Yes, friends, it’s another apolitical, equine-centric diary.
One of these days I’ll contribute to the purpose of the site; till then, you’ll have to settle for off-topic diversions, as those are what seem to flow most easily from my flying (or stumbling, let’s be honest here) fingers.
So here goes:
The adrenaline rush has worn off; the shakes are about gone; the heart rate is back to near-normal, here at home, safe, unharmed. But I’ve just gone through the scariest time in my horsekeeping life.
I’m back now from the barn, from bringing four horses in out of the paddock run-in, into their stalls for the night. The wind’s blowing well over 20 mph, with gusts up to 40. All four geldings – my two; the farm owners’ two – were freaking out from the roar and rush and banging when I got there, even before I started leading them in one by one. At least the ground was bare, the ice all melted, or there’d have been a wreck for sure; at least floodlights illuminated the path we’d have to take; the distance from turnout to shelter was only a couple of dozen yards; but oh! what a vast and daunting distance it was, and worse with each traverse.
The first one out was Counterpoint, the Lipizzaner, herd king, likely to have a meltdown if others came in before him. He dithered at the gate but let me buckle his halter on, slithered through an opening brief enough to get him out without his companion Cholla jamming through on his heels, and snorted his way in, body bunched, head tossing, swinging sideways several times but yielding to my making him circle. Released in his stall, he rushed to the window to see what was happening with his herd.
That was the easy one.
Second: Ben, my normally quiet, laidback, biddable Thoroughbred, now strung out, wild-eyed, nostrils flared to fit a fist in, swinging between head-flinging bouncing whirls around me and brief bouts of frozen staring into the goblin-howling dark before his front feet left the ground again for another plunging eruption. There’s nothing like a half-ton of terrified Thoroughbred to focus the mind, eh? I managed to keep my deathgrip on the lead rope, tight to his head (let him get any slack and he’d have broken free or gone skyward), as we crabwised and spun our way up the drive, around the snowbank at the top, and into the barn. He stayed wired all the way down the aisle and into his stall.
Third: Cholla, the Quarter Horse. Usually in a four-horse take-in I’d leave him for last because he can handle it, but by now he was running and whinnying. I had to bark at him to hold still to get his halter on; almost got body-slammed going through the gate; and could barely hold him back from bolting up the drive, never mind I was spinning him every few steps, my elbow jammed into his shoulder to keep him from trampling over me. He dragged me down the aisle and was still quivering when I got his halter off and slid home the stall door.
Three down, three trips of barely contained terror, and only Commander left. Commander, the smallest of the four, but a Morgan has power to spare and he wasn’t sparing any. By now he was yelling and running and agitated almost out of his skin. When calm, he’ll shove his nose into an outstretched halter and walk quietly on a loose rope. Now? Head-flinging, dithering around the gate, barely holding still long enough to be haltered; slamming past me out the gate; fighting me all the way up the drive as wildly as Ben and Cholla. By the time I got him into his stall I was done for – arm and shoulder aching, hands shaking, legs weak.
I slid his door home and went back out into the wind, to secure the gates from slamming and to set up breakfast hay in the run-in. Returning to the barn, I found all four had calmed down enough to dive into their hay, and to accept as their due the horse cookies I offered. I dragged the barn door shut, staggered against the gale to my car, and came home.
I should note here my undying gratitude to the persons who put basic ground manners on these horses. True, they were horrible to handle tonight; were on the edge of losing control; but they never went over that edge, despite their freaked-out craziness they listened just enough for me to get us all safely through the ordeal. Badly trained horses would have lost it completely and gotten us into a wreck. Whoever halter-trained the boys deserves credit for that.
Yes, I did have a cellphone in my pocket, and there was a person in the house had I needed to scream for help (he knows bupkis about horse-handling, but I’m sure could cope with ambulance-calling if need be). But it was something I never want to go through again.
Unless, of course, I have to. You do what you have to do.
Cross-posted at my blog (such as it is).