Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails

Big Cat Caution

When hubby bought the young, Morgan stallion, Greenmist Paprika for me, we had no idea that the poor fella was pretty well sterile. The mare he’d bred when he had gotten loose the year before, had placed a kick that ended his future as a sire of future horses. He was my first and only Morgan at that time, and I wanted to breed him to a few, good mares. Though I matched him up with several of the mares I owned back then, the only one that caught was Robin. Robin was the pretty palomino that we’d purchased for hubby, but he’d turned over to me. A whole lot of training as well as many miles of competitive trail and endurance racing had changed her from a rotten, unpredictable horse, into a sweet, willing companion that was a joy to ride and work with. As a matter of fact, I’d put so many miles on her that she’d given up on all her snarky ways. Being naughty takes effort, and it can be extremely exhausting when on a long ride. She didn’t know if she was headed into a twenty minute ride, or a twenty mile one. She figured out pretty quickly that she should just give in and be a good horse. In the long run, it was the better way to go. She’d gone from snarky to sweet in the space of one season of competition, and had turned into a trustworthy horse.
The following spring, she produced the prettiest, little, palomino filly. Our only foal that year, other than the filly I pre-purchased and had to wait for, she was the baby of the farm that spring and summer. She was also a huge enticement, for the cougar that roamed through our property, over that spring and summer. Not one to lock up my horses, and not a fan of barns either, it was a miracle that I had made sure to have the mare and new foal securely housed in a loose housing shed. I don’t know what made me close the pair in at night, and why I blocked off the doorway, but I did. I don’t want to even imagine what may have happened if I hadn’t. My thoughts immediately had gone to the new baby, when we heard the hair-raising screams of the cougar. I figured a cougar wasn’t like a bear. It wouldn’t try to pry open the door, or tear apart the shed to get at the foal. Mama and baby would be safe from predator harm.
It was hard to get any sleep after the cougar had screamed and our hearts slowed to a normal beat. At first light, I was out there to check on things. There’d been no noises, no sounds of a fight or attack that we had to be concerned about, but I was still anxious to check on all the horses, especially Robin and her new filly. To my immense relief, they were perfectly fine. Robin was eager to meet another day, and baby was simply excited to be able to stretch her long legs in the sunshine.
Deciding it was best to be careful, as there was no way to know how long the cougar would hang around, or when it would be back on its next round of its territory, I made sure to close Robin and her foal in the shed every night. This worked rather well, since Robin seemed more than willing to be shut in a shed every night. I imagine she was extremely alert while the cougar screamed, then even more so as it paced around her pen and small building. I can well imagine how nervous she would’ve been. The cougar had circled the shed a couple of times. The big tracks were there in the mud to say it was true. It was a dry spring and the big cat was looking for water. The problem was, as eager as Robin was to be safe and secure at night, her filly, Honey Pizzazz wasn’t all that keen. She wanted to stay out. She wanted to play and ‘horse around,’ not be confined to what amounted to a large box stall. Getting the pair safely put away before nightfall, got to be a bit of a chore.

Little Honey was such a brat, a cute, little brat, but one nonetheless. She wouldn’t follow mama, and she didn’t heed mama’s concerned calls either. She would be good all day, but come late day, she was suddenly a little, golden pain. Instead of catching Robin and hoping Honey would follow, I had to catch Honey and get Robin to follow her foal. The solution seemed simple enough. Catch Honey, carry-push-lead her into the shed, Robin follows, problem solved. Well, not so much. Honey was a little firecracker. She wasn’t about to make life easy on me, not at all. Of course I could get her into the shed, once I caught her. The filly that was in my face, wanting to see any and everyone, suddenly became extremely evasive towards the end of the day. She knew what was going to happen, and she didn’t want it. It would’ve been a whole lot easier if Honey wasn’t such a smart, little critter, but she was … ever so smart. I had to be a whole lot smarter.
I took to tying Robin in the little corral that was attached to the shed, then herding Honey into it as well. That worked a few times, then she was onto my trick and would avoid going into the tiny pen. I finally figured out the easiest way to fool my tricky filly. I would lead both out of the pen for a little while. Honey would excitedly run around, buck and play. Robin would want to follow, yet couldn’t as she was being led, and Honey would forget to be evasive. I would catch the little beggar, and lead her back to the corral. If I had a helper, they would handle Robin while I dealt with Honey. If I was on my own, I would catch Honey and let go of Robin. Baby didn’t always want to follow mama, but mama always stuck with her filly. Robin was a great mother. Happily, none of the horses acted at all nervous, even when near the areas the cougar had been. I suppose they felt safe, because that sense of security hadn’t been taken from them.
Though we had a few sightings of the cougar that summer and fall, there were no problems from it coming through. Every three weeks or so, it would pass through while making its rounds. Invariably, we would see deer grazing in the new alfalfa field in the evening, then mama cougar would make herself known. I suppose it was the summer of the big cat … a summer to remember.
Of course, local conservation said there weren’t any cougars in the area. I remember asking a couple of officers who were having lunch in our nearby town, if there had been any cougar sightings in Birds Hill Park or area. They shared a big grin, then one answered, “There’ve been a few, but we do our best, to keep the young men safe from them.”
“Funny,” I sighed and I’m not sure, but probably rolled my eyes, “so funny.”
Men, they think they’re hilarious.

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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