Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails


Not all horses tether out. In fact, most horses don’t tether, and most should never be tied too long either. If there’s one thing, I find myself repeating more often than I should, it’s this. If you give a horse enough rope to hang itself, it will. The problem is, people see horses and ponies tied out on long ropes, and assume it’s something that all horses will do. It’s a scary thing, people tethering their animals out. To a horse, that rope looks like a snake. A long, slithery snake that’s following along, picking up speed with every forward change of pace, and in the blink of an eye, that terrifying snake can wrap around legs or even a neck. What ensues is what the horse believes, is a fight for its life. Panic stricken, it will fight even as every move, every frantic kick and strike out, only tightens the hold of the relentless demon. I’ve known horses to nearly take limbs off, paralyze their face, and choke themselves to the point of death.
Horses tied too long for saddling or grooming, can suffer injury as well. It takes very little effort, to get the lead over the back of their head, which results in pulling back. Legs easily get over the tie rope as well, to the tune of another panicked reaction. The best thing to keep in mind when tying a horse, is short and high, the height of a resting head, and only enough room to have about a foot of slack, between the horse and what it’s tied to.
Over the years, we’ve had a few horses and ponies that we could tether out, but all were trained to do so. Nothing so incredibly important was left to the assumption that it was doable. It took time and patience, before I ever felt comfortable tying a horse out, and some never took to it at all.
Smokey was one of the few that could tether out. Not only was she ridiculously easy to teach, she took to it, like a duck to water. It was great to be able to tie her out on grass at home or away, and she never got tangled either. Well, to say that she never got tangled, isn’t completely true. She would get tangled then carefully untangle herself. Watching her extricate herself from a big tangle was amazing to watch. Smokey was one brilliant, ever so smart pony. The problem was, she didn’t always use her smarts for good. She used them to benefit herself.
I had her tied to a very large tractor tire, one with a steel rim. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out, how she was moving it around. That darn tire weighed about a couple hundred pounds. There was no way, she should’ve been able to move it the teeniest, little bit, never mind all over the front field, of the land I rented. It was only when future hubby and I happened to witness her smarts in action that the truth was finally revealed to us. I’d taken her to Jim’s parents farm, so she could eat down the grass a bit. Instead of a heavy tire, I had tethered her to a big tree. As future hubby and I stood out of sight behind a building, Smokey worked at moving that tree. I said she was smart, brilliant even, but she was after all, still a horse. Even Smokey had limitations. Anyway, she clearly had the idea that she could move anything she was tethered to, and an immovable tree wasn’t going to thwart her efforts. One thing for sure, she wasn’t about to give up. Standing in our hiding place, we watched as she put her all into achieving the unachievable. That darn pony walked to the end of the thirty foot long rope, lifted her head and nose high into the air, then swung her ample rump under the taught rope. To our rapt astonishment, she lowered her head so that the rope lay over one shoulder then down the middle of her butt. Then put her head down and pulled, hard. Using the leverage of her shoulder and rump, she dug in. Whenever the rope moved out of place, she would simply reposition it again. Over and over, she repeated the action. When she caught the sound of muffled giggling, she stopped, looked towards where we hid, and waited a good while, before getting back to work. When she figured out that we were watching, she swiftly put her mind to grazing, just as if she’d been innocently doing so all along. What a smart, devious, brilliant pony she was.
When we bought our farm, she was the first horse to move there. There weren’t any fences, but Smokey didn’t need them. As long as she was tethered to something completely immovable, we knew exactly where she would be. Plus she could eat down the unkempt grass that was everywhere. It was wonderful to have a horse at our new home, and a joy to see her, when we came home after a long day driving truck.
Until on the fifth day, when there was no Smokey whinnying her greeting. The rope was there. The bullsnap still in perfect condition, but Smokey was nowhere to be seen. She was gone.

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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