Monday, March 12, 2007

hold that horse!


Unexpected midnight adventures can sometimes result from horse ownership. Just ask my sister Julie.

Monday night we'd been out to the monthly quiz night run by the Irish Association at the New Sydney Hotel. We'd finished second in line for the silver medal category, but it had been an entertaining evening as usual.

So there we were at Julie's house. I was playing with her cats while she got ready to give the livestock their late-night feed. Then over the sound of the radio, there was a loud noise from outside. "What was that?" we said and looked at each other.

We only discovered after Julie went outside that her walnut tree had unexpectedly toppled over in the lower paddock. And Shadow, her horse, was nowhere to be seen.

It took us quite a while wandering about the paddock in the dark with very small flashlights to find him standing by the fence in the upper paddock, completely silent and motionless. A bit of a change from his usual outgoing and demonstrative manner.

Apparently he had been standing down by the footbridge when the tree toppled over and he got such a shock that he spun around, slipped off the bridge and scraped his shin scrambling out of the creek. By the light of our torches we could just make out some nasty looking abrasions, but the blood seemed to be just weeping slowly as it ran down his legs.

Julie fetched the headstall and fitted it onto his head. She handed me the rope and told me to hold on to him while she fetched her First Aid supplies.

So there I am standing out in the paddock in the moonlight, hanging on to a large nervous ex-racehorse. I hoped for two things -- that Julie wouldn't be too long and that Shadow wouldn't take fright at anything.

At least everything was quiet. Standing there at the top of the paddock we looked down to the house and off in the distance the road. All the homes were dark and quiet, the neighbours unaware of our activities. At least I hoped they were -- anybody seeing our lights bobbing around aimlessly in the darkness might have been tempted to phone in a UFO report.

Julie returned and we led him over to the shed so we could see a little better. "Hold him ... if you can. Let go if you need to." said Julie warily as she picked up a bucket of water.

I watched as she threw the water over the wounds. The horse's head went up as the bucket of water hit him and he jumped sideways a step. Julie made soothing noises and he eventually decided nothing nasty was happening.

Julie looked over at me and said "That was all right. I wasn't sure about giving him to you to hang onto, but I couldn't pass on ten years of experience with horses in ten minutes."

"That's OK," I shrugged. "He wasn't too bad."

We inspected the wounds that Julie had washed down, then she sprinkled them with powdered sulphur. (This is basically the same stuff that people used to put on their wounds before antibiotics came along.) He definitely didn't like this, but we managed to get a bit on.

Over the next few days, Julie kept this up and the wounds gradually wept less blood and the swelling began to go down.

It just goes to show you -- most evenings I sit there with the cats while Julie takes care of the animals, wondering why I bother to accompany her every night. But every so often I feel that I might be needed after all.

I keep getting queries from people who want to buy my house. Not real estate agents -- these are people who wander in off the street and ask whether I've ever thought of selling the place.

One particularly persistent couple returned to add that if I needed any help in moving out they'd be happy to assist me. Well, thanks, (I guess) but I think that would be my responsibility.

It's always interesting to consider how you're seen by other people. In this case I suspect they may see me as one of those old codgers who might need a nudge to start thinking about moving from the family home.

I actually had one couple turn up who'd looked at the area on Google Earth and were impressed by the size of the backyards in my street... Sheesh!

A vague memory surfaced of someone on a television show years ago giving advice to house-hunters ... "Buy the worst house on the best street." Hmmmmm.

It's true that I haven't paid much attention to the house since my mother died. The grounds certainly have that uncared for look and the interior is even worse: literally every flat space is cluttered with bric-a-brac, while in some rooms there has been a desultory attempt to bring order out of chaos.

Perhaps this winter I shall be able to pull myself together and make some progress at last.

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