Gina’s riding skills had improved to the point that a boarder at Kuhaylah Arabians had asked her to keep her horse Simon exercised while she was on vacation. Simon was an Anglo-Arab, sired by Spirit and out of a Thoroughbred mare. He was very tall – the tallest horse Gina had ever ridden. At first, she had felt intimidated by his size, but his gentle nature and excellent training built her confidence. Now she was enjoying her rides on the elegant bay gelding. As she and Simon approached the front gate for an evening trail ride, she saw Antonia on the four-wheeler. Gina could read the worry on Antonia’s face.
“I’m missing about eight head of cattle. They didn’t come up with the others, and I can’t find them on our land. Can you keep an eye out for them?”
“Will do!” said Gina. She was energized by the knowledge that her trail ride was serving a purpose. She directed Simon along the back fence line, scanning the fence for breaks and studying the brush for the missing cattle. She was happy to spot the herd of pasture horses resting under the trees, and called a special greeting to her favorite, Timmy. He lifted his head and flicked his ears, then returned to grazing.
Gina had worked her way to the very back corner when she spotted dark shapes in the undergrowth of the neighbor’s property. A quick count confirmed the eight missing head, ranging from a big lead cow thru some yearling heifers to a calf nearly at weaning age. They were on the other side of a tight, 5-strand barbed wire fence. Gina could not tell how they had gotten back there, but there was no way they would be able to return to the Kuhaylah Arabians property.
She asked Simon to halt and stand while she extracted her phone from her leg pouch and dialed Antonia. “I’m on my way!” said Antonia. A few minutes later, the four wheeler’s headlights in the falling dusk signaled that Antonia was coming.
Gina dismounted from Simon. Since he was in English tack, she ran the irons up the stirrup leathers and pushed them securely against the bars of the saddle. She also gave the reins a couple of twists and then buckled the throatlatch of the bridle through the middle twist. She knew that these precautions would keep Simon’s tack from getting caught up on anything while she was dismounted. She took an old lead rope from the back of the four-wheeler and hooked one end to the snaffle ring of Simon’s bridle. She knew better than to tie a horse by anything attached to their bit, so she draped the end over the four-wheeler’s cargo rack. Simon was well trained, and she felt sure he would just think he was tied.
“They most likely crossed the fence line further south where it crosses a ravine, then wandered up here”, was Antonia’s speculation. “We need to see if we can pull the fence.” She cut one wire and held the others up high while Gina eased through the gap. Walking quietly, she circled behind the small herd and started to pressure them towards the gap. Suddenly, the big lead cow bellowed and bolted towards the fence. She brushed against Antonia as she charged under the wire, knocking Antonia to the ground. The next one in line was a calf determined to follow the lead cow, but Antonia had dropped the wire and the gap was gone. The young black calf was caught, trapped halfway through the wire. Simon, startled by the big cow crashing past him, was further panicked by the cries and struggles of the trapped calf. He spun around and bolted into the rapidly falling darkness.
Gina was horrified – Simon had been entrusted to her care, but Antonia was down, and the calf was trapped. She could not chase him across hundreds of yards of fields and woods on foot. She had to believe that Simon would be able to make his way back to the front gate. She fought back the panic while helping Antonia to her feet. Together they were able to free the calf and hold the fence back up. The rest of the herd wanted nothing more than to follow the lead cow back thru the fence, so they quickly vacated the neighbor’s property, and Gina and Antonia began to repair the fence.
Timmy was resting on the outskirts of the herd when he heard the thudding of hooves in the woods. The sound stopped abruptly, and he heard branches cracking and saw a big shape. It was a strange horse. Timmy felt a strong sense of wrongness in the situation. Twilight was time for the pasture horses to find their resting spot and settle into their night stillness. The big, strange horse was out of place; agitated and wearing tack, he did not fit the rhythm of the evening. He flung his head around but didn’t seem to know where to go.
Timmy heard the distant clang of gate chains. He knew that sound! It was the entrance gate at the front of the property. Images connected in his mind, and he remembered seeing horses going in and out of that gate, wearing tack and carrying riders. As he imagined this, he was overwhelmed by a strong sense that the big, strange horse needed to go to the front gate to be in his right place.
Timmy moved next to the big horse. He kept his head low and his ears forward – he didn’t want the big horse to feel threatened. He slowly walked ahead, willing the other to join and follow him. At first there was silence. Then Timmy heard the following thump of shod hooves on hard ground.
They made their way slowly. It was a long way around and it required knowing how to go thru the woods, over creek crossings, and along dirt paths. Timmy moved with the confidence of many years of residence as he navigated across the dam and towards the front gate in the rapidly falling night. His confidence seemed to transfer to the big horse, who grew calmer as he followed Timmy.
Gina and Antonia drove to the front gate and Gina hopped off to open it. They were jubilant about their teamwork in cutting the fence, herding the cattle back thru, and doing a field repair of the gap. It would have to be mended properly in the morning, but for tonight all was well. Gina’s phone rang and she listened to the caller. “You mean Simon didn’t come up to the front gate? He’s not with you in the barn? No sign of him? I wonder if he tried to go to the back gate and got lost!”. The cold feeling of panic grabbed her guts.
Just then, Timmy and the big horse emerged from the night. Gina ran to her friend, quickly checking him for injury. Antonia joined in, and they all made a big fuss over Simon. Simon relaxed as the anxiety of his night was dispelled by the comforting presence of the humans.
Timmy stood off to the side in the shadows, not sure what to do next. Then a person separated from the group with a hand extended towards him. Timmy closed his mouth over the crisp sweetness of a carrot as a gentle voice said, “Good Boy, Timmy”.