If you do not keep horses at home, you might never have experienced your horses trying to “help” with repairs and chores. Curious by nature, horses are likely to insert themselves into any activity in their vicinity. I’ve had heads over my shoulder as I secured a loose board with my trusty drill driver. We’ve had horses lift and push wheelbarrows, move rakes around (not very efficiently), and remove hoses from water buckets. This weekend I received just such “assistance” as I was working on hotwire across the fence from Noble.
The fences in our runs are tall – but I always forget just how tall Noble is. When I moved to the line shared with his run, I had a sudden reminder of just how far he can reach. As I would place each insulator and prepare to pound the nail, a large nose would be inserted between hammer and nail. Dodging his nose at each post made that line take as long as the previous three combined! Yet, it’s hard not to laugh at the insistence to participate. At least, that’s how I’ve always felt about it.
Dodging Noble’s nose, while trying to actually accomplish something, had me thinking back to some of my favorite “helper” moments.
Ben, the water boy. It was a hot summer show, one of those where they excuse the riders from wearing coats. We were between classes, and the horses were due for some water. My showing companion had a class coming up, so I decided to take Ben to the water and bring back a bucketful for her horse.
We took the hike to one of the available hose bibs, and I began filling the bucket. Ben, clearly thirsty and not prone to wait for what he wanted, began to drink from the water as it flowed. This was not particularly unusual, as he frequently drank from the hose when I bathed him. He also had a talent for drinking out of aluminum cans and glass bottles. I knew he’d get his fill, then I could top off the bucket and head back.
Ben had other ideas. He drank his fill, all right. Then, he casually reached up to the faucet handle – and turned it off! It took a few turns with his upper lip, but he kept going until it was completely off. He then turned and began to walk back to the barn! I was laughing so hard I was almost pulled over when he hit the end of the reins in my hand.
“Thank you, Ben, but I still have to fill the bucket,” I said through the laughter.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised by his action. He’d been moved to a stall at the end of the aisle, at the boarding stable, after a couple of incidents in which he had turned on the faucet used to fill the water buckets near his original stall. So, he knew how to manipulate them. But the clear and deliberate action of turning off the faucet when he was finished showed an understanding few would attribute to horses, particularly at that time.
Dani, born helpful. Dani spent her life inserting herself into any projects going on around her. She was particularly good with hand tools. When she was a yearling, she was living at a friend’s barn, turned out with her yearling and two year old. One day I came to the barn only to find my friend was irritated with my filly.
The fences on the property were fairly old, and the horses were mainly kept in with hotwire. The fillies must have engaged in some shenanigans, as they were wont to do, because on this day some of the hotwire had gotten tangled in the fencing, which had been loosened. It was not this damage that had my friend annoyed (well, not that she’d admit), but rather the “help” she’d endured while making the repairs.
She had a large bucket in which she carried the parts and tools needed for fencing repair. The other two fillies, once they figured out the bucket did not hold grain, were little interested in her activities. Not so with my Dani. She followed every step of the process. She directly oversaw every bit of the wire detangling. When pushed away, she would turn her attention to the bucket.
The hammer looked interesting, so out it came. But my friend didn’t need the hammer, so she put it back in the bucket. Okay, how about the pliers? In went Dani’s nose, and out came the pliers. On it went – tools, insulators, anything she could get a hold of. At times, she’d even pick up the whole bucket. I was lucky she never tipped it over, or I felt sure an eviction notice would have followed!
Ironically, as annoyed as my friend was at this episode, years later she would relate a similar story involving one of her own horses – with much more amusement!
I will never tire of my equine helpers, and the amusement they bring to the most mundane chores. After all, family members should chip in when there is work to be done. Besides, if I really need the space, bribery is always an option. A nice flake of hay is more interesting than work any old day!
Be good to your horses!