When we moved up here three years ago, I had the privilege of not having to work a day job for six months. It was great! I was a full time 'mom' to the eight horses we had at the time, two dogs, and four cats. It also happened to be during a time of year that I could invite our then 7 year old grandson, Ricky, to come spend his Spring Break with me. Yeoldfurt was working out of town for a couple of weeks so it was just me and Ricky and all the critters. It had rained almost every day that week, but usually let up enough in the afternoon that I could saddle a horse for Ricky to ride. Unplanned adventures are often the best though and this is the story of just such an adventure.
For any non-horsey readers I may have, let me lay some ground work here. Everyone knows what a horse is but if you don't have much experience being around horses, you might not know how incredibly ingenious they can be about finding ways to get into trouble. You can wrap them in bubble wrap and put them in a padded stall and they will find a way to get themselves in trouble. Boys can be the same way, but most everyone knows that. Some city folk may not know what a hay ring is though. It's an 8-foot round metal ring, usually with three rails, and is designed to sit around a big round hay bale and keep the livestock from trampling the hay before they get a chance to eat it. Being constructed of metal and fairly big, hay rings are heavy and awkward. So it's common practice when they're not around a bale to stand them up on their side and roll them from location to location. It had been too muddy to move a round bale into the paddock for a while, so our hay ring had been standing on it's side over by the tree line for over a week. It didn't seem to bother the horses and they didn't bother it ...at first. A few days earlier, I did notice that a couple of the younger horses were making a game of running through the middle of the ring, chasing each other and having a good ol' time. Lucy was one of the ring leaders and the game seemed harmless enough at first. Then Lucy decided to spice things up.
To give you a little insight on Lucy, is our buckskin mare, five years old at the time this story took place. She is half well-bred Paint horse and half wild mustang ...our own piece of Americana. But her heritage and how we came to have her is whole 'nother story and I'll save it for another time. Just know that her mama is one of the smartest horses we own and her mustang daddy must have no slouch either because Lucy is always thinking. What she thinks up usually gets her in trouble, but you have to give her credit for thinking.
Since Ricky was out of school for the week and I wasn't punching a time clock at all, we got up when we woke up and did morning chores together before breakfast. Ricky was always eager to get outside in the mornings, so he was usually the first one out the door. I could lag ten or fifteen minutes behind him and he would just amuse himself playing with the dogs or feeding the cats until I got there. This particular morning though, he had barely been outside two minutes when he came running back into the house yelling, "Gramma, Gramma ...Lucy is down, she's stuck!" He sounded truly panicked and having seen first hand some of the hairy situations horses can get themselves into, I hurried out the door behind him to see what was wrong.
Ricky was right, Lucy was down ...sort of. She had her head and shoulders wedged through the side of the hay ring. Her head and shoulders were on the outside of the hay ring, her front legs folded under her, her nose on the ground. Her butt was up, her hind end still in the middle of the hay ring and she looked for all the world like she was kneeling, almost as if she was praying. The other six horse were gathered around her with the most incredulous looks on their faces. They looked like they didn't know whether to be alarmed or annoyed or amused, they were stunned. I wish I had the foresight to have a camera ready before I went out the door ...but with her in this predicament, it didn't seem the time to tell them all 'hold that pose, I'll be right back!' So I instructed Ricky to get me a halter and lead rope. While he was busy with that, I went to put the other horses in their stalls. I wasn't sure how we were going to get Lucy unstuck from the hay ring, but I didn't want any help from the other horses while we were working on it.
Once the rest of the horses were in their stalls, I haltered Lucy and looked her over real good to make sure she wasn't hurt anywhere. She seemed okay, she was just stuck. Once assured she wasn't injured, I did take a minute to go get my camera, so I would have some proof for Yeoldfurt. I could tell him the story, but this ...this was the kind of thing you really had to see to believe.
My first idea to get Lucy unstuck was to have my 80-pound grandson hang onto the back of the hay ring and I would try to pull Lucy on through. But Ricky didn't like the idea of being behind her, he was worried about her kicking him. I told him she was a lot more concerned with that hay ring than with him and I was pretty sure he would be out of range for her to kick him as long as he was on the outside of the hay ring anyway. Maybe it was my use of the phrase 'pretty sure' that got him because he set his jaw and just said, "No." Just a poor choice of words on my part, but there was no convincing him at that point. So, okay, next idea ...I was still mulling over the situation and Ricky said, "I have an idea. Let's call the horse people!" I chuckled under my breath and just kept on mulling things over. "No, really, Gramma, I think we need to call the horse people!" God love him, he was just trying to help. As gently as possible, I said, "Ricky ... honey ...I know you might not believe me right now ...but your Grampa and I are the horse people in these parts. People call us when they have a problem with a horse." I could tell by the look on his face, I was right ...he didn't believe me. Ha!
We finally did get Lucy free. Fortunately for her, we feed our horses real good and, probably due to the mustang in her, Lucy is a real easy keeper. So she's got a thick, spongy layer of fat over her ribs. I let Ricky hold the lead rope at her head and encourage her forward while I stood on the edge of the hay ring to keep it from going with her. Meanwhile, I worked my fingers over her fat to get the hay ring past the widest part of her ribs. I'm not sure who was more surprised when she was finally popped free ...Lucy or Ricky. They both just stood there for a minute looking at each other like, "Whew ...that was not fun!" Then Lucy shook from head to tail like a dog after a swim with Ricky holding the lead rope out at arm's length and looking surprised and wary, not too sure if shaking was all she was going to do.
Adventure over, disaster averted, I suggested to Ricky that he walk Lucy on up the hill to her stall and I would go get the horses' breakfast ready. He started up the hill, then turned around and looked at me, smiled and said, "You really are the horse people, Gramma!" I'm sure that day will be one of his favorite memories 'from the farm' when he gets older.