The thing with Willow happened quite some years ago, but it’s an anecdote I visit often, as I think it illustrates a good point about being firm on boundaries and how it can really help you out. I have another totally different anecdote about an extremely challenging horse where everything was geared towards keeping her happy and in “yes” but that’s for another time. But just yesterday I revisited that old “don’t run me over” rule.
I was letting the horses out, and they were enjoying the opportunity to roll on the sticky mud and have a taste of the lovely sweet grass on their way out to their much used up winter field. The grass is finally coming through, and there were piles of lovely hay that I’d put out, but they were still in no hurry to go through. Even dear old Cobweb, who looks like he isn’t too sure about getting down any more (he probably feels worried about getting back up) had a good squish around in the lovely mud. Ka picked a spot not far from the fence, and although this seems unlikely, he swears that the fence jumped out at him and grabbed at his legs. He did what any self-respecting horse would do: he jumped to his feet and ran for his life, bringing the electric tape along with him for the ride. Touchingly, he headed towards me, rather than the other horses, and although he was moving very quickly indeed, time seemed to go very slowly. I noticed his trajectory, and the fact that he seemed to have no intention of changing it. I listened to the noise of the fence screaming out from its fence posts and how it attracted the attention of the other horses. When I realised that he really did seem to be heading towards me for some assistance (or maybe he expected me to turn and run, too, in spite of the fact that he has seen me run and was not impressed), I did something which seemed to surprise him immensely. I can still see how he looked at me and pointed his ears and seemed astonished by my actions. I picked up the lead rope in my hand, waved it at him, and made a kissing noise. “Oh!” he seemed to say. “You don’t want me to run you over?! I will turn left in that case and miss you.” The fence tape reached the end of its limit, snapped, and Ka trotted off soundly.
The other horses noticed the enormous gap in the fence (and they are quite right that the grass is both greener and longer on the other side of it), and they moved towards it very purposefully. I gathered up the tattered remains of the fence and ran, wailing like a banshee, towards the gap to discourage them from crossing into it. I held up the fence and waggled it to make it snake-like, but I couldn’t put down the fence tape to start connecting it to the posts, and I think they knew this. Peter in particular looked like he might be considering tickling me to see if he could get me to drop the tape. So I called Adam (on my phone) who came out and sent the horses down the field so I could repair the fencing.
It reminded me of another time I was moving the fence and had just not quite enough tape. The amount of tape I needed was exactly my arm span, and I was standing in the field wondering what I could do about it. What I clearly couldn’t do about it was to drop either of the ends of tape I was holding, because High Flyer was watching carefully and would undoubtedly take any opportunity to hop through the gap. He is also the sort of horse (being bottle-reared) who doesn’t always see why he shouldn’t walk through people, and has always been an excellent judge of your energy. If you are feeling a bit wishy-washy, he will know. My arms were tiring, and he seemed aware of that. Even if I had had a phone at the time, I couldn’t have spared a hand to get it out of a pocket, nor to dial a number. I had to resort to calling out to Meg, and I have no idea why she was in the area, but she was. Perhaps she had gone to empty the trailer into the muck heap and I had got impatient and decided to move the fence. Anyway, she was there and she rescued me.