Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Let me in!

Tuesday, March 2nd--
The winds roar through the barn, bringing intermittent ice and sleet with them. I turn the horses out in the small, individual paddocks accessible from each stall. In turn, those paddocks open onto medium sized ones. I like these "run-ins" because they offer the horses plenty of room for exercise, but also give them the option of periodically coming in out of the wind, snow, or (in the summer) sun.

I toss some hay into each paddock and send the horses out so I can clean their stalls. Maggie is intent on eating, while Murray is cautiously exploring. After five or six minutes in the blustery weather, Murray's had enough, and he trots purposely back into his stall-- the stall in which I'm standing with a wheel barrow and pitchfork. Murray doesn't seem to concerned by my presence. He finds a spot out of the wind, and delves into his left-over breakfast hay. I try and shoo him back outside, but he backs-up, raises his head out of my reach, and plants his feet in the thick straw. But he needs exercise, and the weather's not that bad.

I temporarily abandon my pitchfork and grab Murray's halter instead. He obligingly allows me to lead him back outside, to the "medium" sized paddock, just across the fence from Maggie. This time though, I close the gate so he can't come back inside. And that's when it starts: screaming.

Murray stands at the gate, screaming. His eyes are bulging with fear, his nostrils flared, his tail raised, and he's screaming as though he's on his way to the slaughter house. When I don't come running to open the gate, he starts pacing frantically back and forth along the fence-line-- still screaming. The hay htat I'd thrown to him is promptly trampled into the sticky, muddy muck. From the neighbouring paddock, Maggie glances briefly his way, then returns to eating-- probably lamenting the destruction of a perfectly good meal.

Murray continues screaming and pacing intermittently, seemingly for my benefit. As when he can't see or hear me, he seems quite content to wander his paddock and explore its sights and smells. When I'm done my chores, I sneak back to the house, but by noon, with the wind still whipping through the trees, and the icy snow still falling, I relent and decide to bring the horses back into their well-bedded stalls.

I could simply open the gate, and allow Murray to go back in on his own, but I decide to lead him in myself. For once, I have no trouble at all in catching him. He practically shoves his nose into the halter--eager to get his insecure self back indoors.

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