This is the third (and I hope final) part of a series about people who let their horses loose and call it "grazing." I call it "Loose Horse!" Click for Part I and Part II.
Sometimes I see things that aren't there when I go to feed the horses in the morning. Like no horses at all (they're behind the barn) or three horses where there ought to be two.
But no, on this particular early Sunday morning there were actually three horses out there. Two inside my fence, one outside. They were having a nice visit. A very exciting visit. How was I going to catch this stray horse -- and whose was it? It was a nondescript dark bay.
So I called to Lily to come help me. She was asleep but she came out quickly, grabbing a handful of carrots from the refrigerator to tempt the stray horse. Note: carrots don't rattle, so they offer no temptation to a stray horse. Use feed in a bucket instead.
Anyway, the mare took flight when she saw us. And we ran after her trail, our horses providing a background of whinnies and thundering hoofbeats. We lost sight of the stray mare, but saw where her hoofprints had torn up several neighbors' neatly tended turf. We followed her trail across our block and across the next street, where I saw a man I'll call Rusty working in his yard. Now, Rusty has two horses. I've seen him ride one of them in twelve years. The stray horse was in his yard, grazing. I called out, "Is that your horse?"
Rusty said, "Yes. She's fine. She's just grazing."
"But she's loose," I said.
"That's fine. I let her out all the time to graze. She doesn't go anywhere," he said.
"She was just at my house," I said.
"Oh. I didn't know she'd do that," he said. "That's never happened before." And then he thanked us for following his horse.
The very next morning I got a phone call from the neighbors behind us who keep elderly QH gentlemen. "I don't know what your new horse looks like, but there's a horse in my yard," she said.
For all I know, it could be mine. Markus is an incredible jumper, and Lucy has jumped one pasture fence before, though not here (she did it with me riding her at another farm, but that's another story). So I went outside and did a head count. Both of my horses were in the pasture. So I got back on the phone and told her to call Rusty, which she did. Of course it was his horse.
So -- surprise -- two days later I hear a stampede. Rusty's two horses are racing around the outside of my pasture while my TBs are racing around the inside. Rusty's paint walking horse is winning, but don't tell the Jockey Club. Rusty's horses are keyed up beyond getting caught, not even with a rattling bucket.
Two doors down some teenage boys continue to play basketball even though there are loose horses flying through their yard. I thought that was kind of funny. The horses must have passed through their yard at least three times. The boys never lose their concentration, they keep on playing. Wow. Wonder if they can do that in math class?
Another neighbor comes out with a golf cart and wants to know if the horses are mine. (I have a dark bay and a chestnut -- there's only one paint in the neighborhood and that's Rusty's. Non-horse people aren't very observant.) No, they're not mine. They belong to Rusty. So Golf Cart #1 goes off to Rusty's house, and then, finding no one at home, goes out searching for the horses.
Lily and I grab halters and run toward Rusty's house. It's a long way and I'm out of shape. We lose sight of the horses, but since this is daylight and after work people are outside and several different men working in different yards all tell us which way the horses have gone. Each one says a different direction, which only means that the horses have been running around for a while. Each thinks he just saw the horse and we should follow the way he's pointing. So we ignore them and go to Rusty's, hoping the horses have gone home.
Golf Cart #2 drives up with two women in it, one is Rusty's wife, Delilah. I don't know the other but she is the driver and is dressed in pajamas at 6:00 in the afternoon and is wearing socks but no shoes. Delilah looks done in.
"Your horses won't even come when we offer them food," I say.
Delilah answers, "That's because they broke into the feed stall and ate every last bit."
"You'll need to have the vet come pump their stomachs when you catch them," I say. "They could founder."
Delilah doesn't look too interested. So Lily adds, "They could get crippled. They could die."
Delilah says, "Good." (She doesn't really mean this -- she's just had it with the horses.) "I told Rusty we need to get rid of the horses."
We see them gallop by and they head of toward the sunset but this doesn't look like a happy ending. Delilah has given up and is ready to go inside.
I feel like shaking her. "If they get hit by a car, somebody could get killed," I say. She doesn't answer. Her son was completing his senior project when their computer crashed, and she'd been trying to recover his files when somebody called to say her horses were loose. I can tell she feels like this has nothing to do with her. These are her husband's horses.
"Rusty called me and told me to catch them," she says. "I can't catch them."
"If they get hit by a car and someone is killed, you could be sued," I say. "You could lose everything. If you can't catch them, you should at least call the sheriff so they can try to keep people from driving in this area."
She's still not motivated, so Lily and I head for home thinking that maybe they'll come back to see our horses. Golf Cart #1 has given up and gone home, shaking his head. Golf Cart #2 doesn't know what to do. And Delilah has turned into a statue.
My friend and hay supplier drives by. He sees us carrying halters and leadropes and stops to ask if we need help. "They're not our horses," I say. "Rusty's horses are out."
He looks disgusted. He was going to help if it was us with the problem, but now the picture has changed. "Rusty's horses get out all the time. Rusty feeds them, but that's it. I don't know why they have horses." And he waves and drives off, his noisy diesel nearly drowning out our thoughts.
When we get home there's a neighbor I've never met standing in the road. "Are those your horses?" he asks. "I've already caught them once today but they got away."
I explain that they are Rusty's horses. And while we're talking to him and introducing ourselves, Rusty's horses -- the paint walking horse and the retired trotter mare -- come flying by. They are unfit, foaming, wringing wet and heaving to breath. But they're not ready to stop. We try to outsmart them, to pen them, to corner them. The area is too big with too many obstacles. Finally, the trotter mare flies by Lily and Lily manages to snag her halter. It scares me to watch from way across the field, a strange horse going too fast and too close to my daughter. But Lily has done it. And with help from the neighbor, she's able to put a halter and lead rope on the paint, who, by the way, is named "Monster." And is actually pretty cute.
Monster and her friend are jazzed up so we walk them back to Rusty's with difficulty. Lily is wearing Rainbows (translation: expensive leather flip flops that advertise her mother's extravagant and foolish love for her), bad shoes for working with strange and agitated horses. But she comes through it all with ten toes.
"Mom, these horses are about to drop," she says. "They need to be hosed off and walked."
"And to have their stomachs pumped," I say. We know none of this is going to happen. Delilah is mad at her husband and worried about her son's senior project.
"What should we do?" she asks. I don't really know. We're supposed to be at a dinner party in town in 45 minutes. We're not dressed and it's a long drive. In fact, we are sweaty and covered with horse sweat. But that wasn't the question. The question was about the horses, and I didn't know what to do.
Delilah is the one who needs to call the vet. Or call Rusty and get him to call the vet. Or do something. Delilah calls Rusty on her cell phone. Then she tells us, "If you don't mind, could you tie them up to the fence posts?"
Wringing wet, blowing, foamy and full of grain. I might be slack, but Lily is a good Pony Clubber and she says, "We can't do that. They're too hot. They need to be hosed off and cooled out."
Delilah looks like she's just been told to push a rock up a hill for eternity. "How do you know that?" she asks.
"That's what you know when you have horses," Lily says. Ouch. But she's right. And Delilah never claimed to know anything other than that she didn't want horses or to be out here with us.
"We'll hose them off," Lily volunteers. Delilah gets the hose for us. I'm worried about Lily's toes in her Rainbows. We hose off both horses but they're still too hot, still blowing.
"Now they need to be walked until they're cool," Lily says. We walk them for a little while, Delilah walking beside us. She's obviously not the fittest person and carries a lot of extra weight. A lot. This escapade has been difficult for her physically. It has possibly also done her some good, as would walking the horses but I didn't just say that.
The mare I'm walking has quit blowing, but Monster has not. I can't keep walking her. We need to go. And here's that fine line you don't know which side to dance on -- you know what needs to be done, you've told the responsible person what needs to be done. If they don't do it, then what do you do?
This isn't abuse. That would be different. This is more bad choices and ignorance. I say again I think she should call the vet, and she says there probably wasn't that much food in the grain bin. Lily says that Monster needs to be walked. Monster's continued blowing says she needs to be walked.
Delilah appreciates all of this, she really does. For some reason, maybe her fitness, maybe who knows what else is going on in her life, she just doesn't have it in her. She keeps marvelling that Lily knows how to do all these things (basic horse ownership stuff like how to tie them and how to hose them and how to check their general condition), and Lily tries to answer somewhat delicatedly that these are the things you know if you own a horse.
I say we need to go. Lily says that Monster can't be left like this, that Monster needs to be walked. She looks at Delilah. Delilah says, "Okay, I'll walk her. At least until you can't see me anymore." And we all laugh. Sort of.
The neighbor driving Golf Cart #2 -- the one wearing her pajamas and socks -- offers to drive us home. We accept. She drives us through her yard, where we meet her husband and get to see his bonsai collection. It is huge and beautiful. We have a nice chat. I'd like to see her again and am glad Monster introduced us. She tells us that she puts on her pjs as soon as she gets home from work, and when she saw the horses loose she jumped in her golf cart without thinking. I like that in a person. She takes us home.
When Lily and I get inside our house, there's a voicemail from a neighbor from down our street. "Your horses are out. That big brown and white one was in our yard." This neighbor is very particular about her lawn and flowers. I know she was not happy to have her turf churned up by galloping hooves.
I just wish she was particular enough to notice that I have no flashy colored brown-and-white horse in my pasture. Wasn't me. Our horses are solid colors, and they graze inside the fence.