Ask Barney!

my collected wit and wisdom

Fall, 1995

Dear Barney, What is a frog?!!! Tico

A frog is a small hoppy green animal that lives in horses' hooves. I have four of them myself. That's why we bounce when we trot.

Dear Barney, What is a girth? Shadow

There are two answers to this question.

  1. A girth is the area in the middle of a horse or pony, and the bigger it is, the better. To have a magnificent girth like mine, a pony has to eat a lot.
  2. The same name is also given to a horrible strap which is used to hold a saddle on and to torture a pony.

Winter, 1995

Dear Barney, Can you tell me a few ways to avoid work. Fatima.

Here are a few ways that work for me.

  1. buck
  2. run away
  3. buck and run
  4. rear
  5. cut to middle of ring
  6. jump into corner of ring
  7. stop dead
  8. fake lameness
  9. pick a fight with another horse

In my soon-to-be-published book 101 Ways to Avoid Work I list another 92 techniques. One of them has got to work for you!

Dear Barney, What are hocks? Tote.

Hocks are sort of like birds mounted halfway down our legs. They permit us to take flight quickly. For example, when one must return immediately from a trail ride for dinner, a horse or pony uses his hocks to help him fly home.

Spring, 1996

Dear Barney, Recently a friend made some remark about my barrel. I assured her that all the barrels in the arena belong to Mom, but she insisted that a barrel is part of every horse's body. Can you settle this? Gypsy.

Of course all horses have barrels. It is the part of your body between your front and hind legs. You should be very proud of your barrel. For my height I have the most magnificent barrel of all the horses at Lonesome Acres. To develop a great barrel eat lots of hay and exercise as little as possible. You probably don't need this advice; your own barrel has been looking pretty good this past year.

Dear Barney, How can I convince the humans to feed me more. I'm wasting away to nothing. Starshine

You need to learn to be cuter and more appealing. Always approach humans with your ears forward and a winsome expression on your face. Learn a few tricks too. I can smile and give kisses. Kisses are great, especially when you're in big trouble. Lean over and kiss your human. This softens them up and is good for a carrot or an apple.

Fall, 1996

Dear Barney, How can I improve my image in the barnyard? Sincerely, Mack. P.S. I mean without aggression.

You must learn to look important. Puff out your chest, hold your head high and strut. By the way, don't rule out aggression. It has its place.

Winter, 1997

Dear Uncle Barney, I have heard a disturbing rumour that I'll be expected to work now that I'm 4 years old, like more than a day or two every couple of months. Please tell me it isn't so, and I can continue to be a carefree colt until I'm as old as Great Uncle Fleet. If not, how do I avoid work? Your loving nephew, Tico.

Unfortunately the rumour is true. Horses are expected to work from the age of four until they are old like Great Uncle Fleet. Some horses on the track even start at 1½ years. To reduce the work load I suggest that you continue to be cute, so that Pat will want to keep you as a pet. If she persists with this work thing (which she probably will) you will have to learn to be simultaneously cute and obnoxious — no easy feat, but I can give you a few pointers. When asked to work, buck, rear and shy, but be careful not to put her off as you could be sold then. Other ideas are contained in my book, 101 Ways to Avoid Work, which may be purchased from Barney Bye Enterprises, The Pasture, Lonesome Acres, Oro, Ontario.

Summer, 1997

Dear Barney. When I was over on the tree farm, I thought I saw a dangerous animal in the woods, something like a tigger or lyon or bare, you know. So naturally I spooked and started to run. My mommy spanked me and said, "Silly boy, there's nothing dangerous around here." What do you think? Are there tiggers and stuff like that here in Oro? Sincerely, A. Little Dandy Horse.

Wake up and smell the bran mash! What do humans know about predators? Of course there are tigers here in Oro. Read Mack's book, The Practical Horse's Guide to Sabre-Tooth Tigers in Southern Ontario. (I helped him research the section on the Ganaraska Forest.) The favourite lairs of sabre-tooth tigers are culverts, hay bales wrapped in plastic and of course the woods, but they can also submerge themselves like a hippopotamus in a pond or stream. If you think you see one of these dreadful beasts, it is your duty to your human to leap up in the air, spin and come down galloping. Do not stop galloping until you are safely back at Lonesome Acres where the dogs will chase it off. And if there isn't any tiger, it doesn't much matter because this tactic is also covered in my own book 101 Ways to Avoid Work.

Winter, 1998

Dear Barney, I read the Pony Express faithfully, and I love your column. Please, please tell me how to cope with fluttering, crinkly plastic. I am sure that plastic is an extra-terrestrial lifeform that attacks horses but only when their backs are turned. Unfortunately my human doesn't believe me. You'd think that someone who's written a couple of books on horses would know better, but she keeps hanging these horse-eaters in my feed trough. What should I do? Love, your fan in Parry Sound, Sarina.

That's a tough one. You are quite correct about the dangers of plastic. It is actually a cyborg, half synthetic, half organic, dropped on the earth by horse-hating aliens in flying saucers. It works by injecting horses with a fast-acting sedative while they are distracted (something like the vet, only sneakier) and then devouring them. I suggest a direct approach. Remember the plastic can only get you if you're not watching. First try demolishing your feed trough with your hooves. If that doesn't work, you can try ripping the plastic off with your teeth, preferably on a windy day when it will be carried away quickly. If your owner still persists, you might have to take the most drastic step known to a horse: go on a hunger strike until you get your way. Good luck, kid. Love and kisses.

Summer, 1998

Dear Uncle Barney, Mom was going to take me to one of those competitive trail rides that Dandee and Mack always have to do, and I just refused to get on the trailer. How come you never included this in your book, 101 Ways to Avoid Work? Your Nephew Tico.

Dear Tico, I left that one out for a couple of good reasons. First, my book only contains original ideas. Horses have been trying that one ever since they invented trailers. You young fellows always imagine you're the first to think of an idea that's old as the hills. Second, in the long run it never works. Humans have ways to make you load as you will find out. Barney ("Mr. Pony, Sir!" to you, you young whippersnapper!)

Spring, 1999

Hi Barney, I'm an old friend of Great Uncle Fleet. Many moons ago the two of us and our humans went for a day long trail ride. We were both young and handsome then. Apparently, I am still pretty good looking, considering how the humans around here fuss over me. Anyways, I am pretty impressed with your advice column and hope you can illuminate me on a point. You know, us Arabs are smarter than your average horse. For example, unlike my thoroughbred girlfriend, Matches, I do not eat the moldy sections of my hay, but eat around them. But one thing has got me stumped: What in the heck are chestnuts? I am supposed to have them on my legs, but it doesn't even take an Arab to know I'm no tree. Mishie (Emar Czar) at Whispering Pines Barn.

Dear Mishie:
     Your question about chestnuts is trickier than it would appear on the surface. It's easy enough to tell you that humans use the term to refer to those knobbly things halfway up your forelegs. But why??? They also use the same word for a certain magnificent coat color and for things that grow on trees.
     Probably the only answer is that humans are not too swift. Oh, I know, if you start training humans young enough, they can make admirable servants for fetching your hay and water and grain, and some of them are rather endearing.
     However, humans have this strange practice of using the same word to mean many different things. For instance, they call a brown horse like you "a bay" and then they call some blue water "a bay" and they also use the same word to describe the unpleasant noise that some dogs make. Go figure!
     So this is all you need to know: when humans talk about a horse's chestnuts, they mean the things on your legs; when they talk about horse chestnuts, they mean the things in trees. Apparently they used to make horse medicine out of those. Yech!
     Sincerely, Barney
     PS. Great Uncle Fleet says he well remembers the time he went out with "that young fella" and sends his regards.

Dear Barney, There is a question I never got a chance to ask you before I moved away from Lonesome Acres. (I miss you and the rest of the gang!) One day I overheard Vic and my human Brandie talking about shoes for us horses. It sure is a complicated subject. There are heart-bar shoes, egg-bar shoes, shoes made out of steel, shoes made out of aluminum, stainless steel shoes with plastic inserts. My head was spinning. What is your favourite kind of shoe? Love, DJ

Dear DJ, NONE, and it's gonna stay that way unless I meet a farrier who outweighs me! Love, Barney.

Dear Barney, The vet came a few days ago. I hate this man, so I did the old movie-horse act of rearing up and striking out with my front legs. This angered my owners very much. Why? What did I do wrong? THEY dont have to get stuck with sharp painful things!

Sweet Silhouette (Sweetie)
13 hh dappled grey POA/Arabian

Hi Sweetie!
     You definitely sound like my kind of girl.
     Your instincts were right on, but you chose the wrong technique for your personal situation.
     As a general rule of hock, rearing works best for a tall horse.
     For instance my friend Mack is a 16.1 hh Thoroughbred. One day a clumsy vet student stabbed him in the neck with a needle, and Mack stood straight up on his hind legs.
     All the humans were gawking with their mouths open while Mack was flailing the air with his front hooves 14 feet off the ground. Before they could regain their wits, he ran backwards, crashed through a gate, started snorting explosively and galloped round and round the barn like it was the Preakness.
     However, when a small horse starts striking near their precious little heads, humans get scared and vindictive.
     For us ponies evasive maneuvers work best. Learn to recognize the sound of the vet's truck and also his smell. As soon as he turns in the lane, do not let any human catch you no matter how many carrots they bribe you with. Just dodge and trot past them. If you can, gallop to the far end of the back forty and torque around like a colt. They'll soon get tired of paying the vet to watch a rodeo act.
     If they deceive you by confining you to your stall before the vet comes, act docile till the last possible moment. Then jump away from the vet. With any luck he'll put the needle in his own hand, and go off to a hospital to check if a shot of swamp fever vaccine can do serious damage to a human.
     I hope these suggestions help.

Dear Barney,

      I'd really like to know how you get so much respect for your offense or anything...I mean, you're ALMOST half my size... Yet, still you get the most respect of anyone in our paddock. I'm the biggest boy there, and everyone pushes me around! How can I make myself as tough as you??

Yours Truly
Wizzy Woo (Wizard)
(I think the name is a start)

Dear Wizzy Woo,

     The name, for sure (chuckle, chuckle). Get it changed. Plus the fact that you used e-mail when you could have asked me your question any day in the pasture.

     I have only one suggestion that might work for YOU. Then again it might not.

     Try snarling at Laddie. (You do know how to snarl, don't you?) If he moves over and lets you have the hay, then you can try it on Fatima. Then work your way up the ladder--Arrow, Tico, Dandee.

     You can stop there unless they put you in another paddock. I'm next, and you are NEVER going to be as tough as me. I am the biggest, toughest horse at Lonesome Acres. I could lick the whole lot of you with one hoof tied behind my back. That's why I get respect.


December 24, 2004

Dear Barney,

Is there a Santa Claus?

Dexter (the new boy in the barn)

Yes, Dexter, there is a Santa Claus. Every Christmas Eve he flies all over the world bringing carrots and apples for good little colts and fillies and of course toys for human kids.

You might see Santa Claus flying across the sky on a moonlit night as I have, but you won't see him in the barn. Santa has this thing about making his deliveries via chimneys, and most barns don't have chimneys. So he leaves the carrots and apples with our humans to pass on to us the next day.

There is one thing that humans have got wrong about Santa, though. How did they ever come up with such a dumb idea that his sled filled with goodies for everyone in the world is pulled by eight tiny reindeer? Gimme a break. They couldn't even budge it, and how are they going to fly without wings.

The truth is that Santa's sleigh is pulled by a hitch of eight Pegasi (winged horses). These are remarkably handsome creatures, a Percheron / Pegasus cross, quite up to pulling a heavy load.

As usual, it's us horses doing all the heavy work!


As a public service I will answer questions posed over the Internet. Please make sure your human understands your question before sending them to the keyboard. We want the questions horses really care about, not stuff like, "How do I teach my horse to do a turn on the forehand?" or "What's the purpose of a running martingale?"


Thanks for your question. I will answer you privately by e-mail. I mean I'll dictate my answer to Vic. I reserve the right to publish questions and answers in both the printed version of the Lonesome Acres Pony Express and here in my online column.


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