Stacy Elaine Dacheux currently resides in Los Angeles, where she works as a freelance writer, visual artist, and teacher. She enjoys knitting, sleeping, baking, and drinking with old friends. View more of her work atwww.stacyelaine.com.
"They measure horses in hands. We measure ourselves in feet.” The Actor told me that the first time we met, high up in the hills of Los Angeles, as we walked towards the stable where the horses were kept.
We were not friends. We were not lovers. We were simply trying to get over our abusive natures together. We, meaning The Actor and I, were pretty much strangers who both enrolled in something professionals call Equine-Related Therapy.
As he opened up the gate, The Actor introduced himself as an actor, but I had never heard of him. I assumed he meant like the Internet, I’m an Internet Actor, like wow.
“No, no, no,” he said, “I do commercials—like Fortune 500 sorta stuff.”
“Well, then… hello, Actor. Nice to meet you.” We shook hands.
The Actor and I were the last two out of the ten group members to arrive.
Dr. June, our psychologist, welcomed us in and assigned us each to a horse. Her skin was leathery taut, and her disposition was clinically adequate.
She explained that horses were more than just vehicles—something that will take you from point A to point B. “They are non-verbal communicators that mirror our non-verbal behavior. They respond to touch, intention, and tone. This is what Equine-Related Therapy is all about.”
We each received a packet of information on our assigned horse. We were to read it over and then introduce the horse to the person standing next to us.
My horse was named Sophia. She was originally from Northern California and currently in her first trimester of pregnancy. Her teeth were nauseatingly large. I turned to my right and told this to The Actor.
The Actor’s name was Bob, and he had curly blonde hair with 1973 curvature.
I liked to call Bob “The Actor” because he was quick to call himself one.
. . .
How did we feel about the horse? How did the horse make us want? These were explorative issues we discussed openly in the next session while grooming the horses.
We also talked about what constitutes abuse in modern day society.
“The only thing acceptable,” Dr. June said, “especially when children are concerned, is an open handed slap on the behind. A spanking. Anything more than that will send a social worker calling.”
As we saddled up, I noticed The Actor pull Dr. June aside. He spoke in loud whispers about how his first wife did commercials, for the money, I suppose, on the Internet, I’m guessing, for Fortune 500 companies, maybe. Apparently, she was a meaty bitch of a lady who fought with her hands more so than her mouth. They never had any children.
Dr. June nodded, sympathetically, and then turned to address the crowd.
“Listen up, everyone. Let’s say, for example, you elbowed a horse in the jaw…. You would do this because you wanted something from the horse. Right?” She nodded to the crowd.
“Perhaps, if you were the horse, you would interpret this act to be a sign of love.” She looked back at The Actor.
He seemed confused.
. . .
The Actor on several occasions expressed to me that he enjoyed his profession. He liked the idea of not owning anything and owning everything. Taking on these other personalities was like having other people living inside of him. It made him feel more sensitive, more like a woman. He elaborated—it made him feel less lonely.
He liked to place his hand on my horse Sophia’s belly, pause, look me in the eye, and say dramatic things, such as “There is life living inside there.”
I liked to firmly push away his hand.
. . .
A few sessions into the therapy, Dr. June led us out of the stable and into the pen. The sky was indicative of the city—all blue and glaringly bright. She motioned us into a circle. We were to pet our horses for forty-five uninterrupted minutes.
With every pet, I caught a whiff of something rancid. Flies hovered around my mouth. Five minutes elapsed, and there I stood—still petting. The fucking horse’s tail swung around. My hand started to hurt. Ten minutes passed and so did the petting.
I surveyed The Actor, who was resting his head against the horse’s side, arms spread out into a hug. I kept my eyes on him.
Twenty minutes in, and The Actor appeared to be whimpering.
Dr. June grabbed my hand, unclenching it. “Wide palms,” she suggested, “Widen and relax the palm.”
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t release.
Dr. June placed her hands on Sophia’s stomach. She wanted me to think about the little foal inside my horse. She wanted gentle.
Instead, my petting was tight fisted and aggressive. The more I fought and forced my hand to relax, the more I hated the fucking horse.
I looked over at The Actor again. He caught my gaze and awkwardly repeated the first thing he’d ever said to me—“We measure horses in hands. We measure people in feet.” I forced a smile. He smiled back.
We held eye contact just long enough....
Dr. June went on to explain the language of proximity. “It is much easier to stand in front of a horse than to stand near its side. The reason being, it’s easier to tell a horse to stop by standing in front of it.” She put her hands on her hips. “What do you think about that?”
. . .
We all scattered into the parking lot. I walked over to The Actor’s car—an old Ford Escort.
The weather in Los Angeles never changes. It’s always sunny, sunny, sunny, sunny. He smiled. Fuck sunny. I smiled. Fuck sunny. We both smiled.
This had something to do with instincts.
He opened up the door and I got in. He noticed me crossing my legs. We both talked about the weather.
“Fuck, Los Angeles.”
“Yeah, fuck Los Angeles.”
“Yeah, fuck horses.”
I crossed my legs again, allowing my skirt to ride up my thigh, without adjustment.
“No need for my car right now. We’ll come back for it later.” I said.
We drove away from the hills and down and into the belly of the city. The engine growled as we sat quietly next to another, our conversation about weather knocking around in our heads—fuck—with every bump—fuck—fuck—and hum—fuck—fuck.
During each session of the therapy, much emphasis was placed on how we allowed the horse to approach us. If we gave the horse a carrot, for instance, how would we hold the carrot? Would we allow the horse to throw his mouth around anxiously? Would we watch as the horse nibbles our fingers in the process?
Before we fucked, The Actor and I stood at the door of his Silverlake apartment and negotiated. We suggested our new sexual relationship be an extension of the therapy— a tactile experience that could act as another horse, another mirror, another simulation of an intimate gesture that was to be had later on in the future with real people.
Real people meaning neither of us.
Yes, it was decided. We would treat each other like soft sweet teenagers. We were going to snuggle, pet, and lick one another graciously.
. . .
When The Actor took off his shirt, I saw that his body was severely damaged. A nipple had been severed and lacerations explored his entire front and back.
I pushed his naked body down onto the bed and delicately traced my finger along his pink glossy scars.
“Fuck Dr. June.” I said.
“Yeah, fuck Dr. June.” He smiled.
I hated this idea that we were always simulating something, as though all relating is simulating. I pressed my hand against his chest and we began to rock. The Actor’s stomach heaved up and down.
I hated the idea that therapy mirrored the real world and that horses mirrored us.
My fingers clawed. Fuck. Our rhythm faster and faster, fuck, as we began to sweat and sweat, and fuck all the while, horses, horses, horses.
I heard myself saying this as the pace quickened. Horses. My nails dug deeper, horses, into the fleshy pink scars, horses, cutting open, horses, and I tried to hold back, but all the while horses, horses, horses. We both were grunting and thrusting. Horses.
Fuck. Another jab. Horses. Fuck. I railed him into me. The Actor sobbed and achingly rubbed his own neck. Crying. Fuck. He was scratching his own neck, oozing out blood, and if I placed my hand in his mouth, he would bite it. He could bite it. I could rip his hair back in tough clumps and dig in my nails. Again, fuck horses, fuck horses, fuck horses. My hands wrapped around his neck, as he murmured and pleaded for me to strangle him. Fuck horses, fuck horses, fuck.
My grip tightened.
. . .
As we drove up back into the quiet of the hills, the engine hummed and shook as The Actor shifted gears.
I hated Dr. June and how she thought life was only about what you touched and how it touched you back.
. . .
For our final session, we were each required to ride on our horse, one by one, in a circle. Dr. June’s job, as a facilitator, was to stand in the middle and probe us with questions regarding our history of abuse.
The Actor went first. With his blue turtleneck and his blonde hair neatly combed to the side, he calmly placed a foot in the stirrup and hauled himself up.
Dr. June addressed the crowd. “Remember, as you ride, horses are sensitive to touch. Their bodies will respond to your bodies responding to my questions. This is what therapy is all about—seeing and understanding reactions.”
“Yes.” The Actor seriously nodded, as though to insinuate that he knew something about horses beyond their capacity for being horses.