Friday, March 12, 2010

Lessons Learned

Thursday, March 11, 2010
Murray's head is buried, cheek-deep in his feed-tub as I bend down to check his leg. It's a good thing I'm wearing a hat, since he uses his muzzle to send the less-appealing parts of his breakfast (mostly beet pulp) flying out of the tub and into the air. Wet beet pulp in my hair, not exactly the fashion statement I was going for.

The swelling on the upper outside of his left cannon is still there, and it's still warm, and it's still sore to the touch. I'm now fairly certain he's pulled his check ligament. I should have known better. I've had this horse for 13 years. I have known from the start (two pulled suspensory ligaments) that his long legs don't tolerate deep or wet footing. I've been so careful over the years, continuing to ride him indoors for weeks after everyone else is outside enjoying the sun. This time I guess I just got caught up in the moment. The footing in the ring was, and is great for just about any horse. But I know better than anyone that Murray's not any horse.

I refuse to keep him indoors on stall rest. He's 22, he's in a new place, and he needs to be outside moving around. I ice his leg, turn him out, and decide to bandage him overnight when he comes in.

I toss the horses some hay, and head toward Maggie, halter in hand. Even though Murray's out of commission, she still needs work. As I approach, I notice she's caked in mud, and every step she takes sends her short black hair flying through the air. It's sunny and warm, so I decide we'll probably both be happier if I groom her outdoors. I get her grooming kit and start brushing her right there in the middle of the pasture. She munches contentedly on her hay until she catches a glimpse of the box full of brushes.

I noticed Maggie's childlike curiosity within the first few days we had her. If there's something new, she wants to look at it, sniff it, and examine it with her lips (probably checking to see if it's edible). I find it fascinating, especially since Murray has the complete opposite reaction. If there's anything new in his environment, his first reaction is to turn and run, and not look back. I couldn't have chosen two more different horses if I'd tried.

So, Maggie's muzzle twitches as she starts riffling through the grooming kit. I let her, though I keep a close eye on her in case she tries to pick up the scissors, or something similar. Instead, she fixes her attention on my leather work gloves. Her lips smack as she forces them deeper into the blue-box, then, up comes her head, a yellow glove dangling from her mouth. Ok, time to step in. She's holding the glove between her teeth, and I have to tug hard to free it from her hungry grasp.

I drop the glove back into the box and divert her attention back to the hay on the ground, so I can continue flicking the mud from her coat. Moments later, I look up, and there's the glove, slowly disappearing into Maggie's mouth. I once again release the now slimy glove from her grasp. Perhaps this is a game I shouldn't have encouraged. If curiosity killed the cat, what did it do to the horse?

5:30 pm
Another beautiful sunset. I finally remember my camera. I bring it with me in hopes of taking a few shots before I bring in the horses-- perhaps the deer will be roaming in the field again (they aren't). The horses watch me leave the house, and immediately start jostling for position at the gate. They know it's almost supper time, and I'm their meal ticket.

I shove them back from the gate, and slip into the pasture. My camera is around my neck as I squelch my way through the mud to an area that will give me good light. At one point my pink rain boot is sucked down to the point that I nearly lose it in the muck.

Maggie follows so close behind me that I feel her breath on my neck, and Murray is following just as closely behind her. The two of them are quipping back and forth, pinning ears, and squealing complaints. They're cranky and hungry, and there's a good chance I'm going to get bowled over if they get into a real squabble. I yell at Murray to back off and he does (there's a certain irony in the fact that I've spent hours and hours over the past 10 years trying to catch him, and now I'm yelling at him to go away).

I try to take a few pictures, but Maggie keeps coming over to inspect my lens. Murray (jealous boy that he is) will have none of that. He chases her away, then stands in front of me waiting for whatever I must be doling out. I retreat and try again.

This game continues, and all three of us are becoming more and more frustrated. Finally Murray charges Maggie with particular intensity, mouth wide-open, showing his long, slanting teeth. His ears are pressed flat against his head. I stumble backwards out of the way just as he sinks his teeth into the ample flesh on Maggie's rump. There's a squeal, and a crack as she finally mounts an offence by kicking vigorously with both hind legs. One of them connects with Murray's shoulder and I'm suddenly very, very thankful that Maggie's not wearing shoes. I shout and wave my arms at them, and they grudgingly go their separate ways.

They're both ok, nothing more serious than wounded pride. But I abandon my photography for the night, and lead the sulking horses inside to their grain. Note to self: no matter how beautiful the light, don't try and take pictures of the horses at supper time.

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