Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails

Elegant Dean and I

From our very first interaction together, Elegant Dean and I got along. He never once flattened his pretty ears at me, and was always interested in what I was doing. There were a couple of sturdy, tall stallion pens that they would get turned out into on an alternating basis, but never for long enough, and not all of them. Most of the horses lived life in a stall. A roomy stall, yet a stall nonetheless. Mares with foals got daily turnout, unless there was inclement weather. Horses in training for the track were galloped on a daily basis, but stallions spent most of their time stalled. The boredom stalled horses experience has to be tremendous. No wonder so many pick up bad habits like straw-walking, weaving, wind-sucking, cribbing and more. Animals created by evolution and environment to be mostly on the move, aren’t meant to be locked up. It’s too hard on their poor minds.
Because Elegant Dean was a bit of a hard case, he was moved to one of the stalls built at the back of the big, steel, breeding shed. I would often shut the big doors so I could let him out to stretch his legs and burn off some energy. I didn’t ask if I could, I just did.
On hot days, it was like a sauna in that building, and that poor horse would sweat like crazy. There was a pump room in one corner that I would take advantage of. There was a length of garden hose in there that I would bring out and set ready. I would get Elegant Dean from his stall, turn on the water and stream it from nose to tail over and over again. I didn’t have to worry about the water getting too cold either, as it remained a perfectly cool and refreshing temperature. That darn horse, well he absolutely loved it. In fact, he so clearly loved it that I tried to hose him off a couple of times on hot days. He seemed to become a quieter, less angry horse over the space of that summer, and when someone came to the farm looking for a suitable thoroughbred stallion to breed to quarter horse mares, I was ever so pleased when Elegant Dean was the one that caught his eye. My favourite horse would get to have a new life, one with space and freedom to move. When he was actually purchased, I was so happy for my buddy. He was going to a great life, especially for a stallion.
There were plenty of other interesting horses to handle and get to know. One of them was Victor’s Best. He was the epitome of pent up, and one had to be wary and on guard when dealing with him in any way. He was a coiled bundle of energy, and though he never really acted out at you, there was always that potential for it. The aura of danger permanently emanated from him, like a tangible thing. The most nerve-wracking thing ever was when I had to go into the box stall with him. The feed tubs were in the far corner of each stall, never beside the water bucket to hopefully discourage grain dunking. This wasn’t a big deal, unless going into a stall was a tad sketchy, like it was with some of the other horses. The twice a day routine with Victor, went like this.
I would go to the door of his stall, crack it open a little and give ‘the command’ even as the big horse began to spin like a tornado in the middle of his stall, “Victor! Get to your corner … get!”
After a few stern reminders, Victor would suddenly back into a corner of the stall where he would proceed to gnash his teeth at me. Ears pinned flat on that gorgeous, seahorse head of his, while he snaked it threateningly, he would hop his front end off the ground, as if warning of his intentions to do something unpleasant. With continued warnings of my own, I would tell him to stay in his corner but it was always the same. The second the grain hit the bucket, he would squeak out a squeal, then be spinning like a top again! Straw would lift and swirl around him, and I felt the wind of his action against me. Squeezed tightly into my corner, I would order him to go back into his. I’m sure it seemed far longer than it actually was, but eventually, Victor would obey, back into the corner he’d left, and resume his threatening gestures.
I would leave the stall, and he would, quite happily, I might add, stroll over to his feed bucket and eat. Those two times per day were probably his highlights and entertainment. They were certainly a bit of entertainment for me.
Another memorable stallion was the beautiful grey, Symposium. A star in the breeding program, he was by Prince John, a well-known English race horse. That horse didn’t know the meaning of walk or stand, he simply pranced. He was often like a gorgeous dressage horse, prancing and dancing on the spot. Hot, snorty and excitable, he was considered too expensive and valuable a horse for me to handle or lead. After all, what if I couldn’t hold him? What if he got away, and something horrible happened? Nope, it wasn’t worth the risk, until the ‘incident’ that is.
We were walking away from the breeding shed, the great horse still excited and prancing on clouds beside his handler. Me about twenty feet behind, gazing with admiration at how purely lovely,  Symposium was, when out of the blue, it happened. As quick as a striking cobra, Symposium grabbed his handler by the arm, shook him like a dog shaking a rat while smacking him against the barn! Whack-whack-whack! Seconds later, Symposium was off like a shot.
Stunned, I stood there in disbelief. I mean, I’ve been bitten by horses, dogs and cats … it really hurts. I couldn’t even imagine the pain. I didn’t get to wonder long.
“Trudy, go get the horse!”
And that’s what I did.

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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