By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
She has never met the cowboy at the front of the room, but there's something about him. Maybe it's the way he parts and braids his gray beard, or the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes that have deepened from decades of smiling. Maybe it's the full cowboy getup -- brown suede hat with the metal rim, black buttonup with cow-skull designs and a preacher collar, spurred boots. Anyway, there's something about this man that must be saying trust me.
Lainez has only a vague idea of what it means to become a pony. She can see the tack on the table -- the made-for-human bridles, the deerskin thongs with real ponytails, the hoofed gloves. And there is that other woman parading around in knee-high boots, a ponytail thong, and a black leather corset.
For Lainez this is all part of the attraction. Maybe a little walk on the wild side will help her see the world, and her own sexuality, in a new way.
So when the cowboy asks for a volunteer, Lainez shrugs and raises a hand.
But she'll have to wait. Another woman is first in the corral: Sharon Davis. Or at least that was the woman's name, right up to the moment the cowboy lowers the bridle over her head. As she clenches the bit in her teeth, Sharon Davis becomes ... Firefox.
This is ponyplay -- a boundary-stretching variation on conventional fetishes, with its own bizarre paraphernalia and terminology, substituting bridles and riding crops for the usual manacles and whips -- which just might be going on in a hotel conference room or back yard near you. This particular workshop -- part of the Fetish Factory's 12-Year Anniversary Fetish Weekend -- is run by a middle-age couple who come with modified ranch trappings and a homespun cowboy philosophy. They are Foxy Davis, the self-professed "original cracker cowboy"; and his girlfriend of ten years, Sharon, who goes by Sherifox, a combination of her real name and her pony name.
Right now, though, she's neither Sharon nor Sherifox but Firefox, a combustible little show pony who needs the firm hand of an experienced horseman.
She shakes her head and stomps. She whinnies. The cowboy takes the reins, attached to either side of Firefox's bit. He picks up his riding crop and taps her hindquarters. Eyes wide, teeth bared, Firefox begins to walk. She's on just two legs walking upright, but her steps are graceful and elongated, like, well, a horse's. The room is silent except for the tinkling of small golden bells laced to Firefox's boots. The cowboy leads Firefox around and between two rows of chairs as about twenty rapt pupils turn their heads like so many kittens following a string.
For his next trick, the cowboy attaches Firefox to a lead line and runs her through orange cones. He makes her trot. He makes her gallop. She goes fast! She runs into a door. Ouch.
But she is okay!
When the cowboy drops the reins for a second, Firefox neighs defiantly and then trots to the other side of the room. When the cowboy ignores her, she slinks back over to him.
"The glue factory is not too far away," he says with twinkly-eyed nonchalance. It is fortunate a pony cannot understand taunts, for this cowboy is prone to them. He also enjoys grooming the pony -- shampooing it, brushing it, and spritzing it with safe-for-humans fly spray. But he doesn't groom Firefox now because of time constraints.
In fact he didn't take any of the usual steps in converting her to "pony head space." Those he will demonstrate on Carolina Lainez.
A taxidermist by trade, Foxy can often be heard saying things like "You snuff 'em, we stuff him." He is native to rural Florida and confesses a penchant for shootin' bears and an allegiance to a Southern value system. Property rights, the right to bear arms, and support for local farms: They are Foxy's priorities. And this cracker didn't get the memo about calling people African-Americans; he prefers darkies.
With her broad shoulders and thick, auburn mane, Sherifox actually has an equine quality to her. High cheekbones and square jaw hint at her Nez Perce Indian roots, and her tan, muscular upper thighs and arms could belong to a body aged 30 years, not 52. She's got a raspy Texas lilt that comes from years of Capri cigarettes and hard living as a cheerleader, a stripper, a helicopter painter, a pipe-fitter's assistant, a reserve deputy sheriff, a wrangler, an equine midwife, a party girl, and the occasional guardian of Twiggy, the touring skiing squirrel. Sherifox would like to be living a quieter life, but with the discovery of ponyplay, the party won't stop.
Foxy and Sherifox believe that ponyplay could catch on and that their business could take off, so they've been traveling all over the nation in an attempt to rope in the masses.
As long as there have been beasts of burden, there has been ponyplay.