While cleaning stalls last night, I saw that Rock's water trough was getting low. I went through the paddock gate to get the hose, but got distracted by something in the tall weeds. I didn't want to step on a snake, so I pulled the gate closed behind me and took a few tentative steps forward while surveying the ground. Then I felt a hot breath on the back of my neck.
I whirled around to come face to face with Gabbrielle. She was almost all the way out the gate. Just her rump was still inside the paddock. I must not have pulled the gate shut all the way behind me like I thought I did. But there weren't any horses anywhere near the gate at the time I went out, so I was struggling to process the time factor of how she could have gotten from the barn and out the gate in the time it took me to take a few steps. All I could figure out is that I must have had a brain fart and more time passed than I perceived.
I pumped the palms of my hands toward her face to get her to back up. She obediently took a few steps back, but then saw the weeds behind me, squirreled her way past me and started grazing. I began to walk over to her to herd her back through the gate, but her head shot up and she took off running further away. Then I saw Bombay trying to make a break for it out the gate too, and I ran to close and lock it before he reached it.
Gabbrielle ran down the alley between my horse paddock and the neighbor's driveway. Bombay took off running after her on the other side of the fence. He didn't get out, so he was still inside the paddock. I knew I should get a bucket of grain, but it was too far away. She'd be gone by the time I got back, and I had to keep an eye on her to see where she went. However, I do keep a halter handy, so I approached her with that, thinking I could just toss the lead rope over her neck and put her away.
Nope. Once she got a taste of freedom, she was going to keep it. She ran up and down the fence line with her head in the air, her tail arched, her nostrils flared and snorting, true to Arabian form. I could hear her thinking, "There are no rules! There are no rules!"
She was having the time of her life.
Of course, I always bring my mobile phone with me down to the barn in case I need to call for help, but on this evening I chose to charge it indoors instead.
Gabbrielle then made a run for it up toward our front yard. She was headed out into the desert. Whenever something awful happens to me, I have a set process of thoughts and emotions that I go through within a matter of seconds. First, I lose my mind and panic, but that only lasts for one second. Then I imagine the worst possible consequence and tell myself that I'm okay with that. Even if I'm not okay with that, I tell myself I am in order to relax. I remind myself that at least I'll still be alive, so it won't be the end of my world. Then logic kicks in and I start problem solving in a eerily calm manner. My body and mind kind of go into shock and I feel like everything is moving in slow motion as I attempt to solve the problem.
In this case, the worse scenario was that she would head out toward one of the main roads and get hit by a vehicle, injuring or killing the passengers and herself. I'd be held liable and lose everything I own.
However, I know this horse. She's afraid of her own shadow. She'd only get so far and then she would come racing back home to safety. Sure enough, she got up between the two houses when I heard a loud snort, followed by galloping hoof beats, and she came racing back toward the barn.
Yet she was still too keyed up to be caught, so I started throwing flakes of hay into all the feed troughs. As each horse went into its stall to eat, I shut the gate to its stall. Rock and Lostine were behaving themselves, but Bombay was still more concerned about Gabbrielle than he was about eating, so I had to get him contained. About that time, my husband saw what was going on through the window and came out to walk interference, keeping Gabbrielle from running up the driveway. I got Bombay locked in his stall, and then was able to open the barn gate to let Gabbrielle in. She refused at first, insisting that the weeds tasted better than hay, so my husband put some pressure on her, and she came running into the barn and straight to her stall. Whew!
Lostine charged at her from within her stall to let Gabbrielle know that she did something bad and needed a spanking. I, of course, did not spank her, because then she'd think she was being punished for coming back home, and she'd think twice about doing that in the future. That's something I was taught by my dog obedience instructor. He said, "Even if your dog does something really bad, you cannot punish him for coming to you when you call. You have to praise him for coming."
I was thankful that it was a quick fix. This is the week I'm not allowed to take most of my medications before surgery, so I'm trying to be super careful not to do anything physical that could result in inflammation. The last thing I needed was to be running around in the desert looking for a loose horse.
I did go for a short walk around the desert with the support of a walking stick yesterday for exercise. The trails were still muddy and full of deep puddles from the storm last week. There were footprints, hoof marks, paw prints, and bicycle tire tracks everywhere. Two women rode past me on horseback and one said, "I prefer to ride on Mondays because there are less people out here." The other rider said, "Me too!"
I had to refrain from yelling out, "Me too!"
In years past, I was able to figure out days and times when I could be alone on the trails, because people had their routines and stuck to them. We have a whole different set of snowbirds this year, so it will take a while before I figure out when is the best time to be able to ride my horses alone. Weekdays are not a given, because 90% of the people who live and vacation in my town are retired.
At one point during my walk, a man on a bicycle appeared out of some bushes where there was no trail. He perked up when he saw me, and made a beeline right toward me on his bicycle, cutting right across trails without a care in the world. I didn't know what he wanted, but he didn't look like he was in distress, and I like to be left alone when I am communing with nature, so I turned my back to him and walked away to give him a clear message that I wasn't interested in socializing. He got the hint and turned down a trail away from me. I just don't think it is ever appropriate for a man to approach a lone woman in an isolated location, but if there is one thing I've learned, it's that we get people from all over the world visiting here, and they all have a different set of sensibilities and social norms.
We are already having to search through our grocery store parking lot to find carts, because the snowbirds are depleting the supply of grocery carts. Trying to buy food each week is an ordeal. I feel like I'm in a pinball machine. Sometimes you can't stop moving to grab what you need because you're being jostled around by too many bodies and too many scooters. It's amazing how many handicapped people live in my community. Other times you can't move at all because you are pinned up against a freezer door. Many times you can't get what you need, because sections of shelves are just empty. The supermarket managers try to plan for the sudden high demand for groceries, but they can never predict when exactly the population will explode. It's happening way early this year.
I know these are mostly new people, because I was actually able to get right into my favorite restaurant this weekend. Most of the restaurants in my town look dirty and unappealing to outsiders, so they stick to the fast food joints and restaurant chains they know. However, once somebody has been here a while, they find out where the good food is, and then the lines start forming at my favorite mom and pop restaurant.
Speaking of mom and pop, my horses have all evolved into new barn names. Lostine is Mama, Gabbrielle is MiMi, Bombay is Puppa, and Rock is Bubba. In my mind, Puppa is a cute way of saying puppy, and Bubba is an affectionate way of saying brother. My farrier calls Gabbrielle Sis, so I didn't want to take his term. MiMi just fits her, because she's petite, and MiMi sounds like a petite name. Mama works for Lostine since she's been a broodmare most of her life.
Ha ha. I just looked up the meaning of MiMi, and it said "rebellion", "sea of bitterness", and "sea of sorrow". Yup. It fits.