I watched Argus as he listened intently, a quizzical look on his face. That look stayed in my mind all evening, making me both sad and happy. I felt sad because I know that so many times during the course of Argus' life in prison, he must have stood and listened to the sounds of parties and music and laughter all around him. It must have been exciting to have heard something new and different. I felt happy because I could see that the music pleased him.
Argus has graduated from the winter dry lot to the adjoining green pasture, which is now full of wide blades of grass. The horses wish they could spend the entire day out there, but for now, a couple of hours must suffice. Horses have sensitive digestive tracts that do not look kindly on sudden mega-doses of rich greenery.
I foolishly opened the gate to the big pasture, the horses all charging out into the lush field. I say foolish because I forgot to teach Argus that where there once was a gate, there now was an opening. He galloped frantically up and down the fence line, past the open gate, terrified that he was separated from his friends. "Uh oh," I thought, "what was I thinking?" How would I catch him?
I called Argus as I walked toward him with the halter, trying to calm him down. Here was one charged up Thoroughbred (and those of you who have been in this situation know that catching then when they're this panicked can be harrowing) who was not seeing me. I called him again. He looked at me and stopped, allowing me to walk up to him and halter him. Argus took a deep breath of relief. I could feel how much he trusted me to help him. Amazing. We then walked through the open gate, back and forth, back and forth. Argus has unusually good ground manners and leads really well, even in a scary situation. I was proud of him. We walked all over the "new" pasture, back to the winter pasture, over to the waterer, back to the shelter, out to where Argus' friends now grazed. He got the lay of the land. I released him.
Argus walked back to the winter pasture, where he stood in a familiar spot, quiet and spent. Was it too soon for Argus to have so much room? Had I gone too fast for him?
I left him there, hoping he would figure it out, and watched from the house. Soon, he wandered up to join the herd, this time grazing quietly after a quick canter around. He has gone out several times since, and he settles down to graze just like of the other horses now.
Here are photos from that first day (taken after Argus' entered the big pasture of his own accord):
I had to throw these in. I took the girls to a dressage show yesterday. It was a disastrous day. Shelby fell off the pony just before entering at "A." Demi's mule (who has done more horse shows than we can count) spooked at a tractor and bolted across the dressage court, jumping the court rails TWICE before she could stop him. The judge excused Demi from the test. Ridge was as high as a kite and jigged his way through our test.
But the best part was the lunchtime Easter costume class. Shelby is pictured here aboard Ginger, our pony. They were dressed as "Wee Biscuit," complete with a pretty good rendition of the original Howard racing logo!
When we arrived home, back safe from our exciting day, Argus greeted the trailer with excitement. He has seen us come and go enough to realize that the trailer bears his good friends, who undoubtedly tell him about their adventures.
Yesterday, it was no different. Ridge and Odie, their manes still curly from braids, stood quietly with Argus. If you listened closely, it was almost as if you could hear them talking about their day.