Sunday, December 12, 2010

Unexpected Company

It was close to midnight, with no moon. The temperature gauge read 21 degrees and winds were steady at 20 mph, making it seem much colder. My husband and I were sleeping.

RAP-rap-rap RAP RAP! Someone insistently knocked at the door. I startled out of bed, threw on my robe, and raced to the front door.

“Yes? Hello?” I was puzzled to see the deputy sheriff standing on the porch with a large flashlight.

“Sorry to bother you,” he began, “but there are five horses running loose a way down the street. Are you missing any horses?”

I asked him to shine his flashlight toward the round hay bale in the pasture, and there were Tango and Jack, seemingly oblivious to the wind-chill factor and time of night, munching contentedly.

I wondered if they belonged to the neighbors down the street who also own horses, and the deputy left in his Suburban to ask them the same question.

After he left, I got my flashlight and saw the loose horses walk across the street and into the field next to our pasture. Tango and Jack, friendly beasts, sauntered to the fence and apparently invited the guest horses for a chat, so all seven stood near the pasture gate, sizing each other up in the starlight. I put my jacket on over my robe, having decided to secure the horses in our pasture for the night, and headed out into the cold.

As I walked toward the gate, the deputy returned and helped me begin herding the horses through the gate. Along came the neighbors, who didn’t know who owned the horses, but brought a bucket of grain to help catch them. We got all five into our pasture where they safely passed the night.

At dawn I awoke to the sound of galloping. All seven horses raced around the pasture with massive Tango in the lead, Jack at his flank, and the five rescues close behind. Perhaps Tango and Jack were running away from the new pasture pals, for the Alpha-Mare of this small herd has turned out to be a demanding guest. She has hogged the feed, kicked at her friends, and nagged her hosts until nimble Jack jumped the fence to flee her pestering; Tango simply retreated and stood with his back to her.

They’re not exactly the kind of guests you can politely ask to “Move along, now.” Nor can we reason with the Alpha-Mare that she should try to get along with her hosts. So for now, we have separated Jack and Tango to our fenced back yard and have contacted local veterinarians about the runaways. The Sheriff’s Department suggested I call the Humane Society, and a local Internet “Lost and Found” announcement garnered several offers of help.  

Some have suggested that their owner may have turned them out intentionally, but I hope that is not true.  Until we are sure of what to do if no owner appears, our unexpected guests get to enjoy plenty of water, good food, and a safe place to rest.