At what point does fondling an animal get weird?

At what point does fondling an animal get weird?


You may never have asked yourself that question, but hey, that’s what I’m here for: to expand your horizons. Is it when you rub the entire face like you’re polishing a bowling ball? Stick a finger deep in an ear? How about several knuckles deep up the nose? Or if you reach in an animal’s mouth and grab the tongue, pull it out the side, and kind of…play with it?


I should explain.


There are a lot of horses in Cuba, and most of them are trained in the all-too-familiar way: beating, breaking, brutality. But Julio Muñoz does it differently. “I would like to say that I am the only horse whisperer in all of Cuba,” he says, with the short unpalatalized U of native Spanish speakers, “and since I know of no other horse whisperers, I can say: I am the only horse whisperer in all of Cuba!”


Horse whisperer 01Sound reasoning.


Assertions of Julio’s individuality did not surprise me. Here was a man who lived in a gorgeous former-aristocrat’s house (his family owned several before the revolution; the new leaders of Cuba left them this one) with ornate blue tiling, crystal chandeliers, and large murky paintings of serious-faced predecessors…and a horse.


Yes, Julio lives in this elegant house with his family, his ancestry…and a thousand-pound mountain of horse-muscle. We sat on divans and chaise lounges among heavy dark wood furniture, and in walked his favorite steed, Luna de miel (Honeymoon), cloth-booted hooves thudding politely on the tiles.


Jorge's wife has seen it all before, it seems.

Jorge’s wife has seen it all before, it seems.

Julio owns several horses, and rotates them every few days, one in the house, the rest on his farm a few minutes drive away. It might seem odd to have a horse in the house, but as Julio fondled this massive, powerful, clearly spirited animal, I had to hand it to him: he seemed to know what he was doing. I don’t know that much about horses, but I’m guessing you wouldn’t normally want to get between their legs like that, nor pull their tails or search for boogers with impunity. But this horse cooperated fully, and none of Julio’s horses have ever felt the lash of the whip or the bite of a bit.


In conversation with a member of our party who knows her horseflesh, Julio quoted several “natural horsemanship” techniques, but were these parlor tricks? Or the bizarre equine fetish of a man who has spent too long in the sun?
“Why would you want to stick a finger up her nose?” He asked, a question normally reserved for confused and concerned parents of small children. “Because there are some diseases she may get, and this is how you give her the medicine.”




“And why would you want to stick your finger in her ear?” Umm. If the music’s too loud? “Because that way you can check for ticks or other pests that may be in there.”




“And why would you need to pull her tongue out?” He held the pink flesh in his hand as he asked. Breath check? “Because the tongue can tell you a lot about the health of the animal, with its color and things.”




Future millionaire

Future millionaire

“And why would I want to do this?” His voice emerged from somewhere in the tangle of horse tail that was now spread across his head. “Because this way I can become a millionaire with baldness treatment in America!”


Oh Julio. You were doing so well.