Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails

And Then …

The day certainly feels like it’s dragging, when you’re wondering and worrying a bit, yet have no choice but to wait … and wait. I’m not a stranger to what can happen when training a horse to drive, and have been witness to a few, huge wrecks as well. Those wrecks leapt to the front of my mind, as the day slowly wore on.
There was the one at a Morgan horse show, I vividly remember. Two of the competitors were laughing and joking around, about how little experience their horses had. I shook my head in disbelief at them both. One horse had but a week of training, the other, only the day before, just to see what it would do. I thought they were both off their heads, for even considering what they were about to do. These young women though, were having a good chuckle, and clearly thought themselves rather amazing, and their horses too.
Of course the inevitable happened. The more or less completely untrained horse, suddenly bolted when all the competitors were in the arena. The second with only a week training joined it, and when a third was run into, it was set off like a firecracker as well. There were horses ricocheting around that arena, like pinballs in a machine. While all of this was going on, one horse and driver stood poised in the middle of the ring. Clearly frightened, but behaving as a well-trained horse should. Another stood with someone at it’s head, also obedient, despite the hullabaloo going on. It was unbelievably lucky that they weren’t run into. Before the arena gate could be lowered into place, one horse tore out of there, driver thrown from the vehicle, it headed across the expanse of sports fields. Another horse galloped away from the arena and to the open roads, trucks chasing behind. The third leapt over the gate as it neared full closure, leaving the vehicle behind, and galloped straight into the open end of the show barn.
Along with a few others, I took up the chase of the horse that run off across the field. Having hit a low fence, the poor animal was down, either injured or in momentary shock. If we were to have a shot at catching it, it was now or never. We got to the horse just as it leapt to its feet again, and two men grabbed the bridle. Myself and another man struggled to unwind the line from where it was tightly wound around the hub. I would’ve cut the line and not wasted a second. The man had other ideas. Possibly this was his equipment and horse, or his partners, and he wasn’t about to cut anything. Thankfully, the other two men were able to restrain the horse until it was freed. The horse in the barn was caught, and after following it for many miles, the horse that had run off was also caught. No horses or people suffered serious injury, but equipment was severely damaged and I’ll wager those horses could never be driven again. All of it could’ve been avoided, with proper training and common sense.
Another accident I witnessed was at a horse pull. The big drafts were so excited, in such high anticipation of the thrill of the pull that the second they heard the sound of the steel hook, ring against the metal of the double tree, they were gone. The problem was, the hook up hadn’t been made. It was a miss. Those horses galloped to and straight into the fence at the end of the ring, the old man dragging along behind, like a kite that couldn’t get off the ground. A dozen experienced horsemen had taken to their feet, the second the miss had happened, and ran to help. They took control of the situation in no time flat. Despite the unusual circumstances, the horses stood, and order was easily achieved. That’s what happens, when horses are well-trained. The world can be strange and make no sense, but they’ll trust and obey. That team of horses went on to compete in further pulls that day, just as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
When future hubby and I went to Thunder Bay, Ontario so that I could meet his extended family, we had the opportunity to visit a private zoo that was closing down. They did chores and fed the animals with a horse and stoneboat. The amazing draft cross, still comes to mind with a smile. He knew the order of chores as well as his handler did. The problem was, Clifford wanted to go back to the barn.
“Clifford .. stand … stay.”
Clifford would raise his head and turn it a bit to look at the young man, and he’d take a step.
“Clifford, no!”
Clifford would wait, but his impatience was obvious. When the young man entered a pen, the big horse decided to take advantage of the opportunity. He began to walk towards the barn.
Coming out of the pen, the young man barked out an order, “Clifford Ho. Stand.”
With a big sigh, as if utterly disappointed that he’d been busted, Clifford stood. I went over to take him by the bridle, while the last of the chores was finished.
After thanking us, the young man told us that as great as Clifford was, he always wanted to go back to the barn. If you missed a warning, he’d leave you. Just the week before, he’d walked off and entered the barn through an open people door. There he stood, stoneboat outside with the runners against the barn. Clifford contentedly standing on the inside, fully harnessed and still hitched. There was no panic, no kicking or struggling. He simply waited.
Back to the black Canadian. The trailer rolled into the yard later than I’d expected, and with only the husband in the truck. As it turned out, my fears had been realized. There had been a bolt and runaway. The cart had hit a low fence, the driver ejected and it had been horrible. She’d been lucky to get away with a broken arm. The horse was uninjured in body, but back to fearful distrust. The funny thing was, they seemed to blame me, for their huge mistake. They went on to tell the story quite differently over the years, putting the fault on me, which is ridiculous. Still, I couldn’t understand how he’d bolted without any response to the bit at all. That bit should’ve at least curbed his enthusiasm. After the owner left, on impulse, I went and checked the bit. Of course the lines weren’t on the bottom slot where I’d recommended. It was on the mouthpiece, with the least amount control of all. Some clinician who knew nothing at all about the horse, had moved the line to where it would be least effective. I was completely disgusted at the lack of wisdom. My advice had been disregarded in favour of a clinician, books and magazines.
Some time later, this same couple asked my opinion and advice on something horse-related.
“Just a minute,” I answered, “while I get a pen and piece of paper.”
“Oh,” he assured, “you don’t have to do that. I’ll remember.”
“Maybe so,” it was difficult to keep from being sarcastic, “but you only believe things out of a book, things you read, so I’d better write it down.”
That was the end of that.

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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