Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Busting out

Lately I've been feeling a bit smug about how few problems we've had managing the barnyard. Sure our animals tend to be on the neurotic side but we've never had issues with anyone escaping (well, except once when Lucas left the man-gate open too long and Leeroy decided to follow him and go for a romp in the garden) or fences failing.

Tonight I got my smug little self batted right out of the ballpark.

I was just finishing a different blog post about my glorious spring day today when I heard this high pitched sound. At first I thought it was coyotes but when I put my head out the front door, I recognized Gall's whiny. Lucas was out so while I was putting on my coveralls and boots I called to ask if Gall usually did that at night. Sometimes, Lucas replied, usually if he can't see one of the donkeys (i.e. Cinder) because she's wandered off somewhere in the dark.

Gall looking for his girl, Cinder

Well, when I walked up to the barnyard, Cinder was somewhere in the dark alright. I just had no idea where.

Gall was trotting around in circles, snorting and whinnying and getting himself whipped into a right lather. A 15-foot section of fence that leads to our big hay field was flattened and the donkeys were nowhere in sight. Thankfully, Gall was on the barnyard side of the fence still but for how long, I couldn't be sure.

He was getting louder and more agitated and running around in larger and larger circles. At 16 hands high and not wearing a halter, he wasn't the easiest to catch. But it's one thing to have the donkeys missing; it's another to have the donkeys missing and a codependent freaked out old horse running around after them. Let's just say I was pretty motivated to not let the situation escalate.

I was able to calm Gall down long enough to get his halter on and clip a lead onto him. He was still whinnying and snorting but at least he was under control, or so I hoped. By the time I got him down to the barn, Lucas came into the barnyard (after I unceremoniously called him and told him to get the f&*k home) and helped me get Gall into the stall. Gall does not like the stall. Gall paces and whinnies almost as much in the stall as he did out in the barnyard when Cinder and Lee went missing. At this point, I didn't much care for my horse's emotional sensitivities; he was safe and sound and I'd make it up to him later.

While Lucas went up to evaluate the fence damage, I took my headlamp and made my way over to the edge of our 30-acre, pitch-black hayfield to look for two renegade donkeys. I must have looked and sounded like a complete idiot. No wonder the neighbours don't talk to us much.

Within a minute or two, I saw movement and I thought it's a.) the donkeys, b.) a deer or c.) coyotes and maybe I'd get eaten and wouldn't have to worry about any of this anymore. It was the donkeys.

I'd loaded my pockets up with corn and I lured Cinder right up to the fence (I was, of course, on the wrong side still.) Lee was a bit more reluctant but wherever Cinder goes, he goes. Lucas had temporarily abandoned his fence-fixing to help me lead Cinder, who was now clipped onto another lead, back into the barnyard. It didn't help that the gate we were trying to lead them back through was stuck in mud and ice and it took several minutes and lots of swearing to unstick it but we finally got Cinder, munching corn, and Lee, following behind her, back into the barnyard.

I breathed a sigh of relief and was actually foolish enough to think, "Glad that's over with." I let Gall out of his stall (he was still whinnying and snorting for his girl) and he immediately walked over to Cinder and gave her a once over with his nose. She wasn't too impressed at all -- she just wanted to see if there was any hay still lying around.

Gall was pretty sweaty so I thought I'd fill up the barn buckets (I have to go back to the house to collect water because our barn well hasn't worked all winter) and while I was there, grab some equine-type treats from the house. When I got back into the barnyard, up at the top where the trouble started, all three of them were crashing around in the sumac, with Gall chasing the two donkeys.

It seems that Gall had had enough of their foolishness and decided it was time for his charges to go back to the barn run-in and put the evening behind them. The donkeys wanted nothing to do with this. So every time they tried to walk away from the barn, Gall would try and chase them back down.

After much cajoling and waving of water buckets and treats, I finally managed to coral the three hooligans together for some calming down time. It worked for a while and then the donkeys decided to take a stroll around the perimeter again. After more thundering hooves and crashing in the sumac I decided to leave them to their foolishness or risk getting knocked over (it was quite dark out, you see) while I put down fresh straw in the second run-in for their bedding (while I didn't really believe we'd see any signs of normality this evening, I had hopes) and top up the big water trough.

By the time the three equines had made their way to the front of the barn, Lucas had finished fixing the fence well enough until morning. I gave everyone a once over, making sure old Gall was sufficiently cooled down and that no-one was worse for wear (Lee has a scrape on his nose that may need seeing too but otherwise, everyone is OK.)

I don't know how well I'll sleep tonight. I'm a worrier, you see. While it worked out well in the end, it could have been much, much worse. The hayfield adjacent to the barnyard (aka the donkeys' playground) has an opening to our road as well as several openings to the woods and if they'd ventured far, I'd hate to think where they could have gotten to.

I'm also worried about Gall. He hasn't had this much exercise or agitation in months and at 23-years-old, his ticker ain't what it used to. He's supposed to be in retirement, not baby-sitting two silly donkeys. He's exhausted but I know he won't sleep until the donkeys are bedded in for the night. He's a tough old boy, though. I'm just hoping for a nice day tomorrow so he can spend it lounging in the sun.

Then there's the fencing. With the snow melting, it seems we've got a lot of waterlogged old cedar posts sitting in mud. At last check everything seemed secure but this evening's escapades proved us wrong. Maybe we'll just have to take a trip to the farm co-op tomorrow for some electrical fencing. At least that way, the next time anyone tries to escape, we won't be the only ones getting a shock.

1 comment:

Maggie said...

The whole experience sounds horrendous, but you tell it with great comic flair! I laughed out loud as you described the scene unfolding (and yes, even as you swore at poor Lucas) - animals are just as messed up as humans!

Great post.

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