Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails

If There’s Trouble, They’ll find it

How much trouble a horse can get itself into, is rather amazing and crazy at times. People say that curiosity killed the cat, but I think horses may have cats beat, hands down. They try to fit into places they clearly don’t, and if there’s something to get caught on, they will. As horse owners, we must make sure to check over anywhere a horse is housed, with a fine tooth comb. Still, sometimes despite all the most careful scrutiny, a horse will still manage to hurt itself. If a horse gets out of its safe enclosure, the risk of injury increases tenfold.
As much as I loved keeping my horses with my friends, it wasn’t working out for them. You see, their property was fronted by a very busy highway, and people who don’t have knowledge, yet think they do, are a complete pain. I can’t even count the times the Provincial vet showed up at the farm, because someone reported that horses were being abused. I was only a teenager, and would feed the horses before and after school weekdays. That meant, they were fed in the dark during the winter because of short, daylight hours. Apparently, this meant the horses were being starved, though they weren’t. After a while, the vet stopped coming out in response to complaints, but the damage was done. My friends were done with the intrusions and so was I. I had to find somewhere new to keep them.
After scouting around, I found a vacant piece of land only a mile from home that I could rent. I had to fence it and put up shelters, but that wasn’t a problem. It wasn’t like I was afraid of a little hard work. By that fall, I had a round pen, a couple of pens and the big pasture. I was happy to get the horses home and to have them so close as well. More than anything, it was nice to be away from a busy road and nosy, busybody people.
For the first while, everything was pretty wonderful. Then there was the morning that I went to do chores, and the horses were gone … all of them, just gone. As it was winter, it was easy enough to find where the rotters had gotten out, and following their tracks was simple enough as well. They’d headed due west from where a tree had taken out the fence. It was an ‘oh crap’ moment, as I was sure they’d likely headed back to their last home, the place alongside the highway. Quelling the instant sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, I headed west on the gravel road. I couldn’t cut across the snow-covered field like the horses had, but I figured they’d be easy enough to spot. A small herd of mostly dark horses travelling over snow would stick out like a sore thumb. Turning onto the first mile crossroad to check for tracks showing where they’d crossed the road, I was treated to an unexpected surprise. There were my horses, all happily digging in the snow where pastures used to be. Thow’ra and Smokey had taken the herd to the farm they’d first lived at when I came to own them. I’d totally lucked out. My horses were safe and close to home. I didn’t even have to trudge through deep snow to get them. The second they heard the oats shake in the pail, they came a-running. It was then that I saw Thow-ra’s awful limp. Relief changed to alarm at the sight. There was no way to see how bad the injury was, as it was thick with frozen blood, which was probably a good thing, as the intense cold had likely stopped the bleeding. I had no choice but to get all the horses home, before I could access the injury.
Since Thow-ra was boss horse, and the one all the rest of the horses respected and followed, I led her through the window of my pickup truck, while the others followed along. The whole time we were slowly moving towards home, I was worrying about my horse. Her limp was obvious. The frozen blood, a few inches thick around her pastern was more than a little troublesome. Still, I had to tend to all the other horses, feed and fix the fence so there wouldn’t be any further breakouts, before I could finally tend to my injured horse. Though it was bitterly cold, I had to wash the wound with warm water until I could properly inspect it. To my horror, it was a mess. I don’t know what piece of old farm equipment she’d probably stepped on, but it had left a perfect, triangle flap of loose skin, and all kinds of ligaments and tendons had been torn out. It was such a horrid mess. After wrapping the wound with Vetwrap, I walked her the two miles to the vet where I used to work. There was some surgery and stitching to be done, after even more wound cleansing, then she was wrapped and settled into a box stall. She looked so small in that big stall, yet at the same time, not at all bothered by her situation. She hadn’t fussed one little bit while being tended to, and now all she was interested in was the lovely, alfalfa hay she was being fed. I suppose to her, it was like a day at the spa. I saw to all her care, bandage changes and cleaned the stall. I must’ve been a pretty good employee, as I only had to pay minimal charges for her care. This was a very good thing indeed, for Thow-ra had to be stalled for a whole month. After a few days, she wanted out. After a few weeks, she was adamant about it. She wanted out. She wasn’t used to this being cooped up business. Though I’d been read the riot act by the vet, I came to the conclusion that a short, little walk in the aisle beside the barn wouldn’t hurt. I would keep her to a restrained walk, and she would get some air and move a little. Seriously, what could she possibly do?
As it turned out, a whole lot. We were barely out of the barn, when she took me away from the buildings and towards the road. I did my very best, but there was no slowing her down. That incredibly well-behaved horse wasn’t at all herself. Skiing along beside her, my boots digging into the packed snow, I was impressed with her pent up power, and how easily she carried me along. It was only when we reached the road itself that I could finally bring her under control, even then, it was just barely. She wanted to run, and run fast. Never mind this walking business. That horse could smell freedom. Nostrils flared, eyes wide and alert, head high, she was more than eager, and I darn well knew it. She was like a coiled spring, every muscle ready to release, with or without me. The whole way back to the barn and her stall, I had to keep warning, cautioning her to behave and listen to me. She so didn’t want to, yet did.
“Walk,” I kept warning, all the while feeling the excitement and tension in my now prancing horse. This was a big thing, as she never pranced, “be good, Thow-ra, walk. Ease up. Steady now.”
Those big ears of hers, kept flipping back and forth as she listened. I truly believe it was only the continuous, verbal warnings that kept her in hand. As soon as she was safely back in her stall, we both heaved audible sighs. She, because she was back in the stall where she didn’t want to be, me, because I was incredibly relieved that I had managed to stop her, and get her safely back in the stall. I surely wasn’t going to try that again. Thank goodness no one had caught me doing something so stupid. More than that, thank goodness her near escape, hadn’t done any further harm. It was a very good lesson learned.

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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