Thursday, February 11, 2010
It occurred to me last week, after our horseback riding lessons, that we took the halters off the horses before turning them out of the barn. As I drove past horses in the field on the way home from work later that week, I noted that not a single mare was wearing a halter. I went home and looked at Ashley and Misty. Misty shook her head at me.
“You want that thing off?” I asked her, and she took a step toward me. I reached up – wayyyy up, 7 feet in the air, and grabbed hold of the halter where it snugged in behind her ears. She lowered her head to me and stood, patiently. Suddenly I had a vision of Ron, the man who raised the horses, straining to pull their halters up over their ears, just as I was doing.
“You aren’t supposed to have these on all the time, are you, honey? I’m sorry. We’re new at this. Can you tell?” I unhooked her canvas straps and set her free.
She snorted at me and turned away, tossing her mane and relishing her newfound nakedness.
Ashley stepped forward next but played hard to get as I tried to reach her ears. She kept tugging away just out of reach. Finally I unhooked the clasp and she stood quietly as I pulled the halter down and off of her snout. She too gave her head a toss as she trotted out into the barnyard.
A soft jangling of chains told of Donkey’s approach. Ah yes. Donkey. Our before-we-had-horses-horse. Donkey sports a long chain dangling from the chinstrap of his halter, as a deterrent to running, jumping fences and tackling sheep for sport. It’s supposed to smack him in the kneecaps when he runs, so that he will think better of the idea and slow down. It doesn’t always work. Many a time I have looked outside to see Donkey tearing down the field after a bleating sheep, his gangster-chain tossed up and over his shoulder, out of the way. It really serves no purpose. And after seeing how happy the horses were to be “free”, I wanted to do the same for Donkey.
I walked up to him and ran my hands over his halter straps, looking for the clasp. The sun had fallen and the full moon was just rising, so we were standing in mid-darkness. Donkey looked at me nervously, all crazy-eyed. But his ears were up, attentive and curious (as opposed to pinned back and aggressive) so I knew I was ok.
Finally I found the buckle and undid it. I pulled the halter up over his head, gangster-bling and all. Donkey’s head lifted up a bit from the release. He stood there for a moment, dazed. The halter had matted his hair down and his winter coat had grown up around the straps, leaving him with quite a ‘do. I giggled at him and he leered, showing his teeth at me. “You’re not a donkey, you’re a monkey,” I told him, scratching him behind the ears. He pulled away from me suddenly and started trotting toward the barn, slipping a bit on the ice. I think he was afraid I was going to put the halter back on him.
I hope he can refrain from biting my sheep. If he does, I may let him go free permanently.
Life is a lot more interesting for Donkey on the farm since we added cows and horses to our menagerie. Donkeys are very “intelligent” (and I use that word loosely...) so they get bored quite easily. Donkey’s favourite game is terrorizing the sheep. They make funny noises as they run, which Donkey finds quite amusing. But now he has the horses to follow around all day. I think he looks up to them (literally), and more than once it has become evident (I won’t go into detail here) that he is quite enamoured with them.
The only problem that Donkey seems to have with the horses is that they have their own private quarters, with their own supply of good hay, corn and water. That really ticks him off. When I bring the horses in at night, Donkey follows close behind them as they file in, his head down, hoping I won’t notice him. Most days when I go out to give the horses their morning feed, Donkey is at the stable window, his nose pressed up against the glass. I have brought him a bowl of corn before, and he just sniffs at it. He wants to come in and serve himself. Beside the horses. Occasionally we find him doing just that. Donkey loves windy days in particular, because the wind causes the stable door to swing open. He bides his time, waits for the right moment, and when the door opens he pushes his nose in to hold it ajar. Then with one more shove he lets himself in, where he can feast at his leisure with no sheep or cows to bother him. Usually the door slams shut behind him also, closing him inside and concealing his crime. Until Annie comes home and sees his big ears in the window of the stable. Then the gig is up and Donkey gets ushered back outside, to eat with the other lowly farm animals that don’t have sensitive horse stomachs. Maybe one day we will expand the shed-turned-garage-turned-stable once again and include a stall for wee Donkey (to be said with a Scottish Shrek accent, if you please). -30-
Posted by Diana Leeson Fisher at 1:10 PM