The Princess and the Pea

Before I post the fabulous photos Deb and her husband, Ron, took of me while I was at their “horse heaven” in Abbotsford, I need to think through (which, for me, always means “write through”) the many comments and opinions I’ve heard thus far about Ground Manners. A Novel.  I suppose I could describe my readers as either general fiction readers or horse-owning readers.  The general readers enjoyed the storyline and/or the historical bits and/or the narrative style (which some thought poetic and others thought easy to read).  I was thrilled when Evelyne Villers, journalist and horsewoman, caught the few witticisms laced throughout the text here and there.  I’m not sure anyone else did, or if they did, they didn’t see fit to mention them.  That omission brings me to the horse-owning readers.  They enjoyed the historical bits woven throughout the fiction (or at least, some of them did) while others focussed on the abuse and slaughter themes, and in their focus, seemed to have reduced the entire novel to an issue uppermost in most horse-owners’ minds; a heated debate which has been ongoing in N.A. for decades now:  what to do with excess horses?  why not slaughter?  what constitutes horse abuse?  Hmm…it’s no secret (just read the book) that I set out to show the ambivalence our culture has towards horses:  on the one hand, iconic companions and athletes with the power to capture the public’s imagination and loyalty more deeply than politicians can (vide Seabiscuit), and on the other, disposable pastimes which can end up in an abattoir like any other food animal (even though horses, like dogs, are not raised for food purposes).  Maybe it’s our ambivalence that I failed to show because I also, in featuring le Canadien throughout the novel, intended to celebrate the horse as a valuable and valued species.  On the other hand, maybe the horse-owning readers–some of them, at least–resisted reading anything about horses that wasn’t Marguerite Henry or Jilly Cooper (mind you, I haven’t read Cooper’s works so I shouldn’t bring her into this).  I know that one of the reasons I will not own a pet is because when I do, I spend all my energy on him, and forget all those out there with no-one to speak for them, no-one to champion them.  Hey it’s enough just seeing that your own pet’s health, nutritional, training, and grooming needs are met, much less worrying about whether discarded, abandoned or abused pets are getting one-third of what you ensure your own pet has.  I wonder, then, if it’s the same for some horse owners out there–who, in keeping their horses well and healthy, spend way more time, energy and money than one does on a cat or dog–haven’t the time nor the energy to worry about anybody else’s horse, or in the case of abattoir-bound horses, nobody’s horse anymore.  It makes me think of the old fairy tale of the Princess and the Pea.  The way I remember it, the Prince’s mother piled up mattresses a storey tall to test whether each girl the Prince brought home was in fact a Princess.  All but one of the girls had a good night’s sleep atop this massive monolith of mattresses.  The one who didn’t, slept badly and complained that something the size of a pea disturbed her throughout the night.  The mother knew then that this young woman was indeed a Princess for only a princess would have the keen sense of discrimination required to adjudicate justly and reign as a sovereign.  In writing GM, I think I was a bit like that princess:  I tried to show that beneath and beyond the comfortable things we as a culture tell ourselves about horses, including and especially our love and respect for certain breeds like le Canadien, there lies also a disturbing reality.  And for all horse lovers and advocates out there, that pea is the cause of the most unfitful sleep imaginable even though those many comfortable mattresses lie between.



  1. The Princess and the Pea | Cynthia D'Errico | Stop Horse Abuse - [...] while others focussed on the abuse and slaughter themes, … … Read the original post: The Princess and the…

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