The Ugly Duckling
Micah’s not vain about his looks. Probably because he’s a manly sort of horse, who revels in rolling in the dust and strolling about the pasture as if he owns it.
He does own it. Micah manages to assert himself as herd boss with merely a glare and ears pinned in warning. He rarely lifts a hoof or bares his teeth to back up his superiority. He clearly thinks that looks are for sissies.
I’m the one who frets over Micah’s disheveled appearance. He’s a truly handsome horse hidden under a a seriously shaggy winter coat.
With this year’s early spring weather, Micah sheds several pounds of hair per day—yet still manages to rough and dirty. I bathe him as the weather allows, to no avail. His long hair curls as it dries, making him look worse than ever.
I curry-comb my heart out and then rev it back up with a shedding blade-induced cardio workout. At the end of it all, Micah still looks like an ugly duckling—the sort of horse who’s been forgotten in the pasture.
My appearance is the best evidence of my hard work: I am covered in horse hair: it sticks to my gloves, breeches, shirt, vest, and person. Every bit of clothing goes in the wash after each ride.
Heaven forbid I stop at the grocery store on the way home. I draw disapproving looks in the produce aisle and disdain in dairy. I shuffle through as quickly as possible, en route to home and a shower. I keep my head down so the smudges on my face aren’t as obvious. I avoid eye contact.
Weekly I revise my estimate of how much longer it’s going to take Micah to shed out. There’s a gorgeous animal under there. I’ve seen it before and have hope that my beautiful swan awaits, just around the corner.