"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Friday, December 23, 2016

I Will Get The Horses

"You feed Bullet; I will get the horses," I instructed my husband as we brought the last load of groceries in. We had been shopping in town all day, and I knew he was tired. It was dark now and cold; and I knew he didn't feel like going out again.

It was kind of one of those moments James Dobson talks about - you know, where it is time for the woman to step up and do the "man job", for no other reason than that the man needs the help in that rare moment. Yeah, it was one of those moments. And actually, it isn't even that feeding the horses is the "man job". It isn't. I have always been the one to feed the animals; but recently, ever since my husband has been home, we have more often done it together; especially at night and in the cold.

I actually wanted to do the feeding alone this time. Sometimes feeding the horses is the most peaceful thing that I do all day. I especially wanted to do it alone tonight. I had had a good day with the horses earlier and the day before. I was feeling extra love for them - it was almost a need of mine to spend extra time with them. And it was a beautiful evening. The sky was clear, the stars popping and it was warmer than it had been the previous nights even though it was a clear night.

I grabbed the lantern from the house (the battery kind) and walked down the steps. Feeling a little bit like Laura Ingalls in The Little House on the Prairie, I made my way to the barn. The snow crunched beneath my feet as it was frozen from the previous single digit nights. Once I entered the pasture the horses gathered around me anxious for their evening meal. I was a tad late and they were going to be sure that I knew it. Si, my daughter-in-law's 16 hand Tennessee Walker, was the first to greet me. I was able to give him a bit of love before the other two reached me and they shooed him away making sure he knew who was boss. This horse is a gentle giant and sometimes it makes me sad he lets the other two push him around. Because of that, I guess he is fast becoming my favorite.

It was a pleasure to come out tonight. I had spent the majority of the day prior cleaning their stalls and putting down fresh pine shavings for them. My husband had cleaned and filled their water trough and we had straightened the hay barn so it was organized and inviting. I got Tobi's grain first, and then Juliee's. I learned a long time ago, just to simplify my life and feed them in their pecking order. It is just easier on everyone. Besides, having those two out of the way gives me a little more time to extend some love to Si - the only one who seems to appreciate it. Don't get me wrong; Juliee is a good horse, too. And she does appreciate the love, but she doesn't seem to need it like Si does. Si craves it. Si seeks it out and I try to oblige him as much as I can. Tobi is just Tobi. Sometimes I love her. ;-)

As I settled into feeding my beasts I reflected on the earlier feeding that morning.  We had had quite the morning with Si and I wanted to love on him a bit more tonight. I had woke up to the most beautiful sunrise. The sky wasn't just pink in the east like a typical sunrise, but rather the pink hues surrounded the entire sky from east to west. The snow covered mountains against that soft shade of crimson took my breath away. Or maybe it was the 15 degree temperature that stole my breath, as I headed to the barn. But the view was definitely Christmas card worthy.
After the Pink
I turned around to go back to the house when I saw a new predicament. Si was on the wrong side of the fence, frantically pacing back and forth when he saw me coming. He was in a bit of a panic knowing it was feeding time and he couldn't get to me. I wanted help for this. I wasn't sure exactly where he had gotten out and how I would get him back in. I wanted my husband's help. So I went in to wake Sam and we headed back out together. I soon forgot my intentions to photograph the Christmas card sky.

Because our neighbor had allowed us to use his pasture to graze the horses there for a few years, we had placed a gate on that side of the pasture. But we had sealed up the opening pretty tight this last fall, needing the gate elsewhere and feeling we probably wouldn't use his pasture again. I knew I couldn't get it open alone.

I quickly fed the other two horses while my husband assessed the situation. And when I was done feeding the other two, I brought a couple handfuls of grain over to Si to calm him and assure him he wasn't being forgotten. My husband started to work on taking the fence down, but I saw it was going to be no easy task.

"Let me get a rope and halter. I think it will be easier to take him back through Dan's property," I suggested.

My husband easily agreed and I went off to the barn for the halter. When I returned, Si was agreeable and didn't balk at the halter idea at all. He did however balk about half way across the pasture when he realized, he was not headed in the direction of his feeding trough. I ran into the house to grab the key to the front gate where they would come home. When I came back out, I realized they weren't moving. I didn't know if my husband had tuckered out from the walk in the snow, or if Si was giving him problems. So I grabbed some grain and jumped in my car to head over to Dan's to see what was happening.

I had forgotten there wasn't a gate there at the other side of Dan's pasture, but fortunately by the time I got there, my husband was able to walk Si carefully over the low fence that was there. just as I arrived, they got safely over the fence. I gave Si a nice handful of grain to reward him for walking patiently over the fence and my husband and I switched roles. I walked Si back to our house while Sam drove the car back. I used the excuse of not wanting to back the car down Dan's driveway, but the truth was that my husband had already walked clear across the pasture in the snow and been out in the cold long enough; I wanted to give him a break.

Once I took the hold of the lead rope, and he knew food awaited him, Si cooperated easily. He knew now he was going home. As I walked him down Dan's driveway and out onto the road, he picked up his pace. He was anxious to get home. I knew he would do that. That's what horses do. The road was icy and I did not want to slip and fall on the ice, but he cooperated well and slowed his face when I instructed him. I LOVE this horse.

He is such a funny buddy. My husband opened the gate for us and once inside, I quickly took off his halter. We gave him his grain in his stall and it felt good to see him happy and content. But his curiosity got the best of him and before he started on his hay, he had to come out to see what the other horses were up to and what had changed around the barns since he had been gone. I laughed. There is no way my other two horses would put curiosity before feed.

Si's curious nature is what I believe got him in this predicament in the first place. He is a jumper and a small fence, or even a four foot one, is not going to stop him when curiosity calls. My next order of business would be to find out where and how Si got out. "Why" would always only be a guess.

So I told my husband I was going to walk the fence line to see if it was broken anywhere. I didn't get much more than 75 feet when I noticed prints in the snow that led directly to the fence where they stopped abruptly. I called back to my husband pointing at the trail.

"I think he might have ran and jumped here", I exclaimed.

But I wasn't certain about this and so I continued walking the fence. I could see there was at least one strand down at Ben's fence line at the south end and I wanted to be sure our big buddy couldn't have gotten out there. Knowing the poor condition of this back fence, I was thinking this would have been the most likely place for him to get out. He could have worked his way over to Dan's pasture from there through another opening in the bordering neighbor's fence. Again only a guess.

Our fence was solid all the way down to the end of the pasture. There was a low spot at the very end which he could have possibly jumped over. I was doing detective work now assessing tracks in the snow and low spots in the fence line to determine what might have happened. I noticed there was a spot in the snow pretty well disturbed on Ben's side of the fence that looked like a horse could have tried to jump. But there were no tracks on the other side of that fence. So I knew he hadn't gone over there. I searched that entire corner to see that the bordering pasture was clear of tracks. Si had not been there. I repaired the fence on Ben's side and determined in my head that we would have to fix this fence completely this spring. Though it is Ben's fence, I feel pretty sure he is not going to repair it, and at this point we need it as much as he does. It would be our turn.

I went back to the corner of the fence line where ours and the other 3 land owner's meet. There I realized this had to be where Si went over. There was one pair of tracks on Dan's side walking north headed home. This was the lowest part of the fence and probably most likely where Si went over. Still the fence was probably at almost four feet and it would have required a good jump. I walked back down the fence line pondering what would have made him do it. I remembered our neighbor, Linda, had told us two baby fawns had been born in their pasture this spring. Melissa, Dan's wife had said this winter, the pair had been bedding down at the end of their pasture - exactly where Si had most likely went over. So! My best guess is Si saw the deer and was enticed to check them out - curious beast that he is.

Anyway, I was pleased with my morning walk in the 15 degree temperature. I was excited about my opportunity to play farm detective and analyze tracks. When I got back to the first spot I thought Si might have gone over, I realized I had been wrong. This time, I was smart enough to look at the other side of the fence. There was no spot in the snow that had been disturbed where he would have landed had he jumped. There was only the single track that led back home.
Look closely for the path to the fence.
I guess we will never know for sure. I'm just glad our buddy is home. I really didn't intend to write about all of this. I was only going to write about the joy I have in taking care of these 3 animals. I had spent 3 hours shoveling manure the day before and it had been the best 3 hours I had had since the last time I did it. It's my job, but I was a bit behind because it had been so cold that the manure had been frozen and I had to wait for a thaw. It finally came in the way of a Chinook wind. I got out as quickly as I could after that, though I should have been a day earlier.
Curious Si - Home Again

Yeah, shoveling manure - the highlight of my month. I'm sorry. I don't mean that to sound negative. That's only a perception. For me, it really, really is a highlight. It's work that feels good. It's fresh air and time alone. It's being with animals that I love, and a chance to pretend they love me. It's taking care and doing things right for the animals you have been blessed with. "A job worth doing, is worth doing right." Grandpa N's  words come back to me over and over and over whatever task I have set out to do. I don't want to do my tasks any other way. His words have always resonated with me. There is not a better feeling in the world than taking care of ones animals properly...Ok well maybe taking good care of ones kids might be a better feeling...or family.  

And sometimes as Dr. James Dobson suggests, the wife needs to step up to do the job the husband might normally do. I took those words from the good Dr. Dobson to heart, as well. There is reward in that. But truly, whatever the task, there is no better feeling than doing it right. Everyone and every animal is deserving of that.

Yep, I will very happily get the horses.