A Horse of Course

Well, we’ve moved. After 2 weeks of frenzied packing (thanks to Nanny who flew in to rescue me from myself- There is absolutely NO WAY I would have managed without her), we set down our second to last load of stuff, picked up the new furniture and appliances (and another thanks to my Amazballs cousin M. , our borrowed husband D.,  and as well, one new neighbour- for wrestling in some of that stuff, it was by that point way WAY beyond me), and with but a few days to rub together and the gas stove not hooked up, we roughed it and then Husband had to go back to work up north. Some weeks before all this, I realized what a horrible thing I was doing to my Reasonable Child. In fact, the night we closed the sale on the old house, that was the main source of my panic attack- I was taking him away from a place he’d spent most of his life. And while his big hazel eyes showed me he was a brave boy, I also saw he was very very worried.

So I stewed on it for a day and came up with a solution. He would be out of school anyway, and I was wrapped up with work and could more or less go start at the new place whenever I chose. Husband would have to be away for 12 days so there was nothing doing but to rattle around between boxes and make each other crazy. How about an 8 hour car ride and a trip to Grandma’s house instead? Plans made (the very idea of spending TWO WHOLE WEEKS on the Farm with Pappy was more than enough to distract him from the major upheaval) and I had fished out enough crap to pack, all that was left was the drive. We pulled out Monday morning bright and early to this. 

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We promptly turned around and went home. And we spent the day eating junkfood and feeling sorry for ourselves- Wee Mr Reasonable on his ipad playing minecraft and myself with a pile of chocolate and Mad Men on Netflix. I couldn’t face the notion of spending 8 hours in a car clinging to the wheel and praying and snarking at the child for incessant nattering. I would much rather spend 8 hours snarking at the child in nice weather. Believe it or not, the next day dawned cold but clear. Everything on the road had melted the same day in spite of the below zero overnight. Away we went (over the mountains and through the bears to Grandmother’s house we go!) and arrived safe and sound just as they were getting home from work.

Ahh, the bliss of country living! Wood cookstove cooking and the peaceful background racket of contented animals… There’s hardly an inch of ground there where you can’t find a moment of Zen.

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Well, maybe except for right by the big vent fan in the barn… or downwind of the pigpen… and while I think it’s very cool , the Wee Mr Reasonable thinks Squish the Talking Pet Raven is just a little creepy.

Hardly 2 days into our farm adventure, I find myself up on the platform leaning over the rail of the big shoeing stock trying to settle a horse and neither of us were feeling very zen at the moment. My mom’s horse Colter is a Very Big horse. At 17 hands, he doesn’t look much out of place alongside Pappy’s Percherons- Yes, a big horse. With a cut on his leg that he would apparently rather we left alone until it fell off. So here’s this horse snorting and dancing and skittering and trying to cow kick- we had got to the point that being as he wouldn’t stand to let them clean it by hand, we’ve got the hose out running from the 80psi well pump, and trying to spray the dried clay and mud off as “gently” as possible. Um… I can scarcely imagine what he thought of that, but with my hand under his chin holding his halter and his nose under my arm, all I could do was rub his neck and his ears and look into his large brown eye and talk to him. I won’t say that I’m not good with horses- its only that I’ve never really done anything with them. I’ve been on 4 in my entire life and all I know is that they know I don’t know what I’m doing. They are large and intelligent and when it comes down to it there’s no making something that size mind you. I’m always sure I’m going to be kicked or bitten or knocked flat and trampled so it happens that my favorite view of a horse is on the other side of the fence in a field. I have never tried to hold one in my lap while it was being doctored. It was quite the experience. Later that day it was decided he would be put out in the field by the back gate so as he didn’t have to go back through the mud and get his cut dirty again. Pappy was on the phone and Mom was tidying up from dinner and I got it in my head all of a sudden “I’m going to go get the horse”…

Lead rope in hand I sauntered back behind the barn to find the beast munching on some grass. His ear twitched my way but otherwise he stayed put as I approached. I swallowed my nerves- they can tell- and remembering what Mom said “you toss the lead rope over his head just behind the ears and then he thinks he’s ‘caught’ “. Now I am standing in front of him and he’s looking down his nose at me with curiosity- “You there- you don’t know what you are doing do you?” say the big brown eyes and I say “Nope, but we’re going to pretend like I do and we will go for a walk” and tossed the lead rope over his head and clipped up to his halter under his chin. Just like that. So I took a step and he started with me and stopped. “Wait a second- are you sure you know what you’re doing?” “You know I don’t, lets go then, walk on” And we wandered back towards the house, no kicking, biting, trampling, one ill mannered head-butt just to see what I would do, which was push back and scold him mildly and there, I caught a horse. It was all I could do not to run right into the house and tell Mom “I caught a horsie! I CAUGHTAHORSIE!” (I walked very calmly into the house instead and said “Hey come see! I CAUGHTAHORSIE!”). Mom laughed and followed me back out to see where Colter was then hitched up to the fence rail and munching on some hay. My elation was eventually somewhat dampened by the next thing I caught- Mom’s nasty Morbid Sore Throat galloped up and knocked me on my ass (best place to get sick is when you’re at Mom’s anyway- you can die in relative peace knowing that someone will feed and mind your child).

In the meantime though, we had to go through the whole hold-and-hose process again when Colter emerged from the field just as caked up and scabby 2 days later. At a disadvantage opposed to the drafts with their dinner plate hooves, he was still sinking into the muck up to his knees by the water trough and his dark color and the heat were bringing probably half the spring fly hatch his way. This time though, while he was clearly unimpressed with the ordeal he was much calmer, and as I hung over the rail again so was I. He tucked his nose in close to me and we chatted and patted and soon we were done. Leaving him on the house side of the fence meant checking on him during the day while Mom and Pappy were at work. He thought it was great- all the new grass that the other horses couldn’t have and I found myself out there at least twice as much as necessary just standing there with him while he wandered around the yard munching and swinging lazily at flies. The next time I went out to get him from the back I had nothing but an alfalfa cube and intentions, and damned if he didn’t just follow me out on his own. “Good horsie!” I said. “I was going that way anyway” he said. But I was still smug, and was beginning to fancy myself a Horse Person- Mom was appropriately impressed, being as Colter doesn’t much care for anyone other than her and was happy for both of us.

The rest of the visit was as usual. I helped put in the garden, we cooked on the outside stove a few times. The kid followed his grandpa around and chattered and “helped” with egg collecting and small projects, and while Pappy was at work he loafed around- bored- until I picked up a package of sharpies and we spend an afternoon coloring rocks and scattering them around. And more hanging out with the horse.

I never realized before that a horse that doesn’t want anything to do with you probably won’t bother with the kicking and maiming. They will simply turn and walk away. I discovered this one day when I went out to put some homemade fly repellent on him. He smelled it and decided he didn’t want it, and just like that, walked away. I took one people sized step towards him and he took two horse sized steps away and I was left a good 15 feet away from the end of him I was needing. Ah, I see… so I just stood there and waited. Alfalfa cube in one hand, tea tree and olive oil rub in the other….and waited. “Good luck with that there lady” said the swishing tail. “..sigh..” said I. And I waited some more. Eventually he made his way in a slow circuit over to the alfalfa cube and submitted to getting smeared with the bug stuff.

Small but meaningful progress, and it turned out I had myself a friend.

Farm life is an adventure. But of a different sort. There’s always something to be done but the flurry of activity is broken by the need to sometimes just sit and wait. Wait for the stove to heat up, wait for the chickens to lay, wait for the water to boil, wait for the horse to decide to wander over.

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However, all good adventures must come to an end. 8 hours more and we were home. Still buried in boxes and no end in sight, time to get the kid back to school, time to go see the new boss and pick a day to start. Time to have a proper Sheldonian Tantrum trying to find my “spot” in the new house. I’m sure my Zen is in the bottom of a box somewhere, but I have no idea which one.

And I catch myself looking out the window into the backyard wondering if we’re allowed to keep horses in town.


About staggeringduck

Look, I'm just awesome ok?
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