Monday, March 15, 2010

Turn-out Rituals

Scenario 1: I turn Murray out first in the morning: He skittishly prances alongside of me as we head to the pastures. Once there, I stand on my tip-toes trying to lift the crown-piece of his halter over his head which is raised, giraffe-like, to its highest height, scanning the horizon for early-morning bogeymen. With the halter half-off, he jumps in fright at some invisible monster, slipping out of the halter, and smacking me in the head with his chin.

I leave to go get Maggie. Murray, tail raised, neck still held high, runs back and forth along the fence-line. His nostrils flare and vibrate as an anguished high-pitched, trumpet-like cry is released from his trembling frame. Maggie may or may not return the call.

I reach Maggie's stall. The trumpet-like cries continue from outside, accompanied by the drum-like beat of hooves pounding their way across the frozen ground. Maggie leisurely walks beside me toward the gate.

Murray's loud calls become whisper-like, eager nickers. His ears are pricked and his legs tremble as he waits for his companion to be released into the field. The moment I slide the halter from Maggie's obliging head, Murray pins his ears, bares his teeth, chases Maggie to her appointed position in the pasture, and swaggers away to eat hay from his chosen pile.

Scenario 2: I turn Maggie out first. Maggie lumbers along beside me as we make our way to the pasture gate. She occasionally stretches her lips, and by extension her neck, to grasp at stray pieces of grass. I slip off her halter. She meanders from hay pile to hay pile, then returns to the fence to wait for Murray to select one for her.

In the meantime, Murray whinnies anxiously from the barn. The swish of sawdust between his never-still hooves can be heard even from outside as he spins frantically in his stall. I crack open his stall door and he absently shoves his head through the opening, allowing me one brief chance to throw the halter over his head before he attempts to blast through the door. I push him back, yell at him, demand that he behave, and he sulkily relents, walking calmly (relatively speaking) beside me. I cannot, however, manage to silence his tortured whinny.

We round the corner toward the pasture. He and Maggie lock eyes. She stands at the fence defeated, accepting of her role as the bully's subservient best friend/accomplice. I lead Murray through the gate, I stand on my tiptoes trying to lift the halter off his fully extended giraffe-like neck. He loses patience and yanks himself toward Maggie, ducking his head out of the halter, which flies through the air and smacks me in the head.

Murray ushers Maggie to her allotted hay pile (or sometimes to a desolate corner away from all hay piles), turns his back on her and begins to munch contentedly-- periodically shaking his head toward his black mare should she dare step from her designated location.


  1. Either way, it sounds like a whack in the head.

  2. Yep. I'm considering wearing my helmet when I put them out. lol

  3. DEFINITELY wear a helmet when turning them out - at least until Murray stops being - well - Murray?