Growing up on the farm, we always had horses. Not your temperamental, somewhat delicate riding horses. No we had Clydesdales. Always Clydesdales. The big, gentle giants with soft noses and white foreheads. For the first decade or so of my life, I remember riding on the old wooden sleigh, pulled by these beauties to collect sap buckets with my dad and my grandfather. And oh what a thrill it was when one of them passed me the reigns so I could “steer” the horses.
For those of you who might not understand my putting that in quotations, these horses knew the routine better than I did, so holding the reigns was really more of a formality than it was an actual task. Didn’t dampen the thrill nor does it diminish the memory.
Fast forward to my teenage years. The horses we kept were not our own. We were boarding a pair of beautiful work horses (I’m not entirely sure which breed they were, the colouring was different than Clydesdales, thinking back. They may have been Belgians. Doesn’t really change much. The size was the same). So we have these horses out in pasture, enjoying their freedom and existence. I’m home from school because it was exam time and I didn’t have an exam that day.
I probably should have been studying. I probably wasn’t. There’s a good chance I was watching crappy day time television.
So when I saw this shadow pass by the living room window, I was a little startled. It took me a couple of minutes to register that the shadow I saw was actually the back of one of the horses.
Horses that were supposed to be in the fenced in pasture. Not on the front lawn of the farm house.
Here’s the other thing about horses: They are fast and can cover a lot of ground fast. So the time between getting out of the fenced in area and the time they are in danger of getting hit by a truck on the road. Dangerous. For both the horse and the truck. And these weren’t our horses, so it would be really bad if one of them died.
I make a mad dash to the phone and call my dad’s work. After explaining to his boss as quickly as I can what the problem is, he assures me that he’ll send my dad home to help and I run out with a lead rope and the stupidity of a teenager. Because clearly I’m not thinking about the large beast that can trample me when the mood strikes. I’m just thinking about keeping the horse alive and off the road.
At this point I’ve lost sight of the animal and I’m not entirely sure where on the property the horse is. It was just as likely to already be on the road. I eventually catch a glimpse of it heading in behind the barns. This is good in that it’s travelling away from the road. But it’s also bad because behind the barns there is nothing but open fields. Open fields are not conducive to chasing horses. Too much open area, little option for cornering them and leading them where they need to go. So I find myself standing in this field with this massive animal and he and I are having a conversation. I’m talking in the most soothing tones as I can while still being prepared to duck for cover if he decides he’s making a break for it and I’m in his way.
My dad’s pickup truck comes screaming up the driveway less than ten minutes later. Thank Jesus because I really didn’t know what I was going to do with this beast if I got ahold of him.
Now there’s two of us, and one of us has enough experience that I am comfortable attempting to get this horse back into the pen. My dad decides that the best course of action is to scare the horse back towards the fenced in field. Sure. Ok, we can do that.
For the next two and a half hours, it was three steps forward, two steps back. We would get the horse nearer to the fenced in pasture and then he would dart to one side and take off. And we would take off after him, just hoping to catch up because there is no competition between two legs and four. Four wins every time.
Two and a half hours of sprints. Full out, fast as my legs will go sprints. I learned some new swear words that day. Thanks, dad!
The thing with having farm animals that spend their summers in pasture fields is that eventually you are going to have to chase them. And a horse will always be faster, so your best bet is to outsmart them. Try to anticipate where they are going to be and be there before them. And always have a place to duck and cover if they realize that you, tiny human, are but a speed bump in their way to freedom. That particular day we managed to edge that horse closer and closer to the gate over the course of about three hours. Eventually the horse decided that the best course of action was to go through the gate rather than to try taking off by us. Might have been the look on my dad’s face at that point. He was not having as much fun as the horse was.
Honest to God, I wish I knew then what I know now and had put more energy into running as a teenager. I don’t know that I was fast, but my endurance was rock solid. Chasing horses or cows was something we did a few times a year. And this wasn’t the first time I found myself in the middle of a farm field with an animal. But it was one of the last times. I moved away two summers later to attend college and that adventure came to a close.
These days, when I run, it’s not full out. And lately the endurance isn’t what it used to be. Maybe it’s time to head back to the farm and help bring the cows in for the winter.
….then again, maybe not.
See you at the rink.