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Big Horses, Snowbanks & the Paddock on the Hill

Big Horses, Snowbanks & the Paddock on the Hill

I think any senior can tell you a true story about when he or she showed massive courage in the face of danger.

    This is not one of those stories.

    This is a true story in which this writer steered clear of anything resembling courage by choosing to align himself with reason and common sense.

    As you may have guessed (not a chance), this story is about a horse. A stallion. A thoroughbred. His name? Bad News. I kid you not. He was not named Bad News because he was mean in any way. He was just skittish, easily spooked. And when a 16-hand horse weighing roughly 1,000 pounds spooks and decides to hightail it for wherever it believes it will find safety, that’s a whole lotta horse on the move. I should tell you that at the time I had a job working on a horse farm as a farmhand. Mucking stalls, cleaning paddocks, taking out of their stalls and back to their stalls, an so on.

    Let me set the farm scene for you. It’s winter and it is snowing. The mares are sheltering in their paddock, feasting away on alfalfa hay (a wonderful scent). The three stallions are in the barn, each in his own stall.

    There were two large sliding doors on each end of the barn. The sliding door at the end of the barn near Bad News’ stall opened onto a 15-yard-wide lane that was flanked on both sides by fencing and rose at a rather gentle incline for about forty yards before reaching the open gate to the back paddock. Bad News’ paddock.

    On the day in question, it had been snowing for some time. The plow on the farm’s pickup truck had cleared a path in the snow from barn to back paddock. Large mounds of snow boarded this path it’s entire length.

    The primary farm hand was, Anita. She’d been working with horses all her life. She was not a big woman, athletic, five-foot and a couple of inches in height. Her presence was formidable. She didn’t need height and brawn for people to know she was in the room. Anita was also a wonderful person to work with and learn from. Though, as you’re about to see, I was not always quick on the uptake.

    After their morning feed, the three stallions were turned out of their stalls. Each had a paddock of their own. They had to be turned out so you could muck (clean) the stalls and the barn. 

    One of my jobs was taking Bad News out of the barn and leading him up into the back paddock. Once in the paddock I would turn him around, unhook the lead, leave the paddock, and close the gate behind me. I’d done this with him before, without incident.

    So, on this morning, I opened Bad News’ stall door, hooked the lead (a five-foot rope with a snap-hook at one end) to his halter, and the two of us headed out of the barn, right into a snowfall busy with large snowflakes.

    I held the lead gently, walked on his left side. Talked to him in a gentle voice.  Calm was key.

    Anita stayed back at the open entrance of the barn. I kept talking in gentle tones to Bad News like I always did. “You know I love you don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me. You’re a good boy. Look how well you’re doing. Don’t kill me.”

    I was in mid-sentence when it happened. What exactly it was that happened, I’m not entirely sure, but I’ve got a darned good guess. And my guess makes everything that happened next make all the sense in the world.

    A big fluffy snowflake hit him in the eye!

    Up he reared! (I let go, duh.) He spun around and headed back to the barn at full speed. But halfway there he sees Anita standing in the entrance. Bad News didn’t mess with Anita. So, he spins around, and starts heading right for me with all he was worth.

    Now stay with me here because this is when my reason, common sense, and a capacity for rational thinking made sure no courage at all was on the scene. As I said, not even a sliver.

    Bad News running at me, full speed, weighs one-thousand pounds. Slowing down is not on his mind. I, on the other hand, weighed in the neighborhood of 185 pounds.

    As he is roaring towards me, I hear Anita yelling what struck me right then and there as the stupidest, most misguided, out-of-your-ever-loving-mind, not-firing-all-eight, both-oars-not-in-the-water, advice I’d ever heard in my life!

    “Just raise your hands! Just raise your hands! Just raise your hands!”

    Why? So, when he runs me over and kills me, you’ll be able to tell people I was trying to surrender? Just raise my hands, you say?

    That’s not what I did. I dove into a nearby snowbank to, I was sure, save my life.

    Later I would learn that had I raised my hands Bad News would have turned around and headed back to the barn. I didn’t know he already knew all that. I sure didn’t. 

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