Several years ago, we came to know the daughter of the couple that, at the time, managed the barn where we board our horses. She was an adorable little blond-haired spitfire.

And an old hand around horses. She seemed fearless. We frequently saw her leading horses from one paddock to another, two or three at a time.

She was a talker.

She’d often accompany us as we called our two old sweeties in for their feed, keeping up a non-stop banter all the while.

She’d quiz us about all manner of things: Why are you feeding them this stuff? What’s her name? Is she old? Do you like coming out here? You get the idea. It was always a game of Twenty Questions.

We liked that and found her quite delightful.

Her parents were home schooling her, so she was often around the pasture when we were.

Funny thing, though, right now I can’t remember her name.

One summer day as we were hanging out with Bud and Pepper as they ate their grain, she commented on what a nice horse Bud was. “Except for his short tail, he’d be a great horse,” she said with authority.

Her pronouncement surprised me. And put me on the defensive.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“My daddy doesn’t like horses with short tails. And neither do I.”

By now I really wanted to defend our dear sweet Bud. “But you just said you thought he was a great horse.”

She nodded. “Yeah, if he had a long tail.” Then she looked at me with all the innocence of her nine-years, and said, “I hate short-tailed horses.”

This just blew me away.

Everyone loved Bud. He’s just that kind of good-natured, loveable guy.

“But look at all his good qualities,” I said. “He has such a great personality.” I was still trying to convince her of the error of her thinking. Sadly, it was going nowhere. She’d made her decision. Short-tailed horses had no merit.

Soon after she wandered back to the barn.

We had reached a stalemate.

In the musical South Pacific, there’s a song that says, “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear.” Those lines ran through my mind as I listened to this little girl tell me she hated our horse, simply because of his short tail.

Wow, talk about an object lesson in prejudice.

It’s made me think about the word hate.

It’s strong.

It’s rigid.

It’s black and white instead of gray.

When you hate, there is no room to waffle.

Either you hate or you don’t.

I don’t want to live that way.

I’m trying to notice and stop myself before I use the word.

I don’t want to hate things.

Even the things it might be good to hate. Things like intolerance, injustice, and violence.

In my mind it’s a slippery slope that I don’t want to step onto.

Can we work to change things without hating them?

I sure hope so.

As for that little girl, her family has moved on to another boarding facility I presume. And she missed out on knowing one heck of a great horse.

Short tail and all.