Drama on the Farm
Shortly after midnight Sunday (Monday A.M.) I woke up and heard a whinny. Crap was my first thought. My second thought was maybe – if I was lucky – it was Denny’s horse. My third thought was it’s coming from the hill. I threw clothes on, got my boots, jacket, hat, and gloves on and headed outside. My flashlight is dead, but wouldn’t have been much help anyway.
Once outside I called for Huey – this is a signal for food and I tossed a bale of hay near the fence. A horse streaked across the west area over to where I was. It was Zola. She wasn’t interested in food. Where had the other horses gone? Good question. Maura and Beauty were standing in the west field. Beauty because her deformity prevents her from being a mountain goat. Maura because she really is Beauty’s friend. So 3 out of 10 were here. The rest were who knows where.
Zola stayed by my side as I looked. The moon was full, but there was a lot of fog, and I could pretty much see where I was going as far as terrain and large obstacles – but those sneaky roses did get me. It didn’t take long to realize I wasn’t going to find them on foot in the dark. I got in my truck and drove up the hill to see if I could spot them. Nothing. No hoof prints, no sounds, nothing. Perfect.
I drive back home, go back to the field, and now there are 2 horses. Zola must have found where they got out. It’s now after 1 and though the idea of doing nothing is extremely hard to endure – I have no choice. The fog is thicker, it’s darker and there is no way I have the skills to track horses in the dark. The only bright spot is that the ground is damp and should reveal prints.
I fall asleep sometime after 3 and wake up at 5:30. Still dark out. My imagination runs amuk – picking up from where it left off before I feel asleep. Eight loose horses. I am praying that my neighbor’s property is fenced all the way around. I am certain they are over there – just as I am certain that Lena is to blame. I force myself to eat breakfast, as I will probably be walking for hours. I just hope I find them. I honestly don’t know what would happen if anyone is dead or if I can’t find them. I wait until the fog lifts. Contrary to what you see in the movies and on TV, horses are silent 99% of the time. And they are usually standing still or close to it. In the trees I could easily miss them if I couldn’t see.
Beauty and Maura are still here and I throw hay to them. Extra, for being there. I put my cell phone in a fanny pack, put it on, get a halter and lead, and head up the hill. I stay as far on the west side as possible – you do really have to be a goat to travel up some parts. I get to the corner where my property adjoins the neighbor’s. There is no broken fence anywhere. There are also no horses. I continue along the fence line until – lo and behold – I see Huey in the meadow. He is not alone! I see Zola. My heart leaps. There they are – they didn’t escape after all!
Ah, but movement catches my eye – and there are more horses – on the wrong side of the fence. Roxanna, Chance, Bettina, and their ring leader, Lena. Thank goodness it’s just 4. I count my blessings. And luck – the horses that couldn’t get out kept the other ones close by. What a relief. Everyone’s alive. Everyone’s in sight. The whole thing goes from disaster to inconvenience in the blink of an eye.
I find a spot where I can crawl (literally) under the fence, then try to decide who I should halter. Which one will the most horses follow? Not Chance, no one will follow him. Not Lena, as she is still not halter broken. Roxanna or Bettina? I gamble on Bettina. She is ready to go home and eager to be haltered – after all, she’s been separated from Huey all night. I walk down the dirt road on my neighbor’s property, Bettina in hand. All the horses follow – until they realize they are leaving the others. Darn it! But, surprise, Lena continues following. As well she should – having already done this once before.
I get Bettina and Lena home, and it takes several minutes to get Lena to follow Bettina back in. She doesn’t like the electric and is nervous about passing through. But she does. Hallelujah! The hard one is safe at home. Of course Bettina is now worried because she can’t see Huey. She calls and he doesn’t bother to answer. So I lead her up the hill to the meadow – only to find that they have all moved over to the corner, having followed the loose horses.
I find the nearest place where I can slither under the fence and take the road to the corner – so much easier. I now think the rest will be easy. I’ll lead Roxanna and Chance will follow. And it starts out that way. However, Roxanna, reluctant to leave the others behind, takes encouraging and her slowness evidently annoys Chance, who turns around and heads back. Oh well, one more trip, not a big deal.
I get Roxanna home, go back up the hill – the west side – and run into Huey, Zola, Lucy, Bettina, and Shadow. As I walk toward the fence, to crawl under, Shadow leaves the other horses and walks toward me. This is extremely surprising, so I wait to see what she does. Her expression is very sweet and she actually comes all the way up to me and lets me pat her, while giving me a very nice look. I realize suddenly, that she is thanking me. Acknowledging that I have assisted the herd in getting back together. Something that she, as lead mare, couldn’t do on her own. Wow. A very special moment.
Back on the other side of the fence, I halter Chance and head home.
If you’re imagining this as not a lot of work – you have to realize that my driveway – where my truck is parked right in front of my travel trailer – is a half mile from my neighbor’s driveway. The top of hill I have to climb is straight up from my trailer – to a point on the same line as my neighbor’s driveway. See photo below. Each round trip is around a mile, up and down hill. To show how tired I was, each time (3) I walked a horse down the road to the farm I noticed how pretty it looked and wished I had a camera. Duh!!! My cell phone was in the fanny pack.
Click to view full-size image
It was 9:30 by the time I was done. All the horses were home and hay had been fed.
I was exhausted, but so were the horses. Below is a photo I took around 11:00. It was pretty clear that the horse were tired and sore. The ones who were most tired were the ones who had been left behind. All that racing around trying to find the others took its toll. Maura managed to strain both front legs. She is moving and eating, but they are both swollen. I’ve done her up to keep the swelling down and give her some support.
Click to view full-sized image.
After a rest and lunch I went up to fence line and walked the entire thing – from the top, through the cemetery and my neighbor’s property. (I am not a mountain goat.) I walked it 3 times. There is no way for the horses to get from my property to my neighbor’s without either jumping or crawling under his barbed wire cattle fence, which is two-strands, not the short one strand kind. At night, in the dark? Unscathed? That takes talent. Bettina is 24. Chance is only 9 – perhaps he should be an eventer. And I have to admire Lena, she is the adventurous one who discovered the route up and was bold enough to take it – and then to get out. Clearly she has the right spirit to race. Bold and brave is good.