Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails

Higgins began his life with us, with a story all his own. He had a bit of mystery about him, as he was quite well-trained, which had us wondering, who had put the work into him. A bit of mystery, as we were told he was a special, rare breed, yet they couldn’t remember what, which we were ever so amused by. Imagine, future hubby now owned a horse from a breed so rare, it couldn’t be remembered. Surely he was quite a rare one indeed.

Anyway, future hubby had made the decision to ride Higgins to the property I rented, and was ready to head off.
“Which way are you going to take?” I asked, in case it took longer than I figured it should, and I needed to begin looking for them.
“I think, the highway,” he answered, as if it was of no consequence, “Or maybe, I’ll cut across,” he nonchalantly added, as if his choice in route was of no significance, when of course to me, it was a rather big deal. He was riding a good ten miles home, on a horse that appeared well-trained, but that he wasn’t familiar with. Trying Higgins out in an outdoor riding ring and a parking lot, wasn’t at all the same as riding on your own, for what could be a few hours. Still he was both determined and a grown man. If future hubby said he was going to be fine riding home on his own, that was what was going to happen. As I watched them head off, I consoled myself with the fact that the man had somehow stuck to a vigorously bucking horse like a woodtick only the day before. He would be fine. Whatever came up, he would deal with. Birds Hill Park was still busy with all kinds of people enjoying the great out of doors, biking, walking, and yes, other riders as well. If he ran into trouble, hopefully someone would give him a hand. There was no point in me hanging around, so off I went. There were animals to work with, an area to ready for the new addition to the small herd, and always something to do.

I spent the next several hours getting a pen made of portable panels, set up for Higgins. He would have loose housing to shelter him from the weather, and the panels were both a good height and safe to contain him in. Every now and again, I would take a look to see if there was any sign of a horse and rider on the horizon. Just when I was beginning to really worry, there they were. Not horse and rider, but horse and leader. As they approached the driveway, I walked out to meet them.

“Have any trouble?” I asked as soon as we neared each other.
“For the first couple of miles,” he answered, with his usual blase manner, as if it was no big deal, “He wanted to go back, but gave up after a while. After that, he was good.”
“What did you do?” A bit concerned, I wanted to know.
“I got off and walked,” he affably shrugged, “When he quit fussing, I rode. I got off and walked this last mile to cool him down. Not that he was really hot or anything,” he quickly assumed, before I had time to ask, “I just thought he could use the break. I think he’s really tired. ”
‘Aw’, I thought with a proud smile, ‘he remembered.’ That he’d done this kind and contentious thing for his horse was a wonderful thing indeed. In my short experience, I’d already learned that it was easier to herd cats than train a man, so this was a big deal. That sense of pride I felt in his actions increased tenfold at his next question.

“Is there water ready? I should give him little sips at a time. He might be too hot to drink a whole bunch of water all at one time, right?”

“He’s not all hot and sweaty. You obviously didn’t run him like a machine,” I smiled, “I’m sure he’s okay with a drink, and the water isn’t really cold either, but yes, we’ll err on the side of caution. There’s a pail of water over by the barn.”
We spent about a half hour settling Higgins into his new digs then left him for the night. The horse was dog tired. Future hubby was exhausted, and we were both starving. It had been a long time since lunch, and was hours past supper. I still lived at home with my parents who lived less than a mile away, and we headed there for a bite to eat.
Sitting there in the livingroom, kicking back and winding down from the busy weekend, we were chatting with the family when the dog suddenly began barking like a mad thing. We couldn’t see what she was barking about, as the drapes were still drawn against the days sun, and I giggled when future hubby leapt to his feet.
“What?” I laughingly teased, “You think Higgins is going by or something? Sit down, silly. He’s in a solid, high pen. He’s not going anywhere.”
As if in agreement, the dog abruptly ceased barking.
“See? All done. It was probably someone out for a walk or bike ride with their dog, no worries.”
He sheepishly sat back down, a grin on his face. “Couldn’t help it,” he explained, “that’s the first thing that came to mind. But you’re right. There’s no way he could jump over the panels. They’re too tall.”
We sat there a while longer, sipping cold drinks as the busy last few days crept over us.
“Well,” I suggested with a smile and yawn, “should we go check on him, before it’s totally dark out? Five in the morning comes early. I’m pooped, and want to go to bed. I need sleep, and it’s starting to get dark out.”
Again, future hubby sprung to his feet with an eagerness that belied how tired he probably was. He was concerned about his new horse. We hopped in the truck and headed to the farm. As we turned into the driveway, we were both scanning ahead to see Higgins. Hmm, no horse in sight.
“He’s probably just inside the lean-to,” I answered the unspoken question, “I bet he’s really tired,”
“He probably is,” future hubby agreed as he pulled up to the panels and shone the lowbeams on the space, though with an uneasy doubt to his words.
To our dismay, there wasn’t a horse in the lean-to either. Higgins had flown the coop! Future hubby look at me with accusing eyes.
“Don’t say it,” I warned with a groan and hand to my forehead, “I already know. Chum was barking at Higgins.”
“Do you think he’s gone back to the stables?” he wisely asked instead of saying what he really wanted to. “Would he do that?”
“He certainly would,” I sighed then jumped into action, “We’ll take two vehicles and get help. I’m going to grab some grain and halters.”
A couple of minutes later, we each had a helper and were off and running. It seemed to suddenly be far darker out now, and finding a horse in the dark of night wasn’t going to be easy. This was years before cell phones were common. We had no way of commuting with each other, so the plan was to take different routes to Bitds Hill Park, and meet up at the stables. The extra problem with this plan was that the east park gate was closed at ten. If we didn’t find him before he made it to the park, we would have to drive miles and miles around to the west gate. It was always open, but nowhere near where we had to go. Future hubby was following the route he’d taken in the afternoon. I went as the crow flies, straight across country to a horse access gate on the north. I was pretty certain it was the most logical route, and one a horse would take. My partner and I searched until midnight with no sign of Higgins, or the other search party either. Not willing to concede defeat, but at a loss as to what to do next, we headed back to the farm. Higgins could be anywhere. There were all kinds of horses between the farm and park stables that he could’ve stopped and visited. For all we knew, he was safe and secure in someone’s paddock.
About two miles or so from the farm, we saw a vehicle’s four-way flashers steadily blinking in warning. My helper and I shared a grin of relief. Surely that was them. They had found Higgins! Thankfully, it was indeed them. Future hubby was walking his horse home for a second time. They had found Higgins casually walking down the middle of the highway! When cars approached from either direction, he would move to the shoulder. As soon as it passed, Higgins would return to the centre of the highway. Thank goodness it was Sunday at night, and there wasn’t much traffic on the roads. Thank goodness Higgins was one incredibly smart horse. This time, he went straight into a stall. There would be no further adventures this night, though life with Higgins proved interesting and entertaining. That, as they say, is a story for another day.

These photos are of Higgins recovering the follow day, from his great escape.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB