The Wally Lama, the new horse, though I love him very much, has one terrible habit. When the water tank is low enough, he tips it over. I do not know why he does this but in the extreme heat, it is a very bad thing to do. The tank holds sixty gallons and I think he is tipping the tub over when it is about half full. It is wasteful and it is terribly worrisome. Two thirsty horses and 108 degree temperatures empty the tank past the halfway mark much faster than I can imagine. If I am late getting home at night, the horses may have gone all day without water, depending on when Wally dumps the tub over. I know that horses are pretty tough and not likely to die of thirst in one day, but when animals are confined by human beings, then human beings have a tremendous responsibility to make certain those animals are well tended. That is the legacy I inherited from my family tree, full of farmers and ranchers back to the first immigrants to America, but it was my mother who ingrained this cardinal rule into my psyche. It is a good rule.
Early Wednesday morning I found the water tank on its side with a tiny little pool of water left - turned over sometime in the night. Both horses were waiting impatiently for me to set the tub up and turn on the hose. In her customary role as dictator and self-serving queen of the barnyard, Miss Thing aims her hind end toward Wally while she is eating or drinking. Some horses are willing to companionably share food and water and space, but not my Ginger. If Wally gets too close to the water tank, he gets threatened with both hooves. Luckily, Wally is a smart horse and keeps his distance. I, on the other hand, am a slow-witted human being.
After all these years of taking care of Ginger, I know she will not deliberately hurt me. I still pay attention because horses can accidentally hurt human beings. I was in a bit of a hurry so while Ginger was drinking I tried to spray her with insect repellent. Luckily for me, she squealed in warning before gathering up those hind legs. I RAN toward the front of the horse and of course immediately stopped with the irritating spraying - alright already! Also luckily for me, penned into the corner of the fence and against the water tank, Ginger is not a killer horse. She did not take advantage of the fact that I was trapped to pummel me into jelly. When I was sure she knew it was me and not Wally, I walked away and sprayed Wally instead. As soon as Ginger finished drinking, she came to me and offered the equivalent of a horse apology. She lowered her head and stood submissively in front of me. This is a rare event. Most of the time, I am regally snubbed. Sometimes she rudely shoves me with her nose, but she almost always does what I ask of her. That is how I know Ginger grants me an interspecies respect, one supreme being to another (though we all know Ginger is the better supreme being).
A few weeks ago, I caught Jake harassing one of my little hens. He was closing in for the kill actually, and I was chasing after Jake and the hen, trying to save her. I was screaming at Jake, panicked and horrified. I was certain he was going to kill her and I was almost beside myself. The commotion lasted for a few minutes - until I finally got my hands on Jake. Ginger was drowsing at the water tank. As soon as I stopped screaming, I heard her worriedly making the throaty noise horses make to reassure one another. She knew from the sound of my voice that something bad was taking place. She was just checking.
The Indians have a creation myth that tell of a time when human beings and animals could speak to one another. I believe we still have that capacity, but humans just need to work at it with more humility. A little conscious respect could go a long way, too. I should have waited until Miss Thing at least had her morning drink before rudely spraying her with chemicals!