16 November 2013

Houdini Horse

Those who follow my Facebook page know already that on the night of November 14 a loose horse invited himself onto the low deck outside our bedroom.  The event terrified me, but this isn't a Halloween ghost story. Loose horses can endanger not only themselves but others, so this is a warning about the importance of being careful, about knowing horse behavior, and especially about Knowing Thy Horse.

At 2:20 a.m. on the 14th, some noise awakened me. I assumed one of our cats, who have me well trained, wanted in. As I lay in bed, thinking how little I wanted to get up, a loud thump brought me to full awareness. I rolled out of bed, parted the curtains, and looked down. No cat.

Then I looked up and the moonlight highlighted a huge, silver-outlined shadow a  few feet in front of the glass slider. I wasn't wearing my glasses, so the shadow looked like an enormous ghost. Narrow but tall, almost floating above two skinny legs. Then the head of the ghost flipped in a circle. I knew it was a horse, and not just any horse. That gesture, a move a friend dubbed "an Arab nose pirouette," meant Razz, my 14 year old Arab gelding had opened his gate. Again.

I gathered a handful of horse cookies and scurried into the night wearing a parka over my flannel pajamas. As I came around the corner of the house, he'd vacated the deck and retreated. Now standing outside the yard near the rest of the horses, Razz again lifted his head and stared at me expectantly as I trudged down the walkway toward him.

I knew my mistake. When I put the horses up for the night, I'd forgotten to snap the extra clip on the gate of Razz aka Houdini Horse, an expert at opening supposedly horse-proof latches.

Almost untouchable when I got him as a fearful five year old, Razz now approaches people eagerly, often with a sense of play. I saw the Catch-Me-If-You-Can-Swagger as he walked toward me. After his last escape, my indulgent but non-horsey husband chased Razz around for half an hour while I was at work. I'm sure Razz had a great time.

Well, Mommy don't play tag, especially at 2:30 in the morning. Mommy don't wait around either. I knew he'd come up and put his head down for a halter, but I'd lose a minute of sleep time while he realized  I wasn't going to play. So I resisted picking up one of the ropes and halters hanging by the yard gate. Instead I held out a cookie. Razz walked right up and took it as delicately as he always does, but instead of trying to catch him, I ignored him and began distributing cookies to the horses polite enough to obey curfew and remain in their runs.

Razz of course followed right behind me. When I got to the empty run, I walked back to his feed tub and tossed in a couple of cookies. As I expected, the gray ghost sauntered by me and stuck his head down. As he munched, I walked out, appreciatively running my fingers down his side. I latched his gate, and went back to bed. 

We live down a private lane and we have layers of fencing, but I still worry about horses getting out. Too many escaped horses injure themselves in unfamiliar surroundings, find too much feed, or wander onto roads. Endless disaster possibilities exist.  Luckily, Razz just climbed onto a well built deck. Only a few scrapes on the deck show he was ever there. 

Below, the evidence of a horse slithering across our smooth deck. 

Below, the Perp looking innocent, 
denying the need for the shiny new chain