Monday, April 18, 2011

Three's Company

Well, Jaava's been munching hay and trotting around our paddocks for more than two months now, so I suppose it's time to explain why we added a third equine to the herd.

Friday February 4th-- mid-morning

With the horses fed and mucked out, I dig into a bowl of oatmeal and turn on my laptop. A new message pops up in my inbox. It's from one of the girls from Five Elms Stables-- the barn where I used to board Murray near Moncton.

The message asks whether I've heard the news-- the news that the roof of the 30+ stall barn collapsed overnight on Wednesday. My jaw drops and my heart starts pounding. Thankfully, the next line of the note answers the first question that comes to mind-- and yes, miraculously, all the horses are ok. In fact, the boarders have already been moved to other barns in the area, but the owners' horses and a couple of school horses (including Jaava and her "brother" Poet) are still homeless, and are currently living outside. I quickly write back asking her to let me know whether there's anything I can do.

As the news sinks in, I start thinking...we have two empty stalls. We could easily keep the ponies here for a few weeks or even months while the barn owners figure out what to do. I call Guy and Cheryl to offer what help I can.

They tell me how they walked through their two-acre apple-orchard in the morning, believing all was normal. They didn't see the devastation until they opened the door to the barn. That's because the roof collapsed over the back half of the barn-- the section furthest from view. It was a pile of rubble. Had there been horses there, they wouldn't have survived. However, for the first time in a dozen or so years, there were no horses there. That's because the stable had recently closed down its lesson program, and sold off most of the school horses. With fewer animals in the barn, they moved them all together to fill the stalls in the front isle.

After they tell me their harrowing story, I offer up the two empty stalls.

Cheryl responds by asking if I want a pony-- to keep for good.

Me: "Uh, what do you mean?

Cheryl: "Make me an offer, any offer."

Me: "For Jaava?"

Cheryl: "Sure, we could have her there by breakfast tomorrow."

Me: "uh, really?"

Cheryl: "yes, we need to find her a home. We might keep the others anyway, we're not sure, but not her. She needs a home."

This is not what I expected when I made this phone call. I expected to maybe temporarily house a couple of ponies, and have them off my hands by summer. I'm a bit flustered by this idea of buying one of them. But I'm also immediately tempted.


I worked with Jaava a fair amount when I was at Five Elms. I rode her her a couple times a week for the last six months or so that I was there. And I coached one of the more experienced girls on her as we started her over fences. Jaava is, and always was, a firecracker. She's naturally athletic, which means that when she spooks, she can spin on a dime, and can bolt from one end of the ring to another in a heartbeat. But when she goes well, she's a joy to watch. She's fidgety and insecure, but doesn't have a mean bone in her body.

I'd heard a few weeks earlier that Jaava was for sale. And for the first few days after I heard that news, I'd flirted with the idea of buying her. But, what the heck would I do with a pony? I already have two horses to ride. And while she's got oodles of talent, she needs an experienced rider, so even if I ever decide to start a small lesson program here, she's not an ideal school horse.

Buying her would mean higher shoeing and vet bills. It would also mean more work. I decided Jaava could find another home. I made peace with my decision, and started dreaming instead, of saving money for a horse trailer.

Then, the barn roof collapsed, and Jaava became homeless.


I tell Cheryl I'll think about it, and I hang up the phone.

I lift the receiver back to my ear and call Dave.

Me: "Um, so can I get a pony?"

Part of me genuinely hopes he'll say no. Part of me knows we can't afford another mouth to feed. Part of me knows this is going to disturb the well-established hierarchy that Murray and Maggie have settled on.

Dave says yes. I explain the situation to him, and he replies that we certainly should buy her.

I hang up with Dave and phone one of my best friends. "Am I crazy?" I ask. She tells me that no, I'm not crazy, and that yes, I should get the pony.

I call Cheryl back. I make an offer. She accepts, and says she'll have the pony, and 100 bales of hay here by 11 o'clock the next morning. I'll be at work. Dave will have to unload the hay and get Jaava settled on his own (thankfully though, our horse-sitter agrees to come help out).

I spend the rest of the day cleaning the empty stall next to Murray's. I wonder whether he'll remember his new neighbour from his old barn.

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