So that's what happened today, making today, which was supposed to be a blissfully quiet day of me schooling horses and mowing grass, and my husband enjoying his 46th birthday, feel more like "Survivor: Horse Property."
Argus exited his paddock and happily nosed around his little private pasture, while I absentmindedly closed his paddock gate while I cleaned. Bad idea, especially if you are the caretaker of one slightly agoraphobic gelding who panics at the thought of not getting back into your "safe zone."
Before I knew what was happening, Argus turned back toward "his" paddock, picked up a canter, and plowed full-steam-ahead into his pipe panel gate. It was a wild few moments, with me reaching for my cell phone, imagining the call: "Uh, Dr. Miller, Argus has broken his leg. Please come put him down."
I watched in frozen disbelief as Argus extricated himself from the wreckage of the pipe panels, then hopped away on three legs. I was horrified, but resigned. The racked fencing seemed to smile at me, as if to say: "I win."
Time passed. I checked Argus out. All seemed well, although I was already reaching for my trusty tub of bute, knowing that this Saturday madness would ease into one crippled Sunday morning. Ken, my husband, rolled his eyes, saying things like "What the hell was this horse thinking?" and "He was trying to do WHAT?"
To my GREAT relief, he did not utter the dreaded "Where did we get this horse, anyway?" or even the equally frightening "When is this horse leaving?" Ken is not a horseperson, and even after 16 years with me, he still cannot believe how capable horses are of destroying things. Still, he is there --- as always --- with his tools, scratching his head and methodically disassembling the panels. I am lucky to be married to this guy. He simply never complains.
A visitor drives up. In the excitement, I have forgotten a 3pm appointment. It is an old friend of Argus', a woman who has known him since he was born. She is a relative of Argus' former owner, and for years she tried in vain to help the horses at Argus' farm. This is the same person who halter broke a very wild Argus more than 10 years ago. I learn more about her today. She is a former Pony Clubber and competent horsewoman. I feel lucky that she is here. Today, of all days, I really need some support.
This gal is a stranger to us, yet she rolls up her sleeves and stumbles alongside us as we lower pipe panels down to the ground for a session with Ken's sledgehammer (we are trying to straighten them out). She grabs the wheelbarrow and finishes cleaning stalls for me, and even though she tells me she hasn't kept horses in a very long time, I can tell by the confident way she handles a wheelbarrow and rake that she's cleaned many stalls. We talk about our lives, finding out we have much in common. She tells me about Argus, about teaching him lead, and pick up his feet. About all the weekends she came to clean up after him, and give him some care.
Ken is fixing fences, and we are grunting and shoving pipe panels, occasionally exchanging polite yet terse words. We start to notice a troubling thing with Argus: There is blood dripping down his face.
He will have absolutely nothing of my attempts to brush his forelock aside to see the trouble. I wait, hoping for a minor cut.
But two hours later, the mystery cut is still dribbling, so Dr. Miller (who is blessedly on call this weekend) is summoned. I am embarassed, thinking that perhaps I am asking the vet out for a superficial scrape. He is goodnatured, saying "Oh, I will just come up and see."
Argus is glad to see Dr. Miller. They are becoming friends, and Argus is learning to trust Dr. Miller to do pleasant things to him. This time, Argus stands nicely for sedation (a real shift from the rodeo-like scenes in weeks past), and Dr. Miller gently parts his forelock. All I need to hear is Dr. Miller uttering a "Oh!" and I know that my call to him was not in vain.
Argus has a gash under his forelock. There is very little flesh in this area, so exposed beneath is his skull. It is one of those injuries that make you feel just a wee bit funky when you look at it. It is a good thing Dr. Miller is here to help.
Two steps forward, 15 steps back.
In a funny way, the whole scene is comforting. I am struck by just how "normal" it all feels, that Argus finally has the freedom to do stupid things like blow through fencing, and get a big gash, and have his mom call out the vet on a Saturday night for stitches.
This is normal horse stuff, good or bad. And Argus, for all his quirks and challenges, is learning how it is to be just like everyone else.