I should have known today was just going to be one of those days. Now, as I sit here at the island in my kitchen, with a glass of Moscato and Pat watching some random movie in the background behind me, I'm realizing that no good deed goes unpunished, my horse is a bastard, and Absorbine Liniment Gel is God's gift to my knees.
It's been miserably wet here the last few days, we went from a numb-your-lungs deep freeze and a fresh 4" of snow this weekend to 50+ degrees and monsoon rains yesterday and today. Everything is a sloppy, flooded disaster, and with board coming due on Friday, I decided I needed to go check on Cleveland and take him a fresh turnout blanket to swap out the one he's been wearing since the cold hit and was probably soaked through with the recent downpours. They're calling for temperatures to plummet down into the twenties again tonight for the foreseeable future, so dry clothes on the ponies are a must.
I bailed out of work two hours early, partially because I couldn't stand having nothing to do, and partially to beat traffic up to the barn. After packing my truck with Cleveland's new (old) blankets, I ran inside to see if my crippled boyfriend (who has been recovering from emergency surgery last weekend) would like to go visit HIS horse. Please keep in mind, Cleveland is HIS horse because it conveniently worked out that a friend had a big, "manly-looking" older horse that needed a full-time turnout situation due to his arthritis, and I needed something that I could call "Pat's horse" to guilt him into not bitching about my horse habit. Cleve fit the bill.
Anyway, Pat wasn't feeling up to sitting in my truck for that long of a ride to see HIS horse, so I ventured off on my own up to Goodrich with a quick pit stop at Tractor Supply to pick up another bag of SafeChoice to top off Cleveland's grain bin. In and out in ten minutes, a personal record for me, I was back in the truck and over at the barn within 15 minutes. Everything was right on schedule for me to get home before traffic picked up.
Now Cleve is one of those been-there-done-that horses, having been bred and foaled at the Two Square ranch in Santa Rosa, New Mexico by the great Hollis Fusch (read Mr. Fusch's story here). He spent most of his traceable life out west on various ranches in New Mexico, Wyoming and Texas as a ranch & rope horse. Admittedly, he's seen much more than I have, and I respect him for that. He's flawless on the roads and trails, and I know I can trust him with the newest of riders, from the smallest kids, to my greenhorn boyfriend. He's truly one of those horses that's worth his weight in gold to me, and at 16.1 and easily 1,300 pounds, that's a lot of weight. When I sold everything and left White Lake, Cleveland was one of the last three I kept. He's a kind, quiet, gentle soul and will do anything he can for a cookie, and since his body is starting to slow down on him, we take it easy and the extent of his daily work load consists of walking from one end of the pasture to the gate for grain, cookies, or scratchings or the monthly intoxicated trail ride with my friends when our schedules permit. I don't worry about Cleveland.
After gathering up "dinner" for Cleveland and his roommate, Leonard (the homeowner's horse), I pulled Cleve out and fed Leonard, then I practically drug my old, lazy-ass horse back around the house to my truck where my groom kit and blankets were waiting. I had this planned out perfectly in my head. No joke, I'd worked on the logistics of this plan since lunchtime: Feed the moose by the truck, pull wet blanket, brush down thoroughly, pick feet, apply dry blankets, return the moose to pasture, get home before rush hour, make dinner, feed crippled boyfriend, do homework, get to bed early and hope for 10 uninterrupted hours of sleep. In my head, this was a brilliant plan...I really should know better.
The first few parts of my brilliant plan worked out as I'd hoped, and as I was returning Cleveland back to a screaming, pacing Leonard (who was thoroughly convinced he was never going to see another horse ever ever ever again), I stopped by the grain room off the house and told Cleve to "stand". To Cleveland, being told to "Stand" normally means "Hey, asshole, don't move ok? Eat grass for a minute, I'll be right back". I remembered this, and since it hadn't been that long since I messed with him, I assumed we were still on the same page as far as single-word commands go. We weren't.
Unbeknownst to me, someone, at some point in the last 2 weeks, taught my super-reliable, golden-child of a horse that "Stand" really means "Channel your inner three year old Arabian!", because before I could even utter a "whoa", the old, semi-crippled bastard had transformed into a hybrid cross between a llama, an Arabian, and a runaway Lear jet with four-wheel-drive capabilities and was galloping across the back yard like a raped ape.
Now no one has EVER asked Cleveland to gallop in the time I've owned him, and I'm pretty sure I've never seen him offer anything more than a laxidasical lope when turned out in the field, so the fact that my old fart of a trail mutt suddenly took off like his ass was on fire shocked me for a minute. Then the good old thought of Oh, he's just a little fresh with the wind and the weather, one of the chickens must have startled him, he'll run out of steam in the next 20' or so, took over and I watched for a minute, entertained with the idea that the dinosaur has the ability to move that quickly. And then he kept going....and going...around the corner of the house and towards my truck in the driveway.
Now the first train of thought when a horse heads for the driveway is "Get in front of him & wave something big and scary to make them turn back!", which is an absolutely absurd idea, but you know we all think it. When the Reality-Train comes chugging back down the tracks to your brain and you realize there's no way in hell you're going to outrun a damn HORSE, the next thought is usually "Get grain! Or...something that sounds like grain! Yeah! That'll work! Hell, even a goddamn BUCKET will work at this point, right? My horse likes grain and he knows his bucket!" Fortunately for me, I still had the grain buckets in my hands and as I rounded the corner of the house shaking the buckets frantically and calling out "Whooooaaaa Cleve..." in my best I'm-not-panicking voice, he slowed to that laxidasical lope up the hill of the driveway, and finally came to a stop at the road. Ears flicked back at me.
Okay, we're good. He's done now, he wouldn't leave the property.
Cleveland looked left. Then Cleveland looked right. Then Cleveland looked back at me as I hiked my painfully out-of-shape ass up the hill of the driveway in my winter tall boots (which are most definitely NOT meant for hiking), huffing and puffing like I'd just run a 5k and really wishing I'd stuck with my New Years resolution to get back into shape.
Jeez, he could at least turn around and start walking back this way. That asshole is going to make me walk all the way up this hill?! That's the last time he gets an extra quarter scoop of grain!
Cleveland looked back at me one more time, turned left out of the driveway and picked up that nice, slow laxidasical lope and headed up the road.
Are you KIDDING me?!
Now, I've seen my share of panicked horses, this was not a panicked horse. This was a horse on a sight-seeing adventure, and enjoying every minute of it. His tail was straight up in the air, along with his head, and he bounded along the dirt road like a cracked-out carousel horse. And as I made it to the top of the driveway, and watched his bright blue blanket and safety-reflective halter bounce up the road in no big hurry to get anywhere, I had that fleeting moment of clarity and some very entertaining thoughts, in hindsight, thanks to the little voice of reason in my head:
Do I go all the way back down that long-ass driveway and get my truck and chase him down in that? I've got lead ropes in my truck, I could lead him back out the window of the truck, he's quiet enough, he'd probably be okay with that. If not, I think Dad can put a new side mirror on fairly cheaply if he rips it off. Might be worth it, but it's probably more expensive to buy a mirror for a Mountaineer than an Explorer. I knew I should have bought an Explorer instead, its such bullshit, its the same truck! But if I go back, I could lose sight of him in the meantime if he goes into a yard or behind a house...shit. Someone'll be pissed if I have to drive through their yard to find my horse, plus its so damn muddy, and the all-wheel drive isn't working on the truck, Dad'll be PISSED if he has to come tow me out of someone's yard because of a horse. Do I tough it out and chase him on foot? Good LORD my sides hurt, what the hell happened to me running five miles a day for fun?! WHY did he have to turn left and go uphill? Right and downhill would have been soooo much easier! Damn these boots I HAD to have....they're so warm though! ...Seriously, how far is this bastard going to run!? Why couldn't he have been herd-bound?! Herd bound would be REAL nice right about now! Is that a school bus? Are you kidding me?! Ugh, at least there's no other traffic. Aw, that bus driver is awesome for stopping, she must have horses. I wonder what kind of horses she's got. Hopefully they're herd-bound...
These are the thoughts I have in crisis-type situations. And to think, I took an Adderall this morning to help me focus.
Cleveland kept this game up for a solid five-eighths of a mile, and finally came to a stop in front of a local veterinarian's farm/office. Head up, tail raised, he blew one big snort at nothing, then dropped his head, turned around, and strolled back at a walk to meet me on my path up the hill like he was coming in for a forehead-scratching. Cussing him up and down, I grabbed his halter, and we started our hike back down the hill to the driveway. I waved my silent thank you to the bus driver as best as I could considering I had a horse in one hand and empty buckets in the other, so if she's reading this: I'm sorry, I really wasn't showing you what color buckets I had, thank you for stopping, and I hope your load of kids enjoyed the show.
Cleveland and I walked all the way back to his pasture and a now-frantic Leonard like nothing had ever happened. I turned him back out, removed his halter, and pat him on the neck to let him know I wasn't holding a grudge and that I understood his old-man-shenanigans and his victory lap of freedom was simply him expressing that he wasn't quite ready for full-blown retirement yet. In reply, he blew a snot wad on my jacket, and wandered over to the round bale feeder with a now-content Leonard.
I hiked back up to my waiting truck, pulled out of the driveway towards home, decided my new plan for this evening was going to involve wine, Aleve, and some liniment for my now-throbbing knees, and called Pat to tell him what a goddamn ungrateful, sonofabitch, renegade asshole HIS horse was.
I should have known today was just going to be one of those days