She’s Not Horsing Around

With a cloud of dust and a hearty HI HO LUNA AWAYYYY!
With a cloud of dust and a hearty HI HO LUNA AWAYYYY!
Do you remember when you were a kid? You wanted that custom Hello Kitty Ferrari, or something else just as super cool that your parents denied you, threatening to send you into years of therapy. Sure, now, your therapist can look back and laugh, but back then it was the MOST IMPORTANT thing in your little world. Yet, no matter how much you stomped your feet (like that ever worked before) or waved your tiny fists in rage, your driveway remained stubbornly Ferrari free. Often time the stuff kids want is the stuff they need the least. But trying to explain that to them is akin to teaching your cat to speak German. You’re doomed before you start. That doesn’t mean you won’t try anyway, just that your success rate is going to be maddeningly low. It doesn’t take a parent too long to understand why the Bible, in Exodus: 21, advocated selling your children into slavery. It sometimes seems like the only logical choice.

But every now and then there’s a child who, when faced with a life made of lemons, decides to make a tasty lemon meringue pie. I use this analogy to allow you to understand that I’m talking about a serious overachiever here.

As Veronika Oleksyn reports, when young Regina Mayer was told she couldn’t have a horse, she went to the barn and made one out of a cow.

When Regina Mayer’s parents dashed her hopes of getting a horse, the resourceful 15-year-old didn’t sit in her room and sulk. Instead, she turned to a cow called Luna to make her riding dreams come true.

Hours of training, and tons of treats, cajoling and caresses later, the results are impressive: not only do the two regularly go on long rides through the southern German countryside, they do jumps over a makeshift hurdle of beer crates and painted logs.

“She thinks she’s a horse,” the golden-haired Mayer joked on a recent sunny afternoon as she sat atop the impassive brown-and-white, grass-munching cow.

It all started about two years ago, shortly after Luna was born on the Mayers’ sprawling farm in the hamlet of Laufen, just minutes from the Austrian border.

They started off with walks in the woods during which Luna wore a halter. Then Mayer slowly got her cow more accustomed to human contact and riding equipment.

About six months later, it was time to see how Luna would respond to a rider on her back. Mayer sat in the saddle, and all went as planned – at least at first.

“She was really well behaved and walked normally,” said Mayer, decked out in riding gear. “But after a couple of meters, she wanted me to get off! You could see that she got a bit peeved.”

Luna and Mayer are now soul mates, spending most afternoons together once the teen – who aspires to become a nurse one day – comes home from school.

Their extensive routine involves grooming, petting, jumps and a roughly one-hour ride. That’s also the case in winter, when Mayer lovingly drapes a blanket over Luna to keep her warm.

It’s a lot of work “but I enjoy it,” Mayer said.

Her efforts have paid off.

Now, Luna understands commands such as “go,” `’stand” and “gallop.” If she feels like it, that is.

“When she wants to do something she does it, when she doesn’t, she doesn’t,” said Mayer, who proudly says Luna thinks of her as her mother. “And she’s often very headstrong but can also be really adorable.”

Luna’s stubborn streak meant that teaching her pony tricks wasn’t always easy, Mayer noted, saying she sought tips from a cow expert in Switzerland on how to deal with “steering” problems.

Anne Wiltafsky, who trains cows near the Swiss city of Zurich, said Luna’s talents are not particularly surprising and that, historically, it was quite common to ride cows and use them as workhorses.

“Especially younger ones can jump really well,” Wiltafsky said in a telephone interview, adding that cows are lovable companions because they’re easygoing, have strong nerves and are “unbelievably devoted” to people they like.

Being – and owning – a cow-turned-pony isn’t always easy.

Take the somewhat skeptical neighbors, such as Martin Putzhammer, who had to be won over.

“At first I thought it was kind of weird – a kid on a cow?” the 17-year-old said during a break from repairing his moped. “Had to get used to it but once I did I thought it was pretty funny.”

While Mayer’s friends quickly warmed to her passion after laughing at her, Luna’s fellow cows weren’t so open-minded.

“Cows don’t really like her … they’re jealous because she always gets goodies,” Mayer said.

And horses? Many run away in fright, but others often join Luna on rides.

“She really enjoys that and gets totally into it,” Mayer said.

Mayer hasn’t given up her hopes of having a horse and may soon get one. But she says Luna will always have a special place in her heart.

“She’ll stay my darling,” she said.

A couple of things caught my eye in this article. First, there’s a professional cow trainer in Zurich. I had no idea that there was a need for this profession. I spent many a youthful summer on farms in Wisconsin and never once heard any of my relatives ask to have their cows trained. Milked? Yep. Cleaned and groomed? Of course. Slaughtered for dinner? You betcha. But trained? Not even when beer was involved.

The second thought that crossed my mind is that this kid makes incredibly bizarre substitutions on the fly. I’m not sure that’s a great quality for a nurse.

Dramamine, Dopamine, what’s the dif?”

I know that I, for one, would care very deeply about that particular ‘dif.’

Oh well, that’s some time off. In the meantime, enjoy some video of Luna the Jumping Cow.

Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG AM 1280, every Thursday morning around 9:10!

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