Monday, August 30, 2010

Horse thieves!!

Well! What a rambunctious weekend THAT was!

Nova and her foal are kept separate from the other horses in one of the two top paddocks. On Saturday night just after the foal was born, the other horses lined the fence and stood snorting and stamping, eyes lit up with amazement at this new scrap of life that appeared out of nowhere (“Correction!” says Nova.”Not Quite out of nowhere!!”).

We’ve had trouble before with jealous mares stealing each other’s foals; and I have been warned that geldings can be violent towards foals.

Then, sometime around midnight on Saturday, perhaps beguiled by the eager eyes and smell of the other horses, the foal must have stumbled or fallen through the electric fence (probably  zapped in the process), whereupon she was promptly dragged away by the herd, to the anguish of her mum. I noticed Nova calling in distress and went out to see, and saw the foal had vanished, along with all the other horses who from the sounds of it were calling and snorting and carrying on down in the gully. It being very dark, the only thing we could do was set Nova free and hope she’d find her foal quickly.

Nova charged to the other horses in a white streak of righteous fury and tried to take her foal back but even her bravery had not much effect against five overexcited horses milling around in a frenzy. As things got wilder and a serious horse fight was about to erupt, we saw the foal thrown heavily onto the ground by the solid weight of the big bay gelding Emu, and though she got up she was thrown heavily again and lay still. My heart nearly stopped, but she moved a little, and I hoped she was only stunned. But it was very dangerous with the big horses throwing their weight around, kicking and biting and the foal down. John shouted that if we got Saturn the crazy lead mare away, things might calm down. I yelled to John that I’d get help and headcollars, and raced back to the house and called Briony and Nelson (who was having his body painted for Briony’s school art project). We set back at a run and found the horses charging around like beserkers and the foal being battered left and right. I threw myself into the fray, I couldn’t see John in the dark, and anyway I needed my eyes and focus to catch wild Saturn. She wheeled and spun away and charged at Nova, and so I launched myself at her in a rugby-style tackle and wrapped my arms around her neck and hauled her to a standstill, forced a rope headcollar onto her head and dragged her off to the stockyard. Elara followed, bless her, but got out immediately through the stockyard race. Briony came soon after dragging a recalcitrant Emu, so I tied him up firmly near Saturn, and fixed the race closed. Rascal came hesitantly into the stockyard of his own accord and soon John came leading tall Gandhi, his eyes white-rimmed in the darkness. After that it was quite easy to catch Elara and put her in with the others. We tied all gates shut and headed back down towards the gully to see what the damage was.

Nova was there guarding her very spent and bruised foal, who despite all that was still standing on four miraculously unbroken legs. The poor shattered thing couldn’t walk though so John picked her up in his arms and carried her as I led a very worried Nova back to her paddock. We left the two of them in the middle of the paddock well away from fences and stood and watched rather helplessly as the foal stood wobbling in an exhausted daze, too tired to try and drink.

By the time we got to bed it was very late. Having done so much running, my cough worsened and I spent much time coughing up choking phlegm. Every now and then I would go and check on the foal, but she was thankfully standing or lying close by her watchful mum. I gave up on sleep by about 5 am and instead hiked off to see how the other horses were doing in their penitentiary. I brought them water, but they didn’t seem particularly thirsty. They just stood there blinking, as if butter wouldn't melt in their mouth.

The next day John and I decided that the wisest thing would be to entirely separate the big horses from the foal (visually and physically) by creating a separate paddock at the rear of the property, which meant running a new fence right across the property.  It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a while, as paddock rotation is far healthier for the pasture.  So we set to and gathered materials: we needed about 300 metres of wire; pickets, fenceposts, gates, and the strength of our legs and arms. We have a great posthole digger which brings earth up to the surface as you work: what a blessing that piece of engineering is. Another piece of clever engineering we couldn’t do without is the fence strainer, which I love using. But the ground is rocky and even despite the good tools it’s very hard work.
Recycling Peter Corones' old yard gate

As we worked on the fence we would occasionally throw sallies of rebuke at the big horses still imprisoned in the stockyard, calling them thieves and miscreants. John, watching Elara standing to one side as the three bay horses bullied Rascal along the fenceline, nipping his rump, suggested that Elara could convey to them not to be such arseholes in future!!
Eastern view

At about 3.30 pm Emily our young friend came and gave a hand with the fence building, bless her.
And by 6pm, we had finished a beautiful new fence right across the property. We let the prisoners out (So There you Idiots). By then we were well more than two hours late for our social appointment but our good friends David and Libby were most understanding.
Butter wouldn't melt ...

We had a lovely dinner there even though my hands were so incredibly sore and tired I had great difficulty holding the knife and fork. David told me wonderfully engaging stories about his time working sheep in New Zealand with his team of beautifully trained dogs. He has photos on his wall of bright-eyed Border collies, kelpies and mixed breeds, happy faces with tongues lolling. Libby gave us two whole buckets of avocadoes from her tree. They are kind and generous people and we had a lovely time.

We headed to bed exhausted at about 11 pm  … but not before checking on our little foal, of course, who was nursing from her good brave gentle mum Nova.

Sunday morning still tired ...


Anonymous said...

Oh Dr Mieke, your equine and fence building activities sound exhausting! My head aches and a drowsy numbness pains my senses just thinking about it.



Dr. Mieke said...

Heh heh :-) I'm not sure "drowsy numbness" actually describes how my body feels, but I get the gist!! Thank you for your empathy my dear friend...