Horses (and estranged wives) in Scottdale, Pa., can breathe a sigh of relief, as resident Joseph Mendicino pleaded guilty Friday to charges that he: "took out a contract on his estranged wife's horses and tried to have her run off the road for testifying against him during a hearing in November," according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The story behind this is incredible--they report that Mendicino, angry that the wife testified against him, tried to arrange for two of her three horses to be killed while he was serving time in the county prison. Fortunately, the inmate he approached about this turned him in.

This is where this gets interesting:

"The inmate notified county detectives, who set up a sting operation.

"(A detective) posed as a horse hitman and arranged the contract with Mendicino."

... posed as a horse hitman. Really?

So I got to thinking ... how does one pose as a horse hitman? Is there a set lingo and character one traveling in these circles must assume to pull it off?

So, I googled [Horse hitman].

I found a bunch of rehashes of this story, and a 2006 column from the UK's Sunday Times entitled "My kingdom for a horse hitman," by Jeremy Clarkson.

This recounts the adventures of his family shortly after acquiring what sounds like a veritable herd of Icelandic horses, and Jeremy's opinion thereof (and given the injury rate reported, I can't say I blame him), as well as reflections on the general equestrian community and our tendency to, well ... overreact ... on occasion ... or anytime horses are mentioned ... anywhere.

Which is problematic for those of us who spend the vast majority of our waking hours writing about and talking about and shooting videos about horses.

"If a newspaper columnist wants to live an easy life, then it's sensible to steer clear of certain issues," he rightly noted. "Laying into Jesus is right out. And it's probably not a good idea to say the poor should have their shoes confiscated. But the greatest taboo -- the biggest landmine of the lot -- is the touchy subject of horses."

[reference to a past column that incited some fury from the horse-owning sector]

"This went down badly. It turned out that there are three million horsists in Britain and each one of them wrote to me, hoping that I would die soon. So I made a mental note to skirt round equine issues in future."

And this, friends, made me laugh so hard my face turned fuchsia and I nearly cried. Because I know it to be true. And I bet you do, too.

Read the column, chortle quietly, and forward it to all your friends.

Or read the column, take a deep breath, look up the definition of satire, realize that a) no, he's not actually planning to shoot any of the horses, and b) that yes, we do realize that actual horse hitmen are no laughing matter. Then go outside and pet your horse. It's all going to be ok.