Wednesday, September 27, 2006

This Old Horse



The vet was out yesterday to do fall shots. Most of the time, I don't think about how old my horses (and I!) are getting, but this was a new vet, and I had to give him the basic info on the herd. My youngest horse is eight. My oldest is 23. We've crossed the line now. The majority of the herd is "aged"--15 or older, with one more about to make the leap in another year.

But this isn't a treatise on the sadness or wonder of old horses. Personally, I like 'em. They're cool. They look you in the eye, tell you what they need, and move on with their day without a lot of fuss and bother. Zip, at 11, misses having a playmate now that Leo has turned 21 and can't be bothered with the Stall Ball Game anymore. On the other hand, at 11 he can no longer keep up with the 8-year-old mini, Duke, who can run him ragged in a matter of minutes. It's all a matter of perspective.

Something else happened yesterday, though, that brought it all home. The chicken coop got hit for the second night by a young bear eager to bulk up for winter. I saw him. I carried the remaining hens to the barn and set up temporary digs for them in an empty stall. Not a whole lot safer as the fox who lives in the barn will eventually figure out a way into their new hovel, but hopefully the bear will be trapped and the coop repaired before that happens.

But moving the chickens to the barn in the darkness gave me pause. I felt as if I were issuing an invitation to the bear to follow the trail I was laying, a trail that would eventually lead him to my mini, who is locked in a stall at night for exactly this reason. The paws that ripped the T-111 siding off the hen house would make quick work of even the sturdy oak sliding door of that stall. Not a happy thought.

Then, given the opportunity to run free, my inner paranoid extended that out to the herd. The one-eyed Appy, at 23, looks half his age, but he's not. He's got a touch of arthritis, testimony to a long, happy life of galloping around with adoring riders on his back. He's got a cataract growing in his only eye. I wouldn't call him easy pickin's, but he certainly would be an easier target than the younger horses . . . all two of them. Four of my six could be supper for a good-sized, hungry bear.

It's not that I've never thought of this before. We live in tenuous harmony with a whole bevy of bears, a quiznos of foxes, a plunder of coyotes, and a lethargy of wild turkeys. There's a mountain lion wandering just beyond our perimeter. As long as they don't mess with me or mine, I don't think about them.

Now I have to, and I think I resent that.

Tomorrow morning the guys from Fish and Game will come set a trap for the bear. We did a pretty good job of chasing him off last night with the noisy, fuming Ford tractor, so he may not come back for thirds. That would please me no end. Unfortunately, it would also leave me wondering and fretting for however long it takes for the recent events to fade into the shadows.

I'd love to hear what other horse owners do. How do you sleep when you know there are a dozen things that could drop your horse while you dream? Paranoia aside, I'm open to suggestion. Jump right in! Your comments will be welcome, probably by more folks than just me.

Now I'm going out to look at the damage to the henhouse and figure out my next move. Peace out.

1 comment:

mary said...

i have heard that mules are wonderfull for protection from predators - and... you gotta love those ears!