Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails


Special Edition

Anyone who follows my ‘Tails’ have read that I got into this ‘equine affliction’, all on my own. Saved for years to buy my first horse by the age of fifteen, cared for and paid their expenses myself, and did so without complaint. The first place I housed Thow-ra and Smoky was board in exchange for hard labour. The next two places, I paid rent.
The third property I pastured my horses at was 14 acres, of which I had about 12 of. At seventeen years of age, I bought posts, wire and some rails, hired a tractor with an auger and got to work. With a bit of help, the holes were all made and I could send the tractor on its way. Paying by the hour, certainly could get pricy, and in a very short time. I was relieved to see the back of it.
Not long after I had all my horses settled into their new home, my youngest sister came to own Star, a rather handy, barrel racing horse. Of course, Star came to live with my horses, with the expectation that I carried the costs. I didn’t much mind. I owned a lot of horses. One more or less in the herd, didn’t make much of a difference. After all, it was for my little sister. What did annoy and upset me about a year later was, to go to see the horses after work, and find an extra horse in my round pen. I didn’t have to ask what was going on. I already knew, and was furious about it. Despite my warnings, despite the fact that I had unequivocally stated that no, my sister could not buy another horse, that I didn’t want to have to pay to keep more than her one, she’d gone and bought another. Not only had she bought another horse, she’d purchased a draft-cross that was big, completely wild, and just weaned. Something that irritated even more? My mother had enabled her to do so and had been her cohort. Not anywhere near old enough to drive, mom had driven her to look at horses.
Anyway, my irritation to one side, the deed was done. There was now an extremely upset, extra mouth to feed, and very little I could do about it. Too miffed to even want to do anything with the horses that day, I went home to cool off.
Mom was apologetic, but never could say no to her youngest. I needed time to be by myself. After doing so much, paying the expenses, buying brushes, halters, leads, all the paraphernalia that came with having horses, only to find they weren’t put away, or were lost was one thing. Bringing another horse when I’d specifically said no, really irked me.
Night had barely fallen when my sister came bursting into my bedroom in near tears, Ed was gone! She’d left the property for a little while, only to return to find the big weanling gone. He’d broken out of the round pen and was nowhere to be found. It couldn’t be helped. I now had no choice but to go search in the dark for a big, terrified weanling that wasn’t even halter broke, and very likely thought, all humans were monsters.
My sister and mother went in one vehicle. My buddy Jim went in his pickup truck, and I went in mine. It wasn’t going to be easy to find a black horse on an overcast night, but we had to try. Everyone went in a different direction to cover as much ground as possible, focusing on the mile or two area around the property. It was my hope that the colt wouldn’t cross the train tracks, as the sight of those long, shiny rails that glistened from the rain drizzling down, were likely frightening to him. Even in the pitch-black of this miserable, starless night, the rails were obvious, and hopefully snake-like to a young, equine mind. I hoped they were a significant barrier. Trying to find any horse in inky blackness would’ve been a monumental task. To try and find a black one, far worse.
I have to confess, the feeling of hopeless futility at any chance of success was impossible to shake. Still, we had to do our best. There was no other option. Somewhere out there in the drizzly night was a frightened colt. It had to be found.
Trying to see beyond the reach of my truck’s headlights was impossible. Unless Ed ran right onto the gravel road in front of any one of us, he could be on the edge of a field, and wouldn’t be seen. In an attempt to put a bit of luck on my side, I would pull over, shut off the truck and, now don’t laugh too hard, whinny. Ed didn’t speak human. I doubt he had any use for humans at all, since his traumatic day. I’d been talking to horses since I was a child, have never been too sure about what I’m saying, but they certainly responded. Anyway, I would drive a bit, pull over, whinny out into the darkness then intently listen. No positive result, back into the truck, I’d go to move a bit further along and try again.
It was at one of these times, about a mile from where my horses lived that I whinnied, and recieved an answer! It was far away and tiny, like that of a young horse, and I didn’t recognize it as one of mine. Hope soared and I whinnied again. Again I was answered. Over and over, I called out to the colt as his desperate replies grew closer and closer.
He suddenly appeared before me, coming out of the dark like a wild animal, head high as he wildly looked for the horse, he knew he’d heard. Hoping to reassure, I softly nickered to him. Confused, he answered, and took a hesitant step forward. As I kept ‘talking’ to him to try to keep him near, my mind was racing to come up with a way of catching him. Thank goodness he had a halter on, but how to get a hold of it? Never mind that. How to lead him, even if I did get a hold of him? Thoughts swiftly changed focus when, Ed abruptly turned around and disappeared back into the field. Without hesitation, I followed.
There’s little stickier, heavier or harder to walk through than good old, Manitoba gumbo when wet. Within a few steps, my feet were heavily caked, and I’m not even kidding, weighed a ton. Within minutes, my legs ached from the strain as I slogged along behind and to one side of Ed. Slowly, ever so slowly, I managed to get him headed back towards the gravel road. It was wet and soft from the rain, but at least you didn’t sink halfway to your knees with every step, and your runners wouldn’t get sucked off your feet either.
Once on the road, I trudged just to his left and a few feet behind. I wasn’t too concerned about being kicked. Just like I was, the poor fellow was utterly spent. Head hanging down, tail flat to his little rump as he dragged heavy, mud-covered feet, he looked the picture of dejection, poor baby. But then, I wasn’t all that chipper myself, as I slogged along. How in the world was I ever going to catch him? If I walked faster, so did he. There was also the little problem of my arm and hand. He wasn’t at all crazy about me sticking it out at him.
We plodded along, two worn out, dejected creatures, yet neither defeated. There was no point in trying to croon and soothe him. Humans weren’t his friends right then, and I didn’t want to send him running again. By now we’d walked about a quarter mile from where we’d come up onto the road. We were approaching an intersection, and though it was very late, or possibly very early, I worried about possible traffic on the country road. I had it in my head that it was imperative to catch Special Edition before then.
Feeling all kinds of desperation, I forced myself to ignore how much my legs were aching and screaming at me to stop. I had to think, and come up with a plan, fast.
What I did was a little out there, yet it was all I could come up with. All the while saying what I hoped were reassuring sweet nothings in horse-speak, I slowly moved my arm to hold my right hand in front of me. I could tell that he was watching my every move, and listening, too. Again, I tried to walk a bit faster. Again, he did the same then, as if some giant lightbulb suddenly clicked on in my head, I had an idea. Though it felt like lead, I kept my arm out and hand ready. Then, instead of picking up speed, I lengthened my tired stride.
Slowly but surely, I moved up along his side, all the while keeping up the sweet ‘horse talk’. It took every bit of that quarter mile to inch my way along his length, but suddenly that halter he thankfully wore was within reach. It was a case of now or never. I’m not completely clear on how, but suddenly, my fingers felt wet nylon and I had him!
Oh no, I had him. Now what? Ed’s reaction was startled and somewhat delayed, yet predictable. He wanted loose. I had no intention of letting go. My hand clenched the side of that halter like a vise, even as Ed tried his very best to break free. Too exhausted to fight like a fresh weanling would have, he finally quit dragging me around to face me, legs splayed out, like a giraffe drinking water. The feeling of desperation I felt was compounded when I dared scan the distance, for any sign of a slow moving vehicle. I needed help. I couldn’t get my other hand and the leader rope up to his head, not without an undesirable reaction. All I could do was be an anchor.
I willed the headlights I saw appear about a mile away to turn our way, and they did! It took forever to slowly make its way, slowed down at my parked truck, then continued on. When the truck stopped and parked, Ed and I in the beams of light, and Jim got out, I could’ve cried with relief. Somehow, we got that lead onto Ed’s halter then I turned over the colt to Jim. Unlike me, he still felt fresh and ready for a fight. We got Ed back home and into the round pen again, this time with reinforcements to the planks. It was the wee hours of the morning. I was about ready to collapse, and I had to be at work in a few hours. It had been quite the night. As for horses showing up without my permission? It never happened again.

  1. Hi Truday,

    This “blog” is great! Sometimes I miss your “tails” on my facebook page. Now I know where to go if I miss one. I always enjoy your stories. Hope you have a great day!


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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