Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails

The Only One

Horses come in all sizes, shapes and yes, personalities. There are some who believe that only humans can have personalities, but I find that idea both ludicrous and narrow. All the animals I have known throughout my life have shown me otherwise.
My first Morgan stallion, Paprika sired but two foals. A purebred filly I purchased months before birth, and a filly from my grade palomino mare, Robin. This story is about the Morgan filly, Mayphil. The only purebred Morgan sired by Paprika, she became one of the foundation horses, of my breeding program.
Right from the moment she came to live with us, she proved herself to be a huge character with a big personality. She was intrigued with humans, and never lost her fascination with them. If humans were around, she was positive that the only reason was that they were there to shower her with attention. She would place herself between whoever was around and the others then soak up every scratch, every pat and bit of human touch, she could entice. Though she adeptly kept herself between humans and the other horses in order to get all the attention, she never chased the others off or threatened. Mayphil was, quite simply, an attention hog.
Back in those days, hubby and I were turning bald-butt farmland, into an orderly complex of pens. Greatly influenced by the thoroughbred farm, I had worked at when I was a young teenager, I wanted pens divided by aisles. I also wanted a system of gates from corrals, to shuffle horses to different pastures. We were a long way from achieving that, but had a few corrals up to hold the motley assortment of equines. As Mayphil was more dog-like than horse, I would let her out of the boring corral where there wasn’t any opportunity to nibble green grass, or frolic amongst the dandelions. She would wander the aisles between the various pens, graze a little, explore a little, and generally enjoy her time out of confinement. I’m pretty sure she gloated at the other horses as they watched her amble about, and bet she lorded it over them. At least, that’s what it looked like to me.
We had seeded most of our fifty-five acres into hay, and though we had hired someone to do the first and second cut of hay that year, summer lasted way into fall. There was a good ten acres of field between our house and the neighbours that was tall and lush enough for a third cut. We hadn’t even had any frost either, so no worries about the alfalfa being toxic from nitrogen. We didn’t own haying equipment yet, but we did have a heavy duty lawn tractor and antique horse mower. I figured if a horsedrawn sickle mower did the job back in the old days, it could work well again. After all, we used it to cut the tall grass along the shoulders of the roads, along our property. It was in excellent working condition, and ready to go. Gear driven off the steel wheels, there was no need for a 3-point hitch or power takeoff. Hubby had changed it to be able to be pulled by a drawbar and ball, so it seemed a perfectly reasonable option. Sure, the sickle bar wasn’t very long, so the cut wasn’t very big, but I had the time and inclination, so decided to get at it. If it took hundreds of rounds of the field, I could easily make some of the most beautiful, alfalfa hay ever.
As soon as the dew lifted, because summery weather or not, autumn brought heavy dew, I got to work. Round after round, I made gradually smaller circles of the field. Lush, soft green alfalfa fell against the sharp slicing of the fast moving sickle blade. The old neighbour parked on the road for a good while, chuckling at what to him, probably looked like sheer madness, and the minutes ticked by into a few hours. I was parched, hot and hungry. It was time for a short break.
Stopping alongside the expansive yard, I shut off the tractor, hopped, and by hopped I mean dragged my hot, weary self off the little, steel beast and headed through the trees and across the lawn to the house. Never mind a tall glass of chilled, ice tea, I was ready to dunk my head in it. After chugging a couple of gallons of lemony iced tea, a quick biffy break and grabbing an apple, I headed back outside. There was a job to get done. I had to get the whole field down and drying. Sunny weather couldn’t be counted on, especially in the fall, and with shorter days upon us, the hay needed time to cure.
Walking across the lawn, I could just make out the tractor through the trees, and there in front of it, was the yearling Mayphil. Oh yeah, I’d let her out hours earlier. Hmm, I should probably put her back in with her buddies. If nothing else, it was highly likely that she was thirsty. As I walked nearer, I realized that something was off. Mayphil was standing there as if patiently waiting, one front leg outstretched. Realization and a nauseous sensation, almost immediately washed over me. I understood why she had her leg outstretched like that. She had a foot caught between the sharp blades of the sickle bar.
So many horrible scenarios raced through my mind, the worst of which was, when Mayphil pulled back, and ripped her foot off. As it was, I dreaded what I would soon be seeing. The V-blades of the sickle were extremely sharp. It wasn’t going to be good, not good at all. Rushing to her aid wasn’t a solution, as that could create a bad reaction. I very much wanted her to simply stand, just like she was. There was no one around to help me. I had to solve this potentially huge problem, all by myself.
“Hello baby,” I crooned as I casually walked to her, “whatcha doing, getting yourself into all kinds of trouble?”
In typical Mayphil style, she nickered in reply. Placing a hand on her shoulder, I gave what I hoped was a reassuring pat, even as I leaned to peek at what was going on at her foot. To my relieved shock and surprise, I couldn’t see anything wrong. No visible injury, no pool from seeping blood, nothing but a foot resting between sharp blades.
Fully aware that everything could go south, at the drop of a hat, I maintained my calm demeanour, despite the fact I was shaking inside. Continuing to talk sweetly, I moved to the opposite side of the mower while Mayphil attentively watched my every move.
“Okay, you silly girl you,” I kept talking to keep her calm, but myself as well, “let’s see if we can get you out of this mess. Now, no pulling back,” I added as I leaned down to take a hold of her hoof with one hand. The other reached behind her knee, to encourage her to bring her leg forward, and release the pressure on her poor pastern.
The whole time I was preparing to do what I could, to release Mayphil from this predicament, her nostrils were softly fluttering. She nuzzled the back of my neck, played with my hair as I bent before her, and didn’t appear all too concerned. When I put pressure on the back of her knee, it felt like she was going to pull back. That was something I had to prevent at all costs. The resulting injury would be devastating and likely mean the end of my lovely Mayphil.
“Uh uh,” I soflty crooned, “don’t be doing that, baby. Come on, give me your leg. Let’s get you out of here.:
To my relieved surprise, she did as I asked. It was just as if she’d understood. Giving me her leg, she allowed me to pull it forward, while I moved her stuck foot, out of the grasp of sharp blades. Setting her hoof onto the ground, I carefully examined every inch of soft, shiny hide of her pastern. Thankfully, there wasn’t even a scratch. I could hardly believe how incredibly sensible that young filly was, and how she seemed to understand that she had to be extra obedient. She snuffled my face, then turned and casually sauntered off to the lawn, where she proceeded to have a lovely roll on the grass, apparently not at all bothered.
I thought about putting her away, then decided to leave her be. She’d been a very good girl, and was quite content to laze about under the shade of the golden willows.
Never again, did I leave a piece of equipment anywhere a far too curious horse might get at it. Clearly, she’d reached put to paw at the strange thing sitting in the field, and caught her foot in it. I swear, curiosity didn’t kill the cat, it’s the horse that gets in trouble, not cats!
I got a hundred and twenty of the most beautiful, green, incredibly soft hay ever. Just perfect for babies and old horses, but it was almost the most expensive hay I had ever made.


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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