been mended many times, the cloth old and threadbare. She would be around 13 now. Was she going to school more often than not? She had told him that she would use the money to buy schoolbooks for herself and become an interpreter. That had made him go soft and now caused a sharp stab in his heart. What if she was alone on the street? What if her parents had become sick? Was she heading for the gutter that was only a caste away from the lively market streets?
When he opened his front door, he had come to a decision.
“Darling, I’m home!”, he called out.
His wife answered: “Good. Wash your hands, the food is nearly ready.”
He took off his shoes, then, sweaty and with dirty hands, he stood in the kitchen’s doorframe and said: “I’m flying back to India. I have to save a life.”
So... This is my first entry. Partly to overcome the fear of actually posting something, and partly to check the features of this blog. The intricacies of this website still elude me a little and it takes some time to acquaint myself with it. How to create links, how to find the right design and how to organise this website in a way that is aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate. Sadly it's not as easy as it sounds, but hey - "had I but world enough and time" (Andrew Marvell)...