Murphy’s Law: Anything that CAN go wrong WILL go wrong- usually at the worst possible time.
Horses have funny ideas. All of them at Casalae Farms have decided that the far end of the huge riding arena harbors haunts. Every equine resident tends to shy abruptly when ridden too close to the high-stacked hay bales, the large, pale pyramid of stored sawdust (for lining stall floors) and the Farm’s neatly parked white pickup truck. (Maybe horses can see/sense ‘things’ we humans aren’t designed to perceive. Nothing is impossible. Just ask any gobsmacked quantum physicist.)
My husband’s mare, Callie, knowing he was inexperienced, decided she could veer away from that end of the arena without a correction. Joe, a psychologist as well as a cardiologist, decided to ride her right back to the ‘spooky’ place and then stop, so she could look her fill. That was unusual. And tricky.
If, say, a cloud’s passing momentarily changed the light that poured through the tall narrow rectangular windows set into the huge sliding doors, potentially triggering flight, Joe could be dumped. Prey animals are inherently unpredictable. They’ll flee perceived danger first, and reason it out later.
She looked, ears perked. Her tail hung motionless.
Joe sat quietly.
This, Laura and I muttered, was a bolt-in-waiting.
Then, a long time later, when that too-still stare approached being intolerable he turned Callie back toward the arena’s ‘comfort zone.’ We put the radio on to break up the quiet and help her settle.
She stood by us, head down, muzzle and jaw muscles twitching, pondering the last five minutes.
I pondered, too.
Here was an important lesson: when around horses, or riding, things can change suddenly. Cultivate a relaxed mind and body while being sensitive to potential horsey freak-outs.
Soon after, I began to understand one important reason equines have decided that that part of the arena harbors haunts.
During my next lesson, while riding Callie at an acceptable distance from the ‘spooky space,’ a low, muted rumble, lasting about four seconds, disturbed the quiet air. Instantly she swerved sharply, side-stepped and half-reared. Planted firmly in the saddle I leaned forward and murmured “easy...” Snorting, she smoothed out, mastering the urge to flee. Years of training, and her trust in humans, had kicked in.
Fact: Had I been inattentive I’d likely have bitten the sawdust.
Turns out a large section of heavy snow had roared down the long, metal arena roof in response to sunshine heating the metal. This rumble-y release has occurred at least twice since I began riding, usually beginning over the ‘spooky area,’ and it always triggers horse-aversion.
Each time, I’ve been prepared. Knock on wood.
Something fascinating is always happening out there. One icy late afternoon Joe came to film my lesson so I could critique my technique at home. Afterward, I led my mount, the Farm’s stud stallion, Menessen, back to his tie-up area and removed his tack. Just then, Joe let out a little gasp. I looked up quizzically.
With wonderment in his voice he whispered, “I just saw a mare skate by those open doors!”
Skate?? I stared at him, and then at the two big, open double sliding doors at the far end of the stable. He pointed at them. “Just watch! It might happen again...”
The man was serious! I looked. It had rained, then snowed a lot recently; then, an intense cold front had transformed the flooded ground in Grand Traverse County into sheets of thick ice that ‘glassed’ the ground outside.
We heard muted shouting and saw people milling around out there, but had no clue why.
Menessen, though, began acting weird! Cross-tied, large front teeth bared in a horsey grin, he raised his head high as his busy nose trolled the air, gathering in a delectable scent. He looked smitten! His head vigorously nodded up and down, as though confirming my thoughts.
More shouts outside. “I’ll stay over here; drive her to me!”
What on earth??
Then, to my amazement, a big chestnut mare wearing only a halter, slid, hockey puck-smooth and fast, past the big entrance one more time. No human was in attendance. That meant-- she was loose!
A minute later we heard more scrabbling and then a triumphant shout: “Got ‘er!”
Other staff rushed to help. Skiddish, whinnying objections, the prancing mare was carefully led into the barn and then into her stall. Everyone but Menessen breathed sighs of relief. No broken legs. No crazy gallop up the long aisle straight to her Romeo.
In heat, she’d caught his scent from far away and knew what she wanted. When the staff began to catch the other mares to bring them in for the evening she’d sneaked past the catcher and out of her paddock’s half-opened gate.
She was free.
She’d whinnied, “Where are you?” and Menessen had whinnied back his location. She’d been running parallel to the barn doors, but, unable to slow or stop due to sheet ice, had glided by that entrance, all four legs planted on Nature’s ‘rink,’ mane flying- the very picture of a child’s rocking horse come to life. But her windborne sexual perfume, powerful and intoxicating, had wafted inside, irresistible, and yet---- their stallion was familiar with the usual preparations for mounting a mare. His situation now didn’t match what the choreography had always been before. So he stayed put, while continuing to enthusiastically appreciate her pungent perfume. Menessen is nothing if not well mannered.
This highly improbable situation reminded me again to
Always stay focused.
ANYTHING can happen. At any time. For no particular reason.
Murphy’s Law will always haunt the complacent.