The horse school bus came for Annie yesterday. Rebecca, a young horse trainer who lives a mere twenty miles away came with her horse trailer to take Annie for sixty days of training. I was certain that Annie would load easily into the trailer, though no one else believed it. I knew her curiosity would win out and she would step right into that trailer, ready for a big adventure.
I got out there early to get both horses ready. I put halters on them and separated them, which was easy. Annie, always first to arrive and follow me anywhere, went right into the round pen full of scrumptious untouched prairie - and safely away from Ginger's bossiness. Ginger, always afraid someone named Annie might get a treat before her majesty the queen gets one, came to me straight off, looking for peppermints.
I brushed the horses and sprayed them both for flies. I combed their manes and picked out burrs and searched for ticks. I simply enjoyed being in the company of my horses. I think it is a mutual enjoyment. My horses rest their big, heavy heads on my shoulder and sigh with contentment. I feel the same way.
Both horses were calm and sleepy by the time Rebecca arrived, but Annie began to circle the pen and to stand on the bottom rung of the panels when she saw the strange truck and trailer. Those are cheap fence panels, not designed to hold up the front half of horses. A lot of things can go wrong with excited horses but I continued to have confidence.
Rebecca put her own halter on Annie and led her calmly to the trailer. As soon as Annie left the round pen, Ginger went in, just to make sure there were no peppermints laying around or special favors floating in the air that rightfully belong to her alone. After closing the gate, I stood back to watch, hardly daring to breathe. Was it going to be a horrible rodeo, or a calm loading?
Just as I expected, Annie walked right up to the trailer and calmly looked around, sniffing and debating whether she should trust this new person. After a brief sidestep or two, I could see Annie was wanting to do what Rebecca was asking, even though it was scary. In just a few moments she stepped right onto that trailer. I was too far away to close the trailer door, so when Rebecca stepped toward the back, Annie also turned. When Annie realized the gate was closing, she bolted off the trailer. I think Rebecca's heart sank.
Instead of running toward the far corner of the pasture in a mad panic, Annie just ran back to the round pen, bucking and playing in her usual high spirits whenever something fun is happening. Rebecca calmly took up the lead rope then led Annie back to the trailer. Again Annie hesitated, but with Rebecca calmly urging her forward, and with me calmly assuring her, she stepped right into the trailer again. This time I was there to close the gate. Annie's eyes where ringed with white in fright, the way they were when she was delivered to Spirit Creek, but she did not fight or struggle. I gave her a final peppermint treat and then she and Rebecca were off.
In the meantime, Ginger realized something was amiss. Annie seldom makes any noise and I do not believe she called for Ginger one time. Who would want to tell the bossiest horse alive goodbye? But Ginger was worried, circling the pen and calling. I tried to calm her with a few peppermint treats but she was already sweating with anxiety. After about fifteen minutes, when I thought Annie was far out of Ginger's hearing, I opened the round pen. Ginger trotted up to the gate calling for Annie. She apparently did not see which direction the trailer left, so she was calling in both directions. She followed the fence line all the way to the east, then came back in a lope, calling, her head high listening for an answer. I felt so sorry for her. She ran back to the east again, searching the road for any sign of her friend.
I gathered up the halters and a few other items and made for the gate. Ginger followed me to the gate, calling and calling. It was sad to see her in such a state, but I expected it. She was once taken from her mother and herd via a horse trailer, never to see any of them again. When she came to me, she was taken away from Mack, her beloved stablemate, never to see him again. She has no reason to expect that Annie will ever return. Later in the day I went to check on her, and she was facing the east, her head down, as sad as any horse I have ever seen in my life. I wish there was some way I could let her know that Annie will be back, some way to reassure her it will turn out well.
We think we know more than horses but there are an infinite number of things human beings do not know either. I hope it all turns out well. We all do.