Skip to main content

Horse Power

A recommendation to treat your bod like a horse.

illustration of a woman and horse
Illustration by Kati Szilágyi

A horse tail-swoosh is the animal kingdom's answer to the middle finger, the hair flip, and the eye roll in one gesture. It says watch out for me and don't test me. In an attractive way. It's instinctive, defiant, effective, bodily, and aloof. It isn't just a warning, it accomplishes the swats and flicks. It's form and function and fuck-you. At this time of too many battles to fight and a sea of wrongs to growl at, I want to very much embody the horse tail-whip.

It started with my nails. I met a wrangler with an excellent manicure in Wyoming who told me that it was horse-hoof polish that keeps her nails strong. She uses Gena's Hoof Lacquer, a quick-drying top coat with a high gloss whose label says "the trainer's choice." It's an acetate, alcohol, and formaldehyde resin, an intimidating mixture that is ready to do hard work. It layers on a hearty protective layer that smoothed over brittle ends and wasn't cheesy-shiny either. I didn't do a control test with my nails before this hoof lacquer, but they do make a way more satisfying clack sound when drummed on a desk.

More, more, more! My mane, my energy, my muscles: so many components of my form seemed suitable for equine treatment. I began a Google search for more horse-specific, human-suitable products. I now get targeted advertisements that want to sell me stable blankets for wintertime horse care. What initially appealed to me about a "beauty" product made for horses is that it should be resilient, weather-resistant, and capable of dealing with sweat, work, and dirt. I'm getting images of Lady Godiva and centaurs. The animals are tough and forceful, and also shiny and gorgeous.

Mane 'n Tail has been a famous cross-species beauty stronghold for as long as I've known about horses and horse girls.Long interlude: the horse girl is a type of adolescent particularly obsessed with horses, Thoroughbred books, braids ( if you'd like some source material, here's a Tacocat song called "Horse Grrls"). I found an elevated Mane 'n Tail option called Gallop with glossy metallic packaging and promises to enhance color for specific breeds. It's very lathery and leaves a delicate shimmer. I used the one for chestnut and palomino horses, and it brought out whatever gold-blonde summer glow was still left in my hair. The instructions are to apply directly to a wet coat with a brush or by hand, though in the shower works great for human people.

It has been my hunt for an animalic, leathery, hay perfume that has me feeling my most equine. Something that smells like the aroma described in this diary entry from Walt Whitman's Specimen Days in America called "Clover and Hay Perfume," where the "the familiar delicious perfume fills the barns and lanes" and there are "long, glossy, dark-green plumes for the great horseman, earth." First reading this, I fully accepted the thesis that earth is a horseman, and then I fully desired summer smells of green, smoky woods. This is often a unisex scent, like the Smell of Weather Turning by Lush, which has nettle and hay. My favorite was the known enfant terrible of perfumes, Bandit by Robert Piguet. Bandit is made with "dark animal notes and aggressive leather accord." Whoa, and yes. That's what feeling like a horse should make you say. It's a whole orchestration of a smell, undeniable and sybaritic, or just "very strong," in the words of a friend who hugged me right after I used it. You need to feel bold when you put it on; otherwise, it's a little ridiculous. There's no hiding behind this scent, just like there's no hiding a horse.

Advertisement

To feel like a horse, you can't just keep things surface-level. Even when you're still, it's very muscular; they are a perma-flexed beast. Moving fast and with power has been a physical priority for me since it felt potentially relevant to my future that I might need to kick some Nazis. I was referred to a dance class close to me called Pony Sweat and texted four suspected former horse girls I knew. "Tell me about your horse-girl past, and I'll show your pony-sweat future," I texted. No one was free, but at least one nicely declined by saying "Stay golden, pony girl." I wondered if it would be the choreography to Ginuwine's "Pony" as executed by Channing Tatum. It was not. The music was New Wave–y and the movements were kicky and slinky. The leader, a dainty punk named Emilia , encouraged us through some energetic wiggles among the spicy smell of body sweat and natural deodorant. After the class, Emilia told me it's named after a band she formed with her friends called Pony Boat that had never actually played but had inspired some tattoos. The dances were clever and quick, if not particularly assertive, and I felt a little distracted. But then, I am not a pony.

There was one song from Pony Sweat that I kept playing, by L7. It has a ground-pounding chorus that goes, "She's fast, she's lean and frightening!" It's about me; it's about a horse. The way I've felt it most recently is going extremely fast on my bike. Extremely fast, by the way, is a feeling, not a speed measurement. It's legs pumping, blurred trees, sweat, traversing power, wind in your shiny mane, and staying very golden.

Maggie Lange just moved to Los Angeles, and is still on East Coast time.