Sunday, August 29, 2010
Not one, but TWO crazy Thoroughbreds on the beach
Today, Bar and I had a wild adventure all on our own. It was not all smooth sailing, but it all turned out well and we both learned a lot. Particularly about each other and about other crazy Thoroughbreds. Or not so crazy as it turned out.
Devon--one of the fine folks who handed over the big, brown horse--has a nice 9-year old mare who came off the track earlier this year and then got knocked up. Ursulita's due in March and according to Devon has been quite antsy on maternity leave, so we had decided we would take them out on an easy ride. (They actually knew each other since their careers crossed over under Devon and Howie.)
I know. First ride out on an OTTB with my OTTB? What craziness! But I have a lot of faith in Bar. And I know Devon can hang on and not fall off with the best of them, so I decided to take on the challenge and suffer the consequences if it didn't turn out exactly perfect.
It did not start out well.
Bar loaded just fine, but when he figured out he was alone in the trailer, things started to go astray. First, there was a nose through the screen and a general stomping and pawing. Not to mention the whinnying as we drove through town. I kept talking and singing to him, but it did not stop the trailer from rocking back and forth in a rather alarming manner.
Then the entire neck and head came out the window. "Bar!" That brown head swung around to the sound of my voice, "Get your head back in!" And he did. For a minute or two.
I had loaded him loose--tied in the front, but not shutting the center divider. My thought was--since I knew I'd be doing some maneuvering when we got to the ranch to pick up Devon and Ursulita--he'd be better off balancing himself if he weren't locked in.
As we drove through downtown Sebastopol, with the truck and trailer shuddering with his antics, I started to rethink that strategy. I even debated stopping and shutting the divider, but had a vision of being bowled over by 1,200 brown pounds as he pointed himself back up 116 and headed for home, so decided to just get him to the ranch and reassess the situation.
Apparently, you could hear us coming for quite a ways. All the horses on the property came running out to see what the heck was going on in this trailer, and Bar called out from his window, "Save me!!!"
I climbed out of the truck and peeked in the window, where I saw he had pulled himself loose from the trailer tie. Aha. No wonder the trailer felt like he was walking in circles--he was! Luckily, in all his wild antics, he did not injure himself--save for one tiny surface scrape on his left foreleg.
Ursulita looked a bit askance at the concept of climbing into the trailer with such a wild beast but we got him settled, shut the divider and the window, and loaded her in.
One of the nice things about other Thoroughbred people is they are willing to accept a certain amount of interesting behavior, though I think Howie was a tiny bit worried as we pulled out.
Within a few moments, Bar settled down and rode the entire way to the beach with hardly a bump--even though he was completely out of hay because he'd shredded the hay bag with all his wild antics.
I know I'm occasionally guilty of anthropomorphizing, but if a horse can look sheepish, Bar absolutely did when he stepped out of the trailer and realized we were at the beach. "Oh. We were going somewhere fun, just like you kept saying."
And he was fabulous on the beach. Playful but calm, watchful but responsive--fabulous.
Ursulita looked like an old pro out there, enjoying the sand and agreeing to at least approach the waves, if not douse her feet in them.
The return trip was completely uneventful. We loaded Ursi in first so we could drop Bar off first. If he looked sheepish when we got to the beach, he looked downright embarrassed when we got home.
It's not that I don't understand his reaction. In his world, it was perfectly reasonable. I could have been taking him anywhere, and wherever it was, it was too far away from the life he's used to. I'm still debating if I should have confined him to the front spot, but he might have actually panicked more that way. Really, I could second-guess myself forever, but I'd rather focus on what the situation taught both of us.
It's all about building trust, and I think we both figured out a little more about each other today. He learned we really are usually going somewhere fun; I learned he really will settle out if I just stick with him.
A year ago, I might have turned the truck around and taken Lena.
I'm glad it's not a year ago. I think he is, too.