Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails

Snow Ponies

Here on the Canadian prairies, some winters have next to no snow, while some are crazy with mountains of it. I love the rare ones, where there’s minimal snow. Though we can’t escape frigid days with brutal windchill, it’s nice, to be able to easily walk around. In the past, the most common winter, especially in Manitoba, was one with lots of snow, deep snow. The kind of snow, that’s near impossible to walk through.
Those snowy winters, meant we had paths blown out almost everywhere. Besides the front and back driveways, the snow had to be cleared enough so that chores could be done. Horses needed feeding, watering, general care. It was hard enough to get chores done, while bundled up against the cold and wind. Nevermind, adding slogging through deep snow to the picture.
Winter for a gravel hauler, means work drops right off. For us, this meant the semi went to work half time. Hubby and I shared the truck, driving it alternate days. Whoever was at home was expected to open the back driveway gate, and back doors of the quonset. We were fortunate to have a building that the whole tractor and trailer fit inside of. Drive in one end at the end of a work day, out the other end the next. It certainly was handy.
One fine, rather brisk winter day, I headed out to open the quonset doors and back gate for the truck. Hubby would be home soon, and goodness knows, he’d surely complain, if he couldn’t just drive in. As I pushed the tall, steel doors open, I was greeted with stallion bellows. Both stallions, were intently staring to the south west. Following their rapt gaze, I saw nothing but wide open, snow covered, farm fields. Horses have really good eyesight, probably because being prey animals, not noticing something, could mean the difference between life and death. Puzzled by their behaviour, I admired how gorgeous they were as they raced around their pens, squealing and bucking, only to go stand poised at attention and stare across the field. They must’ve spotted deer out there, or maybe snowmobiles. Something, had definitely caught their attention. Freezing out or not, I quite happily could’ve stood there watching them all day, but there were a few chores to do. Away from distraction of two beautiful stallions, I looked at the furry critters waiting for me, and frowned. Something was amiss. There were horses missing, so many horses missing. The mares should’ve eagerly been waiting for their carrot, yet not a one could be seen. The daylight would soon be waning and trying to find horses in the dark, a huge task frought with problems and worries. I had to find the horses, pronto.

Horse Tails


I wished that I had gone out to do chores earlier. Maybe then, I would’ve spotted the little beggers before they got too far away. That they hadn’t stuck around home was confusing as it was. Why didn’t they come into the back yard to feast on the round bales? That they left, made no sense at all. Trying to quell the worrisome feeling that almost instantly tightened deep in the pit of my stomach, I climbed the fence. At least from a better height, I would easily be able to spot the herd of mares. That knot in my stomach, grew exponentially. They weren’t there. The snow covered pasture was empty.
Keeping my cool, I opened the gate to their pen, and spread some hay around. I knew why the stallions were hollering. The mares were somewhere to the southwest. There weren’t tracks to point out where they may have gone, and nothing but the behaviour of the stallions to give me any clues, but sure as shooting, that’s where they’d gone. There was a giant ditch and berm that ran a few miles along the back of the fields. They were probably digging in the deep snow and enjoying last summer’s grass. Walking out through the back gate, I stood on the road, squinted against the glare off sparkling, white snow, and strained to see. Alas, there was nothing but bald-butt, open fields as far as the eye could see. Beyond the traintracks was the town, but they wouldn’t have crossed the tracks, I hoped. It seemed a futile effort, yet I had very few options. Putting bare hands to my mouth to amplify my voice, I called.
“Come on kids, come on. Horses, come horses.”
Shading my eyes to the setting sun, I sighed. Nothing. No sign of horses. Behind me, the stallions suddenly roared with excitement. Clearly, they thought something was going on. Hope renewed, I called again. Sound carries much further on crisp, cold air. Maybe, just maybe, wherever the little brats were, they could hear me. I had to try. Besides, the stallion’s response was encouraging. They seemed to think, I was achieving results. They were becoming increasingly excited, as they stared into the distance.
Then I saw it. Something was coming. There was a dark blotch about a mile away, as the crow flies anyway. The blotch grew, and the stallions tore around their pens like wild things. Within seconds, the blotch became shapes. The horses were coming home.
To encourage them, I made sure to keep calling. The sight was awe-inspiring. Lady the Belgian mare, led the wild looking, mob of mares. Big manes were lifting and falling, snow billowed around them in clouds, as they raced towards me. Almost too mesmerized by the sight, I suddenly realized, this scene akin to something out of a movie or alcohol commercial was going to be upon me, in no time at all.
I had to run, and run I did. I had no bucket of oats, no treats to bribe with. I only had myself as an enticement, and I had serious doubts that would be enough. If they figured out that I had nothing, no something lovely to eat, they might be so inclined to continue running amok. After all, freedom was exhilarating.
I did what any person in my circumstances would do, I turned tail and ran. I’m no Olympian, by any stretch of the imagination, but I gave it my all. I didn’t make it to the winter pen. Heck, I didn’t even make it half way, before they caught up to, and surrounded me. Ignoring the boisterous attempts to cut me off, I was determined to reach the pen, without any of them figuring out that I had nothing for them. It must’ve been quite the sight, so many horses acting excitedly foolish as they pranced and bounced around me. Thankfully, they have too much respect, to try to play with me. I certainly didn’t need to be accidentally injured.
As the unruly mob and I neared the open gate to the pen, a few noticed the hay, and away they went. In a flurry of mane, tail and snow, they happily snorted as they rushed off. Almost as one, the furry bodies swept through the gate, to go check out the hay. Just like that, the excitement was over. I had to race a couple of smart Alec’s to the back gate before they took off on another adventure, but once that was done, they knew the game was over. There would be no more going out onto the pastures, until spring. Privileges were now suspended.
As I left the pen, the semi pulled into the yard. Now that was a handy bit of timing for sure. The gate off the dirt road was closed. Checking fencelines would have to wait until the next day. Night had fallen. Thank goodness the critters were all where they were supposed to be.

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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