Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails

Tom the Contortionist

To look at a draft horse, one would assume that they don’t fit through small spaces very well, certainly not with much finesse. Two thousand pounds of giant horse, bred to work like a semi, shouldn’t be able to move between two wires of electric, stock fence without tearing it down or getting zapped for the effort, yet that’s what Tom did, time and again.
The old adage was true. The grass truly was greener on the other side of the fence. At least, it certainly appeared that way to Tom. Despite the ten acre pasture he was on, and the abundance of grass right under his feet, Tom had a deep need and desire, to eat grass on the other side of the fence. From there he would make his way to the manicured lawn of our neighbour, where he would leave behind dinner plate sized holes as evidence of his passing. This couldn’t continue. I had to do something about his escapism, and posthaste.
It was hard to believe that Tom didn’t tear down wires when he crawled between them, and that he didn’t get a shock either, yet that’s what happened. I actually caught him in the act, or I wouldn’t have believed it myself. Apparently, giant hooves and dry ground, equal a lack of conductivity. This was a problem as big as the horse itself, but still had to be solved.
Teaching or proving to a horse that touching an electric fence isn’t a good idea is a tricky, unpleasant job for both human and horse. Over the years, I think I’ve tried every trick in the book, pushed, pulled and lured the escape artist of the moment into the fence, to experience that little electric pulse that is supposed to deter touching the fence, with mixed results. The reaction was always a tad dramatic. The horse would react by leaping away with a snort, and often with a good buck as well. Invariably, the offender would gallop away with the lead blowing in the breeze against their side, and I would have to follow to retrieve both halter and lead rope. This time I planned ahead. This time, I wasn’t going to have to chase after a horse to retrieve a halter and lead rope. This time, I intended on being extra smart.
I led Tom to a section of dividing, electric fence where he could be on one side, and I on the other. I had my good friend, Susan stay on the side with Tom, while I went around to the other. The idea was to remove his halter, drape the lead over the great neck then she would pass the ends of the lead to me. I would simply ask Tom to step forward into the fence. He would, and would feel the shock and leap away. The lead would simply fall away. Job done, and without any retrieval needed.
At first, everything worked as well as it did, when I pictured the scenario in my mind. Susan passed the ends of the rope to me. I asked Tom to step forward, which after a moment’s hesitation, he obediently did then it all rapidly went wrong from there. Despite the dampish area, those giant hooves were insulating the big fellow from the shock. There he stood, massive chest pressed into and stretching the fence, and nothing. About to touch the wire myself, as I was beginning to doubt that it was even on, I had the idea taken from my thoughts by a telltale snap and accompanying giant snort. Nostrils flared, big brown eyes opened wide with startled surprise and it happened. As if in super slow motion, that behemoth reared into the air before me. Even as he rose, I understood what was going to happen, yet was frozen in place. I know it probably took all of a few seconds, but felt like forever for that rear to turn into more. Ever obedient, Tom obeyed that forward pull of the rope on the back of his neck. With a mighty leap, he jumped at me, instead of running away, as I’d so woefully assumed.
I truly have no idea how, or if I even managed to move out of his way, even a little. Yet must have, as one of those dinner plate sized hooves land squarely on my right foot! It was my turn to be wide-eyed, from the shock and gut-churning pain. Staggering to the nearest fence post, even as Tom galloped away, the rope falling from him straight away as predicted, I leaned back against the hard surface and sank breathless to the ground. The pain was so great, so all encompassing that I couldn’t catch my breath, or think beyond what I was feeling and experiencing. I wasn’t sure if I was about to faint or upchuck. Both remained a definite possibility, for the next few minutes.
Running over to where I sat gasping for breath, Susan was incredibly concerned, “Oh no! Do you want me to call an ambulance? Are you okay? Of course you’re not okay. Should I get my car? I’ll get my car. You won’t be able to walk,” then, as I managed to somehow get my boot off, “oh no, that’s awful. I’m going to get help.”
“Just … give … me … a sec,” I was barely able to groan out the words, “I … just, need to,” I caught my breath, for a few, long seconds, “sit here … for … a bit.”
Needing to do something, Susan collected the rope from where it lay on the ground then went to shut off the electric fencer. After all, squashed foot that was swelling like a balloon and swiftly turning all sorts of shades of black and blue or not, there was fence to fix. If there was one thing a country person, especially one with animals had to get good at, it was ‘walking it off’.
Over the next while, I elevated my foot whenever I could, or remembered to. It went through all sorts of spectacular colour changes as the weeks went by, and a great conversation starter. My poor foot was just beginning to feel a bit better, when a friend asked me to help deliver a Tennessee Walker mare she’d sold. Of course I said yes, and when it appeared that no one was going to walk the mare, around the perimeter of the paddock, I did that, too.
Now, Tia was about as sweet and calm a mare as anyone could ever want, yet that day, she spooked, and landed right onto my injured foot. A week later, another horse unexpectedly leapt upon my foot, just like it was magnetically drawn to do so.
The hubby wanted to know why I kept putting my foot under theirs, the smart Alec. Alas, no sympathy anywhere.
A few more weeks passed by, and though my foot appeared fairly normal, it still ached like crazy. I went to see my doctor. After his examination, I asked him why it hurt so darn much.
His answer? “Well, because you broke the poor thing.”
I still clearly remember the incredulous expression on his face, and the somewhat amused smile on his face, as he held my foot and slowly shook his head.
“Oh, hmm,” I frowned ever so slightly as I contemplated it, “Now what?”
“Now nothing,” he shrugged and sighed, for he already knew what I was like, “it’s been too long.”
“Oh well,” I smiled and shrugged, “it is what it is. I’ll walk it off, like usual.”

  1. Oh my! I have been stepped on by my thouroughbreds, both Clyde and Foxie. They are and were big horses. It hurt, and my toes are pretty wonky looking now, but a draft with momentum, OUCH!LOVE the story Trudy!

  2. Twister a racebred quarter horse stomped my foot and broke my toes. I was standing on a boulder at the time. Like you said everything aims for the sore foot! Great tail as always.

Leave a Reply

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.
All rights reserved. No part of this website or book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means – graphic, electronic or mechanical – without the prior written permission of the author.


 Oakbank, MB