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Tuesday, July 30, 2002
Confession time.

I made a deal. I have sold my soul. Actually, I mortgaged it.

I promised my daughter that if she got into a good college I would ...


Deep breath.

I promised my daughter that if she got into a good college I would (give me strength, give me money) buy her a horse.

Yes, archtypical northeastern skinflint wusses out. Bows to daughter's decade long desire. Call the Times.

I have been a good boy. I have paid and paid and paid for lessons. I have bought equipment to be used with horses I devoutly hoped I would never own. I have paid for several bouts of summer long horse camp (a very nice place in New Hampster, girls only, and if anyone wants a recommendation, I can give it). I have gone to show after show after show. I even went the City Slickers route and took the family to a dude ranch on vacation one year (a great time was had by all, to my vast surprise). I was the Billy Crystal character. OK, I can wait for you to stop laughing. And when my daughter announced (shortly after Man of Steel Christopher Reeve had his disastrous riding accident) that she was taking up three day eventing, I bit my tongue.

For those of you who presently labor in the ignorance I used to enjoy (and wished I still did), three day eventing involves dressage (technical and, to my unexpert eye, just about as undangerous as you can get when balancing precariously atop an eight hundred pound animal that you "control" with two thin pieces of leather held lightly in your hands) stadium jumping (just what it sounds like) and cross country. Stadium jumping is bad, but cross country was invented to scare the living bejeesus out of fathers. A course is set up consisting of obstacles over which the horse and rider must jump (fences, water jumps, cliffs ...) which obstacles are separated by varying distances. Horse and rider are judged based on completing the course (without going around or balking at any obstacles) within set time limits. It is not a speed competition, but you certainly cannot do it at a walk (MY kind of speed). In between the obstacles is no real problem for me. A canter is a canter is a canter, whether the trail on which you are cantering is in Central Park or Grand Canyon National Park. Well, alright, there is a difference, but at least plain old cantering does not involve anyone intentionally placing huge obstacles in your path for the express purpose of causing horse and rider to voluntarily lose contact with terra firma while proceeding forward at an entirely unreasonable speed. I attribute what grey hair I have entirely to cross country.

Tongue biting paid big dividends. Shortly after beginning to train for three day eventing, the daughter discovered a talent for dressage and fell in love with that aspect of horsemanship. Fortunately, whatever gods look after me and mine have arranged for there to be competitions solely in dressage. TTFN, cross country!

Where was I? Oh yes, THE DEAL. The daughter was spending more and more time at the farm and less and less time on her more pedestrian pursuits. Like homework. Before the grades slipped too much, I offered THE DEAL, which was accepted with alacrity. Naturally, THE DEAL was interpreted by my beloved offspring as requiring the immediate launch of a thorough (as in nationwide) search for the ideal equine purchase, more than 9 months before acceptance at any college. ("Dad, who cares if we have to ship the horse three thousand miles, he's perfect and he costs three cents less than the one down the road from our house!") And just as naturally, when skinflint (that would be me) pointed out that the deal required actual admission to an actually good actual college prior to the equine purchase, there was much wailing and rending of clothes. Well, some wailing, anyway, and no rending. Denim is so hard to rend. Missed opportunities! Lost training time! Goddamn lawyers and their goddamn deals.

And then, following lengthy debate about where to apply, came college applications. I leave other fathers to discover that particular joy themselves. It seemed so much easier when I did it in the early 70s. I have to wait more than 15 years to see what James Lileks has to say about it. The daughter was immediately accepted into her "safety school". Suffice it to say, it wasn't Harvard. I considered the safety school someplace to go if nowhere else would have you (in fact, I always thought that was why they called it a safety school). I didn't think that it qualified as the "good" school required by THE DEAL. Note to fathers who attempt the perilous act of bribing their offspring: Do not, ever under any circumstances, consider telling said offspring who have, at least facially, met the conditions of the bribe, that their surface compliance is insufficient to trigger payment of the bribe. I managed to temporize until more acceptances came in.

Although the daughter was certainly smart enough to recognize the stalling tactics, she was also smart enough to avoid going to war about it until it became necessary. And lo and behold, several of the acceptances were from "good" schools. Major sigh of relief (from both parties). Arguments concerning the goodness of the safety school avoided.

So now its time for me to pay up. I sent the wife and daughter to the school for orientation and while there, they located a reportedly gorgeous three year old (that's very young) mare with a delightful disposition. Vet inspection made and passed with flying colors. Even writing the check for the purchase price was not that hard. Of course, now that I (or more properly, the daughter) owns this beast, the expenses have only just begun. Feed, vet, stable, shoeing, equipment.

Stay tuned.

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