One past student and two current ones, (brothers, one junior, one eighth grader, whose mother is on staff,) came out to help me halter break BOYOBOY, the colt who is going to be auctioned off for the coach's benefit Saturday, Feb. 5th. at five. Although all of the boys had been pills to work with in the classroom at times, on the farm, they were uniformely a pleasure to have around.
When I got home, I noticed that several of the young mares were in full heat at present, with two teasing Debut over 6' high native oak lumber fence and two more working on OMYNO, the young stud, over the gate. "Great," I thought. "That ought to keep things lively."
Hearing the truck come up the hill, I threw on my jacket and went out. When they got out of the truck, J., who always had trouble in junior high running his mouth when it was inappropriate, started out saying, "Gate holders get $5.00 an hour, and if it goes over an hour even one minute, they get a second hour's pay."
The two brothers were content to let him negotiate for their pay. We all smiled at him.
"I'm afraid this one's on the coach, fellows. If I were doing it for me, that would be different."
Our weather was still 51 degrees last night after dark, and 45 at 8 when I got home, so all the snow that had been in the drive and lower barn lots was glaze ice. The hill down to the barn, even on the least steep incline, was treacherous. As the boys started down, the herd started over to see who they were and how well they petted. J. and Di., being lighter, were well in the lead, so they got the first meet-up. Both moved to the side to let the herd pass, but were followed, of course.
"Why don't you two lock the stallion in the barn?" I suggested, indicating the younger OMYNO. "You can go through the back door if it's not iced shut, to the tack room. The grainery door is right there on the east."
When they got the back door of the barn part way open, I called down to let them know that was wide enough so they wouldn't try to fight with it and get out where the track was bad, as it falls off and is heavy and a pain to get back in. They went in, leaving an opening wide enough for the two of them to walk through side by side. Of course, horse after horse followed them.
"How many do you have here?" Du. asked.
"There's 27 on the farm right now, but the two in the front yard are sold, waiting to go to Illinois. They were supposed to be shipped on Jan. 1st, but we've been fighting weather and truck break-downs. There are only 23 out here behind the barn."
The way he lifted his eyebrows told me what he thought of the "only".
He took the electric wire down, and I hooked it over a board on the native oak fence. I hugged the stud pen fence to get down the hill safely, while he tried a rippled tractor track on the other side. Di. had put the halter and lead rope for the mare on the gate post as he climbed over, so I picked it up, commenting, "It will be sort of hard to put this on the mare's head with it sitting up here."
We laughed. Du. is very familiar with his brother's forgetfulness.
Three of the four mares in heat had not gone into the barn, but were flirting quite heavily with the younger stud by the gate. "Di., take a bucket from the grainery and coax the stallion into the end stall, then lock the door on him."
The instant the mares heard that grainery door open, they joined the crowd in the barn. That turned out to be an explosive combination. About three fourths of the horses were in the barn by now, and most of the rest were heading over. Du. and I were just past the door, on level ground liberally coated with non-slick material we'll be content to let the reader imagine instead of naming.
The stallion was either in the end stall, or well on his way toward it when a horrendous crash boomed out. That was followed by a dangerous stampede as every animal inside came boiling out, right into and past us. Di. and J. popped out, okay.
"Wow!" commented J.
"What happened?" asked Du.
"That big old stud horse in the corner stall charged the fence."
The mare and her colt were NOT among the participants. I could see her over against the creek fence, calmly chewing on a bale.
I couldn't see around the corner of the barn to tell if the herd was streaming across the creek, or if they'd stopped by the water tank. "Can you shut the gate, Di., before the mare and her colt escapes?" We really didn't NEED the other 23 for anything at the moment.
He hot-footed it through the wisps of the herd to the corner, shut the gate, and got pinned in the corner by a solid wall of beasts. J. was laughing, Du. looked concerned, so I called, "Just pet your way back." He unfroze, moving easily between and among herd members, his hand working as fast as his mouth. Nobody moved until he'd rejoined our group. The three went out in front while I picked my way across the coated footing, which was still treacherous because it was NOT solid and would crumble or slide, but not as deadly as the glazed stuff. When I got to the edge of the bale the mare and colt were beside, all three boys were surrounded separately, and I STILL had a tail. The mare is high enough in the pecking order of the herd that once I got within her sphere of influence, the others stopped. Boyoboy, who was closest to me, ducked around to her other side. I talked to her, put a rope around her neck, and put her head in the halter, only to realize I'd reversed it, so I slipped under her neck and twisted the strap, then buckled it.
"I'm ready for a handler," I called out.
Di. came over and led her across the ice around the far side of the herd. Members of the herd fell in behind, and he was unable to beat them back to the barn, so I told him to just take her in all the way and wait until the colt, who had stalled out at the door, entered.
"Choke up on the colt, Du.," I suggested, knowing J. was NOT used to horses. As soon as the other boys started up behind the horses at the doorway, the colt popped inside, so I shouted, "That's good. Shut the door. Du. stood in the gap, which was nicely filled by a person now.
"I think some of these inside can come out. The colt's with his dam on the other side of the silver gate." Two or three trickled out, so J. and I thought that was all. Just as he got to the opening, Louise came up, then dodged back inside. Du. had fallen back to block the exit between the silver gate and the far barn wall so the colt stayed with his mother. J. leaped back, obviously as scared as the mare. I went on inside and talked a bit to Louise, then headed her back out. The geldings were heading back into the barn, so J. stuck his arms out and waved them around to shoo them back just as Louise again approached the doorway. He had no idea that she was the boss mare and could turn the youngsters back by her mere presence. I talked to her again, and walked beside her to the doorway this time, providing her with solid proof no deadly dragons were waiting outside the door to eat her up. She's Boyoboy's grandmother, so it was fitting that she was with Coqet, helping her protect the youngster. She had NOT gone anywhere near the barn the first time.
Opening the heavy wooden door to the tack room, I had Di. lead the mare in, but the colt did not follow. I opened the next door into the middle stall, then sent him back into the center of the barn to try to get the colt to come with her. I followed her out, then helped the colt decide he really did want to stay with momma.
"Walk her right on into the other stall."
The colt ducked under and was further into the area, so I had Di. lead her right back out, shutting the gate in the colt's face. She hollared, then he did, then the stallion did. I let Du. in, telling him the colt would be upset for a bit, then settle, and to just be slow, low talking, and stay in touch. He got between the colt and his mother as he entered, so I had him walk to the far side, so he'd be making the colt turn away from security to face him. Soon, he was in the corner, the colt facing into it, and Du. touching him softly. He was shaky, but didn't bolt. I suggested putting the rope or halter in the hand he'd worked over onto the far side of the colt. Then he was rubbing behind erect ears as the colt stood at attention, but tolerated the touch. Then the tip of the halter was right in front of his mouth.
"Lots of times, they'll bite it."
But Boy didn't and it was soon on his head. He bolted into the other corner, but Du. is young and agile enough that the halter stayed on his face during the dash, the same way the rope wrapped around his body stayed on when he bolted. The colt's a fast learner, and immediately gave in. Du. reached up and hooked the halter, slowly, talking lowly the whole time.
After he'd made a few successful turns in the confines of the stall, we took the dam through and out into the stud pen, then let him out as well. He panicked as he dashed through the doorway. I'd have lost him then, but Du. held on. Soon the colt was across the melted part onto the ice rink the rest of the pen had become as the whole front forty drained through. He skittered and slithered around, but soon had backed up far enough to take Du. with him. Leather boots aren't the best for ice battles...
I'd have lost him again, but Du. didn't let go. Onto his knees he went, both hands gripped together as if in prayer. He slid across the ice on his knees a good 50'. About the time I figured another few seconds, and he'd be a good Muslim flat out on his icy prayer rug, Di., whom I'd sent Di. around behind the colt, arrived. Boy promptly tried to face the stranger, giving Du. time to get up and in control. Over to the fence they went and the colt was soon wagging his tail in the corner, ears relaxed. They came back in a much more gentlemanly fashion.
Di. turned the mare loose, and instead of worrying about her child, she ran over to the gate where the other mares were. The colt didn't even fuss much. Du. reached up to remove the halter, but ended up having to hug him instead. Di. came over to undo it from the proper side, but the colt was bonded with Du. by then, and would not hold still. He backed off and Du. reached over his head and removed the halter.
I'd hire either brother to work horses here in a heartbeat, or trade it out with colts/geldings.
Edit: Today, I made sure their mother knew how well they'd done, too. As I hoped, the boys talked about what had happened, so lots of people knew how quickly he'd learned and how fast he'd bonded. Now, we can all just hope that translates into someone paying some decent money for him at the auction.