Wednesday, October 30, 2013

...and we all survived.

Today I led Ben past the Dread Calves of Doom and we all survived, an outcome I wasn’t sure of till the very end.

It started with a nasty cold rain, not pouring but not quitting either, as I drove over to the farm. I worried that Ben would take a chill, since he certainly wouldn’t be sheltering in the run-in, not with the DCoD looming beside the paddock he’d have to cross to get there. I wanted to get him out of the rain and into his stall in the barn, but would either of us survive the attempt? I’d tried luring him in from the far field yesterday, and had some greater success than before; he’d come halfway into his first field. But there he’d stuck, dithering about between bouts of snorting and rigid staring, before it was All Too Much and he trotted hastily back through the gateway to the far field.

Sure enough, he was way out in his far field in the rain, looking hunched and miserable as I drove past toward the driveway. No help for it; gotta rescue the boy despite himself. I took halter and lead rope and gimped out past the run-in, through the paddock, through the first field, and called to him from the gateway. He came, licking his chops in anticipation of treats. Instead he got a halter onto his upheld head – a halter on which I did not snap the throatlatch. Better to let him slide out of it if he flung himself suddenly into plunging away than for me to be yanked off my feet and for him to bolt with the lead rope flapping between his front legs.

We started in – Ben looking looking LOOKING toward the little hut where the DCoD lurked placidly cud-chewing, stopping every few steps to LOOK even harder and tremble; me quietly, patiently encouraging him, giving him time to collect himself, then gently tugging him into motion again. I kept as much of a wary distance from him as I could, unhappily aware that, since Ben was between me on his left and the calves to his right, if he plunged sideways away from them I’d be right in his panicked path. I took him at a sharp angle from the gateway across the first field, away from the DCD toward the paddock gateway.

Getting through that gateway was an inching progress of tiny step tiny step HALT STARE persuasion QUIVER STARE coaxing tiny step HALT etc. etc., punctuated with Ben’s running commentary of snorts and blows, but we made it through and began creeping across the paddock toward the run-in and its exit, only yards away now from the focus of DOOM. I’d moved to Ben’s right side by now, just in case. Ben was wide-eyed, shaking, stiff with fear, but it looked like we’d make it! The gimpy-legged old woman would get her terrified Thoroughbred to safety!

Then it got worse.

Oh, no, not Ben; no, I happened to step over a yard-long, Y-shaped piece of vine lying on the ground. It leapt up and snagged the left ankle of my sweatpants with its tiny thorns and wouldn’t shake off. So there I am, a gimpy-legged old woman leading a terrified Thoroughbred with a yard-long piece of thorny vine flopping from her ankle.

I tried stepping on it with the other foot to wrench it off while also sidling sideways and watching Ben for an explosion. It snagged the other pantleg without giving up its first hold. Great. Now I’m a gimpy-legged old woman leading a terrified Thoroughbred with a yard-long piece of thorny vine clinging to BOTH legs and flopping about between them.

Somehow I made it to the run-in gate without falling. Ben was teetering on the edge of losing it completely, sidling and lurching as much as walking, but he never quite went over the edge. At the gate I snatched a moment when he was in rigid stare mode to reach down and rip the vine away. Then I got the gate open and Ben through it. He scurried out, looked back at DOOM, then dived for a hurried mouthful of grass – and I knew then we’d make it. Oh, he was still fired up the rest of the way into the barn, he still stopped at the entrance and needed coaxing to go in, but that grass-dive told me enough brain cells were still functional that we’d be all right.

He was shivering in his stall so I went to the tackroom to get his polar fleece sheet. Drat! I’d brought it home. So I drove home to fetch it, drove back, put it on the less shivery but still wet horse, and departed -- into departing clouds and emerging sunshine. Yup, I went through all that for a rainstorm that ended an hour later. Still, I don’t regret it. Ben will get some drying-off and warming time. His fields are eaten down and the grass has died, so it won’t hurt to give him a big hay feed, more than he’d stay to eat in his run-in thanks to the DCoD. I’ll go back and put him out in a few hours, knowing that if I do need to get him in again, I can do it.

And we will all survive.

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