Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Virtual, real posse saddles up

We horse lovers are impractical. We admit this. In fact, we take a certain pride in it.

They're big. They're demanding and expensive. They're a challenge. Unlike dogs, horses do not worship humans. Or, sad to say, automatically hold us in high regard. You have to earn their respect. Generally, we like them significantly more than they like us.

Unlike cats, they are not self-cleaning. They wallow around in mud and worse, and we human slaves spend hours scraping it off. They are not grateful for this service. There is no recorded history of horses that are box-trained. And their output is prodigious.

There is simply no reasonable explanation for why so many of us own one, but more than 6 million of us do. And I'm guessing that at this very minute, another 6 million little girls wish they did.

Some people claim to love cars. We horse lovers believe this is only a figure of speech. No car lover would buy a broken-down Corvette with no chance that it might be restored. But horse lovers do this all the time.

Outbidding butchers

A few years ago, the humane society in Hillsboro auctioned off 116 horses rescued from starvation and abuse. Every last horse was sold, including three or four one-eyed horses and a few that were lame. The horse-loving crowd cheerfully outbid a smattering of butchers.

That's always the fear when a horse comes up missing. The slaughter houses. There was an uncomfortable stirring in the horse-loving community around here when it was reported that four horses had been stolen. Princess and Rainbow were taken Nov. 28 from the Goshen Township home of Tim and Diane Waechter. Blackjack and Midnight were stolen in Warren County from Helge and Holly Buflod a week later.

"It's not like it's a piece of furniture or a stereo," says Goshen Township Police Chief Ray Snyder, an admitted horse lover. "They are part of the family."

"It just breaks your heart," says Debi Metcalfe of Shelby, N.C. She posted photos and descriptions of the missing horses on Stolen Horse International's website, netposse.com. A tip came in, and last weekend, three were recovered in Michigan and one in Kentucky.

Chief Snyder personally delivered Rainbow on Saturday. And he personally tied a big, red Christmas bow around her neck.

In 1997, after Debi Metcalfe's horse was stolen she took a year off work to find the mare. "Each day another stranger helped us," Debi says, "and 51 weeks later, we got her back." Now, she dedicates herself to helping strangers with her virtual posse. Which in this case connected with a real one.

"Great police work," Mr.Waechter says.

In turn, the chief praises local families who donated trucks, trailers, gasoline and "an entire day of their lives to assist complete strangers."

Impractical, really. They are obviously horse lovers.

The chief would have me know that he works as hard as he can to return stolen property of any kind. Even a stereo.

But I don't think he'd tie a red ribbon on it.

E-mail lpulfer@enquirer.com or phone 768-8393.

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